12 stellar special-occasion restaurants in Boston

The all-out Italian feast at MIDA - South End comes from James Beard nominee Douglass Williams. | Credit: Emily Kan

As a city that’s played host to countless graduations, engagements, and everything in between, Boston is serious about its special occasions. Its flourishing restaurant scene includes celebration-worthy spots that serve over-the-top seafood platters, spectacular omakase lineups, and nonna-approved pasta platters. 

Whether you’re marking an intimate relationship milestone or throwing a banger of a birthday, this historic city’s got a celebration spot for you. Read on for a guide to 12 Boston restaurants, fully equipped for any festivity.

Grana at The Langham, Boston (Financial District)

Scoring a weekend brunch reservation at Grana is about as easy as finding a seat on a Green Line train at rush hour—but it’s well worth the wait, so plan ahead for your daytime celebration. The three-course extravaganza is as pretty as its surroundings: Grana is an Italian beauty in the grand hall of the former Federal Reserve Bank. Kick off with colorful small bites and vibrant cocktails like a chai espresso martini and lobster cannoli before making way for sweet and savory mains including banana bread French toast and a carbonara Benedict. Exquisite desserts from pastry chef Kerry Levesque are the ultimate icing on the cake.

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The Maharaja (Cambridge)

A lot has changed in Harvard Square over the years. But thankfully, not The Maharaja. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook bustling Cambridge, and it’s tradition for many families in the area to hit the weekend buffet to celebrate a special occasion—commencement, anyone? Whether you’re looking to please a vegan or impress a spice-lover, Maharaja’s north India-based menu, filled with tandoori specialities and a power-packed biryani selection, is a regal feast that will please any king or queen.

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Harvest (Cambridge)

A sunburst sculpture and fireplace at Harvest in Boston

Harvest’s inviting dining room has been a go-to for all sorts of celebrations since 1975. | Credit: Harvest

Bostonians know that Harvest is the place to toast wedding proposals, baby announcements, or a new job to celebrate. It’s been around since 1975, and the firepower of who’s been behind the stove—including Lydia Shire and Frank McClelland, among others—reads like a who’s who of Boston’s most talented chefs. These days, executive chef Nick Deutmeyer serves elegant American dishes worthy of a splurge, like lobster succotash spaghetti and pan-fried tilefish. In winter, a roaring fireplace warms up the dining room, while the covered patio protects diners from Boston’s unpredictable elements, ensuring you can celebrate year-round at this inviting city mainstay. 

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Sarma (Somerville)

Since 2013, acclaimed chef and co-owner Cassie Piuma has artfully executed small plates from an unassuming Somerville storefront. Once you’re inside Sarma, there’s an explosion of colors, ideal for dazzling celebration photos—snap away by the vibrant banquettes or the rainbow of ceramic plates on the wall. Moroccan, Lebanese, Turkish, and Iranian flavors all play together on an extensive small-plate menu that makes sharing bites stand out. Zucchini fritters with pomegranate and pistachios, dukkah-spiced shrimp, and lamb kofte sliders are among Piuma’s greatest hits.

o ya (Chinatown)

A white and purple plate with hamachi nigiri and spicy banana pepper mousse at o ya in Boston

o ya’s creative omakase menu could include dishes like hamachi nigiri with spicy banana pepper mousse. | Credit: Gentl and Hyers

o ya’s swoon-worthy omakase menu serves 20 courses of nigiri, sashimi, and small plates in an experience worth splurging for. This is not your traditional Japanese menu. Instead, you’ll find innovative dishes like Kumamoto oysters with watermelon pearls and cucumber mignonette; kinmedai (golden eye snapper) with ume, plum vinaigrette, and shiso; and hamachi with banana pepper mousse. The dimly lit space is small but refined—level up your marquee night out by booking a seat at the omakase counter to watch the magic unfold. For a more casual but equally special experience, opt for an evening at Hojoko, owners Tim and Nancy Cushman’s other beloved Boston restaurant.

Celeste (Somerville) 

Landing a table at Celeste is reason enough to celebrate. Just ask Esquire, which described the Union Square hideaway as an “intimate dinner party” on its 2022 list of the top new restaurants in America. But don’t be fooled by its compact interiors—the modern Peruvian spot is an expert when it comes to larger-than-life flavors. Your celebration should most definitely feature the spicy potato terrine, a dish that makes the most of Peru’s 2,400 spud varieties. Shareable plates include carapulcra, a traditional Incan stew made with potatoes, pork, peanuts, and chicken. Excellent vegetarian and gluten-free options, like Peruvian-Chinese style eggplant, showcase Peru’s staggering culinary range and promise there’s something for all kinds of eaters in your party. 

MIDA – South End (South End)

Nothing says celebration dinner quite like a hearty Italian meal, and you’ll find a knockout one at MIDA by James Beard-nominated chef Douglass Williams. His rustic-chic gem sits under one of Boston’s signature brownstones and is known for some of the city’s best pasta, including gnocchi either cacio e pepe-style or with tomato pesto, fresh basil, and Calabrian chile. For an intimate and more low-key celebration, go on Mangia Mondays when the restaurant offers an $80-for-two menu that includes five pastas, bread, and salad. 

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Bar Vlaha (Brookline)

Striped pillows, wooden furniture, and portraits of Greek women at Bar Vlaha in Boston

Bar Vlaha’s interiors were meant for laidback group gatherings and take cues from living rooms in traditional Greek villages. | Credit: Adam Detour

Bar Vlaha’s catalog of shareable Greek dishes runs deep, making it ideal for easygoing group gatherings. Spit-roasted meats like lamb and fish from chef Brendan Pelley’s open-flame kitchen are ideal for sharing, as are savory pies filled with wild-foraged mushroom, seasonal greens, or feta cheese. The venue is known for its taverna-style bar, but head to the main dining room—which takes design cues from living rooms in traditional Greek villages—if you’re here with a larger party. Bar Vlaha’s extensive wine list features all Greek varietals, including lesser-known pinks and oranges, and most are available both by the glass and by the bottle for those extra-festive nights.

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Little Whale (Back Bay)

Oysters on ice at Little Whale in Boston

Little Whale is known for excellent local seafood and serves a family-style clambake. | Credit: Little Whale

Clambakes are practically a rite of passage in New England, and Little Whale is the site of an especially celebratory one. The restaurant is best known for top-notch local littlenecks and Maine lobster, but chef-owner Michael Serpa also serves steamed seafood family-style for parties of eight to 12 (which must be ordered a week in advance). Besides a whole lobster, each diner gets generous servings of chowder, corn, potatoes, clams, and linguiça (a spicy Portuguese sausage). To really live it up, add on the raw bar supplement.    

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Smith & Wollensky Boston – Atlantic Wharf (Seaport)

Decadent dishes, Instagram cred, and a breathtaking backdrop—this NYC-born steakhouse pulls out all the stops for special-occasion meals. Book a table by one of its floor-to-ceiling windows for unbeatable Fort Point Channel views. For a little tableside magic, order the coffee- and cocoa-rubbed New York strip steak, presented under a glass lid and piped with smoke. Smith & Wollensky’s world-class mains pair well with killer sides like crunchy hasselback potatoes topped with crispy prosciutto and gremolata. And no birthday celebration here is complete without a slice of the steakhouse’s legendary coconut creme cake. 

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Silver Dove (Faneuil Hall)

A hand reaches for a blue macaron on a table filled with pastries at Silver Dove in Boston.

Silver Dove’s macarons and pastries make it one of the most sought-after high tea spots in Boston. | Credit: Silver Dove

Boston and tea go way back, so it’s only fitting that the city has an iconic pinkies-up celebration spot. Canapes, macarons, and pots of Darjeeling and sencha are paired with a plush Art Deco-inspired setting at Silver Dove. Tea is the main event here, but there are also toast-worthy cocktails from co-owners (and Drink alums) Patrick Brewster and Lee Morgan. Consider capping off teatime with the Parakeet (jalapeño tequila, passionfruit, lime, and basil) or a Broken Record (mezcal, pastis, lime, and mint) to dial up the party vibes on your afternoon. Reserve one of Silver Dove’s sought-after emerald banquettes well ahead of holidays like Mother’s Day, when it’s especially popular.

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Yvonne’s (Downtown)

Chandeliers and yellow banquettes at Yvonne’s in Boston

The chandeliered setting at Yvonne’s makes the modern-day supper club a popular choice for birthday parties. | Credit: Richard Cadan

This modern-day supper club screams “birthday party.” For starters, it was one of Boston’s first spots to debut large-format cocktails when it opened in 2015. Its chandeliered subterranean setting, lined with marble and mahogany accents, is one of the city’s sexiest. Add an eclectic global small plates selection—which includes favorites like stone-fired pitas with Kashmiri mozzarella and fried cauliflower, Thai octopus in coconut sauce, and cinnamon babka bites with chocolate dipping sauce—and you’ve got a winning formula for an epic night out. 

Carley Thornell-Wade is a Boston-based food, travel, and technology writer who’s been to more than 70 countries and delighted in tasting the regional delicacies of each.

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