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Looking for the best places to eat in Boston? When it comes to this Massachusetts capital city, food is the name of the game and Bostonians take their dining out very seriously. With a history older than the Declaration of Independence and a population as diverse as America itself, the cuisine scene here represents the very people that have called it home for generations. From seafood to Italian to fusion, these are my top picks!
The Best Places to Eat in Boston
Union Oyster House
Of all the best places to eat in Boston, number one on your list has to be Union Oyster House. As the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the United States, it has seem some of the most influential revolutionaries, politicians, and celebrities in the two centuries it’s been open. Think everyone from John F. Kennedy, who ate here every Sunday, all the way to Meryl Streep.
And, as you might guess, there’s a very good reason Union Oyster House has remained a crowd favorite for decades. It serves incredible food – so much so that it won the North American Best Landmark Restaurant in 2020 by the World Culinary Awards. Start with the very oysters that give the restaurant its name and then try one of their hearty seafood dishes.
Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shop
You can’t think Italian-Americans and not think of Boston. After the Irish, they make up the largest single ethnic group in the city and have brought their culinary traditions with them. The main neighborhood you want to go for truly authentic Italian food is North End where many southern Italian immigrants settled after coming through the Port of Boston.
This area, which is also the oldest residential community in Boston, is full Italian eateries, bakeries, and cafes with recipes passed down from generation to generation. One of those spots has to be Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shop, founded by Frank DePasquale. DePasquale comes from a town near the Amalfi Coast and wanted to offer the kind of handmade pasta he saw his mother make all through his childhood.
There are two ways to enjoy Bricco. The first is to pick up all the supplies you’d need to prepare your own Italian dinner – everything from imported meats to olive oil to cheese – or stop in and order one of their sandwiches. If I had to choose just one to get, I’d pick the Italian sandwich. Think mortadella, Genoa salami, and soppressata all stuffed between some freshly made bread. YUM!
When it comes to incredible Chinese food in Boston, look no farther than the family-owned Sichuan Garden. Michael and Den Duan moved to Boston with their three-year-old son, Ran, so Michael could pursue his masters at Boston University. Fast forward two decades, and they have two Sichuan Gardens – one at Brookline Village and one at the Baldwin Mansion.
At these two locations they’re able to serve up authentic dishes right from their hometown.
Blossom Bar at Sichuan Garden
Located in the Brookline Sichuan Garden is another gem in Boston’s restaurant scene – Blossom Bar. After their son graduated from Johnson & Wales in 2009, Michael and Den tasked Ran with opening up a bar above their Baldwin Mansion location. Over the next decade, Ran studied everything he possible could related to mixology and not only opened up bars at each of Sichuan Garden’s location but began winning all sorts of competitions for his concoctions.
The Blossom Bar in particular has a stylish mint green interior that feels both photo ready and homey while the drinks have a strong Latin-American influence. If you want to try one of the cocktails that won Ran an award, ask for the Gloria.
You can’t visit to Boston without slurping down a bowl of clam chowder. While there are many variations on this filling dish, the New England variety is known for its cream-based chowder and thicker consistency. It’s the perfect thing to eat if you visit during the colder months (which start earlier and end later in this part of the country!).
While there are many restaurants that serve chowder, the most classic option is Legal Seafoods. What was once a fish market in Cambridge has now become the most popular place to try one of Boston’s most iconic dishes. They have plenty of locations all over the city, including one in every terminal at Logan Airport, so there’s no need to worry if one is too full. Don’t forget oyster crackers when you have your chowder.
Looking for some incredible pizza in Boston? Head right over to Santarpio’s Pizza. They’ve been in business in East Boston since 1903 and the name comes from the family that still owns and operates it. Santarpio’s has got a cult following and include fans such as celebrity chefs Rachael Ray and Andrew Zimmern. There are quite a few pizza toppings to try, but I’d say a must-try is the sausage and garlic pie.
Another great pizza spot in Boston, this time in South End, is Picco. They use cold-ferment sourdough for their pies and only uses the freshest and most local of ingredients. All toppings are even made in house. For a special treat, save room for their homemade ice cream. Not only do they make everything from scratch, they source the milk from local farms, and all toppings are made in the kitchen – sans fructose corn syrup.
I know these slippery little suckers are a polarizing food, but if you’re in the camp that can’t get enough of them, then you won’t want to miss Neptune Oyster in the North End neighborhood. This tiny oyster bar is responsible for some of the cleanest seafood in the city and specializes in East Coast oysters specifically. They were even James Beard Award semifinalists for Outstanding Restaurant in 2020.
Because the seats are so coveted and they don’t take reservations, I recommend putting your name in early and then doing some sightseeing around the neighborhood. The Paul Revere House is nearby and a great spot for history buffs interested in the American Revolution.
Uni Sashimi Bar
If you’re looking for some truly incredible sushi and sashimi in Boston then head right over to Uni Sashimi Bar. Founded by James Beard Award-winning chef, Ken Origner, the restaurant has been opened since 2002. What began as an intimate sashimi bar in the lounge of his first Boston restaurant, Clio, is now an expansive spot serving only the best and freshest seafood from Tsukiji Market in Tokyo and local catches from New England.
Another Ken Origner restaurant not to miss is Toro in Boston’s South End neighborhood. The Spanish tapas-style menu comes from both Origner and Jamie Bissonnette, also a James Beard Award winner, and the focus is on Barcelona-inspired plates. Come with a friend or two and get a bunch of dishes to share.
Another thing Bostonians love? Pastries – especially those of the Italian variety. Locals will almost always point towards Modern Pastry as the best place for cannolis as well as other Italian sweets. This family-owned bakery was first established in 1930 by the Picariello family, who came over with the intent of sharing the best of Italian recipes and hospitality. They still mix in old-worth methods from over 150 years ago and have established themselves as a crowd favorite in North End.
This busy spot does tables service and to-go orders, but if you’re looking for a mid-day respite after some Boston sightseeing, grab a seat at one of their bistro tables and enjoy a treat with some coffee.
Another fantastic bakery is the delightfully quirky flour bakery + cafe. Originally founded by Joanne Chang in 2000 with a South End location, there are now multiple spots all over the city. Combining both her French and American training, each spot offers up the most delicious pastries, cookies, and tarts as well as sandwiches, soups, and salads in case you’re not in a sweet mood.
Flour has earned worldwide recognition from all the top culinary and travel magazines while Chef Bobby Flay is one of the many fans of Chang’s sticky buns. She’s even a James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Baker and has shared her recipes in not one, not two, but five cookbooks.
The best part of flour’s multiple locations is that you can find one in almost any neighborhood you’re sightseeing in!
If restaurateur Barbara Lynch is attached to a restaurant, you know it’s going to be good. Boston born and bred, Lynch got her first taste of restaurant life when he got a kitchen job at thirteen, helping to make meals for the priests at the church across the street. While Lynch now has a collective of restaurants, her very first came when she opened No. 9 Park in 1998.
Located in a townhouse in historic Beacon Hill, Lynch’s flagship restaurant is intimate and the menu is a mix of regionally-inspired Italian and French cuisine. Not only has Lynch herself been name a James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Restaurateur, No. 9 Parks’ wine list has won for Outstanding Wine Program.
And there you have it – some of the best places to eat in Boston! From classic New England dishes to inventive cuisine, there’s so many incredible spots to try whether you’re just visiting for a weekend or staying here forever.
If you want to see more on Boston and what else we got up on our visit, check out our Boston episode of Season 5’s “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love”!
First published Dec 2016, Updated June 2022