The World Is Your Oyster at the 16 Best Raw Bars in Boston
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Classy, cool, and oh-so-New England, raw bars exist to show off whatever’s best and fresh from the ocean each day—and for that reason, they might just be Boston’s quintessential kind of restaurant. Of course, thanks to Boston’s year-round access to the freshest oysters, clams, lobsters, and more, raw bar selections exist on menus across the city. Here, though, are 16 spots that really hit the spot when it comes to things on-the-half-shell.
Its elder sibling, Mare Oyster Bar, is deservedly well known for its namesake bivalves and other raw offerings. North End restaurant mogul Frank DePasquale might provide an even niftier selection, though, at Aqua Pazza: Besides king crabs legs and freshly shucked New England oysters with blood orange mignonette, the Italian-accented seafood spot turns out unique delicacies like a decadent tuna crudo with truffle mascarpone, potato sticks, and shaved black truffle.
135 Richmond St., Boston, 857-350-3105, aquapazza-boston.com.
In a sea of contemporary seafood restaurants, this classic spot, captained by Boston dining doyenne Barbara Lynch, charts a more familiar course—from the silver seafood towers on each pearly blue table to the twinkling lights of the backyard patio. The B&G crew finesses the classics, including a chilled Maine lobster roll and perfectly shucked East Coast oysters, yet also keeps things fresh with raw-bar specials like blue cod ceviche with leche de tigre.
550 Tremont St., Boston, 617-423-0550, bandgoysters.com.
As with chef Colin Lynch’s other South End spots—the coastal Italian restaurant Bar Mezzana, island-vacation-evoking Shore Leave, and serene sushi bar No Relation—seafood is a through line on the Black Lamb menu. Here you’ll find snacks like clam dip with Old Bay-seasoned pita chips; tuna poke with Macadamia; crab Louie salad; and oysters shucked for a buck apiece until 5 p.m. every day at the brasserie-style raw bar.
571 Tremont St., Boston, 617-982-6330, blacklambsouthend.com.
Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar
For a place that has “oyster bar” in its name, it’s oddly easy to forget that Citizen is, well, an oyster bar. (We blame the scene-stealing whole pig roasts, which feel more in keeping with the gentleman’s-parlor-like trappings of dark woods and leathers, plus that lengthy whiskey list.) And yet, behold! Seafood towers come stacked with littleneck clams, crab claws, mussels, and more on ice; the lobster cocktail is even more decadent than the jumbo shrimp one; and an oysters-and-whiskey pairing offers super-smoky Peat Monster Scotch for sipping while you slurp.
1310 Boylston St., Boston, 617-450-9000, citizenpub.com.
The Hourly Oyster House
Raw bar lovers would probably pay rent to move into this Harvard Square oyster house, which offers a wide selection of New England oysters, from briny Beach Plums harvested from Buzzard’s Bay to more savory Wellfleet bivalves. It’s also home to excellent chilled apps, such as aguachile, a Mexican-style dish of lime-marinated fish; tuna tartare in a taco shell with wasabi tobiko; and salmon crudo with horseradish cream, Everything bagel seasoning, and caviar.
15 Dunster St., Cambridge, 617-765-2342, thehourlycambridge.com.
It might have opened in the middle of the pandemic, but Ivory Pearl is nonetheless a gleaming new addition to the local dining scene. On one hand, that’s no surprise—after all, this is the latest project from Blossom Bar owner Ran Duan, who brings to Brookline yet another crack cocktail program, this time with lots of carbonated and bottled cocktails that pair perfectly with the spot’s raw bar offerings. The Brut Rosé-inspired Pink Label, for instance (composed of Aperol, sherry, strawberry gazpacho, and more), is a lovely accompaniment to king crab legs served with caviar mayo; hiramasa crudo with yuzu and apple; or a seafood tower that nearly topples over from all the oysters, clams, uni, and more for snacking with nori crackers.
1704 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-487-5297, ivorypearlbar.com.
It’s a beloved (and yes, still local) chain for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the Legal team knows its way around an oyster—and lobsters, shrimp, cherrystones, haddock, salmon, and everything else under the sea. If you’re going to choose any single location, though, head to the Legal Harborside flagship in the Seaport, a three-level whale of a waterfront restaurant where the extensive raw bar selection is enjoyed in a fantastic outdoor-dining setup.
270 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-477-2900, legalseafoods.com.
Its famous lobster roll steals much of the thunder, but the landmark North End bistro kills it with its raw bar specialties, too—including a daily-changing selection of East and West Coast oysters, Atlantic crab claws, Santa Barbara uni, and more.
63 Salem St., Boston, 617-742-3474, neptuneoyster.com.
This Dorchester newcomer is one of the hottest spots in the city at the moment, in part thanks to its cool raw bar with chilled or grilled king crab legs, daily-changing oysters on ice, and multi-size platters replete with lobster, clams, shrimp cocktail, and more.
20B District Ave, Dorchester, 617-288-8810, thepearlsouthbay.com.
Chef Jody Adams looks mostly to the Mediterranean for inspiration at her seafood restaurant in the Back Bay. Its raw bar, though, focuses on New England-raised shellfish, including salty-mild Scorton Creek oysters from Barnstable, Mass. and briny-sweet Little Beauty bivalves harvested off the New Hampshire coast. You’ll find a few surprises, too, such as tuna tartare with a seaweed yogurt, coriander, and orange.
Ring Rd., Boston, 617-536-1234, porto-boston.com.
At this elegant seafood destination, a crown jewel in chef Jamie Mammano’s fine-dining empire, ice-packed glass display cases show off all sorts of fish—from branzino, ready and waiting to be roasted in a salt crust, to sea bream that winds up wrapped in trevisano leaf. Naturally, there’s also plenty that’s perfect to enjoy raw: oysters, clams, and oodles of caviar, plus crudo such as sea bass tartare with black truffle carpaccio and fennel pollen crostini.
1 Charles St. South, Boston, 617-421-1200, ostraboston.com.
This industrial-cool spot is as much a serious beer bar as it is a seafood mecca. That’s how we can tell you, with the utmost confidence, that the effervescent Saison du Row—a Belgian-style saison that Row beer director Suzanne Hays made in collaboration with neighbor Trillium Brewing Company—pairs perfectly with the namesake Row 34 oysters.
383 Congress St., Boston, 617-553-5900, row34.com.
Now that Saltie Girl has moved into the much larger space that houses its sister-neighbor Met Back Bay, we have even more elbow room to take on seafood towers teeming with littlenecks, oysters, and lobster cocktail; day boat scallop and king salmon crudos; and more fresh catch prepared by chef Kyle McClelland.
281 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-267-0691, saltiegirl.com.
Select Oyster Bar
Then a rising-star chef, Michael Serpa launched the full-fledged-restaurateur chapter of his career when he opened Select, a polished but unpretentious oyster bar tucked inside a Back Bay brownstone. The raw bar section of Select’s menu features shellfish tiers loaded with local oysters, Champagne-poached shrimp, delicately dressed fresh Maine lobster, Mediterranean-glancing crudo, and more.
50 Gloucester St., Boston, 857-239-8064, selectboston.com.
The Raw Bar at Island Creek Oyster Farm
From a permanently parked food truck, this outdoor, waterfront bar serves up the oysters that are grown just yards away on the South Shore farm—as well as caviar, boards of imported tinned seafood, ceviches, and more to pair with local beers and small-producer wines. There’s a fire pit for ambiance, plus kid-friendly fare that makes it a day-trip destination fit for the whole family. The Raw Bar at Island Creek is open from noon until twilight every day, rain or shine.
401 Washington St., Duxbury, 781-934-2028, islandcreekoysters.com.
Union Oyster House
The semi-circular oyster bar here has been in continuous operation since the 1800s, when statesman Daniel Webster was among the regulars tossing back bivalves and beers. These days, America’s oldest restaurant is as much a historic institution as it is a reliable lunch spot—and longtime owner Joe Milano reports that his daily oyster selection is still the most popular to-go item. Order your Cotuits or Wellfleets already shucked and on ice, or take out shelled oysters to shuck at home. The massive restaurant has rearranged its historic space for on-site dining, as well, while a pop-up patio on quaint Union Street is also open daily for lunch and dinner.
41 Union St., Boston, 617-227-2750, unionoysterhouse.com.