My take: Best of Boston 2013

Photo of August 2013 cover

Courtesy of Boston magazine

I’m always excited when Boston magazine releases its annual “Best of Boston” list. This year, the guide celebrates its 40th Anniversary, and I’ve never been so thrilled to review and discover all the new winners. Although I’ve lived in this city for almost four years, there are always new shops, restaurants, and sites to see. This compilation continues to do three things for me:

  • Reaffirms the greatness of places I already know
  • Unearths new locations to check out
  • Reminds me to GO to that awesome spot everyone’s been talking about already!

From the 2013 list, I concur:

Best Bookstore: Brookline Booksmith

Photo of antique postcard

Courtesy of the “Find of the Week” archive

I work conveniently, dangerously close to this gem of a bookshop. I could get lost for hours between the shelves, boasting their rare titles and colorful spines. Don’t even get me started on the charming kid’s corner tucked in the back, the handmade and locally designed greeting cards, the gorgeous stationary… And the extensive used book selection in the basement, where book signings, author events, and workshops are regularly held. The friendly staff makes a point to connect with their patrons and the Brookline community. Check out the  Find of the Week archive on their website, where they post pictures of items found between the pages of their used books –everything from antique postcards, to long lost letters, to notes scribbled in the margins.

Best New Restaurant (Nantucket): Cru

Photo of Nantucket waterfront

I’m no Nantucket expert, but I had the pleasure of enjoying a breezy, sunny lunch at this beautiful spot right on the water. Really, the location makes it perfect for any occasion, whether it is a quick lunch, lazy, mid-afternoon cocktails, or a decadent dinner. Seated in comfy, yellow striped armchairs next to the window, with a front row view of the docks, I devoured the single best crab appetizer I’ve ever had: Blue Crab Cocktail in a Horseradish Crème. If you’re on the island, just do it.

Best Spanish: Toro

Photo of Toro Restaurant

Courtesy of Just Meat It

Toro is for the adventurous. If you’ve been gastronomically deprived for much of your life, you won’t know what you’re eating. If you’re picky, you won’t want to know. But you’ll love it nonetheless. Tucked in between other, virtually abandoned establishments, this tiny place will be bursting on the coldest of winter nights. Soak in the rustic atmosphere, the exposed brick and wide-plank wooden floors, while soaking up a glass of spicy Rioja. If you’re hesitant to completely blow your palate away, ease yourself in and start with the more approachable Datiles con Jamon (Medjool dates filled with marcona almonds and blue cheese, wrapped in serrano ham) and the Queso Mahon (marinated cow’s milk cheese). Then take the plunge, and follow with the Asado de Huesos (bone marrow with radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade), and the Corazon (smoked beef heart with romesco).

New to check out:

Best Chocolate: Evelyn & Angel’s 

Courtesy of Mandarina Studio

Courtesy of Mandarina Studio

There are few things I love in this world more than chocolate, which is why I must ask: Why haven’t I even heard of this place? How long have they been there? Why has no one told me? I’ve been a longtime fan of Beacon Hill Chocolates on Charles Street, but if this new competitor is “Boston’s Best” then a trip out to Porter Square is absolutely necessary.

Best New Restaurant: Asta

Photo of Asta

Courtesy of Boston Grub Street

This would certainly be a splurge, but I’ve heard great things about this new hot spot: a high-end concept in a casual setting. Asta offers a playful approach to a purely prix fixe menu, with three-, five-, and eight-course tasting options available.  Constantly rotating and seasonal dishes keep the menu fresh and unpredictable, like a seaweed pasta topped with a mussel foam and a whole squid with black chickpeas.

Best Al Fresco Restaurant: Hamersley’s Bistro

Photo of Hamersley's Bistro  patio

Courtesy of Boston Magazine

Hamersley’s Bistro in the South End is neither new to Boston or the dining masses, but it’s been on my list for awhile.  During my junior year of college, I walked past its elegant “secret garden” patio everyday on the way to my South End internship. This beautiful weather won’t last and, in my opinion, al fresco is the best way to dine. I hope to get on that patio for brunch, dinner, drinks, anything before summer is over.

Why haven’t I been there yet?!

Best Deli: Michael’s Deli

Photo of Michael's Deli

Courtesy of Trip Advisor

I walk past this hole in the wall, and acknowledge the front window plastered with awards and reviews, every day on my way to work. I’m always looking for a good sandwich. I work in Coolidge. I have no excuse.

Best Restaurant, General Excellence: Hungry Mother

Photo of Hungry Mother Restaurant

Courtesy of Gastronomy blog

I generally wouldn’t put “Southern Comfort” at the top of my dining list, but I’ve heard too many good things, from too many people who are near and dear to my heart. I feel like I’m being shielded from a badly kept secret, or missing the punch line of a really obvious joke. Someone, please, enlighten me –let’s go to Hungry Mother!

Best Wine Bar: Belly Wine Bar

Courtesy of Swallow Daily

Courtesy of Swallow Daily

I have been dying to try this place since it opened in Kendall Square last September. They boast an eclectic and unpretentious wine list (check out their current, Grease-inspired Summer Lovin’ list) and an extensive charcuterie and raw bar selection. Another beautiful, brick-laden patio is just the cherry on top. This spot looks right up my alley.