We love the humble seafood shack -- breezy, open-air dining at weather-worn picnic tables. The food is anything but dainty with peel-n-eat shrimp, Maryland blue crabs, fried clam strips and meaty lobster rolls. From Maine to Florida, here are twenty East Coast seafood houses the pros love and that have stood the test of time serving signature dishes for decades.
Wiscasset | Red’s Eats
They’ve been feeding locals and tourists since 1938, originally in Boothbay. Each lobster roll contains a pound of fresh lobster -- melted butter or mayo is your call. Recommended by Susan Povich of Red Hook Lobster Pound who spent her summers here eating their famous lobster rolls.
FED Pro > Susan Povich (Red Hook Lobster Pound)
41 Water Street, Wiscasset, ME 04578 | T: 207.882.6128
Portland | Lobster Shack at Two Lights
Nine miles south of Portland on the coast, they've been making lobster rolls since the 1920s. Originally called the Lobster Shop, it was sold to the current family in the late 1960s and renamed. You can sit outside on picnic tables overlooking the picturesque rocky shore.
"Get the lobster/crab roll or fried clams. They have amazing views, set right on the water."
FED Pro > Chefs Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Jeil Lopez (Piccolo, Blue Rooster Food Co.)
225 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107 | T: 207.799.1677 | www.lobstershacktwolights.com
Portland | Portland Lobster Company
Located in the center of town overlooking the docks.
"They have an outdoor deck right on the water, freezing cold beers, and a lobster roll worthy of a James Beard award. A half lobster caught that day, on a toasted bun, brushed in butter (the way life should be), and mayo on the side."
FED Pro > Chef Erik Dejarlais (Weft & Warp Seamster)
180 Commercial Street, Portland, ME 04101 | T: 207.775-2112 | www.portlandlobstercompany.com
Phippsburg | Spinney’s Restaurant
A favorite oceanfront destination of Red Hook Lobster Pound's Susan Povich, Spinney’s opens from May to October. Sit inside or out and dine on live lobster pulled from the tank, lobster rolls, clams, chowders, and New England fish.
FED Pro > Susan Povich (Red Hook Lobster Pound)
987 Popham Road, Phippsburg, ME 04532 | T: 207.389.1122 | spinneysonpophambeach.com
Boston | Belle Isle Seafood
Although they’ve relocated to newer digs, just ten minutes from Boston Logan Airport, Belle Isle has been serving New England staples like oysters, lobster rolls, and fried clams for decades.
"Belle Isle Seafood for the best lobster roll."
FED Pro > Chef Ana Sortun (Oleana, Sofra Bakery and Cafe, Sarma)
"For a crazy good lobster roll. They pack so much meat in there, you could probably share with a friend. Grab it to go, pick up a six pack of beer and enjoy your lunch on the beach."
FED Pro > Chef Cassie Piuma (Sarma)
One Main Street, Winthrop, MA 02152 | T: 617.567.1619 | www.belleisleseafood.com
Ipswich | The Clam Box
"There is something about Ipswich’s Clam Box that will forever be cemented in my head; great (not just ‘pretty good’) fried, whole belly clams. Get ready to stand in line for a good reason. Pile it high with crispy (and somehow not greasy) onion rings freshly out of the fryer, a side of ‘tahdah’ sauce (yes, that’s for fry dipping too - don’t embarrass yourself by squirting ketchup all over the place), and you’ve got yourself one hell of a summertime snack. Congrats. You have achieved fried clam eating perfection."
FED Pro > Chef Matt Jennings (Townsman)
246 High Street, Ipswich, MA 01938 | T: 978.356.9707 | www.ipswichma.com/clambox
Martha's Vineyard | The Bite
Opened in 1988, this little hut near the docks in Martha's Vineyard features a chalkboard listing the day’s freshly-caught seafood. Watch the fishermen bring in their catch while you snack on fried clams, oysters or Quahog chowder.
"For fried clams and New England clam chowder."
FED Pro > Chef Tony Maws (Craigie on Main, Kirkland Tap & Trotter)
29 Basin Road, Menemsha, MA 02552 | T: 508.645.9239
The Hamptons | The Clam Bar
This is the kind of open-air seafood shack that you hope to stumble across when you're having a beach vacation. It has a classic New England feel and a menu supplied by a fleet of local fishermen.
"We always come here for lunch. The steamers are my favorite thing on the menu and the raw oysters are really good as well."
FED Pro > Chef Marc Murphy (LandMarc, Ditch Plains)
"It’s so unpretentious and just easy. Sit outside, have some really great clams on the half shell, or one of my favorites, the fried clam sandwich."
FED Pro > Chef Joe Realmuto (Nick & Toni's)
"It is definitely that classic Eastern Long Island experience of lobster rolls, bisque, and whole lobsters. You can sit out and enjoy the sunshine."
FED Pro > Chef Chris Rendell (Surf Lodge, Flinder's Lane)
2025 Montauk Highway, Amagansett, NY 11930 | T: 631.267.6348 | www.clambaronline.com
Annapolis | Cantler’s Riverside Inn
This is a classic waterfront seafood restaurant with four decades of experience behind them. A good place to taste the bounty from the Chesapeake Bay.
"They’re right on the dock and it just gives you that sense of mood and time and place. It is indicative of what the Chesapeake Bay offers."
FED Pro > Chef Cathal Armstrong (Restaurant Eve)
458 Forest Beach Road, Annapolis, MD 21409 | T: 410.757.1311 | www.cantlers.com
Annapolis | Mike’s Crab House
Mike’s has been serving Chesapeake Bay crabs since 1958. You can pull your boat right up to the dock and sit outside at picnic tables overlooking the South River.
"I think eating blue crabs here on the bay is about as good as it gets. You get a couple of dozen crabs and pitchers of beer. I grew up in this area and it's one of the great regional specialties."
FED Pro > Chef Haidar Karoum (Proof, Estadio, Doi Moi)
3030 Riva Road, Riva, MD 21140 | T: 410.956.2784 | www.mikescrabhouse.com
Charleston Area | Bowens Island
Opened in 1946, this seafood shack won the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award in 2006.
"When you want somebody to feel the lowcountry, you come to Bowens Island and you eat shovels and shovels full of roasted oysters."
FED Pro > Chef Sean Brock (Husk, McCrady's)
"It’s on the water and features local seafood, shrimp, oysters and fish. They are oyster oriented and famous for their oyster roast. It’s a very traditional gathering kind of meal."
FED Pro > Chef Robert Stehling (Hominy Grill)
"It’s a great hole in the wall, celebratory fun place to go and it’s on a barrier island so it’s a beautiful setting. They take oysters and roast them on an open fire. You can get Frogmore stew, which is a great lowcountry dish - corn, sausage, potatoes, and shrimp with Old Bay on them, just no broth. There is a broth, but it’s strained off."
FED Pro > Chef Robert Carter (Carter Kitchen)
1870 Bowens Island Road, Charleston, SC 29412 | T: 843.795.2757
Sea Island | Shrimp Shack
Order from a take out window and sit on a screen-in porch or picnic tables. Matt and Ted Lee recommend ordering their specialty, which is the shrimp burger, made with owner & captain Bob’s just-caught shrimp. His wife Hilda prepares the burgers the same way local fisherman have been doing for years - beating them with the bottom of a Coca-Cola bottle.
FED Pros > Matt & Ted Lee (Lee Bros. Boiled Peanut Catalogue)
1925 Sea Island Parkway, Saint Helena Island, SC 29920 | T: 843.838.2962
New Smyrna Beach | JB’s Fish Camp
Opened in 1979 and located right on Mosquito Lagoon on the Canaveral National Seashore, you can sit outside and watch manatees and dolphins swim underneath the dock.
"I love their clams and they actually have the clam farm behind the restaurant. They are also the only clams I purchase for my restaurants. Anyone can buy them on-site to take home."
FED Pro > Chef Brandon McGlamery (Prato, Luma on Park)
"It's been here since the 1970s. Come here to watch the sunset and have a few cocktails before the bugs start coming out. I love the rock shrimp, steamed shrimp, steamed clams, corn on the cob, and coleslaw."
FED Pro > Chef Henry Salgado (Spanish River Grill in NSB, Txokos Basque Kitchen in Orlando)
859 Pompano Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169
T: 386.427.5747 | www.jbsfishcamp.com
Panhandle | Nick’s Seafood
"Nick's and Sticks is what everybody calls it. It's an old Florida fish house and it used to be a fish camp. If you're here when it’s warm, blue crabs are the way to go, just get blue crabs on a tray, a pitcher of cold beer and hang out watching football. It's that kind of place."
FED Pro > Chef Philip Krajeck (Rolf and Daughters)
7585 Florida 20, Freeport, FL 32439 | T: 850.835.2222 | www.nicksseafoodrestaurant.com
Tampa Bay Area | Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish
This is a smokehouse that's been around for over 50 years. Red oak smoked fish, icy cold root beer, German potato salad, and a side of smoked fish spread equals delicious.
"It is quintessential Florida and they serve up some of the best smoked mullet known to humankind."
FED Pro > Chef Greg Baker (The Refinery)
"Get the Smoked fish dip sandwich and coleslaw, it's simple and perfect.
FED Pro > Chef Chad Johnson (Epicurean Hotel, SideBern's & Élevage Restaurants)
1350 Pasadena Avenue S, South Pasadena, FL 33707 | T: 727.381.7931 | tedpetersfish.com
Ft. Lauderdale | Rustic Inn
Quintessential waterfront seafood house that opened in 1955 and is known for their garlic crabs.
"Get ready to smash and eat all the crabs you can. And if you don’t like crab, they have an array of fresh seafood dishes to choose from. This place embodies old Florida and you can grab a seat outside and watch all the giant iguanas near the water."
FED Pro > Chef Paula DaSilva (3030 Ocean)
4331 Ravenswood Road, Fort Lauderdale, Fl 33312
T: 954.584.1637 | www.rusticinn.com
Ft. Lauderdale | Southport Raw Bar
Opened in 1973, this is Fort Lauderdale's oldest raw bar and located dockside on the canal overlooking the sailboats. It's also open late.
"It's very casual, on the water and fun to hang in the balmy breezes of the south. We eat simple things like oysters on the half shell, fish dip with pickled vegetables, and pink shrimp with spices."
FED Pro > Chef Dean Max (DJM Culinary)
1536 Cordova Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316 | T: 954.525.2526 | www.southportrawbar.com
Miami | Garcia's Seafood Grille
"This is an old school seafood shack where you can sit outside, enjoy the view and drink some beers."
FED Pro > Chef Cesar Zapata (The Federal)
"I really enjoy coming here for fresh fish. I love that you really get a feel for an active fish market. You can also enjoy lunch here, which is a very typical Miami thing to do."
FED Pro > Chef Makoto Okusa (Makoto)
"One of my favorites, right on the Miami River. Best whole grilled fish and stone crabs that rival Joe’s Stone Crab. I think you should always go for the staples here. If spiny lobsters are in season, have them thrown on the grill or the whole yellow tail snappers on the grill. Their black beans and white rice are some of the best in Miami and so are the sweet plantains."
FED Pro > Chef Michelle Bernstein (Seagrape)
398 NW North River Drive, Miami, FL 33128 | T: 305.375.0765 | www.garciasseafoodgrill.com
Key West | B.O.’s Fish Wagon
Roll up in flip flops and shorts for fish sandwiches on Cuban bread with key lime mayo served out of a rusty truck. Thirty years ago, legendary local Buddy Owen started serving fish sandwiches out of a pick-up truck. Many hurricanes later, the wagon is still around, and a featured part of the kitschy shanty decor.
"Low key and great for sandwiches."
FED Pro > Chef Norman Van Aken
801 Caroline Street, Key West, FL 33040 | T: 305.294.9272 | www.bosfishwagon.com
Key West | Hogfish Bar & Grill
Located on Stock Island, just before you hit Key West, this is where the locals go.
"It’s a hard to find place, but it is like the original classic joints of Key West back in the day. Their specials are a good bet. They also do great smoked fish and hogfish sandwich. You’ll enjoy its raffish charms."
FED Pro > Chef Norman Van Aken
6810 Front Street, Stock Island, FL 33040 | T: 305.293.4041 | www.hogfishbar.com
- Chefs Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Jeil Lopez of Piccolo, Blue Rooster Food Co. in Portland
- Susan Povich of Red Hook Lobster in New York
- Chef Erik Dejarlais of Weft & Warp Seamster in Portland
- Chef Ana Sortun of Oleana, Sofra Bakery and Cafe, Sarma in Boston and Somerville
- Chef Cassie Piuma of Sarma in Somerville
- Chef Matt Jennings of Townsman in Boston
- Chef Tony Maws of Craigie on Main, Kirkland Tap & Trotter in Boston and Somerville
- Chef Marc Murphy of LandMarc, Ditch Plains in New York
- Chef Joe Realmuto of Nick & Toni's in East Hampton
- Chef Chris Rendell of Surf Lodge, Flinder's Lane in Montauk and New York
- Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria
- Chef Haidar Karoum of Proof, Estadio, Doi Moi in Washington, DC
- Chef Sean Brock of Husk, McCrady's in Charleston and Nashville
- Matt & Ted Lee of Lee Bros. Boiled Peanut Catalogue in Charleston
- Chef Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill in Charleston
- Chef Robert Carter of Carter Kitchen in Charleston
- Chef Brandon McGlamery of Prato, Luma on Park in Winter Park
- Chef Philip Krajeck of Rolf and Daughters in Nashville
- Chef Greg Baker of The Refinery in Tampa
- Chef Chad Johnson of Epicurean Hotel, SideBern's & Élevage Restaurants in Tampa
- Chef Paula DaSilva of 3030 Ocean in Ft. Lauderdale
- Chef Dean Max of DJM Culinary FL, Ohio, Caribbean
- Chef Cesar Zapata of The Federal in Miami
- Chef Michelle Bernstein of Seagrape in Miami
- Chef Makoto Okusa of Makoto in Miami
- Chef Norman Van Aken of Norman's Orlando in Key West and Orlando
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