It makes sense that many of the best Boston restaurants have fish on the menu. And chowder. And oysters. So. Many. Oysters. That’s because Boston—which boasts some of the oldest restaurants in the country—has always been about the fruits of the very-close-by sea and the wonderful things that chefs can do with them (oh, plus some of the best pizza and donuts in the country, too). Sometimes the best thing to do with those sea treasures is nothing at all—hello, you gorgeous freshly-shucked thing. At other times, it’s fun to get creative and stray from New England tradition—candied jalapeno with your sashimi, anyone? However you like your just-from-the-ocean eats, a visit to one of these seafood restaurants should be at the very top of your list of things to do in Boston.
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Best seafood restaurants in Boston
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—look for a few orange wines and a seafood-friendly sparkling rose—only adds to this spot’s allure (the “no reservations” policy helps). 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 to many of 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 hit of oysters and littleneck clams chased with some bubbly.
Sashimi is simple—slabs of raw fish, right? Prepare to have those prejudices upended. Tucked within Clio, the city’s celebrated fine-dining lair, Uni is one of those experiences that assures humblebrag raves on Instagram the next morning. Chef Tony Messina complements delicate plates of hirame, bass and uni with toppings like apple, candied jalapeno and banana. Even a simple dish like seaweed salad gets the four-star treatment, with five different seaweeds and a surf clam topper. Take on the epic sake menu, or ease into the evening with a Tom Collins or bourbon smash.
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 French escargot, grilled whole red snapper and pan-roasted halibut. 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.
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 entree is an insurmountable task—opting for the lobster- and shrimp-heavy seafood casserole, after all, means you miss out on the lip-smacking fish and chips. Are you one to 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 (cinnamon roll, double chocolate babka) plays precursor to a “now for something different” spread of oyster sliders, lobster omelettes and smoked trout pate.
The siren calls of oysters and beer will most likely lure you to this Fort Point venture, the latest from local seafood baron Jeremy Sewall. Choose from at least a dozen rotating bivalves, then ask for the best brew pairing available lest you find yourself 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, Maine crab cakes 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 entree 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 Faroe Island salmon with ratatouille; the lardon-topped clam chowder is a necessary starter. In summer, the backyard patio demands some alfresco slurping.
North End restaurateur Frank DePasquale keeps building on his own success, most recently moving oyster bar Mare into larger quarters and upping its raw bar game. Its new calling card is the crudo menu, best enjoyed on the sleek patio with fire pits and a retractable roof (so yes, we’re talking year-round alfresco dining here). Otherwise, the marriage of seafood and Italian cuisine translates to a more-is-more menu: seafood meatballs, grilled stuffed calamari and Maine lobster casserole. If you’re feeling extra flush, peruse the wine vault offerings—no time like the present to taste a $400 Napa Valley Meritage.
Why would you forsake all the city’s fine-dining seafood options for a drive to the sleepy seaside town of Winthrop? Simple: the amplest lobster roll to be found in the Greater Boston area. Other seafood dishes are equally simple and equally fresh—much of the fish is sourced right off the nearby dock. Given the shack’s waterside location, consider a water taxi for the full experience, especially now that there’s beer and wine on the menu. It’ll be like you teleported to the Cape.
A city staple since 1978, Atlantic Fish Company has thrived on an underserved premise: 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 to introduce them to allure of New England seafood—and to nab a nice bottle of wine while you’re at it (the restaurant recently won the 2015 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence).