smith street

One of Boston’s best qualities is its subtlety: It’s not America’s biggest, brightest, or boldest city. Instead, it carries a reticent sense of savvy and cool not found in many other metro areas.

That sense of effortless style extends to Boston’s culinary scene, where some of the city’s best restaurants are among its most understated. The best hidden restaurants in Boston range from buzzworthy cocktail bars tucked away on unassuming blocks to cheap-eats Chinese food counters. Despite their differences, each of these easily overlooked dining venues is a destination in its own right.

Don’t blink — you might miss an unforgettable meal.

Parla

Hidden in plain sight on the North End’s main drag, Parla bills itself as “a curious dining experience.” The restaurant serves an interesting riff on classic Italian, infused with New American touches and flavors from around the world. Striped Bass Crudo, Wild Boar Meatballs and Beef Tongue Bruschetta are just the opening salvo, with Monkfish Osso Bucco and Quail Egg Carbonara to come. Be sure to make advance reservations at Parla — the dining space is cozy, leaving little room for day-of reservations or walk-in seatings.

Parla
230 Hanover Street
Boston, MA 02113
www.parlaboston.com

Wink & Nod

This hidden Back Bay establishment goes beyond standard speakeasy fare, serving as a “culinary incubator” for some of New England’s best chefs. The bar rotates the team in charge of its kitchen every six months in an effort to offer innovative dining and keep its menus fresh. Bread & Salt is currently running the culinary program at Wink & Nod, crafting classic French favorites like Monkfish, Steak Frites, Mushroom Consomme and Charred Beef Tartare. As an added bonus, Wink & Nod concocts some of the best seasonal cocktails in Boston, served up, down, long, or over ice.

Wink & Nod
3 Appleton Street
Boston, MA 02116
www.winkandnod.com

Carrie Nation Restaurant & Cocktail Club

This restaurant may look like a run-of-the-mill tavern and grub spot from street level, but closer inspection proves otherwise. Carrie Nation’s second floor is home to The Speakeasy, serving finer fare and drinks in an intimate setting. The upstairs lounge space is a favorite for upscale evening revelry, serving a wide selection of Scotch Whisky, along with savory sandwiches and seafood from the raw bar.

Carrie Nation Restaurant & Cocktail Club
11 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
www.carrienationcocktailclub.com

Wai Wai Restaurant

Tucked away on a side street in the heart of Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, Wai Wai is the consummate hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Favored by neighborhood denizens and nearby office workers alike, Wai Wai offers a simple menu of Chinese standards, including Duck Leg on Rice and Chicken Tripe — and you can’t beat the prices.

Wai Wai Restaurant
26 Oxford Street
Boston, MA 02111
www.menupages.com