Taking a bite out of Boston: Seafood restaurants thrive in "seafood heaven"

Published on
March 17, 2017

There’s no shortage of restaurants to visit during a trip to Boston, Massachusetts – especially if seafood is your protein of choice.

This bustling, historic American city is packed with as many different varieties of restaurants as there are seafood species – from raw bars and pier-side fine dining to fish and chips food trucks, Boston offers seafood locales that keep pace with any lifestyle.

Legal Sea Foods, a chain of seafood restaurants with 11 locations in Boston alone, has long leveraged the seafaring nature of the portside city to create an iconic East Coast casual dining experience.

“Boston is seafood-heaven – by virtue of its location and residents who love to eat it,” Executive Chef Rich Vellante told SeafoodSource. “Boston is, of course, situated on the ocean and the oldest working fish pier in the country is located right in the heart of the city. It’s the epitome of freshness. Fishing lore is in our DNA and regional taste buds crave what’s quintessential: clam chowder, lobster rolls, fried clams, oysters, etc.”

What started out as a fish market in Inman Square, founded by the Berkowitz family in 1950, has grown into an enterprise with over 30 locations featuring an array of different dining concepts and settings.

“Some would say that Legal Sea Foods is iconic to Boston,” Vellante said. “We have maintained our fanaticism for freshness while growing into a restaurant group with over 30 locations. In Boston, we offer guests multiple dining experiences with our additional concepts, like our 20,000-square-foot flagship Legal Harborside, our Italian-influenced Legal Oysteria, our Asian-influenced Legal Crossing and our late-night lure, Legal Test Kitchen.”

Boston behind the wheel

Brick-and-mortar locations aren’t the only seafood grub hubs available in Boston, of course. For those diners on the move, there’s the Cod Squad food truck, which travels throughout the city delivering clam chowder, fried calamari, crab cake sandwiches, tuna melts and more to hungry consumers in the heart of Beantown.

“We move around through the week, but wherever we go, from Harvard to the Boston Public Library to the Innovation District, people just love it,” said Donna Raad, director of food truck operations for Captain Marden’s, the Wellesley, Massachusetts-based wholesaler, retailer and seafood restaurant responsible for creating the Cod Squad.

Despite its name, the Cod Squad food truck typically incorporates pollock into its recipes, including its most popular fish and chips dish. The truck also offers poached salmon, tuna and lobster on items such as its green salad. According to Chef Andrew Livingston, the truck’s current menu has been shaved down and optimized to fit Boston consumer tastes.

“We used to offer a lot of different menu items, but we pared it down once we figured out what everybody wanted, which was just fish and chips,” Livingston told SeafoodSource. “[The order is] two pieces of fish, about four ounces each, plus fries.”

Rising tide

Oysters remain a hot seafood item, both in Boston and the rest of North America, in 2017. Restaurants and raw bars such as Island Creek Oyster Bar and Row 34 have featured the shellfish in Boston for quite some time now. It makes sense, then, that a new player from up the coast would be eyeing the city for expansion.

Portland, Maine-based restaurant Eventide Oyster Co. has made a name for itself in the seafood foodservice sphere, with co-owners and celebrated chefs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley whipping up creative seafood-themed meals that have earned praise from prestigious publications including Eater, Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure. Big Tree Hospitality, the company behind Eventide and other hit Portland restaurants Honey Paw and Hugo’s, has been “actively involved” in acquiring a new restaurant space near to Fenway in Boston. The new location would go by the name “Eventide Fenway” and be located at 1321 Boylston Street, according to the company.

“We love the community of restaurants in Boston and we think that there is a great opportunity to bring our approach down here where there is a year-round population to feed,” the company said. “Portland is a tourist city, with a huge influx people visiting during the warmer months. Boston is also a prime location for getting the freshest seafood available: it is close enough to Portland that we still have access to the same amazing product we source at Eventide Oyster Co. and we are able to take advantage of Boston fish markets.”

Diners who visit Eventide Fenway can order some of the restaurant’s favorite dishes, including the Eventide Brown Butter Lobster Roll, but the dining experience will be new and exciting, explained Kat Leggett, account executive for Marlo Marketing, which represents Eventide.

“Eventide Fenway will offer a completely new dining experience. Guests will initially order their meal from a counter, but have the option to order more food through servers working the space should the craving strike,” Leggett said.

Pinch, poke

While originally a delicacy in Hawaii, poke is now a hugely popular trend nationwide, and it’s becoming a big draw in Boston. If you haven’t tried it yet, there are several new poke-themed restaurants in Boston worth checking out.

New Sushi, a new restaurant that just opened its doors in February on Cambridge Street, has been built to draw in the Downtown Boston lunch crowd, offering efficient on-the-go meals featuring sushi burritos and poke bowls.

New Sushi’s menu has six different signature burritos, according to Eater Boston, packed with either shrimp tempura, grilled chicken, tuna, salmon or avocado, and that are topped off with crab salad, onion crisps, sesame seeds and assorted sauces. The same protein options can also be applied to the restaurant’s salad or poke bowl offerings. The restaurant – which is open every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. – is the latest concept to come from local restaurateur Henderson Li, who is also responsible Nijiya, an all-you-can-eat sushi bar, and Hoshi-ya, another sushi hotpot based near Boston.

Li isn’t the only restauranteur to hop on the poke fad in Boston. Two restaurants touting the Hawaiian specialty, Manoa Poke Shop in Cambridge and Pokéworks in Davis Square, recently opened, and an application has been placed in to the City of Cambridge to build a Poke City restaurant where a coffee shop used to stand.

“With crudo menus nearly ubiquitous at Boston-area restaurants, and unique poke bowls available everywhere from Blue Ginger to Little Donkey to Dig Inn, it was only matter of time before we got our own poke-specific fast-casual spot,” reported Boston Magazine’s Jacqueline Cain in December 2016.

Pokéworks already has four locations nationally, including the one in Boston, as well as others in California, Washington and New York City. Eight more storefronts are planned for the future, coming to cities such as Chicago, Houston and Washington, D.C.

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