Editor’s Note: At the time of publication, Boston is allowing both indoor and outdoor dining. Keep up with the latest restrictions on dining in cities across the U.S. and Canada.
Collective upheaval characterized the global experience of 2020 and beyond. There are few industries where this has manifested more clearly than in restaurants, where owners and employees must constantly adapt their businesses while trying to carry on the spirit of hospitality to provide comfort and sustenance to their communities.
Like all cities, Boston’s restaurants are integral to neighborhood landscapes, and as winter settles in and the region adapts to a new normal, dining has taken many forms: from limited indoor seating to heated outdoor tables and good old takeout.
Even in this altered landscape, Bostonites can still enjoy world-class dining from a variety of cuisines, at a range of different price points. It’s more important than ever to support local restaurants, and there’s no better way to start than by checking out these local gems, whether you’re sitting down to dinner or simply waving hello as you pick-up takeout. Here are the local favorites that Bostonites love.
The Glenville Stops (Allston)
This quiet, cozy restaurant sits on a side street just off Commonwealth Avenue in Allston. It has the feel of a British pub, and for good reason — the owner and the head chef both hail from England. And while patrons can no longer crowd the bar, sampling from the restaurant’s rotating cask selections, the dining room preserves much of the experience. Here, a vast array of wine and beer complement entrées that range from casual fare such as burgers to more composed plates such as the pan-seared salmon.
Dining at the restaurant: Parties between one and six people may dine inside, where tables are socially distanced. The restaurant’s private dining room can accommodate up to six people of the same party as well.
Takeout: Diners can place takeout orders by phone or stop by the restaurant; delivery is also available via third-party applications. For the latest menu, visit the restaurant’s website.
Laughing Monk Cafe (Mission Hill)
Laughing Monk Cafe deftly combines both Japanese and Thai menus, serving a full sushi selection alongside dishes such as pad see ew and a variety of Thai curries. Chef Nick Korboon directs the sushi bar, while chef Noi Karen supervises the Thai kitchen, bringing 25 years of cuisine experience to the varied menu, which allows diners to order a la carte and combine the best of both worlds.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant offers limited capacity indoor seating.
Takeout: Laughing Monk’s entire menu is available for takeout, as well as special at-home experiences such as a multi-course omakase or the ability to book one of the restaurant’s sushi chefs to come to your home and prepare a meal for up to six people. Note that both of these options must be booked in advance.
MIDA (South End)
Chef Douglass Williams, named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2020, has created a cozy, welcoming Italian restaurant in Boston’s South End. Like most restaurants, MIDA has adapted during the pandemic, serving specials such as Mangia Mondays for two, where diners can pick up five full pasta dishes (made in-house), plus salad and bread. The restaurant also hosts periodic virtual wine tasting packages, where diners can pick up wine and food from the restaurant and enjoy a quick tutorial from a wine professional in the comfort of their own home.
Dining at the restaurant: MIDA offers indoor dining at limited capacity.
Takeout: The restaurant’s menu is available for takeout via MIDA’s website, and delivery is available via third-party apps.
Suya Joint (Roxbury)
Located in Nubain Square, Suya Joint is Roxbury’s go-to spot for West African cuisine. The restaurant is known for its namesake dish, Nigerian beef suya, a spicy meat skewer, and also has a lengthy menu of soups and stews to combat cold winter days. Whether you go for efo-riro, a rich vegetable stew, or taushe, a peanut soup simmered with vegetables and herbs, don’t forget to order extra fufu: a dumpling made from pounded grain that is perfect for soaking up the flavorful broth.
Dining at the restaurant: Suya Joint is currently only open for takeout and delivery.
Takeout: Takeout is through the restaurant’s website, and delivery is available via third-party apps.
Vejigantes (South End)
Vejigantes is run by Hector and Nivia Pina, who also run the popular Doña Habana. This restaurant shares Doña’s family-friendly atmosphere, but turns its focus to the food of Puerto Rico, showcasing the vast diversity of cuisine from the island. Start with an order of arañitas de plátanos de Doña Felita (green plantain fritters) and then save yourself a hard decision by getting the mofonguito sampler: three small mofongo stuffed with beef, shrimp, and lobster.
Dining at the restaurant: Vejigantes serves both lunch and dinner with limited indoor seating.
Takeout: Takeout is available via the restaurant’s website. Don’t forget to pair your meal with one of the takeout cocktails, including mojito and coquito kits.
Brassica Kitchen (Jamaica Plain)
Brassica started its life as a pop-up and now operates as an all-day café in Jamaica Plain. During the day, the restaurant serves coffee, housemade pastries, and sandwiches. But come dinner time, locals flock for the creative, seasonal dishes. House-fermented foods show up across the dinner menu, with pickled herbs accenting Wagyu beef, and fermented soy beans adding additional flavor to linguine and clams.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant takes reservations for dinner, with indoor seating limited.
Takeout: Brassica’s carry-out options feature regular menu items, but also include provisions, beer, and wine. Order via the restaurant’s website.
La Voile (Back Bay)
La Voile’s Swiss-American owner wanted to bring a taste of France to the Back Bay — so much so that he didn’t just import ingredients, he also imported the zinc bar, tables and chairs, wooden wine fridge (an old butcher’s fridge), and vintage chandeliers. All of this lends a transporting atmosphere that’s bolstered by the impressive wine list and menu of bistro classics such as foie gras, roasted duck breast, and crème brulée for dessert.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant offers limited indoor dining.
Takeout: La Voile offers its full menu and wine list for takeout and delivery via third-party apps.
Mamma Maria (North End)
This quintessential North End neighborhood restaurant provides a charming atmosphere overlooking North Square Park. With a four diamond rating from the AAA Travel Guide, Mamma Maria flies under the radar of the bustling North End Italian restaurants, but delivers quality fine dining off the well-beaten path of Hanover street. The compact menu of pastas, entrees, and antipasti provide refined, Italian comfort, with a complementing wine menu. (Mamma Maria is currently in hibernation until further notice, due to the pandemic.)
Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe (Downtown)
Beloved for the restaurant’s hand-pulled noodles, Gene’s is an unassuming but coveted Downtown fixture that showcases the flavors of Western Chinese cuisine. Try the signature lamb noodle soup, where the freshly made noodles and slow-cooked lamb are served in lamb broth packed with wood ear mushrooms, chile oil, and cilantro. The restaurant also has a menu of vegetarian options, such as hot and sour hand-pulled noodle soup.
Dining at the restaurant: Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe recommends calling for reservations. Note that the restaurant is closed Sundays.
Takeout: The restaurant’s menu is available for takeout via online ordering
Gustazo Cuban Kitchen & Bar (Cambridge)
A Porter Square paragon, Gustazo is one of the few spots for Cuban cuisine in the Cambridge area. Owners Patricia Estorino and Adolfo De La Vega opened the original Gustazo in a suburban neighborhood, experiencing such success that they followed it up with the Cambridge counterpart in early 2019. The new location serves up classics such as ropa vieja, shredded flank steak in tomato sauce, and arroz con pollo, in a dining room filled with modern Cuban art.
Dining at the restaurant: Gustazo is accepting reservations for limited indoor dining.
Takeout: Takeout is available through the restaurant’s website. Don’t skip the cocktails section, which frequently weaves in Cuban ingredients to drinks such as the tropical Cuban margarita, which gets the addition of passion fruit and guanabana, a custardy, acidic fruit that brings in flavors similar to banana and pineapple.
Chalawan Asian Eatery (Cambridge)
Chalawan is relatively new to the Porter Square neighborhood, but it has quickly become a fixture due its expansive Southeast Asian menu that has options for meat lovers, seafood fans, vegetarians, and gluten-free diners alike. The menu notes the place of inspiration for each dish, transporting diners on the chef’s journeys through various countries. A starter of crispy calamari with kaffir lime, lemongrass, and chile jam sauce brings in flavors from Penang, Malaysia, while an entree of duck in red curry nods to central Thailand.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant accepts reservations for limited indoor dining.
Takeout: Chalawan’s full menus are available for takeout and delivery via the restaurant’s website, with wine and beer options as well.
Somerville locals benefited greatly when La Brasa chef Daniel Bojoroquez decided to hand over the restaurant’s market and cafe space to his former roommate, chef Michael Bergin. Now residents and visitors have the distinct pleasure of choosing from two restaurants that sit within the same building. For wood-fired, seasonal dishes such as grilled flank steak with cilantro chimichurri, diners can head to La Brasa; for modern Italian tasting menus with plenty of homemade pasta, go for Fat Hen.
Dining at the restaurant: Both restaurants are open for limited indoor dining. In addition to regular service, La Brasa and Fat Hen are collaborating to host the “New England’s Finest Chef Series,” a series of special prix-fixe dinners that showcase cuisine from chefs across Boston and surrounding states.
Reservations for Fat Hen:
Reservations for La Brasa:
Barra (Union Square)
This compact restaurant, a newer addition to the Somerville scene with a menu from chef Sofía García Osorio, specializes in Mexico City cuisine, ranging from cactus salad to cecina tacos. Don’t miss the wide selections of tequila, sotol (a spirit distilled from the sotol plant), and cocktails, all available to go.
Dining at the restaurant: Barra is currently only open for takeout and delivery.
Takeout: Barra offers takeout and delivery, with drinks to-go and some grocery items as well. Meal kits make it especially easy to make Mexican at home, with all the ingredients necessary for dishes such as chilaquiles, memelas, and quesadillas.
Casa B (Union Square)
Bring home a tapas spread from this Somerville favorite that adds Caribbean influence and some dashes of Colombia to Spanish tapas. For instance, the popular Spanish tapa, Galician-style octopus, comes with a side of yucca salad, and beef meatballs are given a Caribbean twist with the addition of guava to the tomato sauce. If you’re dreaming of warmer weather, check out the sunny cocktail list and add a paloma or daiquiri to round out the meal.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is not open for indoor dining at the time of publishing.
Takeout: Takeout is available through Casa B’s website and delivery is available via third-party apps.
Steel and Rye (Milton)
Just outside of Boston, Steel and Rye is a spacious restaurant known for its wood-fired pizzas and family-friendly environment. During the day, the restaurant operates a bakery that serves up coffee, sandwiches, and pastries. At night, the dinner menu is home to crowd-pleasing, hearty dishes such as rigatoni bolognese and fried chicken sandwiches, as well as simple but delicious appetizers like broccoli rabe with lemon vinaigrette. Beyond serving diners at the restaurant, Steel and Rye also prepares meals for families in the community who are facing food insecurity.
Dining at the restaurant: Steel and Rye offers limited indoor dining for dinner and weekend brunch.
Takeout: The restaurant offers its bakery, lunch, and dinner menus to go, along with a menu of to-go cocktails, wine and beer through Steel and Rye’s website.
Dana Hatic is a freelance journalist based in Boston, where she covers everything from restaurants to the outdoors industry and beyond.