Saturday, November 18th, 2017

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A Positively Legal Fish Tale

A Boston-based restaurant with stores along the East Coast has opened a flagship store on the Boston waterfront.One of the East Coast’s most successful and renowned restaurants recently opened a new store in a suitably perfect location: Right on the water.

The Boston Globe reports Legal Sea Foods, which has 32 restaurants stretching from Boston to Florida, opened Legal Harborside on Liberty Wharf in the Seaport District.

The restaurant that fulfills a time-honored custom of serving clam chowder to newly inaugurated U.S. presidents has a new flagship site. Facing Logan Airport, Legal Harborside is a 23,000-square foot restaurant that has a capacity of 700, which establishes it as one of Boston’s biggest restaurants.

“The birthing of this was a long time coming,” Roger Berkowitz, president and chief executive of Legal Sea Foods, told the publication. “If you’re in the seafood business in Boston 60-odd years you definitely want to be on the water.”

The new restaurant with a long, successful history in Boston occupies hallowed ground. It’s on a plot of land that used to hold Jimmy’s Harborside, another legendary restaurant of yesteryear. And the new restaurant memorializes the old one by using teh original wooden pilings to serve as its floor, the Boston Herald reports.

Berkowitz did not disclose to the newspaper how much it cost to refurbish the site but he did say it’s the most expensive project of its type in the city. While the planning consumed the past six years, his goal of establishing on the waterfront was significantly longer.

But he needed to set aside the right amount of money and had to have enough time to devote to the cause.

“I just wanted to get on the damn water,” the 58-year-old told the newspaper. “Then, I said, ‘If we’re coming on the water, why not do more than one concept? Let’s do something really special with it.'”

Legal Sea Foods also is a family business. Established in 1968, the first restaurant was opened in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It built on successes first laid by George Berkowitz, Roger’s 86-year-old father, who in 1950 had opened Legal Cash Market, which also dealt in seafood.

Thus began the fish tale.

Presently staffed by approximately 4,000 employees, Legal Sea Foods is the most successful Boston-based restaurant. Berkowitz conducts meetings with all level of employees, often gleaning valuable tips and suggestions to further improve the menu.

Nineteen of the stores are in the metropolitan Boston region, three are in New York and two apiece are in Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. DC, Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Rhode each have one store.

The company does at least $200 million in revenue per year.

Roger Berkowitz took control over the company in 1992, since when he has steadily grown the restaurant his father started.

For the past nine years, Legal Sea Foods has won the most votes for Boston’s most popular restaurant by Zagat. The Book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” cites it as one destination.

And Roger Berkowitz’ offspring is continuing the family business and tradition.

He and his wife Lynne’s three children grew up working as bartenders, waiters and hosts, and two of the three remain involved.

One of his two sons works in quality control and oversees the fish laboratory, which determines how pure the fish is. The other visits the restaurants as an assistant general manager. His daughter works outside the industry.

Lynne attributes his success to “discipline.”

“When the kids were little, Roger would leave by 8 in the morning and not come back till 1 the next morning,’” she told the newspaper, noting the growing business became easier since it forced his hand. “He was forced to get help. He still works all the time, but it’s not as intense.”

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