Sea Breeze Market & Deli, Berkeley
What to expect: A deli/seafood shop/snack bar/produce market/smoothie stand made from shipping containers, believe it or not; good fish sandwiches.
Check it out: 598 University Avenue; 510/486-0802
Spud Point Crab Company, Bodega Bay
What to expect: This out-of-the-way takeout shack serves the best clam chowder. Ever. Also try the smoked salmon and the crab sandwich, made with a Thousand Island dressing–based sauce.
Check it out: 1860 Westshore Road; 707/875-9472 or spudpointcrab.com
Coast Café, Bolinas
What to expect: Only in West Marin County would a surfer’s hangout serve organic beer with fish-and-chips (made from the catch of the day). On weekends, the café offers all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab or mesquite-barbecued oysters, depending on the season.
Check it out: 46 Wharf Road; 415/868-2298 or bolinascafe.com
Chart Room, Crescent City
What to expect: The four-egg Dungeness-crab-and-shrimp omelets at breakfast will satisfy the hungriest travelers. Windows overlook the harbor and its resident sea lions.
Check it out: 130 Anchor Way; 707/464-5993 or chartroomcrescentcity.com
The Nantucket Restaurant, Crockett
What to expect: A cozy building in a working marina with great cioppino, great service, and great views of the Carquinez Bridge.
Check it out: 601 Port Street; 510/787-2233
La Cabaña Taquería, Davenport
What to expect: A favorite of the surfing crowd, La Cabaña serves some of the best fish tacos this side of Baja. Try the red snapper or salmon, wrapped in your choice of flour or corn tortillas.
Check it out: 500 Highway 1; 831/425-7742
Gill’s by the Bay, Eureka
What to expect: No-frills but well-prepared breakfasts and lunches right on Humboldt Bay.
Check it out: 77 Halibut Avenue; 707/442-2554
The Vista, Eureka
What to expect: The halibut is always great. Check the daily specials for whatever’s fresh and intriguing to the chef that day.
Check it out: 91 Commercial Street; 707/443-1491
Cap’n Flint’s, Fort Bragg
What to expect: “Family dining at family prices,” including great chowder, under the high bridge in the fishing village of Noyo.
Check it out: 32250 North Harbor Drive; 707/964-9447
Princeton Seafood Company, Half Moon Bay
What to expect: This restaurant/market is justifiably proud of its “award-winning” clam chowder and ought to boast about the fish and chips as well.
Check it out: 9 Johnson Pier; 650/726-2722 or princetonseafood.com
Yankee Pier, Larkspur
What to expect: Don’t miss the signature lobster roll or the fabulous New England clam chowder. The crab Louie is unforgettable. Monday nights feature all-you-can-eat fish-and-chips.
Check it out: 286 Magnolia Avenue; 415/924-7676 or yankeepier.com
The Marshall Store, Marshall
What to expect: A tiny grocery, deli, and oyster bar on stilts over Tomales Bay, serving fresh oysters, barbecued or on the half shell.
Check it out: 19225 State Route 1; 415/663-1339 or themarshallstore.com
Nick’s Cove, Marshall
What to expect: Nick’s, closed for nearly a decade, is back―and truly better than ever. Last year, famed San Francisco restaurateur Pat Kuleto and partner Mark Franz reopened this 1930s-era restaurant and its cluster of rental cottages on Tomales Bay. White tablecloths and other ritzy touches fancy up the building. But mostly it retains the feel of an authentic Northern California waterfront saloon. Sit at the marble-top oyster bar, and don’t miss the buttery clam chowder.
Check it out: 23240 Highway 1; 415/663-1033 or nickscove.com
Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, Marshall
What to expect: Legendary barbecued oysters and fresh-caught fish.
Check it out: 18863 Highway 1; 415/663-1107
Phil’s Fish Market and Eatery, Moss Landing
What to expect: It's moved to a new building since our review, but still serves the same great cioppino.
Check it out: 7600 Sandholdt Road; 831/633-2152 or philsfishmarket.com
Quinn’s Lighthouse Restaurant & Pub, Oakland
What to expect: Former lighthouse building. Elegant dining downstairs. Upstairs has the same excellent seafood, a boisterously casual atmosphere, and sea chanteys on Thursdays.
Check it out: 1951 Embarcadero East; 510/536-2050 or quinnslighthouse.com
Barbara's Fish Trap, Princeton-by-the-Sea
What to expect: Huge portions. Try the chowder and the fish-and-chips. Cash only. On pilings above Half Moon Bay.
Check it out: 281 Capistrano Road; 650/728-7049
Ketch Joanne Restaurant, Princeton-by-the-Sea
What to expect: Fried specialties include fish-and-chips, scallops, and jumbo prawns.
Check it out: 17 Johnson Pier, Pillar Point Harbor; 650/728-3747 or ketchjoanne.com
Fisherman’s Wharf crab stands, San Francisco
What to expect: These sidewalk grottos peddle a smorgasbord of seafood gold: crab cakes, fried shrimp, and overstuffed crab sandwiches. We suggest fresh-caught Dungeness crabs, cracked to order and costing half what you'd pay in the nearby sit-down restaurants. Feeling clammy? Boudin’s clam chowder in a sourdough bowl and Pompei’s hearty cioppino are San Francisco classics.
Check it out: Taylor Street at Jefferson Street
Kelly’s Mission Rock, San Francisco
What to expect: Considerably spiffed up from its days as Mission Rock Resort, when we first visited, but still relaxed and casual. Terrific fish-and-chips―and water views.
Check it out: 817 Terry Francois Boulevard; 415/626-5355 or kellysmissionrock.com
The Old Clam House, San Francisco
What to expect: Heavenly Lazy Man's Cioppino, so-called because everything but the crab legs is shelled, steamed open, or otherwise made accessible.
Check it out: 299 Bayshore Boulevard; 415/826-4880 or theoldclamhousesf.com
Pier 23 Café, San Francisco
What to expect: In a party-hearty atmosphere, the crab cocktail gets down to basics: crabmeat accompanied only by hot sauce. Steamed mussels pair well with Anchor Steam beer.
Check it out: Pier 23, On the Embarcadero; 415/362-5125 or pier23cafe.com
PPQ Dungeness Island, San Francisco
What to expect: The real deal is a fixed-price dinner for two, which includes whole-roasted Dungeness crab in a delicious garlic broth, equally tantalizing garlic noodles, fresh cabbage and chicken salad, and deep-fried banana dessert.
Check it out: 2332 Clement Street; 415/386-8266 or ppqdungeness.com
The Ramp, San Francisco
What to expect: No longer the bait and hot-dog shop it was years ago, The Ramp will dish up hot clam chowder for those foggy days, some fried Alaskan pollack and chips, and an array of salads starring tiny bay shrimp.
Check it out: 855 Terry Francois Street; 415/621-2378 or ramprestaurant.com
Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco
What to expect: Super-fresh seafood, super-nice service.
Check it out: 1517 Polk Street; 415/673-1101
Sushi Sam’s Edomata, San Mateo
What to expect: Surprisingly innovative nigiri (raw fish pressed onto a pad of rice) lies just a half-hour south of San Francisco. Grab a seat at the sushi bar and request the chef’s choice.
Check it out: 218 East Third Avenue; 650/344-0888 or sushisams.com
Duarte's Tavern, Pescadero, California
What to expect: Plump, succulent mussels swim in a garlicky, oniony, white wine broth. (Usually available as a special.)
Check it out: 202 Stage Road; 650/879-0464 or duartestavern.com
Anchor Oyster Bar, San Francisco
What to expect: A long marble counter and gleaming stainless steel tables give this cozy joint classic style. Anchor ships in live oysters from all over the continent, so you never know which varieties you’ll get to sample each day. Go mid-afternoon to avoid the crowds.
Check it out: 579 Castro St.; 415/431-3990 or anchoroysterbar.com