While thinking about the upcoming Oncology seminar this September in Boston, my thoughts inevitably wandered to some of my favorite local restaurants and, more importantly, which would best satisfy my penchant for shellfish. Harbor-adjacent and only a few hours from Maine lobsters and Rhode Island clams, it hasn't been hard for Boston, Mass to establish itself as the hub of New England seafood. And, while everyone's familiar with the Legal Seafoods that line the Financial District, you don't have to go far to find home-grown seafood eateries that boast fresher scallops and fewer tourists. So, for those looking to go beyond the beaten path, here are some of Boston's best, lesser known seafood restaurants:
B&G Oysters South End
While Boston's South End boasts a myriad of diverse, high-end and equally delicious dining options, few locations can hold a candle to B&G Oysters seafood cuisine. Founded by local celebrity chef Barbara Lynch, B&G offers a knowledgeable wait staff, expertly picked wine list and wide array of edible bivalves. Their staple items come from the raw bar, and their fish entrees, which change seasonally, are simple to emphasize freshness and flavor. Don't count on public transportation for any South End excursion. Instead, let the Walking City live up to its name; this historic neighborhood can be a nice backdrop for an after-dinner stroll.
Boston Sail Loft - Waterfront
If for no other reason, come to the Boston Sail Loft for their free Oreo cookies at the bar. While not as fancy as some of its neighboring wharf-side restaurants, BSL's cozy atmosphere and home-style preparations make it a great place to enjoy a late-season Red Sox game, such as the September 23-25 series at Yankee Stadium. Their clam chowder is touted as the best in Boston, but the fish and chips are also a must-try. Avoid sitting on the deck on any moderate- to low-temperature day out. Although BSL has an outstanding view of the harbor, the waterfront location will leave you shivering despite the 70-degree weather just a few blocks into town.
Atlantic Fish Co. Back Bay
Between the pretentious and overpriced cuisine of Newbury St., and the standard pub fare one street over, it is no surprise that Atlantic Fish Co. stands out as one of the area's finest. Step away from the crowded streets of the Back Bay shopping district to find the spacious, welcoming and surprisingly warm atmosphere that Atlantic Fish Co. has to offer. Their menu is printed daily to advertise the freshest available fish on the market in addition to countless static items, from surf n turf to soup. Anything from the raw bar is a safe bet at Atlantic Fish Co., but don't write off their chowders, bisques and fish stews to start. For entrees, try the Lobster Ravioli drizzled in a basil cream sauce or the San Francisco Cioppino, an assortment of fresh shellfish swimming in a spicy saffron broth. All in all, Atlantic Fish Co. is pleasantly consistent for such an expansive menu, and any of their daily catches are sure to delight even the most discerning piscavores.
Neptune Oyster North End
Nestled in the North End amongst predominantly Italian eateries, Neptune Oyster is undoubtedly the most well-known of the bunch and arguably the best. Their most popular dish is the Maine Lobster Roll served hot with butter or cold with mayo; and, while both are delicious, butter is decidedly better. Pickings are slim for the non-fish eater, although the Neptuneburger topped with cheddar cheese, garlic mayo and relish is even better than some of their seafood options. It would be ill-advised to attempt this restaurant on a weekend night, as Neptune does not take reservations. There's no better way to meet local Bostonians than by rubbing elbows with them in a three-hour wait line. My advice: make it a lunch date; your lobster roll will be just as good mid-day.
Honorable Mentions More great seafood that didn't quite make the cut
East Coast Grill & Raw Bar - The menu oddly yet comfortably splits between seafood and BBQ (both of which are done well). The Sunday-morning brunch crowd flocks to ECG for their make-your-own Bloody Mary Bar. If you're around on a Sunday evening, be sure to pop in for the weekly pig roast.
Union Oyster House Union Oyster House didn't make the list purely because it's a tourist hot spot. That being said, history buffs can appreciate it as the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the United States, and their corn bread paired with clam chowder isn't too bad either.
The Barking Crab A little kitschy and a lot of fun, The Barking Crab is Boston's go-to for fresh seafood without the pretense. And, while you may have to share your picnic table with a few families and tourists, the service, harbor view and shellfish dining options more than adequately compensate.
If you need an excuse to come to Boston, join us on September 22 for the Competitive Landscape Seminar Series on Oncology and be sure to reserve some time to check out one of these great restaurants.