Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016: Favorite Restaurants & My Top 50

What were some of my favorite restaurants of the past year?

Let me continue the lists of my best recommendations and favorites of 2016. I have already posted my Top Ten Wine lists and my Top Ten Favorite Restaurant Dishes of 2016 and now I want to address my Favorite Restaurants of the past year as well as my Top 50 Restaurants.

This is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of memorable restaurants I have experienced and/or posted about over the past year. You will even find a few Favorites from outside Massachusetts as I traveled a little bit this past year.

This is also a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" of anything. But all of the items here have earned my strong recommendations and I hope you will enjoy them as well. For more Restaurant reviews, you can just search my blog posts for the past year.

Top Restaurant Experience: For the second year in a row, my top dining experience took place at Tasting Counter in Somerville.  The cuisine is inventive, complex, beautiful and absolutely delicious. The setting is cool and intimate, a twenty-seat counter where you can also watch the chef and kitchen staff preparing your food. They possess the largest Sake menu of any non-Asian restaurant in the Boston area and also have an intriguing selection of natural wines. Chef Peter Ungár has received numerous well-deserved raves and I continue to give Tasting Counter my highest recommendation. As I've said multiple times before, Chef Ungár is one of best chefs in the Boston area and you need to dine at his restaurant.

Favorite Seaport Restaurant: Committee, a Greek & Mediterranean restaurant, opened in July 2015 but I didn't start dining there until 2016, and became an immediate fan. The food is amazing, the wine list has many excellent selections and it has a top-notch cocktail program. You'll find intriguing Greek Spirits and compelling Greek wines. They also hold some delicious and informative wines dinners, such as a Taste of Cyprus. For my birthday this year, I could have dined anywhere I desired and I chose to go to Committee. It is the highlight of the Seaport neighborhood, but would be one of my favorites no matter where in Boston it was located.

Favorite Casual Restaurant: Last year, Ciao! Pizza & Pasta was my favorite new restaurant and it continues to be a top favorite, and I've probably dined there more than any other restaurant during the past year. The food and service remain consistently excellent, and I love their wood-fired pizzas and house-made pasta dishes. Prices are very reasonable considering the quality and quantity of food you receive. The owners, Edson Coimbra and Chef Marvin Posada, are the nicest and most genuine of people. I've brought many people here and everyone who has accompanied me has loved the place. If you haven't dined here yet, you need to make a New Year's resolution to immediately remedy that.

Favorite Tasting Menu: Asta only serves a few different tasting menus, and their cuisine is creative and tasty. It is a casual spot, with a homey atmosphere, and you'll be delighted at the elevated level of the cuisine. Be adventurous and you'll appreciate some amazing dishes. Their wine list is small but well-curated, with plenty of interesting selections. The restaurant received plenty of positive press after its opening, but it seems to have fallen off the radar of many, but it needs to return to your attention as they are producing compelling food.

Favorite Burger Restaurant: A&B Burgers opened in Beverly this year, having moved from Salem. They make a damn fine burger, using quality ingredients and a high-tech cooking device that enables them to slow cook their burger, without drying it out, before they grill it. The Sweet & Salty Cow is delicious, with Buratta, bacon, and fig jam while the new Shepherd's Pie burger, on their New Fall Menu, is also excellent. Besides their burgers, they make plenty of other delicious dishes, from Smoked Gouda & Chorizo Mac n' Cheese to Korean Sticky BBQ Wings. Their desserts are compelling too, from Churros to Apple Dumplings. They have a huge tequila list, make tasty cocktails as well as creamy adult milkshakes. You should visit here if you enjoy a great burger, or just excellent food in general.

Favorite Southern Restaurant: Located in Wakefield, The Porch is a casual Southern restaurant which makes all of their dishes from scratch. From scrumptious Fried Chicken to tasty Meatloaf, from tender Brisket to hearty Chicken Fried Steak, there is plenty of comfort food to please your belly. Get a side of their fresh baked (and amazing) Biscuits, with honey butter, or a slice of Cornbread. They even have an excellent Brunch on Sundays with some of the best bacon around. Prices are reasonable, especially on the Family-sized dinners, which can feed a family of four. They even have a liquor license, so you can enjoy a cocktail, local beer or wine with your meal.

Favorite Pop-Up Restaurant: Pop-ups are a great way to introduce people to some amazing food where the chefs don't have their own restaurant yet. Chef Moe Kuroki of OISA Ramen is bringing superb ramen to the Boston-area, participating in numerous pop-ups. I've attended a couple of these events, each time thoroughly impressed by the deep and complex flavors in her ramen. She often hand-makes her noodles and making the ramen is a lengthy process. Chef Kuroki is also passionate and personable, obviously in love with ramen.

Favorite New Seafood Restaurant: The menu may be small, but Luke's Lobster delivers on what it does serve. Their Lobster Roll is the king of their menu, their most popular item, but don't ignore the other items such as their Lobster or Crab Grilled Cheese. It is a casual spot and take-out is popular too. Prices are reasonable for the amount of seafood you receive in each dish. And I love the fact that they only serve sustainable seafood, which is certainly tough to find in many casual spots.

Favorite Brunch Restaurant: This was a tough choice as I've been to some excellent brunches this past year, but I'll give the crown to Puritan & Co., especially because of their large and creative pastry bar. They offer both breakfast and lunch options, such as the excellent Beef Patty Melt. You can also enjoy a cocktail, such as a Bloody Mary or House Mimosa. No matter what though, you must get a few selections from their Pastry Bar, such as Chocolate Pretzel Croissants, Indian Pudding Doughnuts, S'Mores Pop Tarts and more. Such a decadent culinary pleasure.

Runner-Up Brunch Restaurants: I have to give some recognition to two other local brunches which  I also recommend. Committee offers plenty of Greek-inspired brunch dishes, from Tyropita to Bougatsa, as well as lots of interesting cocktails, such as the Pigs & Booze and Bloody Marietta A&B Burgers also has an excellent menu of brunch options, including Burgers and Southern Biscuits & Gravy. And you should get one of their Sticky Buns.

Favorite Closed Restaurant: I am sad that AKA Bistro, which was in Lincoln, closed this year. It was one of my favorite spots, and my last dinner there, an amazing Sushi Dinner, showcased its excellence. However, it was a necessary business decision due to a number of factors beyond the control of the owners. I'm hoping the owners return to the restaurant world as it is a big loss without then. Chef Chris Chung is still around, appearing at a number of pop-ups, since the closure and I highly recommend you check out one of his events.

Favorite Rhode Island Restaurant: Matunuck Oyster Bar offers plenty of delicious local seafood, including oysters that they harvest in their own waters behind the restaurant. The seafood is reasonably priced, with ample portions, and they have a good wine list and cocktail program to accompany your food. They offer some Rhode Island seafood specialties and if you travel through Rhode Island, it is well worth making a stop here. And definitely order some of their Bourbon Oysters!

The Passionate Foodie's Top 50 Restaurants
In addition to the Favorites listed above, I've compiled a list of my own Top 50 Restaurants, those Massachusetts places where I'm sure to always have a delicious meal, whether a casual breakfast or a high-end French dinner. These are the places I seem to recommend the most to others, including some places where I dine on a regular basis. Many of these places have been listed on prior Favorite Lists, some for multiple years, and are all worthy of recognition and recommendation. There are also some new Favorites, places I only recently encountered but which I know I will be returning frequently. Please note that this is not a list of the "Best" Boston-area restaurants, but my own personal favorites.

A&B Burgers

Bistro du Midi
Dumpling Cafe
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Luke's Lobster
Myers & Chang

Taberna de Haro

The Bancroft
Chopps American Bar & Grill
Osteria Nino
Sichuan Gourmet

Alden & Harlow
Craigie on Main
Little Donkey
Puritan & Co.
T.W. Food

Ciao! Pizza & Pasta

Clam Box

The Blue Ox

Bistro 5
Tasty On The Hill

Iron Town Diner

The Painted Burro
Tasting Counter

Fusion Taste
Taste of Siam
Three Amigos

The Porch

Osteria Posto

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe

What were some of your favorite restaurants this year?

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