Boston’s South End has rapidly become one of the city’s best dining scenes.
With venues attached to names like Barbara Lynch, Jamie Bissonnettte, and Ken Oringer, there are many ways to sample Boston’s elite culinary scene. Hungry travelers will also find small upstarts, bistros, oyster bars, coffee shops and just about anything else you can think of. There’s no shortage of adventurous eats to be had in this vibrant community, and there truly is with something for everyone.
Here are some of our favorite dining spots right now, located in Boston’s South End.
With a menu inspired by the lighter fare of Italy’s coastal cuisines, Bar Mezzana presents diners a wide selection of delicate, flavorful crudo. The menu rotates daily, offering choices including Nantucket bay scallops with tangerine and nori, Kamasu with ginger and radish, and salmon with green chili salsa verde.
Not in the mood for fish? Not a problem. Handmade pasta dishes like duck egg ravioli and orecchiette with sausage, fennel, and radicchio are ready to satisfy. Crostini and antipasti options like Spanish octopus and beef tartare offer lighter options for smaller appetites.
Bar Mezzana’s wine list is thoughtful and well-curated, with tons of great options by the glass or bottle to go with your menu selections. The cocktail menu is equally as captivating.
360 Harrison Ave., 617-530-1770, barmezzana.com
South End Buttery
This smallish establishment’s tin ceilings and white carrera marble countertops might be the first thing you notice when you enter South End Buttery, but only for a moment. Then the smells quickly captivate your attention. When the word “buttery” is part of the name, you can expect excellent baked goods, and they certainly deliver. Breakfast sandwiches and toasts greet morning customers, as does the bakery case loaded with handmade cupcakes, scones, croissants, and other goodies.
Head to the back of the comfortable space and grab a seat at the bar or restaurant. Order up some burrata or sweet pea hummus to snack on while you ponder the menu, trying to decide between equally-alluring options including grilled hanger steak with truffle fries, spicy shrimp fra diavolo, and good, old-fashioned meatloaf. A fully-stocked bar will keep your whistle wet, offering custom cocktails and a comprehensive wine, beer, and cider list.
314 Shawmut Ave., 617-482-1015, southendbuttery.com
(Also featured in 'Tis The Season For Hot Chocolate In Boston)
With it’s warm, inviting interior and classic Parisian comfort food, Gaslight Brasserie evokes the casual (and energetic) dining experience found in many of Paris’ neighborhoods. Mosaic tiles and reclaimed wood line the walls, framing the serpentine zinc bar imported from Paris. A quirky collection of café tables, booths, and communal seating spread guests over the sizeable restaurant.
Gaslight’s menu offers up all the hits. The steak tartare served with mushroom duxelles is a personal favorite, as is the delicate and sublime Sole Meuniere. The duck confit is succulent and rich, and the Gnocchi Parisienne with roasted butternut squash and herbs is weighty and satisfying. The all-French wine list offers a broad selection of great choices from all over the country by the glass, carafe, and bottle. Save room for dessert, however. The chocolate beignets are nearly addictive.
Sunday brunch is as casual as it is amazing. Eggs Vigneronne (eggs poached in red wine sauce with ham and mushrooms), Crepes Parisienne (made with Comté cheese, country ham, and Mornay sauce), and the Berkshire Pork Hache with Fried Eggs go great with their custom cocktail list. Be sure to order a basket of their house-made pastries.
560 Harrison Ave., 617-422-0224, gaslight560.com
This local institution has been serving up comfort food and cocktails for more than twenty years, and it’s as good as it ever. With options like lavender-honey glazed salmon, Porcini ravioli, and soy & sherry marinated chicken livers, it’s no wonder Franklin Cafe’s popularity has never waned.
Creative cocktail options like gin & bitters and pomelo martinis are poured alongside classic Sidecars and Manhattans. The vibe is welcoming and full of hospitality, and the clientele usually includes other restaurant industry folks who come here to take advantage of the full menu being served until 1:30am.
Let that sink in for a moment. You can enjoy steak frites and a Manhattan until 1:30am. Outstanding.
278 Shawmut Ave., 617-350-0010, franklincafe.com
Banyan Bar + Refuge
Taking over the space once inhabited by Hamersley’s Bistro, Banyan Bar + Refuge replaced “best roasted chicken in Boston” with “modern Asian gastropub”, and it’s so much FUN.
Chef Scott Jensen’s menu is taking inspiration from all over the continent and is loaded with adventurous selections that are nearly irresistible. The bao buns come in a variety of options including avocado, oyster, and pork belly. The Dragon Noodles are loaded with Szechuan pork, chili oil, and Korean peanuts. The ‘Banyan Burger’ is six ounces of Wagyu beef topped with kimchi pimento cheese, egg, pickled chilis, and kohlrabi slaw. You can even get a whole fish fried served with pineapple kimchi.
The interior is open and elegant, with lots of wood and Asian decorative accents. The Tremont St. vibe means lots of opportunity to people watch on the patio during the warmer months.
553 Tremont St., 617-556-4211, banyanboston.com
Owner and executive chef Jason Cheek knows better than anyone the old saying that sometimes you have to create what you want to be a part of. Years of wishing for traditional southern cuisine led to the creation of Southern Proper, an oasis of fried chicken and low-country seafood in a sea of modern gastronomy.
The menu offers choice after choice of classic southern fare, each option more mouthwatering than the last. Fried green tomatoes are accompanied by housemade pickles and tartar sauce. The catfish Po-Boy is crispy and light with just the right amount of remoulade. The fried chicken is already legendary,having been voted the best in Boston in 2018. Get it spicy - the accompanying lemon and pickles help quell the sweet, sweet heat. Add a side of collard greens, mac & cheese, or grits and butter and you’re all set.
The drinks are as comforting as the food. Try a crafted cocktail or glass of wine from the fully-stocked bar, or just keep it simple with a pitcher of beer from their well-curated list. An ice-cold Narragansett and a plate of fried chicken? Yes, please.
600 Harrison Ave., 857-233-2421, southernproperboston.com