The Back Bay neighborhood rivals Beacon Hill as the most beautiful and well-to-do place to live in Boston. Among the iconic rows of Victorian brownstones are some of the city’s most exalted restaurants—praised for their classic, five-star service, or equally impressive creativity and flair. With so many options, and each as good as the next, what makes a restaurant truly one of the best around? Here, I award the most points to originality. I love menus that challenge me with their expansive list of new and uncommon bites, and praise dining rooms for their design-driven interiors. The most notable restaurants in this part of town stand out for their to-die-for food, artistic presentations, and unconventional flavor pairings that rival those of internationally famed outposts. Behind each pristinely poured martini or deconstructed dish at these five-star finds are genius mixologists and chefs that continue to reimagine and perfect their craft.
Vestiges of a stint at Copenhagen’s renowned culinary temple Noma are evident in Chef Alex Crabb’s high-end New American restaurant. Crabb serves only upscale prix-fixe tasting menus at this vaguely Danish restaurant, notable for its a reserved charm and playful pep. This is the place to dine on masterfully prepared seasonal dishes in three, five, or eight courses. Go here to indulge, and ask for the wine pairings and foie gras to match.
The Salty Pig
This pork-centric gastropub encourages diners to design their own charcuterie boards from a long list of “salty pig parts and stinky cheeses.” Maybe you’re in the mood for local prosciutto, chorizo, and manchego? Complete your board with powerful accouterments, including smoked-shallot marmalade and Vermont wildflower honey, and save room for equally interesting full-size entrees. On a warm summer evening, remember to check out the craft beers on tap in the beer garden.
Refreshingly laid back and low key for a ritzy refuge, this South American restaurant serves ceviches, small plates, and tacos inspired by New England cuisine—but it’s true love lies with tequila. If you drink 88 out of over 140 tequilas in an 8-month period, you’ll become an honorary member of the Tico Tequila Club, earning you many perks, including your very own engraved tequila glass.
Grill 23 & Bar
Back Bay’s classic steakhouse has been a word-of-mouth favorite for years. It’s known for an unwavering dedication to using all-natural, antibiotic-free meat, and debuted a brand new bar this year with an impressive selection of vintage single malts. Grab a richly upholstered leather seat and fill up on a 24-ounce porterhouse, cooked medium-rare with a side of duck-fat seasoned potatoes.
Known for serving haute French-New England cuisine since 1978, the arrival of Chef Frank McClelland in 1988 has brought L’Espalier unrivaled accolades, including four stars from The Boston Globe. Try the Seasonal Degustation menu, a four-course meal celebrating the season’s freshest flavors, followed by grand fromage cheese course and dessert. If you have the time, the iconic dark chocolate soufflé with maple ice cream and orange caramel is worth the 20-minute wait.