Top Seafood Spots
Local chefs dish up classic and inventive seafood on the North Shore.
Photo by Ren Fuller
There may be no better region for seafood than the North Shore. The historic hub of the New England fishing industry also boasts a strong culinary influence from the dozens of ethnicities that call Boston home. With so many choices for crudo or a perfectly cooked fillet, we’ve put together a selective list of some of the best places to get a classic or inventive dinner around the area.
The Market Annisquam
Dining at The Market feels like you’ve stumbled upon a closely held secret. Located on a narrow residential street in Annisquam, a twisty drive outside downtown Gloucester, the building facade reflects its local shop heritage, so you have to go around the side to find this seasonal restaurant open from May into October. The Market sits right on Lobster Cove, with a number of seats on the screened porch and more inside and at the bar. You’ll quite possibly rub elbows here, but it’s part of the charm as lovers of creative and locally sourced food make their way in. The menu consists of eight or so appetizers and mains each day. That would seem limited if they weren’t consistently good and reflective of the creative locavore ethos of the Alice Waters–inspired chefs. Kitchen open 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. every day but Tuesday, mid-May through mid-October.
33 River Rd., Gloucester, 978-282-0700
Photo by Elise Sinagra
Sea Level Salem + Newburyport
New this summer is a steady supply of Fat Dog oysters, farmed just north in Great Bay, New Hampshire. They’re optimally slurped in arguably the best seats in Newburyport—on Sea Level’s outdoor patio looking out over grassy Waterfront Park toward the yachts moored on the Merrimack River. The restaurant takes limited reservations for that outdoor space, says owner George Carey. If you can’t face the park, you still have good options—the front patio is perfect for people watching in the city’s always-popular Market Square, and the inside space is bright and welcoming. Take a selfie with chef Jennifer Normant—you know her from a couple of seasons of Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen, as well as from her deft preparation of dishes like baked scallops and the Baja taco, featuring lightly fried cod.
Open from 11:30 a.m. every day until late.
1 Market Square, Newburyport
978-462-8862; 94 Wharf St, Salem, 978-741-0555
Photo by Tony Scarpetta
Mission On The Bay Swampscott
This Swampscott gem is perched right on the water, offering a view of the Boston skyline in the distance. The view is good any time of day, whether you’re there for a lobster frittata during a weekend brunch, fried clams at lunch, or the blackened local catch of the day for dinner. The space was completely revamped to launch Mission on the Bay in 2016 and takes advantage of the view, with 100 linear feet of windows in the hip nautical-themed main dining room. For warm summer nights, there’s a vast open-air roof bar with its own food menu. The restaurant specializes in seafood and Brazilian-style meats, the latter reflecting the influence of owner Wellington Augusto’s native land. Open from 11:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m., Sunday-Thursday and 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday. Weekend brunch begins at 11 a.m.
141 Humphrey St., Swampscott, 781-691-9277
Photo by Brian DeMello
Gloucester + Wakefield
Bluefin tuna season is when Tonno shines, as it should, seeing as tonno is Italian for tuna. Chef-owner Anthony Caturano buys a couple of 200-pound fish a week across the street (literally) and uses them as the highlights of his menu. Bluefins in particular make great steaks, tartare, and crudo, he says. The Italian tradition of making flavorful and rich seafood dishes is on display as well, beyond tuna—the octopus, potato and black olive salad, cioppino fish stew, and cod oreganatta with leeks and potato are particularly good choices. The wine list has about a hundred selections and is especially good with wines from Napa and Tuscany. Bar open daily at 4 p.m.; kitchen open at 5 p.m. each day, closing at 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
2 Main St., Gloucester 978-879-4795, 175 North Ave, Wakefield
Photo by Tony Scarpetta
North Andover + North Reading
This North Andover seafood specialist has renovated its bar in time for summer, opening up the whole restaurant without eliminating the casually welcoming neighborhood feel. Joe Fish is popular with locals in part because it consistently does a superior job with fried seafood, making sure the fish is light and flaky and not too oily. Also well-loved are its backyard clambake packages, cooked and ready for pickup, says co-owner Jim Dietz. The menu has gotten a revamp for the summer, too, adding a focus on shareable small plates without eliminating the seafood mains that keep bringing people back. Reservations are recommended for weekends, but are not a must. Open from 11:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; open Sundays noon to 9 p.m.
1120 Osgood St., North Andover, 978-685-3663; 60 Main St. North Reading, 978-207-0357
Photo by Brian DeMello
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Island Creek is an oyster legend, having originated as an oyster farm in Duxbury in 1992. The Burlington Island Creek Oyster Bar is a recent addition to the bivalve empire, which runs three other well-regarded restaurants in Boston, Cambridge, and Portsmouth. The restaurant feels fresh and open, with a large picture window looking in on its walk-in fish cooler as well as huge windows looking outside. Start, of course, with oysters; there are around a dozen fresh daily from up and down the East Coast—including Island Creek, of course—and some notable northwest oysters on offer at times. The menu gives seafood lovers a wide range of choices, offering everything from crudo to steamed mussels, clams, and an impressive daily array of fresh fish. It’s hard to make a wrong choice, but we recommend you strongly consider including a crispy oyster slider in your order. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
300 District Ave., Burlington 781-761-6500
Photo by Scott Goodwin
This year-round waterfront eatery hums with the vibe of a classic New England seafood restaurant, not too formal to have a good time and not so relaxed that the quality of food or service gets short shrift. The fried clams won Readers’ Choice for Best of the North Shore last year. The menu is strong on pasta-based seafood, including lobster mac ’n’ cheese with fresh lobster, cheddar, and toasted crumbs, and salmon scampi with spinach and linguini, finished with a white wine butter sauce. Seaport Grille also does a great job with the lobster roll, offering plentiful meat that’s nicely flavored and avoiding the common pitfall of using too much dressing or over-buttering the roll. Open from 11:30 a.m. daily until 9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
6 Rowe Square, Gloucester 978-282-9799