The Most Unforgettable Dining Experiences

  • Durgin-Park, 340 Faneuil Hall Marketplace (tel. 617/227-2038). This Boston institution has packed 'em in since 1827. It serves classic New England fare in abundant portions at communal tables, delighting everyone from local tycoons to visiting toddlers. Well, almost everyone: The famously crotchety staff is so much a part of the legend that some people are disappointed when -- quite often -- the waitresses are courteous and pleasant.
  • Hamersley's Bistro, 553 Tremont St. (tel. 617/423-2700). Established and innovative, adventurous and comfortable, Hamersley's is both a neighborhood favorite and a can't-miss special-occasion place. Julia Child encouraged chef-owner Gordon Hamersley to open the restaurant and became a loyal customer -- need I say more?
  • Legal Sea Foods, 255 State St. (tel. 617/742-5300), and other locations. Like the culinary equivalent of a medical specialist, Legal's does one thing and does it exceptionally well. It's a chain for a great reason: People can't get enough of the freshest seafood around.
  • Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, 1246 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge (tel. 617/354-6559). Trends in food and fashion come and go, and Harvard Square sees them all. Luckily, the neighborhood has a place that puts the "comfort" in comfort food. Bartley's is famous for its juicy burgers, incredible onion rings, and a down-to-earth atmosphere that's increasingly rare in these parts.
  • Pizzeria Regina, 11 1/2 Thacher St. (tel. 617/227-0765). With its red-and-white-checked tablecloths and fiery oven, Regina's looks like Hollywood's idea of a pizza joint. After one bite of slightly smoky crust, you'll be sending Martin Scorsese to the back of the line.
  • Ye Olde Union Oyster House, 41 Union St. (tel. 617/227-2750). Wise guys sneer about all the tourists, but the Union Oyster House is popular with both visitors and locals for a reason -- the unbeatable combination of historic atmosphere and traditional food that's drawn crowds since 1826.
  • Best Seafood: Legal Sea Foods does one thing and does it exceptionally well. It's a chain for a great reason: People can't get enough of the freshest seafood around.
  • Best for Romance: Soaring ceilings, colorful decor, and (seasonally) a roaring fire make the atmosphere in the Monday Club Bar at Upstairs on the Square perfect for a rendezvous.
  • Best for Kids: The wood-fired brick ovens of the Bertucci's chain are magnets for little eyes, and the pizza that comes out of them is equally enthralling. Picky parents will be happy here, too.
  • Best for a Business Lunch: Plenty of deals go down at private clubs and formal restaurants, but that can take hours. Show your local savvy by joining the line at the Sultan's Kitchen.
  • Best American Cuisine: It's not precisely "cuisine," but what's more American than a burger? Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage is famous for its burgers, its onion rings, and a down-to-earth atmosphere that's increasingly rare in Harvard Square.
  • Best French Cuisine: The bistro craze that has Boston in its grip started at Brasserie Jo, and all of the copycats fall short. The long hours make it a good respite during a Back Bay shopping spree.
  • Best Italian Cuisine: The best restaurant in the North End, Mamma Maria, is one of the best in town. In a lovely setting, it offers remarkable regional Italian fare in a spaghetti-and-meatballs neighborhood.
  • Best Wine List: A wine list that suits the tricky cuisine and doesn't break the bank is just one of many things to love about Market.
  • Best Value: You'll do a double-take when the check arrives after dinner at the Helmand. Yes, you're really that satisfied for that little money.
  • Best for Vegetarians: The ideal middle ground for herbivores dining with omnivores, the Elephant Walk serves sublime French and Cambodian cuisine. Both vegetarians and vegans will find dishes that address their needs without compromising on flavor.
  • Best Reason to Visit Cambridge: The East Coast Grill & Raw Bar is a colorful blur of a place that deserves its national acclaim. When Frank Bruni, then the New York Times food critic, wanted "a taste of what servers go through," he spent a week working here.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.