Whether you're craving Boston's best slice of pizza (let the debate begin), a classic cannoli, or a super-healthy salad, we've rounded up a list of our recommended neighborhood dishes.
Is this an exhaustive list? In a food-city this grand? Of course not! But we think it's a pretty great place to start. Feel free to add your faves in the comments section.
The 'Italian' at Santarpio's
The Santarpio’s 'Italian' starts with a crisp, chewy crust and slightly sweet sauce, with the toppings tucked under a blanket of gooey mozzarella cheese. The mushrooms and peppers are fresh, and the house-made sausage adds savory flavor. You'll fall fork over knife in love with this pie.
People come for the pizza, not the décor, which hasn’t changed much since the '70s. And don't be shy about questions, the servers are honest, fair, and not afraid to tell you what to order.
111 Chelsea St., East Boston, 617-567-9871, santarpiospizza.com
The 'Mystic Mountain' at Life Alive
Life Alive's Mystic Mountain includes homemade hummus on a pile of fresh greens, diced sour green apples, sweet corn, and crunchy raw cashews, topped with a lemon vinaigrette that makes the melange of the salad's tasty textural ingredients really pop. It's earthy, healthy, and absolutely delicious.
Their Central Square location greets you with a psychedelic swirl of color, the bright, crisp scent of juiced ginger and wheat grass, and plenty of new age verbiage plastered on on their menu. We're just happy to see so many healthy plant-based food options. And we're not the only ones; Live Alive is always packed.
765 Mass Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-5433, lifealive.com
'The Florentine' at Mike’s Pastry
The true test of great pastry is whether the crust is worthy of the filling. And at Mike's Pastry in the North End, where cannoli is king, the Florentine-cookie shell is just as delicious as the velvety ricotta, chocolate chip-studded center. We're talking all the sweet crunch with none of the sogginess.
The Florentine was actually ranked the number two choice at Mike's in 2015 by BDCwire, second only to the espresso cannoli. But we prefer to leave the coffee in the cup.
300 Hanover St., 617-742-3050, mikespastry.com
Also featured in Where To Get Pie In Boston.
The Tsel Momo at House of Tibet Kitchen
Tibetan food seems to be having a moment, with momo's — the popular savory little dumplings of the regions — popping up all over town. And House of Tibet in Teele Square is our top choice. Their Tsel Momo follows a traditional Tibetan recipe, but comes with an incredible tomato and vegetable-based salsa that's an original. The sauce adds a unique sweet flavor that works well with the punchy garlic and ginger spices of the momo. They come steamed or fried, but we suggest getting the latter because nothing beats a crispy shell wrapped around the wholesome vegetable filling.
House of Tibet Kitchen is a cozy joint, welcoming you with rug-lined booths in an intimate room festooned with Tibetan prayer flags and art.
235 Holland St., Somerville, 617-629-7567
The 'Croissant Toad in the Hole' at Alden & Harlow
This Alden & Harlow brunch staple is a perfect example of why this is the place to enjoy a leisurely mid-morning meal. The dish starts with a slice of their homemade loaf of soft, buttery croissant bread, topped with a perfectly poached egg over Benton’s jam (yes, that's bacon jam!), and smothered in a savory red eye gravy. It's finished with a fresh piece of kale, which adds just enough bitter green to balance out its rich flavors.
The food, atmosphere and service of the Harvard Square-located restaurant have the distinctly hip hand prints of chef/owner Michael Scelfo all over it. A rustic industrial/modern feel with elements like wood-beamed ceilings, exposed brick, and a living wall in their "greenhouse" invite you into the subterranean dining area. Jars of spices and house-made preserves line the bar, ready to make their way into creative cocktails like the Bee Sting, with gin and honey, or the Almada Spice, with smoked celery and Habanero, both available at brunch.
40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-864-2100, aldenharlow.com
Also featured in Kid-Friendly Dining Tips From Industry Experts In Boston
The 'Fish Chowda' at James Hook & Co
James Hook & Co get their seafood fresh every morning, and on any given day you can expect to see large chunks of Faroe Island salmon, delicate Atlantic tuna, and flaky Maine haddock, all swimming in a rich, creamy broth with potatoes cooked fork-tender. We're confident in saying it's one our favorite bowls of chowder around!
It, and a huge variety of fresh seafood, are served in a friendly atmosphere — inside the shanty or out by the water — and are a great choice for any season.
15 Northern Ave., 617-423-5501, jameshooklobster.com
The Shredded Beef Plate at El Oriental de Cuba
The variety plates are the best way to get a sampling of what’s good at El Oriental de Cuba in Jamaica Plain, specializing in home-style Cuban cuisine. The shredded beef is our favorite, with savory pieces of stewed meat that melt in your mouth, served in a light tomato-based sauce that's sautéed with onions and peppers and spiked with a touch of Sazon and Adobo spices. The rice, beans, and plantains are a complimentary accompaniment and perfect for soaking up every last bit of the addictive sauce.
El Oriental de Cuba greets you like a member of the family; regulars and staff know each others names, and pictures of staff with spouses and kids decorate the walls. The first version of the beloved restaurant was destroyed by arson in 2005, and community support helped them reopen, complete with a ribbon cutting by Mayor Menino.
416 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-6464, elorientaldecuba.net
The 'Christopher Robin' at Fiores Bakery
With careful attention to the interplay of taste and texture, every element of this sandwich at Fiores Bakeryin Jamaica Plain is crafted in-house, from the bread to the condiments. Thinly sliced ham meets peppery, fresh greens, the subtle bite of Swiss cheese, perfectly juicy pears, and a nutty honey-walnut spread. And the foundation? A flavorful, wholesome wheat bread, fresh-baked daily. Delicious.
Those staying away from meat and dairy will be glad to know that the ingenuity spills over to many vegan options, including a vegan cashew cheese melt or the Fancy Lass, a bagel from Kupels Bakery piled with Seitan and Tofutti, and topped with capers and hot sauce.
55 South St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-9200, fioresbakery.com
The 'Next President God Help Us' at Mr. Bartley's
Formerly known as the 'Tom Brady,' the 'Next President God Help Us' burger at Mr. Bartley's features a thick, mouth-watering all beef patty topped with melted cheddar and a creamy guacamole with finely chopped tomatoes and onions for texture. It's simple, but oh-so delicious, and the secret is in the fresh ground beef which is formed with an old-school machine so the meat doesn't get over-handled.
Veggie and other meat options are available for all burgers, and get you'll want to show up early as there's always a line out the door. An if you sit at the long communal table in the center of the room and find yourself in a debate (or food fight) with a stranger, heed the wisdom of one of the many humorous signs that decorate the walls with phrases like, “It isn’t smart to argue with a fool. Listeners can’t tell which is which.”
1246 Mass Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-6559, mrbartley.com