> 255 State Street, Boston, 617-725-0305, citylanding.com
In his successful remake of the downtown Sel de la Terre space, chef Bill Brodsky ensures his first venture as owner offers something for everyone, from kids to the gluten-intolerant to vegetarians to after-work drinkers. Dishes such as mini lobster rolls, pizzette, and modernized liver and onions satisfy, and customer service is emphasized. Prioritizing food and hospitality over scene, City Landing is off to a solid start.
DOOWEE & RICE
> 868 Broadway, Somerville, 617-764-1906, dooweeandrice.com
For his first restaurant, Duy Tran draws on both his Vietnamese heritage and his Cordon Bleu training. The cornerstone of his menu is rice with meat (chicken, steak, or pork), drizzled with a white sauce and served with salad and pita. But he also offers snacks such as crispy chicken hearts with garlic-chili aioli, Vietnamese egg rolls, steamed buns, and wings. Everything is made fresh, and it’s the rare item that costs more than $10.
> 447 Somerville Avenue, Somerville, 617-764-3152, dosatemple.com
This new branch of an Ashland restaurant is entirely meat-free. Serving a variety of the crisp, filled crepes called dosa, as well as curries, rice plates, and a lunch buffet, Dosa Temple is a reminder that there’s probably no better place to be a vegetarian than India.
EMPIRE ASIAN RESTAURANT & LOUNGE
> 1 Marina Park Drive, Boston, 617-295-0001, empireboston.com
Big Night Entertainment Group strikes again. This Asian-themed nightclub-slash-restaurant, sibling to Red Lantern and Shrine, looks like a luxe dim sum hall and serves surprisingly fine, Chinatown-worthy dishes, such as salt-and-pepper calamari and Singapore street noodles. Then there are kitschy riffs on American Chinese favorites, like lobster scallion pancakes. Is Empire “authentic”? No, but it’s loads of fun.
> 71 Union Street, Newton, 617-928-6000, farmsteadtable.com
A rustic-chic space — white walls, wood tables, and spring-green chairs — that’s sweet but spare enough not to be precious. And it boasts a menu featuring dishes that are comfortable and clean, the sort of food people want to eat with regularity. Think well-made salads, steamed clams with broth, roast chicken, and a great burger. The wonderful spelt bread and s’mores tart, made by chef-owner Chad Burns’s wife and partner, Sharon, complete the meal. Now if only there were more than those 48 seats.
> 15 Dunster Street, Cambridge, 617-497-0900, thefirstprinter.com
Back in the 17th century, the first printer in British America lived in the Harvard Square location now occupied by, ahem, First Printer. The restaurant/bar nods to its historic roots with printed relics on the walls and old-timey drinks like the Journalist and the Correspondent. Weekly live music accompanies the comfortable menu of grilled hanger steak and locally sourced sweet lobster chowder.
HAPPY’S BAR + KITCHEN
> 1363 Boylston Street, Boston, 857-753-4100, happysbarandkitchen.com
Restaurant royal Michael Schlow hits the Fenway with small dishes familiar enough to soothe but inventive enough to (we hope!) beckon customers back. Pork belly comes with fried green tomatoes; homemade potato chips with green onion chickpea puree; and mac and cheese with bacon, peas, and jalapeno.
HOPS N SCOTCH
> 1306 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-232-8808, hopsnscotchbar.com
When the owners of Coolidge Corner Wine & Spirits opened Hops N Scotch in Finale’s old space, it was no surprise that their drink menu offered some 80 types of beer and 100 whiskeys, including Scotch and bourbon. Between sips, Brookline’s young professionals dine on Southern Scotch eggs, Texas sliders, and pork tacos.
> 21 Temple Place, Boston, 617-338-5333, jmcurleyboston.com
Named for charming scoundrel James Michael Curley, this Downtown Crossing hangout has achieved some notoriety for its cheeky house rules, such as: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s date, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor his grub, nor his cocktail, his barstool, space, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.” But its food should be taken seriously, from snacks such as fried pickles and deviled eggs to frequently changing specials to — perhaps above all — a perfect grilled burger. Add in bubble hockey, desserts that resemble Dairy Queen Blizzards, and a strong bar program, and you’ve got an instant neighborhood hit.