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Best of the New 2012

Best of the New: Food

Barbecue pork pie, a Somerville speak-easy, Mission-style burritos, and the latest from Michael Schlow.

Pizza formaggio from Ecco Pizzeria.Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff

Best of the New contributors: Jenn Abelson, Ami Albernaz, Cheryl Alkon, Kara Baskin, Karen Campbell, Matt Casey, Devra First, Tim Flynn, Ethan Gilsdorf, Alice Gregory, Lucia Huntington, Katherine Hysmith, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Susan Johnston, Sheryl Julian, Joseph P. Kahn, Marni Elyse Katz, Scott Kirsner, Ann Trieger Kurland, Dan Morrell, John Powers, Sebastian Smee, Shira Springer, Tina Sutton, Rachel Travers, and Glenn Yoder


> 9 Sanborn Court, Somerville, 617-718-0249, backbarunion.com

Adjacent to its sister restaurant, Journeyman, backbar has the feeling of a speak-easy or a secret clubhouse. To reach it, head down an unglamorous, brightly lighted hallway, and into the hip room. Order from the ever-changing chalkboard menu — perhaps some spicy caramel popcorn, bread and butter, or a charcuterie platter from chef-owners Diana Kudajarova and Tse Wei Lim. Everything on the menu pairs well with drinks crafted by a team of all-star bartenders. This place is one secret worth sharing.



> 2 West Street, Boston, 617-670-0320, backdeckboston.com

Because of Mother Nature’s wildly varying moods, New Englanders can only enjoy backyard cookouts a few months of the year. Lucky for us, Back Deck in Downtown Crossing channels a carefree summer vibe year-round. You’ll find charcoal-grilled burgers, green apple coleslaw, knockwurst, and other variations on summertime staples. The Back Deck s’mores, concocted with house-made graham crackers and peanut butter marshmallow, puts a sweet twist on childhood memories of campfires and sleepovers.

Bar Manager Fanny Katz pours a drink at Belly Wine Bar in Cambridge. Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe


> 1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-494-0968, bellywinebar.com

Here, the people behind the Blue Room and Central Bottle try to pass a passion for wine along to patrons. A quirky list of unusual varietals focuses on specific regions and producers and presents selections under headings such as “binders full of women” (the work of female winemakers, of course). To fuel the fun, chef Robert Grant serves a selection of charcuterie and salumi geared toward the hungry carnivore.



> 1415 Washington Street, Boston, 617-536-2662, bomarestaurant.com

From the exposed bricks to the grilled swordfish to the Smoking Margarita cocktail, inventive textures and colors abound in this South End newcomer. Executive chef Christopher Bussell keeps the menu’s focus on New England seafood and other local ingredients.


> 567 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-491-5599, brickandmortarbar.com

This cocktail-geek version of the friendly neighborhood bar is run by a team that includes former B-Side operator Patrick Sullivan and bartender extraordinaire Misty Kalkofen. So it’s bound to have great drinks — from the refreshing Temporary Fix (gin, cassis, and lemon) to shots with names like Crush on a Stripper. Pull a stool up to the copper bar and snack on fries with duck confit and gruyere, wood-grilled crostini, and mini oyster po’ boys.


> 374 Trapelo Road, Belmont, 617-855-6325, cafe-burrito.com

Owner Jim Bramante’s coffee shop-slash-burrito bar is dedicated to the Mission-style burrito, as well as south-of-the-border delicacies like quesos a la plancha (Mexican grilled cheese) and seasonal salsas. Order the super burrito with coffee-braised beef or the pollo a la brasa with a side of homemade queso and chips. There are only 13 seats, but Bramante’s single-screen theater next door, Studio Cinema, welcomes burrito-toting moviegoers.

At Casa B, the upstairs dining area as well as a bar to the left. Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff


> 253 Washington Street, Somerville, 617-764-2180, casabrestaurant.com

The Union Square restaurant applies Latin and Caribbean flavors to the concept of tapas, yielding bright-tasting dishes like seviche, shrimp filled with yuca and wrapped in bacon, and meatballs in guava sauce. Pisco sours and caipirinhas are tremendous, too. The work of two architects turned caterers, the restaurant is stylish and sparkling, with a poppy-red and white interior — modern and romantic at once, it could be the year’s best date spot.



> 60 Beach Street, Boston, 617-542-1763

Chinatown’s defunct King Fung Garden had a serious following, so the news that operators Erwin and Doris Mei were opening a new restaurant was met with delight. Their China King doesn’t disappoint. Scallion pancakes, toothsome noodles with pork, and steamed buns are all more than worthy. But the centerpiece here is the glorious Peking duck, ordered 24 hours in advance and served in three courses: crisp skin wrapped in homemade pancakes, stir-fried meat, and soup.


> 255 State Street, Boston, 617-725-0305, citylanding.com

In his successful remake of the downtown Sel de la Terre space, chef Bill Brodsky ensures his first venture as owner offers something for everyone, from kids to the gluten-intolerant to vegetarians to after-work drinkers. Dishes such as mini lobster rolls, pizzette, and modernized liver and onions satisfy, and customer service is emphasized. Prioritizing food and hospitality over scene, City Landing is off to a solid start.


> 868 Broadway, Somerville, 617-764-1906, dooweeandrice.com

For his first restaurant, Duy Tran draws on both his Vietnamese heritage and his Cordon Bleu training. The cornerstone of his menu is rice with meat (chicken, steak, or pork), drizzled with a white sauce and served with salad and pita. But he also offers snacks such as crispy chicken hearts with garlic-chili aioli, Vietnamese egg rolls, steamed buns, and wings. Everything is made fresh, and it’s the rare item that costs more than $10.



> 447 Somerville Avenue, Somerville, 617-764-3152, dosatemple.com

This new branch of an Ashland restaurant is entirely meat-free. Serving a variety of the crisp, filled crepes called dosa, as well as curries, rice plates, and a lunch buffet, Dosa Temple is a reminder that there’s probably no better place to be a vegetarian than India.


> 1 Marina Park Drive, Boston, 617-295-0001, empireboston.com

Big Night Entertainment Group strikes again. This Asian-themed nightclub-slash-restaurant, sibling to Red Lantern and Shrine, looks like a luxe dim sum hall and serves surprisingly fine, Chinatown-worthy dishes, such as salt-and-pepper calamari and Singapore street noodles. Then there are kitschy riffs on American Chinese favorites, like lobster scallion pancakes. Is Empire “authentic”? No, but it’s loads of fun.

The Farmstead Table is a restaurant that recently opened in Newton Centre in Newton. Brian Feulner for the Boston Globe


> 71 Union Street, Newton, 617-928-6000, farmsteadtable.com

A rustic-chic space — white walls, wood tables, and spring-green chairs — that’s sweet but spare enough not to be precious. And it boasts a menu featuring dishes that are comfortable and clean, the sort of food people want to eat with regularity. Think well-made salads, steamed clams with broth, roast chicken, and a great burger. The wonderful spelt bread and s’mores tart, made by chef-owner Chad Burns’s wife and partner, Sharon, complete the meal. Now if only there were more than those 48 seats.



> 15 Dunster Street, Cambridge, 617-497-0900, thefirstprinter.com

Back in the 17th century, the first printer in British America lived in the Harvard Square location now occupied by, ahem, First Printer. The restaurant/bar nods to its historic roots with printed relics on the walls and old-timey drinks like the Journalist and the Correspondent. Weekly live music accompanies the comfortable menu of grilled hanger steak and locally sourced sweet lobster chowder.


> 1363 Boylston Street, Boston, 857-753-4100, happysbarandkitchen.com

Restaurant royal Michael Schlow hits the Fenway with small dishes familiar enough to soothe but inventive enough to (we hope!) beckon customers back. Pork belly comes with fried green tomatoes; homemade potato chips with green onion chickpea puree; and mac and cheese with bacon, peas, and jalapeno.


> 1306 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-232-8808, hopsnscotchbar.com

When the owners of Coolidge Corner Wine & Spirits opened Hops N Scotch in Finale’s old space, it was no surprise that their drink menu offered some 80 types of beer and 100 whiskeys, including Scotch and bourbon. Between sips, Brookline’s young professionals dine on Southern Scotch eggs, Texas sliders, and pork tacos.


> 21 Temple Place, Boston, 617-338-5333, jmcurleyboston.com

Named for charming scoundrel James Michael Curley, this Downtown Crossing hangout has achieved some notoriety for its cheeky house rules, such as: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s date, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor his grub, nor his cocktail, his barstool, space, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.” But its food should be taken seriously, from snacks such as fried pickles and deviled eggs to frequently changing specials to — perhaps above all — a perfect grilled burger. Add in bubble hockey, desserts that resemble Dairy Queen Blizzards, and a strong bar program, and you’ve got an instant neighborhood hit.


> 560 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-695-1250, kitchenbostonmass.com

History repeats itself at this South End restaurant from Scott Herritt, the chef behind Grotto and Marliave. This Kitchen revives dishes of yore, from mock turtle soup (a more elegant cousin of beef stew) to lobster thermidor to the decadent tournedos Rossini. The menu lists the date each dish was conceived. Cocktails echo the nostalgic theme, as does the music, all on vinyl (although “Thriller” won’t feel vintage to some). This trip in the way-back machine would seem like a gimmick if the past didn’t taste so good today.


> 256 Marginal Street, Building 16, East Boston, 617-418-5234, kocateringandpies.com

This cheerful shop tucked away in the Boston Harbor Shipyard, second in the chain, specializes in the meat-filled pies from owner Sam Jackson’s native Australia. Choose among several can’t-miss options, including Irish beef stew, braised lamb shank, and curried vegetable. Unlike its Southie sister, this location serves beer and wine and has an outdoor patio with a view of the city skyline.


> 425 West Broadway, South Boston, 617-765-8636, lincolnsouthboston.com

With brick walls, wood booths, tile floors, and schoolhouse lighting, Lincoln is both old-school and modern, a perfect fit for South Boston. And all the neighborhood seems to be here on the weekend, waiting in long lines. The patient are rewarded with fine fried chicken, wood-fired pizzas, and snacks like spicy wings and fish tacos.


> 382 Highland Avenue, Somerville, 617-718-6666

Food is served on a tray, cold beer comes in cans, and the counter holds a frosted cake on a covered stand. M3 brings a taste of the South to Davis Square. The name stands for “meat and three” — a concept where the diner chooses from an assortment of meat dishes and picks three sides to go along. On one of the constantly changing menus, the pork chops were swank Kurobuta, the oysters in the po’ boy Island Creek, and the fried chicken free-range.


> 201A Highland Avenue, Somerville, 617-666-1970, mfdulock.com

Michael Dulock butchers in the nose-to-tail fashion, so if he doesn’t have the cut you’re looking for, he might turn you on to another. Or you can browse the case, which is anchored one day by a lamb’s head and offers goat loin chops, house-made sausages, leg of lamb, beef stew meat, and other basic cuts. The animals all come from a 250-mile radius of Somerville.

Chef David Nevins prepared the Lamb Tonnato at Nix's Mate.Brian Feulner for the Boston Globe


> Hilton Boston Downtown/Financial District, 89 Broad Street, 617-348-1234, nixsmate.com

How does a Hilton stand out from its corporate brethren? Open an unusually pretty restaurant with reclaimed wood and attractive lighting. Then hire a real-deal chef like David Nevins, formerly of Olives and Neptune Oyster. There’s plenty here that out-of-towners love to order, like clam chowder and fried cod with chips. But there are also wild and delicious riffs such as lamb tonnato, a grilled chop with tuna sauce, and fried Maine lobster in caramel sauce. The creativity is welcome for travelers and locals alike.


> The Fairmont Copley Plaza, 138 St. James Avenue, Boston, 617-585-7222, oaklongbarkitchen.com

Even as Locke-Ober closed this year, the Fairmont Copley Plaza’s Oak Room found a way to reinvent itself. Oak Long Bar + Kitchen respects tradition, maintaining architectural elements while updating the decor. The food, too, has been modernized, with salads, pasta dishes, and roast chicken from the hearth oven served alongside classics like oysters Rockefeller. This isn’t the Oak Room anymore, but it’s awfully lively all the same.


> 219 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-776-0005, thepaintedburro.com

The Painted Burro is more Latin American than classic Mexican, though grilled fish and meat and moles — all made with really fresh ingredients — fill the menu here, at the former home of Gargoyles in Davis Square. Try the house-infused cucumber tequila margarita, the coolest, smoothest tequila concoction in a glass. And don’t miss the tortilla chips. Seriously. Who knew they could be so good?


> 59 JFK Street, Cambridge, 617-491-9851, parkcambridge.com

Chef Mark Goldberg’s menu encompasses salt-and-pepper shrimp and chicken wings with sambal and honey glaze, and grilled lamb belly with Madeira and a meat pie of the day. Clubby and comfortable, with couches and plaid armchairs, red leather booths, chalkboards, and a horseshoe-shaped bar, this feels like the hangout Harvard Square has been waiting for.


> 27 Central Avenue, Milton, 617-698-8900, theplatekitchen.com

You might wish this little neighborhood cafe were within walking distance, but you’ll still travel miles for its offerings. The sandwich of organic local eggs and smoked bacon on a house-made English muffin will wow in the morning (if you can’t get one of 10 seats, just take it out). And for the rest of the day there are plenty of pastries, sweets, sandwiches, and a delicious new dinner-to-go offering in small and large sizes, available on Thursday and Friday nights.


> 1753 Centre Street, West Roxbury, 617-325-1700, red-eyedpig.com

Watch out, Redbones and Blue Ribbon, you’ve got a new competitor. This West Roxbury takeout joint’s Carolina-style staples, like beef brisket and ribs, are some of the best around Boston. But it’s a more unusual offering that will have you jumping on the Jamaicaway to get your fix: green chili and pork belly doughnuts, deep fried with farm cheese, lemon, and smoked paprika salt, then drizzled with garlic aioli.


> 255 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-628-4444, saloondavis.com

Bringing a splash of 1920s glamour to pub-filled Davis Square, Saloon’s bartenders wear suspenders and ties, while waitresses sport jazzy cocktail dresses. Food is also unusual. Where else in the neighborhood might you find duet of rabbit or Cornish game hen? Potent beverages arrive in vintage glassware. Here, just a staircase away from the world above — and directly below sister restaurant Foundry on Elm — cocktailing remains a special occasion.


> 220 Northern Avenue, Boston, 617-227-0754, 75onlibertywharf.com

Thomas Kershaw, owner of Cheers and 75 Chestnut, knows how to run a crowd-pleaser. With 60 seats indoors (and another 60 on the heated deck), the views are breathtaking, and a menu featuring Gulf shrimp, Atlantic cod, and beef sirloin is satisfying. Many offerings are marked gluten-free, and several “green libations” incorporate ingredients like certified organic liquors.


> 9A Tyler Street, Boston, 617-423-7888, shojoboston.com

Cousins and co-owners Brian and Brendan Moy have opened a cool Chinatown lounge that serves bao and shrimp toast, but also grilled calamari salad, skirt steak with kimchi butter, and braised short ribs with taro mash. Add in a list of inventive cocktails, including one winkingly called “cold tea for two,” and you’ve got a great hangout for those in search of something beyond the standard.


> 90 Exeter Street, Boston, 617-236-1134, storyvilleboston.com

Storyville’s sexy nightclub atmosphere doesn’t seem geared for eating — think low black couches and flocked red wallpaper. But it happens to have really good food. Dance music may mean you can’t hear yourself think, but it doesn’t drown out small plates such as fried oysters with bacon and kimchi sauce and oven-roasted meatballs with tomato jam. Tiki drinks and other well-made tipples complete the picture.


> 24 Riverside Avenue, Medford, 781-395-2221, tenochmexican.com

This cheery counter-service taqueria in downtown Medford specializes in tortas, hefty sandwiches with meat, Oaxaca cheese, and vegetables stuffed inside soft telera bread. But you also can’t go wrong with the tacos, enchiladas, and burritos. The friendly guys behind the counter are happy to discuss the merits of their various salsas and fillings (the chile de arbol is a spicy essential), affably doling out tastes of this and that. It’s a great place for families — service is speedy and prices are fair.


> 138 Cambridge Street, Boston, 857-350-3344, thetiptaproom.com

It takes a daring guy to bring yak to Beacon Hill. But Brian Poe, known for experimental cuisine at the Rattlesnake, serves it, as well as kangaroo (he can’t believe how much they sell). Slightly more traditional pub fare includes twice-baked potatoes topped with bacon tips, beer-cheese sauce, and fried oysters. The noise level is sometimes deafening — but you came to eat and drink beer, not chat.


> 57 West Dedham Street, Boston, 617-247-9249, vejigantesrestaurant.com

At this welcoming restaurant named for a Puerto Rican folk character, several generations eat together at one table, girlfriends drink tropical cocktails, and dishes such as cream of plantain soup and shrimp in Creole sauce help spread the joy. In the heart of the South End’s Villa Victoria community and born out of the efforts of Puerto Rican activists, this is a showcase for the country’s culinary heritage.


> 1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-945-0221, westbridgerestaurant.com

This collaboration between Aquitaine alums took Kendall Square by storm for a reason. The atmosphere is convivial (bordering on deafening). The aesthetic is loft-like yet warm. And chef and co-owner Matthew Gaudet’s food is harmonious, delicious, and different (witness Arctic char with a crisp brioche crust, artichokes, and grapefruit-basil sauce). The justifiably famed “egg in a jar” is rich potato puree, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, slow-cooked duck eggs, and crisp duck skin all layered in perfect synthesis.

Executive Chef Sho Inoue cooks an order on the special charcoal grill Yakitori Zai in the South End. JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE


> 315 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, 857-350-4450, yakitorizai.com

Proving there’s much more to Japanese food than sushi, Yakitori Zai focuses on skewers of grilled chicken and other ingredients, cooked over charcoal imported from Japan. In addition to chicken breast, chicken meatballs, and other familiar preparations, Yakitori Zai grills tails and cartilage, beautiful seafood and vegetables, and rice balls brushed with soy. This is the rare Japanese restaurant that feels like one you might actually find across the Pacific.



Forget Seattle: 2012 was the year of the deluxe coffee bar in Greater Boston. Start with the opening of GEORGE HOWELL COFFEE in Newtonville. Howell’s legendary local chain, The Coffee Connection, introduced premium coffee to Boston more than three decades ago, then was acquired by Starbucks (along with Howell’s recipe for the Frappuccino). Now Howell has finally added a cafe to his online bean company. Two espresso types are available each day, one single origin, the other a darker blend.

The work of Dorchester natives, FLAT BLACK — that’s what they call espresso in Sydney, Australia — now has four area shops. The newest, near Post Office Square, is home to a “coffee lab” where several brewing methods are ready to run. Choose among drip, French press, espresso (pulled from what the company says is the only single-extractor machine in town), pour over, or cold brew.

At IYO CAFE in Davis Square in Somerville you’ll find DIY waffles and a self-serve frozen yogurt bar that includes sea salt caramel among its dozen flavors. But for those serious about caffeine, iYO’s locally sourced beverages are the real draw. The beans come from the Barrington Coffee Roasting Company in Lee, the tea from Watertown’s MEM Tea.

From the folks behind Arlington’s beloved Barisimo comes DWELLTIME, a coffee bar and bake shop just off Central Square in Cambridge. With weekly public cuppings — that’s coffee talk for taste tests — gracious staff, perfect quiches, and quick Wi-Fi, there’s really no better place to spend the day.

> GEORGE HOWELL COFFEE, 311 Walnut Street, Newtonville, 617-332-6886, terroircoffee.com; FLAT BLACK, 260 Franklin Street, Boston, 617-825-1440, flatblackcoffee.com; IYO CAFE, 234 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-764-5295, iyocafe.com; DWELLTIME, 364 Broadway, Cambridge, 617-714-5536, dwelltimecambridge.com



If you can only try one item at each of these new places, make it something incredible.


> blackbirdpiecompany.com (for a list of retail locations)

The Carolina-style barbecue pork pie from this new wholesaler, Blackbird Pie Company, is like having an entire cookout under one crust — tender pork with mustard greens, sweet potatoes, and apples.


> 262 Second Avenue, Needham, blueribbonbbq.com/trailer

This trailer, usually parked near an industrial park in Needham, came equipped with an onboard smoker that turned out a fantastic burnt ends sandwich (those are crispy brisket bits) in sauce on a plain white bun. They plan to reopen in March.

Corn & Co Popcorn in Burlington.Dan Watkins


> Burlington Mall, near the food court, 781-221-7100, cornandco.com

Popcorn goes gourmet in the Burlington Mall with lots of unexpected concoctions, such as the excellent dill pickle and marshmallow. And with this new snackery’s emphasis on custom combos, you can order them in the same bag.

Red Velvet Cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake in Boston.Dan Watkins


> 83 Newbury Street, Boston, 617-927-2250, georgetowncupcake.com

Washington, D.C.’s superstar cupcakery has finally migrated north to Boston, bringing a luscious Red Velvet cupcake topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting and a charming red-fondant heart.

Dallas Spicy Beef Taco from Lone Star Taco Bar in Allston.Dan Watkins


> 479 Cambridge Street, Allston, 617-782-8226, lonestar-boston.com

The no-frills menu of tacos, nachos, and chili is paired with a thoughtful list of tequila and mescal here, but a tongue-tingling Dallas spicy beef taco is the star. Topped with longhorn cheese on handmade tortillas, it is a $4 meal unto itself.


> oceanavepops.com

Ocean Ave Pops earned a following on the Greenway this summer, and they can still be found at indoor winter markets. Track them down and try the watermelon-blueberry-basil. You can thank us later.

Chocolate Coconut Almonds from Q's Nuts in Somerville.Dan Watkins


> 349 Highland Avenue, Somerville, 617-764-3741, qsnuts.com

Q’s Nuts has sold treats to specialty retailers for years, but this year opened its own shop outside Davis Square. Taste the tropics in the chocolate coconut almonds, roasted with dark Belgium chocolate plus toasted and raw coconut.

Pistachio Croissant from Tatte Bakery & Cafe in Cambridge.Dan Watkins


> 318 Third Street, Cambridge, 617-354-4200, tattecookies.com

A must-have at the Brookline favorite’s new Kendall location is the pistachio croissant, made extra decadent with an additional round of butter folded in, house-prepared pistachio paste, and toasted pistachios.




> 1238 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, 617-547-0836, allstarpizzabar.com

Kosta and Johnny Diamantopoulos, the brothers who have owned Inman Square’s All Star Sandwich Bar since 2008, opened this pizza parlor across the street in April. Among the best of its odd yet delightful pies is Ms. Piggy’s Fig, a whirlwind of blended cheeses, Black Mission figs, prosciutto di Parma, vincotto, and toasted pistachio gremolata.


> 1147 Commonwealth Avenue, Allston, 617-903-4324, eccopizzeria.com

Owner Stephen Silverman describes his whole-grain organic crust as “somewhere between Rome and New York.” One fetching pie comes with eggs cracked on top; the Bianca is sauceless with Asiago, prosciutto, and dressed arugula. Dessert pizzas might be sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or with chocolate-hazelnut spread. Ask for a scoop of ice cream to top it off.


> 325 Washington Street, Newton Corner, 617-244-7200, maxandleos.com

Newton twins Maximilian and Pantaleon Candidus have done many things in four decades, including motorcycle racing. A couple of years ago, they started catering their exquisitely crisp pizza, which they made in a coal-fired oven they took on the road in a trailer. This is the brick-and-mortar version of that venture, with an oven that fires to 900 degrees. The pizzas, the menu warns customers, “are cooked WELL DONE.” Alas, the 12-seat storefront is hard to get into, but by spring, the twins will have expanded next door.



Many toppings to add to falafel sandwiches or bowls at Amsterdam Falafel Shop in Davis Square.Joanne Rathe / Globe Staff/Globe Staff


> 248 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-764-3334, falafelshop.com

This Washington, D.C., pita purveyor’s fans rejoiced when it opened a branch in Davis Square. Why? The chickpea spheres are perfectly seasoned, crisp outside, and cooked through. And the fabulous toppings bar means everyone can make the sandwich exactly to his or her liking. Opt for a simple salad with tahini or go all in with pickled beets, chickpea salads, hot sauce, baba ganoush, and much more.


> 687 Belmont Street, Belmont, 617-484-6161, anicatering.com

At Ani Takeout in Belmont, the Janessian family believes Middle Eastern cultural immersion begins on the plate. Thick hummus, buttery pilaf, and standout salads like the eggplant pomegranate are a given, but the real stars are the juicy lamb kebabs and the chicken shwarma.


> 23 Elm Street, Watertown, 857-228-3014

This spot across from the Watertown Mall offers all kinds of roll-ups, kebabs, and lamejuns (which are small, thin, meat-topped pizzas). Eat them as is, get one rolled up with turnip pickles and tahini sauce, or ask the cooks to break an egg on top before baking. Shopping at Target and Best Buy can be exhausting. Take a break here.


> 15 Cottage Street East, Norwood Center, 781-769-3663, to-beirut.com

Lebanon-born Elias and Nada Habr opened their grocery store, Cedar Markets, in 2003 and sold takeout roll-ups filled with juicy meats, pickles, and fresh veggies. There was such a demand for them that son Aziz Elias Habr and his wife, Irene Marmanides Habr, finally opened this big, bright restaurant next door. Order at the counter and try deliciously sweet and bitter dandelion greens and remarkable baba ganoush.


> 654 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-522-7264, cafebeirutjp.com

Not brand new, but reinvented when Sami Saba of Longwood standby Sami’s Falafel sold to his son, also named Sami, who brought in chef/partner Ali Hachem. You can still get Sami’s outstanding falafel, but now with the bonus of Hachem’s authentic Lebanese specialties, made with halal meats. Try the charred kafta, ground beef or lamb, or the tender lamb kebab. This is Middle Eastern slow food, served on paper plates.


> Longwood Galleria, 350 Longwood Avenue, Boston, 617-277-3500, sepalrestaurant.com

A standout at Sepal’s third and newest location is the crispy falafel sandwich, a toasted pita rolled around salad, homemade hummus, and chickpea rounds green with fresh herbs.


The pork ramen (only thing on the menu) prepared by Tsuyoshi Nihioka, chef/owner of Yune wo Katare.Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff/Globe Staff


This year, the Japanese noodle soup was one hot dish in Boston. The fact that it wasn’t easy to come by only made it more desirable. Pop-up restaurant GUCHI’S MIDNIGHT RAMEN, a project from chefs who have worked at the high-end O Ya, sold out events in minutes flat. UNI SASHIMI BAR added ramen, but only serve it Thursday through Saturday, after 11 p.m. Then a ramen chef from Japan opened YUME WO KATARE in Cambridge’s Porter Square. The name means “tell me your dreams,” yet the line here often stretches nightmarishly down the block (it’s only open 6 p.m. to 11). If your dream is a fine bowl of ramen, you’ll need luck and good timing to achieve it.

> GUCHI’S MIDNIGHT RAMEN, guchismidnightramen.com; UNI SASHIMI BAR, 370 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 617-536-7200, unisashimibar.com; YUME WO KATARE, 1923 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-714-4008, yumewokatare.com

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