Neptune Oyster

By Molly McDonough · 10/14/2016    North End · Seafood · $$$

Our beloved city has many personalities, but we’re especially proud of the one that Neptune Oyster embodies. Set right in the middle of the historic North End, this tiny restaurant showcases Boston’s most iconic cuisine in a classy, intimate setting. Cozying up on one of its benches or along its marbled bar is a treat; imagine tucking into a lovely French bistro while catching a whiff of New England sea breeze.

Once you get a seat, that is—Neptune’s so popular that there’s a wait no matter the time or day, evidenced by the constant crowd spilling onto the sidewalk. Among the hungry hordes, you’ll hear plenty of foreign languages; this is a hot spot for out-of-towners, and for good reason. It’s the place to sample requisite local essentials—raw oysters, lobster rolls, and fried clams—with a guarantee of freshness and an absence of kitsch. In other words, it’s perfect for tourists who hate tourist traps.

There’s something to be said for the impression Neptune makes on us locals, too. After years of eating fried clams dredged in heavy crusts, the version here is a revelation: thin-yet-crispy batter, pillowy-soft insides. And for all the hype surrounding lobster rolls, we know that they’re all-too-often a soggy letdown. But not at Neptune. The hot roll allows two of life’s greatest pleasures—lobster meat and butter—to elevate one another without distraction, while the cold roll’s judicious use of mayonnaise imparts just enough silky tang. Feel strange visiting the Italian neighborhood without eating pasta? Visit Neptune on a Monday to sample our favorite special: the Lobster Spaghettini.

Neptune earns extra points for dressing up lesser-known New England traditions. Take the Johnnycake: This rendition of the cornmeal pancake, which harkens back to Native American cuisine, is topped with smoked trout tartare, sturgeon caviar, and honey butter. More than just a creative homage, it’s also mind-blowingly good (we’re still dreaming of those crispy honey-butter-browned edges). Surprised that the best pancake you’ve never had is topped with fish? Trust us—the combination of quality and creativity at Neptune imparts a whole new appreciation for what can be done with what’s swimming in the sea.

The wait is long, but they’ll telephone you when your table is ready. Until then, head around the corner to Parla on Hanover Street for excellent cocktails in a dimly lit “Italian speakeasy.”

The best way to eat the tower of fish topping the Johnny cake? “Smash and spread.”

Lobster rolls are very big—possibly enough to share between two people, especially if you don’t skimp on raw bar and apps.

Must Haves

  • Invented in Massachusetts in 1916 by Henry “Chubby” Woodman, this rendition would do Chubby proud.

  • You’ll wish you ordered another one of these for dessert (and yet another for tomorrow’s breakfast).

  • Which is better? Impassioned opinions abound. Don’t blame us for loving both.

Fun Fact

Impressed by the fried clam dipping sauce, we got the inside scoop: It’s nothing more than a simple blend of mayo, rice wine vinegar, and pickles.

Tastes of Neptune Oyster

So good we can't stop writing about it. Read more about Neptune Oyster!

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Sign up for our weekly newsletters for curated guides, can't-miss dishes, restaurant recommendations, and more.

Enter Email