That lovely oyster is one of the Row 34s from Island Creek Oyster Farm that gave the name to this place. The restaurant is from the same group that made Kenmore Square a dining destination with Island Creek Oyster Bar, Eastern Standard, and The Hawthorne.
In doing my pre-visit menu research, I spotted cask beer on the menu. One of our first questions was to ask what was in the cask that day. Our fabulous bartender had one of those "I'm gonna make you very happy" smiles on his face as he told us he had just finished preparing a new cask and could offer Ed a taste of Tröegs Nugget Nectar, a hoppy imperial amber ale.
One sip from the tasting portion put a smile on Ed's face that was still there when we returned home. Apparently, this is a seasonal product not usually available on draft but since Row 34 has their own system, they were able to send their container to the brewery and have it filled.
We're pretty sure the supply at Row 34 must be gone by now but something else will be coming from that special tap. We later picked up the bottled version at Bauer Wine & Spirits. This has limited availability so grab some now if it tempts you.
Ed thinks, "Nugget Nectar is the perfect name, no exaggeration."
As a draft beer lover, he was also impressed with the number of taps and the selection offered. Our friend Howie Rubin from Bauer said to be sure to try the selections from Trillium Brewing Company. Their tasting room happens to be next door but he really enjoyed sampling the beer at Row 34.
I tried a lovely crisp cava from Pere Mata. And, I had a caddy of flavors to play with as the meal proceeded. (I think they should sell these caddies at both ICOB and Row 34. They would probably be expensive, but I think they'd make a delightful addition to any kitchen counter.)
Since I'm a warm buttery lobster roll lover, my order was easy. The usual cole slaw is missing from my order because I can't have mayo. Perhaps that led to an abundance of chips, both regular and sweet potato. Those were one of the lovely, "aren't these wonderful," side notes of the day. Between the two of us, not a chip crumb remained as our plates were removed.
The lobster was sweet and warm with just enough butter. The roll was so perfect I had to ask if they were making their own. I was told it was Iggy's. It was slightly larger than most hot dog rolls and took the grilling like a pro. Not too sweet and not at all gummy which are common lobster roll problems.
Ed was in an oyster mood and did rounds of Island Creeks and Row 34s. Down the center are three saucing options: traditional mignonette, a zingy cocktail sauce, and an Asian influenced version with chilies and cilantro.
Once more, deep knowledge on the part of our server gave us a detailed background on the growing of Island Creeks vs Row 34s. Island Creeks grow on the ocean floor while Row 34s are suspended in racks for the maturing process.
Island Creeks (above) have long been Ed's favorite oyster. But, he was up for a taste test. "I tried a half dozen (3 and 3) and honestly couldn’t tell the difference," he said. "Never one to give up easily, I repeated the order hoping to detect any subtle variations. Same results … outstanding oysters … my kind of experiment."
We also had the lobster tacos which were an old favorite of mine from Chef Jeremy Sewall's Brookline restaurant Lineage. Crisp housemade tacos contain a smear of avocado plus big pieces of cold lobster topped with a bright mango salsa.
And, yes, these do come three to an order but I was more interested in eating them than taking photos. Ed managed to get this shot while there were still two on the plate.
I scooped up the remaining salsa with the wonderful potato chips that came with my lobster roll.
We finished with a butterscotch pudding – another old love from the time when Chef Sewall was at Great Bay which once resided in the space where Island Creek Oyster Bar is today. We also had a candy bar dessert that was our server's favorite. We took half of that home because we were both stuffed.
Feeling At Home
In the car on the way home, we both had the same feeling about the hospitality at Row 34. I said, "There is something about walking into a new place and feeling at home within minutes." While Ed noted, "I expected the same service and quality as their Kenmore Square eateries and was not disappointed. I felt at home from the moment I stepped into the space."
We told our Uber driver to note the location because this was going to be a popular run from all around the area. (BTW, you can get a discount on your first Uber ride at this link and we'll be rewarded with a matching credit to our account.)
Row 34 will go into our regular rotation despite the fact that we seldom find ourselves in that part of the city. As we said, this is a destination spot. We both look forward to outdoor seating should warm days ever return to Boston.
Need more opinions? Here's what the Boston Chowhounds have to say about Row 34.
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Words: Penny & Ed Cherubino
Photography: © 2014 Ed Cherubino