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Pearl Oyster Bar replacement in Boston? Is it possible?

To date, the lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar in Manhattan might be the single most satisfying thing I've ever eaten. I've taken many people here to experience the Rebecca Charles touch (http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...), including my Mom. Knowing that Mom was due for a visit I told her that we'd definitely be going back to POB. BUT as it turns out Mom has chosen to visit Boston (my sister's town) instead; forcing me not only to trek up to your city but also to find a decent replacement for the Pearl experience. Can it be done? I've heard whispers of places like B&G and Neptune but know nothing about where to replicate or unlikely trump the POB lobster roll and charm. Any help?

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  1. I haven't been to Pearl (though I've always wanted to go) but I think the lobster roll at B & G is certainly the best I've ever eaten. I think the atmosphere and menu at B & G will probably be closest to Pearl Oyster Bar, moreso than Neptune. But as you'll see from the replies to your post, both spots have their admirers and detractors....

    1. I love the Pearl, but I think B&G is better. Not just the lobster roll, but everything. I think of B&G as the Pearl taken to the next level.

      2 Replies
      1. Chef Charles has said that the POB is a recreation of places she used to go to in Maine.

        That famous lobster roll, for instance, is served in a Pepperidge farms hot dog bun.

        In other words, nothing fancy, just well-done, traditional Maine clam shack favs.

        So I wonder if recommending "more upscale" places like B&G or Neptune is the approriate response. There ain't no Pepperidge farms rolls in those places, that's for sure.:)

        8 Replies
        1. re: Bostonbob3

          But Pearl is hardly downscale. It's not as upscale as B&G, but it's not a shack, either. I think Pearl and B&G are more similar than dissimilar.

          1. re: Blumie

            Oh, POB is VERY far from a shack. I was just refering to the relative simplicity of the food preparation. It's actually one of the things that make it great; the best ingredients, simply (and perfectly) prepared. I was just wondering out loud whether the whole "lobster on brioche" mode of B&G follows that ethic.

            1. re: Bostonbob3

              I think it does. B&G's lobster roll is a class lobster roll, and most of their fish preparations are pretty straightforward, just like Pearl.

              There's no question that B&G is more upscale, but as I said I find that the similarities outweigh the dissimilarities.

          2. re: Bostonbob3

            the B&G Lobster Roll is on that very same Pepperidge farm hot dog roll that they use at Pearl!

            1. re: jpeso

              That's what I've learned since my original post.:)

              It's not so much the exact roll used, it's the culinary aesthetic of B&G versus that of POB that I'm talking about. Evidentally, a lot of people seem to think they're quite similar in their theories.

              I'm willing to be convinced. Someone treat me to consecutive nights at POB and B&G.

              1. re: Bostonbob3

                I split my weeks between Boston and NYC. I'm not sure I'll have a chance to do consecutive nights before Labor Day, but I will as soon as I can and report back.

                1. re: Blumie

                  Excellent. BTW, have you eaten at Neptune? If so, perhaps a three-way (no dirty thoughts, people) comparison is in order.

                  1. re: Blumie

                    I have not eaten at Neptune, but a three way sounds good to me! I also have never eaten at Mary's Fish Camp (once I got addicted to Pearl, I saw no reason). Maybe I need to throw that in too!

            2. Yeah, and as I recall, B & G may not have served its lobster roll in a real "pepperidge farm roll" but it was certainly a traditional hot dog bun -- if not a pepperidge farm something very similar.

              B & G is the closest thing we've got to a Maine lobster roll seaside shack. (try sayin that 10x fast!)

              1. I'd thought that the point of POB was that it was authentic "Maine clam shack/downeast" seafood (something that we have a lot of around here) for people in NYC. The place in Boston that reminds me most of POB is Neptune, haven't had their lobster roll(s) though.

                1. B&G does in fact use Pepperidge Farm rolls and in my opinion is superior to POB in all ways. I lived in Boston and went to B&G often when they opened; one of the first places I tried when I moved to to NY was POB and it was only okay. They had ONE type of oyster (B&G usually offers up to 12 different kinds) and they looked like they had been opened at least an hour before - with a hammer.

                  1. I liked B&G. Pearl, although I own the cookbook dissappointed. Neptune's lobster roll and fried clams knocked our socks off.

                    1. Thanks all for the suggestions, appreciate your quick and fervent response! Any suggestions on when (on a Saturday) to go to B&G? We can do either lunch or dinner, though we're likely not to have enough people required to make a reservation (site says 4 minimum). How long generally is the wait and is one (lunch/dinner) advisable over the other? Thanks again!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chowcito

                        My last visit was on a Thursday night at 7. No wait for a table for 2 either inside or out, as the summer is slower than other times of year.

                      2. I've only ever gone for dinner and here's my experience with the waits...they have almost always been shorter than their quoted times and they are very good about calling your cell phone when your seats are ready (that way you can pop over somewhere else for cocktails before dinner). I don't think I've ever waited more than about 45 minutes.

                        1. That said, you WILL wait if you show up at prime time (7-9) on a Sat night. I'd either get there on the earlier side, say, no later than 7, or, like the OP said, give them your cell # and grab a drink somewhere nearby (maybe Sibling Rivalry, across the street?)
                          Lunch is just as good too, I just prefer the energy that's there at dinnertime.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: twentyoystahs

                            Maybe an early dinner around 6 on the patio.

                          2. Thanks again all for the responses. We ended up at B&G, tasked with the impossible task of finding an equal to the POB lobster roll. First off, B&G is a great place - the interior is comfortable, modern and clean. The menu varied with a good oyster selection and plenty of appealing entrees aside from the sough-after lobster roll. Is it as good as POB? No. Is it worth a visit? Absolutely.

                            B&G's rendition of the roll was enjoyable but ultimately lacked the decadence you get from the POB roll. B&G's was clean tasting but lacked that buttery roll taste and seemed to lack the cohesiveness of the POB roll. It's a matter of personal opinion but the B&G roll tasted too healthy, I guess I’m a sucker for Hellman’s.

                            That said I'd go back to B&G for their oyster selection and ambiance. ALSO want to give their sister restaurant The Butcher Shop a try, looked great.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: chowcito

                              Gosh, you shoulda said you like the buttery, more decadent element of the POB roll in the first place!! I'm sure given that information, most people would have pointed you towards Neptune's hot buttered roll.

                              1. re: chowcito

                                Hey man, you beat the JV. Come back when you're ready and try Neptune! :-) There is a great vibe to city restaurants, I admit, and Neptune is a Natural for this... and we also have all those lobster/clam shacks available - stretching off over the horizon downeast.

                              2. //Is it as good as POB? No.//

                                After our many posts on this subject, I also went back to B&G for a re-comparison. Mind you, I've dined at POB several times, and had their lobster roll each and every time I've been there. I like the place a lot. I've also been to B&G several times before.

                                My personal take on my re-comparison: a very, very slight edge to B&G. The lobster seemed sweeter, and I certainly don't miss the one thing about the POB version that annoys me: too much cloying store-bought mayo. IMHO, a lobster roll should be Maine-ly (sorry) about the lobster, not the condiments.

                                My other personal take: if you're from Boston, you'll prefer B&G, if you're from New York, POB. If you're from Los Angeles, you'll prefer whatever hell hole they say is an authentic Maine clam shack out there. We all like to think OUR place is the best place.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Bostonbob3

                                  I'm from Boston, and I prefer Neptune.

                                2. the classical lobster roll has always used, and will continue to use. a pepperidge farm roll.......a lovely recepticle for a buttery goodness of lobster and mayo if ever there was one..

                                  1. Part 1 of my Pearl vs. B&G taste test is complete. My 6-year-old daughter and I had a wonderful dinner at Pearl tonight. My daughter loved her fried oysters and clam chowder. She said the fried clams were not as good as East Coast Grill's, where, according to her (remember, she's 6!), "they know how I like them," but she liked them nonetheless. She also claimed to like Legal's clam chowder better, but I tasted it and will overrule her on that one.

                                    Following a nothing special caesar salad, my lobster roll was great: overflowing with many (although not exlusively) large chunks of lobster, served with nothing but a few specs of scallion (I think) and a fair bit of mayo-based dressing (it clearly would be too mayonaisey for some), served in a buttery toasted Pepperidge Farm roll with some red leaf lettuce placed on top (and easily removed for those who prefer without). It was large enough that it could not be eaten without lots of lobster meat falling off, which greatly pleased my daughter, because she ate it all! The lobster roll is served with super thin shoestring fries, which were very good (yet another thing that my daughter liked). I prefer a meatier fry, but that's a personal preference and not a criticism of Pearl. For dessert we ordered the blueberry crumb pie a la mode (Rebecca Charles comped us on the pie because my daughter's name also is Rebecca; my daughter drew her a picture of two of the ponies from My Little Pony to thank her). The pie was great. In fact, ordering it a la mode was a mistake because the ice cream was a distraction compared to the amazing pie.

                                    Step 1 down. Step 2 -- B&G -- will be tomorrow night if all goes according to plan.

                                    1. Ok guys, step 2 completed. And the winner is ... drumroll please .... Actually, it wasn't even close. I knew from the first bite into my B&G lobster roll that I much preferred the B&G roll to the Pearl roll. Mind you, if you read my post immediately above this one, you'll see that I like the Pearl's very much, but B&G's is just better, by a decent margin. They are both served on buttered and grilled pepperidge farm rolls. They are about the same size. But the B&G roll is almost exclusively comprised of large chunks of lobster meat, whereas the Pearl roll is a mixture of large and small pieces of lobster. Also, although both are simply prepared, Pearl's is much "wetter"; they use a lot more mayo than B&G. Similarly, Pearl's roll has a lot more butter than B&G's.

                                      I think chowcito's description of the differences was accurate, he just reached the wrong conclusion! He did admit, of course, that he preferred the heavy mayo and butter of Pearl's roll. To me, it's the lobster that I want, and B&G's preparation is all about paying homage to the lobster (homage á l'homard?). B&G's fries are better too!

                                      As for the rest of my meal, I started with a crabcake appetizer, which was great. (Had I known that it was going to be a special at B&G tonight, I might have ordered Pearl's crabcake last night so I could have compared those, too.) I had a delcious white Rioja with my meal, and enjoyed wonderful service at the counter from Meghan.

                                      It's only been a few weeks since my last visit to B&G, but everytime I go back I am reminded what a great place it is. Pearl is great, too; but as I posted earlier in this thread, B&G is just on a different level.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Blumie

                                        Thanks for the great posts, I can't wait to get to B&G, while a POB fan I agree there was a bit too much mayo in the mix.

                                      2. Thanks for the reviews. I agree with your assessment that the POB roll is a tad bit too "wet."

                                        Of course, now you have to go to Neptune and compare it to the other two places!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Bostonbob3

                                          Second that motion, thanks also for the new comparison, and good/entertaining write up.