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Aug 16, 2014 06:42 PM

Legal Sea Foods: You've come a long way baby!

Unfortunately, entirely in the wrong direction.

If you research my posts on the topic of Legal Sea Foods (and its progeny), you'll see I am not a fan. Although I occasionally may have said something nice about the chain (something along the lines of, "My meal didn't totally suck."), it will become clear very quickly that I am not a fan. Count me among the many who lament the downfall of this once great culinary institution.

Tonight, I took the lazy way out; I have only myself to blame. Having rented out my house in Cambridge (with my daughter leaving her mother's home in Lincoln to attend boarding school in Vermont, I no longer expect to be here every single week), I am holed up at one of those generic Burlington-area hotels. I got myself a hankering for some fried clams, having not had any yet this summer. Ipswich is a mere 40 minutes away from here. Or, in less time I could have been at one of the several not-as-good-as-Farnham's-but-still-pretty-darn-good alternatives closer to here. But instead, staying just a stone's throw from the Burlington Mall, I decided it was time to give Legal another shot. Nothing fancy; just a fried clam dinner. What a disappointment.

Having not had clams in quite a while, I don't feel I can judge the quality of the clams themselves. They didn't seem as big and plump as I would have expected, but maybe that's just the negative halo effect talking. (That is, clearly disappointed by my experience, it can be hard to give them credit for anything positive.) But irrespective of the quality of the clams themselves, the quality of the preparation was just lame. Very little to no crunch. Soggy. Served on a bed of really lame (really lame) fries. The stray calamari ring in my order didn't make it any better. The stray clam shell (I can only hope that's what the hard thing that ended up in my mouth was) didn't make it any better.

I know that most on this board have long ago concluded that Legal sucks. But it still has some ardent supporters. Sorry, guys: you're just wrong; the place sucks.

I had no choice but to try to wash away my disappointment with a mocha shake from Bobby's Burger Palace next door.

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  1. To be fair, the menu does say the clams are "sweet & petite", which I only know because I went to Harborside last weekend.
    It was surprisingly pretty good.

    1. The Burlington Mall location of Legals is the absolute worst one on the planet. It sucks even by Legal Seafood's standards. At least you aren't sick.

      6 Replies
      1. re: smtucker

        Agree that it's unfair to judge the whole chain by the Burlington location - Chestnut Hill is considerably better, the Seaport locations (Harborside and LTK) are in another class altogether.

        But yikes, that does sound terrible.

        1. re: smtucker

          As a general rule of thumb, I avoid all their locations in Malls. In terms of the locations that have been around awhile, I think Chestnut Hill is the gold standard, although even there I have had some awful experiences over the years. I pretty much only stick to a couple of things on their menu at this point. Their crab cakes are among the best in the area. I avoid most of their raw shellfish as well as their lobsters.

          1. re: Gordough

            crab cakes are seriously good. only thing I order.

            1. re: Madrid

              Agreed! Not the only thing I order, but I do order a crab cake everytime I'm at Legal's. They are amazing and every bit as good as what you get in Maryland.

          2. re: smtucker

            The Prudential Center Legal REALLY sucks. Plus it smells bad.

            1. re: C. Hamster

              If I had money to burn, we could try both locations and take a vote as to which one sucks more. :-)

          3. maybe a bad location and/or choice..or night. For those of us in the Philly area, especially flyers (airport kind, not hockey), craving a fried clam dinner is only one place.........Legal at the airport. Are they as good as Ipswich, Maine, or Cape Cod? they are pretty good and the fries are great. The King of Prussia location is ok too, based on a single time. Sansome St Oyster House is my go-to, but nothing will compare to that once I'm over the CT/NY line............ choice upon choice

            1 Reply
            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

              I had crappy fried clams at the first floor seaport location and very good shucked oysters. The fry job was lousy. I had a very good meal at the 2nd floor seaport location (good enough so that I would return). But I really don't understand how they can be so lacking in basic seafood skills as to make crappy fried clams! It isn't like veal prince orloff for heavens sake.

            2. Yes, locations vary with legals. It's not the place to go for good chowder made fresh. The oysters are pretty good but overall, I'd skip legals if not looking to roll the dice for a great meal.

              1. A little OT...but my husband and I were in Salem yesterday, met up with friends to see the Turner exhibit at PEM.
                And we ended up at Turner's Seafood and Grill in the Lyceum building.
                It was pretty good, mussels in a Belgium Beer cream sauce, RI style calamari, bakes stuffed shrimp, hake marsala, fish and chips and a grilled halibut special, all really fresh and well cooked. and less expensive than Legal.
                We've sat at the bar in the Melrose location and enjoyed that as well. Its a good alternative to Legals if you're near either.