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    Where to Eat

    Where to eat in Greater Boston

    A sampling of the area’s best restaurants, from Globe critics.

    Cambridge Ma- 12/08//2016 Poached egg at En Boca in Cambridge.. Globe (Jonathan Wiggs /GlobeStaff) Reporter:Topic
    jonathan wiggs/globe staff/file
    Poached egg with polenta and chorizo at En Boca in Cambridge.

    KEY TO TYPICAL ENTREE PRICES

    $ — $10 or less

    $$ — $11 to $15

    $$$ — $16 to $25

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    $$$$ — $26 and up

    METRO BOSTON

    CAMBRIDGE

    En Boca / $$$ A few steps off Harvard Square’s main drag, En Boca aims to transport diners much further. Chef Benjamin Lacy’s menu circles the Mediterranean, picking up influences and inspiration, then putting them into practice using ingredients found closer to home. Clever cocktails and elevated wines by the glass round out a restaurant that’s unfailingly interesting and ambitious. 8 Holyoke Street, Cambridge, 857-259-6321, enbocacambridge.com  — Nestor Ramos

    Harvest/ $$$$ This Harvard Square institution, which hides down a Brattle Street alley, continues to buzz like a hive going on for 42 years now. There are four dining areas to choose from and a sturdily built menu that excels with meat. Shut your eyes and listen: You’re liable to hear the most cerebral conversation this side of Ancient Greece. 44 Brattle Street, Cambridge, 617-868-2255, harvestcambridge.com — Ted Weesner

    Little Donkey/ $$$ Meet Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer, unleashed. This chef duo’s latest venture is a Central Square restaurant with no rules, with a menu that refuses to be locked into any specific cuisine. It’s food that makes you cock your head, scrunch your brow, exchange quizzical glances with your tablemates, and ask: What exactly are we tasting? The answer could be matzo ball ramen or farro kimchi fried rice or Vietnamese bologna with squid or a fried chicken sandwich. The creativity and complexity of the flavor combination often wows. 505 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-945-1008, littledonkeybos.com — Sacha Pfeiffer

    Mainely Burgers/ $ Add Mainely Burgers to your list of new-school fast-food joints to try. Order a Mainah — the signature patty from this Portland-based food truck-turned-brick-and-mortar location in Central Square — with bacon, sliced apple, caramelized onions, cheddar, and maple mayo. The all-beef hot dogs and frappes are pretty good, too, but whatever you do, don’t miss the sweet and savory tamari-garlic Brussels sprouts. 704 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-945-7010, mainely-burgers.com — Catherine Smart

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    Moona / $$$ 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

    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

    Waypoint / $$$ This new restaurant from Alden & Harlow chef Michael Scelfo serves up ocean-themed culinary creativity. The house-baked breads are made with squid ink, anchovy syrup, and seaweed; the smoked whitefish pizza tastes like a giant bagel; and the meatballs are octopus. Choose from 17 varieties of absinthe, or order off the fascinating wine list of unusual bottles organized by style and geography. 1030 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-864-2300, waypointharvard.com

    — Mat Schaffer

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    DORCHESTER  

    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, rolled into a substantial bundle to take away. 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

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    Lower Mills Tavern and Lucy’s American Tavern / $$$ These two recently opened Dorchester restaurants attract neighborhood clientele with reasonably priced, locally sourced, surprisingly similar menus: a pinch of Latin, a smidge of Asian, pizza, pasta, salads, American comfort classics, and an oversize burger. Both feature $11 craft cocktails, lengthy beer and wine lists, and congenial waitstaffs. For those of us who eat out multiple times a week, it’s a formula we can embrace. Lower Mills Tavern, 2269 Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester, 857-267-4461, lowermillstavern.com; Lucy’s American Tavern, 13 Granite Avenue, Dorchester, 617-326-6677, lucysamericantavern.com — Mat Schaffer

    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

    FENWAY

    Tapestry / $$ Half of this two-in-one Fenway restaurant is the Club Room, a dimly lit, faintly exotic upscale lounge. The other half is a bright, airy, casual eatery called the Expo Kitchen. Each has a separate menu, and the food on both sides is usually top-notch. The Club Room’s ambitious dishes range from Sichuan bouillabaisse to fluke ceviche to stuffed pumpkin, while the Expo Room is for casual bar apps and Neapolitan pizzas. For dessert, don’t just order one “sweet bites sampler” plate; order two. 69 Kilmarnock Street, Boston, 617-421-4470, tapestry.restaurant — Sacha Pfeiffer

     JAMAICA PLAIN

    Casa Verde / $$ Just the kind of neighborhood taqueria you’d like to have down the street. Tacos and tortas, smoky margaritas, and decadent brunch dishes like eggs Benedict with chipotle hollandaise are served in a cozy, inviting space. 711 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-477-9977, casaverdejp.com — Catherine Smart

     NORTH END

    Il Molo / $$$ In the restaurant-rich environment of the North End, Il Molo eschews dark wood and red sauce but maintains Mediterranean underpinnings, serving fresh seafood in simple preparations that showcase the fish in a sleek, modern setting near the water. 326 Commercial Street, Boston, 857-277-1895, ilmoloboston.com — Nestor Ramos

    Scopa / $$$ This tiny addition to the North End (it took the space previously occupied by Pomodoro, which moved up the block) sometimes hits home runs and sometimes strikes out. Knowing when it will do which is the tricky part about dining here. Some dishes, like pappardelle Bolognese, are ethereal. Others, like shrimp lollipops, go awry. The restaurant’s mission is to serve food that’s lighter, healthier, and more modern than that served at many of its counterparts (no chicken Parm here), and on that score it does quite well. 319 Hanover Street, Boston, 857-317-2871, scopaboston.com — Sacha Pfeiffer

     SOMERVILLE

    Fat Hen / $$$ From the first dinner roll to the final bowl of Italian hard candies, the staff of Fat Hen appears to have considered every detail. It doesn’t hurt that the food in between — contemporary Italian fare, served in a jewel box of a room — is the height of spirited elegance. The four-course $45 tasting menu has to be one of the best deals in town. 126 Broadway, Somerville, 617-764-1612, fathenboston.com — Ted Weesner

    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 — Catherine Smart

    Southern Kin Cookhouse / $$$ Southern hospitality, unflappable affability, and an occasional “y’all” are standard fare along with chicken n’ waffles, shrimp n’ grits, and Mississippi catfish at the newest restaurant from the company behind Wink & Nod, the Tap Trailhouse, and Griddler’s Burgers + Dogs. Alas, a cheerful staff and a fresh cloth napkin with every course don’t necessarily guarantee the menu’s “come n’ get it” promise of “mighty good eatin’!” 500 Assembly Row, Somerville, 617-764-5966, southernkincookhouse.com — Mat Schaffer

    SOUTH END

    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 in the South End location 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 — Sheryl Julian

    Dona Habana / $$$ Dona Habana is one of Boston’s newest Cuban restaurants, located in a Hampton Inn on the edge of the South End. This stylish eatery is brought to you by Hector and Nivia Pina, the duo behind Merengue and Vejigantes. Ropa vieja, braised shredded beef with sweet peppers, is delicious, as is a pulled pork sandwich with cassava fries, plus an array of small plates called bocadillos. With 53 styles of mojito, you won’t go thirsty here. 811 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, 617-708-0796 — Ellen Bhang

    NORTH OF THE CITY

    Bayberry Cafe / $$ Bayberry Cafe, in Woburn Center, is family-owned and entirely vegan, offering delicious renditions of Asian favorites such as fresh rolls, stir-fried sweet potato noodles, and moo shoo vegetables. Don’t miss the hijiki (sea vegetable) salad with edamame and red curry seitan. You won’t miss the meat. 502 Main Street, Woburn, 781-935-1288, bayberrycafe.com — Ellen Bhang

    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 — Catherine Smart

    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 — Ellen Bhang

    Sichuan Taste / $$ Come to Sichuan Taste in Malden for dishes slicked with spicy oil, fresh seafood from live tanks, and new takes on tiki cocktails. With plenty of parking and an expansive menu, it makes family night out easy. 290 Main Street, Malden, 781-480-3671, sichuantastema.com — Catherine Smart

     

    SOUTH OF THE CITY

    Blu Mussel / $$$ Tired of formal dining scenes, chef-owner Anthony Ambrose, who won accolades in the ’90s for Ambrosia on Huntington, has fashioned the 100-plus seat space on Route 3A to have a rustic feel. There’s a sweet blended chive butter served with the homemade house breads that you shouldn’t miss. The green curry and coconut blu mussel appetizer deserves to have a restaurant named after it. For entrees, the meaty Bolognese with the house-made fettuccini and the chicken and fresh lemon pasta were pleasing. 156 King Street, Cohasset, 781-923-1721, blumusseltavern.com — Joan Wilder

    Novara / $$$ This latest addition to Milton’s once-nonexistent dining scene is a big, airy, gorgeous space with charming hints of its former life as an old-fashioned movie theater. The Italian menu leans toward heavy, heavily sauced dishes that can be off-putting in the summer and would benefit from lighter ingredients that let subtle flavors emerge. When the kitchen does apply a lighter touch, the results are often quite nice. So is the lovely outdoor patio. 556 Adams Street, Milton, 617-696-8400, novararestaurant.com — Sacha Pfeiffer

    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

     

    WEST OF THE CITY

    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 — Sheryl Julian

    Nzuko Restaurant / $ If you’ve never experienced Caribbean-Mediterranean fare, now you can, at Nzuko Restaurant in Framingham. Tuck into jerk chicken, falafel, and Haitian-style pork, rolled into a wrap or served on a plate with turmeric rice and sweet plantains. Soups are made daily, and an array of good-for-you salads is always on offer. 341 Cochituate Road, Framingham, 508-620-1024, nzuko.co — Ellen Bhang

    Pho #1 Waltham / $ This appealing restaurant is run by a family from Thailand, but the sprawling menu spans most of Asia, with Vietnamese noodle soups, Thai curries, Korean fried chicken, and more. Maybe too much more — when covering this much territory, inevitably some dishes’ subtleties will be lost. 374 Moody Street, Waltham, 781-891-6977, pho1waltham.com — Sheryl Julian

    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 — Nestor Ramos

    Tempo / $$$ More than a decade after this upscale American bistro opened on the sleepy half of Waltham’s Restaurant Row, it has become a mainstay on what is now one of Moody Street’s buzziest blocks. A recent face lift gave Tempo a funky tribal feel, and the food is good — sometimes very good, especially when the kitchen eases up on sauces. Highlights include a beautiful beet salad, zingy chicken wings, meltingly tender short ribs, and a pork marsala entree special that deserves to be a menu staple. Some dishes are overly busy with competing flavors, yet the kitchen excels at simplicity, like a perfect seared salmon fillet. 474 Moody Street, Waltham, 781-891-9000, tempobistro.com — Sacha Pfeiffer

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