Our Seafood Tour of Boston — LONG!
- BrookBoy Aug 31, 2006 08:04 PM
My wife and I took the Limo Liner luxury bus to Boston last Friday to spend a long weekend and sample some of Boston's fine seafood offerings. We have visited Boston once or twice a year for some time and really like spending time there. Normally we take the train or drive, but the luxury bus concept was new and totally enticing to us, so we bit.
Limo Liner is a bus outfitted with just 28 luxury reclining leather seats, so there's plenty of legroom. There's an attendant on board who serves up a "meal" (small selection of either a salad or a sandwich), various soft drinks and who presides over the on-board entertainment. You also get a movie that plays on the pulldown screens dotted throughout the cabin ("Greatest Game Ever Played" on the way up and "Sixteen Blocks" on the way back). The area in the back has facing seats and at least one table that will accommodate four, and it is designated cell-phone free. Oh yeah, the bus also has an unsecured wireless network that you can use as you travel. The cost is around $76 (give or take a couple of bucks) one way, so it beats the Acela on price alone. The one downside is that the ride is bumpy, so it's like being in a first class plane that has ongoing turbulence.
The bus leaves from the NY Hilton and ends at the Hilton Back Bay (the reverse for Boston travelers). We decided to stay (pretty much for that reason) at the Hilton in Back Bay and never regretted our choice (really nice room with a sweeping view and friendly staff throughout the stay).
But enough about all that stuff, let's talk about the food. We had free breakfasts three of the four days we were at the Hilton, so we were limited mostly to dinners for our seafood sampling.
We arrived about 4:30 Friday, a cold and rainy day, so after we unpacked and got settled we made our way to Turner Fisheries through the malls instead of outside. We had made a dinner reservation through Open Table. They gave us a premier table, service was wonderful, food less so, but not bad. We each had the 2.5 pound lobster ($60 apiece) but they were somewhat overdone (parts of the claws were blackened, and these were supposed to be steamed lobsters), a little dry and rubbery as a result, sad to say. The fried oysters were interesting and tasty but had not been detached from the shells, so we had to pull them apart to eat them. We both liked the clam chowder, but it didn't stand out in any particular way. All in all it was a creditable but ultimately not-worth-it kind of meal. We had a nice Chablis with our dinner, but we thought their wines were overpriced in general.
Saturday we went for an early dinner to B&G Oysters, our personal favorite. My wife had the fried Ipswich clams ($24) while I went with the lobster roll, and we both had the clam chowder. B&G makes the very best clam chowder of all, in our opinion, although whenever we've had it we begin by thinking "...it's not so good this time..." but end by thinking "DAMN!! This is the best clam chowder I've ever had..." I think this is because the texture is so consomme-like rather than being thick like a standard chowder. The fried clams were excellent but probably not worth $24. The lobster roll was definitely worth its cost (don't remember, around $24 also). Their lobster roll is plain, no celery, no mayo, just pure lobster and lots of it. (BTW, they make sensational fries, as well...) We had a Gruner Veltliner that we thoroughly enjoyed with our meal. Their wine prices are a little high but there are reasonably priced choices on the menu, at least in our opinion.
Sunday we tried McCormick and Schmick in the Park Plaza hotel. They gave us the one booth with a view limited to the server's station, so we asked for another seat, which meant a 20-minute wait. But the lobster (2.5 pounds each) was better and less expensive than what we had at Turner's. Their lobster was bright red all around and wonderfully chewy and juicy. The clam chowder was unremarkable. Service was friendly and efficient and they have a good wine list at reasonable prices (especially when compared to Turner's). We had a bottle of Jordan Chardonnay with dinner, thought the prices were very reasonable all around. All in all a good meal at reasonable prices.
Monday was the one day for which we did not have a breakfast coupon at the Hilton, so we headed over to Legal Seafoods in the arcade on Boylston for lunch. We split a salad and a clam chowder for apps and each had the lobster roll along with a nice Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. I liked the Legal lobster roll better than B&G because they mix in some diced celery and mayo, which is the way I like it, but Maureen thought B&G's was better. We both liked the chowder and think it's among the best we had, coming in a close second to B&G's version. It too isn't as thick as standard chowders, a plus in our book.
Afterward we walked over to Fenway and took the stadium tour, somewhat disappointing in its brevity. We've taken the same tour of the ballpark at Camden Yards, and there they bring you on the field and into the visiting dugout as well as bringing you into the luxury suites. The Fenway tour skipped those two elements, but the rest of the tour was a lot of fun. We had no idea the Green Monster seats were so nice. Our guide absolutely refused to say the word "Yankees", instead referring to "that team from New York", much to our delight (us being diehard Yankee fans, but keeping quiet about it).
From there we wandered around till dinner time and then went to the Atlantic Seafood Company for dinner. We were lobstered out, so Maureen had the grilled scallops and I had the seafood jambalaya. Lemme tell you, that seafood jambalaya is one huge dish, loaded with seafood. It's not for the faint of heart or the faint of appetite. Good food, though, and nicely seasoned. Maureen really enjoyed her grilled scallops and the potatoes, but she wasn't crazy about the glazed carrots. This is another generous dish. We both liked the clam chowder but, like Turner's, there wasn't anything particularly interesting about it. We had a very nice bottle of Chablis with the meal. We thought it was a good meal at a reasonable price, and we enjoyed chatting with the bartenders as we ate at the bar.
In addition to the above, we stopped once for a beer at Jacob Wirth (Maureen had never been in the place), and once at Atlantic Seafood (different visit) during the day for an excellent portion of steamers.
I'm sure we picked places a lot of native Bostonians would have avoided, but you know the lay of the land and we don't. We'd be curious to hear from you natives what places we should try next time. I know natives think Back Bay is a culinary backwater, but it does offer convenience and a lot of choices. We'd be happy to try some other places on a future trip and report back on what we think of them...
Condolences on the slow death of the Sox and best wishes for Papi...
Sounds like some good eating! Next time, you might want to try Belle Isle Seafood over in Eastie. Fresh lobsters and fish that have basically just pulled out of the water, and at incredibly low prices. Also GIANT loster rolls, excellent fried clams, and fab lobster pie. Nothing even approaching fancy, mind you (counter eating), but for cheap, delicious seafood it's a find.
BTW, the Fenway tour usually DOES take people out on the field and into the dugouts, etc. The exception being when the Red Sox are playing a day game at Fenway that day (or a day-night doubleheader).
You know, we wondered about that. I mentioned it to the guide and he gave us some story that different parks do different things. I also noticed that we were finished long before the next tour came along, but we were able to see the preceding tour, which indicated to me that our guide was mostly interesed in getting it over and done with. Too bad.
But we did enjoy a beer at the Cask and Flagon. We've been hearing the announcers talk about the place forever, so it was nice to see.
Thanks for the suggestion.
A very nice report! I'd say you did pretty well. Stops I might add on a return trip include the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, which does superb grilled seafood and raw bar, and one of East Cambridge's Portuguese restaurants, which also have a fine hand with seafood.
(I've taken that LimoLiner a few times, a pretty civilized way to travel. I like the fact that it has Wi-Fi/satellite Internet access.)
Loathe as I am to assist a fan of "the team from New York," I guess my stomach wins out over my heaaaaht! ;)
Thanks for the great review - It sounds like a really fun trip and definitely offers a great perspective on Boston "typical" fish places.
There are a number of places to check out on your next excursion that offer much more diverse seafood fare but are typically off the beaten track: (And I am sure other Boston 'hounds will weigh in)
But to begin:
1) East Coast Grill - Inman Square, Cambridge - What MC Slim JB said...
2) Muqueca - Inman Square, Cambridge - Portuguese fish stew done well here, as well as other Portuguese places in Camb/Somerville. Definitely not your dad's NE Clam Chowder.
3) Rincon Limeno - East Boston - Peruvian hole-in-the-wall serves one limey-piquant ceviche - not your dad's fried calamari!
4) Chinatown seafood joints - someone help me here - or search the board.
DO AVOID: Strangely enough, pretty much anything on the waterfront or Fish Pier, especially No Name Restaurant...long past its heyday if it ever had one.
That's all I can think of at the moment - there are others -
re: Bob Dobalina
Perhaps this is pedantic, but Muqueca serves moqueca which is a *Brazilian* fish step, not Portuguese (and muqueca is simply an alternate spelling). Their moqueca is a "moqueca capixaba" (from Espirito Santo, like the owners), although they can also make a heavier Baiana moqueca (with palm oil and coconut milk) if you like. They also offer bobo de camarao (shrimp in a yucca broth).
The Portuguese restaurants on Cambridge street are strongly recommended. The best for Salt Cod (wider selection and excellent quality) is Portugalia, they also have a white bean and seafood feijoada, but not so good meat dishes. The Sunset Cafe has good mariscadas (mixed seafood stew), as well as other options including a portuguese-style paella.
The Daily Catch in the North End or probably their waterfront location, are worth a visit, but you have to like calamari or want a lobster fra diavalo for two. Also on the waterfront is the inexpensive lobster roll at James Hook.
Lastly Belle Isle seafood is good, but it is a bit hard to get to if you came on the limo liner. Legals is pretty good with fried seafood, just expensive. If you can make it during the day (they close at 6:30), Courthouse Seafood has excellent fried seafood, various broiled seafood specialties, and a $11 lobster roll. Its doable on the T (Lechmere station and the 69 bus which reaches all the Cambridge St restaurants), but there isn't a lot else around there for diversion, although you could take pictures of the "Live Chicken Fresh Killed" sign at Mayflower Poultry.
Love everybody's Portuguese selections. Haven't been in a while, and the names alone are making me hungry.
BTW Itaunas, Belle Isle Seafood is only about a ten-minute walk from the Orient Heights blue line station. (Although that probably seems a lot more daunting to visitors than it does to locals.)
Bob -- point taken, although with the winding of 145 I would think it would seem like quite a trek for a visitor. I would also walk to Courthouse (or even East Coast) from Lechmere, but the 69 is probably a better option for a visitor.
There also are some summer beachside seafood options reachable by subway. Wollaston comes to mind (Clambox and Tony's both good), Sully's of castle island (good dogs and mediocre clam strips), or Revere (Kelly's is a hike and variable, but its there). Probably better to take the commuter rail to Rockport.
Its off topic, but with the mention of Rincon Limeno -- does anybody know if they have actually taken over the bar next door? I was interested in the previously mentioned selection of Columbian liquors, but it will probably be a couple of weeks before I get out to Eastie.
PS One other possible destination is Union Sq where you could get ceviche at Machupicchu and fried seafood at Roma within less than a dozen blocks.
"The Daily Catch in the North End or probably their waterfront location, are worth a visit, but you have to like calamari or want a lobster fra diavalo for two."
I do like their stuffed calamari, but there's so many other great things to eat there... my favorite is monkfish marsala. There's a whole slew of fish (like haddock, tuna, swordfish - fried, broiled), clams, mussels, fish stew... The pasta with the olive oil white clam sauce and shrimp and scallops served in the pan is great too.
I really think that this is a destination seafood place for Boston - and thanks to my reco's a whole lot of people from NYC think that as well!
re: Bob Dobalina
No, not consistently. I've been there twice and had the same quality of food and service that I've had many times at the Hannover St. location. I've certainly read the many bad reviews you speak of and maybe the next time I'm there will be like waiting for the shoe to drop - but the truth is that I've had nothing but good food and service to date.
re: Bob Dobalina
Chinatown Seafod joints-
are some of the best- they host large finctions like weddings and such. I highly recommend the seafood taro nest, twin lobsters, clams, whole steamed fish
Also some other places that are really good outside of the crowded chinatown streets include
Jumbo Seafood in Newton and Victoria's Seafood on Commonwealth ave near Boston University.
Gotta check it out!
just beaware of the whole fish with the head and such
I know I'm probably going to be slammed for saying this, but I LOVE No-Name restaurant on the Fish Pier.
I was just there again last week before a concert at the Pavillion. Their fish chowder can't be beat. It's a thin milky broth, not that glop that tends to pass for Clam Chowder in most places. It was chock full of fresh white fish, and some butter melted on the top gave it just a hint of extra richness.
I also had the special of the day which was a platter of sauteed shrimp, lobster and scallops. The platter wasn't ginormous, but certainly a decent portion of lovely fresh seafood. Huge shrimp, with a nice briny taste, tender scallops and big chunks of lobster tail meat, all for $21.00, which I thought was quite reasonable. It came with a dish of delicious homemade coleslaw, which didn't have that overly sugary taste that you get from most commercial coleslaw. It also included fries which were golden brown, crispy and piping hot.
We ended the meal with pieces of their famous homemade pies, blueberry and cherry.
The service was efficient, if not overly friendly. The room was spotless, and as I looked around the packed dining room, I saw lots of smiling faces and happy diners. Nobody seemed to be complaining. There was a good mix of tourists and locals like us (going to the concert as well).
Next time you come to Boston, craving seafood, give No Name a try. It's not the type of place that is too common in NYC, and you won't pay $60 for an overcooked lobster.
FWIW, I think a lot of members of the board would be happy to hear of improvements at the No Name. Its the kind of non-pretentious place with the potential to serve very fresh seafood. I haven't been back in a while, but in every recent visit it has been a shadow of itself (higher prices, smaller portions, normal surly service, faded decoration). If it has turned around, that is great, and the one thing which has remained excellent always is their fish (not clam) chowder.
If you do like the chowder at the No Name, you might also want to check out the Dolphin restaurant in Harvard Sq which has very similar chowder and a lot of excellent plates.
I am glad someone mentioned the monkfish marsala at the Daily Catch, which despite my omission is one of my favorites. Its seemed to me that the reviews of the *new* waterfront location have been more positive than negative, but I have not been.
Another good place for seafood in Chinatown is the Taiwan Café, another regional take on the aquatic.
re: Chris VR
Yep, you read it right. It was a surprise to us as well. I have to say that we enjoyed the oysters, but I have never had them served that way before.
Let me hasten to say that there was nothing wrong with the oysters, nor did the presentation detract from the delicious flavor of the dish. However, having to forcibly remove the oysters from the shell (they having not been detached in the kitchen) was not only unexpected, it was somewhat tedious. Maybe one of the chefs missed his/her assignment, but that's how they arrived at table.
NEPTUNE OYSTER!!! on salem street in the north end. tiny. the proprietor is there 6 nights a week behind the bar. it's my favorite casual spot.
why you picked chains like mccormick and schmick's, and hotel black holes like turner's, is beyond me. why didn't you post this before your trip? lol.
i second east ocean city, and also will add penang to the chinatown list for whole cooked fish.
Just so you know, clam chowder that is not thick is the mark of chefs who (1) respect the history of properly made chowder, and (2) do not take the shortcut of adding binders to keep a chowder from curdling while being held over heat for the duration of service. The latter is the reason that binders came to be added to restaurant chowders, and then distorted customer expectations over the years....
re: Karl S
While I realize that they had a common beginning, and that it was not authentically (argggh - I used the "a" word...) thick, there now appears to be a distinction between Clam and Fish Chowders. I've been to many places that serve the more traditional thin milk and butter style with fish chowder, while keeping folks happy with the thick clam chowder. Do you think that this is perhaps the evolution of the products as it's come to be - clam is certainly the marketplace favorite, while fish is somewhat more for connoiseurs?
Clam chowder evolved from fish chowder, but the chowder tradition is that the only thickening comes from the potatoes and the dairy (which is thicker and a tad less prone to curdle to the extent you use more cream than milk, but at the risk of dimming the subtle sea flavors of the broth and the seafood (which is why many elsewhere take a light hand to using dairy with seafood)).
Frankly, making the chowder thick makes two things easier for restaurants (1) you can make more in advance to hold over heat for longer (and to chill excess), and (2) it masks the flavors of the sea that many customers really *don't* like despite their protestations to the contrary....
Great visit and write-up. Thanks for taking the time to post it.
I've been to Great Bay once and my party really enjoyed it. I had a sole that was outstanding...the apps and dessert also pleased. The negatives I've read on these boards have generally been related to prices rather than quality at Great Bay. Yes, it's pricey but it's a top notch place to eat dinner. (Again, been there just once.)
Some of the steakhouses might offer excellent seafood alternatives for your next trip. The lobster bisque at Smith & Wollensky is really tasty. For some reason I followed it a week later with lobster bisque at the Palm...which was amateur in comparison.
Many years ago after college ( to support my trip to Europe)I waitressed at the famous Union Oyster House. It is a must for your next trip. Just to sit at the old wooden horshoe-shaped oyster bar and watch the person shuck the oysters is fascinating. Even if you don't like oysters (which I don't), you can sit and have a cold one and people watch out the window.
Upstairs, there is the booth that JFK always sat at when he came in.
They have a lovely gift shop attached to the place.
I bought the corn bread mix last year and put it in my husband's Christmas stocking as he loves corn bread. It was as tasty as the corn bread they serve there.
Lots of choices of seafood, that is for sure.
Hope this one helps.
If for nothing else, the Union Oyster House is a real place, with real character and a part of history. I had a lobster thermador in the upstairs dining room there a few years ago. Don't remember much about the food, but definately the experience of being there, the old fixtures, climbing the narrow stairs, the ambience of it all. This is what phony, plastic "theme" restaurants will never achieve.
Hi and thanks for your suggestion about the Union Oyster House.
Forgive me for not having mentioned the UOH in my original post, but the fact is we not only didn't visit the place, we made a conscious decision not to do so. We've been regular customers there for some time (meaning we stopped in every time we were in Boston, once or twice a year, sometimes more) for all that time. But our last couple of visits were REALLY disappointing.
Stopped in last summer in late July only to have them serve up oysters that looked tired on a plate that was entirely devoid of ice, meaning that there was no ice anywhere at all around the oysters. They were OK, but the fact that they were at room temperature was, at least to me, disconcerting.
We sat at the bar farthest from Quincy Market , which is where we usually sit. During each of our last couple of visits the bartender seemed a lot more interested in chatting up the regulars than in paying attention to the bar. Let me hasten to add that we've been going to that part of the UOH for years, and I remember when the bar was staffed by a father and son combination who always made us feel welcome.
We are big fans of the house-made chips that they serve around 4 PM (one serving only and only to whomever is at the bar at that moment), and the last time we were in they skipped us when serving out the chips. Had it not been for the fact that we had mentioned to the bartender that we were actually waiting for said chips, we wouldn't have gotten a portion. He had to speak up for us.
Also, we were REALLY disappointed in the oysters. They were served up on a platter without any ice of any kind, either underneath nor on a serving tray. It was somewhat disconcerting to us that the oysters were served at room temperature instead of chilled. We were similarly disappointed with the steamers, which seemed like a smaller and not so good version of the steamers we've had there in the past.
We have been long time customers at the Union Oyster House and we really love the idea that this is a restaurant in Boston that has such history and texture, but we decided on this trip that it wasn't worth a visit, sad to say.
I would love to be able to report that I'm the guy who can report that the Union Oyster House is back on track, but that isn't the case here.
We both miss the days of the father and son combination who used to run the bar there. Anyone have any ideas what happened there?