The biggest and newest restaurant in Boston packs three concepts into a 20,000 sq. ft. space, has 600 seats and a rooftop lounge and offers a catch-and-release trout pound on the main floor. You’d expect some edgy entrepreneurs would be the operators, but this is the flagship of Legal Sea Foods, a Boston institution.
Legal Sea Foods is a family-owned, midsized full-service seafood chain whose 31 operations stretch up and down the Atlantic seaboard from Boston, its home base, to Boca Raton. Its restaurants aren’t flashy, but are solid and steady, in the best sense of those terms. The company has few peers in the seafood segment.
Which is why it’s interesting to see its take on contemporary restaurant operations played out on a prime piece of real estate on Liberty Wharf in Boston’s Seaport District. Legal could have given a few minor tweaks to the proven format that has served the company and its guests so well in so many other locations. But it went in a different direction. Legal Harborside is built on a much bigger scale than other Legal Sea Foods Restaurant, and it definitely has a lot more flash.
Here’s how the company likes to describe it.
“Legal Harborside is Legal Sea Foods 20,000 square foot flagship property on the Boston Waterfront, comprising three floors and three different concepts. You’ll find a nod to our heritage on the first floor hull, with a casual menu of seafood favorites with a twist, an oyster bar and a market for fresh fish and prepared foods. The second floor dining room offers cuisine prepared with sensible creativity for celebratory eating and private dining events. And those that visit the third floor promenade deck will enjoy an all-weather rooftop lounge with a retractable glass ceiling and walls for cocktails and bites.”
Most items on the menu have been developed specifically for Legal Haborside, with a few being revivals of long-lost items from the company’s original Boston location. Tradition is honored, but there are plenty of new options to try.
The lesson for other restaurant operators is that versatility is a must for today’s diners. That means multiple dining options under one roof, with a range of price points that accommodates customers who don’t want to break the bank as well as those for whom the sky’s the limit.
Legal owner Roger Berkowitz told USA Today that offering multiple options is the key. "Too many waterfront restaurants are limiting, either by price point or menu, and we wanted the opposite,” he said. “We wanted to be inviting, casual, more of an eating experience than a dining experience."
Berkowitz’s fellow restaurateurs won’t want to tailor their new concepts to be like his—after all, everyone in Boston already knew the Legal Sea Foods name and the new place has a terrific harbor view. But his take on how to conceptualize a new restaurant in the current market is worth heeding. Berkowitz and Legal know what it takes to compete in a number of different cities, and their best ideas are on display. If you like to learn from the masters, here’s your chance.