Culinary enthusiasts come from all over the world to Boston with the intent to devour local seafood in a variety of preparations, from freshly shucked oysters and creamy clam chowder to gourmet lobster rolls. Some of the city’s newer seafood entries are offering more modern options such as smoked whitefish pizzas and fried oyster sliders. Sure, Boston knows a thing or two about incredible pizza and tasty tacos, but it’s the city’s culinary expertise on all things aquatic that sets it apart. However you like your just-from-the-water 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.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston
Best seafood restaurants in Boston
Saltie Girl finds has found a way to reinvigorate classic seafood dishes. The rich, bacon-kissed clam chowder, Ipswich fried clams, and a warm buttered lobster roll are all worth the wait for a booth or bar seat inside the narrow Back Bay townhouse space. Also notable are the trendy tinned seafood offerings, from imported sustainable caviar to Icelandic cod liver.
Ever since it opened in 2004, Neptune Oyster has been one of the city’s most in-demand options for fresh local seafood. (There’s almost always a line out the door.) Lined with pressed tin, subway tiles and etched glass, the tiny space exudes an unmistakably retro charm. Expert shuckers handle a variety of fresh bivalves with aplomb, and rare is the order that doesn't include one of the city's most lauded lobster rolls.
Prosecco and oysters are a perfect pairing, and there may be no better place to indulge than Barbara Lynch’s subterranean South End eatery, where you'll find more than a dozen different east and west coast oysters. Cooked classics are also served here, including fried Ipswich clams and a pair of lauded lobster sandwiches: a classic lobster roll and a lobster B.L.T. When the weather allows, the backyard patio is a popular spot for alfresco slurping.
Courtesy of Jeremy Sewall and the team behind Island Creek Oyster Bar, Row 34 has become Fort Point’s go-to spot for wickedly fresh seafood. On weekdays, business types stop in to close deals over platters of oysters and orders of lobster rolls (offered hot and cold, based on Sewall’s grandmother’s recipe). Those waiting for a table have more time to explore the extensive, seafood-friendly wine and beer lists.
One of the city’s best seafood-focused eateries, ICOB is located in a high-visibility Kenmore Square space. A mix of Sox fans, local seafood lovers, and guests of the (connected) Hotel Commonwealth pack the large, loud dining area to slurp down the namesake bivalves. Chef Jeremy Sewall puts out an inviting, seafood-heavy menu that runs the gamut from creative plates to warm buttered lobster rolls.
Situated just outside of Harvard Square, Michael Scelfo’s seafood-focused restaurant spotlights the chef's forward-thinking approach to coastal-inspired fare. Starters include a raw bar, delicate crudo, and a classic caviar service with modern touches (try a plankton and white corn blini). Seafood shines on pizzas, pastas, and composed plates. The cocktail menu places a focus on absinthe, and the beer and wine lists include inviting, hard-to-find options.
As the flagship location within the iconic Legal Sea Foods empire, Legal Harborside offers three floors of dining, all with sweeping views of Boston Harbor. You can glimpse oyster-shucking action and the semi-open kitchen at the informal first-floor dining room. Here, the menu focuses on raw bar items, soups, salads, pastas, crowd-pleasing seafood faves, and wood-grilled dishes. The second floor is the epitome of fine dining with an elegant, carpeted space reminiscent of a ship’s captain’s quarters, and an upscale, fish-focused menu. The third floor is reserved for private dining, and the roof deck and bar—complete with a retractable roof—is wildly popular with after-work and pre-concert crowds.
Chef Michael Serpa - formerly of Neptune Oyster - opened his first solo venture in a townhouse-like enclave in the heart of the Back Bay. Serpa marries New England seafood with Mediterranean techniques, exemplified by the signature blue prawns a la plancha. While some diners enjoy a multi-course feast, others stop in for a quick oysters-and-wine fix.
It’s New England meets Mediterranean via Jody Adams, whose seafood-centric, Greek-inspired menu favors simple preparations 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.
The restaurateurs from 80 Thoreau in Concord understand their way around a regional line catch. This multi-story, seafood-focused enterprise is focused on the second floor restaurant, where a variety of locally-sourced seafood is served with aplomb. (For the full experience, try the five-course “tasting of local fishes” menu.) Patrons looking for something lighter can visit the Moon Bar, and for those in a hurry, there's Cusser's, a street-level takeaway spot specializing in seafood and roast beef.
Part of North End restaurateur Frank DePasquale’s local empire, Mare’s calling card is the crudo menu, best enjoyed on the sleek patio with fire pits and a retractable roof (making year-round alfresco dining possible). The kitchen preps a variety of crowd-pleasing, Italian-accented seafood dishes, including filling plates of pasta and light salads.
From its busy intersection where the Back Bay meets the Theatre District, Ostra dishes out an assortment of sophisticated seafood. The exquisite menu is dotted with Mediterranean touches, and there are plenty of big-ticket items on offer (think three-pound lobsters and $155 Israeli caviar service), perfect for special occasions and celebratory business dinners.
Daily Catch is a true North End classic. Not much grander than a kitchen nook, it features a blackboard menu, juice glasses in lieu of stemware and skillets that double as plates. It doesn't take credit cards, or even have a bathroom. But it has a bounty of calamari — fried, stuffed, marinated and chilled, chopped and pressed into delicious meatballs. The linguini is also a must-try, with a kick from squid ink and garlic.
Fans of the James Beard award-winning Portland restaurant flock to this more casual branch in the Fenway. The menu includes favorites like oysters on the half shell, crudo, tartare, clam chowder, and Maine lobster stew. The fried fish sandwich is an unexpected delight but, of course, the real star is the brown butter lobster roll: a rich, nutty, singular treat, the bao-like bun soaking up all that delicious dressing. Save room for the brown butter soft serve, or maybe splurge on a second glass of wine as you savor the restaurant’s bright, clean-lined interior.
This cheery, boisterous Harvard Square restaurant aims to deliver all of your most desired seafood dishes in style. Clam chowder, lobster bisque and fried oysters give way to classics like fish ‘n’ chips, seared scallops and whole roasted branzino; there’s also a separate lobster menu that includes a lobster roll and lobster and shrimp scampi. In the summer months, request a patio table in the charming hidden alley a couple of doors down.
Set right on Boston Harbor, this red-shingled seafood shack and open-air tent is party central all summer long for locals and tourists. Join the crowds at the picnic tables beneath lamps made of Christmas light-strung lobster traps. Plastic buckets of fried clams or peel-and-eat shrimp provide proper sustenance. Summer is peak season, but The Barking Crab draws fans year-round to the Seaport for a clam shake vibe in the heart of the city.
A city staple since 1978, Atlantic Fish Company has thrived on an underserved premise: when it comes to seafood, keep it simple. Daily catches can be broiled, sauteed, fried or blackened; if you’re feeling fancy, the lobster ravioli or swordfish piccata will scratch that itch nicely. This is the place you bring your parents (or some out-of-town clients) to introduce them to allure of New England seafood.
Head to this Seaport mainstay for lobster rolls, fried clams, steamers, chowder, and other classic seafood shack dishes. It’s a perfect stop for a refuel while touring around Boston, and a great place in general for a casual seafood meal. There’s outdoor seating as well as takeout. Cooking seafood at home? There’s a market with fresh caught fish and shellfish. They’ll even ship fresh lobster anywhere in the continental US, if you want to share the bounty with out of town friends.