The Crab Cooker, Newport Beach
Citing “consistently great food,” readers back up the menu’s promise of the world’s best clam chowder. Scallop-and-bacon skewers and hot king crab claws are full of flavor, too; 949/673-0100 or thecrabcooker.com.
Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco
This tiny place with a long marble counter—grab a seat to watch the oyster-shucking action!—serves a variety of fresh seafood. The energetic staff liven up the scene with witty banter; 415/673-1101.
Splash Café, Pismo Beach
Steps from the shore with a kitschy-cute neon sign, Splash makes waves with its steamed clams and creamy chowder in a bread bowl; 805/773-4653 or splashcafe.com.