Tim and Nancy Cushman of O-Ya fame explore their wild side at Hojoko, a rollicking take on the traditional Japanese “izakaya” gastropub. The chaotic, tchotchke-happy decor pays homage to the neighborhood’s punk rock roots, and a mix of the traditional (Grilled Chicken Meatball Skewers) and the mash-up (Ramen Noodle Carbonara) pleases purists and adventure-seekers alike. An extensive sake menu and stiff frozen cocktails may tempt you to have one drink too many—in which case you can always grab a room at the funky Verb Hotel that hosts it.
We don’t have anything against Fenway Franks, but there’s much more variety on the surrounding blocks than any hot dog stand can offer.
Almost every Southeast Asian cuisine is represented at Tiffani Faison’s Tiger Mama, layering the familiar upon the exotic. For instance, you’ll find Singapore Street Noodles or Pad Thai alongside Cha Ca La Vong (turmeric-marinated Vietnamese scallops) and Issan-style sausages. Dishes are meant to be shared, and sized generously. The over-the-top decor features an elephant covered in mirrored glass and a wall filled with hanging plants, setting the mood for amped-up tiki drinks.
Faison made her name at Sweet Cheeks, her ode to Texas-style barbecue, which smokes its own meat and certainly smells like it. Heaping platters of brisket, ribs, and other meaty delights satisfy, but side scoops like Broccoli Cheese Casserole or Carrot Raisin Salad stand on their own. Just be sure to order the fluffy, softball-sized Biscuits to start—they’re always worth it, even if they don’t leave room for dinner. A solid craft beer menu and generous drinks served in mason jars rounds out Sweet Cheeks’ living-large appeal.
With its sixty-foot marble bar and sweeping, Grand Central-themed decor, Boston institution Eastern Standard paints a posh picture. But this modern brasserie is anything but stuffy—it’s the rare destination that charms tourists, locals, and industry regulars alike. Service is top-notch, whether you’re waiting on the Foie Gras or the fan-favorite Cheeseburger. Eastern Standard effectively birthed Boston’s craft cocktail movement, and the menu of reinterpreted classics proves it.
Island Creek Oyster Bar’s name comes from Duxbury’s acclaimed oyster farm, and you’ll find plenty of its signature molluscs on the menu alongside others from throughout New England and Canada. For heartier fare, the menu features both daily-changing fish preparations and roadside-inspired fare like Fried Clam Baskets and classic Lobster Rolls. The drink menu also includes a selection of “Pearls”—single-ounce pours of fine spirits meant to be consumed with oysters.