Check out the complete list of our annual roundup then hit the road to find your favorites.
Written by Steve Millburg
1 of 22Illustrator Matt Caserta
This Year's Best Seafood Dives
Long live the laid-back shacks where the menus hang on the wall, the beers chill on ice, and the food comes piled high, deep-fried, slathered, breaded, buttered, and steamed. Check out the complete list of our annual roundup then hit the road to find your favorites.
2 of 22Illustrator Matte Caserta
Thurston's Lobster Pound, Bernard (Mt. Desert Island)
What to order: Pick a live lobster and choose a dinner. “Plain” comes with corn on the cob, slaw, roll, and blueberry cake. Pair it with locally brewed Bar Harbor Real Ale or Blueberry Ale.
The view: With a vantage point high above Bass Harbor, diners can watch lobster boats rumble in with the day’s catch.
What you’ll shell out: $10–$15 for a lobster, plus $6–$12 for “dinner;” $5–$10 for sandwiches.
What to order: fried clams. Founder Lawrence “Chubby” Woodman claimed he invented them here in 1916. Lines have been forming outside ever since. Great clam chowder, too (see recipe at far right). Wash it all down with a Samuel Adams Summer Ale.
The view: The rooftop deck overlooks the marsh, the Essex River, and Crane Beach in the distance.
What you’ll shell out: $9–$26 per entrée.
Check it out: 121 Main Street (State 133); 800/649-1773 or woodmans.com
5 of 22Illustrator Matt Caserta
Champlin’s Seafood Restaurant, Galilee
What to order: fish-and-chips, fried clams, fried shrimp, and the huge fried scallops. And you can’t go wrong with the Rhode Island-style clear-broth chowder. Chase it with crisp, chilled Narragansett Lager, a revitalized old New England favorite.
The view: The state’s biggest fishing fleet bustles in and out of Galilee Harbor. Block Island hovers on the horizon. Flocks of gulls and chattering summer visitors wander the docks.
What you’ll shell out: $7–$25 for entrées; lobsters, market price.
Check it out: 256 Great Island Road; 401/783-3152 or champlins.com
6 of 22Illustrator Matt Caserta
The Place, Guilford
What to order: Everything’s cooked on the grill. Try the “roast clam special,” prepared with butter and cocktail sauce. Buy a round of soft drinks, or BYOB.
The view: Picture a summer-camp cookout, with plywood circles mounted on logs for tables, more logs for chairs (T-shirt slogan: “Put Your Rump on a Stump”; locals bring seat cushions―and bug spray), and a giant, red, hand-painted menu.
What you’ll shell out: $8–$25 per à la carte entrée.
Check it out: 901 Boston Post Road (U.S. 1); 203/453-9276
7 of 22Illustrator Matt Caserta
The Clam Bar at Napeague, Amagansett
What to order: the basics―steamers, fried clams, grilled fish, chowders, bottled beer, by-the-glass white wine.
The view: This red roadside building with outdoor tables under yellow umbrellas sits on a narrow neck of sand and pine trees. You can hear the surf from across the road and over the dunes.
What you’ll shell out: about $15–$18. Cash only.
Check it out: 2025 Montauk Highway; 631/267-6348
8 of 22Illustrator Matt Caserta
Spike’s Fish Market and Restaurant, Point Pleasant Beach
What to order: a meaty lobster roll or lobster melt. Bring your beverage of choice, or opt for your favorite soft drink for sale.
The view: Best from the parking lot; the water is out back.
What you’ll shell out: $10–$23, $37 for a 2-pound-lobster dinner.
Check it out: 415 Broadway; 732/295-9400
9 of 22Illustrator Matt Caserta
Ed’s Chicken & Crabs, Dewey Beach
What to order: fresh blue crabs, steamed and dusted with Old Bay seasoning, and barbecue chicken. Soft drinks are plentiful, but Ed’s doesn’t serve alcohol.
The view: No water view, but good people watching.
What you’ll shell out: $6.75–$19 for à la carte entrées.
Check it out: State 1 and Swedes Street; 302/227-9484
10 of 22Illustrator Matt Caseta
Cantler’s Riverside Inn, Annapolis
What to order: anything involving crabs, which are unloaded right at the dock. Try the rockfish stuffed with crab imperial. Light beer from a can makes a fine accompaniment.
The view: Docks, working boats, and fishermen, just off the Chesapeake Bay.
What you’ll shell out: $11–$26 for entrées.
Check it out: 458 Forest Beach Road; 410/757-1311 or cantlers.com
11 of 22Illustrator Matt Caserta
Chick’s Oyster Bar, Virginia Beach
What to order: oysters, crab cakes, fish tacos, soft-shell crab. Regulars rave about the signature “crush” cocktails (made with crushed ice).
The view: Lynnhaven Inlet, the Lesner Bridge, boats, palatial waterfront houses, spectacular sunsets.
What to order: the steamed shrimp/crab cake platter, the crab burger, or the pile of steamed shrimp. The drinks are equally laid-back here, from wine served in mini- bottles to soft drinks plucked from a cooler.
The view: Here at “Provisions,” the dockside, open-air dining area overlooks boat traffic on the Intracoastal Waterway, marshes, islands, and two lighthouses.
What you’ll shell out: $4–$9 for a sandwich or salad, $18 for a pound of steamed shrimp.
Bowens Island Restaurant, Bowens Island (near Folly Beach)
What to order: steamed local oysters, shoveled (literally) onto your table. Also try the fried shrimp or seafood platter―regular size or “Big Ol’.” Ask for a bottle of locally brewed Palmetto Amber beer.
The view: Vistas of river and marsh, with sky-filling sunsets. By midsummer, a new dining room (replacing one that burned) should be ready for a Bowens Island tradition: scrawling graffiti on the walls.
What to order: gumbo and the soups of the day, “surf and turf” po’boys, and bread pudding. Round out the meal with sweet tea or Barq’s Root Beer in a bottle.
The view: Autographed photos of famous Mississippians (mostly football players) on the walls.
What you’ll shell out: $9–$25 for an entrée.
Check it out: 1300 Bienville Blvd. (U.S. 90); 228/875-2702
18 of 22Illustrator Matt Caserta
Acme Oyster House, New Orleans
What to order: Take it from the wisecracking shuckers just inside the door: The fresh Louisiana oysters are equally good raw, fried, or chargrilled, but they all taste even better chased by an ice-cold Abita beer.
The view: The passing French Quarter parade―you’re a half block off Bourbon Street.
What you’ll shell out: $8–$21 for an entrée or sandwich.
Check it out: 724 Iberville Street (French Quarter, original location of a minichain); 504/ 522-5973 or acmeoyster.com
19 of 22Illustrator Matt Caserta
The Boiling Pot, Rockport
What to order: Cajun-style boiled seafood on your butcher paper-covered table. Opt for The Cajun Combo (crab, shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes). Beer comes in 50 varieties.
The View: The outside patio provides glimpses of shrimp boats and water.
What to order: fish-and-chips, salmon taco, Dungeness crab cake roll. Try the locally brewed Manny’s Pale Ale or a cocktail infused with fresh fruit or herbs. For breakfast: smoked salmon scramble, Dungeness crab omelet.
The view: All three floors overlook the busy Port of Seattle, ferries and tugboats hustling across Elliott Bay, and the distant Olympic Mountains.
What you’ll shell out: $12–$17 for lunch/dinner entrées.
Check it out: 1519 Pike Place (Pike Place Market); 206/622-2036 or eatatlowells.com