KEY TO TYPICAL ENTREE PRICES
$ — $10 OR LESS
$$ — $11 TO $15
$$$ — $16 TO $25
$$$$ — $26 AND UP
Liquid Art House / $$$$ The restaurant-cum-contemporary art gallery, which opened three years ago in the former Boston Consolidated Gas Co. building in Park Square, has a cosmopolitan vibe. It’s popular with a casually dressed, youthful clientele looking to nosh on sriracha wings and a burger. The more intimate dining room attracts business types, Back Bay and South End neighbors, and well-heeled foodies. There’s not a clunker on the menu. Dishes you might consider include rabbit fettuccine, momos, halibut, and New York strip steak. 100 Arlington Street, Boston 617-457-8130, liquidarthouse.com — Mat Schaffer
Porto / $$$$ From local luminary Jody Adams and the team behind Trade, Porto brings Mediterranean meze to one of the city’s highest-rent districts. Inventive cocktails, fish, and pasta dishes stand out in this pristine, fully imagined space in the shadow of the Pru in the Back Bay. Ring Road, Boston, 617-536-1234, porto-boston.com — Nestor Ramos
Terra / $$$$ Mario Batali’s spirit is everywhere at Terra, the restaurant on the third floor of Eataly, the culinary megastore in which the high-profile chef is a partner. Its energy is fueled by a potent Negroni of celebrity, concept, and location in equal measure. It is one of the few places in town where getting a midweek, midsummer reservation can require a bit of forethought. But get one. There is plenty to snack on at Terra: bruschetta, little toasts topped with dreamy, creamy burrata; skewers of mushrooms, pork shoulder, shrimp; rice croquettes; rabbit agnolotti. There are large plates for sharing — a dry-aged porterhouse for two. 800 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-807-7307, terra.eataly.com — Devra First
Bambara / $$$$ It may be located in the Hotel Marlowe, but Bambara serves anything but safe or standard hotel fare. Whether it’s with a platter of house-made charcuterie, a bowl of sunchokes in buttermilk, or a plain old hamburger, chef David Bazirgan — a veteran of No. 9 Park and a decade in San Francisco — demonstrates again and again the steadiest, most creative hand. 25 Edwin H. Land Boulevard, Cambridge, 617-868-4444, bambara-cambridge.com — Ted Weesner
Benedetto/ Cambridge/ $$$$ Chef-owner Michael Pagliarini takes the concept behind Giulia, just up the road, to a bigger stage: Rialto’s old space at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. The transition mostly works on the strength of expertly prepared pastas, a strong beverage program, and talented pastry chef Renae Connolly’s creations. Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett Street, Cambridge, 617-661-5050, benedettocambridge.com — Nestor Ramos
Les Sablons / $$$$ It’s sort of irresistible, when a new restaurant opens in Cambridge, to play the “Is this where Julia Child would eat now?” game. Les Sablons is where Julia Child would eat now. The two-level Harvard Square restaurant is the latest project from the team behind places like Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar. The first floor is more low-key; upstairs is where you head to course it out. Smaller plates outshine the large here. Recent standout dishes included spring vegetable crudite, white asparagus a la plancha, sweetbread vol-au-vent (it’s an ask on the part of the chef — order offal! — but couched in the comfort of what’s basically the best pot pie you’ll ever have), striped bass with tomatoes, olives, and saffron. 2 Bennett Street, Cambridge, 617-268-6800, lscambridge.com — D.F.
Mu Lan / $$ When Mu Lan closed in 2014 after a fire, the owners and customers were devastated. It’s back now and bigger than before, expanding into adjacent space with an estimated 100 seats, which are often filled. If you were a fan of Mu Lan’s previous incarnation, you won’t be disappointed by the food, like the handmade pork and leek dumplings or sweet and salty charred stir-fried string beans. To discover some of the best dishes, like a delicate fish soup that contains a Chinese-style kimchi (less fiery, less funky), you have to decode a short menu written in Chinese characters. If you can’t read Chinese symbols, another tactic is to go to the website and note the dishes that fall under the “traditional menu.” Other suggested dishes include braised pork shin in brown sauce and fish soup. 228 Broadway, Cambridge, 617-441-8812, mulantaiwan.com — Catherine Smart
Roxy’s Central & A4cade / $ You may have to wait in line to get into this Central Square restaurant/video game arcade, but it’s worth it: Enjoy delicious cocktails served in unserious, ’80s-inspired vessels and tasty sandwiches, burgers, and dogs, all served among the happy chaos of full-grown adults playing pinball and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video games. 292 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-714-3960, roxysgrilledcheese.com or areafour.com — C.S.
Gourmet Dumpling House / $$ There is a reason tourists and locals alike line up for soup dumplings and regional specialties at this cramped Chinatown institution: The food is expertly prepared and hits the table fast. You could spend dozens of inexpensive dinners working your way through the expansive menu of favorite Northern and Southern Chinese dishes. 52 Beach Street, Boston, 617-338-6223 — C.S.
Restaurante Cesaria / $$ If you’ve never tasted the rich, comforting food of Cape Verde, an archipelago off the coast of West Africa, it’s time to visit Restaurante Cesaria, which celebrated its 15th year in business this summer. Those unfamiliar with the cuisine may find the flavors reminiscent of eating in New Orleans, mixed with popular Portuguese spots here in New England. Start with polvo grelhado, a grilled octopus salad with tender, charred bits of octopus over a zesty mixture of chopped onion, bell pepper, tomato, and parsley in a lemony olive oil dressing. For an entree, steak tips Mocambique are a feast, with hunks of steak, mussels, and shrimp served with fried potato rounds in a garlicky white wine sauce. 266 Bowdoin Street, Dorchester, 617-282-1998, restaurantcesaria.com — C.S.
Ruka / $$$ This restaurant in the Godfrey Hotel in Downtown Crossing is the latest from the team behind Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar and Yvonne’s. The kitchen specializes in Nikkei cuisine, a seafood-centric fusion of Japanese and Peruvian ingredients, techniques, and aesthetics. Try the crunchy salmon tacos, spicy tuna maki, and octopus lomo saltado. 505 Washington Street, Boston, 617-266-0102, rukarestobar.com — M.S.
FENWAY / KENMORE SQUARE
PhoCountryside / $$ This Quincy favorite for Vietnamese food brings a second location to Kenmore Square. The sparkling subterranean restaurant serves food filled with fresh flavors — think big bowls of vermicelli, lots of lemongrass, and kicking lobsters on display in their tank. Bonus points for friendly service and a beer, wine, and cordials license. 468 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 857-990-3679, phocountrysidema.com — C.S.
Brassica Kitchen & Cafe / $$ You could be stepping into an electric Jamaica Plain house party were it not for the stream of genre-defying food and drink passing on all sides. Liver mousse with cabbage and duck honey, yams with spicy milk jam, a Bolognese possibly conceived in a mad gourmand’s laboratory — experimentation and generosity abound at this restaurant from the folks who for years brought you the Whisk pop-ups. 3710 Washington Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-477-4519, brassicakitchen.com — T.W.
NORTH OF THE CITY
Golden Garden / $$ Discover Dongbei cuisine from northeast China at this Malden spot. The wonderfully comforting, soupy, and savory sour cabbage with steamed bacon is reminiscent of German food. Dongbei cuisine is generous with the vinegar and pork and judicious with the chilies, though at Golden Garden they sometimes break this rule. One example: sauteed shredded potato in spicy sauce. Another dish worth trying: sauteed pork with tossed mung noodle in brown sauce. Dumplings are another place the kitchen shines. 9 Highland Avenue, Malden, 781-322-3708, goldengardenmalden.com — C.S.
The Local Kitchen & Drinks / $$$ At the newest location of the Local Kitchen & Drinks, in Woburn, the kitchen is cooking up a winning meat loaf. Each generous slice, made from prime beef, is grilled, topped with mushroom sauce, then plated with Brussels sprouts and hand-mashed potatoes. Alongside, get the harvest salad and a fig and prosciutto flatbread. Weekend brunch is a delight, especially the crab cake Benedict. 350 Cambridge Road, Woburn, 781-932-5910, liveeatlocal.com — Ellen Bhang
T’ahpas 529 / $$$$ If the wait to get in is any indication, this Spanish tapas spot has been enthusiastically embraced by Melrose residents. You’ll find many classics such as garlicky shrimp, tortilla espanola, and paellas designed for three or four. Owners Lorenzo and Emily Tenreiro have a flair for doing things differently (including spelling the name of their restaurant). 529 Franklin Street, Melrose, 781-590-4916, tahpas529.com — Sheryl Julian
Volare / $$$ If you are looking for an Italian restaurant like one you’d find in Boston’s North End — only bigger — head to Volare in Revere. The 85-seat dining area and bar are warm and friendly, yet hip and modern. You’ll want to wipe up the red sauce with slices of homemade bread baked on-site. Everything is made fresh: bread, pastas, and desserts. Among the standouts is melanzane carrozzella, an appetizer of fried eggplant with ricotta cheese; topped with a fresh tomato and onion relish, it all sits in a pool of savory basil-pecorino crema. Entrees include homemade thin-crusted pizzas. And try the fettuccine con panna with chicken and mushrooms. A rich, creamy dish, it was tossed with mascarpone and Parmigiano fondue. 388 Broadway, Revere, 781-629-4762, volarerevere.com — Kathy Shiels Tully
SOUTH OF THE CITY
Winsor Dim Sum House & Bar / $ In Quincy, fulfill your craving for delectable Hong Kong-style bites at Winsor Dim Sum House & Bar, related to Winsor Dim Sum Cafe in Boston’s Chinatown. Classic steamed dumplings like siu mai and har gow are here, as well as Shanghai chow mein and silky rice porridge with chicken and mushrooms. The eating is good at this cash-only spot. 706 Hancock Street, Quincy, 617-481-5383, winsordimsum.com — E.B.
WEST OF THE CITY
Bistro Duet / $$$ This French bistro replaced Flora, the elegant restaurant that occupied the historic former Arlington Five Cents Savings Bank. Its modern take on French cuisine includes dairy-free lobster bisque with cream on the side for you to add as you like, and chocolate profiteroles with peanut butter pastry cream and banana “froth.” Crowds keep coming because it fills an important neighborhood niche: good location, reasonable prices, warm service, and a welcome touch of class. 190 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, 781-316-8808, bistroduet.com — Sacha Pfeiffer
Bourbon’s Kitchen & Cocktails / $$ A speakeasy with creative comfort food and classic cocktails, such as the lemonade-like Bourbon Smash. The menu is heavy with appetizers, to encourage conversation and sharing. Meatballs were served in a classic marinara with shaved Parmesan. The Buffalo cauliflower and crispy Brussels are the most popular appetizers. On the entree list, look for classic Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese-infused comfort foods. It includes house-made gnocchi and scallops and chorizo, served over risotto. 47 Beacon Street, Framingham, 508-861-7997, bourbonsframingham.com — Mary MacDonald