5 Hot Food Neighborhoods in Boston

August 19, 2013
by Scott Kearnan

In dining, as in real estate, it's all about "location, location, location." Sometimes certain neighborhoods are just hot, whether from a spate of recent openings or a more general sense of excitment in the air. Winds shift faster than the T at rush hour. (Okay, maybe that's not the best example.) But right now, here are a few 'hoods you need to be exploring - if you're not already. 

Jamaica Plain

The hipster-friendly ‘hood at the end of the Orange Line has attracted a lot of new restaurants over the last couple years. And as a result, it’s drawing in many more curious diners. Curl up with a book and Bordeaux at Tres Gatos (pictured), the intimate neighborhood tapas restaurant that boasts a vinyl and book shop in back. (Caution: every record feels like a necessary purchase after two glasses of wine.) Across the street, Canary Square is a bustling neighborhood hangout, drawing crowds with elevated comfort food, cool cocktails and themed “movie nights.” (Jurassic Park, anyone?) The Haven is beloved for serving fine Scottish food, while the charmingly dive-style Brendan Behan’s Pub is consistently ranked among the top Irish spots in Boston - though the Middle Earth-like interior of James’s Gate, perfectly suiting its hearty menu, makes it a worthy competitor. Buzz-worthy new entrants to the neighborhood include sleek coffee bar Caffe Aromi and the charming Centre Street Sanctuary, housed in a former church. But don’t miss longtime local favorites like City Feed and Ula Café, with rave-worthy sandwiches made using fresh, local ingredients in line with JP’s crunchy vibe.

Davis Square

There are exciting things happening in Somerville’s food scene, and Davis Square is an epicenter of the activity. Don’t stop by Davis without checking out some established favorites: the wacky, creative (and enormous) patties at Boston Burger Co., the farm-fresh and vegan-friendly sandwiches at Blue Shirt Café, and the always-hot ribs and wings at Redbones Barbecue are vital vittles. But newer spots have freshened the blood in this heart of Somerville. American brasserie Foundry on Elm (plus its handsome adjacent cocktail spot, Saloon), the southern-inspired cuisine at M3 (which happens to boast an impressive canned beer collection) and the decadent Mexican menu at The Painted Burro ushered in fresh life in recent years. Newer additions include the intimate Spoke Wine Bar, as well as revamped approaches like the expanded menu at Posto under new chef Wyatt Maguire.

The Seaport

One upon a time, the Seaport felt like a no-man’s-land for food lovers. Now it’s a bona fide destination for locals and out-of-towners who make a night of it: maybe grabbing dinner amid the rooftop singles scene at Legal Harborside, Boston’s biggest restaurant, or on the patio at 75 on Liberty Wharf, an intimate entry to the sprawling Seaport. Then it’s drinks at Harpoon Beer Hall, the brewery’s new German-style spot to swill steins, or Empire Restaurant & Lounge, where the Pan-Asian dining room turns in to a swank, DJ-dominated hot spot. Fort Point, adjacent to the Seaport and linking it to South Boston, supplements the Seaport’s selection with long-standing stalwarts like Menton and Sportello (from chef powerhouse Barbara Lynch) and new spots like Tavern Road and chef Ming Tsai's Blue Dragon.

Union Square

Somerville's undiscovered little secret is being discovered. High-concept farm-to-table spot Journeyman and mixology den Backbar began attracting curious visitors to the underrated 'hood. Now new spots like Bronwyn, the ambitious German and Central Europe restaurant from T.W. Food's esteemed Tim Weichmann, "urban agriculture" market and education center Relish, and butcher MF Dulock, which focuses on whole animals from local farms, are enhancing Union's reputation as one of the more adventurous neighborhoods.  

Central Square

Times, they are a'changin' in Central Square. While long known as one of Cambridge's grittier neighborhoods, the culinary scene has been upscaling. Long-standing stalwarts like Central Kitchen, Rendezvous and Green Street have atracted foodies for a bit. But craft cocktail hit Brick + Mortar, pan-Asian-restaurant-meets-nightspot Moksa and Jason Bond's cozy Bondir have drawn new crowds. Now comes word that Central is set to get another location of Boston-based Tasty Burger, and the infamous All Asia Bar is set to reopen as Prospect Lounge, a higher-end restaurant and live music venue.