The Best Restaurants
  • Al Forno (Providence, RI): The wood-fired ovens at Al Forno have been turning out delectable Italian-influenced meals from farm-fresh ingredients ever since 1980. This was the restaurant that first put Providence on the gourmet map, and it hasn’t missed a beat since.
  • Black Trumpet Bistro (Portsmouth, NH): Come to this intimate harborside bistro for surprisingly exotic food, borrowing from a range of world cuisines. It’s this sort of creative cookery that has made Portsmouth one of New England’s liveliest dining scenes.
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  • Chantecleer (East Dorset, VT): Swiss chef Michel Baumann has been turning out dazzling dinners here since 1981, and the kitchen hasn’t gotten stale in the least. The dining room in an old barn is magical, the staff helpful and friendly. It’s the perfect spot for those who demand top-notch Continental fare but don’t like the fuss of a fancy restaurant.
  • Chanticleer (Nantucket, MA): In this rose-covered cottage in the picturesque village of ‘Sconset, this romantic French restaurant has long been the place to celebrate special occasions. The dreamy ambiance is, remarkably, outdone by the cuisine, superbly crafted by Jeff Worster, one of the island’s most creative chefs.
  • Centre Street Bistro (Nantucket, MA): Two of the best chefs on the island, Ruth and Tim Pitts, combine their talents at this hole-in-the-wall BYOB restaurant. The best part is that this place features wonderful, creative cuisine at fairly reasonable prices, compared to other island fine-dining restaurants.
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  • Fore Street (Portland, ME): Fore Street is one of northern New England’s most celebrated restaurants. The chef’s secret? Simplicity and a passion for sustainability. Some of the most memorable meals are prepared over the open, applewood-fired grill.
  • Hen of the Wood (Waterbury, VT): Waterbury—population: 5,000—seems an unlikely place for a serious culinary adventure, yet Hen of the Wood exceeds the loftiest expectations. Each day, a new menu reflects seasonality and originality. A second outpost inside Burlington’s Hotel Vermont makes inspired local fare accessible to city visitors, but dining at the original, beside a waterfall in an old grist mill, is oh-so Vermont.
  • L’étoile (Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, MA): Prepare to be wowed at this exquisite venue, a historic sea captain’s house, where the island’s most famous chef, Michael Brisson, turns out a seasonally driven menu inspired by Vineyard farms and the day’s catch from surrounding waters.
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  • Mamma Maria (Boston, MA): The best choice in the restaurant-choked North End is a far cry from the spaghetti-and-meatballs workhorses that crowd this Italian-American neighborhood. The Northern Italian cuisine at this elegant town house is something to write home about.
  • Union League Café (New Haven, CT): The crème de la crème of New Haven restaurants impresses before you even open the menu. Expect French classics, plus expertly prepared dishes inspired by New England’s seasons.
  • T. J. Buckley’s (Brattleboro, VT): This tiny dining car on a dark side street serves up outsize tastes prepared by a talented chef. Forget about stewed-too-long diner fare; get in your mind big tastes blossoming from the freshest of ingredients prepared just right.
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  • White Barn Restaurant (Kennebunk, ME): The setting in a light-splashed, rustic barn is magical. The food? To die for. Your best bet is the Chef’s Indulgence Menu: a tasting odyssey starring Maine’s bounty, prepared in a way you will never experience again. See p. ###.

The Best Local Dining Experiences

  • Black Eyed Susan’s (Nantucket, MA): This is extremely exciting food in a funky bistro atmosphere. The place is small, popular with locals, and packed. Sitting at the counter and watching the chef in action is a show in itself. No credit cards, no reservations, and no liquor license—but if you can get past those inconveniences, you’re in for a top-notch dining experience.
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  • Blue Benn Diner (Bennington, VT): This 1945 Silk City diner has a barrel ceiling, old-school counter stools, and a vast menu. Don’t overlook specials scrawled on paper and taped all over the walls. And leave room for a slice of delicious pie, such as blackberry, pumpkin, or chocolate cream.
  • Captain Frosty’s (Dennis, MA): For generations, Cape Cod summer folks have been stopping in at Captain Frosty’s for fried seafood, eaten outdoors at picnic tables, preferably in swimsuits still sandy and damp from a day at the beach.
  • Dot’s (Wilmington, VT): Long a town favorite but a casualty of 2011’s floods, Dot’s was reborn in its own timeless image. With a menu ranging from hearty diner breakfasts to fiery chili, meatloaf to milk shakes, here’s a place to rub shoulders with locals, travelers, and ski bums.
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  • Duckfat (Portland, ME). In a town with no shortage of dining options, Belgian fries and crème anglaise milkshakes keep Portlanders coming back to this laid-back lunch and dinner spot, filling bar stools and patio tables on a brick sidewalk in the historic East End.
  • Judie’s (Amherst, MA): Don’t leave the Pioneer Valley without trying the upbeat, bustling Judie’s. The house specialty is stuffed popovers—there are five varieties, from gumbo to shrimp scampi.
  • Louis’ Lunch (New Haven, CT): Not a lot of serious history has happened in New Haven, but boosters claim it was here at Louis’ Lunch that hamburgers were invented in 1900. True or not, this little luncheonette lives on, moved from its original site in order to save it. The patties are freshly ground daily, thrust into vertical grills, and served on white toast. Garnishes are tomato, onion, and cheese. No ketchup and no fries, so don’t even ask.
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  • Lou’s (Hanover, NH): Huge crowds flock to Lou’s, just down the block from the Dartmouth campus, for breakfast on weekends. Fortunately, breakfast is served all day here, and the sandwiches on fresh-baked bread are huge and delicious.
  • Pizza (New Haven, CT): New Haven’s claim to America’s first pizza is a whole lot shakier than its claim to the first burgers (see above), but the city excels in the ultrathin, charred variety of what they still call “apizza” in these parts, pronounced “ah-beetz.” Old-timer Frank Pepe’s, 157 Wooster St., is usually ceded top rank among the local parlors, but it is joined by such contenders as Sally’s, 237 Wooster St., and Modern Apizza, 874 State St.
  • Woodman’s of Essex (Essex, MA): This busy North Shore institution is still owned and run by descendants of Chubby Woodman, inventor of the fried clam. From chowder to fried seafood of every sort—even lobster—the food is fresh and delicious, and a look at the organized pandemonium behind the counter is worth the (reasonable) price.
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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.