To wrap up the year, Eater Boston polled both local journalists and readers of this site to get their thoughts on the past year in hospitality: the good, the bad, and the most exciting things to come in 2023. The results have been collected in the following series of articles. (Check out the full archive here.)
Below we ask: Was there a particular restaurant that made you feel truly committed to your local community? How did you do that?
Marc Hurwitz, Founder of Boston’s Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, Food/Travel Writer for Dig Boston and NBC Boston/NECN:
“The new Omar’s Bistro in Lexington is doing a great job by hiring people with special needs. Omar himself has Down Syndrome and he and his family have really created something special here with the comic book store, the video game lounge and now the restaurant.”
MC Slim JB, Boston Magazine Food Critic:
“Not a restaurant, but I’m grateful to local organizations that feed Bostonians who are homeless or food insecure, like the Greater Boston Food Bank, Community Servings, Restaurant Worker Mutual Aid of Greater Boston, and Haley House. Another one I just learned about is the Friday Night Supper Program, which offers weekly free meals at Arlington Street Church for those in need. They all deserve our support.”
Devra First, Boston Globe food critic:
“So many restaurants do so much good for their communities that I wouldn’t try to single out one of them: for regularly feeding neighbors in need, supporting worthy organizations, supporting employees in need, and so on. I will say it was great to see the Madhouse Cafe open on a stretch of Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury where there wasn’t such a welcoming coffee house/meeting place.”
Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Boston Magazine Food Editor:
“I continue to be impressed with everything Pagu owner Tracy Chang has done during the pandemic, helping to launch multiple food insecurity and mutual aid initiatives and collaborating with existing initiatives. For example, she and Irene Li of Mei Mei, along with a few non-restaurant employees, ran Project Restore Us, helping get food to thousands of essential working-class families in the greater Boston area. And that’s just one of several community projects she’s been involved with!”
Nearly 100 people took part in the Eater Boston restaurant survey this year (thanks everyone!). Below is a selection of reader responses to the restaurants that made a real difference to their communities this year.
- “JP residents Kelly Fernandes, Marvin Mathelier and Beth Santos took over Ula Cafe in 2021, but this year they really made Ula a model community cafe! They have a “Pay it Forward” wall where customers can buy an item anonymously for other community members. They have also been genuinely committed to supporting and protecting queer and trans community members in the face of hate. Their values represent the best of JP and it’s so nice to have that back in our cafes!”
- “Backbar – even though they do Harry Potter nights, I appreciate that they donate money to trans activist organizations and point out that JKR doesn’t get any money from them.”
- “Franklin Cafe. Making outdoor seating a staple post-pandemic created an enduringly welcoming space for the South End. Thanks for being the best!”
- “Hemlock has really embraced the community by doing things like a drive-in movie night and other family activities, supporting the country club during the US Open, and hosting fireside dinners.”
- “Trina’s Starlight Lounge. They kept partying and welcoming the community.”
- “Alba in Quincy and Hanover. Owner Leo has done so much for the community and his staff after and during the pandemic.”
- “Koji Club offers a wonderful neighborhood sake experience with frequent pop-ups and a genuinely caring owner.”
- “Not a single restaurant – Commonwealth Kitchen – supports primarily POC and immigrant start-ups with shared culinary space, business planning, marketing, etc.”
- “Mei Mei – the team there really cared about small businesses and AAPI small businesses.”
- “Tonino in JP and Koji Club in Brighton! There really aren’t any other sake bars in Boston. Tonino is a great addition to JP in this casual but intimate dining experience – I find Tres Gatos and Brassica are great but difficult to enter or get reservations.”
These answers have been slightly condensed and edited for clarity.