The Good & Bad About Birthday at Legal Seafoods Chestnut Hill

We were shopping around for a venue for my birthday dinner close to Boston this week. Our hearts were set on raw oysters and Oysters Rockefeller. I looked online and researched the Summer Shack, Island Creek (only open in Burlington), and Legal Seafoods among others. Seeing that most prices were similar – and opting for free parking, we settled on Legal Seafoods Chestnut Hill and made an appointment to sit inside, the first time in months. We were giddy with anticipation.

Long story short: Great, enthusiastic service. Not so wonderful: Although oysters and raw clams were on the menu, we were told that they hadn’t had any in months. Why, then, do they continue to list them online and in person? Not a nice practice – especially since it was exactly what got us in the door. And no Oysters Rockefeller, too. (See above for the no oyster debacle).

Perhaps the current crop of raw oysters don’t meet their exacting standards. If that’s the case they should say so because each of us has found good oysters at other area restaurants both here in Boston and in Connecticut. So what gives? Darned if I know

The menu is severely truncated – which we absolutely understand due to Covid. Less predictable numbers of guests, less kitchen help. Perhaps less access to vendors. Dinner was fine: we shared a perfect Caesar salad. I opted for the cod with mashed butternut squash. My sister had the seafood casserole and our friend had the salmon teriyaki sandwich. They were all tasty and there was plenty to take home. Two plates also contained a forest of “steamed” broccoli. These cruciferous veg were a nanosecond away from raw and tough and barely cuttable. The stems hadn’t been trimmed and they were practically inedible. (We took them home, cooked them properly, trimmed the bases, and they were fine if still tough.)

I asked for the bartender to make me a “Deadrise” cocktail – which he did, and which hit the birthday spot: muddled cucumber, grapefruit bitters and gin.

Again, our young male server was attentive, VERY apologetic about the oysters, and charming. He explained that whereas they used to have a small cake or cupcake for birthdays, they didn’t have any of those anymore either. I had been hoping for a tiny cupcake with one candle. You don’t turn 73 every day!

We left generous tips but were also a bit disappointed by the meal. Perhaps it is all Covid related – I suspect it is. But restaurants also have an obligation to advertise honestly about their offerings and perhaps even acknowledge shorter menus. We’ll still patronize them. We just won’t have any disappointing surprises.Reminder: please include [City, Neighborhood] in your post title above. If the topic is about a specific eatery, please click the ‘Add Location’ button to enter the address, so your topic shows up in the Topic Map.

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You’re very gracious in your post. We all need more of your kind of civility as we dodge the land mines out here in battleground America.

Happy Birthday.

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Happy belated Birthday! Sorry to hear about the LS oyster debacle. Very disappointing when you
have your heart set on something and its not available.
Keep Row 34 on your radar for the next time. Pretty good raw bar offerings usually with 3-4 different oysters
Eventide as well but I have only eaten in the Portland ME location so not sure what Boston’s might be like.

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Island Creek has their own oyster farm, and we’ve had them recently. Seems a bit mysterious that
Legal would have supply problems.

I just love that you took the broccoli home and salvaged it! My kind of move.

I agree that in general restaurants have been less than stellar (okay, terrible) about accurate advertising. I know they have their hands full with adjustments to the current situation, but time and again we try to get information about something as basic as operating hours, never mind menus, and cannot. Winter Hill brewing company advertises that they’re open for dinner, with a delicious BBQ based menu appearing online. Since I don’t trust anyone anymore though, I actually emailed them because it wasn’t clear whether Sunday dinner was being served on the patio and whether reservations were taken. They responded promptly that yes, dinner was available, and we would have a choice of an egg salad wrap or a lamb curry and did we want a reservation or would we like to try another day? Huh??! No thanks.

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“Hadn’t had any oysters in months”? I find this shocking. What is Legal Seafoods without oysters? I have a hard time chalking this up to the pandemic. I’ve seen plenty of oysters on menus and stores. Heck, I’ve huge bags of fresh oysters delivered to our home from Island Creek.

If in their heyday, or even a few years back someone told me Legals one day would be in this shape, I would have not have believed it. I wonder how much longer they can (or should) hang on, covid or not.

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Bummer about the oysters, but happy birthday! And thanks for the report.

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I live near this place, and I haven’t really been able to suss out when exactly the BBQ people are there either. I’d like to try it, but given the lack of info and the fact that the beer there is kind of middling I’m not sure I ever will.

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We’ve eaten at the Chestnut Hill Legal’s a number of times, and I never much liked it. I had oysters there a couple of years ago, and thought that they weren’t up to the oysters I had in other Boston restaurants. I avoid Legal’s these days when I’m in Boston.

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A couple of years ago I ordered a Caesar salad with anchovies at Legal near the Aquarium. They had no anchovies. The waiter said they weren’t out of them, they just didn’t carry them. That left me speechless and I haven’t been to a Legal Seafood since.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold