Informed Edibles: Belle Island Seafood, Boston
Want to know a surefire cure for crabbiness? Lobster. I ended up at Belle Island Seafood after a series of failed dining attempts. I was not in a good mood– tired and hungry, frustrated and stressed out. I’d been traveling for work for days. I wanted comfort but felt uncomfortable. In short, I was in a bad, bad place. But my meal at Belle Island Seafood changed all of that.
My visit to the Boston area was very brief. I flew from Texas–where I was working–to Boston on Sunday afternoon to attend a training on Monday. After my training Monday, I booked a near-the-airport hotel for Monday night before an early flight to Chicago the following day. It was the least amount of time I’ve ever spent in an area to which I traveled via plane, and I didn’t really have that much free time to make the most of. But when has that ever stopped me?
As soon as I landed in Boston, I had the burning desire to find a little seafood shack by the water and order a lobster roll. I started googling ‘seafood shacks near Boston Logan’ before I even got off the plane. I ended up driving as far as Marblehead, where I located a bunch of windy roads, no parking, and a few mexican restaurants–but no seafood; at least not anywhere I could locate while navigating the windy streets and using my iPhone for directions. Having not eaten in over 24 hours at this point, I ended up at a Legal Seafoods located in…a mall. I can’t tell you how sad that made me.
But I still wanted a New England-y seafood shack experience. So for the duration of my short visit, I continued to be on the lookout for one.
When I say that I found Belle Island the old fashioned way, I am not exaggerating.
I saw Belle Island Seafood while driving into Winthrop on my second and final night in town. It looked like just the kind of place I was hoping for–clearly on the water, clearly offering seafood. But I didn’t stop because it was still early, I was tired from driving, and I just wanted to check into my hotel and get some work done while I still had the energy. Plus I wasn’t sure if it was simply a seafood market–selling only uncooked, take home and make it yourself items–or a proper restaurant.
The woman at the hotel–which was located in a neighborhood near absolutely nothing–suggested I walk down to the local Italian place for dinner. Because I was not enthusiastic about moving my car, I chose to to take her advice.
It was bad advice.
After walking what was far more than three blocks, I was unable to be seated due to the fact that I was a solo diner (and all of the little tables were occupied by couples; they only had huge family style tables available). Additionally, the Italian place was BYOB, and I had no plans to purchase an entire bottle at the store down the street. I love dining alone 99% of the time. Before this Italian place, I would have said 100%.
So I left without dinner.
When I returned to my hotel, I asked the woman at the desk for another restaurant suggestion. She gave me–I am not making this up–a phone book. Yes, they still make them. And I paged through the phone book, searching for anything that was not Italian or Chinese. And I found the listing for Belle Island, which answered my question–yes, they are a restaurant not just a fish market. And yes, they serve wine. Those were my only two requirements, so off I went.
–Value. 9 out of 10. Value is all about quality for the cost. I ordered a cup of clam chowder, a lobster meat roll (as opposed to lobster tail roll, which is more expensive) and a glass of chardonnay; the bill came to $32. As this was, hands down, the best lobster roll I’ve ever had, I’d call that a pretty great value.
The soup was creamy and salty, filled with huge clams and, even better, large pieces of bacon. It was hot and brought out to me right away–which I appreciated, starving as I was. The lobster roll itself was a sight to behold; a full half pound of lobster meat very lightly dressed in mayo–that’s it. Nothing was really holding it together other than the pressure of being smashed down onto the little roll that didn’t even attempt to contain it. The majority of the meat was tail meat. I know this because I ended up eating more than half of it with a fork; there was simply no way to pick it up, mounded with lobster as it was. The roll–which was mostly flattened under the mountain of meat–was buttered and grilled. In case that wasn’t enough, a side of onion rings was included in the meal; they were piping hot and crispy, as everything at Belle Island Seafood is made to order.
If you are not a lobster roll person–or if you want an even better value–you have other options. I watched people negotiate giant heaping plates full of every kind of fried seafood; the fried clam strip dinner was $13 and definitely contained enough food to feed two people. Next time I return, I will try to make myself order the fried scallops. I love fried scallops. But I will be hard pressed to turn down that lobster roll. Really. It is the stuff of New England dreams.
-Convenience. 8 out of 10. I don’t know why Belle Island did not come up in my desperate while-disembarking-the-plane search for ‘seafood shacks near Logan airport’ or ‘best seafood outside of Boston’ (among other desperate Google searches I made while navigating my way through the terminal and on the rental car shuttle). If you are flying into Logan and you have a car, this should be your first stop. It is maybe ten minutes from the airport, requires driving through exactly zero tunnels (I hate tunnels; Boston is not the city for me), and has somewhat ample parking, depending upon the time of day (it was rather packed when I visited at 7pm on a Monday night). The loss of two convenience points is due to the following: it is a counter service restaurant, so you have to stand in line to order. Additionally, they only take cash–though there is an ATM in the vestibule.
-Uniqueness. 9 out of 10. For me, this place is unique. If you are from the Boston or coastal New England area, maybe not so much. But to me, being able to sit at a table overlooking a harbor filled with boats while eating fresh seafood–that’s pretty unique. I certainly can’t do that anywhere at home in Pennsylvania.
-Healthfulness. 4 out of 10. There’s no way this food can be good for you. But who cares? It was amazing. I’ll be healthy some other day.
I’m thankful for all of the mistakes and inconveniences that occurred which brought me to Belle Island Seafood. The next time I fly into Logan, it is the first place I’m stopping. It may well be the last place I stop before I leave, too.
Belle Island Seafood is located at One Main Street in Winthrop, Massachusetts. It is immediately on the right when crossing over the bridge. In traffic, it may take you 15 minutes to get there from Boston Logan. It is totally worth it. In fact, it is the only thing that made me get over the experience of driving into (and then out of) Boston during rush hour traffic.
Disclosure: I was not hosted by Belle Island Seafood, nor did they know I was going to write this. I’m sure they thought me odd, snapping iPhone shots of their food. Sorry, Belle Island Seafood. It was too good not to photograph.