Massachusetts

Best Seafood in Boston | Restaurant Guide

From classic spots to modern favorites, our guide to the best seafood in Boston has your fish, lobster, oyster, and clam cravings covered.

By Amy Traverso

Nov 02 2017

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Whole black bass with cherry tomatoes, saffron, and chick peas, from Mooncusser Fish House

Photo Credit : Brian Samuels
Searching out the best seafood in Boston is a pastime that goes back generations — no surprise, this being one of America’s first great seaport cities. For example, an early menu for the Atwood & Bacon Oyster House, est. 1826, beckoned seafood lovers with three kinds of oysters (“Virginia, Narragansett, Cape”), at 15¢ per dozen; fried and stewed scallops (at 35¢ and 30¢, respectively), and apple pie (5¢). As a traditional oyster house, it did not serve fish. But it still thrived (Bostonians have always loved their oysters), later becoming the Union Oyster House, now the oldest continuously operated restaurant in the country. Union Oyster continues to be a beloved destination for enjoying beer and downing oysters at its famous half-circle seafood bar. But Boston is a confirmed seafood town, and there are many options to choose from. So which seafood restaurants are the best? We picked our favorites, listed by type, from the most traditional to genre-busting greats.
Best Seafood in Boston | Restaurant Guide
Whole black bass with cherry tomatoes, saffron, and chickpeas from Mooncusser Fish House, part of the next generation of restaurants serving the best seafood in Boston.
Photo Credit : Brian Samuels

BEST SEAFOOD IN BOSTON | RESTAURANT GUIDE

TRADITIONAL

NO NAME RESTAURANT

They just never got around to it 100 years ago, and why mess with a good thing? At this iconic spot located right on the Fish Pier — as close to the source as you can get, outside of a boat — you’ll find all the classics: broiled scrod, crab cakes, lobster dinners, and seafood platters. There’s even Grape-nut pudding for dessert. 15 1/2 Fish Pier E., South Boston. 617-423-2705; nonamerestaurant.com

THE DAILY CATCH

Boston has a large and vibrant Italian-American population with long roots in the fishing industry, so it makes sense that it’s home to this popular, family-style Italian seafood eatery, where the lines at the original North End location run down Hanover Street, even in winter (sister restaurants in the Seaport District and in Brookline also enjoy a brisk business). Come here for linguine with clams (served right in the sauté pan), fried calamari, and monkfish marsala. There’s also a nice lineup of broiled, grilled, and fried fish. A 2016 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Where to Eat in the North End.” 323 Hanover St., Boston. 617-523-8567; thedailycatch.com

MODERN FAVORITES

B&G OYSTER

Imagine your favorite seaside lobster shack crossed with a chic French boîte. That’s what you find at Barbara Lynch’s South End mainstay, which nudged the Boston seafood scene into a new age when it opened in 2003. Here,  Lynch’s team offers chef-driven takes on chowder and fried clams, but also brandade, branzino, and butter-poached lobster. 550 Tremont St., Boston. 617-423-0550; bandgoysters.com

NEPTUNE OYSTER

The Daily Catch is the North End’s classic seafood restaurant; Neptune Oyster is its more modern counterpart (see also North Square Oyster, below). Located on Salem Street, Neptune looks like a classic bistro — subway tile, zinc counter, red booths — but eats like something uniquely Bostonian: clams from Wellfleet, smoked bluefish served with johnnycakes, basil from Fenway Farm (yes, a real farm at Fenway Park). It’s local food done well. No wonder it’s packed from lunch through dinner. A 2014 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Lobster Roll.” 63 Salem St., Boston. 617-742-3474; neptuneoyster.com

ISLAND CREEK OYSTER BAR

Island Creek oysters are some of the most prized bivalves on the East Coast, so when farmer Skip Bennett teamed up with restaurateur Garrett Harker and chef Jeremy Sewall in 2010 to open this Kenmore Square spot, Boston had its hottest new seafood temple. Here are littlenecks and a killer lobster roll, but also bluefish with maitakes and bacon cream, and a bouillabaisse made with local razor clams, lobster, and halibut. And all the lobster comes from Sewall’s cousin Mark, who fishes out of southern Maine. A second Burlington location promises the same freshness a little farther inland. A 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Seafood.” 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-532-5300; islandcreekoysterbar.com
best lobster roll in boston
With an ample menu of oysters and the city’s top lobster roll, Row 34 easily nabbed a spot on our list of the best seafood in Boston.

ROW 34

The more casual sister of Island Creek, Row 34 — with locations in the Seaport District and in Portsmouth, New Hampshire — leads with an ample menu of oysters paired with craft beers (Trillium is just up the street, though the list is global). But it also serves the best lobster roll in the city, while incorporating more worldly flavors into its menu, such as seared monkfish with salsa verde and carrot salad with harissa, feta, and hazelnuts. A 2014 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Seafood.” 383 Congress St., Boston. 617-553-5900; row34.com

NORTH SQUARE OYSTER

In a series of chic rooms in one of Boston’s most historic public squares — Paul Revere’s 1680 house is three doors down — North Square Oyster turns out a handful of New England classics (lobster rolls, chowder, fish and chips), but then takes a more ambitious turn: a full complement of crudos, lobster and oxtail Bolognese, and a dozen or so East Coast oyster varieties with an artist’s palette of mignonettes and accompaniments, like watermelon pearls, crème fraîche, and rose. 5 North Sq., Boston. 617-829-4975; northsquareoyster.com

THE NEXT GENERATION

OSTRA

The concept is “contemporary Mediterranean seafood,” so you’ll find lobster gnocchetti (mini gnocchi) with mushrooms and grilled branzino, but there’s also an elegant steakhouse feel to this, between the tableside carving, the large-format sides, the caviar menu, and two variations on filet mignon. It’s as far from a clam shack as you’ll find in the city. 1 Charles St. S., Boston. 617-421-1200; ostraboston.com

WAYPOINT

With his newest eatery, Michael Scelfo crossed an invisible line in the sand. No longer obliged to serve chowder or lobster rolls, Scelfo came to call his menu — a deep dive into everything from octopus and uni to crudo and caviar — “coastally-inspired,” a bit of wordplay that guarantees his freedom from broiled scrod. Don’t miss the octopus polpetti or the melting lamb shoulder with grilled kale and gremolata. A 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Modern Seafood.” 1030 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. 617-864-2300; waypointharvard.com

MOONCUSSER FISH HOUSE

As at their sister restaurant 80 Thoreau, in Concord, the team of Vincent Vela, Ian Calhoun, and chef Carolyn Johnson take their farm-to-table ethos and apply it to seafood, starting with pristine ingredients and letting them shine. That’s not the say the food is plain: In a grilled tuna dish, the sweetness of the fish is highlighted with pear and balanced with nutty wild rice and hazelnuts — a winning combination. 304 Stuart St., Boston. 617-917-5193; mooncusserfishhouse.com What would you add to our list of the best seafood in Boston?

SEE MORE: Where to Find the Best Lobster Roll in Boston5 Favorite North End Restaurants | Boston Dining GuideBest Seafood in Portland, Maine | Restaurant Guide