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Boston's 10 Hottest Restaurants

By Scott Kearnan
August 15, 2014
Photo by: Joel Benjamin

What makes a restaurant "hot"? That's highly subjective. Great food and drinks, an enticing atmosphere, strong service and the allure of newness all play a part. Following a number of recent high-profile openings, it was tough to choose 10 local restaurants for the latest update of our "Hottest Restaurants" series. The allure of some recent mainstays still hasn't worn off, but some new kids on the block already are serving up the right stuff. 

  • Bastille Kitchen

    Why It's Hot: It's huge, for one thing. An 11,000-sq.-ft. Fort Point textile factory has undergone a $4 million transformation at the hands of hospitality guru Seth Greenberg, and seats about 240. The restaurant is Greenberg's first since opening the now-iconic Mistral in 1997. 

    Must-Order: The kitchen is helmed by our 30 Under 30 honoree chef Adam Kube, and he drew some inspiration from the nearby site of the Boston Tea Party: hence a strong starter of tea-smoked mussels ($14). You'll also want to swim by for seafood selections like the sautéed ocean perch meunière amandine ($26).  

    Insider Tip: Don't forget to descend for a drink in its subterranean cocktail lounge, Chalet.

    49 Melcher St.; 617-556-8000

  • Photo by: Joel Benjamin

    Legal Oysteria

    Why It's Hot: Finally, the former home of Todd English's original Olives has a new inhabitant. The Boston-based Legal Sea Foods brand unveiled the latest in what seems to be a series of one-off concepts. Oysteria focuses on seafood inspired by the northern coastal regions of Italy. 

    Must-Order: Obviously the seafood is central, so dive into lobster fra diavolo (pictured; market price). But the restaurant retained English's old brick oven, so you'll also find pizzas like the sopressata ($12), topped with stracciatella, banana peppers and a spicy red sauce. For a deeper look at the new digs and its dishes, check out our feature here

    Insider Tip: Weekends-only lunch just launched, and you can check out the menu here. Highlights include braised mussels ($9), a roasted clam pizza ($11) and cannoli "pancakes" ($7): ricotta-filled crispelles with strawberries and maple syrup.

    10 City Square, Charlestown; 617-712-1988

  • Loretta's Last Call

    Why It's Hot: Opened in June in the former home of Ken Oringer's La Verdad, Loretta's wood-paneled interior trades tacos for Southern-fried fare, loads of moonshine and boot-stompin' country music. Giddy-up! 

    Must-Order: The menu is filled with down-home fixin's like hushpuppies ($7) with honey-bourbon butter, lobster grit cakes ($11) with lemon-Tabasco mayo and fried chicken galore. Plus, there's a fried baloney sandwich ($8) that is total culinary kitsch.

    Insider Tip: If you dig the roadhouse-inspired style of the space, we don't blame you. It's the work of our recent 30 Under 30 honoree, designer Stephen Martyak

    1 Lansdowne St.; 617-421-9595

  • Photo by: Joel Benjamin

    Brass Union

    Why It's Hot: Part American tavern, part game lounge for competitive cocktailing, Brass Union is housed in a historic building that was once Somerville police headquarters. Now visitors get arrested by American eats from Chez Henri alum Jonathan Kopacz, plus a host of diverting games, from tabletop Pac-Man to shuffleboard, oversized Jenga to cornhole on the patio. 

    Must-Order: Lobster pappardelle is a winner: a bowl filled with chunks of grilled lobster in beurre blanc with roasted tomato and English peas. But the cute factor alone requires us to mention the Pac-Man Lemon Cake seen here, a Pac-Man shaped wedge gobbling fresh berries.

    Insider Tip: Served with an Argentinean twist, Brass Union's choripán recently made our list of the 8 Best Hot Dogs in Boston.

    70 Union Sq., Somerville; 617-623-9211

  • Lulu's Allston

    Why It's Hot: Chef Sarah Wade greets guests at this neighborhood eatery with a funky, eclectic mix that puts chef-driven spins on comfort classics, including some that tweak junk food to impressive effect. The place starts to buzz around 7 PM, as twenty- and thirtysomething professionals who work Downtown file back to their 'hood and fill white banquettes and bar stools in a Pop Art-inspired gastropub space. 

    Must-Order: We love the Smokin' Blonde Beer Cheese Soup ($6), a perfectly balanced blend of smoked Gouda and IPA. Beer cheese soup is hard to get right. And the Wild Game Frito Chili Pie, a bowl of Fritos snack chips loaded with a deftly seasoned chili of wild boar and buffalo, recently made our list of must-try Gourmet Junk Food. For more ideas on what to order and expect, check out our Lulu's Cheat Sheet.

    Insider Tip: The place recently launched brunch service. Get all the details and scope the menu ("white trash hash," anyone?) here

    421 Cambridge St., Allston; 617-787-1117

  • Photo by: Joel Benjamin

    La Brasa

    Why It's Hot: At this lodgelike new Somerville eatery, live-fire cooking is the common denominator linking international cuisine from L'Espalier alum chef Daniel Bojorquez. Anticipation was high before opening, and clearly caught the attention of national food-scene followers. It only opened in April, but already made a national Food & Wine feature on 8 Amazing New Grill Restaurants

    Must-Order: Spice up your life with za'atar roasted lamb saddle ($20) with curry couscous, apricots and mint. For more ideas, check out our Cheat Sheet.

    Insider Tip: At some restaurants, coffee is an afterthought. Not here; they tapped java expert Judson McCrae (the man behind the coffee program at Hi-Rise Bread Company) to curate an attention-grabbing roster of beans.

    124 Broadway, Somerville; 617-764-1412

  • Photo by: Joel Benjamin

    Liquid Art House

    Why It's Hot: This ambitious project combines an art gallery with a high-end restaurant. Globe-trotting cuisine from Asana alum chef Rachel Klein and a street-art-themed opening installation have been luring a crowd of well-heeled visitors since doors opened in May. It remains to be seen if the lofty concept has legs, but right now it's enjoying plenty of curious foot traffic. 

    Must-Order: Rotisserie meats is an area of emphasis, including Green Circle Chickens ($22), known for their exceptional flavor. These D'Artagnan chickens are raised on a strict diet of scraps from restaurants like Per Se and Gramercy Tavern. Check out our Cheat Sheet here

    Insider Tip: Have more money to burn? More than the food is on sale here. Menus are accompanied by guides to the displayed art, and you can even take home dishware. 

    100 Arlington St.; 617-457-8130

  • Merrill & Co.

    Why It's Hot: Buoyed by a cool cocktail program from 30 Under 30 honoree Kevin Mabry, this seafood-centric, modern diner-style spot has breathed new life into its nook of the South End since opening in March. It's funky and boisterous, with a nice new patio for alfresco enjoyment. 

    Must-Order: Cast-iron mussels ($18) in a red curry and ginger broth are a sight to behold — and heavenly to taste.

    Insider Tip: A special "Sunday Menu" (11 AM-11 PM) is limited, but includes some comfort classics not on the regular offerings, like an "oyster roast" and hot dogs. 

    1 Appleton St.; 617-728-0728

  • Photo by: Joel Benjamin

    Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese

    Why It's Hot: Because food-truck nerds have been waiting (what seems like) forever for a brick-and-mortar location of the grilled cheese purveyor. It's fresh off the griddle — doors opened barely two weeks ago — and we're stuck on it like gooey cheese on warm, buttery bread. 

    Must-Order: The classic Mighty Rib Melt ($7) of fontina, BBQ-braised beef and caramelized onions is on our bucket list of 30 Things You Must Eat & Drink This Summer. Check!

    Insider Tip: This physical location has added thin-patty burgers to its menu, including Justin's Burger ($7.50, pictured), covered with pimento cheese, caramelized onion, bacon and Grillo's pickles. You can scope the space and more menu items with our First Look here

    485 Cambridge St., Allston

  • Alden & Harlow

    Why It's Hot: It's been seven months since opening, yet chef Michael Scelfo's Harvard Square is still one of the buzziest restaurants around, thanks in part to a contingent of industry devotees who have been preaching the gospel of this rustic-Americana restaurant. Scelfo's pretty good at self-promotion too; we "heart" the regular Instagram updates of this Must-Follow Social Media Food Star

    Must-Order: #NoFilter necessary to capture the gorgeous smoked Moosabec farm mussels ($13) heaped on a parsley crostino with tarragon and a luscious aïoli.

    Insider Tip: The "secret burger," an eight-ounce patty with weekly rotating toppings, is already becoming a thing of legend. (And one of the Best Things We Ate This Year.)

    40 Brattle St., Cambridge; 617-864-2100

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Places Mentioned

Alden & Harlow

New American • Cambridge

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Merrill & Co.

American • South End

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
La Brasa

Somerville

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Liquid Art House

Bay Village

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Food- Decor- Service- CostI
 
 
 
Lulu's Allston

American • Allston

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Bastille Kitchen

French • South Boston

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Brass Union

American • Somerville

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Loretta's Last Call

Southern American • Fenway/Kenmore

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Legal Oysteria

Charlestown

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
 
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