The historic Union Oyster House is located steps from Boston’s Freedom Trail and serves up authentic New England seafood and other tasty fare.
When I headed to Boston for work awhile back, I asked friends for recommendations on where to go, what to do and especially what to eat. One of the first I received was a recommendation to visit Union Oyster House (Thanks, Cate!).
As luck would have it, the kind folks behind the much-loved eatery invited me to drop in for a bite to eat. So I did, and loved it. And when I went back to Boston with my kids this past winter, I made a point to take them there too.
It’s always a good sign when I revisit a place I’ve been to for work.
Located steps from Fanieul Hall, Union Oyster House is the oldest continually operating restaurant in the United States. Since opening its doors in 1826, it’s served everyone from Daniel Webster to the Kennedy’s (yes, including President John F. Kennedy — who loved the place). Inside Union Oyster House, the booth favored by JFK now bears a sign illuminating it forever as “The Kennedy Booth.”
From the outside, the aged brick building (a National Historic Landmark) sits among other brick structures with a black and gold sign announcing “Ye Olde Union Oyster House.” And old is not something to be ignored — the historic building that houses Union Oyster House is so old that there are no records to document its construction. In other words, no one knows for sure when it was built or by whom since it predates Boston record keeping for that sort of thing.
What we do know for sure though is that Union Oyster House first opened in 1826 and has only had three owners — including the current ones, The Milano Family. The cuisine is classic New England, with an emphasis on seafood like Fresh Boston Scrod, Mussels Basque Style, Lobster Scampi and — of course — oysters.
You can spot the sign for Union Oyster House while standing in front of Faneuil Hall. Down a brick and cobblestone sidewalk, you enter the restaurant through the lower level where a bar and some seating area is. On my first trip, I was directed up a staircase to the quieter second floor with booths, tables and dark wood. It was a cozy atmosphere — one where I could picture sitting with friends for an afternoon meal or gathering with my family for a bite. When I returned with the kids, we were seated in a different part of the restaurant, on the first floor in an area I didn’t even notice the first time.
On both trips — the press trip, and our family vacation — we were greeted by friendly, knowledgable servers. On my first trip, I started with a Union Caesar Salad. With bright, crisp green lettuce leaves coated with just enough perfectly seasoned Caesar dressing, the salad was dotted with crunchy croutons, as it should be.
Oh, how I love Caesar salads.
Union Oyster House offers the option to add grilled chicken, crab cakes or other proteins to the Caesar salad as well, for a heartier meal.
Both times, I had the Fried Oysters — the first as a platter and the second on a roll. Over the years, I have tried fried oysters at numerous seafood-serving places throughout New England, and I usually love this meatier cousin of fried clams. But these are special. Big, meaty, juicy, tender oysters are fried to perfection with a well-seasoned coating. They’re served with surprisingly good fries and a decent coleslaw.
When I took my kids, my son had the fish and chips. The large portion of crisply coated fish was filling and well-cooked.
My daughter ordered a salad with shrimp, which she devoured.
High praise, folks.
Nearby on my first visit, another set of diners ordered the crab cakes, which looked big and stuffed with lump crab. Though I didn’t try them, they seemed to be a good choice as well — if looks and overheard satisfaction are any indication.
If You Go:
This restaurant, located steps from Boston’s Freedom Trail, is a great stop for any Boston visitors including families. The children’s menu includes standard fare like Fried Chicken Tenders and Mac & Cheese but also several options for fish lovers — like Fried Fish Fillet and Fried Clam Plate. Children’s menu prices range from $5.95-$8.95) and entree prices at lunch are $9.95 and up (though soups and salads are less).
Union Oyster House
41 Union St.
Boston, MA 02108
Disclosure: As a blogger, the FTC requires me to disclose that I was provided a free meal by this restaurant on my first visit. However, I wasn’t asked to write about it and all opinions expressed (as well as the decision to write this blog post) are entirely my own. And I returned with my children on our own, and paid, for our second visit.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.