Visitors to Boston often have a checklist of things they want to see and do, from walking the Freedom Trail to catching a game at Fenway Park. Another important itinerary item is enjoying the region's seafood, of which clam chowder, fish and chips, fried clams, and, of course, lobster are the stars.
Nina Senatore, guest experience ambassador at The Lenox Hotel, says, "I think the No. 1 thing we are known for is lobster rolls." She calls them one of "Boston's best inventions."
[Read: The Best Hotels in Boston.]
Fortunately, there are spots to indulge in lobster rolls, as well as other bounty from the sea, in almost every neighborhood in Boston. U.S. News got recommendations from local experts on where to go.
The Barking Crab
Suzanne Wenz, director of marketing communications and PR at the Taj Boston and Boston Park Plaza, says, "I would say if you want a super-casual, outdoor-picnic-table scenario, The Barking Crab is kind of quintessential, with lobster rolls and fried seafood."
The Barking Crab, located in the Seaport District, has been serving up seafood for more than 20 years in a lively, fun venue where patrons put on bibs to tuck into steamed lobsters. Seafood prices, especially for lobster and oysters, fluctuate daily, but appetizers like the hot crab dip or the chorizo-stuffed littleneck clams are $12. The Fisherman's Platter, a popular entree with fried clam strips, scallops, shrimp and haddock, is $31.
Local experts universally seem to praise Neptune Oyster in the North End. Keith Loveless, head concierge at The Langham, Boston, says, "I love Neptune on Salem Street," calling the food simply "incredible."
Both Wenz and Senatore give the lobster rolls at Neptune high marks. Senatore loves the "warm butter and beautiful brioche bun" that the lobster rolls are served in. Neptune's raw bar is a big draw, with a selection of oysters, clams, shrimp, octopus, crab claws and other seafood. The Maine lobster roll is $29. The house-specialty North End Cioppino, a spicy stew with shellfish, grilled fish and saffron rice, is $31.
Pauli's North End
Julianne Boyle, concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston, offers another opinion on lobster rolls: "The best lobster rolls are served at Pauli's North End restaurant," she says. "It is not a tourist hot spot or fancy in the slightest, but that's what makes Pauli's such a gem. The lobster is always incredibly fresh and overflowing from the bun."
[Read: 10 Boston Bars Locals Love.]
Also located on Salem Street, Pauli's serves up what might be Boston's largest lobster roll, the "Lobstitution," with an astounding 25 ounces of fresh lobster meat on a long sub roll. The price changes daily, but expect to pay roughly $70. The smaller 7-ounce version is about $18.
Yankee Lobster Co.
In business since 1950, Yankee Lobster Co. in the Seaport District started out as a fish supplier for restaurants and shops. Happily for seafood lovers, the wholesaler also has a restaurant, where crab cakes are about $14, clam chowder is about $5 and traditional lobster rolls are about $24.
Sara Flight, director of public relations at Mandarin Oriental, Boston, says, "Being a local, it's about authentic seafood. In the city, I would recommend the smaller countertop places like Yankee Lobster."
For a more upscale experience, Boyle says, "Ostra is the top seafood restaurant in Boston, in my opinion. The quality of food is unmatched, and the raw bar is incredible. Not only that, but the service and ambiance are top-notch."
Kim Weeks, guest ambassador at the Kimpton Marlowe Hotel, agrees, saying, "For high-end, a superb quality experience is Ostra in downtown Boston. It is amazing."
Located in the Back Bay, Ostra focuses on Mediterranean seafood dishes. New England coastal fish soup is a delicious starter for $18, and a popular entree is the "Valenciana style" paella, with bomba rice, saffron, Maine lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, octopus, squid, drumette confit and chorizo, for $48.
Boyle says, "Row 34 is a more casual, equally delicious favorite of mine. The food is fresh, and the ambiance is chic. It is the perfect date spot" if you're looking for a place that serves oysters, lobster rolls and quality draft beer.
Located in the Fort Point area of South Boston, Row 34 is the sister restaurant to Island Creek Oyster Bar (see below) and offers a wide selection of seafood dishes and beer. It's a lively and popular after-work spot, with raw oysters and calamari flying out of the kitchen. Lager-steamed mussels with scallion butter are a perfect appetizer at $15, and entrees include a special daily whole fish cooked how you like for $28, while beer-battered fish and chips are $18.
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Located in the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square, Island Creek Oyster Bar, named for the Duxbury Bay farm where the tasty oysters come from, is a wildly popular spot for seafood. Island Creek Oysters show up on menus all over town (and the country), so don't be surprised when you see them elsewhere.
[Read: 5 Top Breweries to Visit in Boston.]
The creative menu features dishes like oyster sliders and mussel toast, as well as classics like clam chowder, and fish and chips. The fish selection changes daily, but recent offerings have included herb-crusted cod, with fingerling potatoes, asparagus and Vidalia onions, for $36, and New Bedford sea scallops, with lentils, curry and pesto, for $36.
Loveless says, "If you're going to do waterfront dining, Legal Harborside is absolutely awesome."
The flagship of the renowned Boston seafood empire that is Legal Sea Foods is a three-story, 20,000-square-foot property right on the waterfront in the Seaport District. The first floor is a casual restaurant and bar, with an oyster bar and a market. The third floor offers the real showstopper, though, with a rooftop lounge that has a retractable glass roof and walls.
Signature dishes like New England clam chowder for $7.50, crab cake for about $17 and steamed lobsters (market price) are available on the first floor, while on the rooftop, sushi is the main focus of the menu.
To experience more of what Boston has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
15 Best Foodie Destinations in the USA
Dec. 4, 2018
You don't have to travel to a big city to experience nonstop Christmas fun.
Nov. 26, 2018
These family-friendly mountain resorts offer exceptional snow sports and activities for all ages.
Nov. 19, 2018
Get away to enjoy the views and activities at these properties around the world.
Nov. 13, 2018
See how cruise lines are raising the bar with tech-savvy touches and improved luxury experiences.
Nov. 13, 2018
Find out which lines will help you save big on your next cruise vacation.
Nov. 8, 2018
These tips can help you snap stunning and creative images without a fancy camera – or any experience.
Oct. 17, 2018
Play, learn and explore nature together during one of these fun autumn trips.