The Boston restaurant scene had another robust group of newcomers enter the fold in 2017. In the past calendar year, we’ve seen beloved local chefs debut intriguing new concepts, popular restaurants open second (or third, or fourth) locations in different neighborhoods, nationally acclaimed restaurants make their move into Boston, and quirky spots based around a single, unexpected cuisine find their niche audience.
Here are the 10 most interesting restaurant openings of the past year, in the order they opened.
You’ve heard of restaurants devoted to burgers, or seafood shacks centered around clams, but how many oatmeal-based breakfast spots have you seen? Somerville’s Davis Square got its first in January 2017 with the Oat Shop, which serves bowls of oats of all sizes and flavors, grouping its menu into three categories: sweet, savory, and custom. You can play it safe with add-ins like honey and cinnamon, or you can go wild with toppings like soy sauce, Sriracha, bacon, kale chips, avocado, and tofu.
Stepping into Roxy’s Grilled Cheese on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, nothing initially seems out of the ordinary. But through a speakeasy-style entrance hidden behind a freezer door you’ll find A4cade, the joint bar/arcade/restaurant venture from Area Four (A4) and Roxy’s that delighted video game fans and nightlife enthusiasts alike in 2017. With dozens of arcade consoles, specialty “two-player” cocktails served in kitschy vessels, and a full menu from Roxy’s, it’s not surprising A4cade has been one of Central Square’s hottest spots since opening in January.
Eataly made a splash when it opened in November 2016, welcoming shoppers of all stripes to the massive food emporium in the Prudential Center. But it saved its crown jewel for the following year, opening Terra, a full-service Italian restaurant with stunning interiors, in March. The dining room gives off a greenhouse vibe, with a glass roof, hanging plants, and rows of neatly labeled greens. It’s no wonder Terra finished second on Boston magazine’s Best Restaurants of 2017 list.
On the fancier end of local restaurant openings in 2017 is Les Sablons, a collaboration between Garrett Harker, Shore Gregory, Skip Bennett, and Jeremy Sewall, who own some of the highest-profile restaurants in Boston, including Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and Row 34. Billed as “between London and Paris” style-wise, Les Sablons is located in an old Harvard Square building known as the “Conductor’s Building” that served as administrative headquarters for the Boston Elevated Railway in the early 1900s.
Hall in the Back Bay isn’t like other most places on this list, or most other restaurants in general. It’s a subscription-based eat-play-work venue that acts almost as a modern-day social club, catering to millennials. The Gloucester Street brownstone, which debuted in August, is open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight, and subscribers (who sign up for monthly commitments that start at $69 a week) can hang out, do work, and choose from a small prix fixe menu offered Sunday through Thursday. Whether Hall is the harbinger of a new trend remains unclear, but it is undoubtedly one of the more unique concepts of the past year.
Years after Yume Wo Katare arrived in Cambridge’s Porter Square, you can still reliably find lines out the door almost every night of the week for its savory ramen bowls. While it may seem surprising to outsiders that its owners chose to open an udon-only spot only a block away this past September, Yume Ga Arukara has been a small-scale hit ever since. The restaurant stall only serves one dish (niku udon, aka udon noodles with beef), and only serves 100 bowls a day, making it a niche spot for Porter Square shoppers and Lesley University students alike.
The hype around Eventide’s October opening in Boston was predictably intense: The Portland restaurant is considered one of the best seafood restaurants in the nation, and chefs/co-owners Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley won the 2017 James Beard Award for Best Chef — Northeast. Eventide Fenway is markedly different from its Portland sibling, with tablet-toting staff taking orders from a reduced menu in what the owners referred to as a “fine-casual” dining experience. But Eventide Fenway still gets the important stuff right, serving a rotating selection of fresh crudo and the famed Brown Butter Lobster Roll.
Somerville residents Sam Harden and James Grimes started Better Bagels in January 2014 and slowly amassed a fan base through pop-ups and partnerships with local businesses that sold the duo’s hand-rolled, New York-style bagels. By the time Better Bagels’ first brick-and-mortar location opened in the Seaport at the end of October, you could also find the bagels at at least 10 different businesses.
Cambridge has long been a culinary hot spot on its own, with some of its coolest restaurants tucked away from the bustling Red Line stops in Harvard, Central, and Kendall Squares. One of those is Chris Chung’s Momi Nonmi, Inman Square’s first izakaya, which opened in the space previously occupied by WuBurger in October. While WuBurger dabbled in juicy burgers and boozy milkshakes, Momi Nonmi serves healthier, vegetable-driven dishes, like edamame croquettes with yuzu ketchup and tempura portobello mushrooms with daikon radish, avocado, and Japanese ranch dressing.
This South End seafood spot from Joe Marcus and Dave Spinney has a number of traditional lunch items on the menu, like ham and turkey sandwiches alongside clam chowder and lobster bisque. What makes Lobstah on a Roll stand out is right in its name: its lobster rolls. Specifically, its massive 5-foot lobster rolls which are made with roughly 80 lobsters and are meant to serve 50 to 60 people. If a gratuitous seafood dish isn’t quintessentially Boston, we don’t know what is.