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Reliably good seafood (especially fried) restaurant?

I've been picking through the board all morning to find a good fried seafood place for next week- my birthday is February 19th and I want a really good fried seafood meal! Shellfish and calamari are my main focus, but I won't pass up a good fish fillet.

It seems as though all the recommendations listed here are subject to long debates, with everyone either loving or hating the place (not surprising, given all our very different tastes!).

In this economy, I'd rather not spend money on a hit or miss place, and so I'm wondering: is there a reliably fabulous seafood place in or around Boston?

Am I stuck cooking at home (mmm fried fish smell in my kitchen for 3 days) or going with something like Legal's, which seems to be reliably good but a little too chain-ey and not always fantastic?

Generally speaking, we're willing to drive for it, and if they have beer or wine, even better. I'm also open to a trip to Newport or somewhere similar, if that is what it takes.

Anyone?

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  1. You are right -- this is a tricky topic on this board. I like Mouton's in Medford and others have commented favorably on Pescatore in Somerville lately ( my one visit there was so-so). You can get beer and wine at either.

    Let me offer another idea, one that will surely get some boo-hiss reaction as would Legal's. I think the fried clams and/or scallops at Kelly's cannot be beat. Had a clam plate last week that was simply perfect. No beer and wine, but you could treat yourself to some good old fried seafood at Kelly's for lunch and then gild the lily with more seafood for dinner.

    20 Replies
    1. re: yumyum

      Best calamari in town are at the Daily Catch, in my opinion. North End location.

      1. re: yumyum

        That's where I had my first fried calamari and totally fell in love. I think I was something like 6.

        Oh man, we might need to do a fried seafood weekend! If we do it, I'll definitely come back with a report.

        1. re: sfumato

          Fried seafood weekend! Nothing better. (This from an Aquarius btw) Above all, enjoy your birthday weekend!

      2. re: yumyum

        The mr.'s family loves Kelly's (and has for decades), so it's really good to know that their clams are excellent.

        I am getting hungry reading all these good recommendations.

        1. re: yumyum

          Yumyum, when was your visit to Pescatore? I also had one visit in the distant past that was just ok - a recent re-visit was much better and a delight.

          1. re: Bob Dobalina

            Well over a year ago -- had the home-made pasta with mixed seafood in red sauce and it was really meh, with the scallops being notably bad. Haven't had an urge to return, but recent posts have made me reconsider.

            1. re: yumyum

              Yum, had exactly that dish couple of weeks ago and the scallops were the best part of it - perfectly cooked I thought. Again, nothing groundbreaking, but solid. Not worth driving miles for but certainly if you're in da 'Ville, go for it.

              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                Lissy and I popped in on Friday night and also had the mixed seafood with homemade pasta. We opted for the garlic and olive oil rather than red sauce. It was delicious - I'd definitely order it again. Crab cakes were also great and a very generous portion. We split these two and a side order of sauteed spinach. I'll definitely go back - glad to have this place just down the road.

            2. re: Bob Dobalina

              We had dinner at Pescatore last night. It was a delightful experience from start to finish. Bread with great olive oil with the meatiest Gaeta olives to start with a decent Cab ($7) while we looked at the menu. Shared a (giant!) Caesar salad to start that was crisp and fresh and dressed perfectly (nice garlic and anchovy flavors) - DH said the anchovies were great. Then we shared the house made ricotta gnocchi with fresh buffala mozzarella - we asked for an app portion - which they were happy to do. These were light and delicious with a nice creamy (from the mozz) red sauce. I had a very fresh tasting piece of haddock prepared "Americano" which had a light (very light - in a good way) crumb topping with lemon and parsley. Came with some grilled veg - carrots, zucch and mushrooms that were really nice and mashed potatoes - all good. I was very happy with my dish - DH had the whole roasted red snapper with capers and lemon butter - which I thought was delicious - his came with asparagus and mashed as well (? not sure). To stuffed for dessert, but the house-made options sounded great - Tira Misu and an Amaretto cake. Wish we could have tried them. Instead our lovely server brought us two apertifs of limoncello. Fab way to end a spectacular meal - I can't wait to go back. It was our first time (crazy since we are blocks away). Very positive experience and good, fresh food.

              1. re: Small Plates

                Jumping in here because MrLit and I just made our 1st visit to Pescatore the other night (have been trying to go for ages), and LOVED it. I had the seafood amalfi pasta -- it had homemade fusili, lobster claws, shrimp, and scallops. Delicious. MrLit had the fried shrimp platter and was equally pleased -- big plump shrimp, excellent onion straws. Generous pours on the wine by the glass. I was charmed by the place, and will probably go back later this week. A great chowhound find.

                1. re: Harp00n

                  Harp: Sort of funny the mods deleted our whole sub-conversation, but left your post hanging there.

                  Anyway, as promised in a post which is now deleted, we went back tonight to Pescatore -- as expected, it was awesome. We brought along some pals who had never been before, and everyone wound up stuffed full and happy. I asked the kitchen to make me a kind of fusili primavera with fra diavolo (not on the menu, but I needed vegetables) and they were very accommodating -- it was delish. The chicken parm, seafood pasta amalfi, and the pasta bolognese also got very high marks. I spent half of dinner ogling the giant pile of fried calimari at the next table, which smelled and looked delicious. Next time, next time.

                  I was pleased to see the bottles of wine were so affordable ($21 for a good Montepulciano). Extra bonus: the decaf espresso was terrific, as was the limoncello. The limoncello was so nice, actually, we went next door to the liquor store afterwards (owned by the same couple who owns Pescatore) and picked up a bottle.

                  Had a chance to meet the owner/chef, and she was great. She and her husband (at the liquor store) were so nice. This is definitely going into the regular rotation -- homemade pasta plus fried seafood! What took me so long?

                  1. re: litchick

                    Oops, it's even funnier now that it looks like you're addressing someone who's MIA. But at least you have a very nice follow-up Moulton's report to keep you hangin' on to this thread as the Supreme's might say. Or like a stalactite as ScienceChick might also say! :-D

                    Harp

                    1. re: Harp00n

                      Quick note: Tried to go to Moulton's for the first time on Sunday. They're closed!!! Big bummer.....we took a road trip during the day and I was sooooo looking forward to their seafood. Going to Pescatore this weekend for the BF's bday. At least I can look forward to that........

                      1. re: Science Chick

                        FYI- Moulton's is closed on Sunday and Monday.

                        1. re: Science Chick

                          That's too bad!
                          There is no website for Moulton's but I just updated their link with the complete hours. Also, it's beer & wine only while I'm thinking about it.

                          Harp

                    2. re: litchick

                      That's awesome - thanks for the reports back.

                2. re: yumyum

                  If you're willing to drive the Clam Box in Ipswich is open and it's BYOB. Great clams and the seafood platter could feed a family of four. Sorry yumyum, I eat Kelley's regularly not because I think they are good but I frequently find my self on Revere Beach. My daughter likes the roast beef. I get the clams by elimination and they are okay for the first few bites but I wouldn't rate them highly.

                  I've had a couple of good experiences at Yankee Seafood. Though not a place for a birthday dinner, but their lobster specials can't be beat. Only open till 8.

                  1. re: chuck s

                    i've never seen anyone BYO at TCB. are you speaking about actually IN the resto or out at the picnic tables?

                    1. re: ScubaSteve

                      Yes. I brought a group of friends there in March of 06 for my 60th. I called ahead and I pre-ordered for a group of 12. They even had a long table complete with table cloths for us. It happened to be a very warm day for March so we had to wait but once we were in they took great care of us. I had brought a cooler of beer and they were fine with that.

                3. I continue to find Dolphin Seafood, on Mass. Ave. just outside of Harvard Square, reliably good for basic fried seafood. And they do serve beer & wine.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Allstonian

                    Too funny- Dolphin is on my shortlist! I was introduced to it by an older friend who grew up on the coast of France and really knows his seafood.

                    Thanks to everyone for the replies so far- I am compiling my list as we speak! I think a lunch AND dinner are in order.

                    1. re: Allstonian

                      I've enjoyed the Dolphin for decades, but was disappointed the last time I was there, about a year ago, by a very so-so fried fisherman's platter. The clams in particular were overbreaded with what appeared to be a cornmeal-based batter and lacking in flavor. But maybe that was just an off night.

                    2. I would go to Peach Farm, in Chinatown, which has a dab hand with a fryer.....

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: galleygirl

                        Second Peach Farm if you want to go an Asian-y route.

                      2. My brother's bday is also Feb 19 and he LOVES fried seafood. That said, there are many reliable places, depending on where you are. Just befor Christmas I had the best fried calamari at Mcormack and Schmick's in Fanueil Hall. Great fish and chips, Stones Public House Ashland. Agree with Kelly's and Dolphin. Pleasant Cafe also has excellent fried clams. Grumpy Whites is good too. Of course, if you have an ocean view it will taste better.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: trufflehound

                          Third on Dolphin. It's one of those restaurants that's so unpretentious and so reliably solid that I tend to forget how much I like it.

                        2. Hand down, go to Moulton's in Medford - it will be fresh, perfectly fried, reasonably priced, and served in an efficient, friendly way. It never disappoints us, whether it's fried, broiled, or scampi (the lobster version is an amazing value and incredibly good - more lobster than pasta and easily serves two hungry folks).

                          I also like Kelly's but it has no atmosphere, little service, and is not 100% consistent in my experience - and the prices at Moulton's are comparable or slightly lower. No, I don't work at or have relatives there - just think it's a local, unique treasure.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: rlh

                            Courthouse Seafood in East Cambridge has really good fried food, also on Fridays Neptune's special is Fritto Misto.

                            1. re: rlh

                              I'll add that my dear Grandpa declared the fried clams at Moulton's to be the best he'd ever eaten. Considering he had 93 years of eating to look back on I'd say it's a pretty strong endorsement (and I totally trust his opinion - all my chowishness is inherited from him, no doubt)

                              1. re: heathermb

                                Oh, seriously! Moultons. We've ordered many manner of fried, broiled, baked, finned, and shelled fish-foods there, and all have been consistently fresh and delicious.

                                1. re: heathermb

                                  Aww. Great post and a great reminder to support Moultons. Thanks.