Taste the future of New England cooking at Inman Square’s Puritan & Company. Chef Will Gilson reinvigorates forgotten regional classics like Irish boiled dinner (corned beef and cabbage), anadama bread (a nineteenth-century cornmeal-and-molasses bread from Cape Ann), and even Moxie soda, an 1870s Lowell invention that now shows up in his lamb-belly appetizer ($16). Locally caught fish get clever makeovers playing on the state’s immigrant flavors, such as pastrami swordfish ($13) or Portuguese-inspired monkfish with chorizo, kale, and fennel ($26). Be sure to look around while you eat: The restaurant space was once the Puritan Cake Company, a popular bakery from the thirties to the fifties, and the current décor is artfully curated with nods to Gilson’s farmhouse upbringing (taxidermic pheasants, a hostess stand made from his family’s vintage Glenwood stove).
Sample the fusion of French and New English cuisines at West Bridge Restaurant, which opened in Kendall Square in 2012. Chef Matthew Gaudet (one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2013) trained at Eleven Madison Park and Jean-Georges, and his Gallic influences suffuse everything from the bistro chairs to the small plates, like Burgundy snails ($12) and seafood potage ($14). However, his talents are most apparent in the way he transforms humble local ingredients, which wouldn’t have been out of place at the first Thanksgiving, in dishes like venison with squash, cranberry, and freekeh ($28), or quail with parsnips, apples, brandy, and rosemary ($16).
Order your fried chicken “Nashville hot” ($18) with a buttermilk chaser ($3) at Kendall Square’s State Park. Opened in December, this Southern-inspired dive looks like it’s been a townie hangout since the days of Bill Buckner, but that’s by design: booths, neon beer signs, and tables (complete with, yes, polyurethane gum underneath) were salvaged from the Paddock Restaurant, rumored to be a favorite hangout of mobster Whitey Bulger. The regional dishes—Memphis BBQ spaghetti ($11), grilled pimento cheese ($8), Kentucky hot brown ($13)—come with a decidedly better pedigree, thanks to chef Barry Maiden, who also runs refined French-Appalachian restaurant Hungry Mother around the corner. Both spots take their name from Hungry Mother State Park in Maiden’s native Virginia, and the team honored the place by crafting a six-foot-wide diorama, filled with mountains, black bears, and tiny canoers, for the State Park dining room.