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Boston's Most Anticipated Restaurants of 2016

These are the hot spots we're most excited to see
January 4, 2016
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by Scott Kearnan

It's a new year — with many more new restaurants on the way. 

Below, we've collected 25 of the most highly anticipated eateries opening their doors in 2016. (And though each is a moving target, we've included their projected debut times too.) But make no mistake: many more will present themselves, even if details are too sketchy for us to say much right now. For instance, Joanne Chang, Christopher Myers and current Top Chef contestant Karen Akunowicz — the team behind Myers + Chang — are bringing a "fun, bold" concept to Cambridge that highlights "flavors from the Far East and beyond," according to Akunowicz. We've heard rumblings that this may be the year that Steve "Nookie" Postal (Commonwealth) finally rolls out his long-awaited "Jewish barbecue" joint Steinbones. (Though there's "no update as of now," says Postal.) The Grafton Group, which only just debuted State Street Provisions (take a peek here), is readying an as-yet-unnamed oyster bar in Harvard Square. The Area Four team is prepping A4 at Troy, the South End luxury residence building, and separately teaming with the Roxy's Grilled Cheese gurus to open a funky eatery and bar-meets-arcade (yes, there will be video games) by MIT. And though a name and concept haven't been announced, we know hiring is already underway for a secretive third South Boston concept from the folks behind Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant and Loco Taqueria & Raw Bar

As for those with a bit more intel? Read on — and get your forks at the ready. 

Celeb Chefs

Eataly. This year Mario Batali made a splash, bringing his big enoteca Babbo Pizzeria to the Seaport. No sooner was the paint dry than he announced that Boston would be the next city to receive his Eataly, a 45,000-sq.-ft., three-floor restaurant and marketplace to the Prudential Center. Where: 800 Boylston St. When: September

Little Donkey. The dynamic duo of Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette (already teamed on Coppa, Toro and Toro NYC) are bringing their next endeavor to Central Square, where you'll expect to find internationally minded small plates, charcuterie and raw-bar eats (including a late-night menu). We're still awaiting more details on this donkey, but the names attached have us braying with enthusiasm. Where: 505 Massachusetts Ave., CambridgeWhen: Spring

PABU Boston. Chef Michael Mina (pictured at page top) will open his first New England restaurant in Downtown Crossing's Millennium Tower this year. The two-floor izakaya and sushi bar is a spin-off of PABU San Francisco, so expect Japanese seafood, Wagyu beef dishes, noodles and an inevitably wondrous sushi selection (with 16-plate omakase option). And great news for those dwelling within Millennium's million-dollar residences: Mina will also commandeer a private club and cooking education facility solely for residents. Where: 1 Franklin St. When: Summer

Saloniki. One of Boston's biggest names, Beard Award–winning chef Jody Adams (pictured) of Rialto and TRADE, will steer Saloniki. The details are few, but Saloniki — which would seem to reference Thessaloniki, Greek's second-largest city — is expected to be a "fine-casual" dining concept focusing on "customizable," "build-your-own menu options" that pair pita, brown rice bowls or salad bases with add-ons like spicy lamb meatballs, honey-braised pork shoulder and zucchini feta fritters — plus toppings like whipped feta and charred eggplant-tomato. Where: "Near Fenway Park," per a rep. When: March

Fantastic Follow-Ups

Casa Verde. The team behind Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe will complete its Jamaica Plain trifecta with Casa Verde, a casual Mexican serving traditional tacos, ceviche and more in 58-seat digs. In the kitchen will be chef Sean Callahan, previously of JP's legendary hideaway Ten TablesWhere: 711 Centre St., Jamaica PlainWhen: Early 2016

Fat Hen. Chef-owner Daniel Bojorquez has partnered with Michael Bergin (the L'Espalier alum most recently of Del Posto and A Voce in NYC) to introduce a "soulful Italian" concept to the space neighboring his La Brasa. Inspired by his Del Posto and A Voce experiences, Bergin launched a Fat Hen Italian Dinner Series late last year. This will be its permanent home, a 30-seat space that boasts plenty of housemade pastas and braised meats. Where: 124 Broadway, SomervilleWhen: March

Mamaleh's Delicatessen. We were sorta surprised that chef Barry Maiden shuttered his Southern stalwart Hungry Mother right after winning 2015's Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast. We're still awaiting his next move, but several former members of the Hungry Mother team (who are also behind State Park), are about to roll out a Jewish-style deli that will serve classics — from blintzes to knishes — from breakfast through dinner. It will inhabit the space previously occupied by the just-closed West Bridge. Where: 1 Kendall Sq., CambridgeWhen: Spring. (Correction: A previous version of this post stated that Barry Maiden was also involved. He is not.) 

Saltie Girl. Soon MET Group restaurateur Kathy Sidell will open a small (30-seat) Barcelona-inspired and seafood-driven restaurant next door to MET Back Bay. Expect picante flavor, a lot of fish and sales of canned and jarred international foods. Where: 281 Dartmouth St. When: April.

Smoke Shop. It's about time we've seen something new from Andy Husbands, the Hell's Kitchen alum and man behind South End staple Tremont 647. Husbands, previously a grill master at East Coast Grill, has spent two decades stealing awards on the competitive BBQ scene with IQUE BBQ, his concept co-founded with Chris Hart. (Husbands has also notched a few 'cue cookbooks.) Smoke Shop promises to be the "culmination" of the barbecue arm of his chef work, taking over the Kendall Square spot that used to house Tommy Doyle's. (Here's a treat: there'll be a 40-seat patio too.) Where: 1 Kendall Sq., CambridgeWhen: March.

Southern Kin Cookhouse. Here comes the next page in the portfolio of Boston Nightlife Ventures. That group already has The Tap Trailhouse, Griddler's and Wink & Nod — the last of which further spawned the Southeast Asian concept Akinto, about to open its own brick-and-mortar. (More on that shortly.) But BNV is also bringing to Somerville's Assembly Row complex this Southern restaurant serving "Lowcountry cuisine." Culinary director Bill Brodsky previously served as executive chef of The Charleston Place Hotel’s Palmetto Café in Charleston, South Carolina, and is expected to bring some of that homespun hospitality to the 100-seat joint, decked out in wood, brick and wrought iron, and boasting a 100-plus variety whiskey program. Where: 500 Assembly Row, SomervilleWhen: Spring

Waypoint. Though he did take time to help the Naco Team team conceptualize its menu before bowing out, this will be chef Michael Scelfo's (pictured) first proper follow-up to Alden & Harlow, the Harvard Square hit he opened in 2014. A&H manager Mary Kate Jurek (one of our most recent 30 Under 30 honorees) will run front of house at Cambridge's Waypoint, a "coastal New England–inspired" restaurant. Details are scarce, but the slogan "Swim Good" has already been floated (pun intended) on the upcoming restaurant's social media. Where: 1030 Massachusetts Ave., CambridgeWhen: Spring.

Major Debuts

Hill Country Barbecue. A small barbecue chain with a strong rep is opening its fourth location — and first in Boston. Hill Country, which already has sauce-slathered joints in Manhattan, Brooklyn and DC, will inhabit an 8,000-sq.-ft. Fort Point space, occupying it with slow-cooked meats, live music, a marketplace and bourbon-soaked bar. Where: 374 Congress St. When: Late 2016. 

Juliet. The heretofore pop-up-focused team known as Bread & Salt Hospitality, currently comprising chef Josh Lewin and Katrina Jazayeri — 30 Under 30 honorees in 2013 and 2014, respectively— are about to open a permanent brick-and-mortar in Union Square. It's a European-inspired cafe serving set prix fixe breakfasts inspired by different international cuisines, as well as lunch and dinner menus, with counter seats overlooking an open kitchen. Where: 257 Washington St., SomervilleWhen: Early 2016.

Oak + Rowan. She's earned raves for her North Shore gems Ceia Kitchen + Bar and BRINE; now restaurateur Nancy Batista-Caswell will open her first venture in Boston, Oak + Rowan, on the ground floor of a luxury condo building in Fort Point. Longtime BRINE chef Justin Shoults (pictured), one of our most recent 30 Under 30 honorees, is on tap to helm the Hub restaurant, and so far we know the concept will feature small plates alongside contemporary seafood and housemade pastas, crudos and "an elevated domestic and international caviar program served by sample or by the ounce in classic and untraditional sets," according to the team. Besides a craft-beer menu, there'll be a daily rotating boutique wine list and tableside "cocktail carts" that will allow guests to customize their libations. Interior-wise, expect the 5,000-sq.-ft. space to boast exposed brick, "nearly" floor to ceiling windows and a modern-meets-historic blend of oak, marble and glass that conveys the vibe of a home dining environment. “The name was inspired by the feeling conjured up when in the space: lofty and open yet safe, similar to when you’re in a treehouse as a kid,” said Batista-Caswell.​ Where: 319 A St. When: Summer

Tapestry. Former Coppa chef de cuisine Meghann Ward has struck out to weave her own Tapestry, a new restaurant that will inhabit the Fenway-area space that formerly belonged to Church. It will be divided into two spaces: a relaxed expo kitchen doling out pop-up-style eats (think pizzas and oysters), and a more intimate, wine-bar-style room with fireplace and full dinner menu. Fun bonus: it's a family affair, with Ward running the restaurant alongside her stepmother, Marlena. Where: 69 Kilmarnock St. When: Early 2016

Eastern Flavor

Akinto. Chef Patrick Enage debuted this Southeast Asian idea (pictured) in the kitchen at Wink & Nod. (Check out our previous look at the menu here.) Now it will find a permanent home in the neighboring space formerly occupied by Merrill & Co. Expect an even more "robust" menu, according to a statement, and the importation of Wink & Nod's Monday night tiki program to its bar. Where: 1 Appleton St. When: Spring

Little Big Diner. Dave Punch and Shane Smyth, co-owners of Sycamore Restaurant, are about to drop this Newton Centre concept offering "East Asian soul food," in tiny (19 seats!) diner-style digs. Expect hot bowls of ramen and Southeast Asian street foods, among other eats. Plus: plenty of draft cocktails overseen by Sycamore's top-shelf bar manager, Scott Shoer​. Where: 1247 Centre St., Newton. When: Early 2016.

Pink Samurai Dumpling House. Chef Matt Cunningham, formerly of Strip-T's and The Sinclair, brings to JP a contemporary dumpling joint that will serve super-creative bao and small plates using local and housemade ingredients. Where: 658 Centre St., Jamaica PlainWhen: January

Mediterranean Diets

Bar Mezzana. Boston's buzzy Ink Block development has scored a "coastal Italian" from Barbara Lynch Gruppo alumni Colin Lynch (the group's former exec chef), Heather Kennaway Lynch (his wife and former general manager at Sportello) and Jefferson Macklin (the group's former COO). "Honest and simple" Italian will be served in a 4,600-sq.-ft., modern-industrial space that fits 105 seats in its dining room, 26 at its bar and 40 seats on its seasonal patio. Where: 360 Harrison Ave. When: Spring

Pelekasis. Fresh off Hell's KitchenZebra's Bistro alum Brendan Pelley joins the wave of Eastern Mediterranean openings now that his "modern Greek" pop-up, Pelekasis, has found a semi-permanent home in the "culinary incubator" that is Wink & Nod. It will be the next concept to attain a multimonth residency when it opens this week. Where: 3 Appleton St. When: January 5.

Kava Neo-Taverna. Few details have emerged on this South End newcomer, aside from the fact that it too will be part of the Greek cuisine wave sweeping Boston under the trident of a very hungry Poseidon. The cozy spot will undoubtedly be a welcome, on-trend addition to its neighborhood. Where: 315 Shawmut Ave. When: Early 2016.

SRV. Slated to open any day now (they're just waiting on final permits) is this Italian newcomer, pictured, from the restaurateurs behind Coda Bar + KitchenCanary Square and The Salty Pig. Conceptualized in the vein of a Venetian bacaro (wine bar), SRV stands for Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia (Serene Republic of Venice). Expect 100 seats, including a courtyard patio and sidewalk seating, where guests will sip craft Italian beers and cocktails made with spirits from the Boot. (Plus, you know, plenty of wine.) On the menu: cicchetti, Italian small plates from chefs Kevin O’Donnell and Michael Lombardi (one of our most recent 30 Under 30 honorees). You can already scope it out with our First Look inside hereWhere: 569 Columbus Ave. When: January.

Hot Suburban Spots

Flank.  Behold the Boston area's first "beefsteak" restaurant. Flank aims to update the turn-of-the-century "beefsteak dinner": a "boisterous, mass dining experience," as described in a release about the restaurant, that were once men-only banquets conducted without napkins or silverware. (Caveman gone wild!) Thankfully, Flank will modernize the approach by including women and forks. But it's going for a similar vibe, with Victorian-era environs and à la carte steakhouse plates ranging from chops to raw-bar eats. Patrons can opt to go old-school fork-less, in which case they'll receive Flank-embroidered aprons to keep as souvenirs. (You'll also receive one if you choose to purchase a wine locker for personal booze storage.) Where: 74 Tower Rd., WalthamWhen: January.

Novara. The team behind Milton's Abby Park is readying Novara, named for the province in the Piedmont region, where executive chef Tony DeRienzo will put modern spins on Northern Italian cuisine. The team is still mum on most other culinary details. (A "large wine selection" is also promised, per a rep.) But we do know that it should be a pretty interesting-looking place. The 5,500-sq.-ft. restaurant will inhabit a space formerly occupied by State Theater, a live performance venue and then the Milton Cinema. Expect grand high ceilings to lend to a loftlike interior that features a large bar, "wine shed" and patio seating; Steve Todisco, the same designer behind Abby Park (as well as locations of Davio's and Palm steakhouses), will develop a look for Novara that will "nod to the theatrical landmark" while also transforming the space into something "reminiscent of its European namesake." Where: 556 Adams St., MiltonWhen: January

RFK Kitchen. Chef Rachel Klein (pictured) has left Liquid Art House to open her first restaurant as an owner. A statement promises it to be a "sophisticated" spot serving "an approachable menu that blends New American cooking with global influences" using New England–sourced ingredients. A chef's counter seating 26 will overlook the kitchen, a family-friendly Sunday brunch will be served, and a distinct cocktail lounge will cater to grown-up imbibers. Where: 948 Great Plain Ave., NeedhamWhen: April

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