America’s vast coastlines are dotted with exciting population centers, maritime fun, and great seafood. From hearty winter chowders to more delicate catches, America’s seafood restaurants appeal to various tastes, cuisines, and budgets.
To find the best seafood restaurants in the country, TravelAwaits asked its extensive network of readers to share their favorite spots in the U.S. — whether they were encountered on a trip or are a regular local haunt. According to our trusted readers, here are the best seafood restaurants in the United States.
1. McAdoo’s Seafood Co. & Oyster Bar (Winner)
New Braunfels, Texas
Located just northeast of San Antonio and a couple of hours from the Gulf of Mexico is McAdoo’s Seafood Co, the winner of this year’s best seafood restaurant. McAdoo’s serves Cajun and Creole seafood alongside other Texas favorites in a 100-year-old restored post office – a truly unique setting.
Reviews rave about all of the food at McAdoo’s in equal measure, though dishes like the Cajun pasta, shrimp brochette, and Mahi Mardi Gras tend to stand out from the rest. The McAdoo’s Seafood Fondoo and salmon wonton nachos are popular starters, while Key lime pie and raspberry cheesecake are the perfect sweet finishes to a meal.
2. Lobster Trap Restaurant
This classic Cape Cod seafood joint is a landmark on the shore of the Back River in Bourne. While the Lobster Trap was originally founded as a small fish market, it has since expanded to year-round operations as a restaurant. The market still sells great fresh seafood for home cooks as well.
The Lobster Trap delivers on its promise of the true Cape Cod experience with a balance between an elevated menu and a casual environment. When it comes to Cape Cod classics, the lobster roll is the standout, but there are plenty of other New England staples on the diverse, accessible menu.
3. Scoma’s Restaurant
San Francisco, California
Scoma’s has been an iconic destination on San Francisco’s waterfront since 1965 and it embodies the concept of “pier-to-plate” dining. It’s hard to find a better location for a seafood restaurant than Fisherman’s Wharf.
The “Scoma’s Classics” section of the menu notes that its selections have been popular since 1965. Choices include “Lazy Man’s” Cioppino, Pasta Diplomatica, and shellfish saute sec – combinations of various fresh ingredients that give guests a great sampling of what the West Coast has to offer.
4. The Crab Shack
Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee Island is a small barrier island not far from Atlanta. This popular tourist destination is known for its great beaches, historical fort, and famous pier, but the Crab Shack is one of the main highlights of the local restaurant scene. This family-run eatery has stuck to its friendly roots for years.
The peel-and-eat shrimp and seafood platters are the most popular items available, but the menu includes plenty of seafood favorites as well as land-based options like barbecue entrées. The atmosphere sets this restaurant apart from others; diners enjoy their meals right next to the water under gorgeous trees and lights.
5. Shaw’s Crab House
Shaw’s Crab House is a long-standing Chicago institution with a timeless atmosphere and a focus on great ingredients. Shaw’s is also home to a lively and large oyster bar with plenty of tables, a wrap-around bar, and friendly bartenders serving up oysters alongside drinks.
The menu at Shaw’s is extensive, to say the least. With selections that run the gamut from sushi, sashimi, and poke to crab and Lake Michigan whitefish, there’s something to satisfy every appetite. This classy establishment is the perfect place to bring a group when the ambiance needs to be as impressive as the food.
6. Hudson’s Seafood House On The Docks
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
This factory-turned-restaurant has attracted generations of diners. Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks serves fresh seafood from local fishermen, selling over 70,000 pounds of shrimp and 3,000 gallons of oysters annually. With a simple and refined dining area, the food and views take center stage.
Hudson’s serves brunch, lunch, and dinner. The local shrimp comprises the foundation of some of Hudson’s most popular dishes, while the oysters garner a similar amount of attention in reviews. Other highlights include a respectable Low Country boil and Neptune’s Seafood Platter.
7. Le Bernardin
New York, New York
Le Bernardin holds three Michelin stars, has received a series of five four-star reviews from the New York Times, and is captained by Eric Ripert, a James Beard Award-winning chef. It’s safe to say this is fine dining at its best. Ripert is a French chef who brings a philosophy of excellence to an already refined restaurant.
The chef’s tasting menu is a perfect way to sample the full range of flavors at Le Bernardin. Featuring taragai served with saffron gelee, scallops with caviar sauce, pan-seared fluke with an urchin-bouillabaisse emulsion, and more, this menu is a rich reward that is worth a journey.
8. Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet
One could argue that location matters more for seafood restaurants than other types of eateries. The next reader choice on our list – Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet – is located on Islamorada, right on the Overseas Highway to Key West. While patrons may stop at this buffet for its great views and convenient location, they certainly return because of the enormous variety of dining options.
The buffet menu is subject to frequent changes, but some examples of dishes include peel-and-eat shrimp, oysters, calamari and octopus salads, paella, salmon with miso glaze, bayou crawfish, and much, much more. This buffet certainly isn’t the type of place where you have to worry about small servings.
9. Red’s Eats
Red’s Eats in Maine is a quaint roadside restaurant that claims to be the most famous lobster shack in the world. Known for its generously portioned lobster rolls, Red’s is a favorite choice for locals and travelers alike. The restaurant’s dedicated staff locally sources as many ingredients as possible, ensuring a fresh and delicious experience.
You must have a lobster roll at Red’s, but that isn’t all they serve. There’s also a detailed menu with offerings such as crab cakes, shrimp, fish sandwiches, and non-seafood options.
10. Matunuck Oyster Bar
Wakefield, Rhode Island
For another excellent New England classic, look no further than Matunuck Oyster Bar in Rhode Island. Just down the road from East Matunuck State Beach, this waterfront restaurant wows everyone who stops to eat with lovely views, great service, and world-class food.
Whether it’s the gorgeous presentation or the high-quality ingredients, TravelAwaits readers can’t get enough of the food at Matunuck. The raw bar is one of the main features of the menu, but the prepared shellfish and seafood entrée sections include enticing choices like oysters Rockefeller, clams casino, Atlantic salmon, and the Potter Pond poke bowl.
11. Woody’s Crab House
North East, Maryland
Just a stone’s throw from the North East River, Woody’s Crab House is a neighborhood favorite that uses the traditional recipes that can only be found in a historic fishing village. While the fishing industry isn’t as prevalent in the town of North East as it once was, the culinary tradition and good people remain.
You can’t go wrong by starting out with crab bisque or the Maryland crab soup, but the “Woody Recommends” section of the menu rounds up the restaurant’s award-winning dishes, such as crab au gratin, the crab cake dinner, and the crab imperial. The seafood platters, grill options, and special occasion dinners also deserve an honorable mention.
12. Encinitas Fish Shop
The Encinitas Fish Shop brings some southern California flair to our readers’ favorite seafood restaurants. The fish shop prides itself on its family- and dog-friendly environment that highlights the casual nature of SoCal dining. Whether you dine inside or on the patio, you’ll find a welcoming staff and a solid menu.
One of the best features of the Encinitas Fish Shop’s menu is its customization options. For your very own bespoke dish, you simply choose a fish, a marinade, and a style. You could have sea bass with a teriyaki glaze as a sandwich, red snapper with Fish Shop seasoning, salmon with lemon butter on a salad, and as many other combinations as you can come up with.
The menu also features chef-crafted favorites like Fish Shop stew, spicy Dorado tacos, and pineapple express tacos.
13. The Walrus And The Carpenter
The Walrus and the Carpenter takes its name from a Lewis Carroll poem of the same name – a cheeky nod to the fun and oyster-focused spirit of the establishment. A labor of love from a group of friends and their families, The Walrus and the Carpenter prides itself as a bustling neighborhood spot where the oysters and drinks are always cold.
The one-page menu is built around quality rather than an enormous range of options. A variety of oyster options leads the way, but other seafood options include scallop crudo – with saffron aioli, mint, rice crisp, and black lime – and grilled sardines with walnut parsley and shallot. With next-level staff and beautifully presented food, this humble local joint is sure to impress.
14. Sesuit Harbor Cafe
The Sesuit Harbor Cafe may be the final entry on this list, but our readers selected it over thousands of other places across the country. This laid-back seafood shack on the water offers good food with no frills.
Being located in Massachusetts, Sesuit Harbor Cafe claims “world-famous” status for its lobster roll, but it also has a respectable range of options like classic fish and chips, stuffed cod, seared salmon, and marinated swordfish tips.
Read more from our 2023 Best Of Travel Awards.