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Boston Oyster Experience?

An oyster fan from out of town is visiting boston in a few weeks, and I wanted to show him what boston has to offer in that regard. I was thinking of Neptune and B&G and maybe East Coast Grill but am looking for other suggestions as well. In particular too, is there some place that has happy-hour oyster specials?

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  1. union oyster house can be fun to sit at the bar and have a few too. mccormick and schmick used to do oyster specials, but i'm not sure if they still do.

    1. While not everyone likes Legal on this board, I think there is more or less agreement that their oysters are always top notch. Delicious, briny, cold and always fresh.

      9 Replies
      1. re: emilief

        B&G and Neptune are both great choices.

        McCormick & Schmick has just OK cooked dishes, but they get their seafood flown in twice a day, so it's always pristine. Good oysters, and if I recall, they have a special on oysters on Tuesdays.

        28 Degrees is a trendy lounge/restaurant in the South End that sells exclusively Island Creek oysters (local, from Duxbury, Mass.), served with cocktail sauce plus two kinds of mignonette. They are always impeccably fresh, and on weekdays they sell them for A DOLLAR EACH (!) from 5 to 7.

        1. re: wittlejosh

          I think Neptune has the best oysters in Boston but I need to try B&G again.

          I've consistently defended Legal, partly because of it's oysters, but I'll criticise them today... the past two times I've gone to Legal's they only had east coast oysters and (while not dried out, fortunately, like Summer Shack) about 1/4th were off flavoured. My fried clams were also soggy, so I'm not happy with Legal now.

          1. re: steinpilz

            Yes-- hard to top Neptune and B&G!! Variety,freshness,wines matched,fun environment, good service--yes, they can be cramped, but perhaps that is part of the fun ;)

        2. re: emilief

          I love legals for the oysters too.

          1. re: lexpatti

            legal's usually only has 2 kinds of oysters though.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              I went to the Pru Legal's on Friday and they had oysters from PEI, MA, and NJ - NJ being flavourless. No west coast and it was the second time, in a row, that they didn't have any (a hopeful explanation might be that they sold out).. I had my frist Fanny Bay oysters at the Pru Legal, which were great, and so this was frustrating.

              I agree that Legal's desn't have a wide selection, Neptune would have at least a dozen choices, I suspect B&G would too.

              1. re: steinpilz

                I do love PEI so I guess the selection isn't as important to me when I'm craving oysters. Now, when I really want an oyster experience there's a place in the NY Train Station that's phenominal - maybe 25 different oysters - that is impressive. Anyone know of a place where they serve Northeast and Gulf in the same room? I want to do a taste test some time.

                1. re: lexpatti

                  Here's a pic of the raw bar menu one day at Neptune, what I've seen there is quite similar:


                  I totally agree about the Grand Central Oyster Bar, I try to stop there whenever I'm in NYC... they have Belons, which I rarely see, as well as oysters from all over the world. Uni served fresh in the shell, wow. Really great, and if they do it other places could too.

                  1. re: steinpilz

                    Wow, thanks - I'll have to make it to Neptune. I love Wellfleet too - after finally making it to the Wellfleet Oyster Festival this past year - standing next to someone shucking fresh ice cold ones for $1 for just ME (like my personal shucker) - can't beat it. :-)

        3. Ambiance and other menu items aside I prefer McCormick's (Park Plaza) oysters on a price/quality basis. Always a good assortment and high volume means freshness. That said sitting at the Union OH is fun and Neptune is a good time too. B&G ....I always feel like I'm eating overpriced oysters while sitting in a hole. Not a fan of this sub terrainian place.

          1. In addition to the good suggestions already given, I'd put in a vote for the oysters in black bean sauce at Peach Farm. I'm not positive, but I doubt they have a happy-hour special there but the size of the oysters would make it a memorable experience.

            1. If you're in the Fenway/Brookline area, The Beacon St Tavern has excellent oysters and a very decent bar. The oysters are usually Wellfleet.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ginnyhw

                Another good option is Eastern Standard.

              2. I know you're thinking - he's really *not* recommending the food court at Quincy Market, is he?

                But I am! In all my years of working at 28 State St., and walking to North Station to catch the train, and stopping by every place that had oysters (including Union - and that guy in the back of Haymarket that used to shuck these huge quahogs from a bag), no oysters were ever more delicious than a plateful of plump Wellfleets at The Walrus and The Carpenter, a very nice, clean little bar stuck in the middle of the east side of the main (Quincy market) building. There's almost always a seat available - oysters aren't all that popular with the tourists. But they are fresh and kept on ice about 6 inches from your nose. The guys know what they're doing - they're shucked fresh with every order, and they make sure to keep all the liquor. It's a small stand - but they have all the basics, from mignonette and horseradish to sriracha. They also have a menu of steamers, chowder and lobster, and of course cherrystones and other raw bar. They don't have an extensive selection of oysters - usually just wellfleets and Maine (pemaquids), but they're always fresh. Beer & wine - Sam on tap.

                There are several restaurants in the QM complex that you can walk to from there. Plus you can always get a box of Beard Papa's cream puffs to bring home, just 2 stands down from them.

                3 Replies
                1. re: applehome

                  I second your recommendation of Walrus and Carpenter. Great oysters as well as shrimp steamed in beer. It's one of the few places where you can sit in the food court and have a glass of wine. It might also help to say that the sign says Oyster Bar because the Walrus and Carpenter reference is pretty small.

                  1. re: Pegmeister

                    I took my Mom, an oyster lover from the Eastern Shore of MD to the Walrus and the Carpenter and then I couldn't get her to leave.

                    1. re: trotliner

                      My brothers and I have sat there forever, arguing whether to have another dozen or get up and go to the Salty Dog for dinner... of course, we end up ordering another dozen each wellfleets and cherrystones for about the 3rd or 4th time, until we can finally make up our minds to leave. Then, I'll polish it off with the oyster po' boy and the onion rings at the Dog.

                2. I'm not a fan of Summer Shack--it was on the company--but the oysters were amazing! A dozen and a half from the East Coast seaboard...i think they price out at $2.25-2.50...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MaineRed

                    I was at the Alewife Summer Shack this weekend and got an order of Wellfleets; they were fantastic. And the board listed a selection of 6-8 types which was impressive.

                  2. I think Great Bay has oysters in their happy hour raw bar special (like 5-6 or something). I also posted about an oyster special but it got axed and now I can't remember where it was. Damn.

                    1. I like B&G for the freshness and variety of their oysters (several West Coast, plus a bunch from up and down the Eastern Seaboard), and the selection of whites by the glass to go with them, though they are perhaps the priciest in town. Patio is nice when it's warm, too.

                      I like Neptune for its oysters (also super-fresh with a lot of varieties to choose from), and the high quality of everything else on the menu. It would be a great, worthy restaurant even without its raw bar (though I don't care for its lobster roll); even the non-seafood stuff is outstanding. It's a cool space, too. Not cheap, either, I'm afraid.

                      I think the Union Oyster House is worth a look for its historic atmosphere, but only if you sit at its first-floor oyster bar. You won't get freshly-shucked oysters anywhere else in the restaurant, and the rest of the menu is dreadful.

                      I've also enjoyed oysters at Brasserie Jo, the East Coast Grill, 28 Degrees, the Rendezvous at Central Square, and McCormick & Schmick's Park Plaza (which has decent happy-hour bargains on them). But Neptune and B&G are my easy favorites.

                      1. Boy, maybe I missed something, but I was extremely disappointed at B+G oyster. We were wandering the area, and decided to go in. I knew it was going to be cramped, but I'm glad my claustrophobic tendencies were under control. The seletion of oysters fine, but the Wellfleets must of somehow been frozen, and the oyster from Alaska- name eludes me now, were almost inedible, with an iodine/benzoin smell and a ammonia taste. Maybe this is how they are supposed to taste, but note tasty. The fried clams greasy, and wiped out in quality by those at Bob's in Kittery and Petey's in Rye. Cost was egregious.

                        Why frozen? There is a characteristic texture change in oysters if at one point frozen. The texture softens, and the size of the oyster appears small for the shell.

                        I also didn't like that the oyster shucker was sniffing every oyster. Disconcerting at best.

                        I know how this place walks on water on this board, and perhaps I was expecting too much given the reviews. Better elsewhere, at far, far less cost.

                        3 Replies
                          1. re: Chris VR

                            I thought Leff's review of B&G reflected a lot of weird hostility to the vibe of the place, which he describes from the get-go as "suffocatingly self-conscious bohemian", with "pretentious" bread. Those are very odd descriptions, in my opinion (we obviously have very different ideas of what constitutes "bohemian"). It reads to me like the review of someone who had decided to hate the place before he'd even sat down.

                            In any event, I've never experienced anything remotely like freshness issues there. Maybe Barbara Lynch just has a knack for creating polarizing places: there's a lot of love on this board for The Butcher Shop, a place which I actively dislike these days.

                            First impressions do really count for a lot. I have friends who think Pops totally sucks now because of a bad experience getting seated there. They were waiting for a table on their first visit when a couple came in behind them and got seated ahead of them. What annoyed them was that they could overhear the host explaining to the couple that he was "going to sneak them in ahead" (they were probably regulars), despite the couple saying, "No, we don't want to do that', then doing it anyway. I told them they should give it another chance, as generally the service is good and the food is excellent, but they are justifiably put off by the experience.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              I don't really get the claustrophobic comment myself. King Fung or the Littlest Bar might cause claustrophobia. At B&G, the tall tables downstairs, the bar and the outside seating (obviously season), while close, don't result in banging knees with your dining companions.

                              The frozen oyster thing is weird - I cannot imagine them doing that at B&G, not at that price. I would have sent them back.

                              aadesmd: I am not saying your experience is not possible, just didn't happen to me on my 4-5 occasions there. I liked B&G ok.

                        1. Zon's in JP has $1 oysters, I think on Thursdays and Fridays. I haven't tried it yet, so I'm not sure what type, but I'm imagining it rotates?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Kbee

                            That was the special I was trying to think of above. Will need to check that out for my infrequent raw oyster tasting.

                          2. did a whole lotta bunches of oysters at Neptune on sunday. all were fab, perfectly fresh, expertly opened (no broken flesh or shells) and priced from $1.80-$2.65. perfect.