KEY TO TYPICAL ENTREE PRICES
$ — $10 OR LESS
$$ — $11 TO $15
$$$ — $16 TO $25
$$$$ — $26 AND UP
Abe & Louie’s / $$$$ Show up on a Wednesday and Abe & Louie’s is packed, with a wait for a table despite two floors of seating. The bar scene is boisterous. Chopped salads, shrimp cocktail, and steak tartare arrive on carts in the dining room. Servers in beige blazers give the rundown on the food, their explanations more folksy than fancy. The steak to order: 16 ounces, as thick as my thumb is long. It’s a perfect medium-rare. It’s perfectly seasoned, too. Other wonderful things to eat here: The onion soup and tender asparagus drizzled in hollandaise sauce. 793 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-536-6300, abeandlouies.com — Devra First
Rochambeau / $$$$ The owners of this restaurant are betting big on French cuisine with the Boston version of a round-the-clock operation: cafe from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., dinner nightly, and bar until 2 a.m. Rochambeau’s menu kicks off with seafood plateau; segues into hors d’oeuvres such as steak tartare and salade lyonnaise; then expands into the likes of steak frites, rotisserie chicken, and duck a l’orange with olives. The cafe menu frolics from breakfast crepes to jambon sandwiches to French pastries. If you like your restaurants dim and loud, come on in; if you’re looking for something quieter, the adjacent cafe might be more your speed. 900 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-247-0400, rochambeauboston.com — D.F.
Brato Brewhouse & Kitchen / $$ We were warned about the wings. I like killer hot stuff, but believe me when I tell you the hot version of Brato’s duck fat Nashville hot wings is seriously, lip-burningly spicy. And extra napkins were necessary. They use house-made sourdough for each of the six grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu, including one with blue cheese, fig jam, and bacon. Get one of the brats, too; the one with pickled vegetables and beer mustard is my favorite. As for the brews, standouts include Brato y Brato, a Belgian-style table beer, and Stay Afloat, a citrusy wheat beer. 190 North Beacon Street, Brighton, 617-903-3766, bratobk.com — Gary Dzen
Bluestone Lane / $$ Bluestone in Harvard Square looks like a combination of a Gwyneth Paltrow Goop health summit and plant guru Hilton Carter’s Instagram feed. You might wait a bit for your all-day breakfast: an avocado smash topped with juicy cherry tomatoes and feta; shakshuka; or lemon ricotta pancakes with lemon curd. There are cold-pressed juices and a “wellness” section. There’s also a huge assortment of coffees. 27 Brattle Street, Cambridge, 718-374-6858, bluestonelane.com — Kara Baskin
Chalawan / $$$ A piece of advice: Don’t consult the online menu; it might not match the printed version. An apologetic host at this Porter Square spot is happy to make recommendations, though. Among the hits: steamed snapper dumplings awash in a biting black vinegar-chili sauce; and creamy, fatty pork belly in a sugary plum and tamarillo sauce, topped with fried shallots. The softly lit dining room is overflowing and noisy. Another piece of advice: The phone might ring and ring should you call for a reservation or for takeout. Don’t give up. 1790 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-547-8888, thechalawan.com — K.B.
Umami / $$$$ This sushi bar serves multi-course omakase menus. No quickie tuna rolls to go; this is a leisurely experience in which the chef selects each morsel for you and chats roudly, endearingly hroughout as you watch him delicately plate each course. On a recent weeknight offerings included chubby, meaty oysters served on a fine bed of salt; torched scallop with smoky bacon jam; and rosy bluefin tuna accompanied by a lacy cloud of scallions, savory and sweet. 2372 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-868-2121, umamiomakase.com — K.B.
Family Affair / $$ Started by a former teacher and musician, this restaurant brings soul food and Caribbean cooking to Dorchester’s Uphams Corner. There are appetizers like crab rangoon rolls, dinners of fried porgy or mango coconut shrimp, sides including mac and cheese, and a case of desserts. But at every table, there seems to be at least one person eating chicken and waffles out of a takeout pizza box he waffles can be upgraded from plain to red velvet or apple pie. 554 Columbia Road, Dorchester, 617-514-4458, famaffairboston.com — D.F.
Greek Street / $$ Everything chef Jody Adams does is enormously appealing, including her Greek street food, much of it too refined to eat standing curbside. Enjoy swordfish souvlaki, a skewer of juicy fish served with salad on pita spread with delicious taramasalata (smoked cod’s roe); very thin pita stuffed with cheese and greens and fried until crisp and golden; little lamb chops with potatoes and greens. Located in Fenway’s Time Out Market Boston. 401 Park Drive, Boston, salonikigreek.com/greek-street — Sheryl Julian
Mariel / $$$ Indulge in a romanticized vision of Cuba’s past here. Located in a former bank, it features murals and marble and flattering lighting. The deviled crab enchilado is a rich, retro dip to be spread on garlic toasts. It’s among tempting snacks like pork empanadas, small plates such as fufu gnocchi, and larger plates to share. Mojitos and daiquiris come in several iterations, making use of ingredients like the mint hierbabuena and lulo, a sprightly citrus. Fresh juices are available, too. 10 Post Office Square, Boston, 617-333-8776, marielofficial.com — D.F.
Soup Shack / $$ It turns out this restaurant offers my dream menu. It’s composed almost entirely of Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese noodle soups, with a few rice bowls and appetizers thrown in for good measure. Any of these soups is hard to make well. One might spend a lifetime perfecting just the broth for ramen. The best pho doesn’t come from the place that also offers banh mi, rice plates, and hot pot. And yet everything I’ve ordered at Soup Shack is either good or very good. The tonkotsu ramen, with its cloudy, deeply flavored pork-bone broth, and the khao soi are my favorite Soup Shack offerings. 779 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-477-9805, soupshacknoodles.com — D.F.
Woods Hill Pier 4 / $$$ This restaurant brings upscale, conscientious dining to this corner of the Seaport. It’s a draw for those who pay attention to such things — and for anyone who’s a sucker for a beautiful view. Whelk from Rhode Island is shaved thin, served with slivers of green apple in a coconut-lobster broth. The menu moves from raw dishes to vegetables and house-made pasta, to larger plates such as seared scallops and lardo, pork butt with fall vegetables, and crispy lamb ribs. 300 Pier Four Boulevard, Boston, 617-981-4577, woodshillpier4.com— D.F.
NORTH OF THE CITY
El Jalisco / $$ Many Mexican restaurants claim to serve “authentic” fare, but this one gets closer than most. We started with the spicy Mexican-style corn. The chicken burrito was stuffed with rice, beans, lettuce, cheese, and pico de gallo. As for the entree, the Montanero was a delight, featuring a perfectly grilled marinated flat steak served with a large pork rind, sweet plantains, rice, beans, an over-easy egg, and a very small salad. 150 Cabot Street, Beverly, 978-969-2269, eljaliscoboston.com — Brion O’Connor
SOUTH OF THE CITY
A3 / $$$ A3 bills itself as a “pizza pasta parm” place, but there are also several types of crostini, meatballs, fried mozzarella, real salads with good protein add-ons, and a big antipasto plate. The margherita pizza has a terrific thin crust, and the shrimp scampi has a mild creamy sauce that’s topped with four perfectly cooked extra large shrimp. One of the things that makes A3 so good is a professionalism that gives the kitchen a consistency you can count on. That’s key. 65 Summer Street, Kingston, 781-585-6555, a3pizza.com — Joan Wilder
Persimmon / $$$ Chef Champe Speidel relies on what the seasons and local producers provide: Delicata squash becomes tempura placed atop spiced yogurt, showered in crisped leaves of sage; Atlantic halibut is roasted and served with potato agnolotti, parsnips, glazed celery root, and turnips, swaddled in beurre blanc and crowned with a few potato chips. For dessert, warm sticky toffee pudding comes with pumpkin ice cream, pepitas, and spiced cream. 99 Hope Street, Providence, 401-432-7422, persimmonri.com — D.F.
Yaz’s Table / $$ The menu is designed to accommodate almost any dietary restriction with lots of meat-free options mixed in with the short ribs and the bacon. Practically everything is made from scratch — including the hot sauce. Best sellers on the menu include the Nutella-stuffed banana foster French toast, served with a creme anglaise, and the chicken and waffles served with sriracha maple-glazed bacon and honey sriracha maple syrup. 1209 Bedford Street, Abington, 781-421-6118, yazstable.com — Johanna Seltz
WEST OF THE CITY
Jamaica Jeff’s / $$ Come for the jerk chicken (you’ll gnaw the bones), baby back ribs, jerk pork, fried or sauteed fish of the day, Caesar with plump shrimp, a wedge of citrusy, creamy Key lime pie, and more. As for drinks, the owner boasts one of Belmont’s coveted all-alcohol licenses, offering Red Stripe lager (from Jamaica), along with Carib beer (Trinidad and Tobago), and Banks (Barbados); many rums, local craft beers, wine, and a full bar. 61 Leonard Street, Belmont, 617-484-5333, facebook.com/JamaicaJeffs — S.J.
India Kitchen / $$ You’ll find plenty of vegetarian- and vegan-friendly choices here: quinoa and kale salad; vegan “meatballs” in tomato sauce; and those house bowls — the gluten-free Yogi is made with chickpeas, whipped spinach, brown rice, and soy cutlets. But there are plenty of vices, too, like a rich, vinegary vindaloo; korma, a velvety, creamy, cashew-based sauce best paired with tender chicken; and buttery, garlic-spiked naan. 45 Lexington Street, Watertown, 857-760-7176, indiakitchenma.com — K.B.
Posto Bedford / $$ During the day, there are panini served with fries; half and full portions of gnocchi, rigatoni, tortellini, and spaghetti; and the paper-thin, sweet-sauced pizza that Posto is known for. Dinner is swankier: prime-grilled sirloin with shishito crema; grilled pork chop with kale and Parmesan polenta; plus more pastas, such as tortellini with Jonah crab and Parmesan cream. Those tasty, stretchy pizzas are there, too. 158 Great Road, Bedford, 781-271-9100, postoboston.com — K.B.