Come as you are, but bring an appetite when you delve into the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast’s best offerings.
Pelican Point Restaurant & Lounge, Crescent
What to expect: Enormous seafood buffet; go for the shrimp, spicy crab stew, and crab au gratin.
Check it out: 1398 Sapelo Avenue N.E.; 912/832-4295 or pelicanpointseafood.com
Mudcat Charlie’s, Brunswick
What to expect: Go with what’s fresh. Grilled shrimp is a good bet.
Check it out: 250 Ricefield Way; 912/261-0055
Desposito’s Seafood Restaurant, Savannah
What to expect: Boiled or steamed seafood served on newspaper-covered tables.
Check it out: 1 Macceo Drive; 912/897-9963
Love’s Seafood & Steaks, Savannah
What to expect: This rustic family restaurant has served customers along the languid Ogeechee River southwest of Savannah since 1949. Try the crab stew at this rustic riverfront restaurant.
Check it out: 6817 Chief O.F. Love Road (Basin Road); 912/925-3616 or lovesseafood.com
Williams Seafood Restaurant, Savannah
What to expect: This beloved institution on the Bull River between Sanannah and Tybee Island serves great seafood, as it has since it opened as a roadside crab stand in 1936. We recommend the terrific broiled seafood platter.
Check it out: 8010 Tybee Road (U.S. Hwy 80 East); 912/897-2219
Hunter’s Café, Shellman Bluff
What to expect: The café’s ramshackle exterior conceals an uncluttered, surprisingly pretty interior and a menu that includes crab stew (like creamy she-crab soup with potato chunks) and tuna filet with sesame-ginger sauce and fried spinach.
Check it out: On the waterfront; 912/832-5771
The Crab Shack, Tybee Island
What to expect: “Where the Elite Eat in their Bare Feet.” The elite love the Capt ’n Crab’s Sampler and the Low Country Boil.
Check it out: 40 Estill Hammock Road; 912/786-9857 or thecrabshack.com
North Beach Grill, Tybee Island
What to expect: Southern- and Caribbean-influenced seafood next to the lighthouse.
Check it out: 41A Meddin Avenue; 912/786-9003
Driftaway Café, Wilmington Island
What to expect: Try the tuna tartare―bits of tuna atop crispy wontons and cucumbers, drizzled with a wasabi-and-miso sauce. Crispy scored flounder with sweet apricot sauce appeals to more-traditional tastes. Driftaway Café’s Sandfly location (912/303-0999 or driftawaycafe.com) offers virtually the same menu.
Check it out: 216 Johnny Mercer Boulvard; 912/898-4161
Sunset Waterfront Cafe and Bar, Cocoa Beach
What to expect: Most mingle in the tiled bar, open-air dining room, or dockside deck for the namesake setting and conviviality rather than the food. But no one leaves hungry (try the Sunset Seafood Platter) or thirsty (dare to finish the triple-rum Sunset Grabber).
Check it out: 500 W. Cocoa Beach Causeway; 321/783-8485 or sunsetwaterfrontcafeandbar.com
Rustic Inn Crabhouse, Fort Lauderdale
What to expect: Famed for its garlic crabs. You can sit inside, on a screened porch, or on the glassed-in patio overlooking the Dania Cutoff Canal.
Check it out: 4331 Ravenswood Road; 954/584-1637 or rusticinn.com
Theo Thudpucker’s Raw Bar, Fort Pierce
What to expect: Great oyster stew.
Check it out: 2025 Seaway Drive; 772/465-1078
Bayside Hut Seafood, Key Biscayne
What to expect: A palm-camouflaged, open-air hideaway at a marina with views of the Miami skyline and a nice seafood platter of fish, shrimp, calamari, scallops, conch, and crab sautéed in garlic.
Check it out: 3501 Rickenbacker Causeway; 305/361-0808
Singleton’s Seafood Shack, Mayport
What to expect: Fresh grouper and Mayport white shrimp, and a room full of boat models made by the late owner, Capt. Ray Singleton.
Check it out: 4728 Ocean Street; 904/246-4442
J.B.’s Fish Camp, New Smyrna Beach
What to expect: Anything fried is good; steamed rock shrimp are great.
Check it out: 859 Pompano Avenue; 386/427-5747 or jbsfishcamp.com
Rusty’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, Port Canaveral
What to expect: Wonderful platter of steamed seafood. You get steamed oysters, clams, and shrimp, plus a big dish of tiny broiled scallops, each the size of a pencil eraser but still wonderfully tender, juicy, and flavorful.
Check it out: 628 Glen Cheek Drive; 321/783-2033 or rustysseafood.com
Oscar’s Old Florida Grill, St. Augustine
What to expect: The fried fish and vegetables are hard to beat, particularly the house specialty butternut grouper.
Check it out: 614 Euclid Avenue; 904/829-3794
Chowders Seafood Grill, Rockledge
What to expect: Some swear by the lobster-and-cream starter―shellfish and cream cheese served with tortilla chips―and a well-mixed margarita. Others show up for specials, such as the catch-of-the-day grouper with a light Parmesan-cheese crust. But in the end, it’s all about Chowders' coconut cream pie.
Check it out: 6485 S. U.S. 1; 321/757-7200 or chowders.com
Schooner’s Seafood House, St. Augustine
What to expect: The lightly-fried seafood―especially the flounder and shrimp―keeps it going deliciously. Super friendly service makes the experience well-nigh perfect.
Check it out: 3560 North Ponce De Leon Boulevard; 904/826-0233 or schooners-seafood.com
Le Tub, Hollywood
What to expect: Rich gumbo with lots of shrimp; charmingly ramshackle decor.
Check it out: 1100 North Ocean Dr.; 954/921-9425 or theletub.com
Island Grill, Islamorada
What to expect: The food here tastes more like fare you’d get at a five-star restaurant than at a bright green beach shack. Among the highfalutin offerings, the delectable tuna nachos feature sushi-grade ahi heaped on won ton crisps with sesame-flavor seaweed, drizzled with wasabi mayonnaise. And that’s just for starters.
Check it out: 85501 Overseas Highway (U.S. 1, Mile Marker 85.5); 305/664-8400 or keysislandgrill.com
Lazy Days Oceanfront Bar & Seafood Grille, Islamorada
What to expect: Bring your own catch to be cooked, or try the cracked conch with Key lime butter.
Check it out: 79867 Overseas Highway, M.M. 79.9; 305/664-5256 or keysdining.com/lazydays
B.O.’s Fish Wagon, Key West
What to expect: The freshest fish sandwiches in Key West from a trailer with open-air seating. Cash only.
Check it out: 801 Caroline Street; 305/294-9272
Julia Mae’s, Carrabelle
What to expect: The money this dive saves on wall décor (mostly spiny lobsters) goes into its delicately fried and grilled seafood. The shrimp Creole boats more fresh, divinely seasoned shrimp than you can count―let alone eat.
Check it out: 1558 Highway 98 West; 850/697-3791
Cahills Beachside Bar & Grill, Gulfport
What to expect: Nothing fancy here, just a casual joint with good fried shrimp and an open-wall deck across the street from the beach.
Check it out: 5519 Shore Blvd. S.; 727/343-5774
Killer Seafood, Mexico Beach
What to expect: Messy but delicious fish tacos.
Check it out: 820 U.S. 98; 850/ 648-6565 or killerseafood.net
Boon Docks Restaurant, Panama City Beach
What to expect: On the back side of town at West Bay, Boon Docks serves wonderfully fresh fried seafood, lightly breaded and seasoned. Even the fries get a touch of seasoning. Other specialties include po’boys, burgers, and fried pickles.
Check it out: 14854 Bay View Circle; 850/230-0005 or boondocksrestaurant.com
Louie’s Florida Grill, Panama City Beach
What to expect: The best fried grouper sandwich in the Florida Panhandle awaits in a flamingo-pink shack blocks from the bright blue and green Gulf waters. Those who enjoy a water view should visit owner Louie Gigis’ latest venture, Louie’s Harborside Restaurant & Lounge in nearby Panama City (850/763-2660 or louiesseafoodrestaurant.com). It features the same menu.
Check it out: 17140 Front Beach Road; 850/234-0582 or louiesfloridagrill.com
Marina Oyster Barn, Pensacola
What to expect: “Best steamed oysters anywhere, bar none,” e-mails Texas reader Thom Driver. Pretty good shrimp and crab claws, too, and the gumbo features lots of shrimp in a spicy, savory roux.
Check it out: 505 Bayou Boulevard; 850/433-0511 or mariniaoysterbar.com
The Original Point Restaurant, Perdido Key
What to expect: Locals love the fresh mullet and shrimp-and-crab bisque.
Check it out: 14340 Innerarity Point Road; 850/492-3577
Posey’s Oyster Bar, St. Marks
What to expect: Apalachicola oysters dominate the menu year-round. Most customers eat them raw. We like them baked with cheddar or Parmesan cheese, butter, bacon bits, or garlic.
Check it out: 55 Riverside Drive; 850/925-6172
Crab Shack Restaurant, St. Petersburg
What to expect: Try the steamed blue crab, smoked mullet, or whole fish corvina, a Costa Rican specialty.
Check it out: 11400 Gandy Boulevard; 727/576-7813 or crabshack.com
Fish Tales Seafood House, St. Petersburg
What to expect: Boat parking? Sure. Bathing suits? Welcome. Outdoor seating? Plentiful. House specialty? “Skillets”―seafood and/or steak, broiled (and served) in cast-iron skillets. Fun? Guaranteed.
Check it out: Harborage Marina, 1500 Second Street South; 727/821-3474 or fishtalesseafoodhouse.com
New Pass Grill, Sarasota
What to expect: Add fantastic fish-and-chips to the list of Sarasota attractions. The New Pass Grill serves the favorite “Old English style,” with three pieces of plump, battered cod over crisp fries. New Pass also offers award-winning burgers, shrimp baskets, beer, and wine. The 1929-vintage establishment on City Island, across the causeway from downtown, has a walk-up window and outdoor seating.
Check it out: 1505 Ken Thompson Parkway; 941/388-3050 or newpassgrill.com
The Old Salty Dog, Sarasota
What to expect: Get the fresh fish-of-the-day sandwich and watch the boats at this renovated but still super-relaxed place on City Island.
Check it out: 1601 Ken Thompson Parkway; 941/388-4311 or theoldsaltydog.com
O’Leary’s Deck & Grill, Sarasota
What to expect: A basic burgers-and-fried-seafood place south of the causeway in downtown Sarasota. The warped wooden picnic tables spill over from the outdoor deck onto the adjacent beach.
Check it out: 5 Bayfront Drive; 941/953-7505 or marinajacks.com/olearys.htm
Phillippi Creek Village Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Sarasota
What to expect: Creek Combo Pots provide divine steamed seafood for two.
Check it out: 5353 S. Tamiami Trail; 941/925-4444 or creekseafood.com
Star Fish Company, Cortez
What to excpect: A waterside joint with a tasty blackene-grouper sandwich.
Check it out: 12306 46th Ave. West; 941/794-1243 or starfishcompany.com
Wolf Bay Lodge, Elberta
What to expect: It’s hard to find; call for directions to mountainous portions of seafood.
Check it out: 9050 Pinewood Avenue; 251/987-5129 or wolf-bay-lodge.com
Fly Creek Café, Fairhope
What to expect: Mobile Bay fishermen take their beer-and-po'boy breaks here. Crawfish season (usually March till October) means live music and $2 Bloody Marys. Fly Creek makes everything to order, so locals call it their “slow-food hangout.”
Check it out: 831 N. Section Street; 251/990-0902 or flycreekcafe.com
Gulf Shores Steamer, Gulf Shores
What to expect: Gigantic servings of steamed seafood. The vast combination platters (steamed only; nothing’s fried here) can easily feed a family.
Check it out: 124 West First Avenue; 251/948-6344 or gulfshoressteamer.com
King Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant, Gulf Shores
What to expect: The many loyal regulars know that the kitchen buys good, fresh seafood and knows how to cook it.
Check it out: 1137 Gulf Shores Parkway; 251/968-5464 or kingneptuneseafoodrestaurant.com
LuLu’s at Homeport Marina, Gulf Shores
What to expect: Lucy Buffett (Jimmy’s little sister) barged her former LuLu’s Sunset Grill to this new location. Much bigger space, same open-air feel, same great seafood.
Check it out: 200 E. 25th Ave; 251/967-5858 or lulubuffett.com
Nan Seas Restaurant, Mobile
What to expect: This waterfront restaurant does a fine job with fried seafood, notably shrimp and oysters. Soothing vistas of Mobile Bay, particularly at dusk, and solicitous service elevate it to the status of locals’ favorite.
Check it out: 4170 Bay Front Road; 351/479-9132
Wintzell’s Oyster House, Mobile
What to expect: Oysters “fried, stewed, and nude” and gumbo with soul. So rich and complex is the seafood gumbo, it’s like tasting this city’s entire history with each spoonful. Diners can peruse thousands of jokes covering the walls and reflecting the bygone-era humor of the restaurant’s late founder, Oliver Wintzell. Wintzell’s is now a five-outlet mini-chain, but purists prefer the downtown-Mobile original.
Check it out: 605 Dauphin Street (original location); 251/432-4605 or wintzellsoysterhouse.com
Tacky Jacks, Orange Beach
What to expect: Drive up in your car or boat. Known for breakfasts, fried seafood baskets, seafood sandwiches, and po’boys.
Check it out: 27206 Safe Harbor Drive; 251/981-4144 or tackyjacks.com
Pelican Pointe Grill, Point Clear
What to expect: Sunsets never looked better than from the dining porch of this Key West-style seafood shack. An ample fillet of grilled grouper is served fabulously fresh, and a chunky smoked tuna dip is a must for nibbling.
Check it out: 10299 Highway 1; 251/928-1747
Blue Gill Restaurant, Spanish Fort
What to expect: Renowned for hosting shrimp boils for politicians.
Check it out: 3775 Battleship Parkway; 251/625-1998 or bluegillrestaurant.com
Original Oyster House, Spanish Fort
What to expect: Have it your way: fried, steamed, grilled, or blackened.
Check it out: 3733 Battleship Parkway (on the U.S. 90/98 Mobile Bay causeway); 251/626-2188 or originaloysterhouse.com; also 701 State 59 (Bayou Village), Gulf Shores; 251/948-2445
McElroy’s Harbor House Seafood Restaurant, Biloxi
What to expect: Big windows overlook the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. Start with the seafood gumbo (thick, flavorful), proceed to the broiled fisherman’s platters, and finish with Key lime pie.
Check it out: 695 Beach Boulevard; 228/435-5001
Ole Biloxi Schooner, Biloxi
What to expect: Local favorite serves tasty po’boys at lunch and seafood platters at dinner. Hurricane Katrina destroyed this local institution, but it has reopened a few blocks west of its original location―still serving great food and Barq’s root beer.
Check it out: 871 Howard Avenue; 228/435-8071 or olebiloxischooner.com
Lil’ Ray’s, Gulfport
What to expect: No need to stray from the house specialty: the po’boy, a French bread sandwich filled with fried oysters, fried shrimp, or something equally delicious.
Check it out: 500 A Courthouse Road; 228/896-9601 or lilraysrestaurant.com
Harbor View Café, Long Beach
What to expect: Hurricane Katrina destroyed the original location across from the harbor in Pass Christian. The new location lacks the water view but retains the excellent fried seafood and friendly service.
Check it out: 19099 Pineville Road, Suite 105; 228/867-8949
Bozo’s Seafood Market & Deli, Pascagoula
What to expect: You give your order to a man at a back-corner table. He writes it on a white paper sack, which he plops on an adjacent counter. You help yourself to a soft drink from a cooler or the soda fountain and browse the seafood market in back or the shelves of spice mixes and locally made cane syrup. Then you pick up that same sack, now filled with fresh fried seafood, or perhaps a po’boy, and eat at a paper-towels-equipped table against the opposite wall. It doesn’t get any more down-home. Or delicious.
Check it out: 2012 Ingalls Avenue; 228/762-3322
Shaggy’s Harbor Bar & Grill, Pass Christian
What to expect: Lots of good non-fried options.
Check it out: 120 South Hiern Avenue; 228/452-9939 or shaggys.biz
What to expect: Heavenly thin-fried catfish, plus excellent gumbo, fried shrimp, and fried oysters.
Check it out: 75 Manchac Way; 985/386-6666 or middendorfsrestaurant.com
Voleo’s Seafood Restaurant, Lafitte
What to expect: Amazing Cajun and Creole food in a gritty town on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Check it out: 5134 Nunez Street; 504/689-2482 or voleosrestaurant.com
Morton’s Seafood Restaurant, Madisonville
What to expect: Good food, fun atmosphere.
Check it out: 702 Water Street; 985/845-4970 or mortonsseafood.com
Sid-Mar’s of Bucktown, Metairie
What to expect: Try the fried oysters, shrimp, or catfish, the po’boys, or the not-too-spicy but seafood-packed gumbo. Savor the boiled crawfish while you can; their season ends as summer heats up.
Check it out: 1824 Orpheum Avenue; 504/831-9541 or sidmarsofbucktown.com
Acme Oyster House, New Orleans
What to expect: Great raw oysters, and try the oyster po’boy and shrimp Gumbo Poopa, too.
Check it out: 724 Iberville Street; 504/522-5973 or acmeoyster.com
Casamento’s Restaurant, New Orleans
What to expect: This 1919-vintage favorite serves wonderful oysters and other great seafood from its original, tiled-inside-and-out Uptown storefront. Unfortunately, Casamento’s closes during the warmest months (June through August). Cash only.
Check it out: 4330 Magazine Street; 504/895-9761 or casamentosrestaurant.com
Mamie’s, New Orleans
What to expect: Windows make up three walls of the slightly wobbly main dining room, providing views of hardworking fishing boats. The food reflects the restaurant’s location―heavy on coastal catches (excellent broiled seafood) and Louisiana spice.
Check it out: 20844 Chef Menteur Highway; 504/254-0252
R & O Restaurant, New Orleans
What to expect: Hurricane Katrina demolished many of the seafood restaurants in the Bucktown area on Lake Pontchartrain. Fortunately, R & O survives and thrives, serving great po’boys, fried seafood, gumbo, pizza, and other delectables in an ultracasual, ultra-friendly atmosphere.
Check it out: 216 Metairie Hammond Highway; 504/831-1248
Executive Surf Club, Corpus Christi
What to expect: Surfboards for tables and a nice shrimp burger.
Check it out: 309 N. Water Street; 361/884-7873 or executivesurfclub.com
Pier 99 Restaurant, Corpus Christi
What to expect: Opt for the shrimp plus fried calamari, gumbo, or clam chowder against a backdrop of the museum ship USS Lexington and views of Corpus Christi Bay.
Check it out: 2822 North Shoreline Boulevard; 361/887-0764 or restauranteur.com/pier99
Snoopy’s Pier, Corpus Christi
What to expect: Great fried seafood in a bright blue building under the bridge to Padre Island.
Check it out: 13313 South Padre Island Drive; 361/949-8815
Esther’s Cajun Seafood & Steaks, Port Arthur
What to expect: Locals lunch here, which is always a good sign. The building arrived in the late 1980s by barge from Cameron, Louisiana. Now decorated with hunting trophies, it turns out solid, dependable seafood in a friendly atmosphere.
Check it out: 7237 Rainbow Lane (under the Rainbow Bridge); 409/962-6268 or estherscajunseafood.com
Marchan’s White Sands Restaurant, Port Isabel
What to expect: Nothing fancy, just fresh, well-prepared, plentifully portioned seafood and lots of local fans.
Check it out: 418 West Highway 100; 956/943-2414 or the-white-sands.com
The Spot, Port O’Connor
What to expect: Enjoy the grilled flounder, or bring your own catch. The Spot will fry it, grill it, or blacken it for you.
Check it out: 14th and Jefferson Streets; 361/983-2775
The Boiling Pot, Rockport
What to expect: Mounds of boiled seafood dumped on your table.
Check it out: 201 S. Fulton Beach Road; 361/729-6972 or theboilingpotonline.com
Gilhooley’s Restaurant, San Leon
What to expect: Great oysters in innovative combinations (such as barbecued with garlic sauce and shrimp). Nice gumbo, too.
Check it out: 222 Ninth Street; 281/339-3813
Dolphin Cove Oyster Bar, South Padre Island
What to expect: Garage-door walls roll up, providing breezy views of boat traffic. The menu includes only three seafood items, but they're outstanding: oysters, shrimp, and seviche (fish and veggies marinated in spiced lime juice).
Check it out: Isla Blanca Park; 956/761-2850 or spisland.com/dolphincove
Topwater Grill, San Leon
What to expect: This restaurant-bar overlooks an obscure patch of Galveston Bay southeast of Houston. Go for the locally harvested items, such as shrimp, oysters, crab, and black drum. And don't overlook the thick, spicy crab-and-corn chowder.
Check it out: 815 Avenue O; 281/339-1232 or topwatergrill.com
Wanna Wanna Beach Bar & Grill, South Padre Island
What to expect: Beachfront tiki hut. Cold beer, fried shrimp.
Check it out: 5100 Gulf Boulevard (at Wanna Wanna hotel); 956/761-7677 or wannawanna.com
Updated May 2009