The touristy trappings, like the gift shop off to the side, are a bit disconcerting. But a stool at the half-circle bar is still the best place in the city to slurp down a dozen fresh bivalves and a nice cold beer. 41 Union St., Boston, MA .
The semi-circular oyster bar has been in continuous operation since 1826, with the likes of Daniel Webster tossing back three dozen Blue Points at one sitting.Yes, it's on the Freedom Trail; yes, it's "America's Oldest Restaurant"; and yes, it's one of "Ye Olde" tourist magnets. But, all the hokum aside, it is simply the best place to get a dozen freshly cracked oysters. 41 Union St., Boston, MA .
There are a few ways to enjoy this new Kenmore Square institution: tucked away in the corner of the dining room by the oyster-shell-lined walls; perched at a high-top in the lounge; or sitting at the raw bar. Wherever we wind up, you'll find us throwing back bivalves followed by fried-oyster sliders, bowls of shell-free mussels, and champagne cocktails galore. Catch selections change daily (like the Idaho red trout, pictured above), but look for the halibut. Perfectly seared on the outside and snow-white and flaky on the inside, it's like créme brûlée of the sea. 500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 2115, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
Some places are just right for producing certain kinds of edibles—the right soil, the right temperature, the right weather. It turns out Massachusetts' Duxbury Bay has the perfect tides for oyster farming, as Island Creek Oyster Company's fresh and briny shellfish have masterfully shown. They're shucked daily at the company's happening new restaurant, which also showcases seafood dishes created by chef Jeremy Sewall that are as fresh in concept as in ingredients—for example, pan-roasted monkfish in lobster broth with white-bean ragout and fennel. 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2115, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
Duxbury's Island Creek Oysters are a fixture on menus at some of the nation's top restaurants and a household name among area foodies. So it's no surprise that when oyster farmer Skip Bennett teamed up with local chef Jeremy Sewall and restaurateur Garrett Harker—both of Eastern Standard—on a full-scale eatery, the result would be a smash hit. The Kenmore Square spot offers artfully rendered seafood (lobster-roe noodles with chanterelles), New England basics (chowder, fried clams), and, naturally, an epic raw bar. 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2115, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
Chef Jeremy Sewall has a family connection to the best crustaceans around: His cousin Mark is a Maine lobsterman. And the best vehicle for his wares just may be Island Creek's lobster roll. Mixed with créme fraîche, dill pickles, and celery salt, the succulent meat is stuffed into a house-made rosemary-flecked roll and sent out to the table bursting at the seams. Take a moment to savor the stunning visual, because it'll be gone before you can say, "Pass the napkins, please." 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2115, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
The accompanying paper towel is merely decorative, considering B&G's semolina-dusted Ipswich bellies shed virtually no grease from their crisp nooks and crannies (which justifies double-dunking them in the addictive house tartar sauce). 550 Tremont St., Boston, MA 2116, bandgoysters.com.
Anatomy of a Winner: Here in Boston, it's tough to stand out in a veritable ocean of chowdah. Here's how Barbara Lynch's oyster bar shows up the competition. 1. Flaky puff pastry "oyster crackers" are coated with sweet paprika and cayenne pepper for a buttery crunch and a bit of heat. 2. Thick bacon lardons add smokiness and bite. 3. A heavy distribution of meaty top-neck clams give the soup the requisite brine and chew. 4. Clam juice and white wine cut the richness of the butter and heavy cream. 5. A swoosh of black pepper and a sprinkling of chives add additional flavor and make for a beautiful bowl. 550 Tremont St., Boston, MA bandgoysters.com.
A few of the dishes that have already become legends in the few years since this sophisticated Kenmore Square spot opened: the fried-oyster sliders, which come smeared with chili-lime aioli and topped with pickled onions and arugula; the lobster-roe noodles, tossed with nubs of grilled lobster and braised short rib; and a house-made-saltine-topped casserole packed with scallops, fresh fish, lobster, and shrimp in a sherry-cream sauce. But if all you're really after is a basket of fried Ipswich clams—well, those are great here, too. 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA islandcreekoysterbar.com.
They love the fresh-shucked oysters, and the proprietors keep the autograph hounds at bay. Lake Alfred, FL
Burlington makes gains as a veritable dining destination with an outpost of the wildly, deservedly successful Island Creek Oyster Bar. While it's hard to pass up the lobster roll, served warm and buttered, an always-changing selection of fresh local catch provides suitable backup. You can even bring the kids, who'll flip over the fish and chips. 300 District Ave., Burlington, MA 1803, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
Low lights, dark wood, and more than 200 whiskeys. As far as drinking goes, it doesn’t get much better than this. Prefer suds? No problem. The bar staff keeps a rotating line of draft beers and ciders that includes local stars such as Jack’s Abby and Downeast. 1310 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02215, citizenpub.com.
Oysters, biscuits, and buttermilk-ricotta pancakesbrunch at this neighborhood tavern covers the bases. 1310 Boylston St., Fenway/Kenmore, MA 2215, citizenpub.com.
The cocktails at this funky-meets-casual spot hit it out of the park—order the mezcal-based "No More Parties in Fenway" to channel your inner ’Ye before weaving through Sox traffic on your way home. 1310 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02215, citizenpub.com.
The lauded whiskey list is reason enough for a visit, but the real draw is the “Pappy Meal,” a western-themed box with a 2-ounce pour of Pappy Van Winkle, the coveted Kentucky hooch. 1310 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02215, citizenpub.com.