We're constantly covering the most important openings around Boston, but every now and then it helps to have a refresher. From exceptional pastas to Japanese small plates to hot pastrami, here's what to order at the 10 hottest newcomers in town.
Must-order: Opt for steamed buns filled with mushroom, pork belly — and in the eye-catching example here, panko-coated Island Creek oysters in a squid ink–laced bun with rice wine–pickled purple cabbage and "norioli" (seaweed aïoli).
Insider tip: Chef Tracy Chang previously co-founded Guchi's Midnight Ramen, a pop-up series that was a cult favorite and helped fuel the modern ramen craze in Boston. She revives Guchi's ramen right here, so look no further for your fix of noodles, pork belly and a six-minute egg.
Must-order: In January, the team behind Highland Kitchen reopened this long-standing icon after a one-year closure. Besides reviving some old favorites and adding some wholly original dishes, they've also brought the buttermilk fried chicken made famous at Highland, where it's only available on Monday nights. Get it here anytime.
Insider tip: Keep an eye out for the return of Hell Night, an infamous series of ultra-spicy dinners. The new owners plan to revive it soon.
Must-order: Head to brunch for the fried chicken and waffles served in sandwich form with BBQ sauce, eggs over easy and a grilled-pineapple coleslaw.
Insider tip: Taco Tuesdays are so limiting. Saunter up to the bar here any weekday between 5–6:30 PM for $3 tacos.
Must-order: Poke is popping up on more and more menus lately, and Ruka puts its own Peruvian-Japanese spin on the Hawaiian specialty of raw fish salad. Here, tuna poke is tossed with a coconut-miso dressing and served with cucumber, black vinegar and quinoa crackers.
Insider tip: Pay special attention to the educational wine list, creatively organized by the elevation at which different grapes grow.
Must-order: Dive deep into comfort food with the Frito Pie From Hell, an indulgent dose of chili, cheese and Inner Beauty hot sauce, the same signature condiment chef Chris Schlesinger first introduced to locals at East Coast Grill.
Insider tip: Like the tunes you hear? The Automatic posts a "now playing" Spotify list on its website so that you can get into the groove while cocktailing at home too.
Must-order: This is a good spot for dipping into the caviar trend; guests can opt for a tasting of one or four different styles of caviar with varying accompaniments. Expect to sometimes find "alternative eggs as well," says chef Justin Shoults, one of our past 30 Under 30 stars, including salmonids, paddlefish, sea urchin and more.
Insider tip: Bar manager Chris O'Neill has put together a creative program that includes a dining room–roving cocktail cart. It greets guests tableside, so that bartenders can mix up drinks as you eat and watch.
Must-order: You won't stop quacking about the spicy duck confit orecchiette, a sensational pasta dish sprinkled with bread crumbs and Parmesan.
Insider tip: Chef Douglass Williams also runs a personal chef business, Culinary Breakdown, that provides cooking courses (and personally prepared meals) in clients' homes.
Must-order: The sushi selection is top-notch, of course. But when we asked chef Ken Tominaga about his must-try dishes, he also underscored the squid okonomiyaki: a savory Japanese pancake topped with pork belly, a sunny-side egg and bonito. He also loves the rotating seasonal additions like fried oyster, soft-shell crab and lobster with warm yuzu butter.
Insider tip: PABU Boston claims one of the country's largest collections of Japanese whiskey, even offering a "ceremony" whereby chosen ingredients, like citrus oils or Japanese spices, are smoked tableside to season a drinking glass and lend a unique, complementary essence once the selected spirit is poured.
Must-order: Hungry? Dive into shareable feasts like whole branzino (pictured) with radish, corn and tomato.
Insider tip: Absinthe drinkers can sip the spirit solo as well as in creative cocktails.
Must-order: Though Little Donkey is all about small plates, you've got to get your hands around the messy burger of dry-aged Pat LaFrieda beef topped with pickles marinated in Buffalo sauce, caramelized onions, seared pieces of foie gras, crispy jalapeño chips and a little slathering of onion soup dip–inspired mayo.
Insider tip: On the cocktail side, go for the Donkey Punch, a mix of reposado, cassis, lime and agave served in a halved melon.