Humans have been eating oysters since the beginning of time, breaking open the lumpy gray shells to reveal the marvelous meat inside, only to slurp it down in seconds. Yet somehow I managed to make it 27 years without ever consuming the salty morsels. But that would change during my trip to Boston. And let me tell you :: these oysters were worth the wait.
Neptune Oyster is a Boston staple. The restaurant was recommended countless times, each and every time from someone with a glowing, glazed-over look in their eye. “Get the hot lobster roll,” they all told me. When a dish has the ability to induce a nostalgia-based food coma, you know it’s a must visit.
Located in Boston’s historic North End, Neptune Oyster is a tiny restaurant that seats about 30 people. We were told to expect a line, so we arrived a half hour before it opened (11:30 a.m.) to beat the crowd. A line had already formed, so we jumped on board. While we waited, men delivered the day’s fresh catch on hand carts, piles and piles of oysters, crab claws and lobster. It reminded me of waiting in line for two hours in Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market for breakfast sushi. When tourists and locals are willing to stand in line for hours, you know it’s going to be worth it.
Once inside, the crisp, clean restaurant was cozy with semi communal seating and a large bar to one side. A chalkboard displayed the day’s fresh catch and specials. A paper menu doubled as an ordering checklist, describing oysters and flavors. Blue Pool oysters, taste like lettuce, check; Katama Bay oysters, with aftertastes of buttered popcorn, check; Beausoleil oysters, flavor hints of champagne, double check.
We ordered hot lobster rolls, fresh lobster chunks bathed in butter and blanketed in a warm roll. It was heavenly. A light clam chowder, the milkiest version I’d ever tasted, arrived next, complete with fresh clams. We munched on fried clams, too. They were similar to calamari but less chewy and more savory.
We sipped mimosas (it was brunch-time, after all), we chatted with our tablemates and drooled over their food, we laughed and we enjoyed oyster after oyster. It was one of those meals that was perfect :: the atmosphere was picturesque, the vibe was energetic and the food was out-of-this world amazing. (Maybe that’s why it’s called Neptune Oyster?)
When I think back on my Boston trip, one of the memories that will stand out will be slurping oysters here on a beautiful Saturday morning surrounded by friends and friendly strangers.
Go to Neptune Oyster for :: The hot lobster roll. There’s a reason it’s famous! Note :: They don’t take reservations but will take your cell number and call you when your table is ready. Island Creek Oyster Bar, on the other hand, takes reservations and also has great oysters and amazing cocktails. (We went there, too!)