There are a lot of fish in the sea... and no, unless your name is Nemo, we’re not talking about your dating prospects. We’re ACTUALLY talking about fish. Setting up shop next to the ocean has made Bostonians pretty serious about their seafood, and there are tons of spots to choose from. But which are the best? Whether you’re looking for oysters, lobster rolls, or a giant bowl of chowda, these 10 restaurants should top your list.
What you’re getting: Johnnycake, the Neptune Burger, piggyback oysters, and a lobster roll
There’s always a line out the door at this North End staple, and for a good reason; its take on fresh, local seafood is pretty unique. Neptune offers all the classics (an extensive raw bar, carefully curated wine list, and a quintessential brown-butter lobster roll), while peppering its menu with inventive creations like the Neptune johnnycake (topped with honey butter, smoked trout tartare, and sturgeon caviar) and piggyback oysters (which are covered in pulled Berkshire pork, pistachio aioli, and golden raisin confiture). Do yourself a favor and order an adventurous appetizer before digging into New England’s best lobster roll.
What you’re getting: Yellowfin tuna tartare, French escargot, broiled lobster
Ostra (“oyster” in Spanish) is owned and operated by Chef Jamie Mammano, the culinary force behind Hub favorites Mistral, Teatro, and Sorellina. An in-house fishmonger guarantees that the seafood is always impeccable, whether it’s locally caught or flown in from the Mediterranean. Everything is tasty, but be prepared to drop a pretty penny, especially if you’re planning to spring for the exotic Israeli caviar ($155).
What you’re getting: The shellfish tower and the pan-roasted halibut
Consistently voted among Boston’s best seafood joints, Mare offers quality seafood and a bright, sophisticated ambiance in the heart of the bustling North End. Roll with the shellfish tower for a dish piled high with oysters, clams, crab claws, lobster, and shrimp, and follow it up with an interesting twist on pan-roasted halibut that includes corn and clam chowder, saffron, littlenecks, and grilled andouille sausage.
What you’re getting: Local raw or fried oysters, the lobster BLT, halibut en papillote, and the house-made crab tagliatelle
Barbara Lynch’s tiny oyster bar stocks fresh seafood every morning, including six varieties of oysters from each coast, a selection of clams, and whole lobsters. Sit at the long marble bar to watch expert oyster-shuckers work their magic while you slurp down some shellfish and nurse a glass of wine with your date.
North End, Brookline & Seaport
What you’re getting: Lobster fra diavolo and black pasta aglio olio
The Daily Catch is the place to go for seafood and pasta in Boston. The restaurant focuses on Italian specialties like lobster fra diavolo (lobster, littleneck clams, shrimp, mussels, and calamari in a spicy fish sauce, served over pasta) and house-made squid ink linguine tossed with fresh chopped garlic and ground squid. Its three locations throughout Boston mean you never have far to go to get your squid ink fix. (Yeah, that’s right, squid ink fix. What.)
What you’re getting: Oysters Rockefeller or bacon-wrapped scallops with maple mustard sauce, followed by the New England Lobster Feast
Atlantic serves the most classic New England seafood in Boston proper. All of it is locally sourced and simply prepared to order, and the appetizers are mostly recognizable standards like oysters Rockefeller and clams casino. You don’t go here for the celebrity chef experience or molecular gastronomy wizardry... you go because you want to eat good fish in a classy dining room. Which is a pretty stand-up decision.
What you’re getting: Variety
Legal is a big local chain with reliable food -- definitely one of the most popular seafood destinations in the city. If you’re a fan, it’s worth checking out the test kitchen, where you can sample a new menu of Legal experiments every six weeks.
What you’re getting: Sashimi and ramen
Chef Ken Oringer has gone all-out with this innovative sushi sanctuary hidden in the Clio lounge. The tiny fish bar features a new menu every evening based on the day’s fresh catches (both local and flown in from Tokyo), as well as late-night ramen every Friday and Saturday at 11pm. Menu items include everything from artfully accompanied East Coast shellfish (like the Maine sea urchin with apple, pistachio, and radish) to Japanese delicacies like shima aji (striped jack with black sesame, goji, and citrus).
What you’re getting: Raw oysters, the lobster omelet, crispy oyster slider
The menu at Island Creek Oyster Bar is printed daily and features New England staples like chowder and lobster rolls, as well as rotating dishes like golden tilefish with cherry tomatoes and Mrs. Bennett's Seafood Casserole for two. A solid choice for cocktails and bivalves, it also boasts an excellent brunch -- go for the lobster omelet. Oh yeah, and it's right around the corner from Fenway, so there's that.
What you’re getting: Fried clams, zuppa di pesce, risotto pescatore, lobster ravioli
It may not look like much from the outside, but this off-the-beaten path Somerville spot is fantastic. Order the fried clams (voted the best in Boston) or any of the pasta and seafood combos, like the risotto pescatore or the spicy, garlicky zuppa di pesce.
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1. Ostra1 Charles St S, Boston
2. Neptune Oyster63 Salem St, Boston
3. Mare Oyster Bar135 Richmond St, Boston
4. B&G Oysters550 Tremont St, Boston
5. Atlantic Fish Company761 Boylston St, Boston
6. Legal Test Kitchen225 Northern Ave, Boston
7. UNI Sashimi Bar370 Commonwealth Ave, Boston
8. Island Creek Oyster Bar500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston
9. Pescatore158 Boston Ave, Somerville
Savor the flavor of your favorite seafood at this Mediterranean spot that uses fresh ingredients and light preparations to bring out the best in your briny delicacies, all in the comfort of swank surroundings (piano lounge, anyone?).
Bivalves are king at Neptune Oyster, a popular seafood counter in the North End. The menu is classically New England but a variety of seafood-based recipes come out of the kitchen, from cioppino and fried Ipswich clams to fish & chips and Basque-peppered Spanish octopus. Served two ways, the lobster roll is an award-winning signature, and though it's prepared the typical way with mayonnaise, the hot butter option is the way to go. Neptune draws hoards of seafood-craving hopefuls to its Salem St. storefront on weekend afternoons and evenings, so be prepared to traverse the neighborhood while you wait for your coveted seat at the marble bar.
Aiming to capitalize on the Hub's bivalve boom (beware of places peddling sub-prime oysters), the folks at North End's Italian fave Mare have hit the reset button, reopening Friday in the same but slightly revamped space (shucking station, more seats, etc.) as an oyster bar. The new menu actually includes the old menu (exhale, here), alongside hella more seafood like six to eight types of local half-shells, octopus salad, and even a massive tower of shellfish.
Barbara Lynch's tiny South End oyster bar is one of the most popular seafood counters in Boston. It stocks fresh seafood every morning, including six varieties of oysters from each coast, a selection of clams, and whole lobsters. The best seats in the house are at the long marble bar, where you can watch expert oyster-shuckers work their magic. If raw bivalves aren't your thing, don't worry, B&G also has a kick-ass lobster roll.
Atlantic Fish Company serves up seafood classics (lobster, chowder, pot pie) on Boylston in Back Bay.
Everyone knows Legal as the local chain with reliable food, but if you're a fan and want to try something a little different head to Legal Test Kitchen where you can sample a new menu of Legal experiments every six weeks.
Ken Oringer's crown jewel of a sashimi bar made a name for itself when it was tucked into Clio, the Back Bay French restaurant that used to occupy the Eliot Hotel. Once Clio closed, Uni expanded into the entire space. Aside from stunning raw fish dishes, the restaurant serves adventurous hot plates and a late-night ramen menu. All the fish is sourced from Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market or New England fishermen.
Everything about Island Creek’s modern, simple decor and comfortable atmosphere makes you think of an upscale coastal shanty, not to mention the shellfish is impeccable. The raw bar is the main draw here as some of the oysters are sourced directly from its farm of the same name in Duxbury Bay, but you can also get other local New England staples like, Chatham, Wellfleet, and Pearly White. You’ll find daily changing fresh fish options like, Maine Grilled Salmon with mustard spaetzle and apple purée, Falmouth Bluefish with delicata squash and chorizo, and Fried Ipswich Clams, plus brunch fare like, Salt Cod Cakes with house-made baked beans, a fried egg, and bacon.
This Somerville spot may not look like much, but it is terrific. Order the fried clams (voted the best in Boston) or any of the pasta and seafood combos, like the risotto pescatore or the spicy, garlicky zuppa di pesce.