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Union Oyster House - is it worth it?

foodie4fun Jul 14, 2010 04:50 PM

We are coming to Boston for the first time and meeting up with some old friends. Already made reservations at Union Oyster House, but seemed like a tourist trap? Is it a must for the first time Boston visitor or are there any other "must" places to eat? Dinning w/ a 7 yr who eats anything and will be in town for 4 nights...need suggestions. Thanks!

Union Oyster House
41 Union Street, Boston, MA 02108

  1. l
    lonsumtravlr Sep 22, 2010 03:44 PM

    Well, I can see I'm a bit late in responding before your trip... Yes, it's a tourist trap, but that doesn't mean it's not worth hitting up. Frankly, I think it makes the best New England style chowder in Boston at least. I think the scrod, the steamers, the oysters, the raw littlenecks, and even the fish n' chips are great--and all much better than Legal's (which is great but lacks something--I dunno... soul?)... I think a lot of Bostonians hate on it because it's such a touristy place. But it's not like it's CHEERS or anything! I always preferred to go on a Saturday or (with my then-girlfriend) Sunday afternoon after a walk around town. Would go there for chowder and a mug of Harpoon Munich Dark, and then up to Parziale's Bakery (Prince and Salem Streets) for a cannoli and some pizzelli.
    Whoever said that Boston doesn't really DO seafood is right. You get good seafoody dishes (linguine calamari, for example), and really great fish n' chips (I'm a pub guy), but nothing like you'd get in other parts of New England along the coast. You have to go North or South. If you're ever back in Eastern New England (I'm guessing you're not from the region?), I suggest renting a car and going up to Seabrook, New Hampshire. Brown's and Markey's (two great places across from each other and just over the Mass state line (and, unfortunately, too close to the reactor for comfort) make some of the best seafood I"ve ever had anywhere: east coast, West Coast, Portugal, Japan...
    Also a big fan of anything in Maine (though if in Portland--another town that doesn't really have a characteristically New England lobster pound--avoid the Portland Lobster Company). Strongly recommend Gilbert's Chowder House (though some locals treat it the way some Bostonians treat the Union).

    1. f
      foodie4fun Jul 16, 2010 03:29 PM

      Thanks everyone for your feedback! 2 weeks to go before I can try some of the suggestions...and of course cancel my reservation! Will post feedback!

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodie4fun
        Infomaniac Jul 16, 2010 04:07 PM

        Here's a suggestion; if it's a nice day head to Sullivan's on Castle Island for lunch. They do a good job with fried seafood, chowder, lobster roll, and for me a burger on the side is a must. Great place for kids too.

      2. p
        pemma Jul 15, 2010 08:50 AM

        Union Oyster House is worth a visit for lunch, but would not pick for dinner. Sit in thebar area. Have some chowders, steamers and beer. See if you can go upstairs and see the booth that JFK used to sit in. There's a plaque on it.

        Union Oyster House
        41 Union Street, Boston, MA 02108

        1 Reply
        1. re: pemma
          Karl S Jul 16, 2010 08:53 AM

          Skip the chowder.

        2. t
          TroyOLeary Jul 15, 2010 07:49 AM

          As I think is clear, Union Oyster House = bad. Bland, overpriced food. Literally the only thing I would eat there are the oysters, and even then, there are dozens of better places to eat oysters. It is historic, though, so if you really want to go, as others have said, sit at the downstairs bar and get a plate of oysters and a beer (and a chowder for the little one, which, though nothing special at all, will be fine for a 7-year-old)

          To be honest, as strange as this may seem, downtown Boston doesn't really do "seafood" -- yes, there's Neptune Oyster and Mare in the North End... but for the most part, I'd recommend Italian seafood pasta places over straight seafood places.

          In terms of "seeing Boston," I'd highly recommend the North End (depending on the number and flexibility of friends). It's hard/impossible to park, but it's a great area with dozens of restaurants (plenty of threads about it on the board).

          During the day I'd recommend the Freedom Trail tour, which will be great for the little one (a lot of walking, though) and will take you past some good places to eat (Sam LaGrassa's, Marliave, Al's State Street, Sultan's Kitchen, etc.) and a water taxi ride to East Boston (great views of the city, and East Boston is FULL of hidden gems to eat and see)

          Neptune Oyster
          63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

          Sultan's Kitchen
          116 State St, Boston, MA 02109

          Al's State Street Cafe
          110 State St, Boston, MA 02109

          Union Oyster House
          41 Union Street, Boston, MA 02108

          10 Bosworth Street, Boston, MA 02108

          1. CocoDan Jul 15, 2010 05:53 AM


            2 Replies
            1. re: CocoDan
              justbeingpolite Jul 15, 2010 06:05 AM

              You forgot to say "enjoy"

              1. re: justbeingpolite
                CocoDan Jul 15, 2010 06:11 AM

                If you go to the UOH you won't Enjoy. Thanks for noticing.

            2. MC Slim JB Jul 15, 2010 05:42 AM

              The Herald and Globe routinely run these "celeb dined here" items, and 80% of them seem to be Legal Sea Foods. Most of the rest are head-scratchers: you think, "I know you can afford to dine anywhere, and some concierge steered you to that mediocre place?" I'm reminded of the time Dan Quayle came to town to dine with his Boston-school-attending daughter, and they famously went to Ciao Bella. Grub Street Boston collects them here: http://grubstreet.com/tags/boston/celebrity%20settings Puzzling.


              1. q
                QCumber Jul 15, 2010 05:28 AM

                But did you see that Union Oyster House is where James Gandolfini chose to eat lunch the other day? Anyone know what his taste is like?



                1. PinchOfSalt Jul 14, 2010 07:29 PM

                  Your gut feeling is right. It is a tourist trap.

                  If you MUST go to a Boston restaurant that is very old and not duplicated elsewhere, I would suggest Durgin Park, which is nearby. Some people on this board do not like it - it is certainly not fine dining - but I think it is a fine place for a perfectly decent meal that will fit a variety of tastes and features old-fashioned Boston-type food on the menu. The prime rib is a winner, they do oysters, and the Indian Pudding is a great regional dessert that nobody makes at home any more.

                  Durgin Park
                  1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: PinchOfSalt
                    qianning Jul 15, 2010 06:13 AM

                    Wholeheartedly agree wiith POS's assessment. Fish Chowder at Durgin Park is pretty good, ditto oyster stew.

                    Durgin Park
                    1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

                    1. re: PinchOfSalt
                      djd Sep 22, 2010 09:29 PM

                      Late reply, but jeepers, the one time I've been to DP the meal was horrifyingly expensive for what you get. It was a birthday party; when the birthday boy requested the same location the following year, the group unanimously refused.

                    2. 9
                      9lives Jul 14, 2010 05:16 PM

                      Sadly, UOH is firmly in tourist trap territory with poor food.

                      The only worthwhile thing to do at UOH is eat raw bar at the old, historic oyster bar downstairs. I would put that close to a "must" for visitors but avoid everything else.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: 9lives
                        LStaff Jul 15, 2010 06:13 AM

                        If you go during slow times to enjoy some oysters at the old bar, the history, and Jimmy the shucker's personality, then it is worthwile.

                        1. re: LStaff
                          Ralphie_in_Boston Jul 16, 2010 12:15 PM

                          If "Jimmy" is the red-headed guy, then I agree!

                      2. p
                        Pegmeister Jul 14, 2010 05:04 PM

                        Sadly, Union Oyster is definitely a tourist trap. Neptune Oyster on Salem St is the place for oysters. That said, it's a small place, and not sure how child friendly it is. The only reason I say that is I don't believe I've ever seen children there. Another option for a raw bar or seafood might be Kingfish Hall in the Fanueil Hall area. I like it a lot, but their are others on the board who wouldn't agree. It's a much larger place, and I know they are child friendly. Hopefully others will chime in.

                        Neptune Oyster
                        63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                        Kingfish Hall
                        188 South Market Building, Boston, MA 02109

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Pegmeister
                          emilief Jul 14, 2010 05:12 PM

                          second Kingfish Hall. Would not go to Neptune with a child.

                          Kingfish Hall
                          188 South Market Building, Boston, MA 02109

                          1. re: emilief
                            Taralli Jul 15, 2010 04:29 AM

                            Another vote for KH, but book a table upstairs, mabye one of the banquets. Downstairs is loud & crowded & the floor was really sticky around the bar.

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