Old guards staging comebacks; newer arrivals championing underrepresented flavors: Boston is no stranger to ambitious chefs setting up shops, and many next-level restaurant openings made it an especially exciting food city in 2023.
From a New York Times-recognized Dorchester star that serves food from the African diaspora to a soulful Greek spot in Brookline by a James Beard Award-winning team, these standout restaurants prove that the competition is as fierce—and delicious—as ever in Boston. Read on for a guide to the city’s best restaurant debuts of 2023.
Eastern Standard (Fenway-Kenmore)
After a three-year hiatus, James Beard Award-nominated restaurateur Garrett Harker and co. launched a rebooted version of their beloved French-American brasserie in a swanky new spot in October. The menu carries over nostalgic hits like salt cod fritters, skinny French fries, and butterscotch bread pudding, and the marble-clad dining room channels a timeless aesthetic. What’s brand-new is the neighboring Art Deco-inspired cocktail bar, Equal Measure (owned by the same team), which diners can get to from Eastern Standard itself. Most prime-time reservations for October were snapped up just days after the restaurant reopened, underscoring its undeniable local-favorite status.
Bar Vlaha (Brookline)
Bar Vlaha is led by the James Beard Award-winning team behind Mediterranean wine bar Krasi and all about lesser-seen Greek specialities. Its name is an ode to northern Greece’s nomadic Vlach community, which explains its earthy menu, heavy on grilled lamb, goat and sheep milk cheeses, plus a deep wine list featuring many Greek imports. Boston magazine dubbed Vlaha “Brookline’s hottest restaurant” just a few months after it opened its doors in March, and the restaurant’s super niche approach continues to earn it local cred. Bar Vlaha is now also open for brunch and draws weekend crowds for comforting, mountain-inspired food like lamb souvla with fried eggs and pork and fennel sausage in puff pastry.
Comfort Kitchen (Dorchester)
Comfort Kitchen was one of Boston’s first—and hottest—new openings of 2023, confirmed by its place on The New York Times’s annual best restaurant list and recent Boston magazine award. The cafe-restaurant stands out for its eclectic African diaspora-inspired menu—the jerk-roasted duck leg with rice and Haitian pickled vegetable relish and yassa chicken with cassava dumplings are must-orders. Owners Biplaw Rai and Kwasi Kwaa, who come from Nepal and Ghana respectively, are determined to show that food is the ultimate connector, and that global, noble mission makes Comfort Kitchen one of the most sought-after reservations in the city right now.
Silver Dove Afternoon Tea (Faneuil Hall)
Boston’s chicest new tearoom launched in early March and comes from Drink alums Patrick Brewster and Lee Morgan. Its intricately decorated storefront stands out in Faneuil Hall—but rest assured, it’s not just for tourists, judging from some recent Boston Globe love. Silver Dove is locally adored for its fit-for-a-king coronation chicken, cucumber sandwiches, and 30 kinds of loose-leaf tea, which include rare blends from Kyoto and London. Add luscious interiors, made up of brocade wallpaper, rich emerald fabrics, and gold accents for days, and you’ve got one of the most regal escapes in town.
Marseille (South End)
This brasserie landed in the former Gaslight Brasserie du Coin (RIP) space in April and traded its predecessor’s red curtains and dark interiors for an airier, minimalist vibe. Marseille is also responsible for revitalizing Harrison Avenue’s otherwise sleepy dining scene. The sexy new addition was dreamt up by Loic Le Garrec of Petit Robert Bistro and Batifol fame and aces the French seafood test via its namesake city’s most famous dish, bouillabaisse. Not to mention over-the-top pastis cocktails and luxe add-ons like caviar.
Row 34 (Cambridge)
The third edition of one of Boston’s best seafood spots opened its Cambridge location in April, bringing pitch-perfect New England classics to a sprawling bi-level space in Kendall Square. Row 34 is led by renowned chef Jeremy Sewall, who is on a quest to serve regional delicacies that haven’t received much attention, like monkfish and jonah crab. The restaurant is one of the neighborhood’s most high-profile spots, turning heads for its roomy outdoor patio and gorgeous aquatic art installations by award-winning muralist Silvia Lopez Chavez.
Taking over one of Boston’s most storied restaurant spaces—one that belonged to chef Todd English’s Mediterranean icon, Olives—is no easy feat. But this glamorous Italian steakhouse stepped up to the challenge. Prima is a velvety, sceney celebration spot and has been perpetually packed since it opened in June. Though the group behind it is best known for neighborhood gems like Waverly Kitchen and Bar and Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant, it stepped away from its comfort zone for this see-and-be-seen restaurant where highlights include a mozzarella bar and parchment paper-wrapped hake with shrimps and clams.
This kosher tavern and house of learning (Lehrhaus regularly offers classes on topics like Judeo-Arabic literature and Jewish history in the Roman era) is all about food from the Jewish diaspora, spotlighting countries like Mexico, Yemen, and Ethiopia. Lehrhaus was co-founded by rabbi Charlie Schwartz and journalist Joshua Foer who brought their unique vision to a homey, book-lined space in April. Chefs Noah Clickstein and Alex Artinian crank out a punchy globally inspired menu that includes herring tartine with labneh and lentil-stuffed delicata squash, plus inventive cocktails by star bartender Naomi Levy. It adds up to a first-of-its-kind gathering place that’s already grabbed the attention of celebs including The Office star B.J. Novak, who had dinner with his family here soon after it opened.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.
Valerie Li Stack is a Somerville-based writer and editor who’s passionate about all things food, drink, travel, and culture. Find her on Instagram.