Boston's Hard-to-Get-into Spots

Make the most of your staycation
July 18, 2016
by Zagat Staff

As urbanites escape the concrete jungle, take advantage of these popular Boston spots that usually have lines out the door.

Spanish · South End · $$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.1

"Amazing" tapas "bring Barcelona to Boston" at this South End Spaniard from chefs Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer that’s arguably "one of the best" for small plates in the city; the rustic-chic space can get "overwhelmingly crowded" (especially at dinner, when the no-reservations policy makes seating "a challenge" ), but it’s "worth the wait" to "see and be seen" in such a "fun atmosphere."
French · Seaport District · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.6

"The theater of a perfectly crafted restaurant unfolds" at Barbara Lynch’s "fabulous" French-Italian in the Seaport District’s Fort Point, thanks to an "impeccable" team that "accommodates individual preferences" and provides an "educational experience" throughout each course; the "over-the-top" experience in the "romantic" , "formal" space is a "wallet emptier" , but it’s "worth the obscene amount" to be treated like "an oligarch for the night."
Neptune Oyster
Seafood · North End · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.1

Fans say the "superior, innovative takes on New England seafood classics" "live up to the hype" at this "spendy" North End legend known for its "sensational" oysters and a "justifiably famous" lobster roll; the no-reservations policy ensures "long lines" , and the "small" space gets "noisy" and crowded "as a sardine tin" , but a "well-informed" staff helps make it "worth the wait."
O Ya
Japanese · Leather District · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.5

Each "utterly amazing" plate is presented as "a work of art" at chef Tim Cushman’s "exceptional" Leather District izakaya, a sushi lover’s "dream come true" (especially if splurging on a grand omakase tasting that feels like "a dining experience of a lifetime" ); dinner will "definitely cost you an arm and a fin" , but "attentive" service and a "discreet, relaxing" ambiance ensure that "if you can afford it" , it’s "worth every cent.
Italian · South End · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.3

From "must-have, made-in-house" pastas to "fabulous" signature charcuterie, everything on the "creative" "tapas-style" menu at chefs Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer’s corner Italian is "delicious" – and "doesn’t break the bank" ; run by a "professional" staff, the "super-cozy" dining room gets "crowded" , so those in the know "get there early" for "date night" or to snag a seat on a sidewalk patio that's "ideal for people-watching."
Alden & Harlow
Brunch · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.4 · Service 4.4

"Adventurous eaters" descend on this Harvard Square "hot spot" , where the "superb" , shareable New American offerings are "seasonal" and "inventive" , and there’s also a notable ‘Secret Burger’ (available in limited quantities at dinner); "accommodating" service and "creative drinks" from "excellent mixologists" assure "lively" crowds at the "exciting bar" and an atmosphere of "electricity" in the subterranean space featuring a "contemporary" spin on rustic decor.
Row 34
Seafood · Seaport District · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.1

This "sleek" Fort Point sibling to Island Creek Oyster Bar "hits all the right notes" with "fresh" , "crisp" , "beautifully prepared" seafood – including an "incredible selection" of "excellent bivalve delicacies" – plus a "thoughtfully put together" craft-beer lineup; the "hip, Brooklyn-like" space (think "industrial vibes" ) can get "noisy" and "packed" , but servers nevertheless "make you feel right at home."
Sarma Restaurant
Middle Eastern · $$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.4

Every mouthful of chef Ana Sortun’s "rewarding adventure" through Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, from the small plates that "pack a punch" to the "dim sum–style specials" delivered tableside, "pops" and "bursts with unusual tastes" at this Somerville destination; a "young, energetic vibe" pervades the "hip and crowded" space, where an "attentive" staff mans the "excellent" craft cocktail program at the three-sided bar and the electric-blue dining room is dotted with Turkish lamps.
Italian · $
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.5

"Fabulous" homemade pasta steals the show at this Porter Square Italian, where fans praise the "great care" evident in "exquisite" , "thoughtfully prepared" plates with "precise flavors" and seasonings that work in "symphonic harmony" ; "unpretentious, attentive" service enhances the "comfortable, stylish" oak and brick–filled space – that is, "if you can get in" ; P.S. the pasta prep space is repurposed as a chef’s table at night.
American · Downtown · $$$

Inhabiting the historic former home of the venerable Locke-Ober, this "super-hopping" Downtown hideaway puts a "tongue-in-cheek" spin on the classic supper club, serving "incredible" New American cuisine, including communal plates, plus "well-crafted" , "imaginative" cocktails in a "speakeasy-style" atmosphere; flocked wallpaper, chandeliers and an "opulent" , mahogany-swathed Library Bar add "throwback" "glamour" to the "spectacular" space, making it a "must-visit."