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Jul 9, 2013 04:37 PM

multiple food Q's

Hi everyone,

I'm very excited to be coming back to Boston in a couple weeks! I have a few eating-related boxes I'd like to check while there and have been doing a lot of research. Would love some insight into the following:

1) nice seafood dinner - Thurs or Sat. I really like the looks of Atlantic Fish Co and would need to be seriously dissuaded from going. My main criteria is a good raw bar (I'd really like to try raw clams, one kind of seafood I haven't had before), good shellfish and diverse menu as I'll be with someone not as much a foodie as me. They also look like they have good craft beers. True? I understand that some other places have slightly better reps but I'd be happy to revisit those with a more foodie friend another time. Unless you feel this is a big mistake?

2) takeout seafood. last time I was in BOS I found James Hook Co and was impressed by the prices/options. I'm just looking for good value cooked whole lobsters and maybe some other treats (already cooked as no kitchen) which they seem to have. That said though I remember them being decent I've seen some questionable reviews, so I'm open to any other suggestions. Bonus points for places with good selection of stuff that can be eaten uncooked without too much hassle.

3) brunch/breakfast. really like the looks of North Street Grille, any feedback? Open to other ideas in downtown area.

4) pursuant to #1, anywhere to get very good seafood (preferably closer to Fenway) that is a notch or 2 more casual Atlantic Fish Co & the like?

5) authentic Italian (can just be a cafe or something more casual) in N Boston?

6) a good large farmers market or marketplace? Would like one with good prepared food as no kitchen. extra points for good prepared seafood.

Staying on the water in N Boston but can go to stuff downtown. Thanks so much for any suggestions!

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  1. By N Boston, do you mean the north end? There's the huge Haymarket that happens every Fri. and Sat. but no prepared foods. Some foods at the market on Govt Center, not sure of the days or Copley Sq. on Tues/Fri. Not tons of prepared stuff though. You might want to go to the South End mkt on Sun. with lots of crafts and food trucks.

    For Italian in the North End (assuming that's what you mean), you could try Prezza, Taranta, Terramia, Monica's, Mama Maria. Most of these aren't cheap. You also won't find seafood more casual than Atlantic Fish around Fenway. The obvious choice there is Island Creek Oysters but again, not cheap.

    Pauli's in the North End does a basic breakfast and there's a casual spot on Salem and one on Hanover for old school breakfast. And the croissants and sandwiches are excellent at the new place Bread and Butter (I think that's the name). NE Grill is probably fine.

    27 Replies
    1. re: total13

      Yep, I mean the North End. Thx, will look into the markets you mention.

      Thinking I may be able to get to Union Oyster House since we'll be downtown and menu looks wide enough for who I'll be with. Will it be packed on Fri-Sun afternoon or manageable? Good idea?

      1. re: Eatingfood

        The Sail Loft has pretty good very casual seafood.

        1. re: Eatingfood

          I admit I have never been myself, but from all reports this is a BAD idea. Most commenters on this board say that the only things worth eating there are freshly-shucked oysters eaten at the bar (NOT in the restaurant proper) and possibly the chowder.

          1. re: Eatingfood

            Personally, I'd go with Island Creek Oyster Bar over Atlantic Fish Co. It's the same price range and IMO better. Also, it seems like you've done some research, so I think you'd find many people on here would agree.

            James Hook is a good option for what your looking for, it also should be relatively close to where you're staying.

            Prepared food at the Farmer's Markets aren't really a huge draw, but here's the schedule of farmer's markets

            Food trucks may be a better options?

            Also, Union Oyster House is kind of a tourist trap, I don't think you'll find many recs for it on here.

            1. re: tysonmcneely

              Very much disagree that prepared foods aren't a draw at the markets here. You'll find many prepared food vendors at any of the major farmers markets. South Station (Dewey Square) is the best in the general vicinity of the waterfront, Copley is the best in the area. You won't find many prepared MEALS at either but prepared foods are plentiful.

              1. re: FinnFPM

                Thx - Copley on Friday might work. thinking of checking out the State House that day so I'll be kinda in the area-ish. What kind of prepared food might I expect? any shellfish?

                1. re: Eatingfood

                  Copley has:

                  Jarred pickles and jams
                  Pies and baked goods
                  Middle eastern salads and hummus
                  Jareed tomato sauces

                  Cant recall anything else

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    I think there's also fresh (uncooked) pasta.

                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      At Copley, you'll find a good selection of baked good from Cook's Farm, Hamilton Orchards, Danish Pastry House, Violette (gluten free) and Breadsong Bakery

                      Iggy's has their pizza style breads, sandwiches and those great cheese toasts.

                      Crystal Brook Farm always has their goat cheese picnics and a nice selection of goat cheese flavors and mixes.

                      Narragansett Creamery has their flavored feta cheese spreads.

                      Gilson's Herbs has summer rolls and sandwiches.

                      Fastachi has their freshly roasted nuts and nut butters.

                      And, There are prepared foods from Sofra at the Sienna Market stand.


                      1. re: BostonZest

                        You'll also maybe find Kristin Kish!!

                2. re: tysonmcneely

                  thx for the links. yeah, I know Island Creek has a slightly better rep on here, but as I mentioned I think Atlantic Fish Co's menu is more appropriate for who I am traveling with. Like I said, I need to be *dissuaded* from going, and it doesn't sound like anyone is telling me it'd be a bad idea.

                  1. re: Eatingfood

                    I really like Atlantic Fish Co. It's one of my favorite seafood restaurants in the area.

                3. re: Eatingfood

                  I was recently roped into another dinner at the Union Oyster House by out-of-town clients who insisted they had been told they "had" to eat there. Ugh. Such a waste of money. The only thing that place has going for it is history and landlocked tourists. I had overcooked, underseasoned swordfish with a sad vegetable "medley", my co-worker had overcooked clams.

                  Our clients had lobsters and enjoyed them, but again, for those kind of prices? Absurd. There are so many better places to go to eat. And remember--you don't have to go to a "seafood" restaurant to eat good seafood.

                  1. re: Eatingfood

                    The food at the Union Oyster House is pretty bad. Id recommend only eating some oysters and a beer and then moving on.

                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      How about their chowder/apps? Am curious to check it out for the history.

                      1. re: Eatingfood

                        I didn't order it but one of my dining companions did. To me it looked like the thick, gloppy kind with flour in it. He claimed to enjoyed it, but I have no idea if that's saying much.

                        1. re: LeoLioness

                          ok... maybe I'll just get some stuff from Faneuil Hall instead of Union Oyster.

                          1. re: Eatingfood

                            I think with a few exceptions the food at Faneuil Hall is cheaper but just as bad. The north end is just a few blocks away I would venture there and pick up a slice or just some pastries or gelato for lunch. Or do some research on that area and try to find a gem out of the tourist traps, hooks is probably only a 1/2 mile walk down the green way.

                          2. re: LeoLioness

                            Yes, the chowder there is the thick gloppy floury kind

                            1. re: C. Hamster

                              What do you guys think is good quality/value at Faneuil? What kind of seafood equivalents nearby would you suggest?

                              1. re: Eatingfood

                                Faneuil is a mall food court.

                                Is there a non food reason you are going there?

                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                  Nope. I've had a few decent things there (overwhelming but still satisfying lobster pot pie last time) and thought some places weren't bad. I'm just looking for place with lots of prepared seafood close together.

                                  1. re: Eatingfood

                                    Salty Dog is a decent option for seafood in FH..I usually stick with fried items and raw bar.

                                2. re: Eatingfood

                                  I haven't been for a while and assume these are still there....I like the Monkey Bar for fruit smoothies, there's a macaroni and cheese place that has different varieties of really good mac and cheese and there's a place near the center rotunda area that makes pretty good fried clams. The freshly baked cookies at the Chipyard are also very good.

                            2. re: Eatingfood

                              the only history really there is daniel webster gorging on dozens of oysters.

                              totally not worth the hassle of trying to get a raw-bar seat and totally a waste of money and a meal if you eat anything other than oysters.

                      2. The shaw's food market will steam lobsters for you to take home, not sure if others do as well. Not a lot of love on this board for Union Oyster house except for their raw board, but it is the oldest so might be good for one and done. Court house seafood in Cambridge is a good no frills place to eat seafood search this board if interested as well as a lobster roll recommendation.

                        Try Maria's for pastries in the north end better than Mikes in my opinion.

                        FYI haymarket isn't a farmers market more of an end of week produce liquidation, but there is a farmers market near government center.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: lc02139

                          The City Hall Plaza farmer's market is Mondays & Wednesdays only, 1 PM to 6 PM.

                          1. re: lc02139

                            On more than one occasion, I found some of the items at Maria's to be getting stale....especially the cookies. I like Mikes a lot more and there's also more variety.

                          2. Does Atlantic Fish have a good beer list? I've only been once, but it does not strike as a place with a good list. Island Creek on the other hand has a fantastic pilsner that you'll only find there done in collaboration with the folks at High & Mighty. Definitely something a beer geek would appreciate.

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: mkfisher

                              I'm not sure. I was just going by a pic on Yelp that showed a lot of taps. Anyone?

                              1. re: Eatingfood

                                If we're looking at the same pic I see: Harpoon UFO, Stella, not sure what the red handle is, Sam Adams Lager, Sam Seasonal (looks to be Summer), Harpoon IPA, Bass, Harpoon Seasonal (Summer in this case), not sure what the brown handle is...

                                Ten years ago that would have been fantastic. Today, not so much.

                                1. re: mkfisher

                                  Good analysis... for some reason I remembered there being more taps than there are in the pic, but you're right. Anyway, the beer isn't a priority if I go to Atlantic Fish Co., just a nice bonus. Hopefully they'll have some different taps (on further reflection if we're talking about pic #6 on yelp it is from 2005 so that's pretty likely). On the whole, it's a good pic for a good seafood dinner?

                                  Also, can anyone tell me a bit about raw clams? I imagine I'll like them. Should I be able to cover my bases from the places discussed in this thread?

                                  1. re: Eatingfood

                                    Raw clams and oysters are easily had at Atlantic Fish Co and Island Creek, unless you are specifically looking for a more casual experience. They are delicious - I much prefer them over oysters, which I find too briny and slippery in texture. Clams have better chew and a much sweeter taste.

                                    If you want something a little different from the typical raw clam at a bar, you can go to Peach Farm in Chinatown and see if they have geoduck sashimi style. This is not cheap mind you, as it is priced per pound and geoducks are heavy, but it's terrific.

                                    1. re: kobuta

                                      Thanks. Anywhere more casual and still downtown that I could also get some raw clams on the half shell? Just like a walk-in takeout type place.

                                      1. re: Eatingfood

                                        Don't know if they have clams or just oysters but the ICA is doing a Island Creek popup raw bar on Fridays, I think you might need to get an ICA tix to get in though, a little art never hurt anyone :)

                                        1. re: Eatingfood

                                          Raw clams really isn't a quick eat out type of food around here, especially in the heat of summer. I think some of the bars at Faneuil Hall used to offer clams on the half shell along, but usually way overpriced. Nothing else comes to my mind.

                                          This reminds me of the little stall ages ago by Haymarket where a guy would shuck clams fresh for you. His stall disappeared years ago - I can only imagine what food safety inspectors thought of that business.

                                          1. re: kobuta

                                            there is sometimes a guy doing that, but not in summer. just like there are no outdoor fishstalls in summer.

                                            in my defense, i have never tried his stuff, lol.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              I am a regular at the Haymarket stand in season.

                                              The clams are always very fresh and well shucked...brought in in legal tagged bags and kept iced.

                                              To keep up with the transformation of Haymarket,1 of his shuckers is Salvadorean and makes a nice pico de gallo as an accompaniment. 6 for $5.

                                              I'm not crazy about the oysters and have never bought fish.

                                              He works some of the NE festivals.

                                              The health inspectors regularly check him; and other shops down there.

                                              1. re: 9lives

                                                Good to know he's still there (or a vendor is still there). I might have just missed him in the chaos when I've ventured down there.

                                          2. re: Eatingfood

                                            One random option are the North End feasts on weekend nights. There's usually a cart that has raw oysters and clams.

                                            Can't think of any place that does takeout raw bar stuff, actually.

                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                              where might I find one of the carts?

                                              1. re: Eatingfood

                                                Here is a list of feasts in the north end you may find more information of what is available for each feast locations change with each feast.


                                                1. re: lc02139

                                                  thanks! only one I'll be there for is this:

                                                  July 21, 2013 - St. Rocco
                                                  1:00 pm – Procession only – Starts at St. Leonard Church, Hanover & Prince Streets

                                                  Does 'procession only' mean no food or are they all feasts?

                                2. I'd be cautious about Haymarket.. I believe there are some nice places for various goods, but if a box of produce gets spurned at the Chelsea Produce Market due to something like some mold, it often ends up in Haymarket for sale cheap.. which is why you can't inspect a lot of stuff before buying.

                                  Depends on the type of produce and how quickly you intend to use it, of course..

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: grant.cook

                                    this is decades-old urban legend about haymarket.

                                    it's not reject food, nor is it moldy. it's cheap because they buy it direct from the chelsea produce mart and aren't paying rent for a b&m space. if you can get one, those haymarket vendor licenses are cheap.

                                    have been shopping there since the 80s and i'd say that's about the last time i got a few bad tomatoes.

                                    however, if it's super-hot weather, realize some of the saturday produce may have sat out overnight and will look pretty tired.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      It wasn't a legend when a friend who brings produce into Chelsea talked about it. When he was bringing in cases of blueberries, things that were iffy often went to Haymarket..

                                      I mean, your argument is that they don't have overhead (which they do - they have to cover the cost of their time, transportation, shrinkage, etc) means they'll overbid restaurant and grocery buyers for higher quality lots only to sell the stuff much cheaper than the Whole Foods 1/2 mile away doesn't really add up..

                                      Not to say you can't find good produce there.. buyers have to make quick decisions, and a spot of mold might cause a case that is altogether good to get passed over. But just realize someone has already passed it over..

                                      1. re: grant.cook

                                        i never said "no overhead", but it is obvz way less than renting commercial space.

                                        as for your "friend", like i said, i have been shopping there since the 80s and it is a MUCH different experience both as far as the vendors and quality of food that it once was. do you actually shop there?

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          Even today, the rule of thumb at Haymarket is that if the stand won't let you choose your own produce, put it down and walk away. You're not gonna get value for money there.

                                  2. 2 more questions re: good seafood dinner

                                    - do I need a reservation for Atlantic Fish on Sat night? Suspect so, but should I make it a week in advance or wait until I get to BOS a couple days before?

                                    - is Legal Harbourside a decent choice for something a notch below Atlantic Fish one other night, but still nice?

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Eatingfood

                                      In terms of ambiance, Legal Harborside is many notches above Atlantic Fish.

                                      I'd say AF is better than the Legal's in Pru and Copley, but it's good but not great in my book. Not nearly in ICOB's league.

                                      I have only had drinks at Legal harborside so I don't know if the food is any better than their other locations.

                                      Reservations are always a good idea. Defnitiely need a reservation at Legal harborside.

                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                        Do you think it'd be a better idea to go to Legal Harbourside Sat night (no specific plans) and Atlantic Fish for an early-ish dinner Sunday (going to evenin baseball game after)?

                                      2. re: Eatingfood

                                        Which floor at Legal Harborside are you talking about? Makes a big difference

                                        1. re: mkfisher

                                          Looking at the first floor - others look too foodie for person I'll be with, and I like the small plate concept they have so I can try different stuff.