Boston is known for its historical roots, collegiate life, charming brownstones — and some of the best food in the country. From the North End’s traditional Italian pastas, to diverse cuisines in the South End to New England seafood bars dotted around the city, there’s never a dull moment when it comes to food. In a city that has seen countless graduations, engagements, and birthdays, Boston takes the special occasion element to another level with these top 16 restaurants for every celebration.
Citrus & Salt (Back Bay)
Grab a frozen marg or two and tacos at Back Bay’s beachy, tropical Mexican restaurant Citrus & Salt. Baja Coast-inspired eats by chef-owner Jason Santos (also of Abby Lane and Buttermilk & Bourbon) are served in a setting of fairy lights, a Calavera mural, and pink-washed walls in the front dining room. The more intimate backroom takes on a punk glam vibe with vine-covered shelves, a chandelier, and a candle-lit refectory table. Dishes that show off the best of the restaurant include blue crab taquitos, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos grilled street corn, and butter-poached lobster tacos. The rainbow-colored array of drinks top off this special occasion spot that’s great for birthdays, date nights, and fun get-togethers — all without breaking the bank.
Dining at the restaurant: Only indoor dining is offered. Private dining can be arranged through OpenTable.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery are both available.
Renowned restaurateur Barbara Lynch’s French-Italian fine-dining restaurant Menton takes a well-deserved spot on this list. As the only Relais & Châteaux association restaurant in Boston, it offers an unparalleled tasting menu of hits such as raviolo al’ ouvo with leek, truffle, and lobster nage with the option for shaved truffle; foie gras torchon with milk, cherry, and oat; and an A5 wagyu supplement course with white asparagus and truffle jus. Menton goes above and beyond for private dining with a private room for 45 people with a dedicated kitchen and chef, or the chef’s table for 12 diners hidden inside the kitchen with a direct view of the action unfolding during service.
Dining at the restaurant: The traditional fine-dining destination is only available for indoor dining.
Takeout: Menton does not offer takeout or delivery.
Bringing flavors of the Mediterranean coast to the Boston waterfront, Committee reimagines the traditional ouzeri (a Greek tavern serving ouzo and mezze) with an elegant lounge, a chef’s counter, communal high-top tables, and an outdoor patio. The expansive restaurant can cater to any occasion with plenty of dining options to choose from. Larger groups can feast on the grilled meat platter with skewers, lamb chops, meatballs, sausages, and steak, all served with potatoes, spicy cheese dip, yogurt sauce, and pita bread, while the manti dumplings — filled with crab meat and cheese, drizzled with yogurt — are a great starter. As is the pastourmadopitakia, a cured beef-filled phyllo pastry with herbed cheese and sumac. The atmosphere is relaxed, and conversation flows over shareable plates paired with creative cocktails.
Dining at the restaurant: Both indoor and outdoor dining are offered.
Takeout: Both takeout and delivery are offered.
Hei La Moon (Chinatown)
In the heart of Chinatown, Hei La Moon is a banquet-style dim sum restaurant with traditional dim sum carts wheeled around for you to choose from. The grand dining room has seen plenty of weddings, birthdays, and large reunions. A fun experience for the family, the variety of dim sum ranges around $5 to $7 per dish for classics such as barbecue pork buns, chicken feet, shrimp dumplings, and an all-day menu of spicy spare ribs, Peking duck, and every style of fried rice and noodles imaginable.
Dining at the restaurant: Be prepared for long lines on weekend mornings for dining in.
Takeout: Pick-up orders can be placed on the website.
o ya (Chinatown)
o ya’s swoon-worthy $250-per-person omakase serves up 20 courses of nigiri, sashimi, and small plates ins in an experience worth splurging for. This is not your traditional, pared-down menu — inventive dishes at o ya come alive in the form of Kumamoto oysters with watermelon pearls and cucumber mignonette; kinmedai with ume, plum vinaigrette, and shiso; and hamachi with banana pepper mousse. The dimly lit space is small but refined, with the majority of diners choosing the omakase counter to watch the magic happen. For a more casual, but equally special experience, opt for an evening at Hojoko, husband-wife owners Tim and Nancy Cushman’s other Boston restaurant.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is available.
Takeout: o ya currently offers takeout in the form of pop-up gogo ya, with sushi tacos, rice bowls, maki rolls, sashimi, and nigiri. The pop-up got its start at Time Out Market and will return there soon.
Select Oyster Bar (Back Bay)
The first restaurant for chef-owner Michael Serpa, Select Oyster Bar serves the freshest New England seafood with Mediterranean flavors out of a Bostonian brownstone. Named the city’s best seafood restaurant by Boston magazine, Select Oyster Bar knows how to do seafood right. Platters come in four variations with increasingly larger offerings of oysters, shrimp cocktail, blue crab salad, Maine lobster, crudo, tuna tartare, and caviar. Wash it down with a “salt washed” cocktail with gin, fino sherry, cucumber, and black pepper. The trendy exposed brick restaurant is adorned with a funky pop artsy painting and a framed whale print.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor and outdoor dining are both offered.
Takeout: The restaurant offers takeout (except the oysters, which are best enjoyed fresh), but not delivery.
Mela Indian Restaurant (South End)
Mela lives up to its neighborhood fame as a rare Indian restaurant in the South End with diner favorites: chicken tikka masala, palek paneer, creamy butter chicken, and fresh garlic naan. You don’t want to skip dessert here with traditional gulab jamun (sugar-soaked fried dough balls), rasmalai (patties of cheese cooked in sweet milk and nuts), and kheer (rice pudding with raisins, and almonds) for a sweet end to your meal. The modern dining room is decked out with gold wall carvings and round hanging lights, making Mela the ideal neighborhood restaurant for date nights and low-key birthdays.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining and outdoor streetside dining are both available.
Takeout: Both takeout and delivery are offered.
MIDA (South End)
Helmed by acclaimed chef Douglass Williams, MIDA gives North End restaurants a run for their money with handmade pasta and traditional Italian entrées. MIDA means “he gives me” in Italian, which Williams takes seriously with generous portions presented in the form of gnocchi cacio e pepe, pesto spaccatelli, and bucatini all’amatriciana. On “Mangia Mondays,” treat yourself to all-you-can-eat pasta, bread, and salad — $70 for two. Comforting meals are served in a bright setting with a lively atmosphere at the bar making MIDA is a neighborhood go-to for memorable evenings with great food time and time again.
Dining at the restaurant: The minimalistically chic interior is open for indoor dining and the outdoor patio is open, weather permitting. MIDA Newton recently opened a few weeks ago and is already garnering rave reviews, with the same handmade pastas and the addition of New Haven-style thin crust pizza.
Takeout: MIDA offers both delivery and takeout. “Mangia Mondays” are also available for takeout and will include five pasta entrees, salad, and bread that serves two for $70.
As one would expect, Mooo…. is a steakhouse dishing out perfectly seared filet mignon, sirloin, ribeye, and more. The elegant, dimly lit dining room is decorated with abstract black-and-white photography of — you guessed it — cows. This refined spot has a dress code of “elegant casual/business casual,” for when you’re looking for a special evening complete with dressing up. On the lighter side of the à la carte selection is Japanese wagyu dumplings, broiled oysters, and roasted beef bone marrow with herb butter and red wine sauce.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is available. For the ultimate special occasion event, Mooo…. is hosting a one-time, multi-course dinner in the private wine cellar, guided by in-house sommeliers, at $995 a pop on October 7.
Takeout: Both takeout and delivery are available, with complimentary butler delivery service to local areas.
Uni (Back Bay)
Uni is not your typical Japanese restaurant. James Beard Award-winning chefs Ken Oringer and Tony Messina showcase their take on contemporary Japanese cuisine at The Eliot Hotel with Uni’s adventurous sashimi and nigiri menu. Think kingfish with strawberry, rhubarb, and peanut salsa macha; Scottish trout with wasabi crème fraîche, ikura, and dill; a must-try uni spoon with fresh uni, quail egg yolk, yuzu, and osetra caviar perched delicately atop a teaspoon. The exquisite dinner menu and polished setting are favorable for anniversaries, birthdays, and graduation dinners. Paper chandeliers and candles softly light the dark wood interior; you can also opt to sit streetside on Massachusetts Avenue. For a private dining experience at The Eliot Hotel, Uni will set up a table inside your hotel room for an in-suite service with a trimmed-down menu.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor, outdoor, and room service are offered.
Takeout: Takeout is offered, but not delivery.
Trifecta (Back Bay)
A brand-new addition to the dining offerings at the Four Seasons Hotel, street-level lobby bar Trifecta unveils a creative cocktail menu that features drinks such as the “elixir” with tequila, kiwi, lime, agave, coconut, and activated charcoal foam, and the “metamorphosis” transporting you to the beach with rum, banana liquor, and butterfly pea flower. Beyond celebratory drinks, weekends bring afternoon tea and bubbles with three tiers of bite-sized pastries, finger sandwiches, macarons, and scones. Either choice is a treat. On the food menu is a lobster roll that’s almost too pretty to eat; sandwiched between toast is buttery lobster weaved between thin slices of celery, fennel soubise, topped with caviar, and dill.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is offered inside the chic beige lounge.
Takeout: Trifecta does not offer takeout or delivery.
Beehive (South End)
This popular bi-level restaurant in the Boston Center for the Arts is known for its live music by local artists every night from jazz, blues, R&B, electronica, reggae, to Latin — you name it. While Beehive lets loose at night, the all-day dining venue also dishes out brunch, midday fare, dinner, and late-night bites. A healthy amount of dishes are vegetarian or gluten-free friendly, such as the spring vegetable couscous with pea pesto, salsa verde, and harissa or whipped ricotta with roasted peppers and blistered tomatoes. Though, meat lovers will be happy with fall-off-the-bone baby back pork ribs.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor and outdoor dining are both offered. The space is rustic with exposed brick walls and red drape curtains.
Takeout: Beehive does both takeout and delivery.
Mamma Maria (North End)
In a neighborhood teeming with Italian restaurants, Mamma Maria stands out for a special occasion, particularly for private dining as a destination with five private rooms and as a popular location for intimate weddings. The New York Times called Mamma Maria “different from the rest,” and The Boston Globe’s restaurant critic recommends the veal ossobuco with risotto alla Milanese and the slow-cooked rabbit pappardelle with crispy pancetta and fresh rosemary. The historic 19th-century row house is the backdrop for stunningly ornate light-filled rooms during the day and chandelier-lit settings at night.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is available in the two-story restaurant and outdoor tables spill out onto North Square.
Takeout: Delivery and takeout are offered on OpenTable. For a special personal touch for gifting meals, Mamma Maria can include a hand-stamped letterhead card to write a message in when you order online.
Oak + Rowan (Fort Point)
Contemporary American is served in lofty quarters at Oak + Rowan. The restaurant is centered around a land and sea approach to locally sourced seafood, sustainable caviar, and prime meats that comes through in dishes such as lamb saddle with sweet potato, chanterelle, and blackberry or dry-aged duck with rillettes, bok choy, gooseberry, and jus. For a seafood array, the power tower has a dozen oysters, three crudos, shrimp, and the option for a caviar add-on — an extremely special spread for celebrations. A mix of modern and historical interiors combine oak, marble, glass, exposed brick, and wide windows.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is inspired by the feeling of being in a treehouse as a kid, airy and open while being cozy. The outdoor patio is equally charming.
Takeout: Oak + Rowan offers a trimmed-down takeout and delivery menu.
The Helmand Restaurant (East Cambridge)
Named after Afghanistan’s longest river, The Helmand in Cambridge serves traditional Afghani fare in a white tablecloth setting around a hearth oven, where a chef cooks flatbread that is an accompaniment to several meals. You’ll find famous dishes such as the kabuli pulao, a staple dish of rice with raisins, glazed julienne of carrots, and chunks of lamb. For a hearty meal, the half rack of grilled marinated lamb is served on a bed of rice with sauteed eggplant and more flatbread. In addition, an entire section of vegetarian entrees is available, including baked pumpkin and eggplant drizzled with yogurt garlic sauce. The Helmand is a rarity in special occasion restaurants that deserves a visit, or many.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining in the main dining room or streetside patio dining are offered.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery orders can be placed on OpenTable.
Alcove (North End)
Steps away from TD Garden, Alcove is a waterfront restaurant with sweeping views of the iconic Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. Grab a celebratory pint on the outdoor patio before or after a concert or game and snack on luscious lobster dip while looking out over the water. Alcove keeps things interesting with weekly specials with wine pairings, such as scallop risotto paired with renowned wines. The raw bar features line-caught crudo and New England oysters. Alcove’s stylish digs resemble an upscale gastropub, and the space is ideal for sizable semi-private gatherings in the expansive dining room that can host socials, business networking events, birthdays, and more.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining and outdoor patio dining are available.
Takeout: Alcove offers both takeout and delivery.