37 essential seafood restaurants in the Boston area

From oyster bars to classic summer shacks.

Oak and Rowan
Spaghetti with lobster at Oak + Rowan. –Photo by Katie Noble

Here in New England, the waters provide a seafood bounty for chefs, and the proof is on the plate at Boston restaurants. From innovative takes on old favorites to refreshing ceviches to, even, tinned fish, customers can find dishes that are completely outside the box.

The classics

Atlantic Fish Company
New Chef Dan Billo brings a fresh perspective to the fish at this Boston standby. With catch coming straight from local harbors every morning since 1978, Atlantic Fish Co. prints a new menu daily for regulars and visitors alike at the restaurant’s prime Back Bay location. Lobster is also featured prominently here with lobster pesto pappardelle, lobster ravioli, fra diavolo, and lobster fried rice with soy, shrimp, and sriracha. (761 Boylston St., Boston)

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Durgin-Park
Ipswich clams, Atlantic salmon, and ale-steamed steamers all come served with a side of attitude at Durgin Park, where the waitstaff is encouraged to be as salty as the waters from which its fresh seafood is plucked. One of the city’s (and country’s) oldest restaurants also specializes in comfort-food classics like prime rib, and the same menu is served along with some hard-to-find beers in the Hideout basement bar. (340 North Market St. in Faneuil Hall, Boston)

Legal Harborside. —Chip Nestor

Legal Sea Foods
This New England institution is where the White House has called for its clam chowder for every presidential inauguration since Reagan’s first, but the menu reaches far beyond that at more than 35 Legal locations, including Legal Test Kitchen and Cambridge’s relatively new Legal Fish Bowl. Whether it’s classics like baked Boston cod or grilled Atlantic scallops, Atlantic lobsters or surf ’n’ turf, lobster rolls or raw tuna sashimi, there’s perhaps no more well-known dining destination for the region’s most famous export. (35 locations)

Union Oyster House
Over the years — almost two centuries’ worth — countless kids have come in here for the gleeful-but-perverse experience of picking a lobster to cook from the large tank near the entrance. Owing to its prime spot on the Freedom Trail and reputation for foreign guests, your oyster shucker at the front bar facing the street’s picture windows has learned how to say hello in almost every language including Japanese, Russian, and French. Besides seafood, this National Historic Landmark as one of the United States’ oldest continually running restaurants also serves up a hearty helping of slow-roasted baked beans in clay pots. (41 Union St., Boston)

Add these to your lineup

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Il Pesce
Eataly credits itself as one of the greatest recreations of Italy on this side of the pond, and Il Pesce in Boston is one reason why. Padella di mare marries the best of the Bay State with The Boot, an Italian clambake served family-style with grilled Massachusetts lobster and shrimp, wild Chatham mussels and clams, and a pan-roasted fresh white fish in saffron broth. Prix fixe lunches include Barbara Lynch’s Boston Bibb salad with creamy Parmigiano dressing. (800 Boylston St. in Eataly at the Prudential Center, Boston)

Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar
Southie meets south of the border at Loco. On the taco menu, try blackened swordfish with mango and jicama salsa, crispy calamari in black tortillas, grilled mahi-mahi with spicy pineapple aioli, or grilled shrimp with chimichurri. Myriad tequilas are ripe for pairing with ceviches and the raw bar, including tuna crudo tostada, oyster ceviche, and fluke crudo with horseradish and orange. (412 West Broadway, South Boston)

Mooncusser
At Mooncusser, the menu changes daily with the freshest catch, but whole-roasted fish is almost always on the menu. —Photo by Brian Samuels

Mooncusser Fish House
This new destination is truly three concepts in one. The treehouse-like upstairs Mooncusser emphasizes local, sustainable, and seasonal catches in an elegant, intimate space. Chef Carolyn Johnson plates striped bass in July and Cape Cod scallops in December with pizzazz and panache. On the first floor, Moon Bar offers a 30-seat triangular bar with casual walk-in service for chowder and lobster rolls. During weekday lunch hours, you can stop by for the spot’s North Shore-style Cusser’s Roast Beef and Seafood, complete with a takeout window. (304 Stuart St., Boston)

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Oak + Rowan
By land or by sea, Oak + Rowan hits it out of the park with environs that share a lot with its Newburyport restaurant siblings Ceia and Brine. Check out one of Boston’s few caviar menus, or try interesting takes on classic dishes like trout pastrami (pumpernickel blini, beets, cabbage, gribiche sauce), clam and pork chowder, and farfalle with mussels and lamb nduja, a spicy spread from Calabria. (321 A St., Boston)

Ostra
The name means “oyster” in Spanish, but the menu reaches far beyond, showcasing the best of the Mediterranean and U.S. Check out Rhode Island-style crispy calamari, Alaskan king crab, and international caviars from Israel, Germany, and Italy. (1 Charles St. South, Boston)

Peach Farm
The essence of seafood is freshness, and Chinese food afficionados swear by Peach Farm, especially when it comes to dishes like clams in black bean sauce, steamed or fried flounder, spicy salted squid, and lobster or crab with ginger and scallions. Pick out your own from the live seafood tank, or simply choose a “chef’s speciality.” Service is quick, and the hours are late, a rarity in Boston. (4 Tyler St., Chinatown)

Pescatore
Tucked away in Ball Square, this is the place you take Grandma for an early Sunday dinner — expect affordable prices, a welcoming atmosphere, and only a few tables. Calamari, Cape Cod littlenecks, and frutti di mare with homemade pasta beckon. An intimate outside seating area is open seasonally. If you can’t make it in, the takeaway menu offers most of the same popular feasts. (158 Boston Ave., Somerville)

Seafood stew at Porto. —Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Porto
James Beard Award-winning Chef Jody Adams puts on a show at Porto with dukkah-crusted tuna tartare and harissa-tinged squid ink campanelle. Mediterranean spices and flavors rule here, where a raw bar and patio evoke the best of climes in summer. For the worst of climes in winter, check out the hearty seafood stew with mussels, lobster and harissa aioli, and seared halibut with spicy curried lentils. (Ring Road, Boston)

Rincon Limeño
Peru’s long coastline means fresh catch is at the front and center of most menus. That’s no different at Rincon Limeño in East Boston. Don’t expect too many frills, but it is all thrills here with two extensive pages of mariscos (seafood). The varied menu includes chicharron with pescado, deep-fried fish tips with yucca, ceviches, and whole fried snapper. (409 Chelsea St., East Boston)

Row 34
A hoppin’ wraparound raw bar? Check. One of Boston’s most on-point selections of craft beers on draft? Yep. An outdoor patio from which to enjoy oyster platters, Maine crab cakes with shaved fennel and pickled chilis, plus a great cross-breeze? But of course. (383 Congress St., Boston)

Turner’s Seafood
Plucked from the waters of Gloucester daily, the fresh fish at this market and restaurant (with locations in both Melrose and Salem) is the kind for which even city dwellers venture out to by car or commuter rail. Don’t miss the fried buffalo-spiced scallops, signature stuffed clams, or Nana Turner’s stuffed cod cakes served with Boston baked beans. (506 Main St., Melrose; 43 Church St., Salem)

Chopped clam pizza, parsley, peperoncino, pecorino at Waypoint. —Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Waypoint
At Waypoint, Chef Michael Scelfo of Alden & Harlow presents a menu highlighting his time on both the East and West Coasts. You’ll find seafood served in surprising ways, like atop pizza (chopped clam), on toast (caviar), and in dumplings (pork and crab). (1030 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge)

The oyster club

Aqua Pazza
At one of the North End’s newest restaurants, crudo, a raw bar, and ceviche complement a menu of house-made pastas and panzanella salads, and most items are made for easy sharing. You may not want to, though. Imagine: mouthwatering seafood arancini, razor clam carbonara, and Maine lobster with charred vegetables and “crazy water” broth poured tableside. (135 Richmond St., Boston)

B&G Oysters
Barbara Lynch’s take on the oyster bar marries local bivalves with the appropriate wines, taking the guesswork out of the experience for diners. The menu comprises half seasonal and half classic, year-round dishes. Try lobster bisque or crispy branzino with citrus and fennel, or feel free to put those elbows on the table for a toothsome lobster BLT with crispy fries, bread, and butter pickles. (550 Tremont St., Boston)

A dozen assorted oysters at Island Creek Oyster Bar. —John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe

Island Creek Oyster Bar
Don’t have time to head down the Cape? Then head to the Fenway (or Burlington) to find Duxbury, Plymouth, Barnstable, and many, many oysters at Island Creek, a sultry, semi-industrial space perfect for a first date. Aphrodisiacs aside, there’s a solid cocktail program; creative mains like monkfish schnitzel with mustard spätzle, bacon, and brown butter cauliflower; and sides like roasted cauliflower with coriander and anchovy. (500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston; 300 District Ave., Burlington)

Mare
You’re a fan of surf ’n’ turf? Head to Mare, which serves a selection of mouthwatering savories like wild boar pappardelle to complement the seafood menu. Singular seafood options include truffle-encrusted tuna, Mediterranean sardines gratinate, and lobster spring rolls. Don’t miss out on the sleek outdoor patio with couches and fire pits. (3 Mechanic St., Boston)

Neptune Oyster
At Neptune Oyster, the best of Wellfleet, Chilmark, and Cotuit are front and center at the raw bar. Be ready to wait, though — this past September, People magazine named Neptune the most popular restaurant in Massachusetts. For the best of land and sea, try the Neptune Burger, served with fried oysters, cheddar, and garlic mayo. (63 Salem St., Boston)

North Square Oyster
Find Instagram-ably composed oysters in this airy space just steps away from the Paul Revere House. The large picture windows will make all the difference for snapping your photos. Of course, plates like salmon crudo and tuna tartare are just as picture-worthy, and every bit as delicious as they look. Those with heartier appetites can check out the baked stuffed lobster, clambake, or fried cod sandwich. (5 North Square, Boston)

Select Oyster Bar
Mussels at Select Oyster Bar. —Photo by Brian Samuels

Select Oyster Bar
Mediterranean seafood is the specialty at Select, where the wine list shines as brightly as its Back Bay townhouse environs. The casual bistro spotlights crudo, ceviche, and local shellfish, but if you want to go all out, check out the party perfect plateux, $105-plus towering platters heaped with oysters, caviar, dressed lobster, and crab salad. (50 Gloucester St., Boston)

Sushi & ceviche

Cafe Sushi
Cafe Sushi’s storefront is anything but fancy — the menu, however, is a different story. Innovative rolls such as the salmon-avo aburi maki have unique touches and flavors like spicy snow crab with oshinko and marinated eggplant with seared avocado and ponzu that punctuate the plate in a rainbow of colors, flavors, and layers. Harvard Square restaurants may come and go these days, but this one’s been around since 1984 — the unparalleled sushi is the reason why. (1105 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge)

Kinmedai sashimi at O Ya. —Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

O Ya Sushi & Omakase
The sushi part of O Ya’s name is self-explanatory, but omakase is a bit of an adventure: In Japanese, it means, “I leave it up to you” — aka a chef’s whim tasting. Dishes are seasonal and vary based on the daily catch, but expect sashimi like bluefin chutoro with charred Korean longpepper and grapefruit ponzu, and somen noodles with onsen egg and spicy yuzu broth. (9 East St., Boston)

Puro Ceviche Bar
This ceviche bar with Latin soul features vibrant art and murals. What’s on the plate packs a punch, too. Raw seafood options include crudo and ceviche, plus small- and entree-sized plates. Share panko-fried oysters or pan-seared Cajun-spiced shrimp tacos, or keep a salmon hamburger all to yourself. (264 Newbury St., Boston)

Uni
With Executive Chef/owner Ken Oringer and Executive Chef/partner Tony Messina’s pedigrees behind the menu at Uni, foodies really take note. Expect street food-inspired small plates like nigiri, sashimi, and makimono. Named for sea urchin, Uni serves plenty of that species with other surprising catches like hiramasa king fish and Spanish mackerel. There are hot plates like rock shrimp tempura and green-curry shrimp fried rice, too. (370A Commonwealth Ave., Boston)

Casual summer spots

The Barking Crab
Pair your lobster roll with a side of live tunes at one of the city’s most rollicking and laid-back outdoor spots. It’s also one of the few locations in the area where you can get your bib on for some Dungeness. For a taste of something local, opt for the Harpoon IPA-battered fish and chips or fried whole-belly Ipswich clams. (88 Sleeper St., Boston)

The Daily Catch
Sicilian-style pasta and seafood — and one of the best waterside views — await at the Daily Catch. Admire the vista from the (seasonal) deck or outside bar as you peruse a menu with homemade squid-ink pasta, lobster fra diavolo for one or two, and mussels or littleneck Siciliano, each with fennel, thyme, lemon, and grilled bread. (2 Northern Ave., Boston)

DryDock Cafe
Looking for a paper-napkin place to take your relatives or your out-of-town friends craving an authentic old Boston experience? DryDock is the place, with broiled haddock, broiled salmon, or broiled swordfish. All are served with two sides of your choice — standards include french fries, rice pilaf, and coleslaw. (7 Drydock Ave., Boston)

Eventide's brown butter lobster roll.
Eventide’s brown butter lobster roll. —Zack Bowen/Knack Factory

Eventide Fenway
Old-schoolers may swear by the mayo-covered lobster roll, but Eventide turns the tide on that with its brown-butter lobster roll. Or try a new spin on seafood soup with an earthy Maine lobster stew featuring coconut, maitake, sweet potato, and saltines, or delicate crudos like hamachi with ginger and salted cherry blossom — all dishes that hit it out of the park right near Fenway. (1321 Boylston St., Boston)

James Hook + Co.
Standards like classic “lobsta” bisque and New England clam “chowda” await near the bridge between the Seaport and Financial District, where you might want to wait until payday for indulgent feasts at this little hole-in-the-wall. Go for whole-cooked lobsters or $25 lobster mac ’n’ cheese, or buy some seafood wholesale to try your hand at cooking the daily catch yourself. (440 Atlantic Ave., Boston)

Luke’s Lobster
Those who can’t decide have nothing to fear at Luke’s, where you can enjoy the best of three worlds with Luke’s Trio: half a lobster roll, half a shrimp roll, and half a crab roll. There are also dishes for vegetarians, like the seasonal Two Flannels Warm Grain Bowl — that can be topped with a split lobster tail, of course. For true comfort food, don’t miss out on the lobster bisque or clam chowder bread bowls. (75 Exeter St., Boston; 290 Washington St., Boston; 53 Northern Ave., Boston)

Summer Shack
You can get lobster year-round at Summer Shack cooked in any number of ways, including with bourbon, chervil, or chives. Fried favorites put a spin on tradition with a buffalo-spiced option for Gulf shrimp, or check out the cornbread-battered oysters. (50 Dalton St., Boston; 149 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge)

Yankee Lobster Company
The more things change in the neighborhood, the more they stay the same at this little fish market and lobster roll stand, which has seen the phenomenal growth of the Seaport rise all around it. Step back in time here and tuck into a blackened tuna sandwich; a Yankee fish sandwich with cheese, bacon, and coleslaw; or a lobster roll, served traditionally or with the crustacean fried. (300 Northern Ave., Boston)

Tinned fish

Haley.Henry
Portuguese sardine board with potato chips at Haley.Henry. —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff

Haley.Henry
Choosing from the array of tinned fish at Haley.Henry is a good conversation starter while enjoying a glass from the extensive wine list at this newish Downtown Crossing gem (blink and you’ll miss it walking by). There’s also a daily ceviche and daily crudo on the short menu good for sharing. (45 Province St., Boston)

Saltie Girl
Those who frequent Portugal and Spain are already familiar with the delicacies of fish in a tin — average Bostonians, however, perhaps not so much. Saltie Girl is changing all of that, with anchovies, sardines, and octopus served on artisan bread with house-churned sea salt butter, all before a stunning azulejo tile backdrop reminiscent of the Old Country. The menu also features fried lobster and waffles with sweet corn butter and spicy maple syrup (not just on the brunch menu!). (281 Dartmouth St., Boston)