Forget the frills. It’s all about flavor in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii.
Harry O’s, Harbour Island
What to expect: It’s just a walk-up shack with a handwritten cardboard menu, a deck, and glorious water views. The bill of fare is small but tasty: lobster snack, snapper fingers, fried grouper, crab and rice, and conch salad, plus a few side orders. Pick up sodas or alcoholic beverages across the street at Burns House Beverage Depot.
Check it out: Bay Street, between Jacquelines Straw Works and Fisherman’s Dock
British West Indies
The Wreck Bar and Grill, Grand Cayman
What to expect: The Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Resort and Villas operates this uncrowded, out-of-the-way crescent of public beach, with its recently renovated Wreck Bar and the fine-dining Rum Point Restaurant. The Wreck serves chef Gilbert Cavallaro’s fish-and-chips, jerk pork and chicken, and conch fritters. Hammocks, lounge chairs, picnic tables, snorkel-worthy waters, and local music on Saturdays invite you to linger after lunch.
Check it out: 345/947-9412
La Mariana Sailing Club, Honolulu
What to expect: A kitschy Oahu hideaway with tiki bar ambience and a mean mahi mahi burger.
Check it out: 50 Sand Island Road; 808/841-2173 lamarianasailingclub.squarespace.com
Huggo’s on the Rocks, Kailua-Kona
What to expect: On the Big Island (Hawaii), this open-air restaurant features a thatched-roof bar and front-row seats for showy sunsets. Ahi sashimi and seafood pizza provide ocean-inspired fare.
Check it out: 75-5828 Kahakai Road; 808/329-1493 or huggos.com
Kona Tacos, Kailua-Kona
What to expect: From this closet-size takeout hut in the Big Island’s Lanihau Shopping Center come great Mexican-accented fish tacos―eventually. The first bite of the fresh ono (grilled or fried, with lettuce, cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, and guacamole) banishes all memories of the sometimes scatterbrained service.
Check it out: 75-5595 Palani Road; 808/329-9049
Paia Fish Market Restaurant, Paia
What to expect: Maui windsurfers dock here for the fresh fish (several varieties, several preparation choices), then grab a place at one of seven picnic tables.
Check it out: 100 Hana Highway; 808/579-8030 or paiafishmarket.com
The Shrimp Shack, Punaluu
What to expect: The bright-yellow lunch truck parked at Naturally Hawaiian Gallery in Punaluu draws hungry motorists to Oahu’s north shore for pan-fried garlic shrimp. Served with two scoops of rice, locally grown corn on the cob, and an ocean view, it’s well worth the drive from Honolulu.
Check it out: 53-352 Kamehameha Highway; 808/256-5589 or alternative-hawaii.com/shrimp
Tres Marias, Acapulco
What to expect: For sunset sleuths, the flaming finale from the Pie de la Cuesta sandbar beach, a 25-minute drive from Acapulco, gives reason enough to vacation here. Enjoy a late-afternoon lunch of grilled red snapper, shrimp diablo, black beans, rice, and handmade tortillas at Tres Marias, overlooking the freshwater Coyuca Lagoon. At the sun’s last call, scoot across the two-lane road to the Pacific side and take in the final, fiery burst of celestial light.
Check it out: Avenida Fuerza Aèrea Mex., No. 375 Col. Playa. Pie de la Cuesta; 011/52/744/460-0011 or tresmariasacapulco.com
Turks & Caicos
Da Conch Shack and RumBar, Providenciales
What to expect: Ask a local for Provo’s best seafood joint and you’ll end up at this waterfront, open-air shack for fresh conch―cracked, stir-fried, sautéed, or curried. Wait on the beach with a glass of Alicia’s infamous rum punch in hand and your toes in the sand. If you’re not swaying by dessert, the strong “world famous rum cake” will surely set you in motion.
Check it out: Blue Hills Road; 649/946-8877 or conchshack.tc
Flying Beaver Bar & Grill, Richmond
What to expect: The restaurant sits a short taxi or shuttle ride from Vancouver International Airport and only a five-minute walk from the small South Terminal. Even meat-and-potatoes fans love the salmon burgers.
Check it out: 4760 Inglis Drive; 604/273-0278 or markjamesgroup.com/flyingbeaver.html
The Shady Rest Waterfront Pub & Restaurant, Qualicum Beach
What to expect: Beer-battered fish-and-chips (halibut or cod) in a former truck stop in a seaside village.
Check it out: 3109 West Island Highway; 250/752-9111 or shadyrest.ca
Go Fish, Vancouver
What to expect: At a blue, corrugated-steel shack at the public fish sales dock, something extraordinary is being served. Take a spot in the long line for crispy fish-and-chips, oyster po’boys, wild salmon burgers, and grilled albacore sandwiches―all using local-caught seafood and served on a no-frills waterfront patio. It’s worth the wait.
Check it out: First Avenue West; 604/730-5040