Feature

The Best Restaurants for Every Budget in Boston

By Scott Kearnan  |  February 13, 2017
Credit: Courtesy of Little Donkey

Whether you're seeking a bargain or something totally lavish, we've picked some of our favorite restaurants for different dining occasions. From date nights to power lunches, you're covered — and so is your wallet. 

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  • Credit: Courtesy of Tasting Counter

    Tasting menus

    Inexpensive: Fat Hen
    For freedom of choice and a budget-friendly deal, head to chef Michael Bergin's still new, intimate Italian in Somerville. The four-course tasting menu is just $45 and offers a choice from each menu category: from pastas like spaghetti with Jonah crab to secondi like lamb saddle with black garlic and caper vinaigrette. 

    Moderately priced: Tico
    Put your trust in the team at star chef Michael Schlow's Latin American–inspired eatery in Back Bay, where guests can choose from one of three tasting menus based on their appetite. The "Kind of Hungry" is $35 per person, "Forgot to Eat Lunch" is $55 per guest and the "Full On Tico Experience" is $85. Take your pick. Let the chef do the rest.

    Worth a splurge: Tasting Counter
    Chef Peter Ungár's exciting fine-dining outfit highlights exceptional Haute Cuisine through gorgeous, multicourse meals prepared directly in front of guests at a 20-seat counter. $195 dinner tickets and $65 lunch tickets, prepaid online, include tax, tip and drinks.

  • Credit: Courtesy of Little Donkey

    Weekend brunch

    Inexpensive: Bistro du Midi
    No, that's not a mistake. We know that this upscale Provençal bistro by Boston Common, with its white tablecloths and fine French fare, hardly screams "thrifty." But chef Josue Louis just debuted a "Work Hard, Brunch Harder" menu offering two courses plus a mimosa for only $29. That's a decent steal anywhere, and especially at a spot like this. 

    Moderately priced: Little Donkey 
    This globetrotting new Central Square collaboration between Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette launched Sunday brunch in December and added Saturday service last weekend. You now have an extra day to indulge in right-priced breakfast tortas, fried French toast or chorizo tacos by two of Boston's top chefs. 

    Worth a splurge: Il Molo 
    This spiffy seafood-focused addition to the North End opened with a ton of fanfare last summer, and it deserves much more attention. Maybe it'll find it now that Sunday brunch service kicked off this past weekend, baiting diners with an array of elegant eats: think lobster Benedict, steak and eggs and a "brunch tower" — a tiered plateau heaped with raw-bar bites.  

  • Credit: Courtesy of PABU Boston

    Power lunch

    Inexpensive: Cafe ArtScience
    Nestled among the start-ups of Kendall Square and near the bright brains of MIT, this sleek, super-contemporary restaurant is a popular pick for tech players, disruption-minded innovators and university intelligentsia. Everything on new chef Brandon Baltzley's lunch menu is $16 or under, so it's a smart, tasty choice that won't waste those angel investment dollars.  

    Moderately priced: PABU Boston
    This just-opened New England debut from chef Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga is tucked, separate entrance-style, inside the 60-story, luxury residence–filled Millennium Tower in the middle of Downtown Crossing. Perfect digs for a power lunch, yet the just-launched "Express Business Lunch," which offers three courses for just $25, even works for entry-level salaries.

    Worth a splurge: L'Espalier
    Chef-owner Frank McClelland's French-American tasting menus at dinner are fairly famous. But fewer realize that L'Espalier, adjacent to the CEO-stuffed Mandarin hotel, offers a lunch version too. Multicourse meals are $108 per person (add $128 for wine pairings). If that level of wining and dining still can't close a deal, nothing will. 

  • Chef's table

    Inexpensive: Blue Dragon
    Ming Tsai is one of Boston's biggest star chefs. Sure, this is the casual younger sibling to Blue Ginger, but it's still surprising that any Tsai restaurant would have one of the least expensive chef tables around: $300 for four (or $75 per diner). That'll earn you an omakase-style spread served at a semi-private table right by the open kitchen. 

    Moderately priced: Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar
    In case you haven't heard, there's a new reason to visit Doretta: hotshot chef Brendan Pelley, whose Pelekasis pop-up at Wink & Nod earned strong notice, is now chef de cuisine. He's revamped much of celeb restaurateur Michael Schlow's Greek menu, and you can discover Pelley's spin at a 12-guest chef table that starts at $100 per person for a family-style feast.

    Worth a splurge: Menton
    Unsurprisingly, dining doyenne Barbara Lynch's masterful fine-dining flagship in Fort Point offers an exceptional chef's table experience. Your table sits in a private room with a windowed view of the kitchen, with six- and eight-course tasting menus going for $140 and $185 per person, with wine pairings additional. 

  • Date night

    Inexpensive: Myers + Chang
    James Beard award–winning chef Joanne Chang's Asian diner in the South End, helmed by recent Top Chef alum Karen Akunowicz, is a convivial choice for those who prefer an upbeat vibe to moody glances over tapered candles. Mondays and Tuesdays mean "Cheap Date Night" spreads, with gourmet grub like green curry lobster, for a bargain $45 per couple. 

    Moderately priced: Bondir
    ​Chef Jason Bond puts contemporary spins on New England–inspired recipes at his quaint 26-seat restaurant near Central Square, a romantic little hideaway with an adorable brick fireplace alcove, 19th-century oak pews as banquettes and plates that look plucked from a dollhouse. The $85 tasting menu is pared down to a three-course, $45 version on "Bistro Mondays." 

    Worth a splurge: Aquitaine
    ​And what a splurge it is! Last month the Aquitaine Group — including flagship Aquitaine plus Cinquecento, Gaslight, Metropolis and La Motta's — launched a "date night" partnership with Back Bay's G2O Spa + Salon. Starting at $310 per couple, you can book a treatments-for-two package that's followed by a romantic dinner at your choice of locale.