In this moment, I choose optimism: People who love restaurants will be eating out a lot in the coming months. At. Forking. Last. And when we’re done revisiting our favorites — how we’ve missed feasting in your dining rooms, admiring your on-point plating, laughing with your bartenders while they pour us an ice-cold one! — we’ll have plenty of new spots to try. On the slightly more distant horizon of mid- to late summer, we can look forward to the likes of Comfort Kitchen, a Black-owned, immigrant-owned, and woman-owned restaurant bringing global comfort food inspired by the African diaspora to Dorchester’s Uphams Corner; the Haven at the Brewery, a powerhouse team-up of Scottish gastropub the Haven and the former, beloved Bella Luna, in Jamaica Plain’s Brewery complex (bring on the haggis pizza); and Si Cara, where SRV chef Michael Lombardi celebrates the delicious powers of microbes via naturally leavened pizza and natural wine, in Cambridge’s Central Square. At Eva, one of Newbury Street’s best patios is reborn, in the longtime Cafeteria space. A second, full-scale location of Cambridge’s PlantPub brings vegan comfort food and craft beer to the Fenway. We’ll party like it’s 1920 (or 1999) at speakeasies and underground lairs such as Hecate, Next Door, and the Village Social Club (which opened earlier this year), and we’ll return to new versions of favorite bars, like the New Republik and the Silhouette Lounge. Meanwhile, pandemic pivots that just make sense will persist. See: the upscale, food-centric convenience store, with the likes of EBO & Co. Grocery in East Boston, Sin City Superette in Lynn, and Vinal General Store in Somerville.
Here are 10 new and upcoming restaurants you’ll want to try this spring.
Blue Ribbon Sushi
Two things can be true at the same time, as life will continually remind us. (Chris Rock’s joke: bad. Will Smith’s slap: also bad.) In Boston this spring, the duality is this: The dining public misses and mourns Eastern Standard, the Hawthorne, and Island Creek Oyster Bar, which were locally owned and located within Kenmore Square’s Hotel Commonwealth. And New York-based Blue Ribbon Restaurants has a record of running some pretty good restaurants, which it’s perfectly fine to feel excited about trying.
The first to open in the hotel space will be Blue Ribbon Sushi, on track for May. It’s an echo of Bruce and Eric Bromberg’s original SoHo sushi spot, which New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl gave 2 stars back in 1998. Now the brothers and business partners — who launched with a brasserie in 1992 — run multiple sushi bars in New York, as well Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Miami. Blue Ribbon Sushi will occupy the former Hawthorne space, with a coastal seafood restaurant sliding in where Island Creek used to be, and a brasserie in the Eastern Standard space. How much things change; how much they stay the same. It will be interesting to see how it all translates here, and how the restaurant group wrangles the challenges of staffing.
Here are two more things that are also true: Local, independent restaurants are a backbone of the city, and diners should make a consistent effort to support them. And the city is an expensive place in which to operate, so out-of-town restaurant groups with financial power will continue to move in to high-profile, central spaces. In the case of Blue Ribbon Restaurants, as with Major Food Group and Contessa, I’m glad to see Boston recognized as a cosmopolitan market with discerning tastes that can support the same concepts as other cities do. Which it, obviously, is. Perhaps these are the waning days of groups that run interesting, excellent restaurants elsewhere arriving in town with nothing but halfhearted chicken sandwiches and upscale-ish bar food to offer. If they’re going to flex that financial power here, at least they can flex it for good.
500a Commonwealth Ave., Fenway, Boston, www.blueribbonsushikenmore.com
Maybe you’ve heard, but the planet is in trouble and only humans can save it, so … uh-oh? As a species we are not great at forgoing immediate gains and pleasures for the long-term good. Happily, it’s really easy to trick us! Eating a healthier diet is all grumble grumble, but we’ll buy a new Ottolenghi cookbook every season because those recipes are yummy. We could use less fuel, but that means change, but make electric cars look supercool and maybe. Food waste is a serious problem, and we want and need to reduce it, but it takes effort. Open a cafe in East Boston, and serve matcha lattes and Intelligentsia cold brew, Pain D’Avignon pastries and bagels, photogenic topped toasts, egg sandwiches, chile smashed beet bowls, a separate menu of treats for the doggos, and cookies made from the chef’s grandma’s recipes — the chef at recently opened Cafe Iterum being Matt McPherson (Craigie on Main, Menton) — (and also make it low-waste, healthful, sustainably sourced, and tip-free because the staff is fairly compensated) and you’ve got yourself a winner.
11 Father Jacobbe Road, East Boston, 857-233-5013, www.cafeiterum.com
“A nice, cozy place you’d love to come eat beautiful, well-prepared food, drink good wine or have a nice spirit, with good service.” How great does that sound? It’s how David Welch, a.k.a. Chef Dave, describes his upcoming, bistro-esque restaurant at Chestnut Hill’s The Street. Chef Dave’s is set to open in April.
Welch started off as a banker, then found his love for food. He’s been in the business almost 30 years now, a dozen of them spent at Formaggio’s, where he started the popular sidewalk barbecue; he went on to become a private chef. Look forward to lemon-herb roast chicken, osso buco, prime filet, and more at Chef Dave’s, which has a full liquor license. “The passion I have makes it look easy, but when people taste the food, they can tell it was made with love,” he says. “I’ve been cooking in people’s homes for many years, and now I say welcome to my home.”
3c Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, www.chefdaves.com
For all of Boston’s Irish pride, we don’t have that many Irish restaurants. Maybe it’s because America’s perception of Irish food remains decidedly behind the times. “We’re not just all about potatoes,” as Dubliner chef Aidan McGee recently told the Globe. In fact, what Irish cuisine does best is what New England cuisine does best: maximize fresh, seasonal, delicious local ingredients. So when Irish restaurant The Dubliner opens — slated for April in City Hall Plaza — it should be a harmonious match. McGee, who previously worked in Michelin-starred fine dining in London, is originally from Donegal, the son of a chef and farmer. In addition to the kind of dishes Americans tend to associate with Ireland, such as fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, The Dubliner will feature house-made soda bread, smoked salmon, fresh seafood, McGee told the Globe. “There’s a big Irish food movement at the moment. I’m trying to get that message across, and there’s no better city than Boston.” Here’s hoping for the modern Irish restaurant the city deserves.
2 Center Plaza, Boston, www.thedublinerboston.com
Faccia Brutta and Bar Pallino
Chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette open dependably well-run, well-conceived, vibrant restaurants serving great food (Coppa, Little Donkey, Toro). That’s wonderful news for Back Bay, which gets not one but two projects from the duo in May. On stylish Newbury Street, Faccia Brutta (“ugly face” in Italian) promises Italian seafood, veggies, and handmade pasta, with a focus on dishes from Liguria, Sicily, and Sardinia (plus a patio). The adjacent Bar Pallino pours natural wine and spins vinyl.
278 Newbury St., Back Bay, Boston, Instagram @facciabruttaboston
Chicken sandwiches are awesome, and also crowd-pleasing, which is why chicken sandwiches are ubiquitous. But there are chicken sandwiches, and then there are Hot Chix chicken sandwiches, which are things of special beauty. After years of pop-ups, Hot Chix will finally open as a brick-and-mortar in Inman Square sometime this spring, meaning we will be able to get Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, sides, and plenty more from poultry magnates Alex Kim, Alex Nystedt, and William Yoo on the regular.
1220 Cambridge St., Inman Square, Cambridge, Instagram @hotchixboston
The Koji Club
Boston’s burgeoning interest in sake has much to do with Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale, who began educating drinkers about the Japanese beverage at O Ya with owner and sake doyenne Nancy Cushman. In February, DiPasquale opened the Koji Club, which like many good things these days got its start as a pop-up. Head to The Speedway, a Bow Market-esque food and drink consortium in Brighton, to drink, snack, and learn at what might be Boston’s first dedicated sake bar. In addition to so many kinds of sake, you can order rice and pickles, cheese boards, and caviar service with potato chips.
525 Western Ave., Brighton, www.thekojiclub.com
Celeste proprietors Maria Rondeau and JuanMa Calderón bring a similar vibe to Cambridge’s Huron Village with La Royal, their latest. (They also run Esmeralda in Vermont.) She’s an architect; he’s a filmmaker; they know how to throw a groovy and stylish party, which is how they got into the pop-up life, then embraced restauranting full-tilt. Like Celeste, La Royal focuses on Peruvian specialties; you’ll find ceviche and other raw fish dishes; causas, delectable potato terrines; arroz con duck and Peruvian-Chinese dishes; and beer, wine, and pisco sours and other cocktails. But it’s the intimacy and personality of the couple’s restaurants that makes these places truly special.
221 Concord Ave., Huron Village, Cambridge, 617-823-1595, www.laroyalcambridge.com
Italian restaurant Giulia is loved in Cambridge — so much so that it’s hard to get a reservation. Fans of chef-owner Michael Pagliarini’s food will be thrilled when he opens Moëca, in the space formerly known as Luce/Shepard/Chez Henri. It’s still under construction, but Pagliarini is hoping to be up and running by the end of May. The restaurant will specialize in seafood; “moëca” is the Venetian word for a resilient, adaptive crab.
The menu looks beyond Italy this time. “Our creative wanderings and ability to cook great seafood from all over the world needed to be realized,” Pagliarini says. “These dishes need a home, and we need to broaden our culinary horizons.” Just as Giulia’s menu is built around the kitchen’s relationship with area farms, Moëca will be informed by local fisheries. “How do we educate, be part of the solution, be good citizens of the food system? It’s so important to me. I’ve been doing this too long to not care about it, for the sake of this generation of cooks and all of us.”
That’s some of the philosophical stuff. Now for the tastiness. Moëca will be a place for the neighborhood to go for “some oysters, a whole grilled fish, wonderful vegetable side dishes, and exceptional ice creams and desserts from Renae and her team.” “Renae” would be Renae Connolly, the super-talented pastry chef Pagliarini worked with at defunct Harvard Square venture Benedetto. She’s now at Giulia, and will oversee desserts for Moëca too. Brian Gianpoalo, who has been at Giulia since Day 1 (and worked with Pagliarini at Via Matta before that), is chef de cuisine. The kitchen will experiment with whole fish butchery, ferments and pickles, smoking, multiple preparations of the same fish served in the same meal. “I can feel the creativity and stimulating ideas coming from the staff right now. It’s an exciting time, an invigorating time,” Pagliarini says. At the bar, expect classic cocktails, a wine list that expands on Giulia’s Italian offerings, and — especially — Champagne. “There will be lots of bubbles,” Pagliarini promises. To life!
1 Shepard St., Cambridge, www.moecarestaurant.com
What happens when two Fields Corner classics join forces? Find out with a visit to Pho Hoa, which is by no means a new restaurant — it opened in 1992 and has been serving pho and other Vietnamese specialties since. But it recently started a new chapter. Founder Thanh Le was planning to retire when nearby restaurant Anh Hong, another neighborhood favorite, announced it was closing. So Anh Hong owner Victoria Nguyen took over from Le, partnering with his son and Pho Hoa owner Tam Le (who also operates Reign Drink Lab). Anh Hong was known for its seven-course beef and fish feasts, as well as hot pot dishes; some of its specialties now appear on the Pho Hoa menu. The restaurant’s signage and interior have also seen updates since the partnership began about a month ago. And so the next generation of restaurateurs becomes the current generation, preserving Fields Corner’s Vietnamese American culinary culture.
1370 Dorchester Ave., Fields Corner, Dorchester, 617-287-9746, www.phohoarestaurant.com