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Phantom Gourmet: Row 34 In Boston’s Fort Point Neighborhood

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BOSTON – The freshest seafood, ice cold beer and a red hot neighborhood. With these ingredients, it’s no wonder Row 34 in Fort Point is one of Boston’s busiest new restaurants.

Row 34 bills itself as “the working man’s oyster bar.” Ever since it opened a few months ago, it’s been packed with customers feasting on fresh shucked shellfish, and sampling dozens of unique beers.

“What we are at the core of the restaurant is we’re an oyster bar,” said Chef Owner Jeremy Sewall. “It’s oysters, it’s fried clams, it’s fish and chips, it’s lobster rolls. It’s all those things that make a real New England oyster bar an oyster bar.”

Sewall loves seafood, so he made sure that the ocean’s bounty was on full display as soon as you step into Row 34. The restaurant boasts a large raw bar, and the oysters are some of the best in the city, as he described:

“Beautiful, nice, flat, well-shaped top shell. Nice deep cup on the bottom. Nice clean edges, beautiful looking oyster. And then when you open it, nice plump oyster. Lots of juice in there. That’s exactly what you’re looking for in an oyster.”

Much of the selection comes from Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, and not only do they supply the product, they’re also part owners of the restaurant. According to General Manager Jillian Rocco, the food at Row 34 is just hours out of the ocean.

“You really don’t get a fresher product than what we serve here.”

A meal here definitely should start with some raw stuff, and nothing puts on a show like Row 34′s shellfish tower.

“It’s awesome,” Rocco bragged. “Two tiers of fresh shellfish, so it’s really a fun visual going through the room and landing on a table.”

“Lobster, oysters, clams, shrimp, ceviche, crudo, all those things kind of blended together to give you a little bit of a Row 34 experience to start with,” said Sewall.

For something cooked, the kitchen steams up big bowls of mussels with white wine and scallion butter. Of course you can never go wrong with a big basket of fried clams. With this dish, Jeremy keeps it simple.

“Soaked in buttermilk, seasoned flour, fried really crispy and great tartar sauce. There’s no secret to fried clams.”

But if you want your clams with some housemade pasta, the Bucatini with garlic crumbs is a great choice.

“It’s not a traditional kind of pasta and clams. It’s a little bit of our spin on it,” Sewall said. “It’s a little bit of spice; it’s garlic; it’s lots of fresh herbs; it’s crunchy bread that we break over the top. It makes for a really nice dish.”

The kitchen at Row 34 cranks out plates, and lobster rolls seems to be one of the most popular. Here, the chef says, they serve two different styles.

There are two types of lobster rolls at Row 34. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

There are two types of lobster rolls at Row 34. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“We do a warm buttered lobster roll, where it’s just butter on a toasted bun, and that’s fantastic. And then we do more of a traditional kind of cold lobster roll with lobster salad, but our little spin on it is we put diced dill pickles in it, and crème fresh and mayonnaise, and it’s more of a traditional roll, again on a grilled bun.”

“I’ve seen people next to each other, arguing over which one was better, you know, eating the two different lobster rolls at the same table.”

“People tend to be pretty polarized as to whether they go hot or cold lobster roll,” Rocco weighed in. “I personally am a cold lobster roll kind of girl.”

There’s also an interesting choice when it comes to the burger, because yes, even this seafood spot has a burger on the menu.

“You have to have a burger, I mean you have to have something that people can come in and get if they don’t love oysters,” Sewall said. “What we did, which we think is a little bit unique, is if you still love oysters and you still want a burger, you can get it with fried oysters over the top and pickled vegetables, and we do a spicy aioli that goes over the whole thing, so it’s just kind of our little spin on a burger.”

“The burger’s pretty epic,” Rocco agreed. “I may or may not have had one for dinner last night. It’s definitely decadent. You definitely want a nice full bodied beer, but it’s really, really delicious.”

When it comes to desserts, you’re going to want to try them all, like the Fried Apple Pie with warm caramel and the insanely good homemade Chocolate Candy Bar.

“Peanuts, chocolate, toffee, caramel, it’s just everything you want in something sweet,” Rocco described.

For a true spoonful of nostalgia nothing beats Chef Jeremy’s famous Butterscotch Pudding, served in a mason jar, with whipped cream and crispy puffed rice.

“It’s made with brown sugar, and scotch, and cream, and eggs, and vanilla, and I think it’s one of those desserts that’s nostalgic. It kind of brings you back to your childhood when you’re sitting there eating butterscotch. It’s not overly sweet, it’s really kind of comforting to eat, and it just tastes great.”

While you’re enjoying that old fashioned pudding, take a minute to appreciate your surroundings, because Row 34 is housed inside a century-old building filled with history.

“We are very fortunate to be in one of the most beautiful buildings, I think, in this area,” Rocco said. “It was built in 1907, so all traditional brick, all original wood beams, so we didn’t have to do much to the space to make it feel like it was part of the neighborhood. If you want to have a lot of fun, and eat the freshest seafood you can in Boston, and drink the best beer that you possible can, it’s definitely the place to be.”

Row 34 is located at 383 Congress Street in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston, or online at Row34.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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