Shucking and cracking its way to seafood immortality since 1630.
Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler
Give us a top line view this place?
Legal Harborside, the 20,000-square-foot Seaport District flagship of the iconic 70-year-old Legal Seafood empire, makes it its mission to be all things to all New England seafood lovers. Opened in 2011, the restaurant holds not just one dining destination but a trio of them, one each on three floors. There’s an all-day casual spot at street level, more formal and elevated cuisine above, and a rooftop bar and lounge up top.
What's the crowd like?
The first floor is a bustling and lively melting pot: families, business people who work in the increasingly corporate Seaport, tourists, art-lovers from the nearby Institute of Contemporary Art, concert-goers prior to shows at the music pavilion next door, and neighborhood locals. The quieter, more refined upstairs area draws a mix of business types at at lunch and special-occasion havers at dinner. The rooftop—with its two decks, retractable roof, and glass walls—transitions from a middle-aged crowd to younger professionals as the night goes on.
Take us to the bar to start—what should we order?
The first floor’s most notable offerings are probably the list of proprietary wines, created by noted winemakers just for the restaurant. You’ll also find a good selection of beer and craft cocktails. On the second floor, it’s all about the 80-plus bottle wine list, mostly from family-owned wineries. The high-end spirits list focuses on whiskeys and cognacs. The rooftop gives you some of Legal’s most popular wines and a few proprietary ones, as well, again, beer and cocktails—including seasonal frozen and by-the-pitcher concoctions.
On to the seafood. Give us the lowdown—especially what not to miss.
The oysters (12 daily varieties) and shellfish platters are where it’s at on the first floor, along with a few other signatures: the white-clam pizza (nice to share as an app), the Portuguese seafood stew, the Poor Man’s Surf and Turf (a stuffed quahog clam and a grilled hotdog), the baked cod, and, for dessert, the Boston cream pie. The elevated menus on floor two change seasonally, but one perennial favorite is the shrimp cocktail, served in an ice globe. The grilled swordfish chop (a bone-in slice of the collar) is a rare delicacy—get it if it's available. The seasonal lobster preparations also deserve mention.
And how do the front-of-house folks treat you?
Service starts out casual and folksy on the first floor and gets more formal as you head upstairs. This place is busy (and feels it), and it takes a cast of hundreds to keep it running.
What’s the real-real on why we’re coming here?
Those after something particularly special should check out the monthly wine dinners, each highlighting a particular winery, whose owner or winemaker usually attends the event. During the summer, check out the schedule of the Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion, a concert venue next door. One oft-overlooked option though: The rooftop in cooler months. There’s a fireplace in the glass-enclosed space to keep things cozy. And