I hope you’re hungry. There’s so much to look forward to on the local dining scene: Comfort Kitchen in Upham’s Corner, Dorchester, the hotly anticipated brick-and-mortar home of a JP pop-up celebrating the flavors of the African diaspora; a Mei Mei dumpling factory in South Boston, where dumplings will be made, sold, and consumed in situ at a cafe/classroom; Midnight Morning in Roslindale, bringing coffee, cocktails, and an eclectic menu to the longtime Birch Street Bistro space (the chef will stay the same but the decor will change); Omar’s Bistro, located at Omar’s World of Comics in Lexington, where you’ll find burgers and pizza alongside falafel and manakish.
While some remain on the horizon, other restaurants and bars have just opened or are coming very soon. Here are 10 debuts that promise to make this fall a delicious season.
“Philoxenia” is a warm and wonderful concept. It’s a Greek understanding of hospitality wherein strangers are treated as friends, and it’s the foundational notion behind Xenia Greek Hospitality. The restaurant group owned by Demetri Tsolakis and Stefanos Ougrinis encompasses Agora (a Seaport market), Greco (fast-casual Greek food, with locations around town), Hecate (a Back Bay bar with witchy, subterranean vibes), and Krasi (the above-ground restaurant). And changes are afoot.
Chef Brendan Pelley has joined Xenia as culinary director. He once ran a Greek pop-up called Pelekasis (his family name until his grandfather changed it), where the menu included a modernized version of his mom’s spanakopita, then cooked at Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar, Gibbet Hill Grill, and more. He’s worked with staff to add new dishes at Greco and Krasi (including the 100-layer spanakopita at brunch). And there’s a new Xenia concept coming in late fall: Bar Vlaha in Brookline, a culinary salute to the Vlachs, nomadic shepherds Pelley credits for laying the foundations of Greek food.
To research Bar Vlaha, Pelley traveled to Central Greece, off the beaten tourist track. “We ate in these little mom-and-pop tavernas, mainly in villages that you had to drive up terrifying mountain roads to get to. Most of the tavernas have backyard gardens, and the vegetables go straight from the garden onto your plate. It was so cute and so awesome,” he says. A lot of the food was cooked over live fire. “It almost had this barbecue feel to it, if Greek food were barbecue: meat off the spit and a bunch of sides to go with it. Good rustic sourdough bread was everywhere.” There were also slow-cooked dishes, braised overnight in clay pans. The fish was all freshwater. There were plenty of greens and beets and foraged mushrooms. The milky, ricotta-esque cheese galotyri was on almost every table. And there were pies like alevropita, made from a thin batter loaded with butter, pizza-esque but minus tomatoes. “The pies were eye-opening,” Pelley says.
All of this will inform Bar Vlaha’s homey, rustic menu, with a wine list entirely composed of selections from Central Greece. The restaurant will feel homey, too. “It’s designed to feel like you’re in someone’s home in the villages, and it’s going to be that style of cooking: honest, good food with a lot of heart, a lot of soul, a lot of love,” Pelley says.
1653 Beacon St., Washington Square, Brookline, www.barvlaha.com
Last week, the team behind the South End’s Petit Robert opened a new restaurant in Kendall Square. Bigger than its bistro sibling, Batifol is more of a brasserie, says owner Loic Le Garrec: “Given the neighborhood we are in, it already has that electricity you can find in those places in Paris, very busy, fast-paced, with a beautiful dining room.” (It used to be Abigail’s.) The name means “joyful” in old French — “people don’t use that word much anymore” — and the restaurant is named after one in Paris, now closed, where Le Garrec worked when he was 19.
Chef Cyril Couet was at Miel, the InterContinental Boston’s brasserie, for many years and helped open Colette Wine Bistro. His menu at Batifol is rich with classics, from escargots to onion soup to boeuf bourguignon to moules frites. (More moules to come later in this story: Stay tuned.) There are departures from the canon, too, such as cashew-crusted perch with red curry. Manager Arnaud Abdoun says he’s hearing early raves for the mushroom vol au vent, made with puff pastry and porcini cream.
Batifol has a full liquor license, with cocktails named for stops on the Paris Metro; the modern decor takes some design notes from train stations, as well. The wine list is geared toward affordability and features about 30 reds and 30 whites. Batifol currently serves dinner, lunch, and weekend brunch, with breakfast coming next month. It’s open every day: “Seven days a week,” says Le Garrec. “Just like in Paris.”
291 Third St., Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-945-0345, www.batifolcambridge.com
Birds of Paradise
Ran Duan — the cocktail trailblazer behind Baldwin Bar, Blossom Bar, and Ivory Pearl Bar — is mixing up something new: a cure for pandemic-era malaise. Coming soon to the Charles River Speedway in Brighton, Birds of Paradise is a celebration of travel and escapism.
These are things Duan believes everyone has been craving since COVID struck. “Our team has been fortunate to have opportunities to travel as bartenders,” he says via e-mail. “Each cocktail is going to be based on our travels.”
Next stop: Mexico, with a focus on Jalisco, the inspiration for the 45-seat cocktail bar’s opening menu. “This summer we took a trip to Jalisco to select our very own tequila barrel. We learned, tasted, and harvested agave. We immersed ourselves in the culture for two weeks, eating and drinking and meeting the locals,” Duan says. “From incredible dishes to local ingredients, our menu will focus on what we have learned. With each menu change and evolution of the program, we plan on visiting new locations and sharing our experience through cocktails.”
Bartenders as the new travel agents? I’ll take it.
525 Western Ave. #12, Brighton, www.birdsofparadisebar.com
Hot Chix Boston
Sometimes one wants elegant tasting menus featuring diminutive courses of refined ingredients plated with tweezers. Other times, a Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich is the only thing that will do. Did I tell you to look forward to Hot Chix back in the spring? Yes, I did. Welcome to the unpredictable world of restaurant openings. All that matters is it’s here now, in a soft-opening phase that started last month.
In Inman Square, poultry magnates Alex Kim, Alex Nystedt, and William Yoo serve up the aforementioned-slash-namesake hot chicken sandwiches (pick your own heat level), along with fish and mushroom counterparts; chicken tender plates; sides like slaw, waffle fries, and honey butter biscuits; and beer.
1220 Cambridge St., Inman Square, Cambridge, www.hotchixboston.com
Since it opened in 2016, Juliet has been a restaurant with a clear, beguiling sensibility — a tiny spot that offered myriad experiences, its menu themes ranging from steakhouse to Quebec cuisine to summer nostalgia. And brunch. There was always brunch.
Now it has moved to a bigger space down the street, still in Union Square, Somerville. With the move comes a new focus. And that focus is Nice, France. Which is to say: big bowls of mussels. They are on the menu not just once, but in four different varieties. (Don’t worry. All come with fries.) The rest is a mix of France, Italy, and New England: radishes and butter, omelets, tagliatelle au pistou, hake meuniere, chicken milanesa (in this case, Italy by way of Argentina). The Grand Aioli, a party platter for friends, features vegetables, seafood, and charcuterie. Add lovely cocktails and wine, and some cheese or lemon tart for dessert, and you have fully imbibed the Juliet experience circa 2022.
Brunch is back, too.
263 Washington St., Union Square, Somerville, 617-718-0262, www.julietsomerville.com
Little Whale Oyster Bar and Puritan Oyster Bar
Here’s a twofer for you: the newest entrants into the burgeoning local oyster bar scene. It’s an embarrassment of riches, and we are clearly all here for it.
Both come from experienced restaurateurs. First there’s Little Whale, which opened last month, replacing chef Michael Serpa’s previous concept in the space, Grand Tour. Serpa is also behind Select Oyster Bar (as well as Atlántico); Little Whale offers a more classic take on the genre. It’s an “ode to the seaside clam shacks and raw bars of the New England coast,” but it’s also on Newbury Street, and it’s also Serpa. So your littlenecks might be a little more fashionable (served with jalapeno relish and lime). And alongside chowder, fried clams, and a lobster roll, you get ceviche, roast cauliflower with almonds, raisins, and harissa labneh, and Greek branzino with lentil salad.
Come November — maybe December — chef Will Gilson will open Puritan Oyster Bar, next to Cambridge restaurant Puritan & Company. It will serve up all the oysters, of course, plus tuna carpaccio, hot buttered lobster toast, dishes showcasing smoked fish, and more.
Little Whale Oyster Bar, 314 Newbury St., Back Bay, Boston, 857-277-0800, www.littlewhaleboston.com. Puritan Oyster Bar, 1164 Cambridge St., Inman Square, Cambridge, Instagram @puritanoyster.
After cooking at Oleana and in London, chef Laurence Louie returns home to take over the Quincy space where his mother (and local rocker), Joyce Chan, ran a bakery called Contempo.
Now it’s Rubato, a modern Hong Kong-style cafe, serving a menu of comfort foods such as bao, curry fish balls, and congee. It’s had a warm reception: When Rubato opened in August, its offerings sold out within hours. These days you’ll find a steady supply of steamed buns stuffed with Sichuan vegetables, baked buttery bolo bao with fried chicken or Spam and eggs, pork and century egg congee, house-made steamed rice rolls (ji cheung fun) with brisket, Hong Kong French toast, and an assortment of milky drinks.
412 Hancock St., Quincy, 617-481-2049, www.rubato-food.com
In the cozy space that was previously Little Dipper, Jamaica Plain residents Luke Fetbroth and Claire Makley are opening something they feel their neighborhood needs: a restaurant focusing on Italian comfort food. “While we are Italian-inspired, we lean far more into the neighborhood restaurant than the Italian restaurant. But Italian food just happens to be the comfort food we crave all the time,” Makley says. (So say we all?)
Tonino chef Fetbroth has worked locally at places like Sarma and Giulia. Makley got her start as a hostess at O Ya, moving on to Hojoko and New York before returning to help her best friend, Alyssa DiPasquale, open sake bar the Koji Club. And there will be sake at Tonino, along with vermouth, amari, wine, and spritzes. “Sake is a very food-friendly beverage, and that’s how we designed the beverage menu to be: food-centric,” Makley says. “I will forever have a deep, burning love of sake, and I will not let that go, even though it’s an Italian restaurant.”
To eat: house-made pasta, pizza, and more. “To do a really awesome house-made, from-scratch pasta and pizza program was really the core, and we built out a small but thoughtful menu around that,” Makley says. Their favorite so far: the tomato pie, inspired by the Philadelphia specialty.
669A Centre St., Jamaica Plain, www.toninojp.com
The Wig Shop
Last month, a cocktail lounge called The Wig Shop opened in Downtown Crossing, and I’m not sure I need to say much more than that, because how could you not want to drink at a cocktail lounge called The Wig Shop? (It’s located in a former wig shop. Surprise!)
But just in case: It’s run by the Bina Family Hospitality Group, which is also behind the adjacent jm Curley and secretive steakhouse Bogie’s Place, as well as Bin 26 Enoteca. Executive chef John Malone serves up fancy finger food: Dolled Up Oysters (with rose mignonette and yuzu creme fraiche), mini buttermilk pancakes with warm lobster and harissa butter, caviar crepes, pork belly tacos. And to go with your canapes are cocktails overseen by bar manager Oscar Simoza — from the I Feel Pretty (vodka, raspberry, elderflower, and glitter foam) to classic martini service.
27 Temple Place, Downtown Crossing, Boston, 617-338-6333, www.wigshopboston.com
It’s wonderful to have another Chinese restaurant in the South End — especially one that serves a range of true Dian, or Yunnan, dishes. Its website says it is the first restaurant to do so in Boston. Yunnan Kitchen, which opened in the spring, thus feels new enough to bring to your attention here.
The owners also run South of the Clouds, a Yunnan rice noodle shop in Brighton, but this menu is much broader. And the cooking is, indeed, different from what you’ll find in other area restaurants. There is a lot of potato, in dishes from a crisp pancake of potato shreds to a mashed potato dish tossed in the wok. Fried mushrooms are served with chile powder for dipping, and rice pancakes with condensed milk. There’s fun textural stuff like fried pea flour jelly, a traditional street snack, and a dessert made with coconut milk, tapioca pearls, and toasted brioche. Some American Chinese restaurant classics, like scallion pancakes and beef with broccoli, are here too.
1721B Washington St., South End, Boston, 617-936-4123, www.yunnankitchensouthend.com