Boston's Hidden Restaurants

Best Restaurants in the Boston Area, 2016

Another year is coming to an end, and this year was a very good one on the food side of things, as some of you may have noticed from the lists of best dishes of 2016. Well now it's time to look at the best lesser-known restaurants of the year, and this year's list includes some first-timers along with a few that have been there before, and while not all categories have been covered here (a few were too close to call and others did not have enough representation this year), a sampling of most main categories have been included. (Note: Last year's picks can be found at the following link: 2015 Best Boston Restaurants List)

Best American Restaurant (New), 2016
Ashmont Grill, Dorchester, MA
A winner from a couple of years back, this slightly upscale comfort food spot continues to impress with such dishes as macaroni and cheese, wood-grilled steak, and a sinful app in its train-wreck fries. The Ashmont Grill also has a private-feeling outdoor patio out back complete with a fire pit, which makes this place all the much better during the warmer months.

Best American Restaurant (Traditional), 2016
Winthrop Arms, Winthrop, MA
There's something special about a hotel restaurant, and this comfortable spot is particularly special because not only does it reside in an historic building, but it is also located in a totally hidden spot by the ocean. Oh, and if you like macaroni and cheese, the Winthrop Arms has one of the best--if not the best--old-fashioned versions of it in the entire Boston area.

Best Bar, 2016
Cagney's, Quincy, MA
A relatively new find, this neighborhood spot looks a bit like a dive bar from the outside--and it does have a few dive-bar qualities to it--but Cagney's also has some outstanding food (try the pizza or the burgers) and its beer list rivals that of some of the better gastropubs in the Boston area. And now with its new outdoor patio, the place should attract some serious crowds during the summer.

Best Breakfast Place, 2016
Brick Wall Kitchen, Brookline, MA
This year's pick for best breakfast is also one of the most hidden of all the restaurants tried for this site. Located in the Whiskey Point neighborhood of Brookline, Brick Wall Kitchen is well off the beaten path, but well worth going to for its inventive takes on traditional breakfast dishes--and they offer lunch items as well, though breakfast is served all day.

Best Chinese Restaurant, 2016
Shanghai Gate, Allston, MA
With each passing visit, this longtime favorite near the Brookline border seems to feel more and more like a "hall-of-fame" place for this site, continuing to impress with its authentic--and reasonably priced--food that includes outstanding takes on pork buns, scallion pancakes, sizzling beef, and lion's head meatballs. Shanghai Gate indeed continues to be a near-perfect hidden gem after all these years.

Best Eclectic Restaurant, 2016
Moonshine 152, South Boston, MA
While this friendly Southie spot could have been picked as best American restaurant for 2016, it really isn't truly American, as Moonshine has Asian leanings along with other influences such as Mexican, Mediterranean, and, well, even Irish, as its Irish curry is among the best items ever tried for this site. And even though Moonshine is just south of busy Broadway, the restaurant feels like it is off the beaten path and waiting to be discovered.

Best Greek Restaurant, 2016
Desfina, Cambridge, MA
Greek food seems to be enjoying a bit of a resurgence in and around Boston these days, with some new places joining a handful of older (and very old-school) Greek spots in the region. The latter category includes this East Cambridge eatery that is hidden away in a residential area and features some terrific dishes such as egg lemon soup, saganaki, pastichio, roast lamb, and more. Desfina also occasional live entertainment for those who like traditional Greek music.

Best Hamburgers, 2016
O'Sullivan's, Somerville, MA
The search for the best burger in the Boston area continues, and that search keeps coming right back to this little pub on the Somerville/Cambridge line. And while not everyone is enamored with the huge meatball-shaped burgers at O'Sullivan's, its fans (including yours truly) continue to struggle in finding a better burger in the region.

Best Irish Pub, 2016
The Druid, Cambridge, MA
The Boston area has countless Irish pubs, including those that are more faux-Irish pubs with American food and others that are real-deal Irish pubs with little or no food. And then there are real-deal Irish pubs that happen to have excellent food, with this charming Inman Square spot being at the top of the list. Between its stick-to-your-ribs meals, perfectly-poured pints, attractive interior, and laid-back atmosphere, The Druid is really, really tough to beat.

Best Italian Restaurant, 2016
Massimo's Ristorante, Wakefield, MA
A two-time winner now, this hidden spot in back of Wakefield Center remains at the top for its scratch-made Italian food that leans more toward authentic Italian than Italian American. And since the owner of Massimo's has roots as a pastry chef, it is one of those places where you really need to save room for dessert, with one of the best being a tremendous lemon mascarpone cake.

Best Japanese Restaurant (Not Including Sushi), 2016
Ganko Ittetsu Ramen, Cambridge, MA
Ramen is big these days, and some of the best ramen in the region can be found at this tiny spot within the historic Arcade Building in Brookline's Coolidge Corner. If you like fatty broth with your ramen, you may be better off at the outstanding Sapporo in Cambridge's Porter Square, but Ganko's slightly lighter broth loses nothing in the flavor department and its miso, tan tan, and shoyu options are all perfect options for a cold winter day.

Best Mexican Restaurant, 2016
La Victoria Taqueria, Arlington, MA
A lot of people say that Arlington got lucky when this little eatery expanded from Beverly a couple of years ago, and truer words could not be spoken. In a town that has a lot of restaurants--but only a few that stand out--La Victoria Taqueria is one that was sorely-needed, being more or less a takeout place (it does have a few seats) with wonderful takes on Mexican street food including tortas, tacos, and quesadillas.

Best Pizza, 2016
Brewer's Fork, Charlestown, MA
Well, this is a first--a "best of" from a restaurant that hasn't been reviewed yet. The review is indeed coming around the end of the year, but consider this a sneak peek of a well-hidden spot that features some simply outstanding wood-fired pizza. So is Brewer's Fork as good as Regina's, Pepe's, or Santarpio's? Well, it's a bit different from all of those, but this bustling Charlestown spot is certainly a must for anyone who craves pizza.

Best Sandwiches, 2016
Nick's Famous, Beverly, MA
Can a dining spot get awarded a "best of" for a single sandwich? In the case of this unassuming little North Shore place, the answer is a definite "yes." Located in the heart of roast beef country, Nick's comes out on top for its perfect take on a popular food item, with the slightly warm roast beef, gooey cheese, zesty sauce, and toasted onion roll all making for an unforgettable dining experience.

Best Seafood Restaurant, 2016
Pescatore, Somerville, MA
A restaurant that could have been picked for best Italian as well, this Ball Square eatery remains well under the radar for some reason, but it continues to put out marvelous seafood dishes year after year, including such items as frutti di mare, fettuccine al salmone affumicato, fusilli amalfi, and haddock paisano. Pescatore also serves dishes for those who aren't into seafood, but the seafood items are really front and center here.

Best Sushi, 2016
All Seasons Table, Malden, MA
This was an extremely tough call in 2016, mainly because one unnamed spot topped them all but is much too popular to be considered hidden, while the very hidden Ocean Sushi in Melrose could easily have been picked. But this year it goes to All Seasons Table, which continues to serve up high-quality sushi in an upscale but casual environment, and it also offers a variety of excellent Asian fusion dishes for those who aren't looking for sushi.

Best Thai Restaurant, 2016
Dok Bua, Brookline, MA
Here we go again...even with some really great Thai restaurants in and around Boston, this ultra-casual spot between Coolidge Corner and the Allston line has maintained its high quality for a long time now and once again gets the nod. With inexpensive street-food dishes such as curry puffs, pad se ew, pork dumplings, golden bags, drunken noodles, pad Thai, and so much more, there really is something for everyone at Dok Bua.

Best Vietnamese Restaurant, 2016
Pho So 1, Randolph, MA
Most Vietnamese restaurants in the Greater Boston area tend to be very good, but some are better than others, and this is certainly the case when it comes to this hidden place south of the city. And Pho So 1 also has other things going for it that some of the Vietnamese eateries in Boston don't have--easy parking, a modern-feeling and pleasant atmosphere, and lots of space in which to sit. Oh, and the soup (pho) here is about as good as you will find anywhere in the region.