Neptune Oyster

Finding the best of Boston’s bivalve scene, one shuck and slurp at a time.

Decorated with artwork honoring Jacques Cousteau and Steve Zissou, easygoing Back Bay gem Select Oyster Bar from ex-Neptune Oyster chef Michael Serpa eschews traditional New England flavors for a more Mediterranean vibe. However, its six-strong oyster list mostly sticks to local growers, with an occasional West Coast bivalve finding its way into the mix. For a truly Hemingway-esque experience, opt for one of the towering Plateaux, available in three sizes stacked with everything from oysters and scallop ceviche to “Dressed Maine Lobster.”

Tucked away in a South End basement space with a stone-walled patio, Barbara Lynch’s foray into the shucking business at B&G Oyster is the embodiment of a neighborhood oyster bar. A more international list features a dozen oysters hailing from both coasts of the US and Canada, with the occasional wild card from France or New Zealand. Fried oysters come served in-shell, with homemade tartar sauce on the side.

There’s nothing ostentatious about Row 34, a self-described “workingman’s oyster bar” set in a noisy industrial space with a perpetual wait time. Its digs may be low-key, but its approach to bivalves is anything but: The oyster list boasts 12 varieties at any given time (including the restaurant’s own namesake mollusc from Island Creek) and is largely Massachusetts-focused with a few other picks from around the region. Fried oysters also appear in a rather unexpected place on the menu: as a topping for a (seriously good) bacon cheddar burger.

The Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury, Massachusetts, supplies oysters to some of the best restaurants in the country—as well as to its eponymous Island Creek Oyster Bar near Fenway Park. Here you can find 14 varieties of bivalves, covering not only Island Creek’s product but also those of other regional growers such as Dodge Cove pemaquids and Rhode Island pearly whites. For those wishing to chew rather than slurp, fried oysters can be found in slider form tucked into a brioche roll amidst lime chili aioli. A section of the drink list dubbed “Pearls” offers one-ounce pours of selected spirits for oyster pairing, such as Talisker 10 Year scotch and St. George absinthe.

Tiny North End Neptune Oyster is famous, and it’s not a secret. Your best chance of gaining access to its hallowed marble dining room is to visit on a weeknight or get in line before opening time; otherwise, a wait of several hours is typical. The hype—like the wait—is justified. The list offers 23 oysters to choose from at any given time, running the gamut from Maine to Washington state, and a seat at its counter provides excellent shucking theater. You’ll also have the opportunity to stare down one of Boston’s most decadent oyster dishes: the oyster “Piggybacks,” which pile fried oyster and pork on top of bread with pistachio aioli.

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