Flanked by the New England seashore on one side, and a blossoming network of farmers on the other, Boston is a city of culinary prosperity. You need only to drive outside the city limits or look into those waters and you'll find a fruitful supply of produce, seafood, and artisanal goods to rival any metropolis. With one of liveliest food scenes around, Boston also has one of the most tight-knit chef communities (we witnessed this first hand at WCR's conference last November).
And that chef community loves nothing more than supporting the local commerce—fishermen to farmers—in their culinary pursuits. Sustainable cuisine isn't so much a catch-word here as it is a way of life, as chefs help sustain their community by purchasing New England-caught seafood and produce. From the casual comforts of clam-topped pizza at Area Four, Jamie Bissonette's nose-to-tail dishes and artisanal pastas at Coppa, to Jason Bond's credo of using the best product around at Bondir, Boston and Cambridge chefs are looking toward the land and sea to create unforgettable flavors. And while their efforts are all about finding the best possible flavors, they're also about supporting the men and women who grow, catch, and create these foods.
That attention to sourcing even extends into the mixology scene, as Boston continues to expand its cocktail horizons. From a rhubarb-infused rosé concoction at Island Creek Oyster Bar to the keg-wine program at Trade (using eco-friendly, hermitically sealed bladders to reduce waste), Boston's beverage programs are looking toward the garden and the compost bin for inspiration.
While having pride in sourcing, and sustainability, isn't novel, it is one of the many reasons that Boston has always been at the top of our list of favorite food cities. There's a reason (more than a few) we chose it as one of our first Risings Star cities. And every time we head back, even eight years later, we remember them all over again.
Joining the ranks in the oh-so-trendy Waterfront district, our 2009 Boston Sustainability Rising Star Chef Richard Garcia continues his farm-to-table mantra at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel with seafood temple 606 Congress. The modern dining room—dark wood décor, vaulted ceilings, and an open kitchen—sets an elegant tone for Garcia’s creative cuisine and a floor-to-ceiling wine racks hold a tempting collection. And don’t think working in a big hotel means Garcia’s sustainable ideals fall by the wayside. Marriot’s FutureFish program works to provide sustainable seafood, and Garcia partnered with Trace and Trust to make sure customers know the ins and outs of just how their dinner was caught.Recommended:
Chef Antonio Bettencourt’s first solo venture, 62 Restaurant, has quickly become a Salem favorite for diners-in-the-know who crave all things Italian and handmade. Tucked into a non-descript building off Wharf Street, this spare, comfortable spot offers fresh pastas, thoughtful salads, house-made breads, and all manner of secondi inspired by generous, classic Italian dishes, but updated with modern ingredient combinations. True to its locale, Bettencourt gives special love to seafood preparations, cooking fish to perfection and highlighting the delicate protein with bright flavors and contrasting textures.Recommended:
With its metal tables and chairs, wood-burning oven, and plop-in-the-middle-of-MIT-location, Area Four seems the perfect college hangout, but Chef Michael Leviton swears it's not an under-20s spot. In fact, the Newton-based chef chose the space for its Cambridge vicinity, not because of the studious clientele, but for the space itself. And while the bright floor-to-ceiling windows and industrial décor are appealing, it's Leviton's food that really draws us in. That wood oven pumps out addictive pizzas (such as the oh-so-cheesy baked clam and bacon variety), roast chicken, and crusty breads, while Leviton’s carefully crafted riffs on Italian classics (romesco with creamy house-made mozzarella) leaves you wanting more. In any dish, his simple approach on big, bold flavors provides a wonderful, clean marriage of what food should be.Recommended:
You might not expect world-class sushi right next to Fenway Park, but at Basho Japanese Brasserie, home of Chef-Owner Jack Huang, that’s just what you’ll get. Named for the Japanese noun for “where things happen,” this hip restaurant—with intimate lounges, celebrity sightings, and gold-flecked cocktails—can at times feel like a bustling night club, but the kaiseki menu is reason enough to tough the crowds. Along with the sushi, robata grill, and other typical Japanese offerings, the artistically crafted chefs menu offers small, creative bites of fresh flavor.Recommended:
Brother-sister duo Babak Bina and Azita Bina-Seibel run the smart Italian-inspired Downtown Crossing restaurant Bina Osteria, and for which the savvy pair made sure to snag Dante de Magistris protégé Will Folden as their chef. Under his discerning eye, pillowy gnocchi, tender cocoa-crusted veal brisket, and creamy olive oil-braised potatoes all make their way from the kitchen into the modern space—a mixture of minimalist artwork, handmade décor, and oversized windows.Recommended:
After spending nearly two decades focused on technique-driven charcuterie, Chef Jason Bond has shifted his energies more to the garden. At his latest venture, Bondir, he pays greater homage to produce, treating vegetables with the same fastidiousness and careful eye as any salami or head cheese. As he explains, he now sees meat as "a condiment, a seasoning element," and his dishes, packed full of layered flavor, really shine. His homey, shabby-chic Cambridge locale provides the perfect setting for his comfortable, fine-dining approach; amidst a cozy fireplace and intimate dining room, you'll find mid-century styled china, fine crystal, and the Michelin attitude Bond was trained to exude.Recommended:
The smoky, Brit pub-cum-hunting lodge décor of Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar may not be novel, but it’s a great way to warm up on a chilly Boston night, especially with a plate of Chef Brian Reyelt's hearty comfort fare. Classics get a modern twist with additions of rich flavors and bright flavor combinations: foie gras cashew butter gives Reyelt’s PB&J an adult update, while bright cranberries add a tart sweetness to a creamy cassoulet. And Bar Manager Joy Richard’s pitch perfect wine pairings (think Starmont Chardonnay Napa 2009 Merryvale Vineyard's Starmont with a spice-packed steak tartare), along with her sip-worthy cocktails, make this the perfect watering hole after an afternoon spent at Fenway Park.Recommended:
Ken Oringer’s flagship restaurant Clio serves contemporary French-American cuisine that brings us back every time we visit Beantown. During our latest tasting, we were bowled over with new Chef David Rodrigues and his modern, yet approachable cuisine (floral, sweet, and spiced notes all make appearances). And Mixologist Todd Maul put the Clio bar on the map, and we never say no to one of his tipples, a guaranteed spot-on spin on tried and true classics. And you never know when Maul will pull out the power drills to take infusion to the extreme.Recommended:
Following his wildly successful Toro, 2009 Rising Star Jamie Bissonnette continues to make culinary magic with Coppa (its also his second partnership with Ken Oringer). The charming, dark dining room sets the tone for silky pasta and addictive wood-fired pizzas. And while pasta and pizza are reason enough to trek to the South End outpost, Bissonnette’s creative nose-to-tail cuisine is more than carb-loading; from house-cured anchovies to silky, rich salumi this menu offers plenty in the protein department as well.Recommended:
When we left Chef Dante de Magistris in Boston in 2009, many moons after his 2003 Rising Star nod, he was still crafting inventive, haute Italian cuisine with only the best ingredients at Dante. Three years and a recession later, de Magistris is still using those top-notch ingredients but has shifted focus at both his original restaurant and at new Belmont outpost il Casale, veering toward the more classic, authentic Italian preparations he grew up with. The charming converted firehousedecked in exposed brick, reclaimed wood, and artful lightingoffers more atmosphere than one expects from the Boston suburbs, and de Magistris excels equally at rustic cuisine as he did at contemporary, making il Casale one packed house come supper time.Recommended:
Restaurateur Garrett Harker gives Boston just what it wants: the type of unpretentious locale that combines farm-focused food with good drink in an atmosphere where it’s easy to hang out into the wee hours. Following up his now Boston-standard Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks, Harker teamed up with Chef Jeremy Sewall to open Island Creek Oyster Bar in 2010. Sewall handles the food end of the equation; juxtaposing bluefin tuna crudo with bright lemon verbena and spicy Fresno chilies, or packing lobster roe into silky noodles. And Mixologist Bob McCoy provides the drink, as in classically inspired cocktails enhanced with farm fresh ingredients (rhubarb-infused vermouth, sage-rosemary-thyme syrup).Recommended:
With O Ya, his revered Chinatown restaurant, Chef Tim Kushman proves he’s a chef with many tricks up his sleeve. From fried Kumamoto oysters to flavor-packed yellowtail, this modern Japanese menu may borrow ideas from Cushman’s world travels (he spent years researching concepts for Chicago’s Lettuce Entertain You group), but his innovative fare is grounded in clean, refreshing, and precise flavor.Recommended:
Chef-Restaurateur Michael Schlow (Radius, Via Matta, Alta Strada) continues to expand the culinary horizons of Boston with his newest restaurant, Tico. This rustic Spanish casita-style restaurant (think multi-color mosaic walls, dark wooden furniture, and gilded light fixtures) sets the mood for a funky menu steered by Chef Joshua Smith. With riffs on blood sausage and updates on bar grub, Smith takes his classic French background and applies it to creative, laissez-faire Mexican cuisine. But Tico is more than a neighborhood taco joint (although the tacos are addictive)—Smith combines uplifting flavors with thoughtful condiments, complex textures, and inventive flavor combinations to create a menu that is as fun as it is fulfilling.Recommended:
With Trade, Jody Adams continues to expand her restaurant empire beyond her benchmark Italian cuisine. And as the newest member of Boston’s growing waterfront restaurant scene, Trade is a reflection of Adams’ exploration and world-wide travels. The bright, industrial spacewith funky sculptural artwork, architectural drawings, and filament light bulbssets the mood for Adams’ and Chef Andrew Hebert’s menu, where Asia, Europe, and Africa all converge (with inspiration from the spice routes). To wit: a wood-burning oven tempts diners with addictive merguez flat breads, while salsa verde gets an update with celery and fennel in a play on the typical char and grapefruit pair.Recommended:
At Ken Oringer’s tiny sashimi bar, Uni, Chef Chris Gould brings a modern touch to classic Japanese sashimi dishes in an elegant, well-balanced menu. Although Gould continues the traditional sashimi style 2009 Boston Rising Star Chris Chung started at the Back Bay restaurant, his menu is no stranger to creative cross-cultural elements. Spanning the globe, a watermelon salad becomes both herbaceous and sweet when paired with Portuguese sardines, while a more traditional Japanese Ito Yori dish gets a European sidekick paired with floral elderflower.Recommended:
Don't expect tired hotel cuisine at Cambridge's riverside Hyatt location. Instead you'll find surprisingly delicious interpretations of morning delights. Whether you are looking for a power breakfast or a minute of relaxation before your busy day of sightseeing, start the day with a taste of Chef Robert Daugherty’s breakfast offerings. Options run the gamut of bright fruit-packed smoothies and yogurt parfaits with roasted pears, to spot-on cheese-packed egg frittatas.Recommended:
If Alice and the white rabbit created a hotel together, the Ames Hotel just might be their brain child. The mix of Old- and New-World styles makes for a setting that is funky and fun, without the pretension high-style hotels often exude. Inside Beacon Hill’s historic Ames building, vibrant furniture, Romanesque arched windows, and vintage fireplaces fill 114 luxurious rooms. And while there are plenty of restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood, Chef Mark Goldberg at the hotel’s Woodward Restaurant makes just the kind of brunch we want to dig into—fluffy sourdough pancakes packed with blueberries, and seared tuna with fennel and preserved lemon.
Step away from the crowds of Fenway Park and the bars of Kenmore Square, and into the Old World-charm of the Hotel Commonwealth. This boutique hotel offers 149 plush rooms to relax in, with personal touches like fresh bath amenities and a guest book collection (featuring Boston authors of course). And you won’t go hungry here: dine fancy at Eastern Standard Kitchen or kick back and relax with the hotel’s feel-good spot Island Creek Oyster Bar, where you’re guaranteed to find a good drink and a meal to go with it.
Whether you’re in town for a conference or checking in on studious Harvard undergrads, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge offers a massive 470 guests rooms to park your feet at the end of the night. Set right on the Charles River, an impressive atrium-lobby offers a stately view of Boston, while the modern rooms provide charming balconies to relax on. And breakfast with Chef Robert Daugherty inside the hotel’s Zephyr On the Charles will send you happily on your way, no matter where you’re headed.
Boston’s Harbor is the next neighborhood to take storm, and as restaurants fill in the space, hotels are also taking note. The newest member of the club offers both food and hearth—the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel is both a relaxing accommodation in the heart of the neighborhood, and it’s also home to our 2009 Boston Sustainability Rising Star Chef Richard Garcia’s newest culinary endeavor, 606 Congress. After you’ve had your fill of the surrounding dining scene, unwind in the indoor pool and sauna, then rest your head inside these comfortable, spacious rooms.
What was formerly the grand Ritz Carlton is now the stately Taj Boston. And although the place could use a paint job, the crystal chandeliers, cream and gold décor, guild mirrors, and plush floral carpeting call to mind the kind of opulent establishments that no longer seem to be built in today's era of refurbished industrial loft space. Friendly staff and posh touches (silky chocolates during turn down service, Molton Brown bath products), heighten the whole stay, and the view (or better yet a walk through) of the nearby Common Gardens is divine.
Aura is located in the Seaport Hotel in Boston’s financial district. 2009 Boston Rising Star Chef Rachel Klein draws upon a variety of influences, including her Eastern European heritage and New York upbringing, to compose dishes that are creative in presentation, flavor, and technique. Scarlet borscht is refined (with the help of agar and xanthan gum) from the big bowl of cold soup your grandmother made to an elegant composition accompanied by smoked sable, beets, potato, and sour cream.
2006 Rising Star Chef Tony Maws blew us away when his restaurant was Craigie Street Bistrot. In its newly remodeled location, Craigie on Main is bigger and as good as ever; the well-equipped, shiny open kitchen is simply stunning. Maws’ cooking is as impressive as ever, with a menu that changes daily, his “Chef’s Whim” tasting menu, and his commitment to local, organic ingredients. The the bar program at Craigie is a true cocktailian spot with artisanal touches like house-made vermouth.
Flour is the ultimate neighborhood bakery—and anything but traditional. Yes, there are the classic breakfast pastries, like buttery croissants, tarts, cakes, and cookies, but there are also some unconventional additions like sesame and jicama, and sandwiches so good you want to eat them every day (we’re partial to a custardy egg sandwich with spinach and Portobello mushroom). Behind the bakery is 2009 Boston Rising Star Restaurateur Joanne Chang, whose loving touch is visible on every item in each location. With at least two more locations in the works and a cookbook on the way, Chang is proving to be an unstoppable force in the Boston food scene.
If you didn’t know it was there you might pass by Garden at the Cellar and never know you were missing a great restaurant. Inside 2009 Rising Star Chef Will Gilson is cooking imaginative, impeccably executed, exciting cuisine in a tiny kitchen. Having been raised on an herb farm with an attached restaurant, Gilson has an innate respect for his ingredients and instinctively knows how to properly compose a dish. Flawlessly seared foie gras is served with the unlikely combination of doughnuts, rhubarb, and rhubarb foam, while rustic schnitzel is topped with a two hour egg and lemon aioli.
For the ultimate example of fine dining service, atmosphere, and cuisine look no further than L’Espalier. Their new digs on Boylston Street are more elegant than ever. Maitre d’ and Fromager Louis Risoli has been at L’Espalier for over 30 years and gracefully and knowledgeably runs the front of the house, as well as the Grand Fromage cheese program. Executive Chef Frank McClelland has a nearby farm that supplies L’Espalier and the Sel de la Terre restaurants with fresh produce and meat. Chef de Cuisine James Hackney takes these ingredients and creates a menu that is seasonal, graceful, and full of fun flavors. 2009 Rising Star Pastry Chef Jiho Kim makes playful desserts like a grownup Oreo with milk sorbet and Raspberry Greek Yogurt with Muscat Gelée and Coconut Sorbet that is a study in textures.
Every time we visit Oleana we’re reminded of why Chef Ana Sortun was named a 2003 Boston Rising Star Chef (one of the first ever!). She is all about infusing her soulful Middle Eastern cuisine with intricate layers of spice, resulting in dishes that awaken the senses and keep you wanting more. Her Spicy Fideos is like paella but prepared with crushed vermicelli instead; tossed with Swiss chard and chickpeas and garnished with orange aioli, fresh cilantro, and scallions, this spicy dish is absolutely addictive. Pastry Chef Maura Kilpatrick (winner of the 2009 StarChefs Concept Award for her and Sortun’s bakery Sofra) prepares delectable desserts with Middle Eastern flavor profiles that are unusual and satisfying.
Located in between the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and L’Espalier is the Boylston Street location of Frank McClelland and Goeff Gardener’s Sel de la Terre. Chef de Cuisine Louis DiBiccari (winner of the inaugural 2009 Rising Stars Community Award) prepares the restaurant’s signature French-Provençal cuisine with rustic dishes like Bluefin Pate and Foie Gras Torchon with diBiccari’s own flare in the form of pickled cherries and house-made potato chips with Z’atar spices. DiBiccari is deeply involved and committed to the Boston culinary scene, and whenever he’s not in his own kitchen he can be found cooking for a sommelier smackdown, hosting one of his popular “Chef Louis” nights, traveling to New York to help a buddy cook at the Beard House, or supporting his fellow chefs at their restaurants.
Inspired by the cuisine of Turkey, Lebanon, and Greece, Ana Sortun, Gary Griffin, and 2009 Rising Star Concept Award Winner Maura Kilpatrick teamed up to create Sofra. It's the neighborhood bakery everyone wishes was right around the corner from them. From savory to sweet there’s something on the menu for everyone—from people who want to experiment with Middle Eastern cuisine to those who want shortbread and coffee. The Turkish Breakfast centers around a soft-boiled egg that's breaded in shredded phyllo and deep fried. It’s served with sliced cucumbers, dry-cured black olives, cubes of fried breaded feta, labne, tomato jam, and orange jam. A pastry chef by training, don’t miss Kilpatrick’s sweet creations as well, like the Kunefe with Champagne-Cardomom Syrup, which illustrates her masterful integration of spices into her pastry.
Toro is a neighborhood tapas bar with a devoted following—including a serious chef clientele. 2009 Rising Star Chef Jamie Bissonnette offers expertly prepared house-made charcuterie that bursts with flavor and has all the right textures. He draws heavily on his arsenal of Spanish techniques, exemplified in simple dishes like Navajas a la Plancha and elegant ones like Ostras en Escabeche composed of four oysters each with a slightly different presentation and taste. Courtney Bissonnette heads up the beverage program, mixing up refreshing cocktails that incorporate fresh ingredients and work in harmony with the food.
Hailing from a family of Umbrian lentil farmers, Mike Pagliarini’s food is as unassuming as his character. As chef de cuisine at Michael Schlow’s Via Matta, Pagliarini serves refined rustic Italian cuisine with personal touches. Scottish Salmon crudo is served with Umbrian lentils, offering a direct link to his heritage. Other dishes, like the Grilled Branzino alla Ligure, are the result of meticulous research into Ligurian ingredients—and, in this case, a search for Ligurian celery leaves, which turned out to be lovage.