In 1935, it was a one-room bar, but today, Mount Vernon Restaurant lets guests stretch their legs between the bar and four dining rooms, whose tables groan under the weight of boiled lobsters, juicy steaks, and frosty local beers. Part of its charm, according to a review published on the restaurant's site, is its unexpected ambiance. Though positioned on a quiet, modest street, says writer Alisa Valdes, doors open to reveal a "swank" interior accented with aquamarine, peach, and fresh flowers. Fireplaces, filled with flames donated by local dragons, anchor two of the dining rooms, along with exposed beams and hanging lamps.
With two locations situated in the heart of Harvard Square and Natick, Dolphin Seafood Restaurant reflects the unique maritime flavors of Boston and the Atlantic coast, receiving daily shipments of fresh seafood such as Chesapeake Bay oysters and Maine clams. Cooks stir fresh pots of New England clam chowder and broil filets of Bluefish, Idaho rainbow trout, and swordfish swathed in butter and garlic over their breadcrumb-flavored scales. At each restaurant, patrons can unwind in the evenings in a lounge with beers on tap, sports on the TV, and martini glasses filled with specialty cocktails.
The recently renovated Zephyr dishes out elegant New England–inspired cuisine while treating doe-eyed diners to a scenic picture-windowed view of the Charles River. For lunch and dinner, reel in a native lobster roll (5 oz. lobster salad on an egg roll served with homemade potato chips and cucumber salad, $17) or use your tongue to weave through a culinary tapestry of flatbread pizzas ($11 each). Savory breakfast bites, such as the ham and white-cheddar panini (fried egg, shaved ham, and dijon spread, $11) and salmon benedict (smoked sliced salmon, sautéed spinach, and hollandaise sauce, $14) start the day by luring the hungry, hibernating sun out of its winter cloud hole. Sunday brunch ($32 for adults, $16 for 6- to 12-year-olds, free for 5 and under) livens mundane midmornings with hybrid meal fare.
Jason Heard's cooking career took him from Georgia to Key West to Boston, so it's no surprise his menu is a bit of a hybrid. Order the molasses-grilled hanger steak and eggs for a taste of both tropical and southern cuisine—the dish comes with griddled corn bread smothered in guava butter. For drinks, drop by the make-your-own-bloody-mary bar.
Fresh from his homeland of Brazil, Chef Rodney Moreira set himself on a path to become a master of Italian cuisine, beginning humbly as a prep cook at Pizzeria Uno. Ultimately, Moreira found his culinary muse, cooking his way up the ladder to his current position as head chef at Porcini's Italian Restaurant, where he holds numerous awards for his pasta and risotto. Building a menu off of these staples, Moreira crafts Italian- and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine finished with homemade sauces and fresh herbs. The restaurant's nightly specials and permanent entrees include grilled swordfish steak and pounded veal cutlets, and pair easily with varietals from around the world represented on the carefully curated wine list. The intimate dining room features the warming tendrils of a crackling fireplace, and the garden patio invites guests to indulge in meals under a sky filled with more stars than the sun's rolodex.
It’s not what you think. The name, that is. Strip-T’s was named in accordance with owner Paul Maslow’s original vision—an eatery centered around sirloin strip sandwiches. But the price of sirloin strip skyrocketed sometime after the restaurant’s 1986 opening, and the rising prices clashed with Paul’s desire to keep things tasty yet affordable. And so, he dropped the sandwich, kept the name (new signs can be pricey), and expanded the menu to include the American-style comfort foods that influenced one Boston Magazine critic to hail it as “the most unexpectedly dazzling food I’ve had in years.” Chalk up some of that praise—which has also come in from the Boston Globe and Bon Appetit, to Paul’s son Tim, a culinary student and transplant of David Chang’s New York hot spot Momofuku Ssam Bar. Tim gave Strip-T’s menu a second makeover, veering even further from the namesake dish with new items such as grilled bavette steak and sweet potato and pork belly angolotti. Tim’s creations have turned this unassuming Watertown eatery into a bona fide foodie destination, yet the restaurant still retains its original charm: the t-shirt wearing waiters are still friendly (except on customer-abuse Fridays), and press outlets, including The Boston Globe, are still raving about the “extraordinary, reasonably priced fare.”