If I could live on a strict diet of only raw oysters, steamed lobster, and clam chowder, my life would be complete. Just my luck, living out my day-to-day in a harbor city, I come pretty close to fulfilling my gustatory dreams. Boston is full of restaurants dedicated to ocean-fresh seafood, from cutting-edge, catch-of-the-day raw bars to more traditional takes on the wicked local lobster shack. The Boston Fish Pier in the Seaport District—turning 100 years old this year—is the largest working fish pier in the country, and also where the annual Boston Seafood Festival takes place every July. Being only a few miles away from prime Massachusetts’ ports for fishing and clamming—like Duxbury, Cape Cod and New Bedford—you’ll hear a lot of “We got this in at 3 o’clock today” at the best of Boston’s seafood restaurants. It’s like music to my ears. Here are a few favorites.
East Coast Grill
Bathed in bright blue and surrounded by a school of kitschy, mounted sharks and sea bass, the friendly bartender gave me the run down on the freshness of the Cajun blackened scrod special—it’s the chef’s mother’s recipe. Next time I go to this Inman Square spot will be for “Hell Night,” the fiery foodie extravaganza in October that poses a challenge for even the toughest chile lovers.
The Daily Catch
The North End’s original shoebox fish joint is a 20-seater with an open kitchen serving up Sicilian-style seafood and pasta. The chalkboard menu reads monkfish marsala, homemade black pasta, and more iterations of fried squid than you could ever imagine. Try the curious calamari meatball, doused in red sauce and bursting with fresh-from-the-sea flavor.
Island Creek Oyster Bar
This chic seafood shack is set up curbside at Kenmore Square, glowing with the triumph of a hard-won oyster harvest. Plucked straight from Island Creek farm, their eponymous bivalve is this raw bar’s specialty. It’s so palatable; you could pick it out from a plate of a dozen with ease.
This under-the-radar hole-in-the-wall on Tyler Street is an authentic Cantonese seafood joint known on the local front for tank-to-table feasts. Dinner is fished fresh from the aquarium, presented to you for the a-okay, then sautéed, sauced and served to you whole and sizzling.
One of the few non-Italian eateries in the North End, Neptune Oyster serves a menu of gourmet New England fare. Try the seared Georges Bank scallops, sweet and buttery on a bed of d’anjou pear butter, Long Island duck confit, Brussels sprouts, and Maytag blue cheese, or go all out with a Maine lobster clambake.