For a country that prides itself on its beef, Americans really know how to throw a seafood party, what with all the clambakes and crab boils and fish frys and oyster roasts. These 21 outstanding seafood establishments in the United States not only carry on those traditions but also create some very remarkable new ones.
The more formal ones may be found on our list of the top French restaurants in America, while the more casual ones try to strike a balance between the two (think lobster rolls and great craft beer). Some are probably from the North or East, competing with the top Boston restaurants, while others provide Southern cuisine in more temperate climates.
Yet, there is one thing that all of these seafood establishments share: they are deserving of your time and money. Time Out USA has a Facebook page and a newsletter, so like them!
Top 10 American Seafood Restaurants
1. Washington, DC’s Fiola Mare.
Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s dedication to the Italian way of life at Fiola makes it clear that their younger brother Fiola Mare also belongs in this family. All the crudo, caviar, and delicacies like Spanish crawfish and razor clams you could dream for emerge from its menu, which then branches out in the most intellectual but sensuous of directions, reflecting both its magnificent position directly on the Potomac River and the colourful cast of its cuisine.
The rare Norwegian skrei is given some bite by chickpea cream, squid ink, and a sprinkling of bottarga, while bucatini flavoured with smoked sea urchin and Calabrian chilies is adorned with giant tiger prawns. Of course, the bar and the basement are stocked to the gills with buried wealth. The locals love coming here for the extravagant meals and the bomboloni for dessert, but they also come for the leisurely breakfast service.
2. New York, New York: Le Bernardin
Over the last decade, there has been a dramatic transition in New York’s eating culture, with informal, approachable cuisine and chefs who support it rising to the status of culinary heroes and toppling Old World restaurant giants. The city’s original shrine to haute French seafood, Le Bernardin, however, made it through the upheaval untouched.
In the lounge, guests can enjoy stunning bar snacks like raw kanpachi ($20) topped with beads of wasabi tobiko or gorgeous scallop ceviche ($22) resting in a pool of grassy olive oil, showcasing the kitchen’s finesse even if the $205 tasting menu or $140 four-course prix fixe are out of their price range.
3. Providence, California; Los Angeles, California
Though he took over the old Patina location, Chef Michael Cimarusti immediately established himself as a unique culinary force and made his restaurant one of the best in Los Angeles. The seafood restaurant has a sophisticated atmosphere with glass walls shaped like waves and excellent white tablecloth service for a la carte or tasting menu meals.
Breads prepared in-house, such as bacon brioche and nori focaccia, are served with an edible drink, a spherified, burst-in-your-mouth Greyhound that serves as more than just an aperitif. Then, Cimarusti explores the oceans far and wide to provide fresh seafood in novel ways: Wild black bass is served with tangerine juice-braised fennel, black olives, sweet Anaheim peppers, and Pernod; meaty scallops from Deer Isle, Maine are served with winter greens, La Quercia bacon, hazelnuts, and brown butter powder.
4. New York, New York’s Russ & Daughters
In business on the Lower East Side since 1914, Russ & Daughters is a Jewish delicatessen known for its beautifully sliced lox, herring, and other speciality delicacies. However, devotees of cured and smoked fish had to wait a century for the legendary seafood vendor to finally build a restaurant. The opening of Russ & Daughters Café, across the street from the takeout spot, in 2014 made this long-held goal a reality. Top-tier delicacies like lox and caviar may now be enjoyed on a grand scale.
The Hattie, a heaping plate of smoked whitefish, kippered salmon, Gaspe Nova smoked salmon, and sable, is a popular choice, as is the Super Heebster, a loaded bagel that became famous at the Russ & Daughters grocery store and has now made its way to the café. This mongrel of a New York dish, piled high with whitefish and baked salmon salad, wasabi-infused fish roe, and horseradish-dill cream cheese, is the ideal embodiment of Russ & Daughters’ century-plus-long history of satisfying New Yorkers’ eclectic palates.
5. Neptune Oyster, Boston, MA
They believe that the best things come in the smallest packages. Neptune Oyster transformed New England seafood and modernised its historic Italian neighbourhood in Boston since its unassuming 2004 opening. Of course, it still does. You can always find something surprisingly novel, like pickled beef tongue and Gruyère in fried oysters, sea urchin ditalini, or roast monkfish with beef cheeks in mustard vinaigrette, to accompany your sparkling shellfish plate or killer bowl of chowder.
\And proprietor Jeff Nace is as much ahead of the curve in the world of boutique wines as he was on day one, cramming more deliciously nerdy bottles onto one page than most lists ten times its size give. The lengthy wait for a table here is legendary, but it only adds to the sense of relief and jubilation felt by those who are eventually seated.
6. Portlander Roe
Roe, like the pearl in the oyster shell (or the coral in the female lobster’s shell), is the prize inside the reward, having evolved via a series of biological processes to become the posh prix fixe rendezvous behind the casually cool B&T Oyster Bar. If it seems complicated, don’t worry; everything will make perfect sense during your seven-course chef’s tasting with associated drinks (because all the way is the only way to go here, from the supplemental caviar service onward).
The cuisine is updated almost daily, and it wonderfully fuses Asian and Western flavours. We’re talking king crab over gnocchi in a sauce that brings to mind both bouillabaisse and kimchi, or confit swordfish with fried mushrooms in truffled ponzu and parmesan dashi. Butterfish sashimi is another specialty here, and it’s served with shaved, frozen foie gras. Pierce and his team continue to show their innovation by making noodles out of cuttlefish, chorizo out of squid, and hiding their trademark eggs in the unlikeliest of locations, all of which they pair with wine from equally unexpected regions like Applegate Valley and Valle d’Aosta.
7. Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco, California
Swan’s opened its doors over a century ago as a combination fish market and lunch counter, and since then it has been serving up filleted, cracked, and shucked seafood right in front of customers. Start with a cup of clam chowder and a slice of San Francisco bread at the marble counter.
Next, try some freshly cracked Dungeness crab, smoked salmon, Miyagi oysters, or a mixed seafood cocktail/salad with a splash of cocktail sauce or some homemade horseradish. Drink a pint of Anchor Steam beer as you eat to get the whole, genuine San Francisco seafood experience. Just cash is needed.
8. The Inglewood, California location of Coni’s Seafood
Even though the huge area east of LAX doesn’t scream “seafood destination,” Coni’ Seafood has made Inglewood a must-visit for marine cuisine. The minimalist, glass-fronted interior has grey walls, aquarium-style room separators stocked with seaside curios, and a large, tapered-roof rear terrace ideal for al fresco beachfront dining.
Smoked marlin tacos, more than a dozen shrimp dishes ranging from raw to deep-fried, and more intricate house specialities such as Pescado Zarandeado, butterflied snook fish marinated in soy sauce and roasted to delectable perfection over charcoal, are just some of the highlights of the menu. One of the best dishes is the chicharrón de pescado, which consists of pan-fried tilapia pieces doused in a sour soy and lemon sauce. Another is the sweet langoustines, which are doused in garlic, chiles, and lemon juice and, if you’re fortunate, come with some of the treasured roe.
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