Boston, MA - If there was any description that could accurately summarise the Boston culinary landscape in 2018, it would be that commercial entities finally learned first hand what’s been plaguing residents over the past 20 odd years: 2018 was simply the year when the rents were too damn high to be sustainable. Sure, it might be tempting to dub it the year of the pop-up; but not even would be marketing gurus ensconced in Seattle wrk shares have used that term since 2014 without the slightest tinge of embarrassment. And yes, even “the year of the Seaport” is a worthy designation; but looking at the restaurants that opened and shuttered within a quarter mile radius of Fort Point in 2017 should give you a crystal ball into the relative uncertainty of 2019.
To date? 2018 has seen the closing of Erbaluce. Tupelo’s. L’Espalier. PA’s Lounge. Agoro’s. Harry O’s. Crema Cafe. Amrhein’s. Establishments ranging from 5 star haute cuisine to dive bars. Long running institutions with historic roots and gambles that fall succinctly into the category of “they never really had a chance.” And all of which fell victim to the omnipresent maw of skyrocketing commercial lease rates.
Yet despite it all, we’ve seen expansions of soldiering standbys that refuse to cave in to the epidemic of closures. And we’ve seen some fairly impressive newcomers drum up a whole lot of attention as well…
50 Lovejoy Wharf in Boston alcoveboston.com
Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli’s exercise in design obscurantism is rivalled only by an eccentricity in presentation and an eclecticism in his menu. The focus is on versatility; think Wagyu beef carpaccio, prosciutto wrapped branzino and grilled Maitake mushrooms. Should you actually dare to make the limestone breezeway entrance, you’ll be greeted by ne of the finer views of the Boston waterfront imaginable.
21 Drydock Ave in Boston chickadeerestaurant.com
Hopefully, Chickadee can weather the aforementioned Seaport curse. But judging from the buzz it’s gathered in just three months, it’s safe to bet they will. With a menu that bears the legend “New England Born, Mediterranean Inspired,” you can expect a proudly locally sourced offering. What you may not be expecting are offerings such as striped bass ceviche and porchetta with watermelon and fried peanuts. Both of which will make perfect sense at first taste.
21 Bow St in Somerville celesteunionsquare.com
This tiny Union Square entry may be limited in both size and menu; but don’t let that fool you. Even what you think you may know about Peruvian cuisine takes on a whole new scope at Celeste. A potato terrine of tuna sits next to a cilantro based lamb stew; And the highlight of steamed fish in a Peruvian-Chinese hybrid style pairs lovingly with their signature pisco sour.
1377 Boylston St in Boston foolserrandboston.com
It’s snack food. Only… it’s not. It’s tapas. Only… more creative. And it’s tiny. Very tiny. And when James Beard award nominee Tiffani Faison opened her latest venture in the Fenway earlier this year, chances are she knew what she was doing. In fact, with items like smoked beef tongue and raclette finger sandwiches, pumpkin and brown butter aioli croquettes and king crab tostadas, she’d be a fool not to.
653 Boylston St in Boston www.oratrattorizza.com
Josephine Megwa’s latest Back Bay venture shouldn’t have worked; a trattoria/traditional pizzeria hybrid that didn’t at first glance seem too far removed from the dozens of similar options available in the North End. But with a custom curated wine collection, menu offerings ranging from traditional favorites to pan seared chicken with roasted leeks and walnut pesto—and yes, traditional Neapolitan pizza baked in custom imported brick oven—she somehow managed to blend the comfortingly familiar with an entirely new and sorely needed approach.