The 20 Best Seafood Restaurants in Boston
From Mediterranean-inspired hotspots to old-school crab shacks serving New England classics.
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Our restaurant scene is constantly evolving, but this is also a city steeped in tradition. So when we chose the 20 best seafood restaurants in Boston, we cast a wide net. From a quirky little spot serving lobster sandwiches to a buzzy destination for crudo and cocktails, we’ve got you covered. When hunger hits, swim by these standouts.
Alive & Kicking Lobsters
It looks like a fish out of water in its residential Cambridge neighborhood. But that’s part of the cult appeal of this no-frills joint, where the small menu focuses on steamers, chowders, and a fairly famous lobster sandwich—don’t call it a roll!—of luscious, mayo-tossed meat on Italian-style scali bread. Gulp it down on the backyard picnic tables, or take some market-fresh fish selections home.
269 Putnam Ave., Cambridge, 617-876-0451, aliveandkickinglobsters.com.
Atlantic Fish Co.
A Back Bay anchor since 1978, this old-school surf-and-turf still delivers. It’s a place to power-lunch over a shellfish-stocked Captain’s Platter, or close a deal over a dinner of linguine with clams, crab-crusted haddock, or filet mignon. When it’s time to celebrate, uncork something from a smart wine list that includes selections from the restaurant group’s own proprietary label.
761 Boylston St., Boston, 617-267-4000, atlanticfish.com.
Chef Colin Lynch sets his coordinates to coastal Italian cuisine at this South End stunner, a showplace for tastings of super-fresh crudo, pretty pasta plates laden with mussels and lobster, and—when you’re not sipping brunch-time bubbles on the patio—cocktails making smart use of Campari and other apéritifs. The midcentury-style dining room is swathed in sparkling white with pops of blue, airy as a beach club on the Amalfi coast.
360 Harrison Ave., Boston, 617-530-1770, barmezzana.com.
The Barking Crab
You can’t miss that bright red- and yellow-striped big top tent on the waterfront. This Seaport fixture beckons with its boisterous crowds gathered for classic crab-shack eats: platters piled high with crustaceans for dipping in drawn butter, oysters for slurping, and Bloody Marys garnished with cocktail shrimp. The space is strung with lobster traps and strands of lights; it ain’t fancy, but it’s a lot of fun.
88 Sleeper St., Boston, 617-426-2722, barkingcrab.com.
Barbara Lynch, doyenne of Boston dining, is the captain of this seafood restaurant in the heart of the South End. Head to its adorably cloistered rear patio, then dive in to a wide-ranging raw bar selection, Mediterranean-inflected fish preparations, and elegant expressions of New England seafood standards. B&G even offers oyster-shucking classes, if you’re looking to be the half-shell hero of your next beach party.
550 Tremont St., Boston, 617-423-0550, bandgoysters.com.
The Daily Catch
It’s all about Sicilian-style seafood at this family-owned North End restaurant, a decades-spanning institution that has branched off to locations in Brookline and Vermont. Check the chalkboard menu to find out what’s fresh, from clam and calamari swimming in marinara, to puttanesca with puréed olive and anchovy butter. The 20-seat spot is cash-only, but generous portions make it worth every dollar.
323 Hanover St., Boston, 617-523-8567; 441 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-734-2700, thedailycatch.com.
We were pumped when the James Beard Award-winning chefs behind Portland, Maine’s Eventide Oyster Co. decided to bring a fast-casual version of that seafood restaurant to Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. They did not underwhelm. The now-signature brown butter lobster roll, which uses a fluffy, bao-style steamed bun, is here; so are bowls of clam chowder flavored with kombu (edible seaweed) and hunks of salt pork. We’re so glad Eventide turned in our direction.
1321 Boylston St., Boston, 617-545-1060, eventidefenway.com.
Island Creek Oyster Bar
This Kenmore Square restaurant’s fabulously-briny, namesake bivalves, harvested from a sibling farm in Duxbury Bay, are now found at every Boston raw bar worth its weight in sea salt. But head to the mother ship to find much more than oysters—including lobster roe noodles with braised short rib, a dish that earns its menu-mainstay status. Chef Jeremy Sewall is a master of his craft, and bar star Jackson Cannon’s beverage program makes for a very mighty match.
500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-5300, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
James Hook + Co.
For decades, this family-owned seafood wholesaler has been serving fish-market fare out of its counter-service shanty by Boston Harbor. The lobster rolls are iconic, of course. But don’t snooze on the creamy, sherry-spiked lobster bisque, jumbo crab cakes, or double-stuffed clams. Here’s where to hook a simple but spectacular bite to take back to the office, or for a weekend walk along the waterfront.
440 Atlantic Ave., Boston, 617-423-5501, jameshooklobster.com.
It’s hard to beat the harbor horizon views from this Titanic-sized offshoot of the Legal Sea Foods chain. The three-floor Seaport operation covers casual fish fare on the ground floor, more refined plates upstairs, and lounge-worthy bites and cocktails on the mast-high roof deck (which has a retractable glass covering, so you can enjoy the scenery whatever the weather). Stuffed to the gills with everything from iconic chowder to baked stuffed lobster, it’s a popular people-pleaser–and for good reason, thank you.
270 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-477-2900, legalseafoods.com.
Mooncusser Fish House
Chef Carolyn Johnson covers a lot of ground at this multi-concept seafood spot in Back Bay. The upper level’s fine-dining room offers elegant preparations, including an innovative nightly tasting menu of local fish. Downstairs is Moon Bar, a stylishly relaxed option for tucking away with delightful wines and sophisticated seafood snacks, like deviled eggs with smoked swordfish. And then there’s her fully-casual operation, Cusser’s Roast Beef & Seafood, which doles spectacular lobster rolls and other eats from a takeout window.
304 Stuart St., Boston, 617-917-5193, mooncusserfishhouse.com.
We think the ocean king himself would endorse this North End favorite. Granted, he could probably skip the lines that form for the famous lobster roll, served covered in hot butter or tossed in cold mayo. But it’s still worth queuing up to get inside the relatively snug spot, where daily specials justify return visits: Spend Tuesdays with sea urchin bucatini, or wrap up your workweek with Friday’s squid ink risotto.
63 Salem St., Boston, 617-742-3474, neptuneoyster.com.
A posh Park Square-side offering from the local titans at Columbus Hospitality Group (Mistral, among others), Ostra looks to Mediterranean shores for its fine-dining seafood menu. Solicitous servers usher roasted monkfish with mushroom ragout, traditional Spanish paella, and caviar service to tables draped in crisp white linens. Wonderful wines are poured. There’s the tinkle of tickled ivories from the live pianist in the lounge. It’s elegant; it’s excellent.
1 Charles St. S, Boston, 617-421-1200, ostraboston.com.
Boston’s venerable chef Jody Adams brings Back Bay her expectedly marvelous musings on contemporary Mediterranean seafood. Think octopus a la plancha with yucca and orange; whole roasted branzino that gets a lift from lemon, capers and garlic; and seared scallops with pork belly and smoked tomato jam. Adams was recently inducted to the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who” list of legends. We can see, and taste, why.
1 Ring Rd., Boston, 617-536-1234, porto-boston.com.
The younger sibling to Kenmore Square’s Island Creek Oyster Bar has carved out its own distinct identity in Fort Point. Post-work crowds descend on the industrial-chic space for its eponymous oysters (named for their numbered racks on the sea bed), snacky stuff like crispy fish tacos, and entrées of fresh catch, including grilled salmon with sunchoke and brown butter. It’s all washed down with one of the best-curated beer programs of any restaurant in Boston.
383 Congress St., Boston, 617-553-5900, row34.com.
Let it be known that this Back Bay lass was an early local adopter of the tinned seafood trend; Saltie Girl is a wonderful spot to pair, say, a crisp white wine with top-tier cockles canned in brine. But Chef Kyle McClelland does wonderful work too–from toasts topped with smoked salmon, Greek yogurt and truffle honey, to smoked cioppino bucatini overflowing with prawns, mussels, and more. And there’s a quirky favorite to find in the fried lobster with waffles, served with spicy maple syrup.
281 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-267-0691, saltiegirl.com.
Select Oyster Bar
Tucked inside a Back Bay townhouse, chef Michael Serpa’s seafood venture is really something special: polished but unpretentious, fun yet refined, inviting to neighborhood regulars but absolutely worth an Uber ride from the other side of the city. The Mediterranean-glancing menu features elaborate shellfish tiers, starters like Spanish octopus with chimichurri, and a standout whole sea bream that is roasted and served Greek “taverna-style,” with a sauce of parsley, mint and oregano.
50 Gloucester St., Boston, 857-239-8064, selectboston.com.
Union Oyster House
It’s easy to turn your nose up at Boston’s more touristy restaurants, but hard to not feel fondly for Union Oyster House. The oldest continuously-operating restaurant in the country keeps to the classics: Oysters Rockefeller, lobster pots, and simply broiled Boston scrod are what it’s all about. (There’s actually a dish called, “Ye Olde Seafood Platter.”) But the storied spot still charms, especially if you dine in the “Kennedy Booth,” the favorite seat of J.F.K.
41 Union St., Boston, 617-227-2750, unionoysterhouse.com.
Chef Michael Scelfo followed up his first Harvard Square smash, Alden & Harlow, with this nearby adventure in coastal cuisine. The menu meanders from hit to hit: The chopped clam pizza, creative pastas (like uni bucatini with smoked egg yolk), and a burger topped with tonnato (a tangy tuna-based sauce) are all standouts. But the cocktail program is a highlight too, boasting a unique absinthe-focused selection of creative tipples.
1030 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-864-2300, waypointharvard.com.
Yankee Lobster Co.
In a fast-changing Seaport, we’re grateful this lobstering family’s takeout-friendly institution stays simple and straightforward. Swing by the counter-service market for lobster rolls, lobster club sandwiches, lobster mac-n-cheese–oh, and other simple seafood classics, like whole belly stuffed clams and crab cakes. This is the closest we’ll ever come to saying it: We’re Yankee fans.
300 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-345-9799, yankeelobstercompany.com.