America's 33 Best Seafood Shacks (Slideshow)
August 4, 2014
Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough
There is actually a countdown on Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough’s website to the last lobster that will be served in 2014. Located in Noank, Connecticut, Abbott’s was founded in 1947 and has become a famous summertime haunt for its seafood and its lobsters. Abbott’s puts a spin on lobster rolls by low steaming them and serving them hot with melted-on butter, all smack between a toasted butter roll. The steamers, stuffed clams, clam chowder, mussels, shrimp - you name it, Abbott’s does it better than the rest.
Taking a tour of the Florida Keys? Alabama Jack’s in Key Largo, Florida, should be a stop on your travels. This brightly-colored floating shack is a no-fuss eatery equipped with plastic chairs, a laid-back vibe, and regular live music performances. Though it will be a slight detour, Alabama Jack’s is known to have some of the best conch fritters and fried fish sandwiches around, with customers also talking up the crab cakes as a must-have item.
Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar
What started as a drive-in clam shack, Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, has grown to become one of the most popular East Coast seafood shacks. Arnold’s has survived its fair share of struggles, from fire damage to cars crashing through its shop front, but nonetheless it remains a must-visit destination on the Cape. Arnold’s is most famous for its stellar lobster rolls and fried clams.
Big John’s Seafood Patio
Like crawfish? Well, then call ahead to Big John’s in Erath, Louisiana, a seafood shack smack dab in Cajun country surrounded by crawfish ponds. Customers flock for the boiled crawfish when it’s in season, which is the only time of the year that Big John’s is open. Be prepared to order your crawfish by the pound, starting at 3-pound orders and ending at a 10-pound order. Grab a beer, sit back and soak in the South.
Bowen Island Restaurant
After being damaged by a fire in 2006, Bowen’s Island Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina has re-opened and remains to be one of the best seafood dives to be found down South. Set amongst the marshes at the tip of a small, 13-acre island, Bowen’s was recognized by the James Beard House as an American Classic. This legendary shack — where customers are encouraged to graffiti its walls — is famous for its fried shrimp and locally harvested roasted oysters. Bowen’s first opened in 1946 and through the decades has made a name for itself in the world of seafood shacks.
Brown’s Lobster Pound
Situated in the coastal town of Seabrook, New Hampshire, this family-owned and operated seafood shack has been bringing locals what is said to be the state’s best lobster and the freshest catch since 1950. The process here is pretty simple: Order fried and grilled food at the counter, but if it’s a boiled lobster you’re after, head inside and pick one fresh from the tanks. Grab a picnic table while you wait for your number to be called, and enjoy the experience. Did we mention Brown’s is BYOB? You’re welcome.
In 1948, two brothers had a dream to serve the freshest, tastiest fish that the south side of Chicago had ever seen. More than 60 years later, the gang is still doing just that. Calumet is famous for smoking its seafood, and it is currently only one of two smokehouses still allowed to burn wood and to smoke its fish in the city. Calumet smokes just about everything you can think of including salmon, herring, eel, sturgeon, sable, rainbow trout, and shrimp. But don’t worry; there is still a plentiful amount of fried seafood on the menu. If you’re going to Chi town, then Calumet is well worth the visit.
This tiny seafood shack in the fishing village of Everglades, Florida, prides itself on catching all of its seafood and stone crabs from its own fishing and crabbing boats. Enjoy your meals outdoors on the deck, and catch sight of manatees swimming by. Most diners come for the stone crabs, but that’s not all that’s on the menu; other big items are its baskets of smoked mullet, grouper, shrimp, oysters, blue crab, gator, or frogs' legs. Best to bring your appetite and your cooler, because City Seafood doubles as a market so you can bring all those delicious goodies home with you.
Da Poke Shack
In 2014 Yelp released its own list of the 100 best places to eat in America based on reviews from millions of diners who use the site. Number one on that list was Da Poke Shack, a seafood haunt on the big island of Kona in Hawaii. This Hawaiian shack is known for its poke bowls — salads that combine Japanese-inflected spices and greens like seaweed or kimchi with chunks of fresh, raw Ahi tuna. This isn’t exactly a traditional seafood joint, but a little local flavor and twist never hurts.
Doc’s Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar has been serving laid-back, local fare to its patrons for more than 25 years. This Orange Beach, Alabama, seafood joint is famous for its fried shrimp and a heap of other fried fish fantasy creations. But just because this is the South doesn’t mean everything is battered and deep-fried. Doc’s is just as famous for its fresh seafood, raw oysters, seafood gumbo, royal red shrimp, and build-it-yourself seafood platter. If you didn’t have a reason to visit Alabama before, you most certainly do now.
Doug’s Fish Fry
Founded in 1982, the original Doug’s Fish Fry was in Skaneateles, New York, but has since opened a second location in Cortland. Doug’s receives shipments of fresh seafood over crushed ice via a truck five days per week. On the menu you’ll find seafood dishes, steamed clams and lobsters, frog legs, famous onion rings and a variety of beer and wine to wash it all down with. Diners can sit inside, take their food to the tables outside or even grab it to go.
Five Islands Lobster Company
Located in Five Islands, Maine, the Five Islands Lobster Company is known for its fresh-caught crustaceans and its lobsters that are said to be the best in the state. The deep, cold waters that surround the Five Islands area are considered to be the best conditions for producing large numbers of healthy, meaty lobsters. The lobster roll at Five Islands is among Andrew Zimmern’s favorite sandwiches in the country. Couple that with an unbeatable view, and you’ve got yourself the most iconic of seafood shacks. Fresh local-dug steamers, fried shrimp, lobster rolls, and fish chowder are also on the menu.
Hangar on the Wharf
Founded in 1996, Hangar on the Wharf in Juneau, Alaska is housed is located in an old former seaplane hangar resting atop pilings right over the water, so we know: Shack it is not. But still, it’s hard to pass up Juneau’ best view of Gastineau Channel with Mounts Jumbo and Roberts just nearby. The Jambalaya is where it’s at, and is a shining example of Alaska showing Southern-style cooking who’s boss.
Hudson’s on the Docks
Hudson’s on the Docks is a waterfront landmark in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and is one of the best spots to drink in the views of the Port Royal Sound while indulging in the freshest seafood around. First opened in 1967, this seafood shack sources all of its menu items locally. Expect some steamed oysters, crab legs, peel-and-eat shrimp, seafood pasta, and crab cakes, all while relaxing at picnic tables dotted along the dock. Word is Hudson’s has already started culturing its own oysters, which will be available in 2015.
Iggy’s Doughboy and Chowder House
The original Iggy’s calls Warwick, Rhode Island home, though a second and seasonal location opened up in Narragansett. The Warwick spot stays open year-round and offers some unbeatable views of Narragansett Bay along with some of the state’s best seafood. Iggy’s is known for its clam chowder, which won Best Clam Chowder on CBS’ The Early Morning Show’s “Taste of America” series. Iggy’s also serves award-winning clam cakes and fish and chips. Go ahead — try the famous doughboys while you’re at it.
Jolly Roger Seafood House
The best stop you can make in Port Clinton, Ohio. Jolly Roger’s Seafood claims to have Lake Erie’s finest yellow perch and walleye, along with onion rings and jumbo shrimp. It seems diners agree, and this summertime destination nestled along the shores of Lake Erie has customers lining up to feast their stomachs on the region’s specialty dishes. Other seafood items include shrimp, oysters and clams.
This seasonal seafood shack is yet another landmark along the famous Clam Highway in Massachusetts. J.T. Farnham’s is more than 70 years old, and it is famous for its award-winning fried clams, fresh seafood, live lobsters, and homemade chowder. The seafood chowder is often a crowd pleaser. This marsh-side shack is located on Eben Creek overlooking the Essex River in Essex, Massachusetts. Make a visit here and you’ll find that boats are welcomed and encouraged to anchor and order.
This no-frills, Zagat-rated eatery is the quintessential shack of seafood shacks. Founded in 1972, Malibu Seafood in Malibu, California, sits right off the Pacific Coast Highway and brings you market-fresh seafood that you can buy at the place itself. That’s right; Malibu doubles as a casual, order-at-the-counter seafood shack and a fully operating seafood market. Eat at the picnic tables or bring a blanket and sit on the beach. Go for the hand-battered Alaskan cod and famous tartar sauce or the homemade clam chowder. Their BYOB policy makes this Malibu haunt the biggest fish in the sea.
If lines are anything to go by, then the line at Red’s Eats should be all you need to convince you that this is one of the state’s best seafood shacks. Though it has been in operation since 1938, Red’s moved to a spot along the Wiscasset waterfront in 1954. The lobster rolls, which are served in toasted, split-top buns, with drizzle-ready drawn butter or mayo, are the champions here, but the fried clams are another top choice. Red’s is one landmark not to be missed.
Snoopy’s Pier in Corpus Christi, Texas, is swimming with a seafood shack vibe — no surprise given that it was once an old fisherman's hangout. First opened in 1980, Snoopy’s now has an on-site fish house and shrimp breading facility. Its menu is small and simple, with fried fish, fried shrimp, crab cakes, fried drum and fried oysters receiving a heap of praise from the locals. Grab some of the state’s best seafood and take in the view with its outdoor dining on the pier.
This colorfully cool California cafe located in Pismo Beach is making waves in the world of seafood on the West Coast with its award-winning clam chowder that’s served in a bread bowl. 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 & chips, and fresh calamari. Order some chowder, pull up a picnic table, and soak in its beach-front views.
A visit to Martha’s Vineyard isn’t complete without a visit to The Bite, a roadside shack where everything on the menu is fried. The Bite is the mecca of fried seafood on this tiny little island, and there is always a line to prove it. Go for the oysters, squid, or the fish and chips that uses locally caught flounder — or the clams, which are said to be the plumpest whole-belly clams on the island. Ordering is made easy since the portions come in small, medium, or large sizes, but first you need to decide which fried delicacy you’re eager to devour. The Bite is all about being a no-frills joint, so plan on taking your food to go as there are only a couple of picnic tables to vie for.
The Clam Bar at Napeague
The Clam Bar at Napeague is a no-frills Hampton’s affair. In a July 2007 article in The New York Times, owner Dick Elrich said, “We want the Clam Bar to be down and dirty in the best sense of the word.” And this red-and-white shack has been just that since it first opened in 1981. The Clam Bar is the place to go on a sunny day to sample their fresh catch, which is all sourced locally, and some good vibes in this Hamptons stretch that are hard to find elsewhere in the area. Steamed clams, a fried clam roll, or the local specials are the way to go.
The Clam Box
One of many along the famous “Clam Highway” of Massachusetts Route 133, The Clam Box in Ipswich is an institution that can be considered the king of the fried clams. It’s even shaped like cardboard clam box! Best known for its whole-belly Ipswich clams, The Clam Box also has some great-tasting fish, oysters and clam chowder. The fish, scallops and oysters taste as good as the fried clams and chowder.
The Clam Shack
Summer is upon you at this New England seafood institution, so be prepared to wait in line. The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine, not only serves award-winning fried dishes but can also put out traditional boiled lobster dinners — all from one little shack. The hero of the menu seems to be its lobster rolls, which are served on freshly baked buns from a local bakery. With its idyllic setting right on the Kennebunkport River, its wooden benches and lobster crates for tables and chairs, and its unbeatable menu, The Clam Shack should be on your seafood bucket list.
The Crab Shack
Known as the local joint “where the elite eat in their bare feet,” The Crab Shack in Savannah, Georgia, offer some of the best buckets of seafood for your seafood bucket list. In 2011 The Crab Shack was named the best seafood dive by Coastal Living, and it has held a consistent reputation for serving the best seafood by many a local media outlet. The Crab Shack is known for its steamed seafood, but the seafood platter shouldn’t be missed. You can find steamed, boiled, and raw shellfish at The Crab Shack, which is open year-round.
The Lobster Shack at Two Lights
If you are going to have a lobster roll in Maine, then this is the place to have it — just make sure it’s the right season. Open from March through October, The Lobster Shack at Two Lights sits beside two lighthouses on the rocky shores of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The Lobster Shack has been serving fresh lobster (the owners get their catch right on the docks in front of the restaurant), clams, scallops, and fish since the 1920s. Take your meal outside to the picnic tables dotting the shoreline, or just take in a good a view from the cozy seating inside.
The Original Mo’s
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. Though this Oregon landmark is a far cry from New England, Mo’s is renowned for its clam chowder. In fact, Senator Robert Kennedy so loved Mo’s Chowder that he took a couple of buckets home with him. Mike Urban, author of Lobster Shacks: A Road Guide to New England's Best Lobster Joints, says Mo’s uses a different kind of clams in its chowder. The halibut fish and chips and oyster stew are other must-trys.
The Wreck of Richard and Charlene
The Wreck of Richard and Charlene, named after an old North Atlantic-style trawler that was shipwrecked during a storm in September 1989, is no easy find. Yet the persistence in finding this seafood shacks pays off. Located in hard-to-find spot Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, The Wreck offers guests a great view over Shem Creek with incredible seafood to match, all served on plastic plates with plastic utensils, making this this bare-bones eatery a truly authentic no-frills experience. The seafood is fresh and local, and you can expect to find grilled or fried fish, award-winning fried shrimp, scallops, fried oysters, famous deviled crab, and stone crab claws.
What started as a general store in 1910 soon became a landmark seafood shack early 1970s with the opening of the Tides Tavern. The Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor, Washington, stretches out into Puget Sound and has become an iconic destination for locals and tourists alike. Famous for its clam chowder (think traditional New England clam chowder meets bacon and potatoes), its award-winning fish and chips, and its extensive list of craft beers, Tides Tavern offers great seafood and stunning views.
Woodman’s of Essex
2014 marked the 100-year anniversary of this famed New England seafood shack. Woodman’s of Essex in Massachusetts claimed to have invented the fried clam in 1916, two years after it first opened. If that isn’t enough reason to position this joint at the top of your list, how about that Woodman’s is listed at #769 in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Take in the view from the rooftop deck and take your pick from fried clams, fresh New England lobster, steamed clams, shrimp, clam chowder or scallops. Did someone say summer?
Woody’s Crab House
Did you know that the Chesapeake Bay is the world’s largest producer of blue crabs? Well at Woody’s Crab House in North East, Maryland, you can expect to find local Maryland Blue Crabs crawling all over the menu. 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. Maryland is famous for its crab cakes (and football), so best start your journey here.
Yacht Provision Company
Called Provisions by the locals, the Yacht Provision Company in Southport, North Carolina, is located along a shipping channel and was first established in 1993. The process is simple: Order from the chalkboard menu just outside the door — the grouper salad sandwich and fresh steamed shrimp are a must-try. Grab yourself a beer by way of the honor system, and sit back, relax, and watch the world go by.