Cold with mayo, or hot with butter? Neptune ends the great lobster roll debate by excelling at both. The constant is perfectly firm, sweet lobster piled into a large brioche roll, with a particularly generous percentage of tail meat. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA 2113, neptuneoyster.com.
It takes a special kind of hot lobster roll to best its chilled brethren, but Neptune's much-beloved version manages to pull it off. Seven ounces of lobster are tossed in melted butter and heaped on a grilled brioche bun that struggles under the weight of so much sweet claw and tail meat. 3 Salem St., Boston, MA 02113, neptuneoyster.com.
Neptune's menu is a smorgasbord of briny delights: locally harvested cherrystone clams, littlenecks, and shrimp cocktail. But the true draw here is the mighty oyster—more than a dozen varieties pulled from as near as the waters off Wellfleet and as far as Washington state. For those still coming up in the school of oyster-ology, the menu explains not just where the selections hail from, but how they'll taste going down. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA 2113, neptuneoyster.com.
The perfect fried clam belly is a thing of beauty: crisp on the outside, tender and saline on the inside, the whole thing offset by a dunk in piquant tartar sauce. Neptune’s Ipswich clam appetizer, which comes with a massive helping of pickle-y, slawlike tartar sauce, is a master of the formand well worth the hour-plus wait for a table. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA 2113, neptuneoyster.com.
We have a few requirements for raw bars. First, the offerings must change daily. But more important, you should be able to see oysters getting shucked—no crafting shellfish towers behind closed doors. Neptune Oyster is a tiny North End restaurant that does it right—and the ever-present line out the door is a testament to its supremacy. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA 2113, neptuneoyster.com.
Order it hot with butter, or cold with mayo. Either way, sizable chunks of lobster will overflow the warm brioche roll, leaving you to dig in with a fork before attempting to pick up any stragglers with your hands. Do not be distracted by the delicious, massive pile of accompanying fries; the sweet claw and tail meat is why you came—and why you waited an hour for a seat at this tiny gem. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA 2113, neptuneoyster.com.
This North End gem trumps even North Shore clam shacks with its pristine, local whole-bellies; nonpareil crunch, courtesy of expert batter-frying; and exceptional tartar sauce. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA 2113, neptuneoyster.com.
When chef Michael Serpa left Neptune Oyster to open his own restaurant, we wondered: What would happen to the overflowing lobster roll? Or the crisp "Piggyback" oysters, piled high on toast with shreds of tender Berkshire pork? Thankfully, they're still here and as good as ever—only now, chefs Daniel Karg and John Ross have added their own stamp to the menu. Try inventive dishes like whole roasted mackerel Veracruz in tomato-olive brodetto with bright chimichurri and a refreshing orange-fennel salad, or tender PEI mussels in a complex, beautifully textured red-curry sauce with toasted cashews. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA 02113, neptuneoyster.com.
The long lines at this 12-year-old North End standout tell the tale: Neptune still reigns godlike over Boston’s seafood scene. Tides may turn, but with some two dozen locally sourced bivalves, as well as more complex offerings—think seared scallops with pear butter and duck confit—Neptune’s consistency remains awe-inspiring. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA 02113, neptuneoyster.com.
This North End gem trumps even North Shore clam shacks with its pristine, local whole-bellies; nonpareil crunch, courtesy of expert batter-frying; and exceptional tartar sauce. 63 Salem Street, Boston, MA 2113, neptuneoyster.com.
It must be nice to be a pearl: just hang around inside an oyster for a while, getting shellacked until round and shiny. We feel similarly after a couple of hours at Neptune Oyster, quaffing glasses of chilled rose while surrounded by ridiculously fresh bivalves (plus a selection of just-off-the-boat crab claws and expertly dressed crudo). There's a reason this place is known as a gem. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA neptuneoyster.com.
To indulge in the enormous portion of oysters, crab claws, and lobster that seem to have emerged directly from the sea, you must first earn your place at the table: Add your name to the list. Throw cutthroat glances at the interlopers attempting to jump the line. Snuggle up to those beside you, since you'll soon be banging elbows while hoisting oysters to your lips. Once seated, go ahead and savor every briny slurp and satisfying crack of the claw, all while giving the folks still in line a supportive nod, that yes, it is worth waiting for. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA 2113, neptuneoyster.com.
Though we Bostonians are awash in seafood, there's shockingly little variety among those serving it to us. There are the clam shacks (Morse Fish Company, No Name), the executive favorites (Legal, Turner, Skipjack's, et. al), and the amusement parks (Barking Crab, Kingfish Hall). Only two restaurants truly cater to foodies—the South End's B&G Oysters and the North End's Neptune Oyster—and we love 'em both. This year Neptune can credit its edge over B&G to a slightly less formal vibe (shared tables, dishtowel napkins) that feels right for the times. That, and the fact that we spent the winter polishing off glorious scallops, ceviche, and cioppino here, and left happy every time. 63 Salem St., Boston, MA 2113, neptuneoyster.com.
After seven years spent manning the tiny kitchen at Neptune Oyster, chef Michael Serpa stepped out on his own with another petite seafood spot. This one's a passion project, with Serpa's hands in everything from the quirky beverage selection (funky whites, Basque-style ciders) to the décor (posters featuring Jacques Cousteau and The Life Aquatic). The menu strays from clam-shack tropes in favor of creations like fried rice with cuttlefish, cuttlefish ink, and uni, which is even more delightful when enjoyed on the heated enclosed patio. 50 Gloucester St., Boston, MA 02115, selectboston.com.
Manhattan meets Cape Cod at this trendy Hyannis bistro and raw bar. The oysters—prepared naked or topped with a hint of cocktail sauce, a splash of Absolut Peppar vodka, or sour cream and caviar—are beyond divine. The littleneck clams are tiny tastes of the sea. And the melt-in-your-mouth beef carpaccio appetizer and a host of tempting desserts round out a fun, fresh menu. 20 Independence Dr., Hyannis, MA nakedoyster.com/.