This Week's Top Boston Restaurant and Food News

By Scott Kearnan  |  March 21, 2014

Wink & Nod opened in the South End, right next door to last week's newcomer Merrill & Co. (Ampersands are very on-trend.) The "speakeasy-style" subterranean lounge boasts a cocktail program from Curtis McMillan, vice president of the United States Bartenders' Guild's Boston Chapter, and a kitchen commanded by the chef duo behind the Whisk pop-up series. For a comprehensive look at what to eat (squid ink pasta), drink (killer cougar-inspired cocktails) and expect, check out our "Cheat Sheet" here. [Zagat Boston]

The James Beard Foundation announced the finalists for its 2014 awards, and the "Best Chef: Northeast" category included Jamie Bissonnette for Coppa, Joanne Chang for Flour, Matt Leviton for Lumiere and Barry Maiden for Hungry Mother. Barbara Lynch earned a nod in the "Best Restaurateur" category. (Find the full list of nominees here.) We also rolled out an impromptu poll to gauge how strongly Beard recognition influences (or doesn't) your desire to eat somewhere. Check it out. [Zagat Boston]

To celebrate its 30-year anniversary, iconic Hub steakhouse Grill 23 debuted a new downstairs bar that incorporates floor-to-ceiling windows (for sipping in Spring weather, if we ever get it) and executive chef Jay Murray's very first bar menu: a sophisticated mix that includes Scotch egg with meatloaf crust, mussels in lobster broth, and charcuterie selections. The bar also launched a broad and ambitious Scotch program with varieties ranging from $15 to $215. Check out all the new bar menus here. [Zagat Boston]

Speaking of bars: Wednesday was "Bar Blitz" at Zagat, and we rolled out our picks for Boston's 10 Hottest Bars right now. (Industry favorite Highball Lounge, brew-your-own destination Hopster's and thumping nightclub Tunnel all made the cut.) We also compiled a list of Boston's Cocktail Classics, and asked local mixology experts to tell us where they find their favorite renditions of timeless drinks. Among the suggestions: A Mai Tai at Drink, Sazerac at Backbar, and Sidecar at Clio. [Zagat Boston]

There hasn't been an overwhelming amount of info pouring out on chef Rachel Klein's new restaurant-slash-art gallery venture Liquid Art House. But this week the menu finally made an appearance, and it includes a selection of dumplings, whole roasts, and an extensive bar menu. We had earlier learned that the first exhibition in the space would have a street art theme, but we're not sure that Haring and Basquiat ever ate quite so good. [The Restaurant Hub at]

In January, Todd English told us something "new and exciting" was coming to the Beacon Hill space that belonged to CurlyCakes, his daughter's cupcake shop that was then "temporarily" closed. That part may still be true - but it doesn't seem that Todd English will have anything to do with it. The space is now officially up for lease, according to a sign on the door that was spotted (then tweeted) by Boston Foodie Tours over the weekend. Then on Tuesday came news that English would no longer be involved in the 14-year old Olives in New York's Union Square, now taken over by the Gerber Group. It has been an interesting month for English, who also provided tabloid fodder by engaging in three-way PDA at a NYC nightclub and photographed hitting the hot tub with a group of young women during a hotel party. Places he wasn't spotted: a kitchen. [Boston Foodie Tours; Page Six at]

Do you like sports? Do you like food even more? Do you like voting? Then you'll love Munch Madness, the ever-popular reader survey that matches up popular Boston-area restaurants in a series of brackets to declare an ultimate winner. Voting is underway here. []