East Coast Seafood Dives
Whether feasting on lobster or Lowcountry fare, you’ll find first-rate dishes at these Atlantic establishments.
Cook’s Lobster House, Bailey Island
What to expect: Come for the views, the lobster dishes, and the steamed mussels. Cook’s also ships lobsters anywhere.
Check it out: 68 Garrison Cove Road (on H.S.Route 24); 207/833-2818 or cookslobster.com
Bayview Lobster, Camden
What to expect: The excellent clam chowder at this friendly place on Camden Harbor’s busy boardwalk makes a fine prelude to a deliciously unadorned lobster roll.
Check it out: (1 Bayview Landing) Camden Harbor, 207/236-2005 or bayviewlobster.com
Cappy’s Chowder House, Camden
What to expect: Oh, if we could only have a cup of Cappy’s creamy, thick, peppery, clam-filled, soul-warming chowder now. The seasonal nightly lobster specials are always a good deal.
Check it out: 1 Main Street; 207/236-2254 or cappyschowder.com
The Lobster Shack at Two Lights, Cape Elizabeth
What to expect: Good chowder and lobster rolls. Scenic oceanside setting with outdoor picnic tables at the Cape Elizabeth Light.
Check it out: 225 Two Lights Road; 207/799-1677 or lobstershacktwolights.com
The Captain’s, Cape Porpoise
What to expect: Comfort food, pure and simple. Fried clams make a special trip worthwhile. So do The Captain’s freshly baked pies and cakes. Operating hours are seasonal.
Check it out: 1 Pier Road
Castine Variety, Castine
What to expect: This little general store prepares an enormous lobster roll, gently kissed with mayonnaise. It won a statewide poll a few years ago as Maine’s best. We won’t argue―especially with our mouths full of lobster.
Check it out: 1 Main Street
Dolphin Marina & Restaurant, Harpswell
What to expect: Chowder and a giant blueberry muffin make a great meal.
Check it out: 515 Basin Point; 207/833-6000 or dolphinmarinaandrestaurant.com
The Clam Shack, Kennebunkport
What to expect: High-toned Kennebunkport dearly loves this dowdy little takeout hut at the Kennebunk River bridge in the center of town. Try the fried clams or the lobster roll.
Check it out: (Open May – August) 2 Western Avenue (State 9); 207/967-2560 or theclamshack.net
Lobster Pound Restaurant, Lincolnville Beach
What to expect: Dramatic views of Penobscot Bay and lobster, of course.
Check it out: Route 1; 207/789-5550 or midcoast.com/˜lobstrlb
Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, Trenton
What to expect: This family-run place cooks lobsters and clams in big seawater pots in front of the building.
Check it out: 1237 Bar Harbor Road; 207/667-2977 or trentonbridgelobster.com
Billy’s Chowder House, Wells
What to expect: Large portions, fresh chowder, lobster, and stuffed haddock, plus nice views of a tidal marsh.
Check it out: 216 Mile Road; 207/646-7558 or billyschowderhouse.com
Red’s Eats, Wiscasset
What to expect: Enormous lobster rolls from a red-and-white stand at the Sheepscot River bridge. Cash only.
Check it out: 41 Water Street (U.S. 1); 207/882-6128
Fishermen's Catch, Wells
What to expect: Enjoy fresh haddock on a toasted bun and pretty marsh views. Open May through mid-October.
Check it out: 134 Harbor Road; 207/646-8780 or fishermanscatchwells.com
Newick’s Lobster House, Dover
What to expect: This waterfront establishment serves seafood baked, broiled, steamed, stuffed, boiled, or fried.
Check it out: 431 Dover Point Road; 800/533-9027 or newicks.com
Lupo’s Seafood and Grille, Hampton
What to expect: A retro-feel place skilled at fried seafood. Also serves breakfast.
Check it out: 595 Ocean Boulevard.; 603/926-1100 or udine4less.com/lupos
The Stockpot, Portsmouth
What to expect: A historic bar-restaurant on a working waterfront.
Check it out: 53 Bow Street; 603/431-1851 or thestockpotrestaurant.com
Ceal's Clam Stand, Seabrook
What to expect: A shed across from the beach offering small, sweet clams. Open May to Labor Day.
Check it out: 22 Ocean Blvd.; 603/474-3150
The Barking Crab, Boston
What to expect: Fun, friendly spot on Fort Point Channel with outdoor tables. Start with the spicy calamari, then proceed to the clambake.
Check it out: 88 Sleeper Street; 617/426-2722 or barkingcrab.com
No Name Restaurant, Boston
What to expect: Seafood right off the boat. Ask for the broiled seafood platter.
Check it out: 15½ Fish Pier; 617/423-2705 or noam.com
Bayside Lobster Hutt, Wellfleet
What to expect: Open late June through early September for great lobster and sea-clam pie.
Check it out: 91 Commercial Street; 508/349-6333 or lobsterhutt.com
Captain Frosty’s, Dennis
What to expect: Capt’n Frosty’s, grafted onto the back of a 1950s-era Cape Cod dairy bar, serves wonderful fried clams-juicy but not greasy. For dessert, walk around to the ice cream stand in front.
Check it out: 219 Route 6A; 508/385-8548
Kream ’N Kone, Dennisport
What to expect: Excellent seafood at a nice waterfront location.
Check it out: 961 Route 28; 508/394-0808
Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar, Eastham
What to expect: The long lines move quickly, and the fried seafood (especially clams) and onion rings are worth the wait.
Check it out: 3580 State Highway (U.S. Rt. 6); 508/255-2575 or arnoldsrestaurant.com
Clam Box of Ipswich, Ipswich
What to expect: Clam Box rejects two fixtures of modern life: credit cards and frozen seafood. The fish, scallops, and oysters taste as good as the fried clams and chowder. Look for the building shaped like a clam box.
Check it out: 246 High Street (State 1A/133); 978/356-9707 or ipswichma.com/clambox
The Bite, Martha’s Vineyard
What to expect: Try the amazing fried clams at this small, blue-and-gray shack on the side of the road. Though The Bite is known for hearty quahog clam chowder, it’s impossible to stop at soup. Everything is fried, including the macaroni and cheese bites (which we highly recommend). Seating consists of two umbrella-shaded benches, but the beach is steps away.
Check it out: 29 Basin Road, Menemsha; 508/645-9239 or thebitemenemsha.com
Michael’s Harborside Restaurant & Bar, Newburyport
What to expect: The fried scallops are fit for a king: big and juicy and full of flavor.
Check it out: Tournament Wharf; 978/462-7785 or michaelsharborside.com
The Lobster Pot, Provincetown
What to expect: Waiting for a table, common during the summer season, allows you to study the immense menu, which encompasses just about every kind of seafood and preparation. Here’s a hint: The clam chowder always makes a good start.
Check it out: 321 Commercial Street; 508/487-0842 or ptownlobsterpot.com
Giacomo's Ristorante, Boston
What to expect: Worth the probable wait (cash only)
Check it out: 355 Hanover Street; 617/523-9026
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
Eb & Flo’s, Bald Head Island
What to expect: Eb & Flo’s gets everything right, including the screened-in deck, the relaxed ambience, and especially the steamed seafood. The wine list may not be native to the seaside-shack genre, but it's a welcome touch nonetheless.
Check it out: 17 Keelson Row; 910/457-7217
Calabash Seafood Hut, Calabash
What to expect: In a legendary seafood town, this modest building hardly stands out―but the food does―shrimp, scallops, fish, and clam chowder. (“Calabash-style” generally means fried food lightly battered.)
Check it out: 1125 River Road; 910/579-6723
Jordan’s House of Seafood and Oyster Bar, Emerald Isle
What to expect: This plain concrete-block building turns out delicious broiled seafood, especially shrimp and scallops.
Check it out: 8106 Emerald Drive; 252/354-5722
The Giggling Mackerel Seafood Grille, Ocean Isle Beach
What to expect: It’s everything you’d expect in a seafood dive―boisterous atmosphere and loads of menu choices featuring the ubiquitous fried-with-fries basket. For healthier fare, try a local fish, lightly seasoned and grilled, and substitute a baked potato
Check it out: 65 Causeway Drive (under the bridge); 910/575-0902 or gigglingmackerel.com
Big Oak Drive-In and Bar-B-Q, Salter Path
What to expect: Strictly carry-out. Get the shrimp burger: fried shrimp, tartar sauce, coleslaw, and ketchup.
Check it out: 1167 Salter Path Road; 252/247-2588 or bigoakdrivein.com
Provision Company, Southport
What to expect: Dockside dining without walls. Great steamed shrimp, friendly atmosphere.
Check it out: 130 Yacht Basin Drive; 910/457-0654 or provisioncompany.com
The Raw Bar, Wrightsville Beach
What to expect: Sample fried fish, clams, crab, oysters, shrimp, and more, all so lightly battered they’re often mistaken for broiled.
Check it out: 13 East Salisbury Street; 910/256-2974
Ollie’s Seafood Restaurant, Beaufort
What to expect: Spicy steamed shrimp, crab cake sandwich, and Shrimp Burger in Paradise.
Check it out: 71 Sea Island Parkway; 843/525-6333
Steamer Oyster & Steakhouse, Beaufort
What to expect: Start with the seafood bisque. Also sample the local favorite Frogmore stew―not really a stew but rather steamed shrimp, sausage, potatoes, and corn on the cob.
Check it out: 168 Sea Island Parkway (on Lady’s Island); 843/522-0210
Pepper’s Porch, Bluffton
What to expect: Start with the “can’t choose platter” of bacon-wrapped scallops, deviled eggs, fried pickles, and fried green tomatoes. Then sample the shrimp and grits cooked in brown bacon gravy.
Check it out: 1255 May River Road; 843/757-2295 or peppersporch.org
Whaley’s at Edisto Beach, Edisto Beach
What to expect: This old filling station serves to-die-for fresh local shrimp on cheesy grits. Other divine offerings include crab cakes, pan-seared mahi mahi, and linguine with clam sauce.
Check it out: 2801 Myrtle Street; 843/869-2161
Bowens Island, near Folly Beach
What to expect: This legendary wreck of a place with great fried shrimp and, in season, roasted oysters, has reopened after a 2006 fire. Those nice, new walls are just begging to be covered with graffiti.
Check it out: 1870 Bowens Island Road; 843/795-2757 or bowensislandrestaurant.com
The Sea Shack, Hilton Head Island
What to expect: Wonderful fried seafood cooked to order and served hot. The crab cake doesn’t thrill us, but we love everything else―especially a creamy chowder called Seafood Stir-A-Bout.
Check it out: 6 Pope Avenue, Executive Park Road; 843/785-2464
The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene, Mount Pleasant
What to expect: You may get lost looking for the place, but the fried seafood is worth it.
Check it out: 106 Haddrell Street; 843/884-0052 or wreckrc.com
Orobosa’s Lowcountry Café, Pawleys Island
What to expect: While this dive’s atmosphere is casual, the crab cakes and other offerings will please the most sophisticated palates. At lunch, enjoy gourmet food on a budget. Prices double when the sun goes down, and dinner crowds make reservations a must.
Check it out: 85 North Causeway Road; 843/235-3464
The Shrimp Shack, St. Helena Island
What to expect: All the shrimp dishes are great, but you gotta get the shrimp burger.
Check it out: 1929 Sea Island Parkway; 843/838-2962
Russell’s Seafood Grill Raw Bar, South Murrells Inlet
What to expect: Oyster stew, then broiled seafood, then Key lime pie. Just-right meal.
Check it out: 4906 Business Highway 17; 843/651-0553
Updated May 2009