America's Best Seafood Dives 2012

It's the 15th anniversary of our annual celebration of the best seafood dives. To celebrate, fried-food guru Steve Millburg takes us on a tour of the 50 best ever.

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012

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The 2012 List

What exactly is a seafood dive? Writer and fried food expert Steve Millburg puts it best, saying that dive means " a seafood restaurant with a casual atmosphere and great food. A wine list might be OK, but a beer list is better. The best dives prepare food simply but carefully, using only fresh ingredients. Prospective dives earn bonus points for being on the water, making their own sauces, and offering live entertainment—quadruple bonus points if it's Jimmy Buffett," he says.

This year, we asked him to narrow it down to the 50 best. Click here to his state-by-state list ...

 

 

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Alabama

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Alabama

LuLu's at Homeport Marina, Gulf Shores
At this breezy tropical escape along the Intracoastal Waterway, I particularly like the blackened fish and seafood, the fish tacos, and, no kidding, the Krispy Kreme bread pudding. 251/967-5858 or lulubuffett.com

Sea-N-Suds, Gulf Shores
High-rises loom behind, but in front beckon white sand, blue sky, and turquoise water. I like the fried oysters and shrimp, and especially the wonderfully spicy gumbo. 251/948-7894 or sea-n-suds.com
* Mix your own cocktail sauce—it's fun!

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Alaska

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Alaska

The Bamboo Room Restaurant, Haines
The juicy, ultrafresh halibut fish-and-chips in this homey small-town diner are the best I've ever had. Wash it down with a beer from the Alaskan Brewing Company. 907/766-2800 or bamboopioneer.net

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: California

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

California

Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market & Patio Café, Malibu
Enjoy the sun and the salt air along with your ahi tuna burger on the elevated, uncovered patio. Or take your order across the highway for a picnic on the beach. 310/456-3430 or malibuseafood.com

Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco
Nineteen rickety stools line up at the scarred old marble bar. Simple preparations show off the flavors of the fresh seafood. Service is the friendliest ever, anywhere. 415/673-2757

Spud Point Crab, Bodega Bay
Here, across the street from Spud Point Marina, you'll find my favorite clam chowder: rich, creamy, generously laced with clams, and dancing with herb flavors. 707/875-9472 or spudpointcrab.com

Ruddell's Smokehouse, Cayucos
In quirky Cayucos—half beachy, half Old West—look for the hut on the waterfront that serves "the ultimate tuna sandwich." It combines perfectly smoked tuna with a generous salad. Ultimate, indeed. 805/995-5028 or smokerjim.com

Barbara's Fishtrap, Princeton-by-the-Sea
Retro charm, with fishing nets hanging from the ceiling, and nice water views. I like the clam chowder and fried seafood, especially the fish-and-chips. Cash or checks only. 650/728-7049

Splash Café, Pismo Beach
Join the surfers at this colorful diner in a laid-back beach town. Everybody orders the chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Follow with fish-and-chips or steamed clams. 805/773-4653 or splashcafe.com
* Order the chowder (with or without the bread bowl!) online.

South Beach Bar & Grille, Ocean Beach
South Beach—loud, crowded, and fun—claims to serve the world's best fish tacos. I haven't found any better. Try the grilled mahi mahi. Cash only. 619/226-4577 or southbeachob.com

Phil's Fish Market & Eatery, Moss Landing
A lot of the dishes at Phil's are tempting. But no one can resist the cioppino, a tomato-broth seafood stew that's a West Coast specialty. Phil's makes one of the best. 831/633-2152 or philsfishmarket.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Connecticut

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Connecticut

The Place Restaurant, Guilford
Wonderfully weird. You sit outdoors on logs at plywood tables. Everything, including the clams, mussels, shrimp, fish, lobster, and corn on the cob (dunked in melted butter), cooks on an immense grill. Bring your own alcohol, side dishes, seat cushions, etc. Open late April through October; no credit cards. 203/453-9276 or theplaceguilford.com

Lenny & Joe's Fish Tale, Madison
This delicious dive (more casual than its sister location in nearby Westbrook) does not skimp on entertainment. It has a carousel. And an ice-cream stand. But the chowder, fried shrimp, and lobster roll steal the show. 860/669-0767 or ljfishtale.com

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, Noank
Abbott's serves Connecticut-style clam chowder (clear broth) and hot lobster rolls (meat and melted butter on a hamburger-style bun). Open early May through Columbus Day. 860/536-7719 or abbotts-lobster.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Delaware

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Delaware

Mickey's Family Crab House, Bethany Beach
Weary of fried seafood? Bite your tongue! Or bite into the many broiled and steamed options available at Mickey's, including a nice broiled crab cake. 302/539-5384 or bethanyrestaurants.com
* Ask about the all-you-can-eat specials.

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Florida

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Florida

Boss Oyster, Apalachicola
This classic Florida dive, with open-air rooms on pilings above the water, specializes in baked oysters with creative toppings. 850/653-9364 or apalachicolariverinn.com/boss.html

Phillippi Creek Village Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Sarasota
You could sit for hours at a Phillippi Creek picnic table, feasting on a steamed combo pot, sipping a beer, enjoying the breeze, and letting the world go by. In fact, you should. 941/925-4444 or creekseafood.com

Killer Seafood, Mexico Beach
Absolutely unpretentious and super friendly, with amazing—and totally messy—fish tacos. You'll be licking Killer Seafood Simmerin' Sauce from your fingers. 850/648-6565 or killerseafood.net

Star Fish Company Dockside Restaurant, Cortez
Picnic tables on a weathered dock, simply prepared fresh seafood, and one of the best Florida views: blue-green water, mangrove islands, and spindly-legged fishing sheds. 941/794-1243 or starfishcompany.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Georgia

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Georgia

The Crab Shack, Tybee Island
Its slogan, "where the elite eat in their bare feet," sums up The Crab Shack, a rambling, rustic collection of open decks and covered seating in the salt marsh. I recommend the Low Country Boil or Capt'n Crab's Sampler. 912/786-9857 or thecrabshack.com
* Feed the young alligators at the lagoon near the entrance.

North Beach Bar & Grill, Tybee Island
The little place right between the Tybee Lighthouse and the beach is back, turning out such creative Southern- and Caribbean-influenced seafood as escovitch (Jamaican marinated fish). 912/786-4442 or northbeachbarandgrill.net

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Hawaii

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Hawaii

Paia Fish Market Restaurant, Paia (Maui)
The hang-loose Hawaiian spirit turns strangers sharing the picnic tables into friends within minutes. The incredibly fresh, inexpensive, perfectly prepared seafood helps, too. 808/579-8030 or paiafishmarket.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Illinois

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Illinois

Calumet Fisheries, Chicago
The smoked fish at the red-roofed building next to a drawbridge packs bold flavor. If it's too smoky for you, go for the fried offerings. Cash and takeout only. 773/933-9855 or calumetfisheries.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Louisiana

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Louisiana

Acme Oyster House, New Orleans
Wisecracking oyster shuckers keep things rollicking at this French Quarter institution. The food is the real deal—oysters as well as po'boys, gumbo, and fried seafood. 504/522-5973 or acmeoyster.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Maryland

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Maryland

Faidley Seafood, Baltimore
The best crab cakes ever—which you eat standing up at counters amid the food-vending hubbub of Lexington Market. 410/727-4898 or faidleyscrabcakes.com

Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis
Blue crabs in all their glorious manifestations form the heart of the menu. Try the stuffed rockfish bursting with Lump Crab Imperial. 410/757-1311 or cantlers.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Maine

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Maine

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier, Kittery Point
An authentic Maine lobster pound tucked along a scenic creek. You can bring alcoholic beverages and any side dishes the menu doesn't offer. Open Mother's Day to Columbus Day. 207/439-1030 or chaunceycreek.com

Red's Eats, Wiscasset
The overflowing lobster rolls contain all the meat from a 1-pound lobster. In summer, a line of hungry people snakes down Main Street (U.S. 1) from the tiny red-and-white building under the big elm tree. Open mid-April into October. 207/882-6128

The Lobster Shack at Two Lights, Cape Elizabeth
Eat outdoors near a lighthouse on the famously rugged Maine coast. The menu features a nice, hearty lobster roll. Open late March to late October. 207/799-1677 or lobstershacktwolights.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Massachusetts

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Massachusetts

Clam Box of Ipswich, Ipswich
The restaurant looks like a giant clam box. Wonderful fried clams. Great fish, scallops, oysters, and clam chowder, too. 978/356-9707 or ipswichma.com/clambox

Kelly's Roast Beef, Revere
Get fried clams, fish-and-chips, or a lobster roll here at the original of the five Kelly's locations. Find a seat at the beach pavilion across the street. 781/284-9129 or kellysroastbeef.com

Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar, Eastham
Arnold's has perfected the art of frying: whole-belly clams, scallops, lobster—right down to the homemade onion rings. Open mid-May through mid-October. 508/255-2575 or arnoldsrestaurant.com
* Also at Arnold's: ice cream and mini golf

Woodman's of Essex, Essex
Woodman's claims to have invented the fried clam back in 1916, and it certainly creates a wonderful version. It does everything else well, too. Lobster is always a good choice. 978/768-6057 or woodmans.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Minnesota

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Minnesota

Betty's Pies, Two Harbors
It began as a fish shack and still serves a great walleye sandwich and fish-and-chips. As for the pies ... oh, my. Save room. Lots and lots of room. 877/269-7494 or bettyspies.com
* Betty's sells pies online, too.

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Mississippi

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Mississippi

Bozo's Seafood Market & Deli, Pascagoula
The man at the back-corner table writes your name and order on a white paper sack. Soon, you pick up that same sack, filled with a buttery, overstuffed shrimp po'boy. The fried seafood is pretty good, too. 228/762-3322

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: New Hampshire

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

New Hampshire

Markey's Lobster Pool, Seabrook
Start with the buttery clam chowder—milky, in the New England style, with whole-belly clams. Marsh and river views calm frazzled nerves. Cash only. 603/474-2851 or markeyslobsterpool.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: New Jersey

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

New Jersey

Allen's Clam Bar, New Gretna
It doesn't much bother with decor, the place mat is also the menu, and the plates are disposable, but the seafood, both fried and broiled, tastes unbelievably good and fresh. BYOB. 609/296-4106

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: New York

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

New York

The Clam Bar at Napeague, Amagansett
Sit in the Long Island breeze under a yellow-and-white umbrella with a plate of steamed soft-shell clams or a lobster roll. Open March to December; cash only. 631/267-6348 or clambaronline.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: North Carolina

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

North Carolina

Yacht Basin Provision Company, Southport
Dine on a dock, watching boats and birds glide by. After enjoying a mountain of steamed shrimp, there's only one thing to do: order Key lime pie. 910/457-0654 or provisioncompany.com

Calabash Seafood Hut, Calabash
Real Calabash-style seafood comes lightly battered, fried, and hot from the kitchen—not from a buffet. In a town full of seafood restaurants, this friendly hut is the bomb. 910/579-6723

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Oregon

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Oregon

The Fish Peddler at Pacific Oyster, Bay City
Treat yourself to comfort food—rich, creamy oyster stew. On weekdays, watch (through windows) the oyster shuckers on the Pacific Oyster processing line. 503/377-2323

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Rhode Island

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Rhode Island

Flo's Clam Shack, Middletown
Excellent fried clams and clear-broth Rhode Island chowder. Also try fiery stuffed Quahogs and Italian-style calamari. Open March through October; cash only. 401/847-8141

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: South Carolina

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

South Carolina

Bowens Island Restaurant, Charleston
Graffiti already covers the walls of the new dining room. Servers still shovel steamed oysters onto your table. The fried shrimp and fish are still fabulous. And now Bowens Island takes credit cards! 843/795-2757 or bowensislandrestaurant.com

The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene, Mount Pleasant
The shrimp and oysters are super fresh and delicious. The Wreck also takes unusual care with side dishes, such as fried hominy, hush puppies, fried green tomatoes, and red rice. 843/884-0052 or wreckrc.com

SeeWee Restaurant, Awendaw
Trappings from the building's general-store past remain as decor. Homemade sauces add zest to excellent fried seafood; start with the lightly breaded calamari. 843/928-3609

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Texas

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Texas

Wanna Wanna Beach Bar & Grill, South Padre Island
Watch the waves at this thatched-roof tiki hut right on the beach. Chill with a few beers and some heavenly fried seafood—you'll wanna wanna go back again soon. 956/761-7677 or wannawanna.com

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Virginia

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Virginia

Chick's Oyster Bar, Virginia Beach
Chick's can be party central, but it's serious about the food. I love the steamed seafood and, in season, soft-shell crabs. 757/481-5757 or chicksoysterbar.com
* Gorgeous sunsets over Lynnhaven Inlet

America's Best Seafood Dives 2012: Washington

Writer: Steve Millburg, Illustrations: Matt Caserta

Washington

San Juan Lanes Bar & Grill, Anacortes
I didn't believe the woman at the Chamber of Commerce who told me I could find the best fish-and-chips in town at the bowling alley. But she was right. 360/293-7500 or sanjuanlanes.com
* Bowling starts with breakfast!

Tides Tavern, Gig Harbor
Noisy and friendly, the Tides feels authentically Pacific Northwestern. The local oyster shooters and craft beers are especially good. 253/858-3982 or tidestavern.com

Lowell's Restaurant & Bar, Seattle
Lowell's offers quick service (first and third floors), table service (second floor), and views (Puget Sound or Pike Place). Try fish-and-chips or Dungeness crab. 206/622-2036 or eatatlowells.com

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