Chef Michael Serpa left Neptune Oyster to open Select Oyster Bar, a Gloucester Street love letter to all things sea—but don’t expect any lobster rolls. The acclaimed chef highlights local seafood by serving it sans starch: Think crudos, ceviches, and the EVOO-anointed Dressed Maine Lobster. An oyster list offers mollusk lovers a half-dozen good choices, and an extensive wine list peddling in Champagne and White Burgundy provides plenty of options for washing it all down.
In this corner of downtown, there’s no shortage of food—and that makes true gems all the more difficult to find. To eat well you’ll need to take a tiny detour away from glitzy Newbury Street and heed some local advice; peruse our selections for the best of what Back Bay has to offer.
The first floor of the Eliot Hotel houses Uni, Ken Oringer’s high-end izakaya. This swanky, candlelit spot showcases New England seafood plus delights sourced straight from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, serving delicately garnished sashimi, caviar flights, and its signature Smoked Uni Spoon. Ramen enthusiasts, take note: every Friday and Saturday, at 10:30 p.m., Uni serves a four-day tonkotsu ramen for a mere $10.
Deuxave is perched on a tony corner of Commonwealth Ave., and its cuisine is every bit as posh as the mansions that surround it. The menu may boast a 9 Hour French Onion Soup, but Chopped alum and Deuxave chef-owner Chris Coombs isn’t boxed in by traditional French cooking; dishes like Za’tar Colorado Lamb Loin and Crispy Spanish Octopus also make an appearance. An imposing wine bottle display dominates the dining room, and not just for show: The restaurant’s impressive list received a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2015.
L’Espalier does things the old-school way, and they’ve got the white tablecloths and crumb-scrapers to prove it. More importantly, three decades of business have afforded this elevated spot a mastery of French cuisine and service that’s rarely matched anywhere else in town. Diners may select between five- and eight-course dinners, while those opting for a truly indulgent experience can undertake a “Tasting Journey” that peaks at 10 or 12. Prix fixe lunches and brunches provide slightly more affordable—yet still stellar—dining experiences.
When visiting Saltie Girl, leave whatever hangups you have about tinned fish at the door. The Mediterranean seafood spot specializes in fish that have been canned as a delicacy—not as a convenience. You’ll also find a bountiful bevy of non-tinned items, like torched salmon belly or deep fried lobster over waffles. This narrow sliver of a restaurant may not take reservations, but what it lacks in space it makes up for in nautically inspired charm (check for the carved mermaid figurehead above the bar). Once you’ve put your name on the list, head next door to MET Back Bay, which is operated by the same owners, for a stiff Manhattan. Just leave a little liquid room for Saltie Girl, whose menu of bright, acidic, and sometimes-shareable cocktails provide the perfect foil to salt and brine.