Where to: Row 34 in Burlington.
Why: For oysters, lobster, and beer from Jeremy Sewall, who isn’t new to this.
The back story: Tracing the characters in this story can be as complicated as tracking the plot lines on “Mare of Easttown,” but basically: This space used to be Island Creek Oyster Bar — a sleeker effort from an overlapping all-star team behind Row 34′s original location in Fort Point. However, Island Creek Oyster Bar owners Shore Gregory and Jeremy Sewall split with partners Garrett Harker and Skip Bennett earlier this year. Island Creek’s Boston location at the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square is now a bittersweet memory. So is sister restaurant Eastern Standard, where Harker was a beloved presence. Sewall, meanwhile, also ran Brookline’s acclaimed Lineage for a decade; it closed in 2016.
Today, long-running locations of Row 34 in Fort Point and a sibling in Portsmouth, N.H., remain alongside the Burlington newcomer. Gregory and Sewall run all three branches, and Sewall is in the kitchen at each location a couple of nights a week. Co-chef de cuisine Isaac Reyes helped to open Burlington’s original Island Creek.
“Having just one Island Creek flapping in the breeze in Burlington, knowing Kenmore was going away, didn’t feel right,” Sewall says. “Row 34 is a better fit for the suburbs, with a lower price point and not as precious, but with the same attention to quality and the same level of energy and service.”
As for the Kenmore goodbye? He’s circumspect.
“It was 10 years of my life or longer. I helped open the hotel when I moved back to Boston in 2003. But nothing lasts forever. Restaurants aren’t pets,” he says.
What to eat: Nothing lasts forever indeed. If you’d told 12-year-old me feasting on buttery crabmeat pie at Jimmy’s on the Mall in 1991 that someday I’d be an adult ordering $34 lobster fettuccine across the parking lot, well, I wouldn’t have believed you. But Burlington has changed. Flashier restaurants are moving in, from the Cheesecake Factory (which replaced my beloved Jimmy’s) to Parm (a red-sauce offering from New York City’s Major Food Group) to Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian steakhouse chain.
So it’s nice to have a local seafood spot, even if it’s swankier than the glistening casserole of my youth. A $5 crispy oyster slider tastes more like oyster than batter, a welcome surprise. House-made rolls with a gloss of salt and a side of honey-cayenne butter ($5) is the type of thing you’ll eat at midnight with the fridge door open. Fish tacos are pleasantly crunchy with a welcome splash of salsa verde, even if the flour tortillas are limp. (During the pandemic, this location rebranded as La Ventana, a taco pop-up, which Sewall plans to revive in the coming months.) Lobster fettuccine, though pricey, doesn’t suffer from a lack of meat — and it’s boosted with melty braised short ribs, too. Avocado and cucumber salad with black sesame seeds ($8) is a refreshing counterpoint to all that heavy food. For dessert, get a saucer-size chocolate chip cookie ($9).
What to drink: Sewall promises a more approachable beer list at this location; Fort Point is known for rarer offerings. Both are curated by beer director Suzy Hays. There’s also a healthy selection of high-acid white wines to stand up against briny oysters. (Island Creek Oysters remains a vendor.)
The takeaway: Quality seafood from a well-pedigreed source.
Row 34, 300 District Ave., Burlington, 781-761-6500, www.row34.com