Birthdays are different for everyone. Some people will micromanage every detail of an entire weekend, and others will request to crawl into a hole with the lights off and play Enya on loop until the day is over. No matter how you choose to celebrate another lap around the sun, you and your friends will have to eat at some point. Here’s where to go.
This guide is presented in partnership with MINI - so you can spend less time picking a great restaurant, and more time on the things that matter. Like actually enjoying your birthday.
This South End restaurant is big enough for large groups, attractive enough to feel special if it’s just two of you, and has a patio so nice that people have been married back there. More importantly, it serves pasta with such interesting ingredients that the menu could double as the complete inventory of an Italian market. The food is designed to be shared, but we will warn you that you might want to hoard the truffle bauletti for yourself. It’s way better than a birthday cake.
This Downtown Crossing restaurant is a throwback to a time when most people only went out to dinner for really special occasions and then spent all night describing the oysters as the bee’s knees. Whether you want to use 1920s slang when you’re in here is up to you, but regardless you should still get the oysters and the prosciutto and rabbit. It’s particularly great to have your birthday here, because, if you’re the type of person who’s celebrated turning 29 more than once, you can take comfort in the fact that Marliave is way older than you.
Sometimes you want a night at a fancy, dark steakhouse where you can pretend you’re very important. Boston Chops in the South End provides exactly that, along with a glass-walled group dining room where you can look out upon all the plebeians who don’t have a birthday to celebrate. Obviously you need to eat a steak here (the 18 oz. bone-in ribeye would be a good choice) but the fish and pasta dishes are well-executed too.
If it was our birthday, we’d wrangle 10 friends and reserve the suckling pig roast at this fun Central Square spot. But if the people in your group are picky, this place also serves Japanese food, Spanish food, and New England food all under one roof, so you won’t feel guilty forcing a whole pig onto anyone’s plate.
Trillium in Forth Point easily could have kept their focus solely on the beer - some of the best in the world - and this would still be a worthwhile destination. But they actually put effort into the food too, making this one of the best all-around restaurants in the city (try the bone marrow if you don’t believe us). They’ve got plenty of room for all your friends, and a roof deck for when the weather’s nice. So come here and drink much better beer than whatever you had on your 21st birthday.
No one wants to feel lonely on their birthday. If you go to Sarma, a Mediterranean restaurant in Winter Hill that’s packed every night, loneliness is definitely not going to be a problem. There’s a big menu here at this dark spot with a lively open kitchen, but even if you explore only a small part of it you’ll be fine - the flavors of each dish are so intense you’ll be satisfied after only a few plates. We recommend starting with the lamb sliders and, definitely keep an eye out on the specials that are carried around the dining room on trays.
If you want to have a last-minute birthday party with your first, second, and third-tier friends, you’ll probably be able to get a reservation at Salty Pig in Back Bay. The space is big and casual - ideal if you predict this group will get a little rowdy. Everyone will be happy with a bunch of cheese and charcuterie boards, pizzas, and salads for the table.
You probably won’t be taking a big group here for your birthday (unless your friends are bankrolled by an oil baron), but for smaller dinners with family or significant others, this Central Square restaurant should be near the top of your list. It’s a white tablecloth place with a fine dining tasting menu, and it’s a lot more fun than those spots usually are - thanks to great cocktails, an adjacent bar, and an open kitchen.
The good news about celebrating with a big group at a great small plates place is that you get to order everything on the menu. The bad news is that you might only get one bite of each thing. Luckily, this place in Harvard Square also has one of the best cocktail menus around, so you can handle your conflicted emotions with alcohol. Get the rabbit, the tuna crudo, and definitely enjoy a few of those drinks. This is a big, fun restaurant that’s almost always buzzing, so feel free to stand up at the table and sing Happy Birthday to yourself - it’ll just add to the atmosphere.
The dining room in this Downtown Crossing joint is big enough to host an entire steamship’s worth of robber barons - and it looks the part. You may not have as much money as Cornelius Vanderbilt, but you can pretend you do when you split a ribeye steak. It’s pricey, but that makes it an even better place to hit up on the one day of the year when you’re definitely not the one paying.
You almost always need a reservation and you’re not allowed to use your cell phone at Bogie’s Place, but in this case the fussiness actually enhances the experience. That means men don’t have to wear white tuxedo jackets to this speakeasy steakhouse hidden inside JM Curley’s in Downtown Crossing, but they might want to. This is a great spot to celebrate with just a few really close people in your life, and, since everything here is expensive as is, go big with the 45-day dry-aged steak.
If you’re the type of person who might feel guilty about ordering a single spoonful of food that costs $16, then save Uni for your birthday when you can slurp down this mixture of quail egg, sea urchin, and caviar with zero shame. This Back Bay izakaya is a fun, sceney spot that works for either dinner or late-night ramen after you finish at the bars. Luckily, you can usually get a reservation the day before, so even if you’ve been pretending that your birthday isn’t actually coming, Uni’s an excellent option.