We know why you’re here. It’s not for the history, or the architecture, or the changing of the seasons…. It’s the seafood. So. Much. Seafood. Boston restaurants have spent decades prioritizing the fruits of the sea, from freshly shucked oysters to gourmet lobster rolls. Meantime, some of the city’s newer seafood entries are reinventing the wheel, with gourmet tinned fish, smoked whitefish pizza and fried oyster sliders. Sure, Boston knows a thing or two about pizza and tacos, but it’s the city's expertise on all things ocean that sets it apart within the country’s culinary atmosphere. However you like your just-from-the-ocean eats, a visit to one of the best seafood restaurants in town should be at the very top of your list of things to do in Boston.
Best seafood restaurants in Boston
If you thought Michael Scelfo couldn’t surpass Alden & Harlow, his small-plates masterpiece, you haven’t yet been to Waypoint. There is no better place to indulge your seafood obsession, be it a hankering for bivalves, a curiosity about caviar or an appetite for overindulgence that leads you to the roasted branzino for two. The smoked whitefish pizza is a highlight on a no-miss menu that also includes uni bucatini, pork and crab soup dumplings, and Maine lobster tail with a brown butter aioli. (Many of these dishes are also available at brunch.) The seafood-friendly wine menu is impressive, but you’ll be hard pressed not to indulge in at least one of the Absinthe cocktails.
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Michael C.
Chef Michael Serpa broke hearts when he left Neptune Oyster, only to swell them anew with his first solo venture. The townhouse-like enclave—a much-needed addition to the surprisingly wanting Back Bay dining scene—marries New England seafood with Mediterranean techniques for one of those must-return dining experiences. It starts with oysters, of course, both East and West Coast, best enjoyed as ensemble players astride razor clams and dressed lobster on one of the seafood towers. Dinner continues with simple yet impeccably executed dishes like blue prawns a la plancha and whole roasted sea bream; the surprise of a terrific wine and cocktail program only adds to this spot’s allure. The three-course, $33 bistro menu on Mondays is one of those deals you’re reluctant to tell so many people about; as for lunch, the star is undoubtedly the Maine lobster sandwich, done up in aioli instead of your standard-issue mayo.
Why are crowds forever clustered outside this North End seafood bar when pasta beckons all around? Six words: lobster roll, lobster roll, lobster roll. Served hot or cold, the inestimable specimen is a gluttonous wonder of claw and tail meat stuffed inside a toasted brioche bun. But don’t let your crustaceous hankering get in the way of other wares (and don’t ruin your appetite with the delicious fries); the clam chowder, tuna “steak” frites and cioppino are all worth the price of admission alone. In between dinner visits, cozy up to the subway tiled bar for a quick lunch of oysters and littlenecks chased with some bubbly.
What was once an unassuming South Shore oyster farm has morphed into a bona fide empire, the lynchpin of which is this glam Kenmore Square restaurant. Settling on an entrée is an insurmountable task; opting for the bouillabaisse, after all, means you miss out on the lip-smacking fish and chips. Studiously avoid all the squishy gunk inside your steamed lobster? The lobster roe noodles will change your tune. Come brunch, a freshly baked pastry basket plays precursor to a “now for something different” spread of oyster sliders, lobster bisque and confit yellowfin tuna melt.
Ostra has hit upon a magic formula: sophisticated seafood with a side of piano music. The exquisite menu starts with oysters and tartare, then moves on to grilled Spanish octopus, pan-roasted halibut and grilled sea bream. If once-a-year celebratory cuisine is what you’re after, you’ll be torn between the salt-crusted branzino, the three-pound broiled lobster and the $155 Israeli caviar; the 275-bottle wine cellar, at least, makes clear you should spring for something special. Before the evening ends, take your nightcap over to the sleek lounge area for the aforementioned ivory tinkling.
The siren calls of oysters and beer will most likely lure you to this Fort Point venture, another entry from local seafood baron Jeremy Sewall. Choose from at least a dozen rotating bivalves, then ask for the best brew pairing available; otherwise, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of draft choices. If you can tear yourself away from the raw bar, you’ll be waffling between classic New England offerings like cider-steamed mussels, fried oysters, roasted bluefish and the addictive warm buttered lobster roll. Just cling to the adage that good things come to those who wait, because the wait time for a table is never short.
Seized by a sudden hankering for prosecco and bivalves? There is no better place for such indulgence than the subterranean bar in the heart of the South End. (Has Barbara Lynch ever had a misstep?) After checking off your oyster selections, sit back and start considering your entrée move. The cooked classics are all here, including fried Ipswich clams and a lauded lobster roll, though in the latter instance you might want to change things up with the lobster BLT. Seasonal fish dishes might include mussels da fra diavolo or crispy red snapper; the lardon-topped clam chowder is a necessary starter. In summer, the backyard patio demands some alfresco slurping.
Bostonians might claim they’ve tried it all, seafood-wise, yet Saltie Girl finds ways to always reinvigorate the classics. The rich, bacon-y clam chowder, the Ipswich fried clams and the warm-butter lobster roll are all revelations, well worth the wait for a booth or bar seat inside the narrow townhouse space. Then there are the tinned seafood offerings, from imported sustainable caviar to Icelandic cod liver. Seafood addicts can even get their fix during the daylight hours thanks to a brunch menu that includes a briny uni Benedict served over buttery brioche and a fabulously indulgent waffle crowned with crisp-fried lobster claws. Light, fruity cocktails such as the Rhubarb (rum, strawberry, basil, mint, lime) are the perfect starters before a dive into the seafood-friendly wine list.
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Tim K.
It’s New England meets Mediterranean via one of the city’s great chefs. Jody Adams (Trade, the late Rialto) now helms a seafood-centric, Greek-inspired menu that favors simple preparation so as to let the ingredients sing. Hamachi tartare gives way to steamed clams and grilled sardines; entrées include striped bass a la plancha and whole roasted lobster. On nights when a full sit-down meal seems too much, slip into the bar for some fried oysters and a Greek negroni.
If you’re looking for a lobster roll or shrimp scampi, look elsewhere—Mooncusser is focused on non-shellfish seafood. But that’s also your excuse to delve deep into New England’s seas, because the restaurateurs from suburban gem 80 Thoreau understand their way around a regional line catch. Start with the bluefish paté or Nantucket scallop crudo before marveling at the simple yet sublime fish preparations: stuffed skate with lobster and chard, monkfish with caviar, kohlrabi and a tarragon bourride. The Moon Bar, Mooncusser’s casual first-floor counterpart, focuses on seafood-friendly wines and small plates like mussel tartine, fried scallop ravioli and fish tacos—plus, yes, a lobster roll, dressed with tarragon aioli.
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Mooncusser Fish House