The 12 Best Seafood Shacks Outside New England

Who says great clam chowder and perfect fried seafood can only be found in New England?

The 12 Best Seafood Shacks Outside New England

It is hard to deny the charm of a dockside shack with red and white tablecloths, Styrofoam plates, and the sound of your name being called before you dig into some unapologetically decadent fried food. There’s a not-unreasonable conviction that the best place to experience this is New England, where items like fried clams, Maine lobster, and New England clam chowder are ostensibly at home. However, there are some pretty amazing seafood joints outside New England, too; here are 12 of them. 

Big John’s Seafood Patio, Erath, La.

Smack dab in Cajun country and surrounded by crawfish ponds, Big John’s Seafood Patio sells boiled crawfish in three- to 10-pound lots — but they are only open, of course, during crawfish season, which typically begins in March and ends in June (though in 2015, warmer-than-average weather extended the season through July).

Bowen Island Restaurant, Charleston, S.C.

Photo Modified: Flickr / Bruce Tuten / CC BY 4.0

Set among the marshes at the tip of a 13-acre island, Bowen’s was recognized by the James Beard House as an “American Classic.” This legendary restaurant — where customers are encouraged to write on the walls — is famous for its fried shrimp and roasted oysters. Bowen’s opened in 1946, and through the decades has made a name for itself in the world of seafood shacks, even after a devastating fire in 2006 shuttered it temporarily.

Calumet Fisheries, Chicago, Ill.

One of the best seafood shacks in America is in the Midwest? You better believe it — the James Beard Foundation and Anthony Bourdain do. Calumet Fisheries in Chicago is famous for smoking any seafood that comes to mind — including salmon, herring, eel, sturgeon, sable, rainbow trout, and shrimp. It is currently only one of two smokehouses still allowed to burn wood and to smoke its fish in the city. The French fries are also legendary. 

City Seafood, Everglades City, Fla.

Yelp / Leo J

The folks at City Seafood, located in a tiny fishing village, pride themselves on catching all of their seafood and stone crabs from their own fishing and crabbing boats. Enjoy your meals outdoors on the deck while manatees swim by. Most diners come for the stone crabs, but baskets of smoked mullet, grouper, shrimp, oysters, blue crab, gator, or frogs' legs are top-notch as well. City Seafood, conveniently, is also a market, so you can take some of those local delicacies home with you.

The Crab Shack, Tybee Island, Ga.

Photo Modified: Flickr / marc smith / CC BY 4.0

The Crab Shack is known as the local joint “where the elite eat in their bare feet.” It holds a reputation for serving excellent seafood by many local and national media outlets. Lucky for you, it is open year-round, so you can enjoy the famous steamed seafood and seafood platters any time you visit the idyllic city of Savannah, which is a short drive away from Tybee Island.

Da Poke Shack, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Da Poke Shack topped Yelp’s list of the 100 best places to eat in America in 2014. You’d expect an institution in a huge city like New York or San Francisco to top that list, but instead it was this tiny seafood haunt on the big island in Hawaii. They’re known for their eponymous poke — salads that combine Japanese-inflected spices and greens like seaweed or kimchi with chunks of fresh, raw ahi tuna. No shoes, no shirt, no problem. While you sit outside, you might even see giant whole tuna being delivered to the shop.

Fishing With Dynamite, Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Photo Modified: Flickr / T.Tseng / CC BY 4.0

Fishing With Dynamite is almost more of an upscale restaurant than a seafood shack, but its location a few steps from Manhattan Beach, a menu separated by “old school” and “new school” dishes, and a listing of creative cocktails — such as their “Innocents Abroad,” a beach-friendly sparkling wine cocktail with passionfruit, lavender, and Thai basil — has landed it a place on our list. You do not want to miss this new concept that both celebrates and subverts what we think of as a classic seafood shack. 

Jolly Rogers Seafood House, Port Clinton, Ohio

Yelp / Bonni B

A seafood shack in a big culinary capital like Chicago makes sense, but Ohio? You better believe it. Jolly Rogers Seafood claims to have Lake Erie’s finest yellow perch and walleye, along with onion rings and jumbo shrimp. It seems diners agree — this summertime destination, nestled along the shores of Lake Erie, has customers lining up to feast their stomachs on the region’s specialty dishes all season long. 

The Original Mo’s, Newport, Ore.

There are a handful of Mo’s locations dotting the coastal region of Oregon, but travelers are encouraged to make the pilgrimage to The Original Mo’s in Newport, Oregon. Mo’s makes you question New England’s claim to clam chowder. In fact, Sen. Robert Kennedy so loved Mo’s Chowder that he took a couple of buckets home with him. The halibut fish and chips and oyster stew are other must-tries.

Snoopy’s Pier, Corpus Christi, Texas

Photo Modified: Flickr / Cliff / CC BY 4.0

Snoopy’s Pier is swimming in a seafood shack vibe — no surprise, given that it was once an old fisherman's hangout. Its menu is small and simple, with fried fish, fried shrimp, crab cakes, fried drum fish, and fried oysters receiving a heap of praise from the locals — probably because Snoopy’s has an on-site fish house and shrimp-breading facility. Grab some of the state’s best seafood and take in the view from a table on the pier.

Splash Café, Pismo Beach, Calif.

Photo Modified: Flickr / Jason Rosenberg / CC BY 4.0

This colorfully cool Pismo Beach cafe is making waves in the world of West Coast seafood with its award-winning clam chowder. The chowder is made from scratch every day, and Splash says it serves more than 20,000 gallons per year. Other much-loved menu items include fresh salmon, ahi tuna tacos, crispy hot fish and chips, and fresh calamari. Order some chowder, pull up a picnic table, and soak in its beachfront views.

Woody’s Crab House, North East, Md.

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At Woody’s Crab House, you can expect to find local Maryland blue crabs crawling all over the menu — Chesapeake Bay is the world’s largest exporter of blue crabs, after all. Woody’s is known for its Chesapeake Bay-sourced dishes, and its award-winning crab cakes are made fresh every day from jumbo lump crab meat.