Horton’s Seafood, East Providence
What to expect: Cozy, friendly neighborhood favorite.
Check it out: 809 Broadway; 401/434-3116
Flo’s Clam Shack, Middletown
What to expect: Chowder (red, white, or clear), clam cakes, and spicy stuffed quahog clams.
Check it out: 4 Wave Avenue; 401/847-8141 or flosclamshack.net
Evelyn’s Drive-In, Tiverton
What to expect: Lobster rolls taste even better at waterfront tables.
Check it out: 2335 Main Road; 401/624-3100 or evelynsdrivein.com
Lenny’s Indian Head Inn, Branford
What to expect: Zero atmosphere but great food; try the “famous shore dinner,” with lobster, clear-broth chowder, raw cherrystone clams, steamed clams, and sweet corn.
Check it out: 205 South Montowese Street; 203/488-1500 or lennysnow.com
Westbrook Lobster Restaurant & Fish Market, Clinton
What to expect: Lobster Savannah is the house specialty.
Check it out: 346 East. Main Street; 800/359-4871 or westbrooklobster.com
The Place, Guilford
What to expect: You sit at outdoor tables made from plywood mounted on logs. Everything, including the clams, steamers, mussels, shrimp, bluefish, lobster, and corn on the cob (dunked in butter), cooks on an immense grill. Bring your own alcohol, side dishes, and seat cushion. Cash or check only. The Place is open April to October.
Check it out: 981 Boston Post Road; 203/453-9276
Spencer’s Shad Shack, Haddam
What to expect: Masters of the art of “planking” shad. Cooked on wood over an open fire, this fish and its eggs (shad roe) are a regional delight. Shad season is unpredictable―April or May―so call before you go.
Check it out: 1146 Saybrook Road; 860/345-4805
Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, Madison
What to expect: Of the two locations (Madison and nearby Westbrook), we prefer the more casual one in Madison. You’ll love the fried shrimp, lobster roll, and clear-broth clam chowder.
Check it out: 1301 Boston Post Road (U.S. 1); 203/245-7289 or ljfishtale.com
Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock, New London
What to expect: Lobster rolls, steamed clams, fried platters. BYO beer and wine. Open spring through early fall.
Check it out: 80 Hamilton Street; 860/439-1741
Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank
What to expect: A classic summer-season-only lobster shack with great views of Long Island Sound and the Mystic River.
Check it out: 117 Pearl Street; 860/536-7719 or abbotts-lobster.com
Sono Seaport Seafood, South Norwalk
What to expect: Locals love the crab-cake sandwich and daily specials.
Check it out: 100 Water Street; 203/854-9483 or sonoseaportseafood.com
The Clam Bar at Napeague, Amagansett
What to expect: Few summer pleasures can match devouring a plate of steamed clams-or whatever your seafood pleasure-in the salty open air at The Clam Bar, not caring whether the juices dribble onto your chin, your beach attire, or the pebbles underfoot. Open early May until early fall, depending on the weather; cash only.
Check it out: 2025 Montauk Highway; 631/267-6348
Orient By the Sea Restaurant and Marina, Orient Point
What to expect: Go for the hot flounder sandwich or the de-shelled Lazy Lobster.
Check it out: 40200 Main Road; 631/323-2424 or orientbythesea.com
P.J. Lobster House, Port Jefferson
What to expect: Stick with the steamer clams and the steamed lobster. Seafood market/restaurant.
Check it out: 1 North Country Road; 631/473-1143 or pjlobsterhouse.com
Wheeler's Restuarant, Brooklyn, New York
What to expect: Proudly ungentrified (with a "No Sushi" sign in the window), this neighborhood bar serves wonderful steamed mussels with white or or red sauce.
Check it out: 1707 Sheepshead Bay Road; 718/646-9320
Klein’s Waterside Cafe, Belmar
What to expect: Sit on the patio overlooking the Shark River and enjoy steamed lobsters, the clambake, or the shrimp or flounder Français.
Check it out: 708 River Road; 732/681-1177 or kleinsfishmarketonline.com
Oyster Creek Inn, Leeds Point
What to expect: At the end of the road on Great Bay. Delicious snapper (snapping turtle) soup, broiled scallops, broiled shrimp, and applesauce.
Check it out: 41 North Oyster Creek Road; 609/652-8565 or oystercreekinnnj.com
Allen’s Clam Bar, New Gretna
What to expect: Good, inexpensive fried seafood. No frills, no alcohol (bring your own), no credit cards.
Check it out: 5650 Route 9; 609/296-4106
Harpoon Henry’s, North Cape May
What to expect: When the frozen-drink menu dwarfs the food menu, you get a pretty good idea that people have fun here. We recommend the clam chowder and the glorious sunsets over Delaware Bay.
Check it out: 91 Beach Ave.; 609/886-5529 or harpoonhenrys.com
Red’s Lobster Pot, Point Pleasant Beach
What to expect: Fresh lobster and other seafood, nothing fried. BYO beer and wine.
Check it out: 57 Inlet Drive; 732/295-6622 or redslobsterpot.com
Spike’s Fish Market Restaurant, Point Pleasant
What to expect: Nothing fried and everything fresh; it’s a seafood market as well as a restaurant.
Check it out: 415 Broadway; 732/295-9400
Mickey’s Family Crabhouse, Bethany Beach
What to expect: Suffer from fear of frying? Try the broiled crab cake or the many steamed options.
Check it out: 222 Jefferson Bridge Road (just off State 1); 302/539-5384 or mickeysfamilycrabhouse.com
Ed’s Chicken & Crabs, Dewey Beach
What to expect: “Chicken Ed’s” enjoys a cult following for its fresh, steamed blue crabs dusted with Old Bay seasoning; BYOB. Ed’s operates from April until the end of crab season, around November.
Check it out: Highway 1 and Swedes Street; 302/227-9484
Fenwick Crab House Restaurant, Fenwick Island
What to expect: The meaty backfin crab cakes get extra points for savory seasoning. Other interesting options include vegetable crab soup (a tomato-based crab-veggie chowder) and crunchy homemade potato chips.
Check it out: 100 Coastal Highway (State 1); 302/539-2500 or beach-net.com/ficrabhouse
The Purple Parrot Bar & Grill, Rehoboth Beach
What to expect: A riotously colorful Delaware version of a Florida beach joint.
Check it out: 134 Rehoboth Avenue; 302/226-1139
Cantler’s Riverside Inn, Annapolis
What to expect: Boats unload fresh crabs right at the Cantler’s dock; try the stuffed rockfish, too.
Check it out: 458 Forest Beach Road; 410/757-1311 or cantlers.com
Davis’ Pub, Annapolis
What to expect: Fantastic crab cakes, made with crackers instead of breadcrumbs.
Check it out: 400 Chester Avenue; 410/268-7432 or davispub.com
Magothy Seafood Crab Deck & Tiki Bar, Arnold
What to expect: At this marina-side tent without walls, local crabbers pull right up to drop off their catches, which get turned into heavenly crab cake sandwiches.
Check it out: 700 Mill Creek Road; 410/647-5793
Bertha’s Restaurant & Bar, Baltimore
What to expect: An institution in Fells Point, Bertha's is legendary for its many delicious variations on steamed mussels. Heed the ubiquitous T-shirts and bumper stickers: Eat Bertha’s Mussels.
Check it out: 734 South Broadway; 410/327-5795 or berthas.com
The Wharf Rat, Baltimore
What to expect: With great fish-and-chips, excellent craft beers, nautical decor, and an air of elegance gone to seed, this cozy place in Baltimore’s funky Fells Point neighborhood has it all.
Check it out: 801 South Ann Street; 410/276-9034 or thewharfrat.com
Price’s Seafood, Havre de Grace
What to expect: Dig into a pile of steamed crabs dumped onto your butcher paper-covered table. But don’t neglect the steamed shrimp, the lump crab cake, or Dad’s Crab Chowder. Cash only.
Check it out: 650 Water Street; 410/939-2782 or pricesseafood.com
Woody’s Crab House, North East
What to expect: Any kind of crab is great, including the crab cake sandwich.
Check it out: 29 South Main Street; 410/287-3541 or woodyscrabhouse.com
Sneaky Pete’s, Ocean City
What to expect: Boiled crabs in an open-wall bar on pilings in Assawoman Bay―a perfect summer moment.
Check it out: 12913 Ocean Gateway (U.S. 50); 410/213-1771 or hooperscrabhouse.com
Capt. Billys II, Popes Creek
What to expect: Wonderful views of the wide Potomac River estuary and the 1940-vintage Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, and the crabs are terrific.
Check it out: 11495 Popes Creek Road; 301/934-3300
Waterman’s Crab House, Rock Hall
What to expect: A classic Chesapeake Bay crab house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, recently renovated but still unpretentious.
Check it out: 21055 Sharp Street Wharf; 410/639-2261 or watermanscrabhouse.com
Stoney’s Solomons Pier, Solomons
What to expect: Marylanders know their crab cakes. So this thriving dive, part of a four-restaurant chain, is clearly doing something right. The appeal? Softball-size cakes, light on filling, with meat so fresh it tastes like a whole new food group.
Check it out: 14575 Solomons Island Road; 410/326-2424 or stoneysseafoodhouse.com
Town Dock Restaurant, St. Michaels
What to expect: At Sunday brunch, you'll want to savor every spoonful of the rich crab bisque before your shellfish-laden eggs St. Michaels arrives. We also love the chunky hash browns with red and green bell peppers.
Check it out: 125 Mulberry Street; 410/745-5577 or town-dock.com
Red Roost, Whitehaven
What to expect: The red-painted building began life as a chicken house. These days, steamed crab rules the Roost. Prefer not to dig out that armor-protected meat? Go for the broiled seafood platter, which includes a terrific crab cake.
Check it out: 2670 Clara Road; 410/546-5443 or theredroost.com
Crab Cake Factory, Ocean City
What to expect: Choose regular (backfin, which some say is sweeter) or all-lump crab cakes.
Check it out: 12000 Coastaly Hwy.; 410/250-4900 or crabcakefactoryusa.com
Sting-Ray’s Restaurant, Cape Charles
What to expect: A gas station with great seafood and, at night, white-tablecloth dining. Also serves breakfast.
Check it out: 26507 Lankford Highway (U.S. 13); 757/331-2505 or cape-center.com
The Galley Seafood Restaurant, Deltaville
What to expect: Don’t miss the crab cakes and seafood cakes (crawfish, shrimp, scallops, crab).
Check it out: 16236 General Puller Highway; 804/776-6040
Harpoon Larry’s Oyster Bar, Hampton
What to expect: The clam chowder’s clear both belies its strong, salty flavor. Also try the steamed seafood.
Check it out: 2000 N. Armistead Avenue; 757/827-0600 or harpoonlarrys.com
The Great Machipongo Clam Shack, Nassawadox
What to expect: We especially like the crab soup, made with “Peggy’s best tomato base,” and the stuffed flounder sandwich (broiled flounder wrapped around your choice of spinach and cheddar cheese, broccoli and mozzarella cheese, or scallops and crabmeat).
Check it out: 6468 Lankford Highway (U.S. 13); 757/442-3800 or greatclams.com
Crab Shack Seafood Restaurant, Newport News
What to expect: Soft-shell crab, fabulous coleslaw, renowned sunsets.
Check it out: 7601 River Road; 757/245-2722 or crabshackonthejames.com
Cockrell's Creek Seafood Deli, Reedville
What to expect: Mostly a seafood market, with a tiny dining room and a few picnic tables outside along the water. No frills, no ambience, but great crab cakes.
Check it out: 567 Seaboard Road; 804/453-6326 or smithpointseafood.com
Fairport Marina, Reedville
What to expect: Locals know it as Roy’s Place, a beer joint that serves soft-shell crabs year-round.
Check it out: 252 Polly Cove Road; 804/453-5002
Chick’s Oyster Bar, Virginia Beach
What to expect: Great steamed shrimp, clams, oysters, mussels, and, in season, soft-shell crabs.
Check it out: 2143 Vista Circle; 757/481-5757 or chicksoysterbar.com