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Best of the New

A shoe addict's emporium. A modern-day speak-easy. Heaven in a waffle cone. Here's to 128 of our favorite arrivals last year - and long may they run.

January 25, 2009
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Chocolee Chocolates

Veteran pastry chef Lee Napoli's transition from the kitchen to candy counter has been as smooth (and sweet) as the treats that fill her South End shop. Her truffles, made fresh daily, are irresistible, as is her warm and chatty demeanor. Be sure to sample the main draw, offered only on the weekends: beignets oozing with a ganache of dark chocolate and mascarpone. 83 Pembroke Street, Boston, 617-236-0606, chocoleechocolates.com

Hungry Mother

Julia Child meets Dixie. Shrimp and grits sit comfortably alongside French-style gnocchi on the menu. Hungry Mother manages to be both homey and happening, with ham sacks and skillets doubling as wall hangings, and drinks served in canning jars. 233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Cambridge, 617-499-0090, hungrymothercambridge.com

Bina Osteria

If it looks like you're in Europe, it tastes like you're in heaven. Bina Osteria is the new venture of brother and sister Babak Bina and Azita Bina-Seibel, of Lala Rokh and Bin 26. (Next door is their European grocery, Bina Alimentari.) The bright and modern space in the Ritz-Carlton residences features a menu filled with sophisticated indulgences, such as lobster wrapped in lardo and crispy suckling pig confit. 581 Washington Street, Boston, 617-956-0888, binaboston.com

Gitlo's Dim Sum Bakery

It looks shabby: rickety tables, a curtain separating customer from cook. But when the food's this tasty and served this quick, it seems downright criminal to criticize the ambience. The menu offers staples like scallop shumai and pork buns, and daily specials are scribbled on a chalkboard. Best of all, it's available all day. 164 Brighton Avenue, Allston, 617-782-2253

Highland Kitchen

Since opening in Somerville in late 2007, this has quickly become a hip addition to the neighborhood, with classic soul on the jukebox, tasty cheeseburgers and seafood gumbo on the menu, and live music on Sunday nights. Add inventive cocktails to that, as well as a friendly staff, and you've got one comfortably cool hot spot. 150 Highland Avenue, Somerville, 617-625-1131, myspace.com/highlandkitchen

Vee Vee

Just what you want in a neighborhood bistro, particularly if you're not much of a carnivore. Vee Vee focuses on fish, vegetables, and grains. You won't miss the meat with the likes of deliciously chewy shrimp and scallop cakes, creative salads, and butternut squash enchiladas. Also good: weekend brunch and a wide selection of craft beers. 763 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-522-0145, veeveejp.com

Persephone

The Fort Point restaurant shares a space with Achilles, a boutique that sells designer togs for hipsters. But the food doesn't play second fiddle to the fashion -- Michael Leviton of Lumiere is the chef. Here, his food is seasonal, well composed, and playful: fancied-up pretzel dogs, local lobster with gnocchi. And you can play Guitar Hero in the lounge area. 283 Summer Street, Boston, 617-695-2257, achilles-project.com

Sixty2 on Wharf

The North Shore got a dose of urban sophistication with this hot bistro on Pickering Wharf. Standouts include the chickpea fritters and date compote starter, handmade pastas, and the savory striped bass. Don't miss the warm toffee pudding. 62 Wharf Street, Salem, 978-744-0062, 62onwharf.com

Mike & Patty's

Run by two Formaggio's veterans in Bay Village, this might be Boston's best breakfast and sandwich shop -- and its tiniest. If you're lucky enough to get a seat, grab it and enjoy eggs with fantastic salsa, buckwheat pancakes, or a decadent croque-monsieur. If not, there's always takeout. 12 Church Street, Boston, 617-423-3447, mikeandpattys.com

Concord Prime & Fish

This pristine family-run butcher shop and fish market has everything a protein lover could ask for: fabulously fresh cuts and catches (the fish comes from the family's high-end wholesale fish business), variety (four different cuts of short ribs), and friendliness. 97 Thoreau Street, Concord, 978-451-4197, concordprime.com

Five Guys Burgers and Fries // Four Burgers

There's no better place to satisfy a burger craving than Five Guys, and (finally!) two have opened locally, in Dedham and Foxborough. Started in a suburb of Washington, D.C., the rapidly expanding fast-food franchise will quickly have you falling for the juicy, greasy stacks. Single and double burgers are made to order (but they're always well done), and you pick from 15 classic toppings. At Four Burgers, in Central Square, the space is charmless but the meat sizzles. Choose among four patties: beef, turkey (highly recommended), veggie, or wild salmon. The fries are a must if you love skinny spuds that are crisp on the outside, soft and feathery on the inside. Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Dedham Mall, 781-326-1158, and Patriot Place, Foxborough, 508-203-9441, fiveguys.com; Four Burgers, 704 Mass. Avenue, Cambridge, 617-441-5444 , fourburgers.com

Erbaluce

An Italian restaurant unlike any other in Boston. The cuisine takes particular inspiration from Piemonte, where chef Charles Draghi's family is from. But the flavors go well beyond that, from lavender to nutmeg to fermented wild Concord grapes. The menu changes several times a week, and ingredients are fresh, fresh, fresh. 69 Church Street, Boston, 617-426-6969, erbaluce-boston.com

Sofra

Oleana-ites Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick team up for this Middle Eastern bakery/cafe, which serves an array of meze, grilled flatbread sandwiches, and excellent sweets, like chocolate cookies sandwiched together with milk jam. Even the coffee is worth braving the weekend crowds for. 1 Belmont Street, Cambridge, 617-661-3161, sofrabakery.com

Cast Iron Kitchen

Good food finally comes to Maynard, land of dive bars and sub shops. The kitchen and staff aim to please. "Little plates" globe-trot with pork taquitos and Catalonian toast. "Bigger plates" focus on foolproof classics like baked ziti and beef short ribs. A respectable beer list rounds out the menu. 177 Main Street, Maynard, 978-897-2897, castironkitchen.net

Grezzo

Raw food never tasted so wonderfully complex. At this vegan restaurant, a welcome change of pace in the North End, the freshest, most seasonal produce is transformed into "gnocchi," "fettuccine," and "sliders" that will delight the palate. A meal isn't cheap, but your healthy body's worth it. 69 Prince Street, Boston, 857-362-7288, grezzorestaurant.com

JoJo Tai Pei

When there's something called "smelly bean curd" on the menu, you know you're not getting Westernized Taiwanese food. Here you'll find intriguing dishes such as bamboo cap rice pudding. Be adventurous; most of the offerings are delicious. But be warned: That smelly bean curd lives up to its name. 103 Brighton Avenue, Allston, 617-254-8889, jojotaipeiboston.com

Craigie on Main

After years in its tiny basement space, Craigie Street Bistrot has a new location and name. Chef Tony Maws is still cooking the ingredient-inspired, seasonal fare he's known for. Now there's a bar to match, with seasonal cocktails that riff on the classics and a bar menu that includes a killer burger. 853 Main Street, Cambridge, 617-497-5511, craigieonmain.com

The Battery

Brighton has always been an Irish expat haven, but now it finally has an authentic Irish chipper, serving homemade battered and fried . . . everything, from fish and chips to potato pies to sausages and burgers. You heard right -- breaded and deep-fried hamburgers. (Take that, good cholesterol!) But the menu includes healthier, baked options, too. 379 Washington Street, Brighton, 617-987-0884

Ristorante Damiano

Small plates go Italian. This is the perfect place when you want a taste of the North End in a stylish setting but not a gut- (or wallet-) busting meal. Scaled-down eggplant Parm and penne with gorgonzola hit all the right notes. 307-309 Hanover Street, Boston, 617-742-0020, ristorantedamiano.com

Ecco

Yes, a martini bar in East Boston, and it's just what the neighborhood needed. How can you tell? The whole neighborhood is here. People of all ages and fashion senses sit side-by-side in the swanky/cozy space, sipping well-made cocktails and eating short-rib shumai and lobster mac and cheese. 107 Porter Street, East Boston, 617-561-1112, eccoboston.com

Marliave

Grotto chef Scott Herritt restored this classic space downtown, first opened in 1885. There's an upstairs level for fine dining and a tiny, lower-level oyster bar. The latter is most likely to win your heart with its well-executed comfort food, such as meatball sliders. 10 Bosworth Street, Boston, 617-422-0004, marliave.com

Townsend's

Owners Michael and Rosaleen Tallon used to run the Kendall Cafe in Cambridge. Now they bring their own kind of hospitality to their own neighborhood. Hyde Park needed a place like this: upscale-cozy, with a stone fireplace, dark wood, well-prepared Irish pub fare, and more than 50 kinds of beer. 81 Fairmount Avenue, Hyde Park, 617-333-0306, townsendsrestaurant.com

Scampo

Lydia Shire's latest venture is her most creative. While decidedly Italian, the menu branches out to include Indian breads. The homemade bufala mozzarella is a must. Both the open kitchen, which acts as a centerpiece, and the outdoor patio charm. 215 Charles Street, Boston, 617-536-2100, scampoboston.com

Baza Gourmet Foods & Spirits

Tucked into this supermarket with an Eastern European feel is an impressive takeout spread. Select from nearly 20 hot entrees and sides ranging from tortellini carbonara to typical Russian fare like chicken Kiev -- most at $6.99 a pound. There are even more cold choices, including "caviars" -- chopped salads of mushroom, eggplant, or zucchini. 30 Tower Road, Newton, 617-986-8510, bazaboston.com

Bin Ends

Think of this discount wine warehouse as a Filene's Basement for oenophiles: For every week that certain wines are in the store, they drop in price. More than 450 wines grace the bins, from well-known vintners such as Groth to off-the-beaten-vine choices from India and Israel. 236 Wood Road, Braintree, 781-817-1212, binendswine.com

banQ

Are you tired of French and Indian food with large portions of meat cooked in cream or butter? The emphasis at banQ is a much lighter touch, resulting in a seamless blending of subcontinental spices and continental refinement. 1375 Washington Street, Boston, 617-451-0077, banqrestaur.web151.discountasp.net

Benatti

Some of the best Italian food in the Boston area is to be found nowhere near the North End, but in heavily Portuguese and Brazilian East Cambridge. Chef Andrea Benatti's food sings, from the simple grilled vegetable antipasti to pasta made fresh each day and the perfect risotto. 1128 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, 617-492-6300, benattispecialities.com

Estragon and Las Ventas

A trip to this South End tapas bar and Spanish grocery store might be the next best thing to round-trip tickets to Madrid. At Estragon, you'll find traditional tapas -- garlic shrimp, tortilla espanola -- and more unusual dishes in a room that's equal parts 1930s Spain and present-day SoWa. Next door, Las Ventas sells products for the Spain-loving foodie, including jamon iberico, finally available in America. 700 Harrison Avenue, Boston, 617-266-0443 (Estragon) and 617-266-0905 (Las Ventas), estragontapas.com

Abbott's Frozen Custard

Upstate New Yorkers aren't the only ones lining up for this treat -- a creamier yet denser alternative to soft-serve ice cream -- now that this Rochester institution has opened an outpost in Needham. Several flavors are made daily. You can't go wrong with the sublime chocolate almond in a waffle cone. 934 Great Plain Avenue, Needham, 781-444-9908, abbottscustard.com

Sportello

The name is Italian for counter service, and that's what you'll find. It looks like a gleaming-white mod diner, and it tastes like modern Italy -- a simple chicken soup gets a twist with cumin-scented gnocchi, and magnificently chewy-tender pasta twists come with a ragout of rabbit and green olives. 348 Congress Street, Boston, 617-737-1234, sportelloboston.com

Bokx 109

Sitting on the quiet side of the Riverside T stop, the Hotel Indigo's LA-styled steakhouse brings the lavishness of sustainably raised corn-fed beef (try the Brandt Farms tenderloin with horseradish black pepper chantilly), sleek leather and wood paneling, and poolside dining cabanas to the suburbs. 399 Grove Street, Newton, 617-454-3399, bokx109.com

Bigger, Better

For a couple of standouts, more space means even more appeal.

Both East-meets-West restaurant Blue Ginger and the cafe South End Buttery saw successful expansions last year, bringing new life to old favorites. Blue Ginger added a lounge with a bar and a menu of small plates. Dishes like Ming’s Bings (below) – a cross between a dumpling and a burger – lend themselves to sharing. The South End Buttery, now Buttery Bar + Bistro, added space and nighttime hours to become a neighborhood bistro serving appealing, casual fare. Blue Ginger, 583 Washington Street, Wellesley, 781-283-5790, ming.com/blueginger; Buttery Bar + Bistro, 314 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, 617-482-1015, southendbuttery.com

Take Two

A few ethnic favorites branched out in style.

Tamarind Bay Coastal Indian Kitchen

This Brookline offshoot of Harvard Square’s Tamarind Bay specializes in authentic

Indian seafood dishes, with whole-fish presentations and creamy shrimp curries from Kerala, Goa, and other seaside states. Don’t worry – the amazing black lentils from the Cambridge restaurant are also here. 1665 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-277-1752, tamarind-bay.com/coastal.html

Orinoco

Now also in Brookline, Orinoco serves the arepas, salads, and Venezuelan specialties you’ve come to love at the original South End site. You’ll find more room and more parking spots in this neighborhood, but a similarly lively scene. 22 Harvard Street, Brookline, 617-232-9505, orinocokitchen.com

Olecito

This takeout-only baby sister of Ole Mexican Grill in Inman Square is easy on the wallet and oh-so-satisfying. You can still get Erwin Ramos’s famous shrimp tacos here, but make sure you try the skirt steak torta, not available at the sibling restaurant across the street.

12 Springfield Street, Cambridge, 617-876-1374

Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken & Grill

Peruvians know a thing or two about cooking a chicken. The specialty of the house (a stone’s throw from sister restaurant Machu Picchu) is marinated in spices and spit-roasted over coals until the skin is a dark golden brown and the meat is rich and smoky. Dunk it in creamy hot pepper sauce and prepare to swoon. 25 Union Square, Somerville, 617-623-7972, machuchicken.com

Best of the Old

There’s plenty that’s exciting and new at established favorites, too – from innovative dishes that have just landed on the menus to special deals designed to help us weather the cold economy. Take Taco Tuesdays. Once a week at Boston’s La Verdad and tremont 647, tacos are $1 and $2 each, respectively. Another great city deal is the stuzzi, or small plates, menu at sage; the Italian restaurant in the South End offers the likes of white anchovy crostini or arancini with short rib and truffle aioli for $4 to $8 a pop. The ever-creative Gargoyles on the Square in Somerville serves a new take on a classic with its French onion “cappuccino”: onion soup in a cappuccino cup topped with foamed Swiss cheese-infused milk. It’s served with a sandwich of oxtail marmalade. And for a low-key, comforting start to the week, try Rialto’s new Sunday roasts. On that night, the Cambridge restaurant serves a one-plate meal for $20 that’s centered on a roast – roast lamb with rosemary, white beans, and pancetta or roast pork with pumpkin, potatoes, and sage. La Verdad, 1 Lansdowne Street, Boston, 617-421-9595, laverdadtaqueria.com; Tremont 647, 647 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-266-4600, tremont647.com; Sage, 1395 Washington Street, Boston, 617-248-8814, sageboston.com; Gargoyles on the Square, 219 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-776-5300, gargoylesonthesquare.com; Rialto, 1 Bennett Street, Cambridge, 617-661-5050, rialto-restaurant.com

Best of the New contributors: Kevin Alexander, Susanne Althoff, Mark Baard, Kara Baskin, Joel Brown, Terry Byrne, Andrea Calabretta, Katie Johnston Chase, Devra First, Tim Flynn, Brooke Lea Foster, Scott Haas, Stephen Jermanok, Susan Johnston, Sheryl Julian, Joseph P. Kahn, Marni Elyse Katz, Susan Chaityn Lebovits, Alison Lobron, Christie Matheson, Tom Matlack, Eric Moskowitz, Doug Most, Colin Nickerson, Janice O'Leary, Jenna Pelletier, Juliet Pennington, Shawn Peters, John Powers, Molly Jane Quinn, Sarah Rodman, Christopher Rowland, Jennifer Schwartz, Tina Sutton, Denise Swidey, Visi Tilak, Rachel Travers, Jennifer Weeks

Send comments or suggestions about this year's Best of the New to magazine@globe.com.

Bigger, Better

For a couple of standouts, more space means even more appeal.

Both East-meets-West restaurant Blue Ginger and the cafe South End Buttery saw successful expansions last year, bringing new life to old favorites. Blue Ginger added a lounge with a bar and a menu of small plates. Dishes like Ming's Bings (below) -- a cross between a dumpling and a burger -- lend themselves to sharing. The South End Buttery, now Buttery Bar + Bistro, added space and nighttime hours to become a neighborhood bistro serving appealing, casual fare. Blue Ginger, 583 Washington Street, Wellesley, 781-283-5790, ming.com/blueginger; Buttery Bar + Bistro, 314 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, 617-482-1015, southendbuttery.com

Take Two

A few ethnic favorites branched out in style.

Tamarind Bay Coastal Indian Kitchen

This Brookline offshoot of Harvard Square's Tamarind Bay specializes in authentic

Indian seafood dishes, with whole-fish presentations and creamy shrimp curries from Kerala, Goa, and other seaside states. Don't worry -- the amazing black lentils from the Cambridge restaurant are also here. 1665 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-277-1752, tamarind-bay.com/coastal.html

Orinoco

>Now also in Brookline, Orinoco serves the arepas, salads, and Venezuelan specialties you've come to love at the original South End site. You'll find more room and more parking spots in this neighborhood, but a similarly lively scene. 22 Harvard Street, Brookline, 617-232-9505, orinocokitchen.com

Olecito

> This takeout-only baby sister of Ole Mexican Grill in Inman Square is easy on the wallet and oh-so-satisfying. You can still get Erwin Ramos's famous shrimp tacos here, but make sure you try the skirt steak torta, not available at the sibling restaurant across the street.

12 Springfield Street, Cambridge, 617-876-1374

Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken & Grill

> Peruvians know a thing or two about cooking a chicken. The specialty of the house (a stone's throw from sister restaurant Machu Picchu) is marinated in spices and spit-roasted over coals until the skin is a dark golden brown and the meat is rich and smoky. Dunk it in creamy hot pepper sauce and prepare to swoon. 25 Union Square, Somerville, 617-623-7972, machuchicken.com

Best of the Old

There's plenty that's exciting and new at established favorites, too -- from innovative dishes that have just landed on the menus to special deals designed to help us weather the cold economy. Take Taco Tuesdays. Once a week at Boston's La Verdad and tremont 647, tacos are $1 and $2 each, respectively. Another great city deal is the stuzzi, or small plates, menu at sage; the Italian restaurant in the South End offers the likes of white anchovy crostini or arancini with short rib and truffle aioli for $4 to $8 a pop. The ever-creative Gargoyles on the Square in Somerville serves a new take on a classic with its French onion "cappuccino": onion soup in a cappuccino cup topped with foamed Swiss cheese-infused milk. It's served with a sandwich of oxtail marmalade. And for a low-key, comforting start to the week, try Rialto's new Sunday roasts. On that night, the Cambridge restaurant serves a one-plate meal for $20 that's centered on a roast -- roast lamb with rosemary, white beans, and pancetta or roast pork with pumpkin, potatoes, and sage. La Verdad, 1 Lansdowne Street, Boston, 617-421-9595, laverdadtaqueria.com; Tremont 647, 647 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-266-4600, tremont647.com; Sage, 1395 Washington Street, Boston, 617-248-8814, sageboston.com; Gargoyles on the Square, 219 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-776-5300, gargoylesonthesquare.com; Rialto, 1 Bennett Street, Cambridge, 617-661-5050, rialto-restaurant.com

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