It’s spring, and the Boston restaurant scene is blooming. Revisit your favorite patios and roof decks. Picnic along the Charles. And visit the tantalizing new spots appearing all over the area. You’ll find bars that are reenvisioning the drinking experience, regional cuisines you may not have experienced before, branches of old favorites in different locales, and places created to foster the spirit of fun and togetherness diners are so hungry for right now. Here are 10 to try this season.
It sounds like a Zen koan: What is a BYOB bar? But there is an answer, in the form of Barlette, a 14-seat lounge in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Arcade. It’s a new project from Rachel Trudel and chef Emily Vena of Cobble, the BYOB restaurant on the arcade’s second floor. Reservations at Cobble are hard to come by, so Barlette may be an easier way to sample the duo’s hospitality. (Not that easy, however: It’s open Fridays and Saturdays, with one seating at 7 p.m. for $68 per person. Reservations are released on the first of each month at noon on the online platform Resy.) Here’s how a BYOB bar works: Guests bring the alcohol, if they wish. Maybe it’s a special bottle of wine; maybe it’s the champagne of beers; maybe it’s gin or tequila or a zero-proof spirit. Barlette then offers everything customers need to be their own bartenders, from shakers to ice to bitters to garnishes. House-made mixers, which also work as alcohol-free cocktails, are available, along with DIY martini service, pickleback fixings, and more. Food is served throughout the night. The menu might include whipped goat cheese with sourdough focaccia and accompaniments, a crudite platter with cheese and charcuterie, sliders with salads, and a festive dessert of coconut cake with pineapple curd, coconut caramel, oranges, and maraschino cherries. It’s a meal that’s “a cocktail party at your seat,” as Trudel says.
318 Harvard St. #11, Coolidge Corner, Brookline, 601-301-2024 (text only), www.drinkatbarlette.com
The latest project from Xenia Greek Hospitality (Greco, Hecate, Krasi) showcases the cuisine and culture of the Vlach people, nomadic shepherds of central and northern Greece. This is food from off the beaten coastal path: sourdough bread with dips, griddled pies, freshwater fish, and grilled meats. Executive chef Kathryn McCoart offers a refined take on rusticity: Greek cheeses with spoon sweets, a wild mushroom pie with house-made phyllo, stuffed cabbage with avgolemono sauce, crayfish and tomato stew with orzo, beef cheek with prunes. Leg of lamb roasts slowly on a spit; a bartender tells a customer which dishes taste exactly like the ones his mother makes. The secret sauce at Bar Vlaha is the hospitality, warm and inclusive.
1653 Beacon St., Washington Square, Brookline, 617-906-8556, www.barvlaha.com.
Borrachito Taqueria & Spirits
What’s New York hospitality outfit the Garret Group doing in the Seaport? Boston is cofounder and president Gavin Moseley’s hometown; he grew up in Jamaica Plain. Borrachito, Garret Group’s first venture outside of New York, is two concepts in one: a Mexico City-style taqueria facing the street, and a speakeasy-ish bar with a separate entrance. Now in its soft opening phase, Borrachito is taking reservations for April 17 onward. You’ll find creative tacos on house-made tortillas, courtesy of chef and Guadalajara native Yuval Ochoa, and plenty of creative cocktails. Good times are always the order of the day; birria tacos and frozen margs never hurt.
70 Pier 4 Boulevard, Seaport, Boston, www.borrachito.com
It’s back! When beloved Allston beer and cocktail haven Deep Ellum closed after 13 years in 2020, a casualty of the pandemic, it was a real loss. (Sister restaurant Lone Star Taco Bar, with locations in Allston and Cambridge, stuck around.) So it’s a delight to see it resurface in Waltham, in the space that was formerly the Gaff. Come for the mango habanero wings, smash burgers, brats, and Italian sandwiches. Stay for the cask ale and well-made cocktails.
467 Moody St., Waltham, Instagram @deepellumboston
The Evergreen Room
When herbalist Kinsey Rosene launched CroseNest Herbal Apothecary seven years ago, she had an idea in the back of her mind for a space where people could gather and drink tea. She moved the business from Lowell, where it started as a pop-up in Mill No. 5, to Hudson — then, during the pandemic, to a new space that had two adjoining rooms. One is dedicated to retail. The other became the Evergreen Room, where people can indeed gather and drink tea — as well as cocktails, while eating boards of cheese, pickles, and more along with other seasonal fare. “The concept is herbally infused provisions,” Rosene says: all of the drinks and dishes contain several different herbs, in combinations designed to help with digestion, uplift the mood, calm the nervous system, and so on. “We’re trying to break the mold of the traditional earthy-crunchy café and do a little bit more of an indulgent version showing folks how we can incorporate herbalism into our lives.” The best-selling dish is the ever-evolving Evergreen Board, stocked with house-made pickles and jams, pate made with mushrooms from Fat Moon Farm in Westford, local cheeses, house-made sourdough bread, and more. The Evergreen Room features tea blends Rosene has formulated over the years, hot “latteas” and cold fizzes, and cocktails such as the Stay Gold (made with turmeric, birch bark, and maqui berry, designed to soothe, cool, and ground) and the Unknown Island (featuring cardamom, cinnamon, and hibiscus to inspire adventure). All of the food and drink answers two questions at the same time, says Rosene: “What herbs are going to support our community during whatever season we’re in? What herbs are going to make it delicious?”
10 Main St., Hudson, 978-568-0240, www.theevergreenroom.com
Located inside the recently renovated Copley Square Hotel, Hue is three concepts in one: a restaurant called the Rosebar; the livelier Supper Club, featuring DJs and live music; and the more-intimate Speakeasy cocktail lounge. At the corner of Huntington and Exeter, it takes its names from the first letters of those cross streets. Behind the venture is a group of local industry vets: George Aboujaoude (Cafeteria, Committee, Eva), Maurice Rodriguez (Fat Hen, La Brasa), Robert Eugene (Premier Events Group, Blue Wave), and entrepreneur Nick Saber. The menu incorporates Asian flavors, ranging from sticky chicken wings with five spice and sambal to tuna sashimi to a Korean BBQ burger to seared salmon with Thai red curry. Many points go to the person who named a pinot grigio, peach puree, and strawberry cocktail the Resting Spritz Face.
90 Exeter St., Back Bay, Boston, 857-991-1710, www.hueboston.com
In the space that was long Italian restaurant Teatro, we can now feast on soup dumplings, tofu with black truffle, braised striped bass with lime and lemongrass, and deep-fried eel with dried chiles. This comes courtesy of Jiang Nan, a Boston outpost of a restaurant with branches in New York and New Jersey. Peking duck in a swank dining room? Add that to the list of pre- and post-theater options.
177 Tremont St., Theatre District, Boston, 857-277-0668, www.jiangnanny.com
Matsunori Handroll Bar
With temaki, or hand rolls, sushi can be finger food. Matsunori Handroll Bar, from the team behind FIYA Chicken and LimeRed Teahouse, specializes in the form. Here, the hand rolls contain scallops with spicy mayo, shrimp tempura with mango, miso black cod with pumpkin puree, sea urchin with truffle pate, and more. It’s the perfect stop for a bite just off the C Line in Audubon Circle.
900 Beacon St., Unit A, Audubon Circle, Boston, 857-305-3993, www.matsu-nori.com
Row 34 celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and there’s now a fourth location of this seafood stalwart from owners Shore Gregory and chef Jeremy Sewall. Joining branches in Fort Point, Burlington, and Portsmouth, N.H., is this Kendall Square stop for boards of smoked and cured fish, warm buttered lobster rolls, fish and chips — and, of course, all the local oysters you can eat. As always, there’s a strong beer list, in addition to wine and cocktails from spirits director Brian Callahan.
314 Main St., Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-819-1120, www.row34.com/cambridge
Another outpost of another favorite — this time Shojo, Chinatown’s pleasingly rowdy stop for creative Asian food and excellent cocktails. (There’s a mini version in the airport, too.) In Cambridge, Central Square lucks out with its own branch, serving dishes from the Chinatown menu alongside those inspired by Southeast Asia: green papaya salad, chicken dumplings with spicy lemongrass sauce, shaking beef bao, and beef curry mazemen with tamarind and coconut, for example. Yes, you’ll still find the Shojonator burger and Shadowless Fries — fried in duck fat and topped with a cheesy mapo tofu concoction.
425 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge, 617-714-5461, www.shojocambridge.com
Devra First can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.