In the Where to Eat: 25 Best series, we’re highlighting our favorite restaurants in cities across the United States. These lists will be updated as restaurants close and open, and as we find new gems to recommend. As always, we pay for all of our meals and don’t accept free items.

Porter Square | Bagels

Bostonians don’t need more guff from New Yorkers, and they certainly don’t want to hear any food bragging, which seems likely to devolve into vulgarities. When it comes to bagels, Boston can’t claim ownership of a style, though Bagelsaurus wouldn’t be a bad example for others in the city to emulate. Using a sourdough starter that’s four decades old, Bagelsaurus’s bagels aren’t as dense as New York or Montreal versions. Fresh from the oven, they bear a chewy and crackly crust with an airy, open interior, like a warm circular baguette. It turns out that this lighter texture makes adding cold-smoked salmon, dill and cream cheese a much more pleasurable sandwich experience. What’s more, a Bagelsaurus bagel sitting out for a few hours doesn’t harden into an object capable of blunt-force trauma. KEVIN PANG

1796 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge; 857-285-6103; bagelsaurus.com

Dorchester | Vietnamese, Sandwiches

“Fast food” isn’t necessarily pejorative. At Bánh Mì Ba Lẹ, the sheer quantity of Vietnamese groceries, pastries, dessert drinks, noodle salads and hot prepared foods is an overwhelming sight. (With many, just pop the plastic lid and start consuming — it’s that fast.) But there’s a reason the bánh mì is its namesake sandwich. The speed with which they are made belies their refinement. What makes Ba Lẹ’s version especially memorable are the house-baked rolls, with a shatteringly crisp crust and a soft, open interior. When you bite into a freshly made bánh mì here, be prepared for a shrapnel of crumbs exploding in every direction, giving way to tender pork cold cuts, smooth livery pâté and crunchy matchsticks of pickled daikon and carrots. Even better than the flagship đặc biệt sandwich is the barbecue beef bánh mì, its grilled meat bearing the sweetest char you’ll encounter. KEVIN PANG

1052 Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester; 617-265-7171; balebanhmiboston.com

Brookline | Greek

Just as you wouldn’t find spaghetti alla puttanesca in Venice, there’s no trace of octopus, branzino or horiatiki on the Greek menu at Bar Vlaha. The restaurant tells the story of the Vlachophone Greeks, historically shepherds from the mountains of northern and central Greece. Unlike their coastal counterparts, the Vlachs foraged mushrooms and snails from forests, caught eels from streams and trout from freshwater lakes. This is Greek cooking with more rustic intentions, with red wine, beef cheeks and prunes marrying for hours inside clay pots. Undeniably, Bar Vlaha’s flavors are of Greek provenance — the spit-roasted leg of lamb is redolent of oregano, rosemary and char — but even familiar sauces get Vlachian touches; the tzatziki, for example, is sweetened with honey. KEVIN PANG

1653 Beacon Street, Brookline; 617-906-8556; barvlaha.com

Winthrop | Seafood

Don’t let anyone tell you being a fry cook isn’t a noble calling. Especially when frying seafood, where the margin between perfectly done and overcooked is measured in seconds. Belle Isle Seafood — essentially a waterfront warehouse with views of arriving flights at Logan International Airport — has clearly battered and deep-fried many tons of haddock, scallops and onion rings. A plate of fried pick-your-protein will arrive oversized, with an ideal combination of nongreasy and satisfyingly crisp. For the fried-averse, the lobster pie is fabulous but hardly more calorically advisable: a half-pound of lobster meat topped with breadcrumbs and butter and baked until golden, a direct line to the pleasure centers of the brain. KEVIN PANG

1 Main Street, Winthrop; 617-567-1619; belleisleseafood.net

They say that first, you eat with your eyes. Even before a single dish hits the table at Celeste, the surrounding visuals prime you with expectations. The clean lines of the furniture, the room lit in cobalt blue and the restaurant’s neon sign all make you feel you’re at a modern art exhibition doubling as a Peruvian restaurant. Then the ceviche arrives in an arrangement that looks architecturally engineered. It’s a gorgeous pavilion of red onions, orange sweet potatoes, blue cod, squid and shrimp, with smooth and crunchy corn kernels scattered through. Then you taste it. Lesser ceviches elsewhere are made ahead for expediency, turning the fish mealy; the cooks here add the lime juice marinade one minute before it’s served. I could go on (I’ve never had a lomo saltado that allowed me to request the doneness of the beef), but you should just visit, with open eyes. KEVIN PANG

21 Bow Street, Somerville, 617-616-5319; celesteunionsquare.com

Dorchester | African Diaspora

Is this dish Indian? Jamaican? Senegalese? At Comfort Kitchen, those questions are the whole point. Here, the owners Biplaw Rai, who is from Nepal, and Kwasi Kwaa, from Ghana, want to illustrate just how connected food traditions are, through ingredients that have traveled across continents, either through forced migration or trade routes. Duck is dusted with jerk seasoning, served alongside Jamaican rice and peas and served with pikliz, a pickled vegetable condiment from Haiti. Okra is seared in brown butter, topped with fried plantain crumbs and served with yogurt seasoned with garam masala from Mr. Rai’s mother. Despite all this zigzagging through countries and flavors, each dish still manages to feel coherent and captivating — like a story unfolding in several parts. PRIYA KRISHNA

611 Columbia Road, Dorchester; 617-329-6910; comfortkitchenbos.com

Brookline Village | Sandwiches

Most sandwiches fall into that midzone of expectations, somewhere between acceptable and halfway decent. To stumble upon a spectacular sandwich is rare, which makes Cutty’s a unicorn. Since 2010, the wife-and-husband team Rachel and Charles Kelsey have engineered sandwiches with a rigor befitting their fine-dining pedigree. They understand that different proteins require different breads, toasted to a specific crispness; a plush brioche is best for roast beef with crispy shallots and Thousand Island, while ciabatta can withstand crisp bacon and sautéed Swiss chard. The Kelseys’ sandwich meditations yield bliss in unexpected places: If the idea of a broccoli rabe sandwich sounds dreadful, allow Cutty’s magnificent rendition — with sweet tomato jam, provolone, and mozzarella on a griddled sesame torta — to prove you dead wrong. KEVIN PANG

284 Washington Street, Brookline; 617-505-1844; cuttyfoods.com

Union Square |New American

Tucked down an alley, Field & Vine reveals itself as a restaurant in an industrial space slowly being reclaimed by nature. Wisteria and grapevines twist into a sculptural bramble that hangs overhead, as if about to swallow the exposed ductwork, and everywhere there is greenery and candlelight. If Sara Markey and Andrew Brady’s restaurant were simply pretty, that’d be enough reason to come sip some wine at the bar. But there are unexpected moments of inventiveness on the menu: a tuna crudo pounded into a 12-inch LP with candied pistachios and rhubarb vinaigrette, or potatoes deep-fried into a hash-brown brick topped with house-smoked mackerel and garlic spread. To further the enchanted woodland theme, a hearth is put to fine use, crisping duck legs and charring cabbage. KEVIN PANG

9 Sanborn Court, Somerville; 617-718-2333; fieldandvinesomerville.com

Porter Square | Italian

Certain restaurants become forever linked with hallmark dishes, like the baked alaska at Oleana or the cannoli at Mike’s Pastry. Giulia, known for its exceptional handmade pastas, can claim four dishes beloved by the Boston dining cognoscenti: the wild boar pappardelle, bucatini all’amatriciana, warm semolina cakes and pistachio gelato. There’s something reassuring about walking into this restaurant with total confidence that all four are fully realized compositions, their deliciousness not up for debate. And that’s no slight to the newer dishes rotated onto the menu by the chef, Michael Pagliarini (he and his wife, Pamela Ralston, are co-owners). But those classics embody the simple, sophisticated cooking that has endeared Giulia to the Cambridge community; you will almost wish you lived within walking distance. KEVIN PANG

1682 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge; 617-441-2800; giuliarestaurant.com

What makes Thai cooking alluring is that its sweet-sour-salty-spicy elements are so often pushed thrillingly up the dial. When those assertive flavors are parceled out onto small plates and spread over many courses — as they are at Mahaniyom — a meal turns Technicolor. Dining at this Thai tapas bar sets off many sensory pleasures, from the velvety fieriness in a crab red curry to fried chicken skins that crackle mightily. You taste these dishes in cramped seating arrangements over loud conversations in a dim space that rattles with kinetic energy. Chompon Boonnak and Smuch Saikamthorn, childhood friends turned restaurant owners, have even captured that spirit in their beverage program: The rye whiskey is steeped with Thai tea leaves, then used in a Sazerac. KEVIN PANG

236 Washington Street, Brookline; 617-487-5986; mahaniyomboston.com

Back Bay | Tasting Menu

How many tasting-menu restaurants would serve a straight-up grilled cheese sandwich? Mooncusser does, and it’s playful, unexpected moves like this that make its multicourse dinners far less daunting. In the three years since Carl Dooley took over as chef, the menu has evolved from a focus on seafood to global eclecticism. Successive courses might travel the world, from a dish evoking Texas (a marinated red snapper with smoked pecan tasting like barbecued crudo) to an Ethiopian preparation (snails and injera with green cardamom koch-kocha sauce), to a Korean American grilled cheese. That mini-sandwich — with kimchi and a dough hydrated with butternut squash juice — turns an afterthought like the bread course into something top-of-mind and sensational. KEVIN PANG

304 Stuart Street, Boston; 617-917-5193; mooncusserboston.com

Quincy | Cantonese, Dim Sum

A rule of thumb for dim sum restaurants: Bigger is often better. For in-the-know customers, crowds waiting for tables in a large banquet hall is a validating sight, and an expansive menu demonstrates a kitchen’s confidence. Ming Seafood Restaurant is big in all those ways. It does the basics well — juicy shumai, beef ho fun noodles with the requisite char. But then there’s a section called “fusion dim sum,” and here’s where things get interesting. You could order a sampler of nine pieces from the fusion menu that arrive in a partitioned wood box. There’s a shrimp-truffle dumpling in a cuttlefish ink wrapper. There’s mango pudding set in a rubber-ducky mold and a durian pastry shaped like a swan. A bit wacky? Sure. But a little whimsy is welcome if you can nail the fundamentals. KEVIN PANG

477 Hancock Street, Quincy; 617-202-5118; ming.bz

North End | Seafood

After 18 years in the North End, Neptune is as much a part of Boston as tour guides in tricorn hats and “Go, Sawx!” You will wait, often more than an hour, but once you are ensconced in a banquette, or better yet at the bar, you will savor the perch. Neptune is among the highest versions of the oyster-bar form — pressed-tin ceilings, a marble bar, iced beds of bivalves and crab claws — but it is also more. Dishes like cuttle-ink risotto with generous chunks of lobster, and Nantucket Bay scallop crudo with Persian cucumbers lift the menu above the merely canonical. There’s a lobster roll, of course, but you didn’t wait all that time for a lobster roll. Or maybe you did. BRIAN GALLAGHER

63 Salem Street No. 1, Boston; 617-742-3474; neptuneoyster.com

Lynn | French Vietnamese

As restaurants began digging out of financial holes after the pandemic, many opted to serve more accessible dishes, with artistry taking a back seat. Five years ago Nightshade Noodle bar opened on the North Shore, with half the menu features noodles of some kind. But post-lockdown, the chef Rachel Miller zigged when most others zagged: She guessed that guests yearning for adventurous cooking would be receptive to a French-Vietnamese-Southern tasting menu. Her gamble paid off, both in popularity and culinary ambition. Over nine, 14 or 21 courses, you might encounter foie gras glazed with fish-sauce caramel sitting atop coconut sticky rice (a Vietnamese nigiri), or a wondrous grilled cardinal prawn, the size of an outstretched palm, doused with a Viet-Cajun butter of garlic and lemongrass. KEVIN PANG

73 Exchange Street, Lynn; 781-780-9470; nightshadenoodlebar.com

When Tim and Nancy Cushman opened O Ya 17 years ago, the idea of introducing ceviche marinades or Vietnamese caramel into Edomae sushi was provocative. But O Ya’s staying power shows that inventive spirit paid off. Like all great omakases, a night at O Ya is more than the sum of its parts: It’s the crescendos and countermelodies that weave between courses. Unexpected treatments of nigiri (a Georgian sauce of apricots and walnuts on bluefin maguro) give way to lighter sashimi. The meal progresses to richer bites like fatty chutoro with green onions and wasabi oil, before ending on a one-two punch of grilled A5 Wagyu, then foie gras lacquered with chocolate balsamic. It remains a thrilling ride. KEVIN PANG

9 East Street, Boston; 617-654-9900; o-ya.restaurant

Central Square | New American

Years ago, Pammy’s received plenty of good press for adding the Korean fermented chile paste gochujang to its Bolognese. It’s delicious, to be sure, but that pasta’s success was also a curse — Pammy’s was misinterpreted as the funky Italian spot between Harvard and Central Squares. But Pammy’s is no one-hit wonder. Here’s a restaurant where a starter plate is bread baked with flour milled in the kitchen each morning. There’s a buttery skate wing glazed with Japanese tonkatsu sauce, and a take on shrimp-and-grits with cardinal prawns and chile crisp. That’s not to say the owners, Pam and Chris Willis, hide their pasta acumen. The standout dish is a luscious, smoky pasta that’s equal parts braised tripe and wavy mafaldine noodles, an incomparable bowl of squiggly goodness. KEVIN PANG

928 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge; 617-945-1761; pammyscambridge.com

Fort Point and other locations | Seafood

Chuck an oyster shell in any direction in Boston and you’ll hit a seafood restaurant, from blue-collar fry houses to multistory harborfront properties. Row 34 (with four locations across Massachusetts and New Hampshire) serves the requisite clam chowder, halibut and calamari, but it takes a few extra steps in advancing the genre. It smokes, cures and pâtés a variety of seafoods, it makes saltine crackers in-house, and lobsters — caught by the chef Jeremy Sewall’s cousin and his son — land on plates within 48 hours of leaving the ocean. The resulting lobster rolls cost more here than at other restaurants, but they are superlative. KEVIN PANG

383 Congress Street (original Fort Point location), Boston; 617-553-5900; row34.com

Winter Hill | Mediterranean, Global

Fusion has become a pejorative term, evoking passé ideas like Southwestern egg rolls. If you’d like to label the chef Cassie Piuma’s cooking as Mediterranean fusion, fine, but it sells short how well her cross-cultural mash-up at Sarma often works. The through line of the vast, small-plates menu is Eastern Mediterranean, but it might wander off to the American South in a custardy jalapeño cornbread with feta, or to Quebec in a poutine of porcini gravy, fried halloumi curds and celery-root fries. In Ms. Piuma’s techniques there’s a respectful nod to tradition, but she’s also unafraid to break a few rules, all in service of making the dish work. If you can make juicy nuggets of fried chicken with a crispy coating reminiscent of falafel, why not? KEVIN PANG

249 Pearl Street, Somerville; 617-764-4464; sarmarestaurant.com

Cambridge | Turkish, Lebanese and Greek

Come early and order everything. That’s the appropriate way to experience Sofra, whose menu tours Turkey, Lebanon and Greece, and whose flavor combinations are singular. Here you’ll find excellent versions of classic meze like baba ghanouj and muhammara. But pay close attention to the pastries, overseen by Maura Kilpatrick. Doughnuts come filled with a tahini sour-cream custard and brown butter; cinnamon rolls are sweetened with dates and slathered in cream cheese. Nothing is cloying, and the chef Ana Sortun and her team put the utmost care into perfecting each element, down to the freshly milled grains. PRIYA KRISHNA

1 Belmont Street, Cambridge, 617-661-3161; sofrabakery.com

Kendall Square | Hunanese

Sumiao Chen had a midcareer epiphany that a life in pharmaceuticals wasn’t right for her. Longing for the food of her childhood in Hunan, China, Ms. Chen opened her namesake restaurant in 2017 near the M.I.T. campus, one that resembles no other Chinese spot around town. From the outside looking in, you might think a place with this vibey coastal aesthetic would serve crab cakes and flatbread, but the restaurant’s adherence to traditional Hunanese cooking is without compromise. When a dish is noted as spicy, you’d better believe it — even a salad as innocuous-sounding as green pepper and century egg sneaks up quickly. Those unaccustomed to the slippery texture of fat might flinch at the sheer amount in the red-braised pork belly, but this classic sweet-savory dish of Hunan warms and satisfies like few others. KEVIN PANG

270 Third Street, Cambridge; 617-945-0907; sumiaohunan.com

Union Square | Vietnamese

There are several remarkable things about the Eaves, beginning with the location. Shoehorned inside a 550-square-foot storage closet at Bow Market, the space was seductively transformed by the owners, Vincenzo Le and Duong Huynh. More noteworthy is that in less than a year since opening, the Eaves has demonstrated how Vietnamese cooking in America can evolve beyond the realm of phở and bún bò huế. Mr. Le and Ms. Huynh, who are married, belong to a new generation of Vietnamese restaurateurs, young and hungry, presenting dishes and cocktails faithful to their culinary heritage at prices you’d find on a farm-to-table menu. They pull it off splendidly in offerings like chả cá lã Vọng — typically cooked with catfish in its native Hanoi and reimagined in New England with monkfish — fried crisp with turmeric and served atop vermicelli and cashews. KEVIN PANG

1 Bow Market Way, Somerville; 617-996-6954; instagram.com/midnight_eaves

Jamaica Plain | Italian

Unlike many other Boston neighborhoods, Jamaica Plain (locals call it J.P.) is home to few Italian restaurants. Tonino fills that void with aplomb; the 28-seater is the embodiment of somebody’s favorite cute neighborhood spot. The pasta- and pizza-focused menu put together by the chef and owner, Luke Fetbroth, is taut and efficient. His best trait seems to be taking a handful of ingredients and doing as little to them as possible. The maitake and oyster-mushroom lumache is simple and flawless, its creaminess coming from roasted garlic crème fraîche. Then there’s toasted cubes of housemade bread, each smeared with a borderline inappropriate amount of butter and draped with a single length of anchovy. It is a salty, buttery, perfect one-biter. KEVIN PANG

669A Centre Street, Jamaica Plain; 617-524-9217; toninojp.com

South End | Spanish

The Ken Oringer restaurant universe stretches from Japanese to Italian to wine bars, but his South End tapas joint Toro — 20 years on — may be the most beloved. Perhaps it’s because the small portions of Spanish tapas can afford punchier treatments and bolder flavors: A pressed sandwich of miso butter and uni achieves peak crunch and umami. The executive chef, Darrell Boles, is a faithful steward of the Toro name, his kitchen putting out consistently superb roasted bone marrow and formidable platters of paella. These are dishes that never fail to receive envious stares from guests at nearby tables. KEVIN PANG

1704 Washington Street, Boston; 617-536-4300; toro-restaurant.com

Dorchester | Roman

All Italian-born chefs will claim culinary superiority for their home regions; Stefano Quaresima seems impassioned to make the case for Lazio. Named for the street where he grew up, Via Cannuccia might be the closest Boston gets to a true Roman trattoria. The lengths to which Mr. Quaresima goes to showcase his corner of Italy are impressive: His team prepares cream buns and bombolini doughnuts for brunch, rolls out pasta and pizza doughs, and finds time to roast porchetta and bake sourdough. Lesser chefs might just use quartered chicken for pollo alla Romana. Mr. Quaresima’s version, though, involves a chicken ballotine, deboned and sausage-stuffed, then cooked sous vide for 18 hours. His treatment of cacio e pepe, the quintessential Roman pasta, teases out supreme creaminess and nuttiness from just four ingredients. KEVIN PANG

1739 Dorchester Avenue, Boston; 617-506-1877; viacannuccia.com

Porter Square, Seaport | Udon

Yume Ga Arukara makes just one thing and makes it well: udon, the thick Japanese wheat flour noodles. They’re extruded from the stainless steel machine in beautiful floured strands, and emerge smooth and slippery once boiled, with the barest suggestion of a chew. The purest expression of udon is in a dashi broth — here, your choices are hot or cold, spicy or not, each accompanied by fatty beef slices, scallions and crisp tempura bits. Take your pick, you can’t choose wrong. While its original location occupies a cramped and perpetually busy space inside a student center at the Lesley University Porter Square Campus, the new Seaport shop is a sit-down restaurant with a larger kitchen, which in time will offer a larger menu. KEVIN PANG

1815 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge; 70 Pier 4 Boulevard, Suite 260, Boston; yumegaarukara.com





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