Join the locals who flock to the Causeway (78 Essex Ave.; 978-281-5256) for fresh Italian seafood dishes in a no-frills setting. There's almost always a wait for a table, so make a stop at the liquor store next door for beer to drink with fried clams and oysters (from $11), or a fruity red to go with a heaping platter of seafood marinara ($20). Either way, plan on sharing a bowl of the hearty fish chowder ($7) that’s loaded with hunks of flaky haddock.
Find a stylish dining experience at Alchemy, a quirky bistro filled with mismatched furniture that serves handcrafted cocktails ($12) and offers the best wine list in town. The menu features a mix of global influences, so in the same meal you could have a watermelon-and-red-cress salad ($12), octopus fricassee ($9), and pork belly tacos ($12).
Dine with fellow art lovers at the Rudder on Rocky Neck, where ivy and white string lights illuminate the simple dining room, but the real ambiance is out on the deck, situated in a quaint cove lined with private docks. Expertly prepared seafood is the reason to come here, whether you have it in a risotto ($28) or just make a meal out of standout appetizers like fish tacos ($14), Moroccan-spiced pulled pork and scallops ($15), and Portuguese-style clams ($17).