Praise doesn’t come easily from the restaurant tastemakers at Gayot. But, when faced with the delicate preparations of Pierrot Bistrot Francais, they not only awarded the restaurant a spot on their list of the Top 10 French Restaurants in Boston, but also praised the eatery as “a French bistro in the truest sense of the term.” Secluded from the exposed brick and coral tones of the dining room, chefs toil in the kitchen to bring that authenticity to dishes. From dry-aged beef sirloin to jumbo sea scallops and veal scaloppini, his locally sourced menu items find their mates in a large wine list.
Fresh out of college, Vince Petryk took a job as a dishwasher at an ice cream shop. It was just a temporary gig…or, so he thought. As Petryk climbed through the shop’s ranks—he rose from dishwasher, to scooper, to ice-cream maker, to manager—he was awe-struck by the way ice cream seemed to make people feel happy. From that point on, he knew that he wanted to continue to share that joy with others and that the best way to do it, was to own his own ice cream shop. He perfected his from-scratch ice cream recipe before opening J.P. Licks, named for Jamaica Plain, the neighborhood where he opened his first location. The flavors were immediately a hit and continue to win loyal fans for their intensity and ingenuity––at any given time, guests might find cake batter and chocolate peanut butter ripple on the menu, alongside unusual flavors like tomato basil or beer and pretzels. Since those early days, Vince has also added from-scratch hard and soft frozen yogurts, sherberts, and sorbets. He has even been known to develop flavors to suit the tastes of the area's different ethnic groups, and dairy-free ice creams to provide relief to the area's overworked cows. Beyond serving traditional cones, Petryk and his staff also pack chilly scoops into house-made cakes and pies, blend them into shakes, and transform them into decadent sundaes topped with homemade hot fudge or butterscotch. The icy treats have proved so popular, J.P. Licks now has 10 area stores, leaving them ample wall space for awards: readers of The Phoenix voted it the city’s best ice cream parlor in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
It’s easy to see what makes Fins Boston so great. That’s because the master chefs twist signature sushi rolls, flip sirloin steaks, and slice bits of sashimi in full view of the customers. That way, diners can watch the creative process at work as the culinary masters turn fresh ingredients into modern creations such as Maine lobster rolls, eastern maki, and surf clams. Of course, the menu is also rich in tradition, turning out Japanese dishes such as miso soup and salmon with green tea broth and pairing them with bottles of Japanese beer or premium sakes. Each of the three locations also casts a stylish ambiance to match the flair of its chefs, with décor ranging from dark woods that glow under amber light to walls covered with painted cherry blossoms.
A banner printed with tiny white fish flutters above Ma Soba's sushi bar, where chefs in pert white hats tuck ribbons of fish atop rice and seaweed. In the kitchen, stovetops sizzle with Chinese, Korean, Thai, and other Asian dishes, such as bulgogi, tempura-battered seafood and vegetables, and entrees spiced with chili-and-ginger general tso's sauce. Wine and water goblets moor maroon tablecloths in the softly lit dining room, where potted orchids and bromeliads complement a Japanese screen painted with branches and cherry blossoms. Ma Soba also packs entrees into tidy containers for carryout and delivery orders to offices, homes, and tree houses.
As you sit down on one of the The Red Hat's green vinyl barstools and lift a mug of lager to your lips, you might be replicating the movements of a patron from more than 100 years ago. Except that he or she would have snuck a nervous glance at the back door between every sip. The historic establishment survived the Prohibition era in Scollay Square—an area known for its bawdy vaudeville theater and risqué entertainment—by functioning as a reputable restaurant by day and a speakeasy by night.
Though the taps now flow freely in the daylight, some things at The Red Hat haven't changed. The menu still provides sailors, dockworkers, and local shoppers with hearty, comforting dishes of wings, fried fish, and other pub snacks. As Mike Dunphy of Beacon Hill Patch put it, "The Red Hat is a rare reminder of Boston's yesteryear, bringing an earthy spice to the more refined palate of Beacon Hill—an unpretentious watering hole to gain some courage for the climb." The exposed brick, wood-paneled walls, and old-timey memorabilia also give the space a turn-of-the-century feel. So do the nostalgic street-scene murals depicting the days when Saturns were Studebakers and people walked their Electrolux vacuums instead of pet dogs.
Since its founding in 2001, The Upper Crust Pizzeria has fashioned artful thin-crust pizzas in 19 storefronts with modern, architectural touches. Chefs craft specialty pies inspired by local landmarks, from the sundried-tomato cobblestones of the Beacon Hill to the pesto-painted walls of the Green Monster. Diners can opt to spread sweet sauce over a regular or whole-wheat crust or request that any pie be served white without sauce, and combine slices with crisp salads or pounce on the geometric goodness of a spinach square or half moon-shaped calzone. Restaurant interiors are accoutered with modern flourishes such as flat-screen TVs and pan-decorated ceilings, allowing one to lie down and admire their reflection before a postmeal nap.