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Please Help! Recommended Seafood!

Hi all.

I know this has probably been asked a million times on this board, but as a newbie, I need a bit of help. Myself and my wife are coming to Boston from the U.K next weekend for a weeks holiday, and really need some help deciding on a decent seafood place to eat at. Being from London, I am well aware of tourist trape and massive mark-ups for sub-standard produce so will really wish to avoid that if possible

We both want to try lobster, as we've never really eaten it before. I know it sounds cheesy as hell, but we are kinda hoping for the whole experience..... bib. hammers etc, and due to us being lobster novices, friendly staff that are willing to explain where the best meat is and best way of getting it out!

That may be the Holy Grail, and I know I'll get some varying responses, but I really am in need of help! I don't want to go somewhere are be absolutely gutted after the meal that we wasted our time and money in there!

I have booked up a table for mid-week in Legal Seafoods (Long Wharf) but can easily cancel if there is a distinct possibility I will regret going there!

Thanks in advance


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  1. If you stick to Lobsters, clam chowder and maybe a salad or some oysters, you'll be fine at Legal. It's a little overpriced, but not the end of the world. Lobster w/bibs, etc. is by definition sort of touristy, so you're going to find it at places like Legal or Union Oyster House. The really fun places to get it are at the shacks on the shore or Cape and Islands, but I think you'll come out of Legal knowing our famous food pretty well. The best non-touristy place downtown for seafood is Island Creek Oyster Bar, but that is more of a hip place trying to do a little more than Lobster with bibs.

    1. I highly recommend ICOB (Island Creek Oyster Bar) in the Kenmore Square area of Boston. They may not have Steamed Lobsters but they have excellent, fresh, local seafood in a friendly and lively atmosphere. I suggest that you email the Manager, Tom, who is a great guy and will make sure that you are treated well. His email is Tom@Islandcreekoysterbar.com. I highly recommend the fresh, local oysters, the oyster sliders, lobster roll and the lobster roe noodles. You can view their menu at islandcreekoysterbar.com.

      If you have a car, which you probably do not, for a great experience about 40 minutes north of Boston, you might want to go to Woodman's in Essex, Massachusetts, for the "whole" lobster experience, bibs, crackers (sorry, no hammers). In the summer, it is very touristy and crowded but this time of year would be quiet and perfect in a quaint seaside community.

      If you do not have a car, I suggest the Legal Harborside in the Seaport area. The restaurant has great views of the harbor and it has 3 floors with 3 different restaurants. I recommend the 1st Floor which is more casual and you can have their clam or fish chowder which is usually quite good, as well as, the whole lobster experience.

      1. Have a good visit, but as always let us know where you are staying, price points and prefered mode of transportation so we can direct you better.

        Here is a link to a post earlier in the year, prices might have gone up a bit, but you can narrow down your selection and give them a call when you get here. I think most of the local's will make them at home since it is easy to do. You can always go to almost any china town place and they will steam you some for the same price as their other lobster specials.


        do a search on opinionatedchef for her posts for visitors to Boston

        1. Thanks for all the advice. We'll definitely have a think about it a bit more.

          lc02139 - We are staying at the Sheraton in Dalton Street. Distance and price isn't really a major issue.

          I had a feeling that the more touristy places would have the bibs etc. On reflection, seeing as I have NO idea how to shell a lobster or what's good to eat and what's potentially full of toxons, I'd be better off having it served up already prepared!

          Thanks again. I know there have been other posts regarding this (although I didn't see many recent ones so things may have improved/got worse since then) so appreciate your responses.

          13 Replies
          1. re: Londonboy

            I think the best way to find out if you like lobster maybe to look for lobster rolls or lobster pie's they are both shucked (meat taken out of the shell). The roll's are done with butter or mayo, the pies butter and bread crumbs and baked. If you like lobster you can graduate to a whole lobster, Chinese places probably (ed won't) give you the best instruction.
            here is a current thread of lobster roll discussion http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/873538

            1. re: lc02139

              Thanks again. At the risk of hijacking my own thread asking for another suggestion, are there any decent chinese restaurants you can recommend?! (Sorry to be a pest!)

              1. re: Londonboy

                What kind of chinese food are you looking for??
                Sichuan, taiwanese, american-chinese, dim-sum, ??

                These are places I go for the types I like, seafood New Jumbo, peach farm, Peking duck (china king), New golden gate. Dim Sum, Hei La Moon (cart), Winsor Dim Sum Café (menu), china pearl (cart) . Taiwanese Taiwan Cafe (Taiwanese), New Shanghai (sichuan) all are in Chinatown. xiao long bao Dumpling cafe, dumpling house soupy dumplings and more.

                All have been covered well on this board in the past

                1. re: lc02139

                  Good stuff, thanks again for the advice.

                  I'll have a quick check-up on the site and decide from there. Hopefully I'll have made a decision by this time next week!

                  Thanks again everyone, you've been a great help

            2. re: Londonboy

              you are a step away from Summer Shack if you are at the Sheraton. A perfectly fine place for lobster, raw bar, etc. If you like to walk, you're about a `1/2 mile from ICOB which is a generally fine seafood restaurant that showcases what is good from our waters. If you want to "mimic" the lobster shack experience, go to Alive 'n Kickin in Cambridge - bare bones, excellent product, and for inexpensive and beautifully fresh seafood, Court House Restaurant in Cambridge is a grand choice. But given where your hotel is, I'd definitely start with Summer Shack.

              1. re: teezeetoo

                Great, thanks for that. I'll have a look at the Summer Shack and see what it has to offer. I've had Lobster before, but only a tiny amount. As lc02139 suggested, it may be worth starting out small and gratuate to a whole one if the mood takes me!

                1. re: Londonboy

                  No toxins to worry about when eating a lobster. All the meat is in the tail and the claws, with a little sweet morsel in the "knuckles" or arms which connect the claws to the body. The tail is usually served already split, so you can remove the meat in one whole piece. The claws and knuckles are also sometimes cracked for you, or you can do it with a nut cracker and pick the meat yourself. Quite simple really. There is a little bit of meat that some forage into the body for, but i generally skip that. Also, you may or may not decide to eat the tomallay, or dark green liver, or the roe, the bright red eggs. Some do. Some don't. Go for the whole steamed lobster in the shell experience. Or better yet, get one baked stuffed for added decadence. The best baked stuffed lobster I've ever had is found at a place who's better days are decades long past, Anthony's Pier 4. It's called Lobster Hawthorne and it was a 1 1/2 pound lobster stuffed inside a 1 1/2 pound lobster. Incredible. The room is an unclean, worn disaster of a bygone era though.

              2. re: Londonboy

                Right next to your hotel is a branch of Jasper White's Summer Shack - they should be able to provide you with just what you're looking for, whether you decide to go through with the full bibs-and-crackers experience or opt for a pre-shelled preparation. (I don't think you're at risk from any toxins, BTW.)

                The Summer Shack doesn't get a lot of love on this board precisely because it IS rather touristy and decidedly ersatz, but a number of regular posters here have reported good experiences, and I think you could have a good time and a good meal there.

                1. re: Allstonian

                  Thanks Allstonian. it's now pretty evident that to get bibs etc, touristy is the way to go. To be honest, on consideration, as nice as the photo would be with the bibs, I'd rather have decently priced, quality food and really enjoy it, over a photo opportunity!

                  1. re: Londonboy

                    and just as an aside, you don't use hammers for lobster. :)

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      I know! I realised I meant the 'crackers after I'd posted it! (Rookie mistake number 1!)

                  2. re: Allstonian

                    Summer Shack may be touristy, but Jasper White's pan fried lobster is one my favorite dishes in Boston. Alive and Kicking is a shack that is best experienced in warm weather.

                  3. re: Londonboy

                    Do not be afraid to order (and eat!) a whole lobster. It is not scary. It is fun and delicious.
                    I learned as a child, but, if you didn't--don't worry. I just googled "How to Eat a Lobster" for you. There are several YouTube videos and also a website called lobsterhelp that's apparently devoted to people who want to learn how to do this. Yes, the lobster is a complicated intricate crustacean--but the tail and claws, those areas of ample meat, will be perfect evident.

                    You can possibly achieve both your goals in Chinatown, where several restaurants have Twin Lobster specials for under $20. Order it simply stir fried with ginger and scallion. It will come cut up in pieces, accompanied by nutcrackers. Print out one of those online lobster guides. Or just find your own way. Great Taste, in Chinatown, has this special, and it's a humble place where no one will expect you to be elegant, or even necessarily know what you're doing.

                  4. If you search this board and the posts already recommended, you'll see that Neptune Oyster in the North End and Island Creek Oyster Bar get very good reviews (with a few dissenters on each). You can get a great lobster roll at Neptune, but not the "entire lobster" experience. As noted, you can get that at Legal Seafood but I (and many others) would not recommend Summer Shack, which also will give you the lobster experience with bibs (however the grilled lobster there used to good, I haven't tried it in many years).

                    There is another place, the Mount Vernon in Somerville (this is a block away from the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown; you can get there via the orange subway line to Sullivan Station and then a short walk, safe but can look dubious), that is famous for good prices on twin lobsters...bibs and all. The staff are friendly and helpful with especially visitors from other countries and will explain all; it's at the end of my street and I often see tourists there especially from Asia (you can tell by the many photos they take as they eat the lobster). This is not a gourmet place at all...it's kind of stuck in a time warp and is an old neighborhood institution that has not modernized or gentrified at all. The prices vary from week to week but are often the least expensive in the area, outside of Chinatown.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Madrid

                      Strong second rec for the Mt Vernon. They are so kind with people experiencing their first lobsters and while it's a bit off the beaten path I can't think of a better place to dip your toes in our lobster waters.

                      If you're not in the mood for a field trip then get your lobster roll on at Neptune and decide if it's worth the fuss to go full Monty.

                    2. For the full lobster AND the freindly advice of the server on how to and all stick with a established seafood restaurant downtown. In addition to Legals, Turner Fisheries, Atlantic Fish Company and Summer Shack are good local options.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: trufflehound

                        I'd personally second the suggestion of the Mt Vernon. Local flair is something I really enjoy when I'm in London.

                        Turner Fisheries is a drab hotel restaurant.

                        Legals is acceptable but fairly meh these days.

                        Atlantic is slightly better

                        The experience of cracking the lobster and dipping it in butter is sublime.DO IT! P.S. non tourists wear bibs too!!

                        I've had the lobster roll at island Creek and was sorely disappointed. But the oysters rocked.

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          I'm with you on the bib. "Locals" wear them too... we don't want to mess up our Ed Hardy t-shirts.

                      2. Btw, this is the season for Nantucket bay scallops (the small, sweet bay scallops of Peconic Bay at the east end of Long Island, and of Nantucket Sound off the Massachusetts coast, are fabled for good reason). Don't neglect them if you have a chance to taste them....

                        1. Haha! Excellent decription CCG, thanks! Really undecided at the mo, but you've all given me more than enough advice for me to make a decision on!

                          No idea why I've never tried lobster (or even scalops) as we get some amazing seafood over here. But having it in Boston just seems 'right'!!

                          Thanks again all, you've all been really helpful. I'll let you know how we get on! Gotta say, I'm getting pretty excited about coming over there!

                          1. Looking at it, I think I'll give Mt Vernon a shot. The day we were going to Legals was the day we are going for a look round Harvard, hitting Mr Bartleys for lunch, then having a Loooooong afternoon at the Cambridgeside Galleria so may as well do Vernons afterwards while we're kind of over that way!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Londonboy

                              you can take the Lechmere Green line subway from near Cambridgeside to North Station, then change there to the Orange line to Sullivan Station. To get to the Mt Vernon from Sullivan, turn left as you go outside the station..it's basically an ugly concrete bunker ..walk to the major road in front of you and then turn left and walk under the underpass. yes, there's lots of trash but it's totally safe. just keep walking and in a few blocks the Mount vernon will be on your left. Ask for popovers.

                              Also the 86 bus goes from Harvard Station to Sullivan Station. You must have a reason for going to the Cambridgeside Galleria...it's a typical American mall...with a nice view of the charles river. .don't eat there!

                              1. re: Madrid

                                Thanks for the directions Madrid, really appreciated.

                                The Galleria is purely to buy a couple of electrionics gadgets and cheap(er) clothes than the UK! The prices of Levi's for example is on average £80 here (about $130).

                            2. oldest restaurant in boston:

                              Of course we laughed when we went to Oxford and our guide tells us a building built in 1826 is not that old and instead of a historical landmark it's a cell phone store

                              Our family never regret Legal Seafoods and Woodmans: http://www.woodmans.com/
                              is a family tradition


                              3 Replies
                              1. re: l0b0SKI

                                Thanks l0b0SKI - I'll need to sit down and try and work out what nights to eat at which restaurant! We've booked the Top of The Hub for our 2nd wedding anniversary one day, so it looks like the rest of the week will be taken up with suggestions from here! (Oh, and Cheers restaurant too - my wife's insisting on that one....!)

                                1. re: Londonboy

                                  Oh god! Don't go to Top of the Hub, or if you do, just for a drink. That place is the definition of a tourist trap.

                                  1. re: Londonboy

                                    Noooooooo! To dining at Top of the Hub. Do go for a cocktail though.

                                2. I think you are making a mistake if you don't try Summer Shack. It's not the type of place that Bostonians go often, but it is exactly what you described and unless you have a car and can get out of the city, you aren't going to do much better. I have taken out of town family there many times and they love it. Have fun and give it a try.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: hungrytommy

                                    Thanks. To be honest, as it's basically right by the hotel, we will deinitely eat in there at some point. Seems stupid not to!

                                    1. re: hungrytommy

                                      I'd also recommend Summer Shack for what you are looking for. And so convenient. Try a side order of fried clams or steamers. Can't go wrong.

                                      The new Belle Isle is open. Haven't heard about their new digs, but close to airport and can be reached on the Blue Line.

                                      1. re: chuck s

                                        Belle Isle: Nice view. Bountiful portions. A winner for simple NE fried/broiled seafood.

                                        1. re: emannths

                                          but not a restaurant really. A market with a few stools by the window. Maybe not so much fun in the winter, when you can't go sit outside near the bridge.

                                        2. re: chuck s

                                          I agree, you should try some steamers and fried whole belly clams somewhere. You could also have Shaw's market steam you up a few lobsters, grab a shell cracker and have a feast in your hotel room!

                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                            A messy lobster in a hotel room, no thank you!

                                            1. re: Niblet

                                              live a little niblet, live a little

                                        3. re: hungrytommy

                                          Summer Shack has a "Happy Hour" (food specials only) menu Mon-Fri, 4-6:30pm; $5 each item. My picks from the list would be raw oysters, tacos, rhode island calamari, and a salad. The mini corn dogs are also pretty decent if you're in the mood.
                                          Menu: http://www.summershackrestaurant.com/...

                                          1. re: Niblet

                                            Jasper White is a heck of a chef and cook book author, not to forget that Julia Child went to his restaurant quite often where he prepared a very buttery lobster dish for her ,check out to see if it's on the menu.

                                            1. re: mutti

                                              I do like it here for selected things, but my expections aren't quite that high. Last time I got the fried clams they weren't sprightly, as I might've hoped. But I don't mind that for the R.I. calamari, as the greasy spiciness works for me. As for the lobster, I'd personally suggest just steamed w/butter.

                                        4. In the spirit of being helpful (and I think that you should spend you holiday however you like), I think that you may be on the wrong track. I am confident that the vast majority of people on this board would agree that if you spend any substantial part of your time in Boston at Top of the Hub, Cheers, Mount Vernon and the Cambridgeside Galleria, you are missing out on the great opportunities Boston has to offer. I would say that if your hotel is right next to Summer Shack, grab your lobster there, Mount Vernon is very near where I live an not in an area I would ever send a first time visitor (nor is it acclaimed as the best lobster, just the cheapest). There are pleanty of wonderful restaurants for your aniversary dinner, but Top of the Hub is not one of them. I would really urge you to consider some of the many great dining destinations in Boston for your aniversary or otherwise. Some that come to mind (at different price points): Island Creek Oyster Bar, Craigie on Main, Mama Maria, Pizzeria Regina (North End location or many of the wonderful Italian-American restaurants in the North End), L'Espailer, JM Curley's, many great restaurants in Chinatown (Gourmet Dumpling House and Taiwan Cafe are current favorites), Oleana, B&G Oysters and the Butcher Shop, Coppa, Hamersley's, Toro, Sweet Cheeks and West Bridge). Sorry if my reply comes off as rude, I really do just hope that you have a nice time here.

                                          12 Replies
                                          1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                            phew. thanks for stepping up. i nearly fainted at the thought of these two spending their anniversary at top of the hub. ack.

                                            that lega'ls long wharf is a ZOO. right next to the aquarium, it is one of their biggest money-makers. the staff is always stressed and there is lots of tension. no thank you. (serviced is also terrible at most legal's, except for a few vets here and there. by and large, not good however.)

                                            am loving west bridge these days and hungry mother may be a nice stop for brits -- american southern with a dash of new england.

                                            i'll also add erbaluce to your list.

                                            lastly, any of our better restaurants are going to do a bang-up job with seafood. 1000 times better than what you will get at legal's or atlantic fish. both are chains who may buy good product, but don't always execute all that well. you'll find fish handled with more creativity and finesse in many other spots.

                                            oh, and instead of hoofing to the galleria (which is a pretty terrible mall btw), why not order some levi's and ipods from amazon or ebay, or whatever, and have them delivered to your hotel? they both have quick-ship options.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              I disagree about the Cambridgeside. I think they'll enjoy an easy ride to the end of the green line and casually looking around for things that cost 1/3 less than in London. Between the bigger stores and smaller shops, it's an easy shopping destination and they'll definitely find stuff they didn't know they needed. After they can relax across the street at Dante in the Sonesta Hotel (with a nice view of the river) for $1 oysters from 4-6pm in the bar and if it's Tues., grilled cheese for $2 or other small plates for $6.

                                              1. re: total13

                                                If they are staying at the Sheraton, they will be right next door to the Prudential/Copley complex and can get all the shopping they want done right there. Quite frankly, I was just in London and walking around Picadilly/Oxford/Bond St. areas didn't look all that different from any of the upscale mall stores in the Pru anyway (very disappointing!). I'm with hotoynoodle....I'd rather steer them to Boston-specific places that they won't find in London and that let Boston personality shine through.

                                                1. re: Science Chick

                                                  I know Oxford St. has similar items but they have specific things they're looking for (jeans, electronics), so I still think Camb. serves the purpose. There are the larger dept stores (Macy's, Best Buy, TJ Maxx and Sears always has Levis on sale) plus other random stores they may want to check out. I'm sure they'll walk down Newbury or Charles St. and can look at little shops there for more one of a kind items.

                                                  1. re: total13

                                                    Thanks all. I really do appreciate all the advice. Regarding Cambridgeside, it seems ro have the exact shops I am looking for. Science chick, you're right.... I work in Covent Garden, and often shop all over the west end as well as out of town places like Lakeside and Bluewater.... However, total13 is bang on the money. I can get everything I want in Cambridgeside for sooooo much cheaper than here. Plus it'll be good for last minute xmas gifts! We'll only be there a couple if hours, as we're in the area, so we're not wasting much of the day with it.

                                                    We both grew up watching Cheers, so there's no way in the world that we are going to pass that up. Is top of the hub really that bad for food? We seem to have z thing for eating in high up restaurants.... Top of tge World in Vegas, and 360 in Toronto to name 2!

                                                    Anyway, again, all your advice has been awesome. We'll be there in 3 days time to start our Bostonian adventure, and we're both really excited!

                                                    I doubt I'll be on here again before we go, so I'll let you all know in a week how we got on!

                                                    Thanks again, you guys are pretty special.

                                                    1. re: Londonboy

                                                      the cheers on beacon hill looks absolutely nothing like the set of the show on tv. when i see people with bags in this day and age i really don't get it.

                                                      and yes, the food and service at top of the hub are notoriously terrible. they prey on tourists.

                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        I heard it was nothing like it, but yhe one ar Fanuiel Hall is a closer representation. We have to give it a try. It's something a tourist does I guess! I wouldn't dream oc going to see Buckingham Palace, Picadilly Circus or Trafalgar Square, brcsuse I can see it anytime I want snd its old hat. But can see why the tourists go nuts for it. It's thr beauty of tourism.... Seeing places you've maybe grown up knowing about but never having the time to see it until now.

                                                        1. re: Londonboy

                                                          Fanuiel Hall was a closer representation of the show but I am not sure of this but I think they closed? A little help from someone who is sure of this?

                                                          We honeymooned in London our hotel was in Covent Garden and did a lot of touristy stuff it was fun to do. We also just happen across nice and yummy places to eat just by taking a chance, walking around and exploring.

                                                          We have been to Toronto's Chinatown and yes it was a very very nasty. Boston's Chinatown is not very nasty.

                                                          1. re: l0b0SKI

                                                            Very true l0b0SKI - Covent Garden has some amazing places to eat, including a seafood place (part of a small chain, I might add.... Loch Fyne, which is amazing). And you're spot on, we are going to do the same.... just wander around and see what restaurant we come across that takes our fancy. Every city has hidden gems that are well off the beaten track, so we're looking forward to finding them!
                                                            CapeCodGuy - Very true. We were told of a place in Vegas called Hugo's Cellar when we were there. When we were told where it was, I was extremely dubious, as the casino's in downtown are pretty grim, but we were amazed at the restaurant, service and food. But my wife LOVED the setting and for her, that was what made it. SOmetimes, that is all it needs. Ok, the food can't be garbage either but you know what I mean!

                                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          I take visitors to Top of the Hub because it's a magical setting. They always love it. And sometimes we get a small snack in addition to drinks. I think it's fine; but to me it's not always exclusively about the food, but the environment and mood can occasionally tip the scales in favor of a place like this.

                                                          1. re: Niblet

                                                            Well said Niblet. While Top of the Hub will never win any Chowhound Awards for it's food, it is a one-of -a-kind location that NO OTHER restaurant can even begin to duplicate. Sometimes, that's enough.

                                              2. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                                Thanks Scotch. Didn't come across as rude at all... Very informative, and uour opinions are valued. Don't worry.... Living and working in London gives you a thick skin!

                                                We're definitely going to hit up Chinatown, and will go to either of the places you suggested, thanks. I'm always wary of Chinatowns. Toronto's looked nasty. NYC's appealed to me as much as London's does.... Not at all. But heard good things about Boston's.

                                                In fact, i've heard nothing but great things about Boston in general from people whenever I have told them I am going. All bodes well really. And the help and responses received from all you guys has highlighted the fact that everyone i asked says Bostonians are great!

                                              3. I recommend Yankee Lobster down in the Seaport Area. I think it gives you a very local, right off the boat feel, and is priced right compared to many spots in the city.

                                                1. Fanueil Hall was mentioned briefly but I didn't see Durgin Park mentioned which is located in Fanueil Hall and is one of the oldest restaurants. Its one of the few places you can get Indian Pudding(one of my faves). They have a large menu which features other New England fare such as Yankee Pot Roast, Baked Beans, etc. as well as chowders, seafood(including lobster). There are large communal tables and it is a one of a kind experience(in a good way).