Boston isn't a city that jumps on trendy bandwagons or blindly gorges itself on haute concept cuisine. That's not to say the city doesn't celebrate innovation - far from it. But restaurants that become iconic in the Hub tend to be those that do something great and then remain unwavering in their focus. Here are a few of our biggest, brightest all-stars.
When T.W. Food opened in 2007, we were still waiting for words and phrases like "sustainable," "local" and "farm-to-table" to truly permeate the masses. But it's thanks to chefs like Tim Wiechmann that they have. The notion of a toque foraging for his own mushrooms is no longer some wacky concept non-foodies view with a cocked eyebrow: it's the sign of a chef truly devoted to the process of proper sourcing. It's hard to pin down a signature plate at a spot where menus constantly change to reflect what's fresh and available, but the nightly three-course prix fixe, seven-course grand tasting and four-course wine-pairing series are now the stuff of legend. (Those who require more predictability now have Wiechmann's other spot, Bronwyn, in Somerville.)
377 Walden St., Cambridge; 617-864-4745
Her bakery Sofra earns plenty of kudos, and we're sure her upcoming Turkish-meze concept, Sarma, is destined for equally great things. But chef Ana Sortun's Oleana is an undisputed all-star in the local dining scene. (In the 2014 Boston Restaurant Survey, it scored the third highest ranking for overall food.) From Tamarack Tunis lamb to lemon chicken and moussaka, Arabic and Mediterranean flavors conspire to create dishes that have made salivating tongues wag across town for the last 12 years.
134 Hampshire St., Cambridge; 617-661-0505
Chef Barbara Lynch is a Boston powerhouse and the woman behind some of the top spots in the city, all of which could go head-to-head with the best kitchens across the country. And it all started 15 years ago at No. 9 Park, her first solo venture and one that hasn't stopped attracting Beacon Hill-area bigwigs (with big spending accounts) and devoted foodies alike. The prune-stuffed gnocchi has emerged as a signature dish, but the always-rotating prix fixe menu is constantly yielding new classics.
9 Park St.; 617-742-9991
A rose by any other name is still a delicious, mouth-watering rose (sorry, think we mixed metaphors for a moment). Chef Tony Maws opened Craigie Street Bistrot in 2003 to rave reviews, and the accolades haven't slowed down since it moved to bigger digs and redubbed itself Craigie on Main in 2008. Five years later the spot is still going strong (and so is Maws, who just opened his new Kirkland Tap & Trotter in Somerville) and still delighting diners with new dishes and its now-signature (and now off-menu) Craigie burger.
853 Main St., Cambridge; 617-497-5511
Quiet consistency has been the key to chef Gordon Hamersley's success. Long before the rest of the South End became a hot, hyped foodie haven, his 20-year-old Hamersley's Bistro has been dedicated to rustic and hearty New England fare, featuring the signature roast chicken and spicy halibut. Fads come and go, but true all-stars shine bright without ever burning out.
553 Tremont St.; 617-423-2700
A lot can change in eight years. When Eastern Standard opened in 2005 under executive chef Jamie Bissonnette, the Fenway area had a dearth of decent dining options. (Hot dog carts galore, though.) Now Eastern Standard is a tried-and-true crown jewel of Kenmore Square, with chef Patrick Campbell taking the reins this summer from his immediate predecessor, chef Jeremy Sewall. Now boasting elevated barbecue, seafood and sushi restaurants, plus some quality cocktail dens, Fenway has changed for the better too - and this all-star earns a lot of the credit.
528 Commonwealth Ave., 617-532-9100
Speaking of Jamie Bissonnette, he and chef-owner Ken Oringer have turned Toro into home of the most coveted table in town. The place never slows down, with diners constantly bellying up to its bar for Spanish tapas since opening in 2005. In September it finally opened its long-anticipated NYC location, bringing the Big Apple a helping of Boston's best.
1704 Washington St.; 617-536-4300
In just a few short years, Cambridge's Kendall Square has gone from being a post-5 PM ghost town to a hopping little spot of popular restaurants. It helped that Evoo moved here in 2010 after 12 years spent in Somerville. Its focus on fresh, local flavors and daily-changing menus has earned it lots of love (and top "eclectic" cuisine honors by Zagat surveyors), and this all-star's move boded well for a then-nascent dining scene that cooked up to be something great, indeed.
350 Third St., Cambridge; 617-661-3866
Few restaurants make it five years. Fewer still make it 10. And 20 years? That's nearly unheard of. But L'Espalier has been going strong since 1978 (!) thanks to chef and farmer Frank McClelland's pretty much unparalleled New England-French cuisine. Sure, there are some signature dishes, like a to-die-for lobster bisque, but L'Espalier is about more than its one (or two, or ten) best plate. It represents an old guard of Boston dining that is still going strong.
774 Boylston St.; 617-262-3023