Illustrator Matt Caserta
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
Sea Chest Oyster Bar and Seafood Restaurant, Cambria
What to expect: Rustic and very popular; go for the catch-of-the-day fish, with mango salsa on the side.
Check it out: 6216 Moonstone Beach Drive; 805/927-4514 or cambria-online.com/seachestrestaurantandoysterbar
Zelda’s On the Beach Restaurant, Capitola
What to expect: You can sit outdoors, right on the beach. The clam chowder and fried calamari reveal a kitchen that lavishes some care on what could otherwise have been standard bar food.
Check it out: 203 Esplanade; 831/475-4900 or zeldasonthebeach.com
Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle, Monterey
What to expect: The squid (or crab cake) and eggs reels in fishermen as early as 7 a.m. Ultra-rich clam chowder and flaky white sand dabs appear at lunch.
Check it out: Municipal Wharf Number 2; 831/372-0568
Totoya Japanese Restaurant, Monterey
What to expect: The sushi’s delectable at this tiny restaurant across from Monterey Bay Aquarium. A crew of three can sample as many sushi rolls and slices of ruby red tuna as they can hold, and still get out for less than $50.
Check it out: 867 Wave Street; 831/375-7024
Li’l Hut, Morro Bay
What to expect: At this oddball stand in the parking lot of the Harbor Hut restaurant, the thick and tasty clam chowder shines. This homemade creation finds delicious synergy with the sweet pineapple coleslaw.
Check it out: 1205 Embarcadero; 805/772-3488
Aldo’s Harbor Restaurant, Santa Cruz
What to expect: Aldo’s sits on the water in Santa Cruz. It’s a plain little box of a place with excellent calamari and great harbor and lighthouse views. A huge outdoor deck and lots of windows take full advantage of the setting.
Check it out: 616 Atlantic Avenue; 831/426-3736 or aldos-cruz.com
Ruddell’s Smokehouse, Cayucos
What to expect: Ruddell’s serves “the ultimate tuna sandwich.” Says so on the menu. And with a big, perfectly cooked piece of smoked albacore and what amounts to an entire salad all in an oversize roll, it really is. This hut, across the street from the beach, makes everything to order and even provides a guitar for customers to strum while they wait.
Check it out: 101 D St.; 805/995-5028 or smokerjim.com
Harbor Fish Cafè, Carlsbad
What to expect: Order the large plate of fish-and-chips―three pieces of lightly battered fish, a mound of fries, and homemade tartar sauce. It weighs about 5 pounds, but it’s worth every calorie-laden bite.
Check it out: 3179 Carlsbad Boulevard; 760/729-4161
Catalina Fish Kitchen and Seafood Deli, Costa Mesa
What to expect: A huge array of moderately priced seafood, prepared any way you can imagine, packs the menu. The tacos, gumbos, and chowders all draw rave reviews. The mixed seafood skewer deserves consideration, too.
Check it out: 670 West 17th Street; 949/645-8873 or catalinafishkitchen.com
Fat Face Fenner’s Fishack, Hermosa Beach
What to expect: Clam chowder, fish-and-chips, and messy but delicious blackened fish tacos with cilantro-lime salsa.
Check it out: 53 Pier Avenue; 310/379-5550 or fatfacefenners.com
The Crab Cooker, Newport Beach
What to expect: “World's best” clam chowder, according to the menu, and pretty good broiled seafood too.
Check it out: 2200 Newport Boulevard; 949/673-0100 or crabcooker.com
Duke’s Malibu, Malibu
What to expect: Concentrate on what stretches out in front of you: unobstructed views of the Pacific, and dish after dish of delicious island-inspired fare. From the chicken spring rolls to the coconut shrimp, the spicy Asian slaw, and the crisp, flavorful Baja fish tacos, Duke’s has freshness down pat.
Check it out: 21150 Pacific Coast Highway; 310/317-0777 or dukesmalibu.com
Malibu Seafood, Malibu
What to expect: Seafood market and takeout stand. Get what’s fresh and eat at picnic tables or across the highway on the beach.
Check it out: 25653 Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1); 310/456-3430 or malibuseafood.com
Paradise Cove Beach Café, Malibu
What to expect: Wide-screen views of the Pacific. The clam chowder and crispy-skin salmon are well worth the trip down the mile-long access road.
Check it out: 28128 Pacific Coast Highway; 310/457-2503 or paradisecovemalibu.com
South Beach Bar & Grille, Ocean Beach
What to expect: Everyone―from business types in suits to surfers damp from the waves―converges here for fabulous fish tacos.
Check it out: 5059 Newport Avenue; 619/226-4577 or southbeachob.com
Harbor Fish & Chips, Oceanside
What to expect: Serves consistently good fish-and-chips and tasty if not overly clammy clam chowder on Oceanside Harbor.
Check it out: 276 Harbor Drive South; 760/722-4977 or harborfishandchips.net
Captain Kidd’s Fish Market and Restaurant, Redondo Beach
What to expect: A no-frills seafood market. They’ll cook whatever you buy however you like it.
Check it out: 209 North Harbor Drive; 310/372-7703 or captainkidds.com
The Green Flash, San Diego
What to expect: You just might glimpse that elusive moment that gave the restaurant its name―when the setting sun appears green for an instant. Delivering your heaping seafood platter, bowlful of steamed clams, or fat burger, your server will tell you to “look quick, it's awesome.”
Check it out: 701 Thomas Avenue; 858/270-7715 or greenflashrestaurant.com
Point Loma Seafoods, San Diego
What to expect: Lunchtime crowds favor the crab, tuna, and shrimp sandwiches, and the creamy and tomato-based chowders.
Check it out: 2805 Emerson Street; 619/223-1109 or pointlomaseafoods.com
Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, Santa Barbara
What to expect: Yummy serviche (seafood marinated in citrus juice) and cioppino nearly a half-mile into the Pacific on Stearns Warf.
Check it out: 230 Stearns Wharf; 805/966-6676 or sbfishhouse.com
Enterprise Fish Co., Santa Monica
What to expect: For more than a quarter-century, diners have thronged the airy brick building, a former trolley station just steps from the beach. The menu includes live lobsters and raw shellfish, but the focus is on fresh Pacific fish, prepared with a range of influences from Cajun to Asian, Italian, and all-American “golden fried.”
Check it out: 174 Kinney Street; 310/392-8366 enterprisefishco.com
Chez Jay, Santa Monica
What to expect: A quirky meeting place for longtime regulars, young hipsters, and the occasional celebrity. Excellent sautéed sand dabs almondine.
Check it out: 1657 Ocean Avenue; 310/395-1741 or chezjays.com
Stacky’s Seaside, Summerland
What to expect: Light, crisp fish-and-chips, plus fish burgers and crab melts.
Check it out: 2315 Lillie Avenue; 805/969-9908
Andria’s Seafood Restaurant and Market, Ventura
What to expect: A big variety of seafood―almost all of it fresh from the market half of the business―comes fried, charbroiled, or stir-fried. We love the fish-and-chips, especially the halibut.
Check it out: 1449 Spinnaker Drive; 805/654-0546 or andriasseafood.com
Pier Beach Grill, Ventura
What to expect: Pick up some chowder or fish-and-chips at this no-frills snack bar at the foot of the 1,958-foot Ventura Pier. Then enjoy the sea breeze, the cries of the gulls, and the rhythmic rush of the waves.
Check it out: 668 Harbor Boulevard; 805/648-3177
Wahoo’s Fish Taco, Southern California and Honolulu
What to expect: This regional chain has a surprisingly healthy Mexican-Brazilian-Asian-Californian menu. The casual surfer vibe adapts to each location, giving stores a neighborhood feel.
Check it out: Various coastal locations in Southern California and Honolulu, Hawaii; wahoos.com