Quality seafood in coastal America is nothing new: the Gulf has its shrimp and Maryland its crabs, Maine lobsters are known the world over, and the name Wellfleet is more synonymous with oysters than it is a Cape Cod town. As the coastal hub of New England, Boston has become well versed in the best of all seafood: local shacks and gourmet menus alike serve the best fried clams and cod to be found anywhere and no matter the market price, the lobster roll is always the best choice. Strong as these staples are, why settle for the standards in a city where the seafood is as diverse as the ocean is deep? If you’re looking to break well below the surface, pay a visit to one of these five unique Boston seafood restaurants.
While Boston’s most traditional seafood meal is Atlantic Cod cooked up in one way or another, most anybody who has ever cast a lure into the coastal waters knows that cod is not what’s going to be reeled in: what they’re most likely to hook is a bluefish or a scup (pictured). Often dismissed by restaurants for its uniformly oily palate and texture, bluefish nonetheless hold a nostalgic taste for locals who grew up cooking their summertime catch. Nobody in the city (aside from everybody’s grandpa) brings that flavor alive better than Mooncusser, which throws aside culinary norms to bring a bluefish entrée that tastes as if it was just pulled from the Vineyard Sound, fired on the grill out back, then delivered to your plate in Back Bay.
Cartoons, sitcoms, and general pop culture have long been at work indoctrinating the dining public against anchovy pizza. Besmirched as the combination has become, don’t let the trope turn you off entirely from seafood on pizza until you order a pie from Harvard Square’s Waypoint. With an Everything Bagel Pizza loaded with more whitefish spread and capers than a Brooklyn bakery, and the Chopped Clam Pie as green and salty as a tidal marsh, Waypoint is redefining what a seafood pizza can be.
If Waypoint’s pizza has opened your mind to the possibilities of the anchovy, skip the pizza topping and go straight for the source. Tucked down a side road off Downtown Crossing, haley.henry is a wine bar specializing in tinned fish. These aren’t your grandpa’s canned oysters; haley.henry’s menu is a carefully cultivated collection of the finest tinned, jarred, and canned seafood found across New England and the world. Pair these preserved specialties with the expertly curated wine collection and you’ll enjoy one of the most unique seafood nights out in Boston.
With its origins in the less than salty Boston suburb of Newton (a town where painted houses and SUVs dot the horizon instead of white lighthouses and sails), Shaking Crab is an unlikely hero on the Boston seafood scene. In the style of a New Orleans crab boil, shellfish are cooked in a pot of spice-infused broth. Once tender, the reddened creatures are dropped in a plastic bag along with one of their Cajun, Asian or Spanish sauces, and shaken until thoroughly soaked through with the spice. Rip open those bags on the table, tie on the bib, and use your hands to tear into one of the most delicious meals the ocean has to offer.
Sumiao Hunan Kitchen
Though the Atlantic occupies nearly 100 percent of the Bostonian maritime mind, there are plenty of reminders throughout the city that it's not the only ocean. Across the Charles River in East Cambridge, Sumiao Hunan Kitchen is one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in the city, drawing the menu from traditional Hunan style cuisine. Drawn up from the depths of the Pacific, Sumiao Hunan Kitchen offers rarities like Conch and Coral Shrimp; the kinds of exotic dishes New Englanders haven’t eaten since their ancestors restocked their supplies while hunting down whale out west.