2009 Best Seafood Dives

Check out the complete list of our annual roundup then hit the road to find your favorites.

Best Seafood Dives in America

Illustrator 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.

Maine's Best Seafood Dives

Illustrator Matte Caserta

 Maine

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.

Check it out: 1 Steamboat Wharf Road; 207/244-7600 or thurstonslobster.com

New Hampshire Seafood Dives

Illustrator Matt Caserta

New Hampshire

Seabrook Lobster Pound, Seabrook

What to order: steamer clams, fried clams, haddock (the only fish on the menu). Or pick a lobster from the tanks. Grab a soda or BYOB―locals arrive lugging beer coolers.

The view: Overlooks a quiet salt marsh and the Blackwater River.

What you’ll shell out: $6.25–$19 for entrées; lobsters and steamers are market price. Cash only.

Check it out: State 286; 603/474-3331 or brownslobster.com

Masschusettes Seafood Dives

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Masschusettes

Woodman’s of Essex, Essex

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

Rhode Island Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Rhode Island

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

Connecticut Seafood Dives

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Connecticut

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

New York Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

New York

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

New Jersey Seafood Dives

Illustrator Matt Caserta

New Jersey

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

Delaware Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Delaware

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

Maryland Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caseta

Maryland

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

Virginia Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Virginia

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 you’ll shell out: $7.50–$28 for entrées.

Check it out: 2143 Vista Circle; 757/481-5757 or chicksoysterbar.com

North Carolina Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

North Carolina

Yacht Basin Provision Company, Southport

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.

Check it out: 130 Yacht Basin Drive; 910/457-0654 or provisioncompany.com

South Carolina Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

South Carolina

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 you’ll shell out: $7–$23 for entrées.

Check it out: 1870 Bowens Island Road; 843/795-2757 or bowensislandrestaurant.com

Georgia Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Georgia

The Crab Shack, Tybee Island

What to order: Capt’n Crab’s Sampler Platter (a little of everything) or the Low Country Boil (shrimp, sausage, potato, corn on the cob). To drink? Southern sweet tea, naturally.

The view: Expanses of water and marsh from under moss-draped live oaks. “Where the Elite Eat in Their Bare Feet.”

What you’ll shell out: $10–$24 for entrées.

Check it out: 40 Estill Hammock Road; 866/789-2722 or thecrabshack.com

Florida Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Florida

Phillippi Creek Village Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Sarasota

What to order: the Creek Combo Pots―steam-table trays of steamed seafood―with wine or one of 12 draft beer options.

The view: Placid Phillippi Creek, home to boaters, lots of birds, and the occasional alligator.

What you’ll shell out: $12–$28 for entrées.

Check it out: 5353 South Tamiami Trail; 941/925-4444 or creekseafood.com

Alabama Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Alabama

LuLu’s at Homeport Marina, Gulf Shores

What to order: LuLu’s Perfect Peel-and-Eat Shrimp, fried shrimp, fried oysters. LuLu serves Landshark Lager, the personal brand of her brother, singer Jimmy Buffett.

The view: This oasis of sand and palm trees sits along the Intracoastal Waterway under the State 59 bridge. Nightly live music.

What you’ll shell out: $7–$18 for entrées.

Check it out: 220 East 25th Avenue; 251/967-5858 or lulusathomeport.com

Mississippi Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Mississippi

B.B.’s Po-Boys & Seafood, Ocean Springs

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

Louisiana Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Louisiana

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

Texas Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Texas

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 you’ll shell out: $18–$56 per combo.

Check it out: 201 South Fulton Beach Rd.; 361/729-6972 or theboilingpotonline.com

California Seafood Dives

Illustrator Matt Caserta

California

Brophy Bros. Clam Bar & Restaurant, Santa Barbara

What to order: garlic baked clams, cioppino, chowder, sautéed ahi tuna crusted in roasted cashews. Try a bloody Mary or one of the excellent local wines.

The view: The mountains, the ocean, palm trees, Santa Barbara’s red-tile roofs, a gently swaying forest of sailboat masts, sunsets over the water.

What you’ll shell out: $10–$13 for lunch entrées, $13–$22 for dinner.

Check it out: 119 Harbor Way; 805/966-4418 or brophybros.com; also 1559 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura; 805/639-0865

Oregon Seafood Dives

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Oregon

Local Ocean Seafoods, Newport

What to order: as usual, local fare―Dungeness crab po’boys and soup, fish tacos, oysters, Pacific Northwest wines, and Oregon microbrews.

The view: a bustling harbor and the graceful Yaquina Bay Bridge.

What you’ll shell out: $7–$25 for entrées.

Check it out: 213 Southeast Bay Blvd.; 800/574-7959 or localocean.net

Washington Seafood Dive

Illustrator Matt Caserta

Washington

Lowell’s Restaurant & Bar, Seattle

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

 

Published May 2009

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