HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Legal Seafoods (sigh)

I've enjoyed Legal Seafoods and have been a supporter on Chowhound but I've recently had enough truely bad experiences to lodge a complaint here.

First, do after work oyster deals mean that the purveyor gets to serve bad oysters? This happened to me at the Prudential Legal Seafoods around a month ago, I'm still arranging my attitude and haven't ordered oysters since.

Second, does eating after 1pm guarantee second rate cooking? Twice in a row at the "upstairs" Legals in Copley Place I've left feeling depressed at going there at all:

"soft shell crab sandwich" - couldn't they at least try to cook it fresh or at least warm the thing by frying or sauteing? I actually got a cold soft shell crab for my sandwich two months ago.

"fried oysters" - since when are fried oysters ideally in 50% batter,, oily, not crunchy - hidden by soggy shitake mushrooms and a flavored mayo, on a bed of red cabbage. Throw it all out and give me the oysters crunchy and light!

Lastly, I don't like ice cold beer -- especially with fresh clams and oysters... and please try to bring it with a beer mat (a paper napkin if you must).

I did have some very nice oysters and fried clams outside at Legals Harvard Square last summer.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Went to lunch at the Legal's in Cambridge which was the first time I had been to a Legal's anywhere ever. I was shocked at how expensive the overall menu was. I had the tuna burger which was fine, ok fries that were a little greasy, but not awful. I guess for the business lunch crowd, it fits the bill.

      1. re: AaronInBoston

        In the business, wouldn't go near a Legal or recommend it to anyone. But have now been twice to Legal Harborside and they nail it.

        1. re: typhoonfish

          also in the business (lifer), and was distinctly underwhelmed by the harborside food. pretty much what i expected, so i don't need to go back. since this was supposed to be roger's new marquee restaurant, i had hoped for better. why, lol, i can't say. it really is always a matter of execution since all the locations start with good product.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            SRSLY, it's Legal Seafoods. They sold their souls years ago.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              sg~ lol, i KNOW, but am down in that neighb a lot so thought i'd give it a shot. i know, i know, lol.

              not worth it for anything but oysters. and the place has lines like other operators dream about. sigh.

          2. re: typhoonfish

            Agreed. One of my favorite meals ever was at harborside.

            For the other sites...they don't screw up lobsters. Anything else is dicey.

        2. I stick to the oysters (always well-shucked, never had a bad one, including at happy hour) and the simple grilled fish (usually bluefish). Not a huge sample size, and usually the Kendall location, but it's fine for what it is. I agree with Bob that the prices are generally too high--there are plenty of other places in town that'll serve you a better meal (seafood or otherwise) for those prices.

          1 Reply
          1. re: emannths

            I can't remember the last time I had a bad oyster previously.

          2. The Prudential location is horrendous. Avoid it at all costs. The Park Plaza location is dismal, too.

            The food is cold/burned/underseasoned/greasy.

            The Prudential location's service is aggregious. Was told that it was a training location.

            1. I would never go to any of the locations you mentioned. The Kendall square location always did a good job for me, sorry to hear things maybe different now.

              Legals harborside is good, the view is mostly of Logan and not downtown.

              1. I have not had bad meals there, per se, but nothing that knocks my socks off in YEARS. I used to really enjoy Legals, and now am baseline dissatisfied there.

                1 Reply
                1. re: DrMag

                  Never liked Legal and don't know how people go and pay their prices. To those that enjoy it, glad you have had good meals....me, never.

                2. The ice cold beer part is actually the only thing I like about Legal

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mkfisher

                    I confess to liking their chowder, but eventhat isn't as good as it once was ....

                  2. As a tourist that loves BOS, had to try Legal and the closest was the test kitchen one by the wharf..
                    Chowder was ok but everything was so bland and they were insulted that I asked for salt and pepper for my lobster roll....give me Neptune's any day with the surly bartenders!
                    ; )

                    1. I recently had a very decent crabmeat roll at Legals in Chestnut hill mall. But I generally avoid them, their fish is overcooked.

                      1. I actually prefer Legal's Test Kitchen to any of the Legals..although in fairness I haven't been to Legal's harborside yet..just don't see the point of going there LTK is right across the street and more up my alley.

                        1. I generally think that Legal's in Harvard Square is good, nice cold oysters and the other dishes are good, and the ambiance is far better than most other Legal's. The ones in the Pru are DREADFUL on all counts. Chestnut Hill just OK. ANd the one in the USAIr terminal at Logan a surprisingly bright port in the storm of flying.

                          1. Went to the Burlington Mall location last night -- had friends in from out of town who were staying nearby, and they have 2 3 year olds, so needed someplace nice enough to take tourists, but with a children's menu and booster seats. We hadn't been to a "standard" Legal's in many years, just Harborside, "C" Bar, and LTK.

                            6:30 reservation, we were there at 6:25PM. "About 10 minutes we're told".

                            Got seated at 7:05. Thank goodness the little girls were angels, and the manager comped their meals and brought over some free apps (mussels, crabcake, calimari). Still and all, not a totally satisfying night for the extended delay, and if the girls had been difficult, we never would have been able to stay that long.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: L2k

                              Our local Legal is the one at Chestnut Hill. We've found that if you stick to the oysters there and the woodgrilled fish filets you can have a satisfying meal. The only other thing worth eating is the occasional Boston Cream Pie (which isn't a pie at all) and Key Lime Pie (which is). Their coffee is delicious. Don't order anything requiring bartending skill or actual cheffing. The wine by the glass is good but overpriced.

                            2. I had chowder and a salad at the bar at the Pru location and the bartender was a total asshat.

                              Because of him alone, I will not go back.

                              The chowder has gone downhill, sad to say. The salad was delicious.

                              Tourists next to me were eating a lobster roll that looked like it was filled with cat food.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                If you were reading my posts, you would not have ordered the chowder. Once again, legals does not their chowder at each rest. It is made at their commissary and shipped in plastic bags to each location. It has been done this way for at least 15 years.

                              2. Anyone been to 2nd floor of Legal Harborside? Is it worth it?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Marisa23

                                  I might be the only one who doesn't completely loathe Legal? Agreed that certain locations are AWFUL (I'm looking at you, Harvard Sq). That said, I've had good meals at Harborside FL 1 and an OUTSTANDING meal at Harborside FL 2. We went on a whim shortly after Harborside opened and decided to check out FL 2 since FL 1 was jammed. Elegant atmosphere and service, great views, and wonderful food. It was long enough ago that I don't remember the details (sorry!), but I remember being really pleased at the end of the meal and thinking "Wow, Legal can put out good food!" Wine list was great, too!

                                  1. re: humble

                                    nice to hear about floor 2...i've been wanting to try it, seen some amazing pictures and stuff on TV. Floor 1 is one of my favorite places to eat in Boston during the summer. Simply great quality and fresh seafood with classic simple prep.

                                    1. re: humble

                                      Although many locations can be iffy, to say the least, I've enjoyed myself at the Burlington Mall location. I usually stick to the simple items, like the grilled fish, though. On one visit there was a slight server misshap with a spill on my husband's shirt (I can't remember of what, but not something devestating like red wine!) but they offered us a comped dessert, and the manager came over with a reimbursement slip for dry cleaning. The spill truly wasn't a big deal, but we appreciated their thoughtfulness.

                                  2. I am easily confused. And have only been to the top floor once or twice where attitude hangs over like a blanket.

                                    I seem to recall that one dining floor is casual and one is more formal ... If that's right, which is which ?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      I haven't been but I understand that first floor is casual, second more formal and more expensive.

                                      We had horrible service about a year ago at the Harvard Square location with my special needs adopted child. I called to complain and got a very empathic manager who send us a $100 gift card. My son loves the rolls and the hot dog and his parents get chowder/gazpacho and salad. We like the Kendall location these days.

                                    2. While I have no illusions about it - for seafood, I'm a Neptune Oyster girl myself - I will say that Legal's Chestnut Hill and LTK fill the 'reliable' niche when I'm going out with non-adventurous-eater family and friends. Yes, it's pricey for what it is, but I have had some really good meals there over the years (including outstanding wood-grilled scallops and a quite yummy shrimp po'boy) and I can guarantee that everyone in the group will be able to find something they like. I've also always found the service to be lovely and prompt, apart from one waitress who might as well have been doing rails right off our plates... but the manager picked up on it pretty quickly and sorted us right out, so good on the balance.

                                      I know that this isn't exactly lavish praise, but I've struggled enough with my parents' unadventurous palates/stomachs (and they with my 'scary' food) to value a restaurant that ensures that we'll all come away happy. It's not my first choice, but I'm grateful to have it in my back pocket when I need it.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: TimTamGirl

                                        I have also been among Legal's rare supporters on this board: i normally get their seafood salad or oysters and a caesar salad or a plain grilled fish. A bit pricey, a bit scattershot on service, but for those items I've not had a complaint about quality (and their wines are surprisingly well-priced). However, I just had the worst fried clams ever at Legal Harborside amidst the most cacaphonous room of diners and it may take both my ears and my stomach some time to recover. I give them points for a gluten-free menu that includes fried food and many things that folks with celiac couldn't get elsewhere. However, what's the point of gluten-free bad food? Not to mention non-gluten free bad food? My clams were greasy, had no belly to speak of, and were close to inedible. So, I suppose I'll go back to oysters and salad and hope they can't ruin those.