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Legal Sea Foods


Chris Amirault
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Couldn't find a Legal Seafoods thread around here, and after I read this post by The Hersch, I thought it was high time to do so:

Legal Seafood is no longer a local chain, by the way. They now have...er...outlets up and down the east coast, in Florida, Virginia, Maryland, DC, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, as well as Massachusetts. They have a restaurant at National Airport in Washington, where I have had a plate of their fried clams (which were pretty good). Since I'll be flying from that airport to Logan on Saturday, maybe I'll just have some fried clams before boarding and after I land, and get it out of the way.

Some things to talk about: The Hersch, what do you mean by your "...er..." above? I used to go to the original Legal back when I was a wee lad, and have had some fine meals there in the past. Jasper White's tenure there seemed to lively up the place, too. But lately they have been mediocre to (here at the Warwick RI venue) bad; I wouldn't send my most mudmouthed enemy to eat there.

Shall we discuss and debate all things Legal?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I think there is a bit of variation from location to location.

(understandable with a chain).

My favorites are those in Boston--Chestnut Hill, Copley Sq etc.

It seems the overall cooking is better at these spots than at the more far flung outposts.

I eat quite a bit at the Palisades Mall location (horrible mall atmosphere).

Basically I stick with the simple stuff-the raw clams and oysters are across the board-excellent and very fresh-the chowder is very good (probably based on a mix etc). Lobster Roll is good and the wine selection is fine.

I like to eat at the bar.

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Some things to talk about: The Hersch, what do you mean by your "...er..." above? I used to go to the original Legal back when I was a wee lad, and have had some fine meals there in the past. Jasper White's tenure there seemed to lively up the place, too. But lately they have been mediocre to (here at the Warwick RI venue) bad; I wouldn't send my most mudmouthed enemy to eat there.

Shall we discuss and debate all things Legal?

I said "...er..." because I was about to use the word "outlet", which is not a favorable term to use about a restaurant, I guess. I was at the original Legal at Inman Square back in the early 70s, only once I think. It was cool. Chainification is almost always uncool, and Legal has gone from a small local chain to a big mother chain, which is even uncooler, in general. That aside, the fried clams at the airport in Washington really were pretty good. That was about three years ago, though, so I won't depend on their still being good. I haven't eaten at any other instantiation of Legal in many years. In fact, the only other one I think I ever ate at was the Kendall Sq. location, back in the late 80s (I think), and even then and there I was underwhelmed. I had some sort of fish, and while it was nice and fresh and simply prepared, I thought it was way overpriced.

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I like Legal for simple things like fried clams, fish & chips, or oysters. We would probably give it a pass but for the fact that their kid's menu is really really good. Our kids can get a child-sized portion of broiled fish, baked potato, and a green veggie. Emma also likes the house-made fish sticks make with fresh cod.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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I had grilled arctic char for the first time at Legal on Park Plaza. It was transcendent. I've since eaten at the one in Pru Center and at Logan, but neither was like that first virginal taste.

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Why is there such wildly different levels of quality? I've also had good meals at the Park Plaza location, and, as noted before, bad ones at Warwick. Strangely, the Warwick location served us cool food, which, old Legal fans know, is a violation of the prime directive at the old locations. Food came to your table immediately after out of the fryer/oven/skillet, no matter the order of diners served at your table; I might get my fisherman's platter (I can't resist) five minutes after my dad got his blue fish, say.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I think that any restaurant --when it becomes a chain--faces quality control problems the further away from "home base" the empire extends and the larger that chain/empire becomes.

Legal Sea Foods IMOP--does best with simple things. (actually sea food is always better simply prepared--in most cases).

I still find their clams and oysters to really shine and simply prepared broiled fish dishes are pretty good.

Again the best meals I have had are at the Boston area locations.--close to home base!

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Yeah, the food is really quite mediocre, and once you get past the main dishes, the level of quality seems to decline even more. Sides, salads, bread, etc. are poor. I also feel that the price point is a bit high for the food received. One bright note is that the servers and cooks all seem to be trained in HACCP. I noticed the servers using tongs to pick up lemon wedges, etc. and commented on it to our server. She said that they study and observe national and state health regulations. A cook I met confirmed this. My only experiences with Legal are with the Warwick location, but it doesn't augur well for trying other locations.

Now, Iggy's Clamshack....................fried, cheap, and honest about it.

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One bright note is that the servers and cooks all seem to be trained in HACCP.  I noticed the servers using tongs to pick up lemon wedges, etc. and commented on it to our server.  She said that they study and observe national and state health regulations.  A cook I met confirmed this.

Hey guy.

Legal has always marketed themselves as a HACCP leader. They've also always been maniacal about fish and shellfish quality (or at least their press and marketing has lead me to believe). I must say that I've had many, many excellent raw oysters and little necks there, and they taste as if they've been plucked from the briny deep moments before.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I love Legal's and wish one would open in Chicago. There are not any decent middle of the road fish places here, and the selections are uninspiring (no blue fish!). And the kid's menu is great because it is not the usual mac 'n cheese, but a nice little piece of grilled fish (or half a lobster) with real veggies.

S. Cue

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I have been to LS by the airport in Warwick and on a few trips to Trader Joes in Framingham, Ma (I think that one is in Natick) The food has always been good. My oysters have always been great. I liked their lobster bisque. I liked the fact that my iced tea was refilled automatically (no charge). I just think that the prices are out of control. I cringe at the prospect of eating there and avoid it as a result. Having a few oysters, a salad and an iced tea costs more than a round trip, high speed ferry to Block Island. I just don't get that. They have the good food part down. They need to work at the 'at a reasonable price' part.

Cheers,

HC

Edited by HungryChris (log)
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Well, here I am in Boston, having flown up from Washington yesterday. I stopped for lunch at the Legal Seafoods place at National Airport for lunch. A half-dozen oysters and a plate of fried clams. The oysters were fine, although regrettably small. The fried clams were not very good: over-coated, over-fried, tough, chewy little things that tasted mostly of fried-ness. The Harpoon IPA on draft was good, although served way too cold.

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If you are looking for fried belly clams outside of New England, particularly if you live in New York or New Jersey, Legal Seafoods is definitely where its at. Its always my first choice if fried clams is what I am seeking. Their clam chowder is also quite good as well. The two locations in my area -- In Paramus NJ at Garden State Plaza and in the Palisades Center Mall have had consistently good service and food quality.

I'm also quite impressed with their wine list being so reasonably priced and so well selected and having such a large choice of half bottles.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I was a big fan of LS when I moved to the Boston area in the early '80s. They were really funky back then, pay in advance, each entree was served when it was ready, no reservations, etc. They became too popular and evolved into a tourist trap and jacked up prices accordingly. The original Jasper White's was a better alternative. I like his place at Fresh Pond, but prices there also seem to have gotten out of control.

Jim

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I never viewed the "original Jasper's" as an "alternative" to LS.

Jasper's was a "high end" seafood restaurant while LS had more low to middle end of the market pretensions.

The fact that LS has become a "chain" is a tribute to their overall philosophy and management discipline (expecially with a cuisine based upon seafood). I believe they are not a franchise operation which may, in part, be a key factor; and a reason they are several cuts above Red Lobster or any other chain. It would be interesting to hear from anyone who has worked at LS and has a professional perspective on this discussion.

In fact, I would posit that LS may be the only chain restaurant that has successfully staked out the "middle" of the market somewhere between McDonalds and true high end seafood restaurants.

Their ability to deliver "fresh" product via many locations is a tribute to their philosophy and their abilities to execute that philosophy. As with any operation this size there will be "lapses" --one hopes they will not become "too big!"

As for the original Jaspers--this was a high end restaurant and in its time may have been one of the two or three top seafood restaurants in the country. I remember having one of the finest meals I have ever had there--the lobster pan roast--was/is-simply spectacular!

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The fact that LS has become a "chain" is a tribute to their overall philosophy and management discipline (expecially with a cuisine based upon seafood). I believe they are not a franchise operation which may, in part, be a key factor; and a reason they are several cuts above Red Lobster or any other chain. ..........In fact, I would posit that LS may be the only chain restaurant that has successfully staked out the "middle" of the market somewhere between McDonalds and true high end seafood restaurants.

Have you tried Bonefish Grill (part of the Outback empire)? I think Legal is OK. I also think Bonefish is at least as good. Both are best when they do fish simply. With both available in my area, I find that I am more often at Bonefish. Some of the local places are even better, especially with the local items like crabs or crabcakes (though the best are more expensive than Legal or Bonefish).

Edited by wilewil (log)
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Legal may never be the best, but it's always at least good. Can't say I go often but when entertaining tourist friends who suddenly decide they want chowder, oysters, fried clams, etc. there is usually a LS nearby. and we're usually pretty happy with what we get.

For those of you mentioning Jasper White's, I assume you're talking about his eponymous high end place (which sadly I never tried, not living here at that time). Now he's down-scaled. What do you think about the food at Summer Shack as opposed to LS? There are three now, not sure if Jasper has ambitions to compete with the LS empire.


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I have never heard of Bonefish.

Bonefish started in Florida and is rolling out in other areas as a JV between Outback and the original founders. They have about 65 restaurants, mostly still in the South but recently expanding as far North as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Apparently it's been quite successful, focusing on suburban locations where there's little competition at the upper-middle market level. One of their distinguishing features is very extensive (for the segment) server training. Apparently, there's a 13-week course and a requirement to eat through the whole menu and taste through the whole wine list before being allowed on the floor.

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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Still in Boston, and here to testify that all Legal Seafoods joints are not equal. As I reported earlier, the plate of fried clams I got at the LS at National Airport in Washington was pretty dreadful: tough, chewy, overcooked, lousy. Fast forward to the LS at the Prudential Center: plump, luscious, perfectly fried, wonderful clams. Excellent. Maybe not as good as the fried clams I had in 1977 at Kelly's Roastbeef in Revere Beach, but those may benefit from the golden haze of years that lie between then and now. The fish chowder at the Pru LS, on the other hand, was a flour-thickened, pasty, revolting atrocity. And as at the DCA LS, the Harpoon IPA was way too cold.

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  • 3 months later...

Update: we ate at Legal in the Prudential Center yesterday. Great clam chowder, perfect oysters (Wellfleets and Kumamotos), and a variable fisherman's platter: great fish and scallops, good shrimp (though too heavy on the celery salt, oddly), and mediocre-to-bad clams. Given my jones for good fried clams, that was a major disappointment.

We also had a very bad server, who didn't know what oysters they had, whether the duck soup could be served in a cup ("Dinner portion only," he finally told us. "But it's listed in the appetizer section." "Um... yeah... that's confusing."), etc. etc. etc.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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There definately is a difference in locations as well as decor. Our favorites are in Chestnut Hill, Kendall and the terrace in Harvard Square next to the Charles Hotel.

I too have eaten there since the one and only location and the first fish market. There was music upstairs and you had to pay after placing your order because so many students stiffed them. Their simple dishes are so fresh and trustworthy oyster eating. I loved the time they had the Indian chefs here from Mumbai preparing the Ayurvedic cuisine.

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly....MFK Fisher

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