best non-upscale seafood restaurant
I know there are tons of seafood restaurant threads, but I've been reading and reading and still haven't found an answer that helps me to decide where to go, so . . .
I'm visiting Boston this weekend to meet up with my brother and his family (who live in LA) and I've demanded seafood, as I lived for a couple of years in coastal New Hampshire, and miss, miss, miss the classics.
Here in Philly I can get really great fine-dining seafood (if you make it to Philly, try Philadelphia Fish Company or Little Fish), but haven't found a place for things like fish and chips, whole fried clams (only strips! awful!), or GOOD chowder (in other words, not drowning in flour and cream). Plus, I miss being able to eat a good steamed lobster by the water, fresh from the tanks. While it sounds like there isn't a lobster pound-style restaurant in Boston, there HAS to be a restaurant where I can get good fried clams and fish and chips.
Help, please! Price doesn't matter. I'm willing to pay more, if the food is great, and the portions are appropriate. I just don't want an "Ahi Three Ways" type of restaurant! I just want my fried clams!
Downtown, I'd recommend the Salty Dog at Quincy Market, for a good plate of fried belly clams. Make sure you ask for the whole belly clams, or you might get strips instead. I'm not sure how their fish and chips ranks, as I haven't ordered that before. It's also casual and not all that expensive either.
I might lose some "Chowhound Points" for this...but...if you want fried clams, and the other people in your party also want fried seafood, and you would like to try an excellent fish chowder without all of the gloppy, flour-heavy consistency, then I recommend you try No-Name, on the Fish Pier. Their fried seafood is excellent. The broiled dishes are not as good. Their fish chowder is big chunks of white fish in a milk broth, finished on top with some butter, for some more richness. It's different from the classic New England Clam Chowder, but I love it.
If you decide to go to No Name, keep in mind that it's the complete opposite of fine dining. It's paper placemats and paper cups, and the food comes out fast. You can be in and out in 45 minutes. However, it's good. You get a big plate, piled high with sweet whole clams, good crunchy french fries, house made cole slaw and tartar sauce that isn't loaded with sugar. It's also reasonably-priced (although I won't say "cheap", because fresh clams are never cheap).
Dry Dock Cafe is a good bare-bones (it's in the lobby of a fish processing plant in South Boston) choice at lunch - their seafood chowder is really good and full of fish, shrimp, and scallops - their clam chowder is way above average. They really excel in the fryer dept - I had amazing fish (haven't tried their clams, but know they have whole bellies available most days) and chips (average fries) there last week. I can't think of anywhere better for fried seafood within the city of Boston (though I keep meaning to try Morse Seafood in the South End). FWIW, Boston mayor Menino was dining at Dry Dock the time before last. It's usually pretty full but you never have to wait long.
Dry Dock Cafe
7 Drydock Ave, Boston, MA 02210
It's not in Boston proper, but if you'll have a car on your trip, and are willing to travel about 7.5 miles, you can't do better than Moulton's Seafood in Medford. Nothing fancy, just super-fresh fish and shellfish cooked "old-school" -- fried, baked, or broiled.
I've yet to have lobster there, but the fried clams are the best I've had off of Cape Ann, and they make a nice chowder.
Strongly agree about Moultons -worth a trek to the burbs if feasible (don't think it's an easy place to get to on public transit, however) - recently had the lobster scampi special and it was phenomenal - a LOT of very fresh lobster (all parts - tail, claw, etc.) in a light butter/wine/garlic prep over good pasta. Everything I've had there, fried or otherwise, has been impressively fresh and well-cooked - and the service is extremely friendly as well.
I also strongly agree with the Moulton's recommendation. Excellent seafood, maybe the best in the area, and definitely not upscale.
There is a bus that runs out of Harvard Square, maybe #96 Medford via George Street. It runs along Mass Ave by Porter Square and it stops about two blocks from Moulton's at the corner of Winthrop and George. So a trip to Moulton's can be combined with a visit to Harvard Square. Definitely worth the trip.
The No Name has lots of character and lots of mediocre food, but the fried clams there are an exception. The clams at the Sail Loft and at the Barking Crab are much better than Legal's. Fish and chips I think are iffy and the best ones are usually at Irish Pubs, but McCormick & Schmick's not only has great fried clams but good fish and chips. The best fried clams are supposed to be at the Neptune Oyster, but I've only had the lobster rolls there. If you don't want a glass of wine, and want to rough it, both Morse's Seafood in the So. End or the Court House Seafood in Cambridge might meet your expectations. Live it up and go to the Chart House, which is a chain, but serves the lobsters out of the shell and had great historic atmosphere or head to Ye Olde Union Oyster House where the atmosphere calls out come here tourists, but the food is really decent.
ghostcat mentions Neptune Oysters' fried clams but admits to never having had them. I have had them and they're excellent. I highly recommend going there for seafood. Neptunes never disappoints, though it's never cheap and can't be considered "non-upscale". That said, it's not "fancy" either in the sense of gussying up the seafood to make it into something it isn't.
I'd opt for either Moulton's in Medford or perhaps Tony's Clam Shop or the Clam Box in Quincy.