Best Restaurants in the Northeast
February 22, 2011
You can't talk about Boston's dining scene and not mention chef Ken Oringer. At this branch of his growing empire, he does French fine dining proud, but plays by his own rules, producing impeccable, artistic plates with a focus on market-driven ingredients — a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the critical powers that be (just count how many "Best of" lists this place has graced). Clio's downstairs offshoot, Uni, by the way, is a popular hangout for local chefs.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria (New Haven, Conn.)
If you want to discuss the loaded topic of America's best pizza with any authority, you've got to make a pilgrmiage to thislegendary New Haven spot. What should you order at this checklist destination? Two words: clam pie. This is a Northeastern pizza genre unto its own, and Pepe's is the best of them all — freshly-shucked, briny littleneck clams, an intense dose of garlic, olive oil, oregano, and grated cheese atop a charcoal-colored crust. (Advanced move? Clam pie with bacon). Just expect to wait in line if you get there after 11:30 a.m. on a weekend.
o ya (Boston)
Innovative sushi and related new-Japanese fare (hamachi sashimi with banana pepper mousse, venison tataki with porcini cream) are prepared here with imagination and flair by an American chef and served in an understated dining room to the accompaniment of a large choice of excellent sake or wine.
Al Forno (Providence, R.I.)
Husband-and-wife owner-chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen received the Insegna del Ristorante Italiano from the Italian government, a rare honor for Ameicans, attributable to their informed passion for pasta along with their invention of the grilled pizza. They also, though, aim the culinary spotlight on Rhode Island's defining vegetables — corn, squash, beans, and tomatoes — prepared simply, with the authentic Italian panache one would expect of multiple James Beard honorees.
Fore Street (Portland, Maine)
When chef Sam Hayward opened this brick-framed restaurant in 1996, nobody thought of Portland as a dining destination. He helped change that with his meticulous sourcing of fine local products and the menus that change daily based on what comes in. Wood-roasted mussels and grilled marinated hangar steak are among the items always available, but the seasonal treasures are always worth sampling.
Chef and owner Michael Schlow has made a mark on Boston with his award-winning French-American food. Now a decade old, Radius still draws crowds looking for an urbane dining experience, from the lauded $19 burger to one of the rarefied five-course tasting menus.
Hungry Mother (Boston)
Combine a menu of seasonally driven dishes made with locally sourced ingredients with chef Barry Maiden’s classical French culinary training, add in his love of Southern comfort foods, and you have Hungry Mother. Husband and wife team Alon Munzer and Rachel Miller Munzer run the wine and liquor programs and front of the house, respectively, and they do it very well.
Neptune Oyster Bar (Boston)
Boston is known for its history, sense of tradition, and shellfish. That being known, it takes more than just any old seafood shack to keep Bostonians coming back for more. While the menu at Neptune Oyster Bar tends to lack in creativity, its greatness comes in the delivery of undeniably superb renditions of classic New England fare. Start with any of the 12 varieties of oysters from the bar, and follow-up with the clam chowder and lobster roll for the perfect meal.
One of the pioneers of modern haute cuisine in Boston, chef-owner Frank McClelland has received a host of awards at L’Espalier. (Among other things, it was the first New England restaurant to receive four stars from The Boston Globe, back in 1996.) The food served at L’Espalier is focused around local and seasonal ingredients, with particularly good seafood, and the seasonal tasting menus, at $105 and $185, are well worth trying.