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Mar 22, 2013 09:38 AM

Legal Seafoods: Yay or Nay?

My husband and I are headed to the Burlington, MA area and he desperately wants to try out Legal Seafoods. I don't know much about Legal Seafoods, other than it's a chain. Is it just a more upscale version of Red Lobster or does it produce decent seafood?

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  1. Yes, it is a chain, but no, I would never compare it with Red Lobster.

    Legal's has evolved over the years, but it is a reasonable choice for a good seafood meal. Personally, I liked it better when it was just one location, and even after that, when there were only a very few, all here in the Boston area. Since then it has become a place where the food is good but.... well... it feels mechanized. Although the fish is fresh and prepared well, it was not chosen because it was what looked particularly good at the dock today, it is because the chain can arrange for a steady supply of THAT particular fish.

    So, if you go you will have a perfectly fine meal - and yes, not inexpensive (or terribly expensive for that matter) - but personally if I were going out for seafood in this area, I would first look for a good option where the chef was in the kitchen exercising his or her own creativity to make something special with what was best and freshest today.

    14 Replies
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      all of the fish served at legal's goes through their processing plant and they have their own inspection standards. however, as pos says they have standard menus in dozens of locations so need a certain amount of product continuity.

      the chowder is good. shucking of oysters can be great or awful. in decades of giving them a shot, at various locations, the meals are most often poorly executed.

      the columbus group, which owns l'andana, has a dedicated fish-buyer who makes several trips per week to the fish pier and stocks each of their properties accordingly.. you'd be better off going there.

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Does the fish taste fresh or more like reheated frozen fish?

        1. re: kdlalib

          i've never had a freshness issue, just issues of terrible execution and many experiences of lousy service.

          that being said, i have never eaten in the burlington location.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Legal's whole schtick is the quality and safety of their fish - hence the name. Heck, they helped develop and write what's now national-standard health code law regarding HACCP plans.

            As a chain, they can't buy huge amounts of, say, toro at Tsukiji Fish Market. But they work pretty hard to be a standout for sustainable and quality-focused fish on a chain level.

            Depending on which employee is cooking, or the management's hiring at a particular location, you might find yourself satisfied or dissatisfied. But it's definitely not the Outback Steakhouse of fish.

            I'll jump on the tuna burger bandwagon, with the caveat that without fries it will cover most of your calories for the day, unless you are huge or super-athletic.

            1. re: enhF94

              you can also get the tuna burger without the bun and ask for extra of the yummy sauce....probably equals out the calories! The menu says it comes with fries and cole slaw, but you can ask to sub any of the sides. I often get the green beans and garlic spinach....

                1. re: enhF94

                  The last time I ate at the Prudential location (years ago), the veg all came swimming in butter).

                2. re: Madrid

                  i tried the tuna burger both at ltk and the harborside location. it was so woefully over-seasoned it could have been a turkey burger. yuk.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    This could be luck or me - I am a heavy-seasoning hound.

                3. re: enhF94

                  The "Legal" name derives from a Boston-based purveyor of trading stamps called the Legal Stamp Company, which was in operation when the original Legal Cash Market (then a grocery store) opened in 1904. The Legal stamp business was bought by and folded into Sperry & Hutchinson (whose "Green Stamps" still exist today in virtual form). Legal Sea Foods opened, first as a fish market and later as a restaurant, keeping the original name. The name Legal has nothing to do with legality, quality, or safety.

                  That said, Legal Sea Foods does a very good job of ensuring that the fish they well is safe to eat, and is what they claim it is. In order to achieve this, they do a lot of central preparation, so their offerings should be pretty consistent across their many locations.

                  1. re: enhF94

                    I have to disagree with the statement that they took the name Legal to emphasize quality and safety. From their own Web site: "Founded in 1950 by George Berkowitz in Cambridge, Mass., Legal Sea Foods got its name from the neighboring Legal Cash Market, a grocery operated by Berkowitz's father."

                    I grew up a block from the original Legal Sea Foods, back in the days when it was just a small fish market with a takeout fish & chips counter. They didn't actually add a sit-down restaurant until 1968.

                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                    I agree. The fish from Legal's is always tastes fresh. ( even if the execution isn't 100 percent). The issues..although in my experience infrequent..are usually with service or the way something is cooked. That being said, I don't thing any chain restaurant is ever going to be 100 percent on everything all the time.
                    My suggestions to the OP are if you are ordering a seafood dish that is not fried, then be as specific as possible in how you want your dish cooked. My husband is a big fan of their fried seafood and has never once had an issue.
                    Also..I will add that if they do mess up your food..they are very efficient and very quick to correct their mistake.

            2. Go there for lunch and in that and for dinner L'Andana is a good choice by the Columbus Hospitality Group

              1 Reply
              1. re: KeyConcierge

                Totally second this suggestion. L'Andana is a MUCH better choice. More variety and excellent food and service for same price point.

              2. We went in Cambridge and at the airport. We had lobster rolls which we enjoyed and a whole lobster which they split for us because it was large. I would definitely go back. Cannot speak to the fish though.

                2 Replies
                1. re: melpy

                  I'd be going for the lobster. Lobster is my choice anywhere I go. I'm a lobster-a-holic.

                  1. re: melpy

                    I've eaten at the Legal in the Washington National airport. Fabulous raw oysters and clams - by far the best airport food I've had. Bit of a plain menu but they do what they do well.

                  2. Its a perfectly fine seafood meal, as PinchofSalt says. The Legal there is in the mall. The area isn't exactly teeming with interesting food choices, mostly lower end chains.

                    But if you are in the area, and don't want to head out far and wide, its a good choice. A muted yay..

                    Where are you coming from, if you don't mind? Do you have any particular food tastes, or things you avoid?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: grant.cook

                      We're from Vermont. A landlocked state, so we don't have overly high expectations. :) We'll pretty much eat anything. My husband, despite his love of Applebees and the like, is a very adventurous eater. We have to stay in the Burlington area, or we'd venture into Boston. I know that limits our dining options a lot.

                      1. re: kdlalib

                        I would say given the seafood I have eaten in VT and PA where I live that Legal will be quite nice at least based on the locations I have tried.

                        1. re: kdlalib

                          There isnt one microwaved /boil in a bag bit of anything at Applebees i would put in my mouth, so if he loves it there, he is going to LOVE legals.

                          1. re: hargau

                            Haha! My husband has very... Shall we say.... Liberal taste. He's very easily satisfied.

                      2. Definitely way better than any Red Lobster! I grew up going to the one in Chestnut Hill back when you had to get your own silverware, water, napkins. You sat at long tables with other people and the menu was a chalkboard on the wall.. It has changed quite a bit since then but the food is very consistent. That said , the one in the burlington mall is my least favorite of any of them, always seems to be too crowded/loud/hectic for me.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: hargau

                          And you paid for your meal when you ordered it and they served it when it was ready instead of waiting for your whole party's order to be ready- a new concept back then. I also remember you had to choose baked potato or salad(?) as the accompaniment to your fish order.

                          1. re: Berheenia

                            During college we ate at the original legal at porter was a 2 story small building, you paid downstairs and ate upstairs and then we ate next door at the legal sweet was the BEST....

                            1. re: sberc

                              do you mean porter or inman square...the original. Near the old orson welles movie theater. yes, they brought the food when ready, it was inexpensive, and amazing...this nc girl had never seen anyone dig into a huge vat of mussels...the clams as well.

                              1. re: Madrid

                                Yes it was Inman Square but the Orson Welles was on Mass Ave in Central Square. Agreed the original was amazing but that was forty years ago.

                                1. re: chuck s

                                  Just to be precise, the Orson Welles Cinema was not in Central Square either, but at 1001 Mass Ave, between Central and Harvard. The building that replaced it after the fire in 1986 is next door to the current Garden at the Cellar restaurant. In any case, not near the original Legal Seafood in Inman Square.

                              2. re: sberc

                                Memories! The first time I ate there was in January of 1971, when I was visiting the area to do a college interview. Back then you paid and ate downstairs. Upstairs was an area where there was entertainment in the form of improv (if I remember correctly) to enjoy while you waited for you seat at one of the long tables.

                                1. re: PinchOfSalt

                                  I was here for college 73 to 77....I do remember the long tables, but not the entertainment...probably went too early. it was just wonderful seafood...informal....basic great stuff. I still think there are lingering remains in the LS empire of that heritage...