Boston, MA - The lobster roll is, of course, one of the quintessential New England foods. So quintessential that everyone has their own hidden gem — a zealously guarded secret taken to the grave. So quintessential that effulgent streams of turgid prose has been composed in its honor. So quintessential, it’s generally the first thing out-of-towners ask about when visiting for the city for the first time; only to look away with disbelief and horror when the answer is invariably “McDonald’s” (It’s sarcasm. And deliberately misguided advice. Or … is it?)
But what to do when your cravings strike up in the middle of winter?
Connecticut and Maine have a different constitution towards crustaceans. You typically don’t have to go far in either state to dive into your favorite briny delicacy—no matter what time of year. But Boston restaurants have been notoriously fickle in their offerings. No, it’s not just that old wives’ tale people tell you about avoiding shellfish in months which don’t with the letter “r.” That’s simply a marketing ploy, and not necessarily a very good one. You’d think with all the other risks people take in the middle of summer, eating a lobster roll in the middle of July would be the least of their worries...
But believe it or not, there’s still some holdouts in the greater Boston area unwilling to part with pinkish nuggets of offcoast goodness, regardless of the season. They may not be wildly plentiful; but they’re certainly out there. And they’re a perfect getaway from awkward family conversations and burned roasts alike.
1. Belle Isle Seafood
Belle Isle’s been serving both locals and gluttons since the late ‘70s; and despite rising to national prominence over the past few years with numerous national TV references and appearances, none but the foolhardy eat here. Not because the food is bad, or that it’s tucked away in a virtually nondescript industrial strip (that frankly, offers some of the nicest views of the inlet.) It’s because owner Jim Crostin insists on each lobster roll being stuffed with over a half pound of meat; a task none but the most dedicated would dare to try. Don’t expect to walk out of Belle Isle without making a mess; but do expect to walk out satisfied.
(Belle Isle Seafood is located at 1 Main St in Winthrop, and is open Monday - Thursday from 11:00 am - 8:00 pm, Friday - Saturday from 11:00 am - 9:00 pm and Sundays from 11:00 am - 8:00 pm. For more information,visit www.belleisleseafood.net)
2. Yankee Lobster Company
While Yankee Lobster’s primarily been known as a wholesaler and fishmarket, they’re not just a legacy business; they were one of the first restaurant spaces to move into the Seaport district after the redevelopment boom. You’re not going to find too much out of the ordinary; but what you will find is served fresh, prepared expertly and with substantial portions at affordable prices, alongside a small but handsome beer list in a no frills environment.
(Yankee Lobster Company is located at 300 Northern Ave in Boston, and is open Monday - Wednesday from 11:00 am - 8:00 pm, Thursday - Saturday from 11:00 am - 9:00 pm and Sundays from 11:00 am - 6:00 pm. For more information, visit www.yankeelobstercompany.com)
3. Neptune Oyster
The crowds at Neptune Oyster may seem like it’s impossible to get into; but with multiple “Best in Boston” awards for consecutive years as well chefs Daniel Karg and John Ross’s appearances in Food & Wine and Bon Appetit magazine, it’s not hard to see why. While Neptune specializes in innovative takes on regional classics, it’s the raw bar (an impressive multi tiered tableside offering available in two sizes) that commands the most attention.
(Neptune Oyster is located at 63 Salem St in Boston and is open Sunday - Thursday from 11:30 am - 9:30 pm and Friday - Saturday from 11:30 am - 10:30 pm. For more information, visit www.neptuneoyster.com)
4. Island Creek Oyster Bar
Located in the heart of Kenmore Square at the Hotel Commonwealth, Island Creek drew accolades early on; not least of which was for it’s famed Ethel’s Lobster Roll, featuring generous portions of chilled lobster between lightly toasted brioche. Equally tempting, however, are the lobster roe noodles, which comes with a hearty portion of grilled lobster, braised short rib and dusted with pecorino romano.
(Island Creek Oyster Bar is located at 500 Commonwealth Ave in Boston and is open Monday - Thursday from 4:00 pm - 11:00 pm, Fridays from 4:00 pm - 11:30 pm, Saturdays from 11:30 am - 11:30 pm and Sundays from 10:30 am - 11:00 pm. For more information, visit www.islandcreekoysterbar.com)