Union Oyster House – Boston’s Oldest Restaurant, and Still One of the Best

Do you love historic restaurants with lots of ambiance and great food?  If so, you’ll want to try Union Oyster House in Boston, located right around the corner from the historic Freedom Trail in one of the oldest parts of the city.  This beloved restaurant opened in 1826 and occupies a building that was built sometime in the 1740s, roughly 30 years before the American Revolution.  Best of all, it’s still one of Boston’s top seafood restaurants. 

Union Oyster House, originally named the “Atwood and Bacon Oyster House” after its founders, opened as part of an oyster obsession swept across the American Colonies.  A New York restaurant had began serving oysters in 1763, and Colonists could not get enough of them.  Oyster restaurants and bars became trendy, opening everywhere. Although most of the others closed long ago, Union Oyster House continues to satisfy Bostonians’ love for oysters and other fresh seafood.  In addition to now being Boston’s oldest restaurant, it is also the oldest restaurant in continuous operation in the U.S.

What should you sample here?  Well, the restaurant has so many things on its extensive menu that you’ll have a hard time choosing, but a good place to begin is with its speciality: oysters and clams on the half shell.  Try a half dozen of the native oysters, or the Cape Cod cherrystones or littlenecks.  If that all sounds so good that you can’t choose, order the cold seafood platter, which also includes shrimp – or even better, the hot oyster house sampler for 2 which includes grilled oysters, baked stuffed clams, oysters Rockefeller, clams casino, and shrimp scampi. 

Other types of “samplers” are also available – clams casino, yummy grilled oysters (if you’re not too sure about the raw form, try these), and best of all, a platter with a crab cake, fish cake, and lobster cake served over greens with an out-of-this-world roasted red pepper dressing.  If you’re thinking that sounds like a meal in itself, you’re right – but put that thought aside because you don’t want to miss out on the other great selections here.

If you ate too much from the raw bar and can’t manage a full meal, you could compose a great dinner by ordering a bowl of the fabulous clam chowder or oyster stew and a fish sandwich.  Add on steamers (clams) or mussels steamed in garlic and wine if you can still manage to eat another bite.

I must warn you, though – once you see the platters of main courses emerging from the kitchen, you will wish you’d skipped the starters.  Union Oyster House is one of the best places in Boston to order whole live lobsters prepared by either boiling or broiling.  The menu offers many other seafood options – shrimp, clams, sole, scallops, native swordfish, scrod, salmon, plus the catch of the day – fried, grilled, or broiled. 

In additional, you’ll find many other special lobster dishes such as Lobster Newburg, Lobster ravioli, and a Bouillabaise seafood medley.  A particularly memorable offering is the spectacular Shore Dinner – lobster plus all the traditional sides.  If you want to try a little of everything, go for one of the seafood platters. 

After all of the seafood, you may not have room for dessert – but if you do, the Boston cream pie is very good at Union Oyster House.  But if you can’t manage even a bite, don’t worry – just plan to come here again.