HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Seafood - East Coast Grill or Neptune?

Hi, Hounds!

I'm staying in Cambridge this weekend. Would like to have a great Boston seafood dinner Sunday evening. Which is better? If you have other suggestions, please let me know. Nice atmosphere is also very important.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well, If you're considering the North End for Neptune Oyster, I'd actually recommend Mare instead.

    But if you have your heart set on either Neptune or East Coast Grill, it sort of depends on how you like your seafood prepared. Grilled is the specialty at East Coast Grill, while Neptune features more of a raw bar/Italian seafood scene.

    1. I've never been to Neptune, but I lived down the street from East Coast Grill and never understood the appeal. Tried to like it five or six times and just never was wowed by the experience (except for the pumpkin soup in the winter).

      I do realize I'm in the minority on this but if it were me, I'd choose Neptune just out of my experience at ECG.

      1 Reply
      1. re: krissywats

        I have to second this opinion. I also live down the street from ECG and have been there three times. The food is fine, I can't complain about it, it just hasn't impressed me, and given the price I would expect it to impress. I'm not afraid to slap down a large sum of money for a good meal (much more than one would spend at ECG), but I think the food is completely overpriced for the quality. There's just nothing particularly exciting about it. If the cost were 30 or 40% less I'd like it. In fact in my mind, the only thing memorable about ECG is the bill.

        I don't know about Neptune but would also rather explore a new restaurant than (ever) go back to ECG.

      2. I wouldn't go with Neptune, though I've only been there once. I love the, uh, other place, but it can be noisy and crowed, if that's a problem for you.

        Mare sounds pretty great but it is significantly more expensive, from what I understand.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mhoffman

          Please forgive me unwillingness to mention East Coast Grill. I momentarily confused it with a restaurant which must not be named. My recommendation stands, however.

        2. The atmosphere at ECG is a bit hectic, or lively, depending on your attitude. I had a good meal there, but also our party was squashed into a booth with six persons, which is fine with good friends but probably not the place if you're meeting the girlfriend's parents.

          1. IMHO, you'll enjoy either, but I'm not sure if they'd be considered a "great boston seafood dinner"... don't get me wrong they're great in their own right, but both are a bit quirky and not really traditional seafood eateries. depending on what kind of experience you're looking for, the folks on this board might be able to direct to other (more traditional) options as well.

            nb: depending on the weather and your desired dinner time on Sunday, you might run into quite a wait at both of the restaurants you mentioned.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jsj

              Can't speak to Neptune, but this is very true about ECG. But it can be a real asset, just maybe get a handle on whether you feel like exclusively eating seafood.

              Personal favorites from the menu: the oysters (both fried and raw and the half shell), the French Connection (half dozen shucked oysters and a mildly spicy, deelish sausage), the #1 Tuna appetizer (kind of a cross between a tartar and a poke, nicely spiced), the fried plantains.

              To drink, try the specialty martini made with habanero infused vodka (or ask for half spiced vodka / half plain if you want more of a medium heat quotient).

            2. WHAT!! Habanero infused vodka.... why has this never been mentioned before on this board? Do they have it all the time? How spicy is it? I'm salivating...

              1 Reply
              1. re: tdaaa

                While I couldn't promise that they have it all of the time, I was certainly able to get it during regular, non-hell-night, dinners. It is good; homemade, and much more complex than other pepper vodkas I've had. Quite seriously spicy though.

              2. I have never been to Neptune, but can guarantee that you will have a GREAT seafood dinner at ECG. What you will not get at ECG, however, is a TRADITIONAL Boston seafood dinner, and if that is what you are looking for, you should look elsewhere. Also, as to atmosphere, ECG is crowded and lively; it's hard to know if that's what you mean by "nice."

                If you want a good traditional Boston seafood dinner, I suggest going to Legal Seafoods (I think there are two in Cambridge: one in Harvard Square and one in Kendall Square), or Turner Fisheries at the Westin Hotel in Copley Square. Neither of these places are great (I would go to ECG over both of these places 99 times out of 100), but they are solidly good, much more traditional, and much more sedate.

                (Seems to me that what we really need in Boston is a high end version of Legals and Turner Fisheries. It's shocking that we don't have such a place.)

                1. Would that high end version be Great Bay? The prices warrant the high(er) end tag at least.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Dax

                    Great Bay is along the lines of what I had in mind. I haven't been there in a while, but the few times I went I thought it was good, but could be better. NYC has lots of high end seafood options; since so much of the fish is coming right out of our water, you'd think we could do better!

                  2. I went to ECG once and would never go back again, thought it was horrible. Long wait, noisy, crowded, cramped, slow. I forget what the name of the dish I got was exactly but it was a shrimp dish. The shrimp were overcooked like rubber bands and it was totally overpriced for the measly portion of them that I got. I left hungry and thankfully there is a great icecream place next door that I was able to fill up a bit on.

                    I dont drink any alcohol, perhaps that is part of the problem. All the reviews I read about it seem to talk about the drinks more then anything. Maybe thats the strong suit there?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: hargau

                      In my experience, typically the fish dishes tend to be better than the other seafood dishes. The barbecue is also quite good albeit expensive for barbecue. I don't really eat shrimp much as I find them mostly boring (except salt and pepper fried shrimp with heads on, which are addictive ... but not sold at ECG). Sometimes ECG wows me and sometimes it's like meh, but I've never had a *bad* meal there.

                      1. re: Dax

                        Both my parents got the BBQ Combo plate, neither liked it and left much of it uneaten. I tasted the bbq and agreed. Id prefer blue ribbon, redbones, fireflys, even tennessees over it any day. Better bbq plus keep about 1/2 my money in my pocket!

                        My brother got a grilled fish dish which he thought was OK but very small and overpriced. a pc of grilled fish aprox 4x4 for $25?!

                        1. re: hargau

                          As I said, I agree. For me it felt like they think it's good because everything has a 'smokey' flavor to it. No subtley, not much creativity: make sure it has a 'grilled' flavor and plate it. I also felt on the several occasions I was there that my food was overcooked.

                          1. re: hargau

                            I've really enjoyed the pulled pork there the few times I've had it. I think it's on par with Blue Ribbon and much better than Redbone's (broken record, I know). I don't buy ribs out at restaurants too often because I prefer my own but the one I had there was really good. And while you can't have good 'cue without smokey, the subtlety of the rub (ie cumin influences or other different spices) sometimes gets a little over-powered by the smoke (at all barbecue places, not just here).

                            The fish portions have always been enough for me, considering the great sides that come with the plate, but I guess mid-twenties for 6oz of mahi or salmon and some sides is not a value to some.

                      2. I used to love ECG, but all of the problems other folks have mentioned make me go there less and less. For seafood in Cambridge, I prefer Jasper White's Summer Shack. It used to hate it - expensive, average food and a barn for atmosphere, but each time I've gone in the past year or so, I've really started to enjoy the quality of the fish, the unique oysters and even the desserts. I think JW's now probably has some of the best fish in Boston area and not too over-priced when compared with Legal Seafoods etc...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Eats2Much

                          There is a raging debate about the merits of Summer Shack on another currently active thread. Put me in the camp that thinks Summer Shack sucks!

                        2. Both are outstanding, and I do not think you can go wrong. Are you more in the mood for a cooked piece of fish with a creative preparation (ECG), or an excellent lobster roll (Neptune). Both have great raw bars and atmosphere.

                          ECG is head and shoulders over a chain like Legals any day of the week. Legals has really gone downhill.

                          As far as a wait is concerned, Neptune will be beserk as Italy will have just won the World Cup on Sunday! The wait will be long, but the energy will be unreal Neptune is located in the North End, which is the Little Italy of Boston. ECG probably wont be that bad wait wise on Sunday. We went a few weeks ago and walked right in. Many of the regulars hit brunch there on Sunday, so dinner is more managable.

                          We are going to ECG tonight. Oysters, Tuna Tacos and Tuna & Sausage dumpings for the table to start. Fresh catch for dinner. It is not on the menu any more, but you can still send the kitchen a 6 pack of tall boys. The love it, and your food will get that special attention.

                          You can't go wrong either way. Ignore the haters...

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Gabatta

                            I can't get enough of those tuna and sausage dumplings. Best new thing on the menu in a long time!

                            1. re: Gabatta

                              good call on the six pack to the kitchen... i did it once on HTHN and they sent a tasty plate of morsels our way gratis.

                            2. Count me among the baffled regarding the ECG haters. Out of probably 100 meals there over the past 15 years, I've possibly had 2 - 3 dishes that were underwhelming, easily several dozen that are among the most memorable I've ever had, and dozens more that were merely wonderful. Oh well, one fewer person for me to wait behind in line.


                              1. Have been to both a few times & I actually prefer the food at Neptune. I think the fresh fish is better as are the Oysters are better and the Wine List is better. ECG has a much larger variery though. Bottom line - both are very noisy & crowded. Best to go on a weeknight, not weekend. PS - In regard to earlier post, I wasn't very impressed with Mare. I thought it was overpriced, bland & the portions were too small.

                                1. Count me among the Neptune lovers! I've been there a dozen time since it opened and haven't had a bad meal yet. It's not just your run-of-the-mill fish joint. They have great choices...not just the same old salmon, lobster, and tuna. Last time we were there my BF had Marlin. It was amazing. I think it's the best seafood place in boston.

                                  1. FYI - I went to Neptune this past Thursday and they were out of lobster rolls (gasp!).

                                    1. Have never been to Neptune but friends go frequently and like it. ECG is not "nice." Noisey, crowded, overpirced and not that good. Legal has consistently fresh, nicely prepared fish of all sorts cooked any way you want it.

                                      1. great Boston seafood dinner? I don't think of ECG or Neptune in that context. ECG has it's fans and its detractors, as does Neptune. Legal Seafoods is my personal favorite as I have eaten there almost a thousand times (since 1970 or so) in my lifetime (I generally go once every week or two) and on average it is better than any other place I go. I like simple, fresh fish, sauteed or grilled, not buried under sauces. They have great swordfish, grilled shrimp, clams on the half shell, etc. Their lobsters are expensive but always wonderful. If you ever find something not to your liking, tell the manager and they will do their best to fix it or else refund your money.

                                        I'd also consider Jasper White's, but I haven't been there lately. Both Legal's and JW's have locations in Cambridge.

                                        If you mentioned exactly what constitutes your expectation for a great Boston seafood dinner, I could help a bit more. Some people still love Pier 4, but that might be mostly for the popovers.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Buzzy2

                                          You're responding to a year-old thread. I suspect the OP's dinner is over by now.

                                          1. re: Blumie

                                            Depends on what the line was like at ECG.