Food and Wine just came out with their 2008 restaurant “Go List”. According to Food and Wine, it has eliminated restaurant guesswork for food-obsessed travelers. Luckily, I live in Boston, which has eight restaurants on the list so I can easily pass judgment on whether this list makes any sense and whether I should follow it when traveling to other places. The Boston restaurants on the list are: Craigie Street Bistro, Hammersley’s Bistro, Harvest, La Verdad Taqueria, Myers and Chang, No. 9 Park, O Ya, and Radius. I’ve been to six of the eight, having tried neither La Verdad Taqueria nor Myers and Chang, so I feel comfortable making an assessment. Verdict: Ambivalent.
I am happy to see No. 9 Park as it is miles above any other restaurant in Boston, and often gets shafted in “Best of Boston” style reviews. And I’m glad to see places like L’Espalier and Aujourd’hui left off of the list as they are so frequently and undeservedly on top of Zagat’s lists. Also, O Ya is amazing, and no “go list” of Boston restaurants would be complete without it. Craigie Street Bistro is also worthy of a “go list” spot. It’s no No. 9, but it’s as close as anyone in Boston gets.
All that said, what are Radius and Harvest doing on this list? Radius is soooooo bad. I have never heard anyone say anything good about Radius. It’s the kind of place that investment bankers and lawyers take important clients to show them that they can afford to spend a lot of money even on mediocre food. Harvest is pretty mediocre itself. Granted I haven’t been there in nearly 3 years, but I had been several times prior to that and it was never that interesting or great. It’s not bad per se, but I hope no one travels to Boston to go there.
I like Hammersley’s Bistro, but it certainly should not edge out places like Ten Tables or Oishii. It’s solid upscale bistro cuisine, but there are so many restaurants in Boston just like it and it doesn’t set itself apart in any meaningful way. I mean, can anyone really point to substantive differences between places like Hammersley’s and Mistral and Acquitaine and Icarus? They’re good. Sometimes they’re really good, sometimes they’re mediocre. It depends on what you get and the night you go. There are two restaurants right across the street from Hammersley’s that are both unique and delicious, namely B&G Oysters and The Butcher Shop, so where is their spot on the “Go List?”
It seems to me that the “Go to” places on this list should reflect the characteristics of the city that they’re in. Rather than splitting hairs and making impossibly subjective decisions like who makes a better foie gras, Food and Wine should try to represent as wide a range of cuisine and neighborhoods as possible in the city. If a tourist were to adhere to this list they would skip the North End, Chinatown, Charlestown, South Boston, and Jamaica Plain. It’s deceptive and a waste of readers’ time to generate a list of the places to go in Boston if the only criterion is where the Food and Wine critics happened to enjoy their meal most.