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Locke Ober

Gets really mixed reviews. We've been invited to dinner there and were wondering if there are certain items that hounds would recommend. Or avoid! The reservation has been made, so it's pointless to suggest O Ya...

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  1. I've heard very good things about Locke Ober, in particular the lobster dishes. Heard it's a great evening in an old Boston classic.

    1. We had an excellent dinner there several years ago, not long After Lydia took over and restored the place physically and redid the menu. I would agree with what anthonyd heard, the lobster was very good. The food was definitely a lot better than the old menu, with her modern takes on classic dishes. I always enjoyed the atmosphere there, but before the revamp, the food had gotten a little "musty", even if of good quality.

      1. Locke-Ober is my all time fav in Boston..We were there last September and it's older than dirt and the lobster is fab and from the decor to the service, I've only had wonderful times...it is a Boston classic!


        1. I like Locke-Ober, but it has always served Old Money in Boston, and they are an odd breed, so you have to get into the spirit of the place. Hosting can be a little off-putting and snotty; it doesn't hurt to dress up a little bit. Many of the servers are lifelong pros; they can be on the brusque and formal side. I think the menu is very solid up and down, hard to go wrong, but it too is a little old-fashioned. Lydia's stamp on it is in the details, the sauces and garnishes and sides, like the leek fritters served with the vichysoisse.

          The lobster stew is justly famous. I've never tried the lobster Savannah, but it is impressive looking, a two-pounder (must be astronomically priced). Expect a very big tab and pricey wines. In its time-warp spirit, I tend to go with old-school dishes that few high-end fine-dining restaurants serve anymore: clams casino, calf's liver, Wienerschnitzel a la Holstein, scrod. The rack of lamb is very good, tastes like the lamb I remember growing up: American, grass-fed, gamier than the mild New Zealand lamb most places use nowadays.

          It's unique and cool and undeniably beautiful in its 19th-century grandeur, one of the few old-time places left that isn't just a silly tourist trap anymore (cf. Union Oyster House). And the regulars are a trip; that slightly disheveled-looking guy at the next table with the oatmeal on the lapel of the Brooks blazer he wore as an undergraduate at Harvard fifty years ago is probably a billionaire who ancestors came over on the Mayflower.

          2 Replies
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            How's the bar there? I've heard the actual bar is beautiful, so I'm curious if you can get a good traditional martini or perhaps just a whiskey there and take in the scene.

            1. re: bza

              The bar itself is very nice with friendly and capable barkeep. It's dark, really dark; the type of place you'd meet a mistress for drinks on the sly. And it's small, only seats about 10 people. But don't expect to expierence the restaurant from there becuase the bar is outside the actual dining room and there is a view of nothing other than assorted botttles of booze. The house made potato chips they serve as a bar snack may be worth the price of a drink in and of themselves.

          2. I agree with MC Slim, this is a real nice evening out to dinner. Where your best tie and get into the spirit of old Boston.

            1. Agree with above posters. Went for a pilgrimmage meal of sorts a few years ago and enjoyed soaking up the vibe of decor and clientele as much I did the last bits of the lobster stew, which was indeed delish. Went for broke and followed it with the lobster savannah... impressive to look at but frankly I found it much too sweet.. too much sherry or something. Steaks came rolling out to be finished/sauced tableside, very fun and DC enjoyed his. In all, a great one-time experience... deck yourself out and enjoy!

              1. Just got corraled into RW 2008 with lunch at Locke Ober - it was good, but neither great nor memorable. The room and the service are that campy yet genuine old school Boston that's hard to replicate almost anywhere else - and the average age at lunch is definitely over 60. The waiters were professional and efficient, nothing more or less. The iced tea is good, refilled quickly, served with a big hunk of lemon and maybe even worth the $5 price.

                The chilled corn soup was fresh, creamy and nicely corny, but the honey drizzle was too heavy on the sweet end of the spectrum for the three of us who ordered it - they should let the corn shine through more.

                The fish and chips were great - nicely fried large panko crusted pieces with very crispy, hearty fries and nice homemade tartar sauce (with huge capers in it). The bluefish got a goldilocks review - no one was asked how it should be cooked - one was way too rare, one was way too dry, and one was just right - the heavily buttered green beans and carrots enjoyed by all. The wild salmon BLT was completely deconstructed into a kind of plate-sprawling salad topped by crustini and was not really well-received.

                The soft (aka cold liquid center) chocolate cake with raspberry sauce was dark chocolately, not so sweet delicious and the strawberries with lemon sorbet were good as well.

                The servings were large and it was worth the $20, but it doesn't end up on the short list of downtown destinations based on this meal, either - though it may be in reserve for out of town guests looking for this experience who might otherwise end up at the Parker House or Union Oyster House and can't easily access the Harvard Club.

                Note that they are switching to an ongoing $29 prix fixe lunch menu effective Sept 2 (similar to the model that seems to work well for Radius, at least) and RW week continues there until August 29.

                2 Replies
                1. re: rlh

                  My guess is the things that LockeOber is famous for: lobster stew, clams casino, weinerschnitzel, lobster savannah, etc. will not be found on a prix fixe menu so that might not be the best way to experience the restaurant. As others have said, it would probably be better received going for a special occasion and ordering those classic dishes (and sucking up the expensive tab)
                  Caveat: I have not been there but it's on my list. Almost went for a big b'day but ended up going somewhere else (and now i can't remember where, so clearly that wasn't the right choice!!!!!!)

                  1. re: rlh

                    That sounds pretty good as RW goes - I would never judge a restaurant based on RW, since it so distorts the true experience of the place.

                  2. The Lobster Savannah is legendary. And utterly delicious, albeit amazingly RICH! (not for the faint of stomach... but once in your life, you owe it to yourself!

                    1. Thanks all--I will report back.

                      1. I've eaten there once and thought it was excellent. Oddly enough, I don't remember the entree (likely was a special that day since their online menu is all entrees I've never tried there), but the JFK lobster stew was among the best bisques I've had and the baked Alaska was first rate. The bill was breathtaking.

                        1. Locke Ober met and exceeded our expectations. The Men's Grill was beautiful, redolent of the past, from the lincrusta ceilings to the (I imagine in 1890) very risque nude hanging on the far wall. Our waiter responded to our interest by showing us the mechanics of the steam table, and was solicitous and friendly throughout the evening. He brought us copies of the history of the place, and a sample menu from 1930. Lobster Savannah was $1.60 back then, compared to $62 last night. Worth every penny. Also had the Clams Casino--a very good version with just a few breadcrumbs, and served on a bed of rock salt. Others raved about the lobster stew and raw oysters. A standout was the finnan haddie vichyssoise, though Lydia's fritters didn't do much to enhance the dish. Another old time fave was Tournedos Rossini--filet mignon topped with foie gras and a cognac and fig sauce. The swordfish with arancini and calamari was also excellent. The desserts were also outstanding-peach ice cream, puff pastry and fresh peaches, a deconstructed butterscotch coffee ice cream sundae with walnuts and marshmallow sauce, and the macaroons. Wines were reasonably priced. The food, setting and service were transcendent-we would definitely go back.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: whs

                            Thank you for the report back.

                            I think the Lobster Savannah is excellent as well, but hate to post about it because the unknown market price might give some diners indigestion at the end of the evening. Good to know that the $62 was worth it. Sometimes a retro splurge is just what is called for.

                            1. re: chowfamily

                              Sixty two bucks?! At a time when lobster has gotten somewhat cheaper?

                              1. re: nasilemak

                                L-O is one of the more expensive restaurants in the city, that lobster is a two-pounder, and the Savannah preparation is a bit more than just steaming it. It's also the priciest thing on the menu. Still, $62.

                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  Yes, the preparation is more involved and it helps that Locke Ober might well be the only spot in the area that offer lobster in that style.

                                  1. re: nasilemak

                                    The three most memorable lobster dishes I have eaten have been 1) lobster thermidor at Nick's Number One in Bangkok sometime in the early 70's (in a former palace at the top of Sathorn Rd, now torn down for a gigantic office tower), Jasper's pan-roasted lobster at his original North End restaurant (though you can get a version at Summer Shack), and the amazing Lobster Savannah at LO. Considering people spend $3000 on a flat screen tv, this is cheap entertainment. BTW, when the menu says "market price", always ask!

                                    1. re: nasilemak

                                      Abe and Louie's also has a 2-pound Lobster Savannah which is very good. Abe's was actually the first place I had ever had it - used to be a special but is now on their regular menu.

                                      I love the Lobster Savannah at Locke-Ober. It's been a while, but a bowl of lobster stew to start, and Lobster Savannah for dinner - a decadent splurge.

                              2. re: whs

                                Glad you had a wonderful time at Locke-Ober!

                              3. So can you just go and have a drink and an app at the bar, or is that not where all of the cool retro is?

                                1. Locke-Ober is now offering a $25 prix fix lunch menu which changes weekly. Some favorites are here but not the most famous ones.


                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: BBHound

                                    So would I have this at the bar, or do you need to go to a dining room to really get the vibe and architecture of the place?

                                    1. re: jinet12

                                      I'm 90% sure you can sit at the bar and eat.

                                      1. re: Joanie

                                        You CAN eat at the bar; but for the full LO experience you should sit in the main downstairs dining room.

                                      2. re: jinet12

                                        you can eat at the bar but you'll be staring at the wall. The first time I went, had steak tartar at the bar and a drink. I had to ask if i could go in and see the dining room.

                                    2. The JFK’s Lobster Stew is absolutely decadent. I've had steak twice, one time it was amazing, the next time it was not so good. However, both times I've had it with the red wine marrow sauce and I will definitely order that again.