From Little Donkey to Fat Hen, this summer saw some outstanding openings, and we're not done yet. Chef Michael Scelfo's Waypoint, for example, one of the year's most anticipated openings, is said to open by summer's end. But here at Zagat, we're already looking ahead to fall's exciting newcomers.
We've gathered up intel and anticipated timeframes (subject to change, of course) for some of the biggest openings on the horizon – including an early look at the interior of PABU, star chef Michael Mina's Boston debut. And there's lots more to look forward to, including secondary locations of existing hits The Burro Bar (a Painted Burro little sibling that will take over the former Ribelle space) and Area Four Boston (an elevated installment of the Kendall Square original slated for an October opening at 262 East Berkeley Street). Boston will also receive imports from other cities, including an outpost of Hill Country BBQ, London-based brand Yo! Sushi and high-end chophouse chain Mastro's Steakhouse, all opening in the buzzing Fort Point/Seaport neighborhood.
Without further ado, here are some of the other major newcomers on our radar.
La Casa de Pedro
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Venezuelan-focused Latin-American restaurant in Watertown, chef-owner Pedro Alarcon is opening a much larger sibling in the Seaport. With nearly 500 seats, this La Casa will emphasize small plates, a ceviche bar and some whole animals, like charcoal roasted pig and rotisserie chicken glimpsed through the glass partition to the semi-open kitchen. There will be an ample patio and Alarcon says he hopes to host live music.
The Hourly Oyster House
Opening: Late September
Less than a year after crossing the river to roll out Boston's State Street Provisions, the Grafton Group will debut yet another venture – this one back over in Cambridge and just a stone's throw from the group's other Harvard Square spots (Grafton Street, Park Restaurant & Bar, Russell House Tavern and Temple Bar). The Hourly Oyster House will be a "vibrant" option for bivalves and other "thoughtfully sourced" seafood.
Opening: Early fall
Few details have been revealed about this Italian-inspired neighborhood restaurant that will inhabit the former South End home of CluckIt! We do know it comes from chef Douglass Williams, a vet of fine-dining destinations like Paris's Akrame and NYC's now-closed Corton; Williams is also a personal chef through his Boston-based business Culinary Breakdown. A sense of hospitality and familiarity will be central to the spot's identity, says Williams, whose local credits include another South End Italian, Coppa.
Courtesy PABU Boston
We have your first few glimpses at the interior of the New England debut from star chefs Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga, about to open a second location of their San Francisco-founded izakaya in Downtown Crossing's Millennium Tower. According to a rep, elements of "Japanese craftsmanship," from origami to sake-making, was the inspiration for the design by Los Angeles firm Bishop Pass, which also handled the look of the San Francisco location. You can get a sense of what's in store from the renderings at page top and just above. The space will seat 17 at its bar, 14 at a sushi bar, 24 in a lounge and 86 in the main dining room; there will also be a 20-seat private dining room. In terms of the menu, expect similarities to San Francisco's offerings – house specialties like sushi platters, okonomiyaki with pork belly and Tokyo Fried Chicken Karaage – with special attention paid to native New England seafood.
Courtesy PABU Boston
The Boston area's Eastern Mediterranean obsession continues unabated with the addition of Moona, loosely "pantry" in Arabic, soon to inhabit the former Inman Square home of Playska. The 30-seat restaurant (inclusive of a 10-seat bar) will boast mosaic tiling in blues, greens and white, plus copper accents and an open kitchen turning out 20–25 meze (plus a few larger plates) influenced by Moroccan, Turkish, Lebanese, Greek and other cuisines from Eastern Mediterranean and Arab cultures. On the beverage front, expect wines and beers culled from those regions, plus craft domestic brews.
243 Hampshire St., Cambridge; 617-945-7448
And speaking of Greek, here comes a new fast-casual option in Back Bay. Demetri Tsolakis, part-owner of the Seaport's buzzing Greek hot spot Committee, is branching out to open Gre.Co in the former Scissors & Pie space, offering Hellenic street food made with meats sourced locally from Savenor's Market and produce from Eva's Garden and other local farms. Expect the menu to place an emphasis on loukoumades, Greek dumplings topped with everything from wildflower honey to dark chocolate ganache, coconut, mastiha crème and pistachio, and more.
Courtesy RFK Kitchen
Chef Rachel Klein (pictured) 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. She's joined by a fellow Liquid Art House alum, former contestant Top Chef Stacy Cogswell, as chef de cuisine.
Sad as we were to see Jody Adams' legendary Rialto close at the Charles Hotel, we're thrilled to know that the new inhabitant of the space will be such a worthy successor. Chef Michael Pagliarini, who has earned raves for the nearby Giulia, will open his second restaurant in the fully renovated space this fall. Benedetto will offer regional Italian cookery in a 220-seat room inspired by the "rural sophistication" of Umbria, according to a statement, replete with working pasta table, large wine display and Italian cafe-style patio.
Given Yvonne's was one of the biggest openings of 2015, all eyes are on this next project from its team. RUKA will inhabit the recently opened, swanky Godfrey Hotel in Downtown Crossing, and will focus on contemporary Peruvian cuisine with a Nikkei (Japanese fusion) slant. Oishii chef-owner Ting Yen is also a partner in the project, and helped develop a menu that will incorporate some South American–inflected sushi selections.
Courtesy by CHLOE
Amid Boston's Sweetgreen explosion, and following the recent arrival of NYC import Dig Inn, here comes another plant-based fast-casual eatery. This one, though, is fully vegan: a development that should prove exciting in Boston, where such pickings are slim. By CHLOE's eponymous chef-owner and vegan cookbook author Chloe Coscarelli has opened two locations in NYC and one in Los Angeles over the last year (the flagship West Village location is pictured above). Now Hub-dwellers will have a chance to munch on matcha noodles, quinoa tacos, seasonal salads, cold-pressed juices, vegan baked goods and more. A 2,500-sq.-ft. Seaport location is coming first this fall, but a Fenway outpost at 1325 Boylston Street is also in the offing.
Certified Meatball Company
Boston Nightlife Ventures, the team behind Griddler's Burgers & Dogs, The Tap Trailhouse, Southern Kin and Wink & Nod branches out with a fast-casual concept dedicated to – take a wild guess? – meatballs. The South Boston concept will feature six different types of meatballs that can be paired with six different sauces, plus a half-dozen composed house specialties like the "turkey mole poblano ball" and "cashew-curried vegetable ball." Another section of the menu will be devoted to "bao balls," which lets guests slather different sauces on steamed buns, and there will also be some sweet "dessert balls." A few panini sandwiches, salads and sides will also be available.
Given that there's a chance we'll already have snow in the air (sorry for the reminder), it's hard to remember that fall actually extends through most of December. And that's when the teams behind Roxy's Grilled Cheese and Area Four are planning to open their joint concept, described as a "hybrid destination" that pairs casual noshes reflecting the restaurants, plus brews and boozy slushies, with a "clandestine" video game–filled arcade accessed through "speakeasy-style doors." Can't wait to get your joystick-hungry hands on such a concept? Check out Bit Bar, a similar notion that opened in Salem earlier this summer.
Opening: Late fall
Longtime Harvest chef Mary Dumont (pictured) departed the Harvard Square farm-to-table last year to begin prepping her first venture as an owner: Cultivar, set to inhabit the ground floor of Downtown's Ames Hotel. Dumont promises that the restaurant (which will have a "spacious outdoor patio") will serve "modern American garden cuisine" using ingredients culled from the restaurant’s proprietary hydroponic garden, as well as her personal 1-acre plot.
Opening: TBD fall
Last 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. Previous reports have suggested that the location was shooting for September, though we're waiting on an update from a restaurant rep.
Opening: TBD fall
With barbecue hotter than ever in Boston, we're happy to know that Brookline's shuttered Village Smokehouse has changed hands, but not concepts – at least, not entirely. Now under the ownership of the same team behind Carrie Nation, the fully renovated space will be resurrected as Magnolia Smokehouse, serving Southern-style cuisine that encompasses everything from the iconic Kentucky hot brown to a New Orleans–inspired muffaletta sandwich and Memphis-style dry rub ribs.
6 Harvard Sq., Brookline; 617-566-3782
Opening: TBD fall
Though it hasn't yet reached kale-level epic proportions, poke, the Hawaiian raw fish salad, seems to have emerged as one of 2016's trendiest dishes. Now Boston will earn its own poke joint with Manoa, an intimate fast-casual coming to Porter Square. Though the spot will emphasize different varieties of poke, expect some over modestly priced, accessible Hawaiian dishes to appear as well. Some reports have suggested a September opening; we've reached out for an update.
Oak + Rowan
Opening: TBD fall
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, will helm a contemporary surf 'n' turf menu that features small plates, homemade 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. Brian Mercury, previously of Harvest, will command the pastry program and introduce some creative ice cream flavors. 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.
Opening: TBD fall
Not to be confused with the aforementioned PABU is PAGU, also opening this fall. The similarly named Central Square spot comes from chef Tracy Chang, previously of O Ya. Chang will combine her experiences from Spain's Basque country, where she cooked in acclaimed Restaurante Martín Berasategui, with nods to Tokyo, her grandmother's long-running Cambridge Japanese restaurant. The resulting Spanish-Japanese cuisine will feel "authentic, playful and deeply personal," according to a statement about the opening.