A field guide to dining in Boston’s South End

From flashy newcomers to classic haunts, here are 30 must-try restaurants in one of the city's best food neighborhoods.

Bone marrow pizza at Coppa.
Bone marrow pizza at Coppa. –Coppa

The South End’s historic brownstones and ample sidewalks make it fertile restaurant territory, and the crop it’s yielded does not disappoint. A mix of big-name restaurant groups, household-name chefs, and creative upstarts have given the Boston neighborhood a vibrant dining scene that shows no signs of slowing down. Here’s where to go, new and old.

1. Aquitaine
This two-decade-old French bistro on Tremont received a full renovation in 2016, filling the dining room with new red leather banquettes and French oak. The menu is just as classic as the refreshed decor, touting options like duck consomme, filet au poivre, and the ever-popular steak frites. While upscale, Aquitaine also offers one of the best prixe-fixe brunch options around: For less than $12, diners get juice, coffee, a cinnamon bun, and their choice of omelette or French toast. (569 Tremont St., Boston)

A margherita wood-fired pizza at Area Four. —Melissa Ostrow
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2. Area Four Boston
Pizza lovers in Boston proper scored a victory when Area Four opened its second location in the South End’s Troy apartment complex. Chewy wood-fired pizzas made from sourdough starter appear on the menu alongside regularly changing mains and small plates unique to the Boston location. (264 E. Berkeley St., Boston)

3. B&G Oysters
Barbara Lynch’s interpretation of the New England oyster bar has all the classics you’d expect, from clam chowder to fried clams to a Maine lobster roll, plus a raw bar withh ceviche and caviar. In the summertime, B&G’s walled backyard patio is one of the city’s best backdrops for outdoor dining.
(550 Tremont St., Boston)

4. Banyan Bar + Refuge
The space that once housed Hamersley’s Bistro is now Banyan Bar + Refuge, an irreverent Asian gastropub from the team behind The Gallows and Blackbird Donuts. Its menu mixes cultures and inspirations, leaping from Hawaiian fried rice to oyster bao to 14-hour smoked beef ribs with Korean barbecue sauce. Plus, Banyan’s loungey Tremont Street patio makes it an excellent venue for people-watching during brunch. (553 Tremont St., Boston)

The crudo tasting at Bar Mezzana. —Andrea Merrill

5. Bar Mezzana
Bar Mezzana leaves the red sauce and meatballs behind, opting for a lighter, fresher cuisine inspired by the Italian coastline. A daily changing selection of crudos sets the mood, while richly garnished crostini and handmade pastas satisfy the appetite. Mondays provide the opportunity to score an elusive chicken parmesan sandwich served at the bar — best washed down with one of several spritz cocktails. (360 Harrison Ave., Boston)

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6. The Beehive
Red drapes, exposed brick, white tablecloths, and a live music stage — restaurant/music venue The Beehive goes all in on Bohemian charm and features frequent musical acts ranging from jazz to funk to soul. Amid all that noise, food is not forgotten; the menu combines French classics and American comfort food with a handful of international influences. (541 Tremont St., Boston)

The 8-ounce filet mignon with frites and arugula salad at Boston Chops. —Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

7. Boston Chops
Boston Chops is Chef Chris Coombs’s attempt to revitalize that staid Boston favorite, the steakhouse. The sleek dining room is filled with tufted leather banquettes and has a more modern energy. The menu includes expected classics like French onion soup and double-cut pork chops alongside lesser-seen carnivorous fare such as herb-marinated hearts and braised tripe. Those looking to indulge won’t be disappointed by the elaborate seafood plateau and a wide selection of upmarket chops and steaks. (1375 Washington St., Boston)

8. The Butcher Shop
The other Barbara Lynch property on Tremont (located directly across from its sister restaurant, B&G Oysters) is the carnivore’s idea of a wine bar. The restaurant’s menu is heavy on charcuterie, beef cuts, and hearty dishes like tagliatelle Bolognese. (552 Tremont St., Boston)

9. Cafe Madeline
The interior of this small cafe is dominated by an open kitchen, where carb-seekers can watch bakers prepare croissants in real time. The flaky, crescent-shaped treats are Cafe Madeline’s main draw, but the establishment also serves other French delights like éclairs, madeleines, and macarons, plus La Colombe coffee. (517 Columbus Ave., Boston)

10. Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe
This landmark deli founded in 1927 has seen its starts and stops over the years — it first closed in 2014, and has had two reopenings since. While management has come and gone, the classics that have kept regulars coming back for decades remain. Take your spot at the swivel-seat counter to experience its legendary turkey hash and eggs, or a hot roast beef sandwich served with gravy. (429 Columbus Ave., Boston)

The antipasti dish bresaola e fichi at Cinquecento. —Katherine Taylor for The Boston Globe
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11. Cinquecento
This glitzy Italian outpost from the owners of Aquitaine and Gaslight isn’t trying to reinvent its cuisine. You’ll find hearty takes on traditional fare like tagliatelle bolognese and veal milanese, served in a dining room decorated with scores of Campari bottles. The restaurant also features a spacious patio with lounge-style seating and a bright red shipping-container-turned-bar. (500 Harrison Ave., Boston)

12. Coppa
Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer’s take on the corner enoteca may be tiny, but it offers flavor-packed pizzas and pasta and a huge selection of Italian meats and cheeses. Dishes range from well-executed homages to the classics, like an Italian grinder stuffed with cured meats, to higher-concept fare like squid ink campanelle and nduja pizza. (253 Shawmut Ave., Boston)

13. Delux Cafe
Festooned with Elvis memorabilia, old vinyls, and Christmas lights that stay lit year-round, Delux is a holdout in a neighborhood once known for its eccentric dives. Anyone in the South End’s gentrified present looking to get nostalgic should head to Delux’s bar and order a frosty tall boy and a brown-bagged mystery shot (bring cash). While the restaurant lacks a website and the menu changes semi-daily, certain standards like the roasted half-chicken and quesadilla remain. (100 Chandler St., Boston)

14. El Centro
The South End branch of this local Mexican mini-chain has a broad menu with the expected enchiladas, chimichangas, and 11 types of taco, plus steaks, seafood, and entrees cooked in a lava stone dish. That, and the Mexican artwork that adorns the walls, may be enough to transport you to Hermosillo — if only for the course of a meal. (472 Shawmut Ave., Boston)

15. Franklin Cafe
Franklin Cafe has been a cozy neighborhood hangout since 1996, and shows no signs of slowing down. Its simple menu of kicked-up comfort food classics — think: five-spice pork belly tacos and roasted turkey meatloaf — is served until 1:30 a.m. every night, making it a de facto industry hangout. (278 Shawmut Ave., Boston)

The Carpet Burger at The Gallows. —Justin Saglio / The Boston Globe

16. Frenchie
Frenchie declares “In Vino Veritas” with a neon sign tacked to one of its white walls, and offers 31 wines by the glass. Grapes are clearly a focus, but so are the meals: Tartines and croques monsieurs are available for lunch, and French classics like beef bourguignon and coq au vin are served at night. The brunch menu drums up Nutella crepes and duck confit hash, best enjoyed on the Tremont Street patio. (560 Tremont St., Boston)

17. The Gallows
A wall decorated as a giant ouija board is an indicator of the irreverent, over-the-top approach The Gallows takes to gastropub fare. While you can secure some oyster hush puppies or a scotch egg, The Gallows has earned the most fame for its poutine (including a “world cup” option with daily-changing toppings) and flat-top style burgers that range from the “our way” with caramelized onions and American cheese to the ambitious “maverick” graced by pork belly, truffle aioli, and a sunny-side up egg. (1395 Washington St., Boston)

18. Gaslight Brasserie
Another gem in the Aquitaine Group’s crown, Gaslight serves similar bistro fare at a (slightly) more accessible price point in its Belle Époque dining room. It has a prix-fixe brunch comparable to Aquitaine, plus a three-course prix-fixe dinner priced at $29.99 between 5 and 6 p.m. each night. (560 Harrison Ave., Boston)

19. Kava Neo-Taverna
Dominated by a mural of a weather-beaten sailor and lit by bare bulbs hung from coiled rope, Kava Neo-Taverna channels the charm of a seaside tavern on a Greek island. Its menu is focused on mezedes (small plates) such as lamb meatballs, salted cod croquettes, and zucchini chips with tzatziki. Mains like grilled Mediterranean sea bass and a beef moussaka are on hand to shore up greater appetites. (315 Shawmut Ave., Boston)

A five-foot “Monstah” roll at Lobstah on a Roll. —Craig F. Walker / The Boston Globe

20. Lobstah on a Roll
Generously sized lobster rolls are the theme at this the-name-says-it-all Columbus Ave. spot, with crustacean sandwiches ranging from six-inch to footlong to the five-foot “Monstah” that must be ordered two days in advance. On the non-lobster front, there are classic sandwiches like hot pastrami and grilled shrimp po’boys. (537 Columbus Ave., Boston)

21. Metropolis
The ice cream parlor turned bistro that launched the Aquitaine Group has become something of a Tremont Street landmark. This restaurant’s central bar with swivel seats calls back to its humble past, and a menu of risottos and mains like fennel sausage rigatoni and stuffed rainbow trout locates it in the present. Fare like huevos rancheros and a hearty “triple deuce” (two pancakes, two eggs, two bacon strips) have made Metropolis an eternal brunch favorite. (584 Tremont St., Boston)

22. Mida
Featuring a slick space and a tightly focused menu, Mida brings a modern energy to Italian cooking. Taking inspiration from across the boot, the restaurants offers classics like arancini, bucatini all’amatriciana, and veal milanese. Lest you think Mida takes itself too seriously, it dishes out the most infamous of all Italian-American restaurant traditions: all-you-can-eat-pasta, with salad and bread, for $35 each Monday. (782 Tremont St., Boston)

Nasi goreng at Myers + Chang. —Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

23. Myers + Chang
Myers + Chang’s freewheeling take on Pan-Asian cuisine means it serves tea-smoke pork ribs next to Indonesian fried rice and pork chive dumplings alongside pig ear pad thai. The small-plate format encourages sharing, helping diners to make the most of the flavorful and wildly diverse influences. On Monday and Tuesday evenings, you can find three distinct “cheap date night” menus, which allow diners to share a variety of dishes for only $45. (1145 Washington St., Boston)

24. Orinoco
While this Venezuelan favorite now has outposts in Harvard Square and Brookline Village, its first home was in the South End. Inspired by the family-run eateries that dot Venezuela’s roadscape, Orinoco offers humble favorites like arepas and empanadas, plus pepitos (sandwiches on French bread) and a handful of mains like pabellón criollo (shredded beef, rice, black beans, plantains). No reservations are taken, so you’ll have to walk in and hope a few of its colorful mismatched chairs are available. (477 Shawmut Ave., Boston)

25. Picco
Picco’s outdoor seating on Tremont Street is the best advertisement for its pizza, which ranges from the traditional margherita to more original fare like the mushroom conserva with broccolini and lemon aioli. Pastas and tacos are also on hand to satisfy other appetites, and a dozen homemade ice creams fulfill dessert cravings. That said, a trip to the South End isn’t mandatory to experience Picco — daily delivery spans a radius stretching from Kenmore Square to the North End. (513 Tremont St., Boston)

26. South End Buttery
Neighborhood go-to the Buttery wears a few hats: The cafe side of the business dispenses lattes, sandwiches, and burgers, and the sit-down restaurant component offers comfort classics like chicken parmesan and lobster mac and cheese. A next-door market (and second cafe/market location on Clarendon Street) sells prepared entrees and salads. (312 Shawmut Ave., Boston; 314 Shawmut Ave., Boston; 37 Clarendon St., Boston)

A bright gnudi dish at SRV. —Gnudi

27. SRV
The meaning of the restaurant’s acronym — “Serene Republic of Venice” — makes more sense once you realize it’s a “bacaro,” or Venetian-style wine bar. Its menu is composed of cicchetti (small bites) like soft-boiled quail eggs and parmesan biscuits, plus small plates like grilled head-on shrimp. Entrees are made up exclusively of homemade pastas and decadent risottos. (569 Columbus Ave., Boston)

28. Stella
Since opening in 2005, Stella has dished out the quintessential Italian restaurant experience across from Blackstone Square. Anyone suffering from small-plate fatigue will gladden at those timeless words — “antipasti,” “pasti,” “carni” — and soon tuck into satisfying standards like beef carpaccio, pappardelle bolognese, and roasted chicken picatta. Items are reasonably priced, and a selection of grilled pizzas can make the experience even more affordable. (1525 Washington St., Boston)

29. Stephi’s on Tremont
Stephi’s on Tremont — a sister to Stephanie’s on Newbury and Stephi’s in Southie — serves a familiar mix of upscale comfort classics in a swanky dining room attached to a lively patio. Menu options like fried calamari, chicken pot pie, and lobster macaroni and cheese may not push the envelope, but they will satisfy. (571 Tremont St., Boston)

30. Toro
This tapas restaurant from Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer executes simple Spanish staples like tortilla Española and salt cod fritter flawlessly, and its more ambitious fare like foie gras a la plancha and roasted bone marrow continue to draw crowds. Those with larger appetites (and 30 minutes to spare) can splurge on one of the legendary paellas. (1704 Washington St., Boston)

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