KEY TO TYPICAL ENTREE PRICES
$ — $10 OR LESS
$$ — $11 to $15
$$$ — $16 to $25
$$$$ — $26 and up
Porto / $$$$ From local luminary Jody Adams and the team behind Trade, Porto brings Mediterranean meze to one of the city’s highest-rent districts. Inventive cocktails, fish, and pasta dishes stand out in this pristine, fully imagined space in the shadow of the Pru in the Back Bay. Ring Road, Boston, 617-536-1234, porto-boston.com — Nestor Ramos
Bambara / $$$$ It may be located in the Hotel Marlowe, but Bambara serves anything but safe or standard hotel fare. Whether it’s with a platter of house-made charcuterie, a bowl of sunchokes in buttermilk, or a plain old hamburger, chef David Bazirgan — a veteran of No. 9 Park and a decade in San Francisco — demonstrates again and again the steadiest, most creative hand. 25 Edwin H. Land Boulevard, Cambridge, 617-868-4444, bambara-cambridge.com — Ted Weesner
Benedetto / $$$$ Chef-owner Michael Pagliarini takes the concept behind Giulia, just up the road, to a bigger stage: Rialto’s old space at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. The transition mostly works on the strength of expertly prepared pastas, a strong beverage program, and talented pastry chef Renae Connolly’s creations. Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett Street, Cambridge, 617-661-5050, benedettocambridge.com — N.R.
Moona / Cambridge/ $$$ In a storied location in Inman Square — it was the first Legal Sea Foods, then Rosie’s Bakery — Moona proves New England and the Middle East can mesh brilliantly in meze. The chicken bastilla alone makes a visit worthwhile, but you’ll also find Brussels sprouts with tahini, toasted pine nuts, barberries, and coriander, and gorgeous grilled whole fish and lamb chops. 243 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, 617-945-7448, moonarestaurant.com — Ted Weesner
Roxy’s Central & A4cade / $ You may have to wait in line to get into this Central Square restaurant/video game arcade, but it’s worth it: Enjoy delicious cocktails served in unserious, ‘80s-inspired vessels and tasty sandwiches, burgers, and dogs, all served among the happy chaos of full-grown adults playing pinball and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video games. 292 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-714-3960, roxysgrilledcheese.com or areafour.com — Catherine Smart
Upperwest / $$ Located in a comically oddball spot (the basement of a veterans hall), this simple, unadorned wine bar is one of my favorite new restaurants. Its menu can barely be called one: about a half-dozen dishes, most so simple they don’t even require a stove, like charcuterie boards, cheese plates, tinned fish, and pastas. But due to the alchemy of good food, good drinks, and good music, plus the endearing intimacy of this cozy little place, it channels the wonderfully homey experience of eating in a rustic European tavern. 1 Cedar Street, North Cambridge, 617-714-5734, upperwestcambridge.com — Sacha Pfeiffer
Gourmet Dumpling House / $$ There is a reason tourists and locals alike line up for soup dumplings and regional specialties at this cramped Chinatown institution: The food is expertly prepared and hits the table fast. You could spend dozens of inexpensive dinners working your way through the expansive menu of favorite Northern and Southern Chinese dishes. 52 Beach Street, Boston, 617-338-6223 — C.S.
JP Roti Shop / $ A Jamaica Plain family known for its Trinidad-style rotis has opened an eatery in Dorchester. Dhalpuri roti is a stretchy wrap stuffed with curried beef, chicken, and shrimp. Ask for yours with everything, including aloo (potato), kuchela (mango chutney), and the habanero hot sauce, if you dare. At this made-to-order spot, the roti is absolutely worth the wait. 482 Washington Street, Dorchester, 617-825-4860 — Ellen Bhang
Molinari’s / $$ Lots of house-made Italian-American specialties at this spot in the Adams Village section of Dorchester, including meatballs in marinara, a chicken Parm sandwich, homemade pasta, and pizzas baked in a wood-fueled oven. Nonna would be proud. 789 Adams Street, Dorchester, 617-825-1700, molinarispizzeria.com — Sheryl Julian
Ruka / $$$ This restaurant in the Godfrey Hotel in Downtown Crossing is the latest from the team behind Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar and Yvonne’s. The kitchen specializes in Nikkei cuisine, a seafood-centric fusion of Japanese and Peruvian ingredients, techniques, and aesthetics. Try the crunchy salmon tacos, spicy tuna maki, and octopus lomo saltado. 505 Washington Street, Boston, 617-266-0102, rukarestobar.com — Mat Schaffer
FENWAY / KENMORE SQUARE
PhoCountryside / $$ This Quincy favorite for Vietnamese food brings a second location to Kenmore Square. The sparkling subterranean restaurant serves food filled with fresh flavors — think big bowls of vermicelli, lots of lemongrass, and kicking lobsters on display in their tank. Bonus points for friendly service and a beer, wine, and cordials license. 468 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 857-990-3679, phocountrysidema.com — C.S.
Antonio’s Bacaro / $$$ This Cleary Square restaurant delivers the experience of a Venetian wine bar minus the airfare and jet lag. If you stick with streamlined dishes — clams steamed in white wine, bigoli with anchovy-onion sauce, soppressata polenta, and rich duck and porcini gnocchi — you’ll be well fed without breaking the bank. 5 Fairmount Avenue, Hyde Park, 617-272-3028, antoniosbacaro.com — M.S. JAMAICA PLAIN
Brassica Kitchen & Cafe / $$ You could be stepping into an electric Jamaica Plain house party were it not for the stream of genre-defying food and drink passing on all sides. Liver mousse with cabbage and duck honey, yams with spicy milk jam, a Bolognese possibly conceived in a mad gourmand’s laboratory — experimentation and generosity abound at this restaurant from the folks who for years brought you the Whisk pop-ups. 3710 Washington Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-477-4519, brassicakitchen.com — T.W.
Pokeworks / $$ At Pokeworks in Davis Square, you’ll find build-your-own salad or rice bowls and burritos filled with the suddenly trendy Hawaiian raw-fish salad poke. Pick your protein and accessorize it with a selection of toppings and mix-ins — from togarashi to fried onions to avocado. If you crave sushi at the speed and price of Chipotle, this fast-casual chain might be just what you’re looking for. 261 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-996-1198, pokeworks.com — C.S.
Area Four / $$$ The second outpost of the popular Kendall Square restaurant is making better pizza than ever in a wood-fired oven, feathery tempura fish and chips, and a handsome chicken with very crusty potatoes. A large screen shows video art, old films, Japanese classics, and sports, with vinyl on turntables, volume on high. 264 East Berkeley Street, Troy Building, Boston, 857-317-4805, areafour.com — S.J.
NORTH OF THE CITY
Ciao! Pizza & Pasta / $$ If you are a fan of blistered Neapolitan pizza, you must visit this tiny gem in Chelsea. It might just serve the very best Neapolitan-style pie in the Boston area. Don’t miss the house-made pasta, either. Snag one of the eight seats (or get takeout, if you must) and enjoy the Italian specialties and warm hospitality. 59 Williams Street, Chelsea, 617-286-9346, ciaopizzaandpasta.com — C.S.
The Local Kitchen & Drinks / $$$ At the newest location of the Local Kitchen & Drinks, in Woburn, the kitchen is cooking up a winning recipe for meat loaf. Each generous slice, made from prime beef, is grilled, topped with mushroom sauce, then plated with Brussels sprouts and hand-mashed potatoes. Alongside, get the harvest salad and a fig and prosciutto flatbread. Weekend brunch is a delight, especially the crab cake Benedict and a classic (and complimentary) Bloody Mary. 350 Cambridge Road, Woburn, 781-932-5910, liveeatlocal.com — E.B.
Pressed Cafe / $ At Pressed Cafe, near the Burlington Mall, restaurateur Roi Shpindler duplicates the success of his Nashua eatery. Offering panini, excellent espresso, and breakfast burritos all day, this 120-seat spot has been drawing crowds from day one. Power up with a bowl of quinoa tossed with salad greens, a hearty from-scratch soup, and shakshuka, the Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached with tomatoes and sweet peppers. 200 District Avenue, Burlington, 781-365-1412, pressedcafe.com — E.B.
T’ahpas 529 / $$$$ If the wait to get in is any indication, this new Spanish tapas spot has been enthusiastically embraced by Melrose residents. You’ll find many classics such as garlicky shrimp, tortilla espanola, and paellas designed for three or four. Owners Lorenzo and Emily Tenreiro have a flair for doing things differently (including spelling the name of their restaurant). 529 Franklin Street, Melrose, 781-590-4916, tahpas529.com — S.J.
SOUTH OF THE CITY
Royal Hotpot Sushi Bar / $$$ The focus here is on sushi and a healthier kind of Chinese cuisine: hot pot, where fresh food is cooked in bowls of hot broth on heating units at the table. Diners choose from eight types of broth. The selection for what to add to the broth ranges from the plain to the exotic — broccoli and rib-eye to kelp knot, beef tongue, and cuttlefish balls. There’s also a choice of rice and noodles. The fun begins in earnest when the heat fires up, the broth begins bubbling, and the at-table cooking begins. 227 Parkingway, Quincy, 617-481-4874, royalquincy.com — Johanna Seltz
Winsor Dim Sum House & Bar / $ In Quincy, fulfill your craving for delectable Hong Kong-style bites at Winsor Dim Sum House & Bar, related to Winsor Dim Sum Cafe in Boston’s Chinatown. Classic steamed dumplings like siu mai and har gow are here, as well as Shanghai chow mein and silky rice porridge with chicken and mushrooms. The eating is good at this cash-only spot. 706 Hancock Street, Quincy, 617-481-5383, winsordimsum.com — E.B.
WEST OF THE CITY
Bistro Duet / $$$ This French bistro replaced Flora, the elegant restaurant that occupied the historic former Arlington Five Cents Savings Bank. Its modern take on French cuisine includes dairy-free lobster bisque with cream on the side for you to add as you like, and chocolate profiteroles with peanut butter pastry cream and banana “froth.” Crowds keep coming because it fills an important neighborhood niche: good location, reasonable prices, warm service, and a welcome touch of class. 190Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, 781-316-8808, bistroduet.com — S.P.
Bourbon’s Kitchen & Cocktails / $$ A speakeasy with creative comfort food and classic cocktails, such as the lemonade-like Bourbon Smash. The menu is heavy with appetizers, to encourage conversation and sharing. Meatballs were served in a classic marinara with shaved Parmesan. Odd as it may seem, the Buffalo cauliflower and crispy Brussels are the most popular appetizers. On the entree list, look for classic Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese-infused comfort foods. It includes house-made gnocchi and scallops and chorizo, served over risotto. 47 Beacon Street, Framingham, 508-861-7997, bourbonsframingham.com — Mary MacDonald
Nosh & Grog Provisions / $$ The owners of Zebra’s Bistro and Wine Bar in Medfield Center gave it a long run, then closed up and turned the space into the lively, informal Nosh & Grog Provisions. An immensely appealing menu includes smoky mussels, roast chicken, the Oh S#%T burger with caramelized onions and bacon aioli, outstanding fries, and homemade pasta with Bolognese. The food coming from the kitchen makes you want to say, “Bring me anything.” 21 North Street, Medfield, 508-359-4100, noshandgrog.com — S.J.
RFK Kitchen / $$$ Nestled along the town green in Needham, RFK Kitchen aims to bring some big-city style to the suburbs. Chef-owner Rachel Klein and executive chef Stacy Cogswell largely succeed on the strength of a consistently competent kitchen and bar and a menu of well-prepared American standards — steaks, fish stews, rotisserie chickens — with just enough tweaks to keep things interesting. 30 Dedham Avenue, Needham, 781-444-1792, rfkkitchen.com — N.R.