5 restaurant openings we’re excited about this month

Restaurants

Boston-area openings include a casual Thai bar in Brookline, a new food hall in Downtown Boston, and more.

Burgers from Big Grin. Brian Samuels

Winter isn’t usually the most buzzy time to open a restaurant – especially in New England – yet there’s been some grand openings around town that we can’t wait to check out. 

From a new food hall in Downtown Boston to modern Thai restaurant and fast-casual Italian, here are the venues that have our mouths watering for February.

Three years after this popular Cambridge pub closed during the pandemic, it’s officially reopened in its new location in Kendall Square — and is already being celebrated by past regulars for its classic pub fare alongside a round of pool. The crimson-hued, retro space from the red walls to the 12 ruby felt-topped pool tables, are a nod to its enduring concept as Flat Top Johnny’s has been a neighborhood institution since 1993. The bar serves up a rotating list of locally crafted beer, with one of their most popular food orders being The Lilith Burger, smothered with the works (pickles, onion, tomatoes, lettuce) and served with hot, crispy fries, which the venue teases on Instagram to be “your new obsession.”

238 Main St., Cambridge

Now Open

Pizza from Gatto Pazzo. – Brian Samuels

Boston adds to its lineup of Michelin-starred chefs making their mark on the city with chef John Fraser unveiling his culinary destination at the heart of Winthrop Center in Downtown Boston. Fraser earned his star for his innovation with vegetables at his former NYC restaurant, Nix, and now infuses some of that veggie-forward thinking to the concepts at The Lineup, chef Fraser’s first-ever food hall. Ariana showcases vegetarian Mexi-Cali cuisine where beef and pork are replaced by thoughtfully sourced vegetables in burritos and Mexican street food. There are a total of five grab-and-go concepts that surround what the space refers to their “an urban living room” for mingling over coffee from Day Shift and lunch from IRIS Mezze (Mediterranean), Gatto Pazzo (Neapolitan pizza), and Big Grin (burgers and roadside classics). With hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday, The Lineup caters to the work crowd of downtown.

​​115 Federal St.

Now Open

In other food hall news, High Street Place welcomed their newest vendor in January – a high-quality Italian menu in the form of a fast-casual setting. Makaroni prides itself on its made-to-order pasta from Chef Nina Festekjian; there’s classics like chicken pesto penne, Bolognese linguine and Italian sausage orecchiette to specialities like burrata truffle ravioli and lemon chicken spaghetti. Though some may disdain pasta for lunch, the minimalist stand is hoping to promote it – serving up fresh, delicate noodles with local vegetables that are more ethereal than indulgent. 

100 High St.

Now Open

Merai 

Merai
Chompon Boonnak of Merai. – Photo courtesy of Merai

Thai culinary enthusiasts ought to be thrilled to hear that the same team behind Mahaniyom, the Thai tapas restaurant on Washington Street in Brookline, will open a sibling restaurant in Brookline Village, called Merai. Co-owners Chompon Boonnak and Smuch Saikamthorn explain that even though the restaurant is physically close to Mahaniyom, the menu and concept is something completely new, in the style of “ran lao,” casual Thai bars which they liken to an elevated, dive bar, yet nothing overly formal. This also means Merai will have an impressive cocktail list, using Thai twists on classics, which is similar to highlights from the food menu, like Hung Lay Bao, pork belly braised in Thai Northern-style curry, in bao buns or Khao Soi Fettuccini.

Harvard Street, Brookline

Opens: Mid February

An interior rendering of Saltie Girl, which will reopen late February 2024. – Courtesy

This Back Bay favorite took the month of January off to spruce up for spring. Oyster and shellfish-fans don’t fret—Saltie Girl will return at the end of February after PCA Design freshens up its interiors. Expect a lighter, more whimsical palette from the mint and rosy hues of the basement bar to a tropical palette in the ballroom (main dining area), while the library will be decked in wood and forest tones. The menu will also see some new additions with the likes of dover sole, tuna carpaccio and salmon balls as a palate teaser. For diners who can’t wait for the complete reveal, Saltie Girl is offering a prix fixe dinner with seatings at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on February 1 and February 14, hosted by chef and culinary director, Kyle McClelland. 

279 Dartmouth St.

Opens: Late February