The dining scene in Boston is certainly on fire, and we have a few heavy-hitting chefs to thank for it. You’ve heard of these acclaimed restaurateurs, and you’re likely familiar with their acclaimed restaurants, as well as the four Yelp dollar signs attached to the names.
Does this mean you’ll have to miss out on the culinary creations of chefs like Tony Maws, Barbara Lynch and Ming Tsai, to name a few, until your next promotion or anniversary comes along? Turns out, no. A trend has taken hold in Boston over recent years, during which some of Boston’s biggest players have opened new ventures that tone down the high-end atmosphere of their original restaurants, trading in white tablecloths for rustic, communal tables and quiet intimacy for loud and boisterous late nights. They’re a great way to taste what’s cooking in the city’s most esteemed kitchens, without costing you a fortune.
So, without further ado, here’s a quick guide to sampling Boston’s best chefs on a slightly tighter budget, in a less formal setting. Cheers!
Want to go to Craigie on Main? Try Kirkland Tap and Trotter instead.
Chef Tony Maws is an award-winning local chef, whose dishes every food-loving Bostonian should get to experience. His acclaimed Central Square restaurant Craigie on Main, however, is exactly that: an experience.
While Craigie on Main is worth the money, for a more casual night, head instead to Kirkland Tap and Trotter (pictured), Chef Maws’ newest Somerville venture. Described as an “inviting and funky interpretation of a neighborhood joint” on its website, the restaurant takes Maws’ James Beard-award winning expertise and channels it towards shareable snacks, an expansive bottled and canned beer list, and a perfect local hangout spot. With weekly specials like Hot Dog Mondays and a free happy hour for after work bar snacks, KT&T is consistently bustling with guests who can’t help but become regulars. The best part? You won’t break the bank after one visit.
Want to go to Blue Ginger? Try Blue Dragon instead.
Chef Ming Tsai’s Wellesley outpost, Blue Ginger, has become a local institution since opening its doors in 1998. With an intimate dining room area as well as a chic bar-lounge section for tapas, Blue Ginger has set the standard for “East-West cuisine.”
But, if you’re simply looking for the place with a community atmosphere alongside great food and drink, Ming Tsai’s Boston restaurant, Blue Dragon, is your go to. Located in the up and coming Fort Point neighborhood, Blue Dragon imitates that East-West experience of its Wellesley counterpart, but this time, it takes on the duty of being a casual neighborhood gastropub, a prime spot for after work drinks or a late night dinner fix. With snacks, dim sum and shareable plates on the menu, as well as a broad selection of craft beers and wines, you can let loose at Blue Dragon any night of the week.
Want to go to No. 9 Park? Try The Butcher Shop instead.
Chef Barbara Lynch’s restaurant group, Barbara Lynch Gruppo, is a collective of esteemed restaurants in the city that we should all keep on our radars, especially after Lynch won the 2014 James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur. Among Lynch’s restaurants, No. 9 Park comes to mind as the standard, with elegant tasting menus and three-course prix fixes comprising the menu, you’re sure to be treated to a fine night out.
Not looking for such a fine night out, but still want to dine at one of Lynch’s restaurants? Go to The Butcher Shop in the South End, a wine bar and butcher shop hybrid that offers up burgers and beers, as well as Italian dishes and appetizers served at a lower price point than Park’s, with 100 wines on the list to boot. Don’t get us wrong, you’ll still be paying a pretty penny, but you’ll get to sample one of Lynch’s restaurants on a less extravagant scale, which is a certified win.
Want to go to Hungry Mother? Try State Park instead.
Hungry Mother is a unique experience here in Boston, as it’s acclaimed for specializing in certified Southern comfort foods, and they do it right – something that one doesn’t often stumble across in a New England city. But sometimes, rather than just a respectable meal, you just want to get down a little dirtier, perhaps like they do in the South. A quaint dinner over delectable dishes? Not tonight, thanks.
In an ingenious move, the Hungry Mother team opened the doors to its rowdy and slightly scrappy counterpart, State Park, late last year. Offering up pitchers of Jack and Coke, snacks like beer nuts, and po’ boy sandwiches, State Park takes Hungry Mother’s Southern influences and applies them to the perfect setting: the dive bar. Of course, it’s the dive without the nitty grittiness of a true down in the dumps bar, but you can play Big Buck Hunter, and that’s all that matters.
Image via Kirkland Tap and Trotter/Facebook