Need to refuel after a day walking these storied streets? These are the best restaurants, from casual eats to fine-dining, in this beautiful city.
Union Oyster House
For the essential Boston dining experience, it’s got to be Union Oyster House. The restaurant has been serving classic New England fare, including fresh seafood, to Bostonians in its wood-panelled dining room since 1826 and is still a popular spot. Order a bowl of clam chowder, or a plate of oysters – raw, deep-fried or charbroiled – and feel the history; the favourite booth of the late President John F Kennedy is permanently reserved in his honour.
Unofficially the best sushi restaurant in Boston, O Ya is an exclusive and unforgettable dining experience. The eatery is famed for its degustation menu – a whopping 17 courses of elegant, complex, flavourful dishes paired with wine or sake – but if you don’t have enough time or appetite, the impressive wait staff will help you make the perfect choice from the á la carte menu.
Island Creek Oyster Bar
At Island Creek Oyster Bar, the produce arrives daily from a sustainable farm on the coast south of the city owned by the restaurant. The Kenmore Square restaurant is known for fresh takes on seafood classics but there are plenty of land-bound options such as roast chicken with mashed potato and crimini mushrooms. The blonde timber dining room is almost always packed, making for a vibrant, energetic atmosphere.
For a modern, sophisticated New England seafood restaurant, head to Neptune Oyster. The oysters are a top pick but be sure to try the lobster rolls, fried clams and the johnnycake, a buttered pancake served with smoked bluefish and sturgeon caviar. Don’t arrive hungry; there are no reservations so there’s often a long wait.
In the mood for refined French cuisine in an elegant setting? Look no further than Mistral. Perfect for a romantic night or special occasion, the cosy, low-lit dining room sets the scene for a meal to be savoured. Using seasonal, local ingredients, the menu serves up modern takes on French classics – think escargot, seared foie gras with confit of duck, lobster bisque and dover sole.
Atlantic Fish Company
Steps from Boston Public Library and Copley Square, Atlantic Fish Company is a Boston favourite for fresh seafood in a casually elegant setting. Whether you go for lunch or dinner, settle into the wood-panelled room and you’ll salivate over the bacon-wrapped scallops, fried oysters, linguine with whole clams and one of the house specialities, the ‘super-lump’ crab cakes.
Bostonia Public House
This hip, pub-feel eatery is good for a casual meal in a stylish setting. The Bostonia Public House menu features New England classics such as local oysters, lobster rolls and clam chowder alongside contemporary gastropub fare: pork ribs with coriander slaw, a pulled pork sandwich, tuna crudo and sophisticated salads. Steps from Faneuil Hall Marketplace, it’s a saviour for hungry city explorers.
Boston Chops South End
Housed in an old bank, Boston Chops is a hip steakhouse in an industrial-chic two-storey dining room, an impressive space with its vaulted ceilings and leather banquettes. A steak with a side of poutine-style twice baked loaded potato is a good choice here but those who want an alternative can enjoy mains like sesame-crusted sea bass with delicious sides including Brussels sprouts, spicy broccoli or pork belly mac and cheese.
James Hook & Co
Just a few minutes walk from the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, James Hook & Co is a family-owned Boston institution. The no-fuss harbour-front seafood shack is an essential lunch stop – fill up on gloriously fresh whole-cooked lobster, lobster rolls, crab cakes, clam chowder and prawn cocktails.
Ostra, a modern Mediterranean-inspired seafood restaurant, is one of Boston’s best eateries thanks to its refined cuisine, sophisticated, high-ceilinged dining room and impeccable service. Consider the daily seafood specials, sourced from all over the US to ensure the highest quality, as well as menu staples such as salt-crusted branzino, paella and grilled silk snapper.
After a day exploring Harvard, Cambridge restaurant Waypoint is a hip, always-busy eatery specialising in contemporary seafood dishes. Sample the raw bar, with its oysters and range of delectable crudos, savour lobster cacio e pepe and be sure to try the signature dishes, which include main lobster tail and wood grilled octopus.
Grill 23 & Bar
Grill 23 & Bar is the go-to steakhouse for Bostonians. Exclusive without being stuffy, in the polished dining room, all dark wood, leather and the sound of clinking glasses, a mix of suits, stylish locals and in-the-know visitors indulge in 100-day aged prime ribeye, surf and turf, steak frites, expertly prepared fish and an extensive, world-class wine list.
Image credit: Marin Meghan
Shojo is a Chinatown eatery with a cool gastropub feel, serving pan-Asian favourites with seasonal ingredients; think Kung Pao chicken, pork belly dumplings, bao and kimchi fried rice. Pair your meal with an aromatic cocktail – try the Kamehameha: Thai chili-infused vodka, coconut milk and lemon – or a local beer or wine and soak up the buzzing atmosphere in the industrial-feel space.
Craigie on Main
An instant institution when it opened in Boston’s Cambridge neighbourhood a decade ago, Craigie on Main serves French-American dishes with an innovative twist. The menu changes often at the rustic bistro-style, dinner-only joint, but expect refined, flavourful plates: squid ink pasta with sausage and mushroom ragout or roasted chicken with spiced yogurt, roasted squash and pea greens.