Lobster rolls, fried clams, fish sandwiches… the tastes of summer comes from the sea at these top seafood shacks in America. Just add lemon or a little drawn butter, and you’re good to go.
Crabby Bill’s, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida: The original real deal in Florida seafood offers four unique dining settings–a sushi bar, a family-style barn, an outdoor tiki area and indoor casual eatery open across from the Gulf of Mexico. Best bets are the Cleveland oysters brimming with garlic and cheese, smoked fish spread, shucked raw oysters, early bird fish dinners (ahi and Southern green beans) and the best fried fish buckets in town (scallops, shrimp and fish and chips) washed down with cheap cocktails and draft beer.
Wahoos, Redington Shores, Florida: Chef/owner Jimmy’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots and Caribbean/Pan Pacific passion flavor the blackboard specials, all cooked up in cast iron on a four-burner stove, no kidding. Seafood comes right off the boats behind the outdoor patio overlooking the bay. Best of show is the seared ahi, blackened grouper, tile fish fingers, finger-licking good spicy white chowder coupled with fried Tater Tots or heavenly onion rings. On tap, Stella and Blueberry Point ale refresh as well as a choice of 50 bottled imports and domestics.
Angry Pepper, Maderia Beach: Stuck behind a Publix on a spit of land overlooking a canal, the smoker is fired up behind the tiki restaurant, dripping in chili lights and surfboard memorabilia. Hot, spicy, Southern and Cajun cuisine are the catch of the day here. The fish spread is part salmon, smooth and delectable. Yes, there’s pulled pork, chipotle chicken and brisket barbecue, but it’s overshadowed by the yummy seafood like the creamy crab cakes, shrimp po’boy dressed with homemade cole slaw and tartar sauce, molten Buffalo shrimp lightly dusted (order the sweet and nasty), pan-seared sashimi and bonzai shrimp with green onions. Sides range from waffle fries, smokey baked beans with bacon, fried green tomatoes and cheesy grits, washed down with dozens of boutique beers on tap and micro-brew bottles.The Wharf, Passe-A-Grille: Dock your boat and step back in time to old St. Pete Beach in this old wooden boathouse updated by misters on the outside deck and a hip jukebox inside. Dine at the wooden booths in the restaurant, or belly up to the wrap-around bar and good-old fashioned fun, from the secret Bloody Mary drinks rimmed in Montreal steak salt or the high-test cocktails and flirty joking flipping through the crowd. Awesome esoteric jukebox sets the stage for crispy lobster bites, oysters Diane topped with crab, platters of peel-n-eat shrimp, Creole gumbo flavored with andouille sausage, crab claws and Tampa Bay Rockefeller topped with provolone. Tuesday fish fry is all you can for $6.95 and the fish Reuben is the best in town.
CaliforniaPoint Loma Seafood, San Diego: Seagulls swarm the leftovers and the sparkling bay view is mesmerizing. Take it home or eat it on the covered deck or patio tables dotting the entryway. This is a San Diego sports-fishing tradition, and if you don’t come home with a catch, you can buy it or smoke it here. Fresh tuna sandwiches, fried shrimp or scallop platters, smoked wahoo, shrimp Louie salads, fish tacos, smoked fish sandwich, picked squid cocktail, succulent ceviche and sushi or sashimi round out the catch of the day. Share crispy onion rings and be sure to take a 1/2 pint of horseradish salsa home to go with your crab cakes and white or red chowder.
Provided by Nanette Wiser, Seed.com contributor
Cabbage Key, Cabbage Key, Florida. You’ll need to hop a charter boat to reach this kick-back island not far from Sanibel and Captiva islands in Florida. It supposedly (and believably) inspired Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” but we prefer the stone crab claws and Gulf shrimp in the shell. Don’t miss the restaurant’s decor–taped-up dollar bills that flutter from floor to ceiling–then grab a patio seat because ocean views still trump dollars.
Splash Cafe, Pismo Beach, Calif. Buttery, piping hop and fantastic, there’s a reason this surf cafe goes through 15,000 gallons of clam chowder each year. Just as fun is its atmosphere which is flip-flop comfy with surf team photos and napkin art decorating the walls. Shrimp Shack, Oahu, Hawaii This bright yellow lunch wagon on the North Shore has become a longtime favorite with savory pan-fried garlic shrimp served plate-lunch-style with two scoops of rice. Grab a picnic table and dine on site or head just up the Kamehameha Highway to Punalu’U Beach Park.
Gilbert’s Chowder House, Portland, Maine. You’ll know this everything-goes seafood chowder is good before it even hits your mouth. Get a good spoonful, and will be loaded with chunks of lobster, scallops and fish swimming in creamy goodness. You know it’s authentic, too, with photos of fishing crews on the walls, a stuffed marlin on the ceiling and some of the most amazing seafood markets and Casco Harbor about a block away.
Woodmans, Essex, Mass. The creators of fried clams have become an East Coast institution and a Boston favorite. Bring an appetite for steamed fresh lobster and popular platters of deep-fried everything. Just be prepared to wait in line and go through a lot of napkins.
The Shrimp Shack, St. Helena Island, S.C. This rural Low Country restaurant is a great place to join the locals for a cheap lunch of sweet potato fries, red beans and rice, hush puppies, shrimp burgers or fried shrimp fresh from the boat anchored across the road. Order up, grab a seat in the second-story screen porch, and keep cool with iced sweet tea before heading to the beach at Hunting Island State Park.
Provided by Lisa Meyers McClintick, Seed.com contributor