Explore Zagat's Top Restaurants in All the Big Categories

Check out the results, from Top Decor to Best Cheap Eats
June 16, 2015
by Scott Kearnan

Reflecting ratings for over 850 restaurants as determined by nearly 5,000 local diners, Zagat's ratings for Boston are now updated with new scores and reviews. We've crunched the numbers so you can find the best places whether you're interested in Italian food or steakhouses, whether you want splurge or find the top cheap eats. Read on for more. (And check the full list of Boston's Top 50 restaurants here. You can also discover the top-rated restaurants in categories of Decor, Service, Most Popular, Cheap Eats, various cuisines, and other special features.)

Top Food: L'Espalier

Trendy newcomers come and go, but some fine-dining favorites will never go out of style. Such is the case with L'Espalier, a local legend since 1978 and this year's top-rated restaurant for Food. (In fact, it's the only restaurant to appear in the top 10 for each of the three major categories: Food, Decor and Service.) And there's more good news for fans of L'Espalier chef Frank McClelland: this week The Boston Globe reported that he's planning to open another spot. This fall he'll debut Tides, a river-side restaurant in Essex, home to Apple Street Farm, McClelland's farm that supplies many of L'Espalier's top-notch ingredients.

Rest of the Best: Rounding out 2015's top 10 scorers for Food, in descending order, are Il Capriccio, Sarma, ToroGiuila, Galleria Umberto, Cafe Mangal, Sorellina, Neptune Oyster and O Ya. (You can find the full list of 50 here.)

Flashback: In 2014 the top spot for Food went to the North End's Neptune Oyster; this year it anchors itself to the Top 10 at No. 9. 

Top Decor: L'Espalier

High school yearbooks are photographic evidence that many of us can't claim we've stayed consistently fashionable for the last 10 years. (Never mind 20 — or 30!) But despite first opening its doors nearly 40 years ago, L'Espalier still looks stylish. In its current Boylston Street location adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where it moved in 2008, the French-New England legend lives up to its classy, romantic reputation: a white-tablecloth stalwart in a trending-casual dining world. 

Rest of the Best: Rounding out 2015's top 10 scorers for Decor, in descending order, are Menton, Top of the Hub, SorellinaL'Andana, Empire Restaurant and Lounge, Clio, Longfellow's Wayside Inn Restaurant, Meritage and Red Lantern. (Find the full 15 top scorers here.)

Flashback: In 2014 the top spot for Decor went to Sorellina, ranked this year at No. 4. 

Top Service: Menton

Barbara Lynch's Fort Point fine-dining destination offers fascinating tasting menus that are pricey, to be sure. But the experience is also worth every penny, if you ask contributors who ranked the restaurant top in the city for Service. “The theater of a perfectly crafted restaurant unfolds” here, rejoice voters, and we all want a front-row seat.

Rest of the Best: Rounding out 2015's top 10 scorers for Service, in descending order, are L'Espalier, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Giulia, Mistral, The Capital Grille, Il Capriccio, No. 9 Park, Clio and Meritage. (Find the full 15 top scorers here.)

Flashback: Menton maintains a multiyear streak in the top spot for Service; somewhere, Barbara Lynch smiles.  

Most Popular: Abe & Louie's

From power lunches to indulgent dinners, this Back Bay steakhouse is a rare restaurant: one that maintains consistent appeal. For over 15 years power players and tourists alike have buzzed to its patio and sipped from its 200-bottle-deep wine list. Its star power shows no sign of waning soon.  

Rest of the Best: Rounding out 2015's top 10 Most Popular restaurants, in descending order, are Kowloon Restaurant, Anna's Taqueria, Blue Ginger, Aquitaine, Flour Bakery, Wahlburgers, Alden & Harlow, Davio's and Island Creek Oyster Bar. (Find the full 15 top scorers here.)

Flashback: Abe & Louie's also topped the Most Popular list in 2014, but this year's list also sees a strong debut in Alden & Harlow, which enters at No. 8 in its first year on the Zagat list. 

Best Cheap Eats: Za

If you're looking for great food made for the budget-conscious, look no further. This gourmet-pizza-focused duo in Cambridge and Arlington is tops for local diners seeking "cheap eats" (average tab of $25 or below) that don't skimp on flavor or fresh ingredients. 

Rest of the Best: Rounding out 2015's best Cheap Eats restaurants, in descending order, are Flatbread Company, Flour Bakery, Petsi Pies, Regina Pizzeria, Basta Pasta, Blue Ribbon BBQ, Taqueria Mexico, Life Alive and RodDee. (Find the full 15 top scorers here.)

Flashback: In 2014 the top Cheap Eats pick was Life Alive, which this year reappears at No. 9. 

Biggest Debut: Sarma

​This hot-shot newcomer to Zagat leapt right up to the No. 3 spot in the Top Food rankings — coincidentally, the same slot occupied by its sister Ana Sortun-owned restaurant, Oleana, in the 2014 list. (That veteran favorite is at No. 13 this year.) Unsurprisingly, Sarma takes the No. 1 spot in its cuisine subcategory, claiming the top spot for Mediterranean food. 

Rest of the Best: Also debuting high in their first ranked years are Giulia (entering at No. 5) and Ostra (at No. 15). 

Flashback: The 2014 ratings saw Island Creek Oyster Bar emerge all the way up at No. 2 in its first year as a ranked restaurant. This year it dips down to a still-comfortable position at No. 26. 

Boston's Pet Peeves

The Zagat National Dining Trends survey also asked for personal preferences, thoughts on food fads, and attitudes toward common restaurant-related pet peeves. Overall, when it came to gripes, Bostonians seemed pretty consistent with national averages. Inattentive staff was the top service-related peeve, with 23% of votes (24% of surveyors nationally agreed). It seems we're slightly more forgiving of rude staff: 8% of Bostonians named it their top pet peeve, compared to 10% nationally.

But hurry up, please: 19% of Bostonians cited slow service as their biggest peeve, compared to 17% of respondents nationally. And please, keep your children under control. "Unruly babies and small children" was deemed the most irritating form of restaurant noise pollution by Bostonians (27% declared it as such). Nationally, "general noise because of bad acoustics" was the most offensive (28%; 26% of Bostonians agreed).  

Boston On Trends

When it comes to trends, things seemed slightly more decisive. First of all, Boston is definitely into Brussels sprouts: 53% of local respondents "love" that trend, compared to 45% nationally. Beets? We'll take those too: 43% of respondents "love" seeing them pop up on menus, compared to 38% of respondents nationally. But when it comes to bacon, delicious yet ubiquitous bacon, Boston is no longer going ham: 44% of Bostonians declare they are officially "over" the everything-with-bacon trend, compared to only 34% of respondents nationally.  

Neighborhood Hits

Star chefs maintain their gravitational pull and well-trod major neighborhoods — from Downtown Boston to Harvard Square — are well-represented in the 2015 rankings. But when it comes to specific cuisines and styles of dining, many top-rated restaurant hail from outlying neighborhoods and even suburbs.

Among the highlights: Allston earns best Mexican honors with Lone Star Taco Bar; Jamaica Plain's Scottish spot The Haven scores top marks for Pub Food; and Highland Kitchen, tucked in a rather residential area of Somerville outside Union Square, holds the highest ranking for Southern eats. Outside the center of town, Ming Tsai's legendary Wellesley restaurant Blue Ginger takes the best Asian honors, historic Concord's 80 Thoreau (pictured) scores best American bragging rights and Blue Ribbon BBQ — with locations in Newton and Arlington — is deemed best in the Barbecue category. 

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