As 2022 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, restaurants, 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. Many food and drink events, such as the Seafood Expo North America, were canceled, postponed, or held virtually. Although dining out has occurred more this year than in 2020, it's still been significantly limited. However, there are still restaurants deserving of being highlighted, and I'll endeavor to showcase them. Hopefully, 2022 will a better year for restaurants, as well as major food and drink events.
My first Favorites List of 2021 is my Favorite Restaurants, which will also include my Top Five Dishes of 2021. This is certainly not a complete list but is more a sampling of memorable restaurants and food items I've experienced and/or posted about over the past year. This list is also in no particular order, and is purely a subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" of anything. However, all of the restaurants here earn my hearty 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.
Soall Viet Kitchen (Beverly)
This Vietnamese restaurant opened during the pandemic, and is their second location, the first being in Marblehead. You can find my review here: Soall Viet Kitchen: A Bright & Tasty Spot in Beverly. The two owners are Sa Nguyen and Mia Lunt, close friends who desired to offer authentic Vietnamese cuisine, to highlight the culinary delights of their homeland. The food is fresh, well-prepared, delicious and reasonably priced. Some of my favorite dishes include their plump Shrimp Summer Rolls, the crispy Sweet Potato & Shrimp Fritters, the tasty Steamed Pork Bao, and the alluring Chicken Clay Pot (one of my Top 5 Dishes of 2021). They have Pho and Bahn Mi as well, but I recommend you branch out and try some of their other Vietnamese dishes.
Peruvian Taste Restaurant (Charlestown)
This is another restaurant which opened during the pandemic, in a commercial area of Charlestown. You can check out my review here: Peruvian Taste Restaurant: Compelling Chifa & More. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and serve both American and Peruvian cuisine, including Chifa. Chifa is a combination of Peruvian and Chinese cuisine, and they have the largest Chifa menu in the area. It's a casual spot, serving ample dishes of delicious, fresh comfort food that is reasonably priced. Some of my favorites dishes include the Papa a la Huancaina (boiled yellow potatoes in a spicy, creamy sauce), Pollada (an amazing fried chicken), Wantan Frito (fried wontons filled with chicken), Pollo Chi Jau Kay (boneless chicken morsels battered, fried and topped with sesame seeds and scallions), and Aeropuerto (a melange of fried rice, chicken, Char Siu pork, Lo Mein noodles, peppers, snow peas and scallions. And also one of my Top 5 Dishes of 2021). Go here, ignore the American cuisine, and expand your palate with fantastic Peruvian and Chifa cuisine.
Butter "UR" Biscuit (Beverly)
This restaurant began as a food truck and offers "Latin Soul Cuisine." You can read my review here: Butter "UR" Biscuit: A Warm Comfort To The Soul. The menu has items like Empanadas, Caribbean Rice Bowls, Burritos, and Quesadillas, but their Biscuits are compelling and delicious. with an assortment of Biscuit Sandwiches. The biscuits are huge, buttery, flaky and delicious. The Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit is made with a buttermilk biscuit, two eggs your way, bacon and melted cheddar jack cheese. My favorite is their Cheesy Bird Biscuit, made with a buttermilk biscuit, fried chicken, a fried egg, and melted cheddar jack cheese. This was one of my best sandwiches of the year. The chicken was crisp and moist, complemented by the egg and cheese. Pure comfort food for the belly and soul.
Committee Ouzeri & Bar (Boston)
This Greek restaurant has long been one of my favorites, and my Brunch experience was a highlight of the year. Check out my review here: Greek Brunch & New Cocktails. Brunch is offered at Committee on both Saturday and Sunday, from 10am-3pm. Their Brunch Menu offers some Greek variations of popular brunch items, from Tsoureki Toast (Greek French Toast) to Spanakopita Grilled Cheese. You'll also find some of their regular dishes, from Souvlaki to Zucchini Crisps. My favorite dish were the Greek Yogurt Pancakes, which are topped by a sour cherry vyssino, honey, toasted almonds, and fresh berries. The pancakes were light and fluffy, some of the best I've had in recent years. Also compelling is their Breakfast Gyro, amply stuffed with scrambled eggs, grilled Halloumi, and loukaniko, and served with crispy home fries. Their Brunch cocktails are always an excellent addition as well.
Tasting Counter (Somerville)
This is another restaurant which has long been one of my top favorites, and my experiences this year only solidify my love for this restaurant. Check out my review here: Chef Peter Ungár & Consistent Excellence. As I've frequently mentioned, Chef Ungár is one of the best chefs in the Boston+ area, and doesn't receive as much attention as he deserves. His restaurant has been consistently excellent every time I've been there, due in large part to Chef Ungár being a perfectionist. His dishes are creative and delicious, with such intriguing combinations of ingredients. And the drink pairings are excellent choices as well. It continues to receive my highest and unqualified recommendation. If you want to splurge on one of my top dining experiences in the Boston+ area, this is the spot you should do so.
Nightshade Noodle Bar (Lynn)
This is one of my newest favorite restaurants and it's only been open for two years, having to undergo the difficulties of the pandemic during much of their existence. You can read my two reviews here: Compelling Vietnamese/French Cuisine in Lynn, and Back to Nightshade: More Excellence. They offer a variety of small plates, great for sharing, and nearly every dish is exceptional, bursting with flavor, and creatively composed. Plus, they have an excellent wine list and cocktail program. I like their homey vibe, service is excellent, and they have an open kitchen, which I've always loved. Some of my favorite dishes include Curried Beef in Betel Leaves, Dungeness Crab Fried Rice, Homemade Egg Noodles with beef and mushrooms (One of my Top 5 Dishes of 2021, and the Bone Marrow Bahn Mi. This spot has received raves since its opening, and they are very well deserved. I'll be returning there soon and it receives my highest recommendation.
Krasi Meze & Wine (Boston)
This is another amazing restaurant where nearly every dish is exceptional. Check out my review here: Crazy for Krasi: A Greek Paradise. Their menu is also a wide selection of small plates, perfect for sharing, and offers creative Greek cuisine, with roots in tradition but it's not afraid to experiment. Their Greek wine list is amazing, the second largest in the country. Even their bread selections are excellent, such as the Tiropita cheese rolls. My favorite dish of my recent experience was the Makaronia Me Kima, usually a Greek version of Bolognese, made with ground beef or lamb (And also one of my Top 5 Dishes of 2021). Chef Valentine chose to create his own version using seafood and it was a major success. The dish was made with ground monkfish, smoked eel tomato sauce, fides pasta, and grated horseradish. This is another restaurant that receives my highest recommendation.
Pammy's has received many raves over the years but I hadn't dined there until recently, and I look forward to a return visit. You can read my review here: Pammy's: A Compelling Restaurant of Creative Simplicity. Currently, the restaurant serves a prix-fixe menu, where you select any 3 dishes from their menu for $69. That is cool, and you can create any type of meal you desire. Some of the dishes we enjoyed included the Lobster Biscotto, Sea Scallops, with Grilled Avocado & 'Nduja Vinaigrette, and Marshall Cove Mussels with Squid Ink Arancini & Lime Leaf Aioli. My favorite dish was the Lumache, with Bolognese sauce and Gochujang, a killer combo of spiciness and umami (And also one of my Top 5 Dishes of 2021). Their wine list is intriguing, with plenty of excellent options, especially more organic/sustainable options from small wineries around the world. Service is excellent, I loved the comfy ambiance, and the food is delicious.
I also need to give some love to some of my other favorite restaurants, which I've visited this past year even though I haven't written articles about them this year. I've written about these places in previous years though, and they have remained consistent and excellent, and continue to earn my hearty recommendations. Please dine at these restaurants as well.
A Tavola (Winchester)
Excellent Italian cuisine.
Việt Citron (Burlington)
Delicious, casual Vietnamese fare.
Tambo 22 (Chelsea)
Excellent Peruvian cuisine.
Prince Pizzeria (Saugus)
Casual spot for Pizza and Italian cuisine.
District Kitchen (Malden)
Excellent Chinese cuisine.
Row 34 (Burlington)
Excellent high-end seafood
Clam Box of Ipswich (Ipswich)
Excellent casual seafood spot.
Nick & Andy's (Danvers)
Excellent, casual breakfast spot.
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.
What were some of your Favorite Restaurants and Dishes this year?