Over the summer, the return to restaurants in Boston and beyond has been, in many ways, like seeing old friends again. And now that the vaccine is widely available, it’s time to celebrate.
On the menu for your food festivities this coming fall? Check out these hotspots, from new ventures by celebrity chefs to road-trip worthy destinations for open-fire grilled delights. Be sure to book a table (or several) at these restaurants while you can, and once you’re there, tip well. And absolutely splurge for dessert.
The Banks Fish House (Back Bay)
Boston boasts no shortage of seafood restaurants, but The Banks Fish House, opened in July, toes the line between casual and classy, with more than a bit of humor. Sure, there’s clam chowder on the menu — with added oomph thanks to pork belly — but have you ever wanted to try the lovechild of chowder and pizza? Savor the chowda flatbread, with clams, smoked bacon, potatoes, oyster crackers, and crème fraiche, with an optional dollop of caviar. Other offerings include lobster rolls, spaghetti with cuttlefish and Maine uni, and bountiful seafood towers. The two-story restaurant helmed by restaurateur Chris Himmel and executive chef/partner Robert Sisca joins sibling spots Bistro du Midi, Grill 23, and Harvest as the first seafood restaurant in the Himmel Restaurant Group. Book now to snag a seat at the hotspot’s second-floor “Top Shell Bar” and the dining room where you can soak up city views as you dive into the daily crudo.
Doña Habana (Roxbury)
With vaccines now widely available, leading to the lift on restaurant capacities and live entertainment restrictions, Doña Habana is banking on the fact that you missed the electric energy of live music with your meals. Pairing the Roxbury restaurant’s flavorful Cuban cuisine with the return of live music on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays sounds like sweet harmony. Shimmy over to the restaurant to delight in specialties such as fufú — mashed sweet plantains with shrimp — and crispy pork belly bites, along with zippy mojitos. Both the vibrant dining room and the lounge exude tropical vibes, and the beats whisk you away to warmer climates even as autumn approaches.
Pammy’s in Cambridge proves that there’s still lots to say “cheers” to, even as the summer cools into fall. Besides the new American trattoria fare dreamt up by chef Chris Willis, who co-owns the spot with his wife and the front-of-house maestro Pam Willis, the new patio parties lure with a carefree vibe (plus, plenty of house-made limoncello, which is crafted with Meyer lemons). As you return to the favorite neighborhood spot, you’ll notice some new faces, too, now that new general manager Alex Gang is aboard. And new sommelier Katie Hubbard continues the tradition of pairing sumptuous wines with the prix-fixe feast of three dishes for $69 — masterpieces such as branzino paired with bacon dashi and confit lamb served with fava and black beans.
Brasserie (South End)
Since opening this past spring in the former Gaslight space, Brasserie has been abuzz, bringing sumptuous steak frites, duck à l’orange, and other French fare back to SoWa. The team behind the restaurant is full of familiar faces: Owner Jeff Gates was a former partner of the Aquitaine Group, which helmed Gaslight. He brings that same affection for the much-loved Gaslight to the menu of Brasserie, which draws inspiration from (what else) the brasseries of France, which dish out refined-yet-unfussy plates such as bright honeydew gazpacho and gnocchi with gruyere mousseline. Other plates travel from France to New England shores, with lobster salad served on a croissant and a bouillabaisse bursting with local cod, clams, and shrimp.
Bar Cicchetti Boston (Financial District)
For now, celebrity chef, restaurateur, and Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani is tight-lipped about what to expect when his first foray into Boston opens soon in the Financial District. But by taking a peek at the Instagram of the Mediterranean-inspired Bar Cicchetti Boston, as well as the menu of his Oklahoma City outpost, Bostonians can likely expect bites such as bacon and brie Roman-style pizzas, house-made truffle gnocchi, and kobe steaks. Savor both entrees and small, shareable plates over cocktails, and do make sure to mangia on Viviano’s famous meatballs doused in house-made marinara.
Fore Street (Portland, Maine)
After closing its dining room for much of the pandemic, Fore Street is once again open in Portland, just in time for a leaf-peeping road trip to Maine that ends with stellar cuisine. A chance to spy the interior of the restaurant with its brick walls, handsome wood floors, and brick and soapstone hearth — all with a stunning view of Portland’s historic Old Port — is enough of a reason to hop in the car alone. The restaurant’s locally sourced menu changes daily based on what’s in season and what farmers and fishermen deliver. With much of the menu grilled over the open fire, from seasonal preparations of wood-grilled marinated squid to pork loin roasted on the turnspit, you’re bound to want to savor the restaurant’s bounty more than once. So why not stay in town a few nights?
GPub Plymouth (Plymouth, Massachusetts)
Slated to open late summer/early fall, GPub Plymouth joins its older sibling in Providence as a sprawling destination for upscale gastropub bites in a lively atmosphere. Think gabbing over shareable plates such as candied pork belly with pickled watermelon rind and an Italian spin on nachos that sees fried pasta chips topped with asiago, tomato and basil relish, and roasted eggplant. You can work up an appetite with table games and hit up the arcade area with the kids, or if a more subdued night is on the menu, head to the cushy speakeasy space for cocktails and live acoustic entertainment. Another excuse to toast: local craft cidery High Limb Cider shares a space with the restaurant, and you can hang in the taproom or tour the production facility while you enjoy GPub’s menu.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.