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Neptune Oyster Bar advice

I'm going to be in Boston this weekend. Bringing my parents there and really hope to eat a delicious hot lobster roll at Neptune Oyster Bar. I know that the wait will be absolutely insane on a weekend. Here are my questions, any advice is much appreciated!

1. Is lunch a better bet than dinner? Is there a good time to aim for?
2. Are there other restaurants in Boston that you would recommend for a hot lobster roll?
3. I have dinner restaurant alternatives for the North End. Not sure about lunch, though, any recommendations?

FYI we will be staying close to Island Creek Oyster Bar and may end up there either way.

Thanks!

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  1. 1. Lunch I find is the better time if timed correctly. Either an early or late lunch or an early dinner works best. So in other words off-times are best at Neptune.

    2. There are other very good Lobster Rolls around town, but for the version you are seeking (Hot) I think Neptune is hands down the best around.

    3. Lunch options in the North End: Regina's Pizza, Galleria Umberto and Salumeria Italiana are alternatives for a casual quick fall back lunch.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Matt H

      Off-hours are indeed the best time for Neptune Oyster, but the window can be very narrow on weekends. I've gone at 3pm, my usual weekday time, and gotten the last seat in the place. Had I not been by myself, I would have been looking at a 45-minute wait.

      Note that Galleria Umberto is not open on Sunday and often runs out of food well before its posted 3pm closing time. Lines can be long at Pizzeria Regina on weekends even at off-hours. Salumeria Italiana is a retail grocery / deli that makes a terrific sandwich, but you'll have to eat it somewhere else.

      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Been to Salumeria 100 times and never thought to order a sandwich. Do you have to grab your bread by the door and bring it up there or can you just tell the guy behind the counter what you want? What have you ordered there?

        1. re: ScotchandSirloin

          It's basically salumi and cheese on bread. You just tell them what you want on it.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          1. re: ScotchandSirloin

            I think its a fairly new thing for them. I think they resisted making custom sandwiches for a while due to the time involved.

            There was a hand printed menu at the counter today with an Italian, proscuitto/ mozz , tuna and a few more. Didn't try 1, just bought some items for a DIY.

            They used to pre make a bunch of prosciutto/mozz/basil on focaccia in the AM. Not a bad sandwich. Good if you needed a bunch and didn't want to custom order for everyone. good provisioning for fishing trips.

        2. re: Matt H

          We've had good luck going on Saturdays for an early lunch. Neptune opens at 11:30, and you can almost always be in the first seating if you are in line by 11:15.

          1. re: maestrette

            This is good advice. I live in the NE; if you arrive before noon, you should be OK. I recently was there at noon on a Saturday and walked right in. At 12:15 there was a wait.

        3. Curious: Why so focused on the hot lobster roll?

          1 Reply
          1. re: mkfisher

            Cold lobster rolls are much more common in NYC, I've had some good ones. I much prefer the hot lobster rolls, though (I like butter more than mayo) and a good one is nearly impossible to find here. I had the hot lobster roll at Neptune once before and it was heavenly.

          2. Neptune lines have been worse than ever lately. It seems like Neptune has made its way into some tour guide books and foreign tour routes. We were there a few weekends ago, and several customers were taking pictures of their food with DSLRS that would run me a few mortgage payments. We went at 3p and still had to wait an hour. if its nice on Sat, you can just leave your name and cell and walk around the North End. Set your expectations accordingly (90 minute wait) and you won't be disappointed. It is easy to kill some time in that neighborhood.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Gabatta

              great advice from gab. you could have alot of fun stopping at Modern Pastry on Hanover and splitting a sfogliadel (but maybe you can find those in nyc.)amongst you so you wouldn't fill up bef Neptune. I do also think that Regina's No.End is a very unique experience ( aside from the deliciousness of the pizza.) Next to the No. End, we also have the Greenway now, (and a brand new hand sculpted carousel!) with many things to stroll and take in.

              Just fyi, the majority seems to say that N.O's lobster roll and fried clams are better than ICOB. If you go to ICOB, their lobster roe pasta w/ lobster, chanterelles, shortrib is the thing i can never not order- along with the honey glazed biscuit.

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                I'd call the fried clam race between Neptune and ICOB a tie, both excellent. (I'm not all that jazzed by high-end lobster rolls.)

                I think Neptune has better clam chowder, and its jonnycake with smoked trout tartare is one of my favorite apps in town.

                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  i do not think that clam chowder has anyth going for it but i do love the jonnycake, and the vitello tonnato sandwich. miss it. haven't been in ages cuz of parking................
                  (p.s. i think 'tartare' necessitates raw, doesn't it?)

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    That's Neptune's usage, not mine, but it could be defended on the grounds of its cut and lack of heat cooking. Raw chopped fish is called a crudo there.

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              2. re: Gabatta

                I think you're right that Neptune has gotten on some lists somewhere. I remember going there for lunch just over a year ago, maybe late Spring 2012, and strolling in just after noon, and the place was half-empty! Just today (mid-week!), I walked by at around 12:30 and there was a line! WTF!

              3. I don't know if the kitchen has changed, but a few years ago, they ordered their lobster daily as they just don't have the space to handle it. And they always ran out.

                One visit mid afternoon we ordered a roll and some clams and then the kitchen immediately 86'd lobster rolls. This was before dinner. The roll was dismal, the bottom of the barrel. They should have 86'd it before serving us.

                So my answer is, if that is what you want go early. Others might have more recent experience, the ordering may have changed, and they no longer routinely run out of lobster - I don't know.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Bellachefa

                  I concur Bella. My last warm lobster roll at Neptune will be my last. One of the worst things I've ever been served at any restaurant. Sickening to eat.

                2. The last time I tried to go for lunch it was about 2pm on a Thursday (over the summer, not sure if that makes a difference) and was quoted a 45 minute wait for 2 people (who were willing to sit at the bar). I think you just have to hope for the best, but be prepared to wait if you want to get in.

                  1. Go to B&G Oyster. It's been a few years but I believe they do a Connecticut style (hot w drawn butter) lobstah roll.

                    1. Neptune opens at 11:30, so if I want to go there for Saturday lunch (and it is a fave for that) I plan to get in line there by 11:15 at the very latest. Show up after the place opens and you won't get a seat until mid-afternoon on the weekends, seriously...I know from sad experience, love the place anyway.

                      You seem eager for that hot lobster roll, and I hear it's the best in the world...though I've never had it at Neptune. Whatever the lobster salad is when I go (and chef Serpa has varied the mix at times from the original lobster caprese salad), I have that instead. Always surprised and delighted. Also jump at the chance to have the johnnycake, any crudo, a caesar salad with extra anchovies, the North End cioppino with lobster, the bronzino.

                      And if you don't have raw bar at Neptune, perhaps the finest in the northeast US, you will be pitied by all. Awesome selection, well chosen and finely shucked. Save a half dozen fat sweet cherrystones with some muscadet for me.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: marais

                        Finest in the northeast? Are you serious? They're good, but that glowing review is a tad bit over the top. All you need to do oysters is to properly purvey a selection, know how to store them and have a talented shucker. The rest is up to mother nature and the ocean and farmers - certainly not the restaurant.

                        1. re: Bellachefa

                          To my mind, the question about such a claim is not how hard it is to do good raw oysters, lobster rolls, etc., but how likely it is that any particular poster has been to enough places to credibly pass judgement on The Northeast.

                          There's an entire cottage industry of dubious amateurs and hack professional food writers creating best-of listicles via Google research. It's obvious that the authors haven't been to a fraction of the restaurants they cite.

                          Tell me about your first-hand experience, or GTFO.

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            I'm with Bella and MC Slim on this one. I loathe the posters on the Cape board who proclaim such and such a place, the BEST of anything! Saying it's YOUR favorite? Fine. And unarguable.But I've eaten at Neptune, and I've eaten at dozens if not 200+ restaurants of the 1100 that exist on the Cape, and I can say unequivocally, there are better raw bars on the Cape than Neptune. Spend the weekend at the Welfleet oyster Festival this October if you want proof. And ''Best hot lobster roll IN THE WORLD!" How do you spell h-y-p-e-r-b-o-l-e?!

                            1. re: CapeCodGuy

                              Count me in on the "enemies of the list" list. Especially "best of" lists: I mean how many of these places have you actually eaten at and, more important, how many other wonderful places haven't you eaten at???? We have posters who like to make "definitive" lists, tell the OPs that they are recommending places others have recommended on the board though they haven't eaten at these places, discuss restaurants using phrases from conventional newspaper reviews, and act as though they've swallowed all food and information from Google sources whole. All anyone can share is what they've experienced, which is a tiny fraction of the possibilities.

                              1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                If you're ever over on Nantucket - some of my most surprising and memorable oysters were at Oran Mor. We were at the bar, it was a bit dark and we simply ordered 1/2 dozen of the days oysters. I started to request some horseradish and cocktail sauce when at the last second I realized they came fully dressed. Whether its a cocktail sauce granita and cucumber concoction, or a fennel cider concoction, their treatment of the mighty oyster was brought to a whole new place. I'll still like mine shucked in the rough, plain, or a squeeze of lemon or sprinkle of pepper or a dollop of housemade cocktail sauce and extra horseradish, but this was a whole new treatment which I hope to revisit this coming month - I need to check their autumnal schedule.

                                1. re: Bellachefa

                                  Nice tip Bella. Thanks.

                                  But wait. Will I have to walk around the neighborhood for over an hour first, waiting for my cell to ring, so I can be served by surly waitstaff who are doing me a favor by their mere presence?

                                  If not, I need that to really enjoy a place.

                                  1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                    Sorry no attitude at Oran Mor I ever witnessed. The barmaid, who made wonderful drinks, went running off to accomadate me. It was like asking for ketchup to smother a prime steak. And she was fearless to enter the kitchen and ask. Thankfully I stopped her in time, once I realized it was a specially dressed preperation.

                                    I've enjoyed many a meal at Neptune. And I've been victim of the snark, as well as enjoying one really wonderful waiter a few years back. The place has it's charm and lack of charm, but it most certainly is not the best the East Coast has to offer.

                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                      No attitude?!? Then we can hardly compare it to Neptune Oyster.
                                      Also, hopefully, for the true Neptune experience, you would have to endure disgruntled families from New Jersey taking pictures of their food with digital cameras that cost more than my first few cars while lighting 100 dollar bills and dropping them on the ground, then have your car ticketed on the way out.

                                  2. re: Bellachefa

                                    Some of my favorite raw oysters with interesting concoctions can be had at Francine Bistro in Camden Maine.

                          2. Go to ICOB and avoid the attitude at Neptune

                            They remind me of Debbie Downer on SNL.

                            1. Thanks for the advice, everyone! We ended up going around 11:15am on Saturday for lunch and were seated right away once they opened at 11:30. We had oysters, the black bass crudo, a johnnycake and the hot lobster rolls. Left totally stuffed, all very good. We also went to Island Creek Oyster and had a fine dinner there. I didn't have a lobster roll, but the oysters, crab cake and lobster roe pasta that I did sample were delicious.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: AnnaNYC

                                yay anna, so glad it worked out! thx for telling us.