There's something magical about seaside dining, when the sun is on your shoulders, the plate of seafood in front of you was probably caught that morning, and the atmosphere is low-key and friendly. It is hard to deny the charm of a dockside shack with bare picnic tables or red and white picnic tablecloths, Styrofoam plates, and the sound of your name being called to pick up your order before you dig into some unapologetically decadent fried food or a loaded lobster roll. There's no shortage of down-home shacks serving impossibly fresh and delicious seafood, but we've tracked down America's 35 best.
Each region of the United States offers its own twist on seafood. A big plate of blue crabs just doesn't taste the same in Minnesota as it does in Maryland, and if you find salt pork in your clam chowder, you know you’re in New England. And we're so obsessed with seafood that if there's a body of water, the odds of some industrious entrepreneur staking a claim and opening up a waterside restaurant are high.
While conducting our research, we sought out various shacks across the country that are highly rated amongst diners, are a go-to spot for locals, and have won awards and earned spots on various “best of” lists.All of these restaurants are beloved by locals and certainly worth a detour for those passing through.
Should you visit any of these shacks, a word of warning: expect to wait in line. But don't worry; it'll be worth it: You're about to sink your teeth into a buttery lobster roll, enjoy some perfectly fried belly clams, or squeeze lemon juice onto some super-fresh oysters. Don’t miss a chance to visit any of these top-notch casual seafood joints this season.
Reporting by Dan Myers, Alexandra E. Petri, and Nikkhita Bakshani.