Boston brings on the oysters
Photo (above): BRIAN SAMUELS PHOTOGRAPHY
Boston’s preoccupation with oysters can be documented back to when the first settlers arrived in the area. New Englanders with an already strong penchant for the delicious shellfish were delighted to discover the abundance and size of their longtime favorite in hometown waters. By the mid-19th century, “oyster houses,” or “oyster saloons,” were popping up everywhere, attracting people from all economic classes yearning for a little taste of the old country.
As time went on, the once plentiful oyster beds of Boston were impacted by modern-day headaches like overharvesting, pollution and commercial shipping. As a result, oysters became more of an expensive delicacy, but never lost their appeal with local folk. Today, Boston oysters are more likely farmed than fished, but residents and visitors will not have to look far to find a top-notch oyster experience.
Start with the Union Oyster House for an iconic Boston experience that has stood the test of time, evolving from oyster saloon to modern-day oyster bar. Touted as America’s oldest restaurant, Union Oyster House opened in 1826 and proudly maintains it is as popular today as it was nearly two centuries ago.
High-quality oysters are always on the menu at Neptune Oyster Bar, consistently rated as one of Boston’s best seafood destinations. The small neighborhood restaurant is consistently busy, and no reservations are taken, but all agree it’s well worth the wait. Row 34, which does accept reservations, is gaining popularity for its interesting pairings of oysters and beer. At B&G Oysters, customers are getting in on the action by signing up for the restaurant’s popular oyster shucking class. The idea is to enjoy the oysters and champagne on site, and take away a t-shirt, shucking knife and a newfound talent. Master shucking instructor Ted Woo says patrons as young as 14 and as old as 85 have participated.
“It’s never too early or late to learn how to shuck,” says Woo, who is also B&G Oyster’s general manager.
As for the very Bostonian debate around whether shucking from the hinge or the bill is preferable, Woo says: “Here at B&G, we shuck from the hinge, but both ways work.” Thank goodness that’s settled!
Other oyster spots worth a visit include:
- Saltie Girl Seafood Bar, home to one of the largest tinned seafood collections in New England,
- Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar, offering a nightly raw bar and more than 250 premium whiskeys, and
- Marliave, the oldest chef-owned restaurant in Boston.