Photo by Mona Maruyama
Loyalists to Falafel King will attest to the phenomenon which occurs most times there. Even before you get the chance to order, these falafel masters are already handing you delicious chick-pea fritter dipped in tasty hummus. That is primo customer service. And let’s say it now: the falafel is slap-a-stranger good. Which you shouldn’t actually do. Take our word for it.
(48 Winter St., Boston, 617-338-8355; 260 Washington St., 617-227-6400)
South Street Diner
It’s the place to be after the clubs, or before the bars if you’re heading into town through nearby South Station. It’s where we’ve met friends and family members for countless memorable breakfasts, and where you can find us eating hash most weekends (the corned beef kind … mostly.) It’s the South Street Diner. And it’s always like coming home.
(178 Kneeland St., Boston, 671-350-0028, southstreetdiner.com)
Photo by Scott Murry
Through prohibition, people certainly still imbibed this classic muddled orange and maraschino cherry brown liquor gloriousness. The drink itself is rumored to be over 200 years old, but the resident barkeep working under cocktail god Jackson Canon’s tutelage at ES keeps this Don Draper favorite up to date and timeless all at once here.
(528 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-9100, easternstandardboston.com)
BEST OF THE NORTH END
Crazy as this sounds, it can actually be fun to feel like a tourist in your own city. There’s no better place to do that than the North End, of course, but specifically at Pizzeria Regina, where half the joy comes from shouldering up to strangers from around the world, and the other half comes from burying delicious greasy slices in your pepperoni pie hole.
(11 ½ Thacher St., Boston, 617-227-0765, pizzeriaregina.com)
If the mark of a great vegan joint is that people who ordinarily deplore meatless fare can’t stop talking about how damn good it is, then Veggie Galaxy is guilty as charged. Their veggie burgers and baked mac and cheese have likely mended countless fractured relationships between health nuts and carnivores alike who can peacefully dine here in unison, and for that we salute them.
(450 Mass Ave., Cambridge, 617-497-1513, veggiegalaxy.com)
Everything about the Pour House has a comforting vibe to it–the mugs, the cool bartenders, the coziness. All of it. And yet, of the whole package their homemade 22-ounce bloody with brunch is the exceptional draw, as is the inevitable unbuttoning of pants seeking-of-naps that may come after a few too many.
(907 Boylston St., Boston, 617-236-1767, pourhouseboston.com)
Charming as they often are, the booming trend of faux or manufactured “dive” bars should make us all savor the Cantab that much more. From folk and random dance nights in the basement, to hugging the bar slab while bellied up with a good book, it doesn’t get more refreshingly authentic than here.
(738 Mass Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-2685, cantab-lounge.com)
Most businesses suffer during expansion, with both quality and service deteriorating as a franchise grows. Not J.P. Licks. Though the geek in us will always love the Centre Street home base, that’s never stopped us from conquering their unique cone at any of their satellite digs.
(multiple locations, jplicks.com)
When Dig photographer Derek Kouyoumjian brought us a mountain of marvelous Mississippi Mud from Petsi Pies, we didn’t think it would be possible to take it down. Two days and innumerable licked fingers later, we learned for ourselves why readers rallied to their side.
(31 Putnam Ave., Cambridge, 617-499-0801, petsipies.com)
It says a lot that folks of all persuasions travel from long distances–and endure Brookline’s ridiculous traffic and parking ticket racket–for something as small as a knish, or a pastrami sandwich. Yet that’s exactly what we do, and will continue to do until or heart doctor orders otherwise.
(355 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-975-0075, zaftigs.com)
PIZZA (CLASSIC PIE)
In all fairness, it’s kind of ridiculous to measure a Santarpio’s slice from a full pie against any other. Not just because of its superior status, but because it’s something else altogether, something akin to a uniquely moist cheese bomb to sate your pizza jones. It’s a breed all its own.
(111 Chelsea St., Boston, 617-567-9871, santarpiospizza.com)
Respect your elders. Especially when it comes to one of our fair city’s beer veterans. Since the beginning of the craft beer revolution in the mid-’80s, Harpoon has evolved into a favorite, taking over local taps and churning out top sellers, seasonal brews and inebriated brewery tour-goers. We dub it liquid wisdom. Or school for drunks.
(306 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-456-2322, harpoonbrewery.com)
Photo by Lyssa Goldberg
BEER BAR (BOTTLES)
Named after the supreme poet laureate of the drinkers, degenerates, and downtrodden, naturally, the bar is stocked with more than 100 bottles of beer at any given time, in addition to a handful of “extra special” bottles. This is a place we like to sit deep in a mug of killer suds or write about things while stroking our chins, or forgoing all that writing before just getting down to some serious drinking.
(50 Dalton St., Boston, 617-437-999, bukowskitavern.net)
BEER BAR (DRAFTS)
The name of this Inman Square watering hole is a little hard to get around. King of the bums or not, we’re behind the 40 drafts and three-page menu of suds at this new mainstay of beer culture. It’s the rare, sought-after, and just plain awesome brews that are king here. Or lord, rather.
(92 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-250-8454, lordhobo.com)
BURRITO (TO GO)
What there is to be said about the untouchable Anna’s Taqueria can simply be expressed through the grunting and moaning associated with a fresh mouthful of their Super Steak burrito. Committed not only to your taste buds but the community at large (between charity-benefiting celebrity food events, speed dating rounds, and other burrito-y fun) Anna’s is your Boston burrito staple.
(Locations in Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, and Beacon Hill, annastaqueria.com)
Harvard life isn’t all fenced-off campuses and secret, unlabeled doorways, and seeing Matt Damon do math at Au Bon Pain. At Grendel’s Den, you’re as likely to see a professor grading dissertations as you are locals doing shots elbow-to-elbow with the next generation of presidential candidates, or the friends that tend to drag such people down during the primaries. Tip: drink with anyone here. It’s worth it. Especially if you land a couch.
(89 Winthrop St., Cambridge, 617-491-1160, grendelsden.com)
Photo by Scott Murry
Everyone has a burger on the menu. It can go high-brow (see: Craigie on Main) or low-brow, but when it comes to former Mobil gas stations-turned-retro-ish killer meat-sandwich maestros with billards and patio seating next to Fenway (as well as in it), no one does it quite like Tasty Burger. They’re not afraid to get weird in their innovations either. How many places make a Doritos burger?
(multiple locations, tastyburger.com)
Taking your loved one out on a date to celebrate the joys and battles of your relationship (or just your anniversary) requires a keen, secluded, hip spot. Uni feels like a secret due to its small, tucked away environment with solid cocktails and sashimi that exposes your taste buds to things it never knew existed. Unless they’ve been here before.
(370 Commonwealth Ave., 617-536-7200, unisashimibar.com)
DEEP ELLUM: FRENCH FRIES, MARTINI/MANHATTAN, BEER BAR-CASKS
It’s a surprise to no one that Deep Ellum is a three-time winner this year. It could easily be called “The Dig Reader’s Watering Hole.” Nestled in the not-so-scenic Allston strip beside Lone Star, FoMu, and Model Cafe, the crew here serves up a stellar Manhattan’s, ever-changing cask-beer options, and consistently crispy french fries, with a Gorgonzola fries version so good, you’ll practically Gorgonzola your shorts.
(477 Cambridge St., Allston, 617-787-2337, deepellum-boston.com)
THE PAINTED BURRO: NACHOS, MARGARITA, MEXICAN
It takes one tough competitor to land in the winner’s circle of these three categories. And The Painted Burro is it. A long list of high-octane margaritas and nachos with house-made chorizo round out an all-encompassing Mexican menu that has Somerville and beyond hooked. And praise huevos, they have brunch. It’s one of the few places perfect for getting tanked at on Saturday, and then crawl back to on Sunday for breakfast tacos. Take a day off, guys. You’ve earned it.
(219 Elm St., Somerville, 617-776-0005, thepaintedburro.com)
A city run by college kids controls the market when it involves a sanctuary with free food samples, two-buck-Chuck (mm … wine), and chocolate chip pumpkin bread mix that even a stoner can’t fuck up. More than that: it’s cheaper than Whole Foods, crunchier than Stop & Shop, and they bag up guacamole kits so you don’t forget the limes. We can get behind a business that shows this much love to the avocado.
(multiple locations, traderjoes.com)
FOOD TRUCK (SWEET)
Everyone said cupcakes were a fad. And yet here it remains, in proper form. After all, individually portioned cakes with adorable designs will always be instagram fodder. And delicious. Even better when they are being delivered to your nook of the city. Cupcakes on wheels, friends. Cupcakes on wheels.
(617-628- 2877, kickasscupcakes.com, see website to find location of the truck)
FOOD TRUCK (SAVORY)
The food truck bracket hosted some fierce competition among the nominees, and a bevy of write-ins were submitted. But ultimately, Bon Me came out on top. The husband and wife team are serving up Vietnamese Banh Mi-inspired sandwiches made from fresh, quality ingredients, and hot damn if they aren’t a bit of heaven in your mouth.
(617-989-9804, bonmetruck.com, see website to find location of the truck)
Diesel cafe has abundant, comfortable seating, a photo booth, fair-trade beans, and top-notch baristas. Add the facts that it’s in Somerville, has plentiful bike parking, and, when weather permits, a retractable front facade and you’ve got hipster paradise, which clearly translates into being voted the best coffee shop in the Boston area.
(257 Elm St., Somerville, 617-629-8717, diesel-cafe.com)
COFFEE SHOP (LATTE ART)
No one likes a barista who takes themselves too seriously, unless said barista can make a pretty picture in your morning latte 100% of the time. Then it’s okay, because providing you with caffeine and guaranteeing that your java photo gets double-digit likes on Instagram is just the kind of thing that wins this coffee shop pole position on your list of latte-art favorites.
(165 Tremont St., Boston, 617-482-5555, thinkingcup.com)
Union Square Donuts
No one causes pastry hysteria in the Hub quite like Union Square Donuts. How Bostonians survived without chocolate chipotle, hot-buttered popcorn, and maple bacon donuts for so long is a mystery. But given their success, it looks as though you won’t have to be in the donut dark ages anymore. And for this, everyone is grateful.
(16 Bow St., Somerville, 617-209-2257, unionsquaredonuts.com)
Photo by Susanna Jackson
It ain’t easy being cheesy, but Formaggio’s is a veteran in the curd business. Not just for the cheese feigns, but they also offer a hefty selection of charcuterie, pantry staples, spices, and classes to better your foodie know-how.
(268 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-350-6996, southendformaggio.com)
When establishments dub themselves “quality” we are immediately skeptical. Because, you know, these overly self-aware restaurants are usually far from what their name promises. India Quality might be the exception to the rule. Just a stones throw from Fenway Park, their curry makes for Indian classic after an afternoon of America’s favorite pastime. Just go easy on the franks at the park before-hand. Could get ugly.
(484 Commonwealth Ave., 617-267-4499, indiaqualityboston.com)
BEST OF CHINATOWN
Before we begin, let us remind you that Pho is pronounced ‘fuh’ not ‘foe’. We say this now, because otherwise the line we have planned about how the noodles are “pho-king awesome” won’t land. And they really are. But you knew that. You picked them.
(682 Washington St., Boston, 617-482-7467, phopasteurboston.net)
Gourmet Dumpling House
The Gourmet Dumpling House appears to have chosen an apt name. Winner of the prized best dumplings category, this Chinatown spot serves up a lengthy list of them. They’re house-made and served until late. There is so much greatness to that sentence.
(52 Beach St., Boston, 617-338-6223)
Jason Bond’s critically-acclaimed, farmhouse style, nouveau-American restaurant isn’t the place to bring a one night stand. This is a house of date-night magic. They don’t have bar seating, the dress code leans towards dressy, and knock-out entrees are pricey, but well worth it. Feel free to commense long, lingering stares into your lovers eyes here. You may not be alone.
(279A Broadway, Cambridge, 617-661-0009, bondircambridge.com)
BREAKFAST + BRUNCH
The lines between breakfast and brunch are blurred at the Friendly Toast, where savory and sweet options in both the breakfast and non-breakfast varieties are served all day long. The only real distinction between the two is when you’ve woken up late enough that restaurant is legally allowed to serve you booze during brunch.
(1 Kendall Sq., Cambridge, 617-621-1200, thefriendlytoast.com)
COFFEE SHOP (MANUAL BREWING)
This subterranean Newbury Street spot serves up a cup that’s not your basic brew. From pour-over, to siphon, to French press this is the spot for those just a bold drip if you’re into the standard stuff. And: dogs are allowed. Which is good, because if not their name would just be odd.
(250 Newbury St., Boston, 857-366-4655, wiredpuppy.com)
FOOD AFTER MIDNIGHT
jm Curley’s is the epicenter of late-night munching for a few reasons. Firstly, they’re close to several lines of public trans (read: drunk T rides). Secondly, the food. Which is outstanding fare, with options aimed not to confuse you in the wee hours of the morning, but all the stuff you want to see – from outrageously good burgers, to rich pate, fried pickles Wu Tang Clan inspired junk food. Say that last part again.
(21 Temple Pl., Boston, 617-338-5333, jmcurleyboston.com)
Even with a new restaurant opening in Kendall Square every half-hour or so, Hungry Mother dominates the pack, steadily supplying ardent fans with the avant-garde soul picks it’s best known for (fried Chesapeake oysters!). As an added bonus, if you can’t get in the door, there’s also the restaurant’s State Park outpost nearby at One Kendall. They won’t let you down either.
(233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave., Cambridge, 617-499-0090, hungrymothercambridge.com)
Photo by Tegan Harmonay
CRAFT BEER + WINE
Bee’s Knees Supply Company
Put on some fresh afternoon gear, because you’re not just going to a liquor store. Or to a deli. From their relaxing wine room with aficionado demos to salty delights, it’s a miracle the Bee’s Knees posse doesn’t have to report unwanted loiterers more often.
(12 Farnsworth St., Boston, 617-292-2337, beeskneessupply.com)
Call us ignorant, but every time we walk into Toro, we find it best to ask for help navigating the mouth-wateringly multi-syllabic menu. From the Pimientos del Padron (spicy peppers) to Croquettas de Bacalao (salt cod alioli fritters), Ken Oringer and his exalted gang of chefs has never failed us once.
(1704 Washington St., Boston, 617-536-4300, toro-restaurant.com)
Libertarians probably love Sweet Cheeks. It’s one of the few BBQ spots where the eater is in full command of his or her own natural destiny, empowered to apply however much sweet, hot, or smoky love to their pork belly and pulled chicken as they wish. Like they say down south: Give us liberty and brisket, or give us death.
(1381 Boylston St., Boston, 617-266-1300, sweetcheeksq.com)
The Salty Pig
It would be hard to imagine a more appropriate name for The Salty Pig than the one it already has. Between their carving swine down to the teeth and shellacking every bit of it with some kind of smoke or spice, it just fits. We only wish the name did more justice to their stellar stinky cheese selection and broccoli rabe pizza.
(130 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-536-6200, thesaltypig.com)
Steve’s Greek Cuisine
Before you go and say, “I can’t believe they gave this to Steve’s–they’re closed,” you should know that the once-exalted Back Bay gyro Mecca was still there when Dig This nominations opened. You should also know that if you stop supporting take-out joints, that whole neighborhood will ultimately be altogether unaffordable for readers who are even the slightest bit hungry. #RIP
(316 Newbury St., Boston, 617-267-1817, stevesgreekcuisine.com)
Roxy’s Grilled Cheese
What’s in a grilled cheese, right? For one, if we’re talking about Roxy’s mobile unit, a whole lot of miles, as they’ve been feeding us properly since the dawn of Boston’s food truck era. Now also available near South Station, which almost makes excruciating commuter rail rides with suburbanites tolerable.
(roxysgrilledcheese.com, visit site for truck locations)
Myers + Chang
At the intersection of East Berkeley and Washington Street in the South End sits this crowd favorite for spicy Szechuan dan-dan pork noodles. They’ve been demonstrating for years how you can build a cult following on epic wok fare and the judicious use of things like green chili paste. Husband and wife team Christopher Myers and Joanne Chang continue to get noodles right.
(1145 Washington St., Boston, 617-542-5200, myersandchang.com)
Photo by Mona Maruyama
If it seems like Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette can do no wrong, it’s because that actually seems to be the case. This keystone of the South End food scene is bound for historical society status, as their signature wood pizzas and pastas from scratch keep Coppa marinating in the good graces of countless local foodies.
(253 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboton.com)
At this point, there’s nothing we can add to the praise that has been ladled on the work of world class chef Frank McClelland and his team at L’Espalier. Unless, of course, we’re alone in sometimes starving for a week in order to afford their cheese and wine program.
(774 Boylston St., Boston, 617-262-3023, lespalier.com)
Nice to see some old-timers getting the blast of Viagra they need to keep going all night once again. That happened when the winner of best steakhouse recently underwent an impressive rejuvenation makeover, which is fine for appearances and becoming a tad less old and stodgy, provided the steaks remain as dynamite as always. Thankfully, that’s the case here.
(161 Berkeley St., Boston, 617-542-2255, grill23.com)
Belly Wine Bar
Any place that has the option to “make it rain” and buy a magnum of bubbly to go around the small room marinated in the intoxicating mixture of fresh-sliced Spanish ham, whole legs of animals, and the wine knowledge of the Central Bottle people wins hearts every time. Especially on nights where someone actually makes it rain.
(1 Kendall Sq., Cambridge, 617-494-0968, bellywinebar.com)
It didn’t take long for the city’s top drink-slingers to find themselves bouncing between here and the old bartenders-bar, Drink, given the hip art-industrial space, late night bar scene, and ability to cull in cocktails from their pro bartender pals across the nation. And for good reason.
(343 Congress St., Boston, 617-790-0808, tavernroad.com)
We’re not the first one to tell you that Union Square in Somerville is up-and-coming, or that you should purchase real estate there should you have the means. If you do venture that way, though, be sure to satiate your salt and sausage jones with an evening in one of the cozy wooden rooms at Bronwyn.
(255 Washington St., Somerville, 617-776-9900, bronwynrestaurant.com)
Once again, Jackson Canon’s first cocktail-centric underbar, ripe with beautiful people and incredible drinks in the posh setting, takes the top seat for those looking for the best in hotel bar imbibment.
(500A Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-9150, thehawthornebar.com)
Photo by Mona Maruyama
Joanne Chang’s entrance onto the bakery scene was some time ago, yet her iconic staple of stomach-busting scones and gourmet sandwiches are offset only by the coffee snob’s java being served at all hours to a sexy clientele of locals and tourists.
(multiple locations in Boston, Cambridge. flourbakery.com)
Island Creek Oyster Bar
The only Island Creek Oyster Bar of the relatively young Duxbury mollusk farm, everything here moves the needle. Thousands of oyster shells as decoration, the wood palates, a modern-meets-rustic energy … it’s the best place in Kenmore to grab a several dozen monster oysters, maybe some ceviche and jumbo shrimp, and something from the outstanding bar program before a Sox game.
(500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-5300, islandcreekoysterbar.com)
A4 Pizza Bar
Resistance is futile. There is just no way you’re not going to vote this spot as pie-supreme, what with the classic video games always at the ready over the wood-shop/mad laboratory bar, the fantastic pizza by rockstar Michael Leviton (Lumiere), heady beers, and vintage vinyls on the walls. Great spot for solo missions, as adventures are plentiful here for those with the right stuff.
(445 Somerville Ave., Somerville, 617-764-4190, areafour.com)
Neptune has gotten all the love in the world for too long now just for their shell game. Which criminally overlooks the truly exemplary lobster roll to be found in this cozy, well-tiled haven of seafood and discerning crowds.
(63 Salem St., Boston, 617-742-3474, neptuneoyster.com)