The Best Raw Bars in Boston

By Eric Twardzik
Select Oyster Bar

We love raw fish all year long, but as the temperature rises, so does our craving for chilled seafood (and equally cool wine). From an elegantly prepared crudo to over-the-top shellfish towers, here are the venues that feature our favorite raw bar selections in Boston.

Crudo from Saltie Girl

Raw delights are plentiful at this petite Back Bay gem, which now accepts indoor reservations and has expanded its walkup-only patio. The crudo selection at Saltie Girl includes a winning King Salmon served with cucumbers, pistachio, and avocado oil; as well as the Day Boat Scallop with jalapeño, lime, avocado, and caviar. Meanwhile, the seafood towers come in Petite, Grande, or Royale; the latter is an ambitious pile of 18 oysters, four littleneck clams, four top neck clams, four shrimp, Jonah crab salad, lobster cocktail, tuna poke, jumbo lump crab, sea urchin, and a full 30 grams of Siberian caviar.

Named for a signature type of oyster grown at Island Creek in Duxbury Bay, Row 34 has become its own New England mainstay: It now has locations in Burlington and Portsmouth, N.H., along with the original Fort Point destination (with its cool, covered patio). Though the main menu features a famous lobster roll, crispy fried clams, and more, raw bar offerings are in a league of their own, featured nightly on a scorecard-like menu. Pick up your pencils and get ordering, from namesake oysters and other varieties to colorfully composed crudo, such as the rich and riotous red Tuna Crudo with black garlic and creamy green avocado.

Interior of Neptune Oyster

A tiny North End favorite, Neptune Oyster is a must for seafood seekers looking to savor crudos, caviar, and an indulgent platters like the Triton Plateau, which includes oysters, cherrystone clams, shrimp, Chatham blue mussels, lobster cocktail, and blue crab cocktail. Temptingly fresh, the raw bar selection lines the counter where admittedly, a wait for seats is typical, but you can also head outside this summer to the patio on Salem Street—which, total bonus, is a prime perch for people-watching.

A street patio outside Select Oyster Bar is 2020-new, but the Back Bay spot’s emphasis on raw seafood, bright flavors, and cold Champagne hasn’t changed. Our favorites include the Faroe Islands Salmon Crudo with togarashi and pistachio oil, and the refreshingly minimalist Dressed Maine Lobster, accented with only herbs, lemon, and top-grade olive oil. You can’t go wrong with a dozen Island Creek Oysters served with cocktail sauce and pickled shallot vinaigrette—and of course, a regal bottle of wine selected by the chef himself.

Barbara Lynch’s South End seafood spot B&G Oysters boasts a truly epic raw bar display but is best enjoyed on the sunken backyard patio. You can go a la carte or spring for a tower named after local skyscrapers: Both The Hancock Tower and the heftier Prudential include an assortment of oysters, shrimp cocktail, littlenecks, cherrystone clams, smoked mussels, and crabmeat cocktail; the latter also includes blue cod ceviche. If you’re looking to carry-out, you can order a dozen unshucked East Coast Oysters to go, complete with lemon, mignonette, and cocktail sauce.

Ivory Pearl

This relatively new Brookline restaurant has a rotating daily oyster selection, plus Countneck clams, shrimp cocktail, crab claws, Alaskan King Crab, and a trio of crudos on the raw bar menu. But the seafood tower selection truly taps into Ivory Pearl’s gleefully over-the-top ethos. Tier One promises oysters, clams, crab claws, shrimp, and crudo, while the Tier Two tower arrives with all of that plus uni, caviar, chive pancakes, and nori crackers. And one more way to carpe diem? Ask for the market-price King Crab Trophy and you’ll receive three crustacean legs accompanied by XO crab sauce and caviar mayo.

Black Lamb

This neighborhood brasserie may offer dollar oysters until 5 p.m. daily, but the raw bar selection is strong enough to warrant a visit anytime. Aside from local oysters, Black Lamb also features classics like Littleneck clams, shrimp cocktail, and jumbo lump crab beside tuna poke or smoked bluefish pâté with Old Bay pita chips. If you’re having trouble deciding, get yourself a cocktail and tuck into a shellfish platter stocked with a dozen oysters, four clams, four shrimp, ceviche, and crab ensures you get a little bit of everything. 

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