We are headed to Massachusetts next week to spend Christmas with my family and a night in Boston on the way back to the airport. A failed attempt to secure a reservation at Barbara Lynch's popular B&G Oysters (it's closed from the holiday through the 27th) reminded me of a total fiasco we experienced in August, when we were last up there. Since that was before I started this blog, I wanted to share as a warning to those looking for seafood in Boston.
We had not made reservations during that trip and planned to head to our favorite seafood spot, a tiny no-reservation restaurant in the North End, Neptune Oyster, where the signature dish is hot buttered lobster on a homemade brioche roll. But the crowds that the North End feast brought to the neighborhood that summer weekend made the wait over two hours. So instead we decided to head to No Name Seafood, a longstanding landmark on the Wharf. We had always said we were going to try this place when we lived there and somehow never got around to it. Which in retrospect we learned was a good thing.
If I had only one word to describe this restaurant, it would be gross. I expected this storied establishment to be New England-style rugged but not to inflict what should be board of health-worthy violations at every turn. We stood in line to wait for a table in a warehouse sized room with 70's furniture and with a mix of Russian tourists (maybe thanks to the plummeting value of the dollar?) and locals. We were seated at a sticky table (more on that in the following paragraph) and curtly greeted by an ancient waiter who could barely walk let alone serve. The poor guy must have been pushing 80, and was also responsible for busing tables.
Which brings me to the core issue. The typical cleaning of a table (which we mercifully took note of only after we ate) consisted of simply pushing shells and the liquid contents of steamed lobsters aside, and dumping the previous party's water pitcher into the new one. This made me want to throw up. Had we seen this before we ate, we would have guzzled our drinks high-tailed it out of there!
If you are still reading at this point, we came for lobster and got the traditional lobster/fried seafood menu item. At $28 a piece this was not cheap and the food was overall mediocre at best; while the lobster was tender and cooked just the way you want it to be, the fried seafood appetizers smelled--and tasted--like they had come out of a second-rate grocery store's freezer case. I should also mention that though they had beer taps, they had long ago stopped working. Draft beer seems like a staple when enjoying (or in this case, surviving) a New England seafood dinner.
So No Name should be a No Go if you happen to be in Boston. I'm sure it's in all the tourist guidebooks, but I am floored that it somehow manages to keep its reputation. You can get better and fresher seafood elsewhere in the city as well as sanitary conditions that aren't so unbearable.
As for next week's trip, we are hoping to have better luck at Neptune!