Boston's Hidden Restaurants

Best Hidden Restaurants in the Boston Area, 2015

It's hard to believe that 2015 is almost done, but the year is indeed winding down, and as always, it is time to look at some of the best restaurants visited over the past 12 months (and this is the tenth year of doing the "best ofs," by the way). It was tough this year because there were just so many outstanding spots, but the list has been narrowed down to the ones below which include a sampling of categories. What were some of the best dining and drinking spots you went to this year? (Note: This page is part of our restaurant features section, which also includes our 2014 Best Boston Restaurants List and other "best of" lists that go back to 2005.)

Best American Restaurant, 2015
Dogwood Cafe, Jamaica Plain, MA
This was a very difficult one, with such places as the Ashmont Grill in Dorchester and Atwood's Tavern in Cambridge in the running--and it could have easily been switched with Atwood's (see below). But in the end, this Forest Hills dining and drinking spot won out for its impressive comfort food, cozy surroundings, and friendly staff, and the relatively easy parking, decent prices, and live music were all icing on the cake.

Best Bar, 2015
Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA
As mentioned above, Atwood's and the Dogwood could have been picked as best American and best bar, respectively, but the always-appealing bar scene at this dark and rustic Inman Square spot seemed to seal the deal as far as where the picks are placed this year. An outstanding beer list, equally good cocktail options, and terrific classic and New American fare put this one over the top, as well as its "hidden" side patio during the warmer months.

Best Breakfast Place, 2015
Mad Hatter Cafe, Weymouth, MA
Irish pubs can be found in almost every neighborhood in the Greater Boston area, but Irish-owned restaurants that offer up Irish-influenced meals are a bit tougher to find. And the Mad Hatter is one of the best in the region for that, as this South Shore eatery serves interesting takes on breakfast dishes such as a yankee pot roast breakfast, crab cake benedict, and a breakfast pizza that will quickly induce sleep.

Best Chinese Restaurant, 2015
Beijing Chinese Dining, Lexington, MA
This serene second-floor restaurant in Lexington Center may not get much press, but it beat out so many others thanks to its real-deal food influenced by northeastern and northern Chinese fare and with very little in the way of Chinese-American food on its menu. With such items as Beijing dumplings, beef vermicelli hot pot, Beijing pan-seared noodles with meat, seafood, and veggies, and stir-fried beef and king mushrooms, Beijing impresses in many, many ways.

Best Greek Restaurant, 2015
Taso's Euro-Cafe, Norwood, MA
Some restaurants are worth going to just for their location, and while half the fun of Taso's is getting there (it is hidden away at the tiny Norwood Airport), it also happens to serve some of the best Greek food in the entire region. This homey spot is family-owned, and the recipes they use reflect the love and caring they put into each meal, including everything from avgolemono to moussaka to ekmek to even a Greek-style pizza.

Best Hamburgers, 2015
Flat Patties, Cambridge, MA
Flat Patties, O'Sullivan's, Flat Patties, O'Sullivan' sounds like a broken record, but these two spots are consistently at or near the top year after year. And this year, this bustling Harvard Square eatery gets the nod over the nearby Somerville pub, in part because of price, quick service, convenience, and yes, the sublime griddled burgers themselves that are juicy, greasy, and delicious beyond belief.

Best Hot Dog Stand, 2015
Simco's, Mattapan, MA
Much like Flat Patties, this iconic Mattapan food stand is at or near the top time and time again for its greasy, grilled hot dogs that put most of the others out there to shame. And even though it is located on busy Blue Hill Avenue and has been in business forever, Simco's remains a hidden gem of sorts, as so many people in both the suburbs and the city have never even heard of the place.

Best Italian Restaurant, 2015
Massimo's Ristorante, Wakefield, MA
A place that has moved around a bit during its existence, this Wakefield Center restaurant seems to have found a permanent home at last, and many are certainly happy about this; the owner of Massimo's and his staff have really established a gem of a place in this northern suburb, offering freshly made Northern and Southern Italian dishes along with outstanding pastries, which is the owner's specialty.

Best Japanese Restaurant, 2015
Sapporo Ramen, Cambridge, MA
This category could have gone to so many, including Toraya in Arlington, Shabu in Quincy, Village Sushi in Roslindale, and Tampopo in Cambridge, but it is Tampopo's next-door neighbor in the Porter Exchange that gets the nod this year, mainly for its almost criminally-good ramen options. A few highlights at this tiny eatery include a spicy miso ramen that is more flavorful than hot, and a sesame ramen (tantan men) that may be the pick of the lot here.

Best Mexican Restaurant, 2015
Mexico Lindo, Melrose, MA
While there are more authentic Mexican restaurants in the Boston area (most notably in East Boston and Waltham), this Melrose Center spot reaches the top this year for its dynamic vibe, fun atmosphere, live music, back patio, and excellent food. The menu at Mexico Lindo has something for everyone, straddling the line between Mexican-American and authentic Mexican, with such dishes as enchiladas, chicken mole, pierna de puerco (pork loin with potatoes, peppers, and spices), and pollo a la crema (chicken and veggies in sour cream sauce) offered.

Best Pizza, 2015
Picco, Boston, MA
A well-known restaurant for those who live in the South End of Boston, this Tremont Street pizza and ice cream spot is definitely not as well-known elsewhere in Boston and especially in the suburbs. This is a shame, as the gourmet pizzas here are often seen as being the best in the region and among the best in all of New England, really. The marvelous crust puts these pizzas over the top, though the fresh cheese, sauce, and toppings can't be ignored, either.

Best Sandwiches, 2015
Bob's Italian Foods, Medford, MA
This old-fashioned Italian market in South Medford is where locals go for everything from cheese to pasta to meats to bread, but some might not realize that it also has a deli area in the back where some of the best hot and cold subs in the Boston area are made. It is safe to say that there might be no better place to get an Italian sub, and the meatball, eggplant, and chicken parm subs at Bob's are outstanding as well.

Best Seafood Restaurant, 2015
Tony's Clam Shop, Quincy, MA
If a "restaurant hall of fame" is ever created for this site, this Wollaston Beach seafood joint will likely be one of the first to be inducted. Two items in particular stand out at Tony's--the fried clams and the lobster rolls--but everything is good here, including the scallops, fish sandwiches, crab cakes, and even the non-seafood items such as the burgers, hot dogs, falfel, and hummus.

Best Thai Restaurant, 2015
Mango II, Tewksbury, MA
It may be hard to believe that a Thai restaurant in the outer suburbs of Boston tops some of its competitors closer to or in the city, but such is the case with this humble little eatery on Route 38. Included here are great takes on tom yum soup, shumai, country pad Thai, and massaman curry along with a red-hot thunder noodle plate, and for those who seek gluten-free dining, Mango is a definite standout in that area.

Best Vietnamese Restaurant, 2015
Pho So 1, Randolph, MA
In a year full of top Vietnamese restaurants visited (Pho Le, Sunrise, Pho Viet's, N&H Saigon Subs), this under-the-radar spot in Randolph gets the nod, in part because--like its sibling in Dorchester's Fields Corner--the pho here is mind-blowingly great, with a perfect combination of sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory flavors making each bowl a memorable dining experience. For those not in the mood for soup, the vermicelli bowls and steamed vermicelli are nearly as good here, with a nod given to the vermicelli with grilled beef.