10 Must-Try Dishes From Survey Winners

By Scott Kearnan  |  September 16, 2013
Credit: Michael Piazza

Our 2014 Zagat Boston Restaurants Survey arrives with one purpose: to help you find where to eat, right now. But we know that sometimes you already have a hankering for something specific, so we broke down our top-rated spots by their culinary direction and compiled a list of some standouts here. Below, find a sampling of restaurants that rated top in their class, cuisine-wise, along with a standout dish that showcases its excellence. Enjoy your gourmet globetrot around Boston.

  • American: Pan-Seared Bluefish at Bergamot

    There is buzz that chef-owner Keith Pooler could be behind a new restaurant, Angel's Share, coming to Inman Square. That's good news for fans of Pooler's Bergamot, of which there are plenty; it ranked top for American cuisine. That's probably thanks to favorite plates like this pan-seared bluefish with braising greens, fingerling potatoes, corn, bacon lardons and white-wine clam sauce. Seconds, please. 

  • Asian: Coconut Tempura Soft-Shell Crab at Blue Ginger

    His Blue Dragon may be one of the hot "key newcomers" this year, but chef Ming Tsai needn't worry that anyone has forgotten about his Wellesley stalwart Blue Ginger. It ranked first for Asian cuisine. Not hard to see why, when you feast your eyes on this delish coconut tempura soft-shell crab, served with Thai tartar sauce and peach noodle salad. 

  • Eclectic: Smoked Bluefish at EVOO

    It's nice to see early innovators rewarded. Kendall Square may be a hotbed of innovating tech companies and the foodie-luring restaurants that cater to them now. EVOO was early to the scene when it opened in 1998, and it's still a beloved spot, topping the list for Eclectic menus. And easy categorizations definitely defy this delish smoked bluefish fillet with corn risotto, grilled zucchini and nectarine-cucumber relish. Well, here's one descriptor that fits: yum.

  • Sandwiches: Roast Beef at Flour Bakery + Cafe

    Naturally the sweet pastries and baked goods tend to hog the spotlight at Joanne Chang's Flour locations. But don't overlook the dedication that's given to the more savory sandwiches: surveyor's didn't, and it topped the list in that category. Our favorite would have to be the roast beef sandwich with tomato - horseradish mayo lends just a bit of bite, and crispy onions help provide taste and texture. 

  • New England: Salmon at Gibbet Hill Grill

    Gibbet Hill Grill is a bit outside the city in rural Groton, located in a converted barn and serving up farm-to-table fare in a quintessentially rustic setting. For atmosphere alone it earns its top spot for New England fare. But surveyors are as much enamored with the food itself, of course, including surf and turf. The former shines in this salmon dish, served with corn purée and beet-cucumber relish.

  • Credit: Courtesy of Neptune Oyster

    Lobster Rolls: Lobster Roll at Neptune Oyster

    Not only did Neptune Oyster rank first overall for food, but it topped the list in multiple cuisine-specific categories: chowder, raw bars and lobster rolls. These overstuffed rolls are indeed legendary, filled with heaping mounds of luscious big reds on buttery toasted bread. Neptune, you've earned your crown. 

  • Japanese: Spicy Tuna Tempura Maki at Oishii

    The South End (and Sudbury) spot is chic and trendy, with a much-loved selection of à la carte sushi that helped it top the list for Japanese cuisine. But some of the specialty plates deserve attention too, and we're partial to the spicy, seaweed-wrapped tuna tempura maki, served with fleur de sel and chives. It tastes as good as it looks, and this is certainly one pretty plate. 

  • Cambodian-Vietnamese: Saigon Chicken at Pho Basil

    The Fenway spot is fast, modestly priced and serves up huge portions of Vietnamese fare - hence its top-ranked spot from surveyors. Go often and eats lots, and if you need advice on where to start, we're partial to the crispy battered Saigon chicken, stir-fried with pineapple, onion, red pepper, dried chile and scallion in sweet lime sauce. Home run. 

  • French: Pig Tails at Craigie on Main

    This week, chef Tony Maws finally opened his long-awaited Kirkland Tap & Trotter in Somerville. But in its 10th year, his Cambridge classic Craigie on Main is still going strong: for French food, it earned No. 1 status. We love maws like his pig parts and his crispy fried pig's tails with pickled peanuts, nuoc cham and cilantro. 

  • Burger: The Scott Brown at Mr. Bartley's 

    Between the clever names (the Viagra, the Tom Brady, the Jersey Shore...) and creative toppings, it's not entirely a surprise that Harvard Square standby Mr. Bartley's was elected the top spot for burgers. And among the sloppy, stuffed sandwiches we'd recommend are the Scott Brown (named for the state's former senator, loaded with bacon, American cheese, grilled onions and jalapeños). Politics aside, I think we can all agree that's pretty tasty.