All Articles Where chefs eat (and hang out) in Boston

Where chefs eat (and hang out) in Boston

7 Boston chefs share their favorite restaurants, bookshops, bakeries, and more.

By Alysia Abbott28 Mar 2024 7 minutes read
A plate of noodle set against a dark backdrop with a hand and a pair of chopsticks.
Viet Puttanesca at Nightshade Noodle Bar, Boston
Image: Courtesy of Nightshade Noodle Bar

With more than 5,000 restaurants and taverns, Boston typically appears on many best-of lists. But Greater Boston offers more than beans and chowdah. We talked some of the city's finest chefs to tell us their favorite spots to eat, drink, and unwind when they aren’t working.

Tiffani Faison, chef and owner of Big Heart Hospitality

Tiffani Faison shot in front of a hot pink backdrop.
A barbecue tray shot from above with side dishes.
Tiffani Faison (left), BBQ at Sweet Cheeks Q (right)
Image: Courtesy of Tiffani Faison, treinke/Tripadvisor

As the owner of Sweet Cheeks and Fool's Errand, Faison has been nominated as Best Chef: Northeast by the James Beard Foundation four times (2018, 2019, 2020, and 2022). But you may recognize her as a finalist on Top Chef or a judge on the Food Network's Chopped.

For a tremendous late-night bite

Like many chefs, Faison doesn't leave work until the wee hours—her favorite midnight snack spot is Peach Farm in Chinatown. "I've been going there for the better part of 15 years." She's partial to their sesame noodles, and if she's with a big group, she orders the whole king crab. She also loves their duck tongues. "Might sound weird… they're delicious."

For an interesting pour

Faison prefers wine over cocktails and will go to any place with a great selection. Her favorite spot is The Koji Club, a sake bar in Alston. It's one of the few female-owned sake bars. "I'll drink whatever the owner wants to pour me."

For a great lunch or snack on the go

If you're looking for a lunch place off the beaten path, head to Singh's, a Trinidadian roti shop in Dorchester. "It's bananas good," says Faison. "I'll go in and eat lunch, then grab 15 doubles and take them back to the shop for everyone else."

Best under-the-radar adventure

Though she enjoys running in Memorial Park across from her place in Southie, Faison's favorite adventure is renting a canoe in Alston and taking it down the Charles River. "There's nothing better than seeing Boston and Cambridge from the Charles…You can even rent a canoe on July 4th and just kick it and watch the fireworks."

Kwasi Kwa, chef and partner at Comfort Kitchen

Kwasi Kwa with his arm's crossed.
A glass of red wine set next to two plates on a white table cloth.
Kwasi Kwa (left), Jerk Roasted Duck at Comfort Kitchen, Boston (right)
Image: Courtesy of Kwasi Kwa

Comfort Kitchen in Dorchester's Upham Corner has been buzzing since it opened in January 2023. A Black, immigrant, and woman-owned restaurant, its menu draws on influences from South Asian, Middle Eastern, North and West African, and Caribbean cuisine. "Global comfort food" is what chef Kwasi Kwa calls it. The formula must be working because Comfort Kitchen was named Best New Restaurant in the Boston Magazine 2023 Best of Boston awards.

For a comforting meal

Kwa, who grew up in Ghana and Somerville, is partial to Tsu Ramen in Somerville's Davis Square. "On a day off, it's ramen for me," he says. He eats alone to be with his thoughts and order "whatever they have on special. I have that much confidence in them."

Baked goods

Boston is known for its vibrant Brazilian community, and Kwa is a fan of Brazilian pastries, especially those found at the Modello Café in Magoun Square in Somerville. His order: a savory pastry called Cochia.

Get the blood pumping

Depending on the weather, Kwa loves to bike the Minute Man bike trail as often as possible, which he accesses near his home in Alewife, Cambridge. "Sometimes, I go to Spy Pond, sit by the water, and hang out for a while."

Ken Oringer, chef and owner of six Boston restaurants

Ken Oringer in a white chef's coat.
A series of small plates set on a dark wood table.
Ken Oringer (left), Tapas at Little Donkey (right)
Image: Courtesy of Ken Oringer; Management/Tripadvisor

Oringer runs six local spots include Uni, Toro, La Verdad, Coppa, Little Donkey, and Faccia a Faccia. In the spring of 2024, he is opening a French-inspired bakery with pastry chef, Monica Glass, called Verveine Café & Bakery in Central Square.

For a great meal

Oringer spent some time living in Thailand, and Thai food is still the cuisine he craves more than any other. The restaurant that satiates that craving? Mahaniyom in Brookline. "It's super authentic," he says, "with really gracious people." His order: the rambutan salad, sausage from Chain Nai, and the yellow curry crab with vermicelli.

Favorite neighborhood haunt

While Oringer loves the cocktails at Yvonnes in Boston's Downtown Crossing, he haunts Anchovies in the South End. "It's just a residential dive bar. Great drinks, great hospitality, with food better than it should have."

For baked goods

Oringer's wife does a lot of baking, but when they go out, they love Via Canuccia, an Italian bakery in Dorchester. "They have a huge selection of baked goods. But we only go on weekends." He also loves the newly reopened Japonaise in Brookline.

Best Under the radar adventure

Oringer enjoys the Water Taxis accessible in Boston's seaport district. He'll take them from the seaport to Downtown or from Long Wharf to East Boston. "I love jumping on these water taxis. It's such a beautiful harbor." While in the seaport, visitors can make a day of it by visiting the ICA Museum.

Rachel Miller, chef and owner of Nightshade Noodle Bar

Rachel Miller in a dark kitchen.
Salmon in a dark bowl.
Rachel Miller (left), Faroe Island Salmon at Nightshade Noodle Bar, Boston (right)
Image: Alyssa Blumstein (left), Courtesy of Nightshade Noodle Bar (right)

Miller was named one of Zagat's 30 Under 30 as Executive Sous Chef at Bondir and served as Chef de Cuisine at Clio. In October 2019, five months before "hell broke loose," she opened her restaurant, Nightshade Noodle Bar. It's since been listed as one of Boston's top 10, and in 2023, Miller was named a James Beard Foundation "Outstanding Chef "Award Finalist.

For a great meal and drinks

Miller is a fan of both the Baldwin Bar in Woburn and the Blossom Bar in Brighton, which she describes as "Traditional Sichuan Chinese food with awesome cocktails." She loves ordering the Sichuan pickles and Dan Dan noodles and says, "any of their Mai tai riffs are surefire."

Best baked goods

Miller loves to get pastries for her team whenever she's at the bakery. Her local favorites are A&J King Bakery in Salem and Steel & Rye in Milton.

Favorite neighborhood haunt

Though it's not in her neighborhood, Miller loves Trina's Starlight Lounge in Cambridge. "They raise money for people in the industry, like if someone's broken a limb and can't work… that would be my idea of the ideal neighborhood haunt."

For a great gift

As a self-described introvert, Miller enjoys going places where it's quiet or where there are books. She can find both at Trident on Newbury Street. "It's easy to spend hours in there," she says. "And it's one of my favorite places for gifts."

Jason Santos, author, chef and owner of Buttermilk & Bourbon Group

A plate of fried chicken shot from above.
Fried chicken at Buttermilk & Bourbon, Boston
Image: Greg S/Tripadvisor

When he was a boy, Jason Santos used to watch Julia Child on television with his grandmother and started experimenting in her kitchen. Today, he oversees three restaurants (the New Orleans-inspired Buttermilk & Bourbon, Citrus & Salt, and B&B Fish) and is the author of two cookbooks. But you might know him as the popular runner-up on Hell's Kitchen season 7.

A great meal

"There is a place called Viet Citron near my house with the most insanely good Vietnamese food that I go to almost weekly," he says. "The crispy pork belly banh mi is life-changing."

Bakery

"I love Tous Les Jours Bakery in Burlington. They have the best almond bread with jam and some sort of crazy frosting-type stuff that I am not even sure what it is, and I don't even care."

For a great start to the day

Santos loves to start the day with Dim Sum when he's not working. His go-to spot is China Star in Lowell, where he can get dumplings, tripe, and salt-and-pepper-fried calamari.

Favorite neighborhood haunt

"Not my neighborhood, but in Downtown Crossing is Sam Lagrassa's, which has the most excellent pastrami sandwich in the history of pastrami sandwiches. It's the best $25 sandwich you will ever have."

For a good scoop

Santos loves the New City Creamery in Cambridge. "They make their ice cream with LN2 (liquid nitrogen), and the baklava ice cream is so good you will dream about it."

Chris Willis, chef and owner of Pammy's

Chris Willis in a white chef's coat seated at a table.
A gray plate shot from above with greens and other garnishes.
Chris Willis (left), Dinner at Spoke Wine Bar (right)
Image: Pat Piasecki (left), Monika D/Tripadvisor (right)

After owners Chris and Pam Willis opened their New American trattoria Pammy's in 2018, it quickly became a local favorite. It was named "Best of the New" by the Boston Globe and Boston Magazine and was a nominee for "Best New Restaurant" in Bon Appetit.

For a great meal

When Willis is in the mood for a casual experience, he tries to snag a seat at the counter at Yume Ga Arukara in Cambridge. "We worked with Tomo and his team on a collaboration dinner at Pammy's, and it was obvious that this guy is passionate about the art of udon noodles. It shows in every bowl."

For great drinks

Even though his two brothers own and operate Boston's first craft distiller, Bully Boy, Willis and his wife, Pam, are not big cocktail drinkers. But they do love Spoke Wine Bar in Davis Square. "Mary has an excellent selection of carefully curated wines that their food is well suited to."

To satisfy that sweet tooth

Regarding dessert, Willis is all about classic American: "Nothing too fussy." Flour Bakery hits every time. "I think Joan Chang is super talented and has managed to expand her brand without sacrificing quality."

For a great start to the day

Willis says it's hard to stand out in the coffee world these days, but Cicada Coffee Bar is hands down his local favorite. "With his unique sense of style and passion for the Vietnamese food he was raised on, Vinh Le has created something very special." Willis' order: a Sea Salt Shaker, which he says tastes like "Vietnamese coffee on steroids."

For a trip to the country

Despite being a busy chef with a hectic schedule, Willis always makes time for family. In the warmer months, they take trips to Concord to visit Pam's mother. "Concord is a beautiful, historic town that is home to Walden Pond, a crystal clear body of water that is open to the public and a welcome respite from the City heat on hot days."

For a literary fix

Harvard Square is home to The Harvard Book Store, which is impeccably curated and attended to by the brightest minds. There's a used section in the basement, which is fun for bargain hunting.

Maria Rondeau, general manager and co-owner, and JuanMa Calderon, chef and co-owner

Maria Rondeau and JuanMa Calderon in a lounge space by a bar.
A plate of ravioli and pesto shot from above.
Maria Rondeau and JuanMa Calderon (left), Ravioli at Bar Enza, Boston (right)
Image: Courtesy of La Royal (left), Management/Tripadvisor (right)

In 2018, Peruvian eatery Celeste opened with a splash in Somerville's Union Square and was named one of Boston's Best by the Improper Bostonian. The following year, it was named Boston Magazine's Best New Restaurant. Since then, Rondeau and Calderon have opened two other acclaimed restaurants, Esmeralda and La Royal.

For a great cocktail

Celeste has been praised for its Pisco and Mezcal cocktails. Still, when she's not in the restaurant, Maria Rondeau is partial to the martinis at Pammy's, the Negroni at Bar Enza, and a cocktail called the Naked and Famous at The Bar on Newbury Street in Boston.

A great start to the day

Rondeau and partner JuanMa Calderon love starting their day with Portuguese breakfast at The Neighborhood Restaurant & Bakery in Somerville, around the corner from Celeste. "It's always perfect," says Rondeau.

For a walk in the park

When they're not in the restaurant, JuanMa will catch a soccer game while Maria does yoga. But together, "a stroll always helps us think clearer." Their favorite spots are Danehy Park or Fresh Pond in Cambridge.