Select Oyster Bar is a must-visit spot for seafood in Boston that goes beyond clam chowder and lobster rolls. The cool and cozy Back Bay restaurant has a Mediterranean bent with dishes such as Spanish Octopus with roasted tomatillo and chimichurri, and “Taverna Style” Whole Roasted Sea Bream. A fresh selection of oysters, daily ceviche, and colorful crudo rank it among the best raw bars around. Select was the ownership debut for local chef Michael Serpa, who left the North End’s Neptune Oyster to captain his own fleet. Newbury Street bistro Grand Tour and South End seafood-centric tapas bar Atlántico are also under Serpa’s purview—and so are his restaurants’ awesome wine programs.
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“Beantown” might be Boston’s national nickname (Bostonians never say that), but the world really knows this coastal capital city for fresh fish. Seafood in Boston is what so many people visit us for—and why so many talented chefs choose to dock their restaurants here. Whether you’re checking off the requisite lobster rolls and clam chowder from your must-do list, craving briny oysters on the half-shell, or looking to treat yourself to a memorable meal with a white tablecloth, Boston seafood restaurants deliver—fresh, every day.
Named for a signature variety grown at Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury Bay, Row 34 has become a New England seafood staple with locations in Boston’s Fort Point, Burlington, and Portsmouth, N.H., as well as one coming soon to Kendall Square in Cambridge. The raw bar and restaurant is famed for decadent lobster rolls, crispy fried clams, creamy chowder, and all manner of fresh fish—but don’t ignore the scorecard-like menu for ordering those namesake oysters and other shellfish, as well as unique house-smoked seafood boards. The beverage program here is also unmatched, from oyster-friendly wines to one of the best beer lists in Boston.
A Back Bay boîte with a lively patio on Newbury Street, Saltie Girl specializes in all things seafood, but particularly in tinned fish and shellfish imported from Europe and expertly accompanied with fresh bread, butter, salts, and piquillo pepper jam. Fundamentally, the best tinned fish captures the bounty of the sea when it’s in prime form—and the rest of chef Kyle McClelland’s menu expresses the same philosophy. From yellowtail crudo with peak-season fruit to deep-fried lobster served atop fluffy waffles, Saltie Girl does right by any sea creature. (Or landlubber; we’ve got nothing against the Hand-Chopped Dry Aged Steak Tartare.)
Tucked into a small space in Boston’s North End, Neptune Oyster is a beacon of fresh seafood amid a sea of red sauce. As such, there’s usually a wait at this popular spot—but it’s worth however long to get a seat at the oyster bar. (Pro tip: Try a weekday afternoon or first thing on a weekend.) Start with shellfish, of course, and a seasonal crudo. The gigantic lobster rolls are especially famous, and we love what Neptune’s done for fried clams with a vinegary, pickle-spiked dip. The Neptune Johnnycake is a sweet-savory treat: A New England-y cornmeal pancake adorned with honey butter, Boston Smoked Fish Co. bluefish, and sturgeon caviar.
We’ve come to expect nothing but classy execution from restauranteur Barbara Lynch, who oversees six of the city’s most beloved spots (including No. 9 Park, Menton, and Drink). B&G Oysters is the Boston-native chef’s spin on a classic New England clam shack, with all the Fried Ipswich Clams and chunky lobster rolls that it requires. A simple, streamlined raw bar menu features a daily selection of East Coast oysters, and the dinner menu dresses up fresh fish like blue cod and salmon with a worldly chef’s precision. Blue-hued and cozy any time of year, this South End staple is especially lovely in summer, when the backyard terrace is lit by string lights.
After reinventing his parents’ Sichuan Chinese restaurants in Woburn and Brookline with some of the coolest cocktails around Boston, Ran Duan set his sights on the shoreline at Ivory Pearl. A seafood emporium in Brookline’s Washington Square, this place is one of a kind, from the trio of creative crudo to the under-the-sea interpretation of a hot dog starring a single, braised octopus tentacle. Caviar flows near-freely at $5 a gram: Why not add some to your Swordfish Schnitzel, or even your Sunday-brunch Brown Butter Pancakes with charred pineapple mascarpone? And of course, cocktails: Here, the team takes inspo from wine and classic drinks to create libations like never before.
Consider this spot for your next splurge-worthy seafood dinner. Situated three stories above Bay Village, Mooncusser is a chic and serene restaurant whose kitchen is helmed by Top Chef alum Carl Dooley. Nightly, four-course prix-fixe menus showcase New England seafood and a global pantry; think: seasonal soft-shell crab that’s been beer-battered and fried, served with mango hot sauce and cooling raita; and Glazed Local Halibut with white asparagus and sea urchin butter. If your next meal calls for quality not quite so refined, check out Cusser’s, a casual sister spot inspired by North Shore snack shacks (hello, lobster rolls and roast beefs), with a couple takeout locations and a bar below Mooncusser helmed by acclaimed ’tender Todd Maul.
Choose your own adventure at this coastally inspired spot on the edge of Harvard Square. An ocean’s worth of seafaring delights is on the menu at Waypoint, ranging from intriguing pizzas (Smoked Whitefish) and pastas (Lobster Cacio e Pepe) to punchy crudo and caviar service. Smoked and Salted Peel and Eat Shrimp are finger-lickin’ favorites, and no meal here is complete without a tray of oysters—and they are $1 a pop nightly from 5 to 7 p.m. (at the bar only on Friday and Saturday). Chef Michael Scelfo is doing for seafood what he did to vegetables at Alden & Harlow: Make flavors pop with often-local ingredients.
James Hook & Co.
A Boston landmark since 1925, family-owned fishing company James Hook has a takeout restaurant with a relaxing patio amid the office towers of the Financial District and the Seaport. Stay outside and skip the typical line of folks inside the seafood shop by ordering directly from the on-site food truck, where you can get cold lobster rolls in two sizes. Regular and large are both packed with super-fresh Maine lobster and no other filler: When the meat is this fresh and flavorful, it doesn’t need any additions. Make it a meal with creamy chowder, cold beer, and more. The retail store offers more takeout options, as well as daily catch to bring home—including a tank of lively lobsters awaiting their fate.
Boston is blessed with an outpost of one of the most celebrated seafood restaurants in New England: Eventide Oyster Co. The urbane version, Eventide Fenway, is much larger—and thus, way easier to get a seat, which you’ll want to do if you love oysters, lobster rolls, and soft-serve ice cream. The versions here are anything but ordinary: fresh bivalves from our rocky shores are shucked to order and served with flavored ices. The Eventide Brown Butter Lobster Roll is tucked into a pillowy soft bao-style, split-top steamed bun. And even though it doesn’t come from the sea, the signature Brown Butter Soft Serve Sundae with bourbon caramel and maple candied pecans rivals a daytrip to Vacationland.