Eastern Mediterranean food is having a moment around Boston. From fast-casual concepts to polished new spots from established star chefs, cuisines that encompass the coastal curve of Greece and the Middle East have been behind some diverse, delicious openings. Here are some of the latest — plus a few forerunners to the movement.
The dining-starved West End scored this family-owned Mediterranean that brings something a little different to bagel sandwich scene that surrounds Mass General Hospital. Bishop's is a counter-service spot, so it's a quick pit stop for grab-and-go, but the simple dining room (accompanied by a sidewalk patio) is comfortable enough to linger over pita wraps stuffed with shawarma, hand-rolled grape leaves stuffed with chickpeas and rice or baked kibbeh with a side of baba ghanoush.
70 Staniford St.; 617-742-3300
The Seaport's Fan Pier scores this swank hot spot for globally inspired cocktails and a flavor-forward menu of Greek and Eastern Mediterranean meze developed by consulting chef and Hellenic cuisine expert Diane Kochilas. The stylish waterfront eatery features an 80-seat patio with distinct tiki cocktail offerings, and its interior boasts a big, three-sided bar, suspended wine crates hanging from the ceiling, a copper chef's table and reclaimed wood from late local legend Anthony's Pier 4. We love some of the more innovative dishes, like the piperia gemisti, a roasted red pepper stuffed with tyrokafteri, a creamy feta cheese dip. But don't miss out on their classic street-food spins, like the chicken souvlaki (pictured) with tomato jam, tzatziki and cucumber, served with fresh zucchini crisps.
50 Northern Ave.; 617-737-5051
This Somerville bar and restaurant has been open for a couple years now, helping spark this minor wave of hip Greek spots. The place is still hot, owing to its funky vibe (the decor bears retro '80s and '90s flourishes, like a wall of old-school gym lockers) and fun fare. Our favorite dishes are the Greek-gone-hipster-gastropub ideas, like mac 'n' cheese made with cheddar and kasseri and build-your-own rice bowls piled with fixings like lamb, tzatziki, eggplant stew and Sriracha. Plus: quirky cocktails like the Manhattan Mix Tape, which uses a rotating whiskey infusion.
525 Medford St., Somerville; 617-690-9095
This small operation opened earlier in the year, bringing Greek and Mediterranean breakfast and lunch fare to Back Bay residents and worker bees. Try dishes like lamb-stuffed roll-up souvlaki, lemon drop soup and grape leaves in a fanciful interior with walls adorned by antique clocks and bicycle parts, plus curious customized chandeliers dripping with repurposed soup ladles.
31 St. James Ave.; 857-317-2737
Chef-owner Renita Mendonca — who's passed through the kitchen of The French Laundry and the stage of the Food Network show "Chopped" — opened this new spot last month in Boston's residential neighborhood of Brighton, focusing on a "build-a-meal" menu that takes inspiration from Greek, Turkish, Israeli and other Mediterranean cuisines. Step one: choose a foundation of rice bowl, salad bowl or pita pocket. Step two: select a protein, from falafel fritters to Turkish spiced beef or grilled Moroccan chicken. Step three: lay on the toppings and sauces, from yogurt-mint sauce to raisin carrot salad, tahini and pickled turnips. Step four: wash them down with cold-pressed juices or housemade mango lassi. Step five: repeat.
160 Chestnut Hill Ave., Brighton; 617-515-0010
Last week, star chef Michael Schlow rolled out his new Park Square restaurant, which specializes in light, bright Greek food and is inspired in part by the Spartan heritage of his wife, an artist responsible for the cool, contemporary works that fill the glossy, gallerylike space. Expect to find whole fish (like branzino prepared with olive oil, sea salt and orzo salad), fresh veggie-based dishes (including the fresh, simple village salad,pictured, with tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, red onion, feta, oregano and red wine vinegar) and a vast menu of meze for noshing over creative cocktails, like the Mykonos, an island-inspired mix of white rum, Roots herb spirit, Falernum and fresh lime juice.
79 Park Plaza; 617-422-0008
For Juniper, chef-owner Dave Becker of Sweet Basil turned his attention from Italy to the eastern Mediterranean, featuring bistro dishes laced with spices like baharat and ras el hanout. Think quinoa falafel (pictured), lamb agnolotti, Arab-inflected skirt steak and various appearances by couscous, falafel and filo dough — all on colorful plates that are hand-pottered by Becker himself. Craft cocktails showcase freshly plucked plants and herbs, and the 110-seat restaurant boasts a cork floor filled with refurbished furniture from the space's predecessor, Greek restaurant Milestone.
13 Central St., Wellesley; 781-446-6950
It may have been conceptualized as Oleana's smaller, meyhane-oriented sibling, but Sarma has since made waves for not only planting a crisp new flag for eastern Mediterranean cuisine in the region, but emerging as one of the Boston area's hottest new restaurants across all genres. And this year saw additional life breathed into the buzz: chef Cassie Piuma scoring a slot among finalists for James Beard's "Best Chef: Northeast" award.
249 Pearl St., Somerville; 617-764-4464
Last month, this Lechmere T-side eatery debuted as a fast-casual concept emphasizing "hummus bowls," protein- and seasonal veggie-packed bowls ringed with hummus and modern eastern Mediterranean wraps, build-your-own salads and other chalkboard specials that make use of flavorful sauces like Sriracha tahini, spicy harissa, mint-yogurt and lemon-mint vinaigrette. Why? Besides sometimes you're craving falafel on the fly.
1 Canal Park, Cambridge; 857-259-6960