by Christine Liu - 156 Reviews - 111 List
Not unlike yolky rivulets bursting from a poached egg, a brilliant stream of new restaurants flooded Boston in 2009. In line with the times, this year's conceptual compasses pointed every which way, from quirky twists on street-food snacks to farm-fresh bistros with sustainable flair. It's with hearty applause for the tasty and the inventive that we present our top 10 of the year.
(Photo: Fried oysters at Tupelo by Christine Liu)
Updated: December 31, 2009
Melting the hearts of Southern-food fans like butter stirred into hot grits, this casual, down-home, neighborhood-friendly Inman Square eatery doles excellent fried oysters and beef daubes (not to mention a mean pie) at easy-to-swallow prices. Joining a few strong, cornbread-slinging neighbors, Tupelo puts Cambridge squarely on Boston's Southern-eats map.
Three restaurateur brothers walk into a restored firehouse ... the punchline definitely has to do with homey, authentic, Italian small plates. With the same chef/owner team that runs Dante in Cambridge, this de Magistris production graciously bestows delicate housemade pastas and a meatball armada upon otherwise sleepy Belmont.
Names can be misleading (this place has slightly more than 10 tables, yet carries the moniker from its more petite older sibling in Jamaica Plain), but impeccable ingredients and respectful locavorism speak truth all the way. Chef David Punch creates gastronomic alchemy (braised Berkshire pork, handmade cavatelli, honey-poached pears) from seasonal, often organic fare, with simple and lovely menus that are a serious gourmet bargain.
Boston's first Senegalese restaurant, Teranga continues the South End's reputation for hosting diverse, extensive eats. However, it never falls into the hyper-trendy or overpriced trap that sometimes plagues this neighborhood, instead serving authentic plates (like traditional fish dish thiebou djeun or Vietnamese-influenced nems) with warmth, elegance and affordability.
We held our breath until the W Hotel--rising like a glittery, mirrored pillar from the gritty Theatre District--was finally complete. And our patience was duly rewarded by Market, the W restaurant launched by New York City chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Verily, there's belly candy of Asian-Euro-comforts like sea urchin toast or rice-cracker crusted tuna to go with all that eye candy .
Although the rippling wooden shell of Ginger Park is mostly a leftover from the space's previous incarnation as Banq, the soul of the place (luckily) underwent an extreme makeover. Chef Patricia Yeo, transplanted from New York City, orchestrates an accessible, small plate-centric, slightly tongue-in-cheek Asian menu, from Bolognese-meets-Dan Dan noodles to duck confit fried rice.
What could only be better than breakfast all day? Brunch all day, naturally. This kitsch-filled, color-popping, retro-sassing import from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, piles on elaborate brunch-platter combinations with outrageous aplomb. Though located in the austere Kendall Square complex, the Friendly Toast oozes with exuberance (and perhaps a few greasy spoons).
Brookline certainly has no shortage of burritos and sushi and delis and, well, food in general, but Dorado carves an on-trend street-food niche in the neighborhood. Helmed by Douglas Organ (of the late Cafe D in JP), this family-friendly joint slings a slew of tacos (from beer-battered whitefish to house-made chorizo) and satisfyingly stuffed cemita Mexican sandwiches.
With two spacious floors, an open layout and surprises (a freestanding fireplace!) at nearly every corner, Post 390 (from the same folks at steakhouse bastion Grill 23) is practically a power-meeting palace for the downtown suits. As the architectural grandeur is undeniable, the spin on a tradition menu (beer and bacon mac 'n' cheese, ham-cheese-stuffed meatloaf) is admirable.
Nothing fancy here, folks--and that's precisely why it makes this list. It's a refreshing, reliable tuck-in for those weary of sports bars and overpriced red-sauce joints in these parts: a spot to snack on excellent thin-crust pizza, a tap beer in hand, the kitchen in view. We could theoretically eat this pizza every day--which, it turns out, is wholly viable given the locals-friendly prices.