What's New in the Seaport: 12 Must-Try Restaurants

A food crawl through the best options in Boston's burgeoning dining neighborhood
April 1, 2014
by Scott Kearnan

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The Seaport and small Fort Point neighborhoods have become a hotbed of hot openings. From more established favorites to buzzworthy newcomers, here's a dozen must-try spots in this new dining destination.

Blue Dragon. Ok, this one is a slight outlier, treading the Fort Point/South Boston border. But it's worth walking the extra block for this fun Pan-Asian from star chef Ming Tsai (of Wellesley's acclaimed Blue Ginger). A popular pick for industry types, the craft beer selection and Eastern twists on casual pub fare results in standouts like sweet-and-sour pork ribs, teriyaki bison sliders and a buttermilk tempura whole chicken with sweet chili sauce. Must-try: The sole dessert, a "deep dish" chocolate chip cookie served in a warm skillet and topped with ice cream and soy caramel sauce. (324 A St.; 617-338-8585) 

Empire Restaurant & Lounge. In the spirit of fellow Big Night Entertainment Group outposts like GEM and Red Lantern, the grand, glamorous Empire walks a line between restaurant and nightspot. The dining room is a place to indulge in Pan-Asian offerings, but the bar (overseen by recent 30 Under 30 honoree Joe O'Connor) is a place where DJs spin Monday, Friday and Saturday night crowds into hip-swaying happiness. Must-try: The big clay pot of long-cooked beef pho with basil and mint could only be better if it were bottomless. (1 Marina Park Dr.; 617-295-0001)

Gather. This lunch-through-late-night restaurant is a hit with Seaport (sorry, Innovation District) start-up biz types, owing to its location in District Hall, a 12,000-sq.-ft. behemoth of shared office facilities that bills itself as "the world's first freestanding public innovation center." After you munch, stop for coffee at its sibling spot, Brew coffeehouse. Must-try: We love the Tom Yam Kung (a Korean seafood stew) and pizzas - particularly the braised oxtail pie topped with truffled mashed potato and smoked Gouda. (75 Northern Ave.; 617-982-7220)

Legal Harborside. Before Legal Crossing elevated the Boston-based Legal Sea Foods brand into newly upscale territory, this three-floor Seaport giant tested the waters. Downstairs has a casual, market-style restaurant, upstairs gets a little fancier and the rooftop lounge has managed to establish itself as a pretty popular summer hangout for thirtysomething singles who want to mix and mingle with an unobstructed view of the ocean. Must-try: Giving fried seafood a more sophisticated sheen, the fried onion "carpetbagger" is accompanied by braised oxtail and bernaise. (270 Northern Ave.; 617-477-2900)

M.C. Spiedo. Renaissance-inspired, historic Italian cooking is the concept guiding M.C. Spiedo, recently opened from Top Chef Masters chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier. Every dish in the swank spot has a story, from Leonardo's Salad, composed of ingredients from a shopping list found in da Vinci's notebook, to a braised chicken dish with figs, apricots, raisins and herbs that originally was prepared for the 1326 wedding of the aristocratic Medici family. Must-try: Beware of becoming mildly obsessed with the baked lasagna, handmade egg pasta layered with ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, toasted pine nuts, golden raisins and a rich slow-cooked ragù of beef and pork. (606 Congress St.; 617-476-5606)

Menton. You'll need to save your pennies (tens of thousands of them, actually) to enjoy this fine-dining flagship of the Barbara Lynch empire. But we promise it will be worth every dime dropped: the four-course prix fixe ($95) and chef's tasting ($155) get even pricier once you add wine pairings, but everyone deserves to eat like this at least once. Must-try: The seasonal menus are constantly in flux, but assiette of suckling pig, green garlic crespelle and fava leaf agnolotti all sound like standouts from the current prix fixe. (354 Congress St.; 617-737-0099)

Row 34. It may bill itself as a "working man's oyster bar," but while this sibling to Island Creek Oyster Bar is certainly more casual, it's not exactly a sawdust-covered-floor type of place. An extensive array of oysters, crudo and fabulous seafood is complemented by a craft beer program that surprises with its uncommon curiosity. Must-try: The lettuce cups filled with crispy oysters and pickled vegetables are a perfect starter. (383 Congress St.; 617-553-5900) 

Sam's. You can't beat the dynamic, panoramic views from this seafood-centric spot upstairs from Louis Boston, a high-end clothing store right on the harbor. Modest prices for finer-than-average fare make it a value-driven (yet somewhat undervalued) pearl. Must-try: There's plenty of great "turf" to balance out the "surf," including an excellent rabbit saltimbocca with white bean ragout and crispy prosciutto. (60 Northern Ave.; 617-295-0191)

Sportello. For its five-year anniversary, this Barbara Lynch restaurant underwent a renovation that removed its bakery and refocused attention on modern Italian cuisine in a minimalist setting. The especially strong artisanal wine list also spotlights the work of Lynch's wine director Cat Silirie, who gives her list the careful attention that the cuisine demands. Must-try: Again, Lynch's menus rotate often - but the signature tagliatelle Bolognese is always a welcome guest at our table. (348 Congress St.; 617-737-1234) 

Strega Waterfront. Restaurateur Nick Varano's Seaport outpost boasts the Strega chain's best view. The marina-side space is sleek and sexy and known to bring in its fair share of visiting celebs; Varano has a way of courting (and feeding) A-listers when they come to town. So you might have your meal with a side of star-sightings. Must-try: We love the slight tang of the chicken limoncello, a tender breast sauteed with a limoncello, butter and caper sauce. (1 Marina Park Dr.; 617-345-3992)

Tavern Road. Chef Louis DiBiccari and his co-owner brother, Michael, make quite a team. A killer cocktail program and feel-good vibe have made this a favorite last-call stop for restaurant-world scenesters, and those that love them, since its opening last year. And the modern New England cuisine is refined but not precious and prepared by folks who take their food seriously, but not themselves. Bonus points: the next-door spin-off, TR Street Foods, focuses on gourmet grab-and-go. Must-try: Swim by to try the pan-roasted skate wing with apple relish and pumpkin agro dolce. (343 Congress St.; 617-790-0808)

75 on Liberty Wharf. Small and unassuming, 75 catches attention for its ample patio area right on a harbor dock. But the menu of straightforward American and scrumptious seafood is surprisingly strong and modestly priced for a trending-upscale area of town. Must-try: The creamy herbed clam chowder with bacon is a fantastic rendition of a New England favorite. (220 Northern Ave.; 617-227-0754)

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