Monday, December 28, 2020

2020: My Favorite Restaurants

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

As 2021 approaches, it's time once again to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor pleasant memories. I'll be posting my annual series of Favorite Lists over the next couple weeks, covering food, wine, spirits and other drinks. These lists should provide a comprehensive summary of my favorites from this past year, allowing my readers to more readily locate such gems, the best of my recommendations. 

Obviously, these Favorite Lists will be different, and smaller, from prior years due to the pandemic. Dining out has been very limited this past year, and large scale wine tasting events didn't take place. There was no Seafood Expo North America in 2020. Many other food and drink events were canceled, postponed, or held virtually. However, there were still items deserving of being highlighted, and I will endeavor to showcase them. Hopefully, 2021 will allow restaurants to once again reopen fully, and food and drink events to be held once again. 

My first Favorites List of 2020 is my Favorite RestaurantsThis is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of memorable restaurants and food items I've experienced and/or posted about over the 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 recommendation and I hope you'll enjoy them as well. For more Restaurant reviews, you can just search my blog posts for the past year.

2020 Restaurant Openings:
A number of restaurants opened this year, from January to March, just prior to the pandemic and its restrictions. And some restaurants have opened during the pandemic, after some of the restrictions were lifted. It's always difficult to open a new restaurant, and then when you have to close within a month or two of your opening, it's brutal. All restaurants have taken a serious hit this year, though these newer restaurants had the additional challenge of being new, and trying to establish a customer base when many people won't dine indoors.

I want to highlight four of these new restaurants, which were established at the beginning of 2020, and which are creating amazing food and well worthy of your support and patronage. They have impressed me during my visits, whether for take-out, outdoor dining, or even indoor dining. Please give consideration to patronizing and supporting these new restaurants.
A Tavola (Winchester)
     In January, Chef Joe Carli took over ownership of A Tavola, putting his own stamp on this Italian restaurant. My initial review, pre-pandemic, A Tavola in Winchester: Welcome to the New Owner, Chef Joe Carli gave raves, especially for his pasta dishes. I also interviewed their Wine Director in The Mind of a Sommelier: Lynsey Robbie, who curates a small and intriguing list of all-Italian wines. And in a later review, A Tavola: Duck Wings to Ligurian Seafood StewI continued to be impressed with their culinary offerings. The Duck Wings were amazing! I have also taken advantage of their Pantry offerings, buying their Bolognese sauce, homemade pastas, and more. Chef Carli and his team are doing a great job at A Tavola.

Việt Citron (Burlington)
     I dined here once before the pandemic, and when restaurants were allowed to reopen, I returned and have made this a regular lunch spot. My initial review, Việt Citron: Fresh & Tasty Phở, Bánh Mi & More, detailed some of the delicious Vietnamese food found at this small, casual spot. In follow-up reviews, I mentioned a number of their seasonal specialties: Việt Citron: A Follow-Up & Seasonal SpecialtiesViệt Citron: Bún Bò Huế, a Spicy Beef & Pork Noodle Soup, and A Food Sampling. I love their Pork Belly Bánh Mi and winter is a great time for their Chicken or Beef Phở. Fresh, delicious and reasonably priced for the quality and quantity of their dishes. In 2021, I'll continue to regularly patronize this spot. 

 Tambo 22 (Chelsea)
     As this restaurant just opened in early March, I wasn't able to dine there before all restaurants were shut down for the pandemic. However, I eventually was able to dine here twice, both times being offered a compelling dining experience with superb Peruvian cuisine and fine cocktails. Check out my reviews Tambo 22: Chef Jose Duarte Brings Peru to Chelsea and Brunch at Tambo 22: Alpaca to Cherimoya. I've long been a fan of Chef Jose Duarte and Tambo 22 showcases his Peruvian heritage, highlighting many fascinating Peruvian ingredients. Unfortunately, they are in hibernation for the winter, but once they reopen, you should rush here and enjoy a delicious Peruvian meal.

Krasi (Boston)
     Before the pandemic, I attended a media opening of Krasi and sampled much tasty cuisine, but didn't dine there until this fall. In my review, Krasi: First Impressions of this New Greek Restaurant, I enjoyed quite a fabulous Greek dinner, including some excellent Greek wines. The owners of Krasi have connections to Committee and GreCo, two of my favorite Greek spots in the city, and Krasi takes its place as a new favorite. Their all-Greek wine list is amazing, easily the best in the city, and probably one of the best in the country. The food is inventive, though with roots in various regions of Greece. I can't wait to dine there again.

Favorite BBQ Joint: Ellis Square Social, in Beverly, reworked their menu this year after being closed for a time due to the pandemic. Their new BBQ menu was a great decision, full of delicious comfort food, such as their superb Chili. If I lived closer, I'd be getting some of that Chili every week. You'll also find St. Louis Ribs, Brisket, Burnt Ends, Pulled Pork and more. Prices are very reasonable. there's plenty of tasty options, and their cocktail program remains compelling. Chef Jay Murray has a winner on his hands.
Favorite Steak HouseCoach Grill, in Wayland, may be in the suburbs but it is as good as any Boston steakhouse, offering a full menu of steak and seafood options. It also has a fascinating heritage, harkening back to the Red Coach Grill of my childhood. From a Bone-In Filet to Pan-Seared Atlantic Halibut, there are plenty of choices to appeal to your palate. Service is excellent and the expansive wine list has some excellent bargains. It also possesses the elegance of a high-end steakhouse and would be perfect for an intimate date. 

Favorite Cape Cod RestaurantEpic Oyster, in North Falmouth, is an excellent, casual seafood restaurant with some Portuguese influences. The main restaurant is within a dining car, with roots back to the 1920s. Though the menu has plenty of seafood options, from Oysters to Lobster Rolls, there are tasty non-seafood choices as well. Bang Bang Shrimp, Old School Spare Ribs, Stuffed Quahog, Miso Black Cod, and more. They also have some intriguing, and reasonably priced, off-list wines which you need to ask about as you won't find them on their menu.

Favorite Casual Greek Restaurant: The Farm Grill & Rotisserie, in Newton, is a killer, casual spot for Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. Much of their food is prepared fresh every day, from Pastitsio to Rotisserie Chicken. Their Gyro Chicken is enticingly aromatic, with plenty of flavor and moist, tender meat. Everything is easy to get for take-out, and there are lots of options, such as 33 different Appetizers, each available in three sizes. Prices are extremely reasonable, such as a 4 pound, whole rotisserie chicken for only $10! They will be celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2021, and I understand the reason for its longevity.

Favorite Farm to Table RestaurantFrank, in Beverly, is owned by famed Chef Frank McClelland, formerly of L''Espalier. This restaurant is only a year old, and also has an attached food and wine market, which is also worth visiting. Frank definitely excels at their pasta dishes, which had such a fine depth of flavor. Their charcuterie is also quite good. Their wine list, with primarily natural wines, is intriguing and compelling, with plenty of great choices for wine lovers. I hope to soon return to explore more of their menu.
Favorite Worcester Restaurant: Baba Sushi, a Japanese restaurant, made a nice impression on me this year. Their Sushi was fresh, tender, and ample, and definitely is a speciality. The other Japanese dishes we enjoyed, from Chicken Tori to Shumai, were also quite tasty. Before going to Worcester, I had done some research and Baba Sushi had many excellent reviews, and it lived up to its reputation. If I was in the area again, I would certainly return.

Favorite BakeryElm Street Sweets, in Somerville and Bedford, offers a variety of items like Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Snickerdoodle Cookies, Blueberry Crumble Pie, Pecan Carrot Cake, Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies, and more. Their Banana Bourbon Cream Pie is made with a nilla wafer crust, dulce de leche, fresh bananas, banana bourbon custard, vanilla whipped cream, and white chocolate shavings. It's delicious, with a prominent bourbon flavor, plenty of creamy whipped cream, a rich banana flavor, and a crunchy crust.

Favorite Lunch SpotPrince Pizzeria, on Route 1 in Saugus, will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2021, having offered pizza and Italian food for generations. I dined there as a child, and still dine there, mostly for lunch. With the pandemic, they closed their Lunch Buffet (which always was a great choice) and opened a large tent in their lot during the summer. They make a unique style of pizza, that reminds me in some ways of Greek pizza, and I usually get pizza when I dine there. However, I have enjoyed some of their other Italian dishes as well. It is a casual and reasonably priced restaurant, and owner Steve Castraberti is often on hand, ensuring the restaurant is well run.

Some of the other restaurants I enjoyed in 2020 include District Kitchen, Island Creek Oyster Bar (Burlington), Feng Shui (Burlington), Posto Bedford, Nick & Andy's, Fusion Taste (Stoneham), and Clam Box of Ipswich

Support the Restaurant Industry: As I said above, the restaurant industry has been devastated by this pandemic, especially as the federal government has done little to aid and assist the industry. Some restaurants have closed permanently and others may be forced to do so in the near future. We need to support our favorite restaurants as much as we are capable, from buying gift cards to ordering take-out, from getting delivery to tipping well. If you have a positive dining experience, tell your family and friends. Spread the word on social media. With vaccines starting to be disseminated, maybe things will positively change in the near future, and we can return to relative normality with the restaurant industry.

What were some of your favorite restaurants this year?

1 comment:

Win Burke said...

Richard, thank you for your reviews. Following your guidance, many are now on our list. I was particularly happy to see the Coach Grill in Wayland on your list. It was often our "date night" destination when Mirena and I lived in Sudbury.