As you may have noticed around this time last year, 2017 had quite a bit of good eating and drinking, but in some ways, 2018 has been even better, with too many great food items, restaurants, and bars to mention in one sitting. Last year, we ran with some specific dishes and dining/drinking spots, and this year is no different, with an ambitious random sampling given below.
Macaroni and Cheese
Silvertone, Boston – A near-legendary version of this old-school comfort-food classic from an industry haunt in the heart of downtown where you might just see your favorite local chefs sipping drinks if you hit it at the right time.
Ocean Sushi, Melrose – Beautifully presented and fresh-tasting options from a suburban spot few have heard of that’s buried within one of those mixed-use developments that seem to be everywhere these days.
Lynwood, Randolph – This legendary neighborhood joint has been around since the beginning of time; there’s a reason why you see people walking out of this place with huge stacks of to-go pies in greasy brown paper bags.
Pleasant Cafe, Roslindale – Classic thin-crust pizza is the name of the game at this homey and friendly restaurant that seems stuck in a time warp, and speaking of which, it also features cocktails that your grandparents used to enjoy.
Brewer’s Fork, Charlestown – A repeat, and for good reason, as the wood-fired pizzas at this bustling neighborhood restaurant rival the best pizzas in the entire region—and you can also get some top local beers to wash down the slices.
O’Sullivan’s, Somerville – Though not for everyone, the meatball-shaped burgers at this longtime pub near the Cambridge line are the kind you might get off the outdoor grill at a backyard party, though with many more options for toppings, including gouda, ham, and fried eggs.
Wendell’s Pub, Norton – People drive for miles to come to this rather forlorn-looking roadhouse a good ways southwest of Boston, as the garlicky, buttery sauce that comes with the wings will probably make your knees weak (and your stomach thrilled, unless you opt for the really hot sauces).
Ganko Ittetsu Ramen, Brookline – Another repeat, this tiny spot buried in an historic arcade in Coolidge Corner will make you quickly forget about the cheap drunken ramen from your younger years, unless you happened to eat sesame ramen with pork and garlic at three in the morning after a few too many beers.
Villa Mexico, Boston – A lot of great tacos can be found in the Greater Boston area, but the chorizo taco from this tiny downtown spot is among the best of the best with its smoky, savory flavors—this dish, in fact, may have been the best of anything tried in 2018. (Its burritos are outstanding as well, by the way.)
Steak and Cheese Subs
Ashmont Market, Dorchester – To those in the know, heading into the back of this neighborhood market for a classic overstuffed steak and cheese is a special treat, though if you don’t live nearby, you’ll need to plan to eat in your car (or sit on a bench in a nearby park if it’s not 10 below out).
Massimo’s, Wakefield – A version that’s a bit more on the parm side than the chicken side, this is a good thing in this case, as the dish is smothered with lots of cheese and a very rich house-made sauce, while, yes, there’s still enough battered chicken in the dish to make everyone happy.
Grumpy White’s, Quincy – Boneless fried chicken may be sacrilegious to some, but if you like totally old-school dishes that scream “Boston” (or “Quincy”), the boneless fried chicken plate with mashed potatoes at this old-fashioned family spot is a must in a stick-to-your-ribs comfort food kind of way.
Bricco Salumeria, Boston – Hidden in a dead-end alleyway off busy Hanover Street in the North End, this market has a variety of Italian goods, and its Italian subs have something that those from many other spots don’t—freshly made bread that might just be the best part of the sandwich.
NewBridge Cafe, Chelsea – Another legendary Boston-area spot that few outside of the Boston area know about, the Newbridge is often seen as the one and only place to go for steak tips, and with all due respect to such great spots as Floramo’s and Silvertone, it’s hard to disagree with this.
Rino’s, East Boston – What used to be a hidden gem has become a place with endless lines in part because it was featured on the Food Network years ago, but the lines are justified, as the fresh pasta—along with the red sauce—make for a memorable Italian-American meal, and perhaps a good nap afterwards.
Wang’s, Somerville – Lots of newcomers for dumplings have come to the region of late, but this longtime spot continues to impress, and watching the workers make the dumplings in the back gives a hint as to just how fresh the dumplings are.
Tasty on the Hill, Medford – Ever hear of a francesinha? That’s ok, because no one else has, either. But this unassuming Portuguese cafe near Tufts has them, and they include (wait for it) steak, ham, linguica, bacon, a hot dog, a fried egg, American cheese, and a tomato/beer-based sauce, all somehow stuffed into two pieces of bread.
Machu Chicken, Somerville – There are few things tastier than charcoal-roasted rotisserie chicken, and this quiet little spot in the heart of Union Square offers an inexpensive version of it along with other cheap eats, including a variety of delicious Peruvian and other South and Central American street food options such as empanadas and tamales.
For College Students
Anthony’s, Boston – A fave among students for a long, long time, this pizzeria and sub shop is big among those who go to BU, though some from other colleges find their way here as well. Highlights include outstanding thin-crust pizza and a steak and cheese sub that includes chunks of steak rather than shaved steak.
Nappi, Medford – It feels odd going to a restaurant that has no menu, but this Italian eatery in East Medford makes it work, telling customers what it has available each day. One note—Nappi is BYO, so unless you’re looking to drink soda or water, it’s something to plan for in advance (or go to the nearby liquor store once you get there).
Out of the Blue, Somerville – There aren’t too many Sicilian seafood restaurants in the Boston area, which is really a shame since Sicilian (and Italian) seafood dishes can really be something special. And this Davis Square spot is certainly a special place, with incredible takes on such items as fried calamari and grilled swordfish.
For Meat Eaters
Oliveira’s, Somerville – Say “Brazilian buffet” to a meat eater and chances are their eyes will light up, as these types of restaurants generally have every kind of meat under the sun. Oliveira’s is no exception, and it has the added benefit of having lots of room and a slightly upscale feel overall.
Casey’s, Somerville – It has been said that a true dive bar does not have good food (or any food at all, really), but an exception can be made for this East Somerville watering hole. Servers writing orders on Keno tickets is a sure sign of a place being a dive, but Casey’s also happens to offer tremendous takes on both pizza and steak tips, which could jeopardize its dive bar status in the eyes of some.
Deep Ellum, Allston – One of the oldest gastropubs in the Boston area, this local fave remains one of the best as well, with above-average pub grub and excellent cocktails, and if you’re a beer nut, you’ll probably go wild over the menu here, which includes some of the best local and national craft brews in the area.
Ashmont Grill, Dorchester – Last year’s favorite restaurant pick has a lot going for it, including upscale takes on comfort food, an attentive waitstaff, and a hidden back patio, but one thing that isn’t as well-known is the fact that the mixed drinks here rival those of some of the better-known Boston bars. Some of the drinks can also be a bit heavy on the pour, too, which can be a very good thing.
Victoria’s Diner, Boston – The Boston area has very few options for dining deep into the night, and even fewer 24-hour places, unfortunately. And while this diner on the Roxbury/Dorchester line is only open 24 hours a few days each week, if you need a plate of eggs at 3:30 in the morning on a Saturday, you’ll have no problem getting it here.
Where the Hell Are We?
B.C. Baking Co., Readville – There’s hidden and there is hidden, and this bakery tucked away in a residential neighborhood of Hyde Park is not a place that you’ll find if you’re getting from Point A to Point B. It’s a shame that so few know about it, as the Sicilian pizza, baked goods, and pastries are pretty impressive, with the pizza actually rivaling some of the best in the city.
Favorite Boston-Area Restaurant for 2018
Tampopo, Cambridge – Always a tough category, but this extraordinarily good dining spot is also one of the smallest in the region, being in the middle of the Porter Exchange food court and looking slightly bigger than a walk-in closet. The tempura, curry, katsu, shumai, and other items are mind-blowingly great here, and you can get a meal for little more than pocket change.
Favorite Boston-Area Bar for 2018
Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge – Cozy, moody, and a bit on the quirky side, this Inman Square drinking spot has it all, in a way—decent food, a great beer list, live music from local bands, and in the warmer months, a secret side patio. It may not be known all that well outside of the square (and outside of music circles), but it really should be, considering how special a place it is.
Favorite Restaurant Outside of the Boston Area for 2018
Worthy Kitchen, Woodstock, Vermont – Last year, Worthy Burger in South Royalton was the pick here, and now, its sister restaurant a short distance to the south makes the grade. Worthy Burger may have the advantage when it comes to atmosphere and location (it is on a rail line deep in a wooded valley), but Worthy Kitchen has more food options to offer and it’s in Woodstock, which is a charming town with a lot of sights nearby.
Favorite Bar Outside of the Boston Area for 2018
Fastnet Pub, Newport, Rhode Island – Don’t tell anyone about this place, but this watering hole just outside of the more touristy section of Newport is the type of spot that you’ll never want to leave, as its dark rooms, wood stove, funky music selections, terrific pub grub, and array of Irish and British beers will have you falling in love with the place almost immediately.