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11 Tasty Seafood Dives in the U.S.

Plan a trip to one of these affordable, no-frills seafood restaurants by the shore

spinner image people eating crabs at Cantler's Riverside Inn in Maryland
Cantler’s Riverside Inn serves steamed hard-shell crabs by the water in Annapolis, Maryland.
Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

There is a recipe for a great seafood dive. To start, location. It should be on the water or close enough to see/smell/hear the waves. Two, the decor (or lack thereof) embraces coastal kitsch and gives the right amount of pause. (Mismatched chairs are a plus.) Three, the vibe is laid-back but not boring. You want to have fun with your fried shrimp. Which brings us to the not-so-secret final ingredient: fresh seafood. Delicious baskets and platters and sandwiches and chowders that you think about for months until you can travel back to that place again. 

Here are 11 seafood dives for great food and fun by the water.

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spinner image a fishing boat outside of The Bowpicker Fish & Chips Restaurant
The Bowpicker Fish & Chips restaurant in Astoria, Oregon, is a converted fishing boat. ​
Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce

1. Bowpicker Fish & Chips, Astoria, Oregon

The “restaurant” (bowpicker.com) is a converted fishing boat parked on a trailer two blocks from the Columbia River. The carryout-only menu consists in its entirety of fish and chips — absolutely fresh and perfectly deep-fried albacore tuna and steak fries. Orders are served with malt vinegar and tartar sauce, but the fish is so good you won’t need it. 

Good to know: Cash only, and you’ll have to climb up and down a few steps. Bowpicker closes during bad weather, especially high winds. Check X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, for updates or call before you go. 

spinner image diners at Mill Creek at Cantler's Riverside Inn in Annapolis, Maryland.
Diners overlook Mill Creek at Cantler’s Riverside Inn in Annapolis, Maryland.
Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

2. Cantler’s Riverside Inn, Annapolis, Maryland

You know you’re in the right place when you see the line of locals waiting for a table at Cantler’s Riverside Inn (cantlers.com). Maryland is known for crab, and perhaps there’s no better place to enjoy the tasty crustacean than in this revered crab house located on Mill Creek. The menu features fresh steamed hard-shell crabs, cream of crab soup and a secret recipe crab dip, among other options.

Good to know: Cantler’s is open year-round. Hungry crab-loving customers arriving by boat can dock for free.

3. The Clam Bar at Napeague, Amagansett, New York

Cheery yellow umbrellas mark this Long Island summer favorite (clambarhamptons.com). Relax in the salty air (all seating is outdoors) with a lobster roll, whole-belly fried clams and clam chowder. Is that a celebrity at the next table? Maybe. After all, this is the Hamptons.

Good to know: Open April to October but may close on rainy days; check Facebook or Instagram. Once famously cash only, it now accepts credit cards. Parking is limited.

spinner image people sitting at tables outside at The Crab Shack on Tybee Island, Georgia
Seafood lovers enjoy a good amount of outdoor seating at the Crab Shack on Tybee Island, Georgia.
Crab Shack

4. The Crab Shack, Tybee Island, Georgia

The Crab Shack’s (thecrabshack.com) slogan, “Where the Elite Eat in Their Bare Feet,” sums up this rambling, rustic collection of open decks and covered seating in the salt marsh that flows between Savannah and Tybee Island. Bring all your friends: The Captains Sampler Platter and Low Country Boil are meant to be shared.

Good to know: Kids love feeding the (safely penned) alligators.

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5. Jolly Roger’s Seafood House, Port Clinton, Ohio

A short move a couple of years ago to a larger, nicer location right on Lake Erie hasn’t changed much about Jolly Roger’s (facebook.com/Jollyrogerseafoodhouse). Locals still line up for fresh, juicy fried perch and walleye. And they still love to watch the breading machine in action as they wait for their orders.

Good to know: Enjoy your seafood on a picnic beach with views of the Port Clinton Lighthouse at Waterworks Park about a mile west of the restaurant.

6. Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market and Patio Café, Malibu, California

Commercial fishermen own the place and supply much of the fish (malibuseafood.com). The catch of the day is always fresh and the grilled ahi tuna burger (chopped tuna mixed with onions and spices) is amazing. Really, it’s all great. Come with a group, order a variety and share. Enjoy Pacific Ocean views from the multilevel patio or cross the highway and picnic on the beach.

Good to know: All seating is outdoors. Even on a sunny day, bring a sweater.

7. Paia Fishmarket & Restaurant, Paia (Maui), Hawai‘i

This is the original location (paiafishmarket.com) for what’s now a four-restaurant Hawaiian chain. Expanded and better decorated, it remains in spirit a breezy, no-frills surfer hangout with great, simply prepared, fresh fish. The Cajun spice blend adds a nice kick. Communal tables foster Hawai‘i’s heartwarming aloha spirit.

Good to know: Windsurfers swoop spectacularly through the waves nearby at world-renowned Ho‘okipa Beach. 

spinner image diners outside of Provision Company in North Carolina
Provisions Company serves fresh seafood in downtown Southport, North Carolina.
Ken Blevins/The Star-News via AP

8. Provision Company, Southport, North Carolina

A cold beer provides the perfect complement to perfectly seasoned, steamed shrimp at the Provision Company (provisioncompany.com). The sea breeze plays with your hair. Boats glide past. A spectacular sunset paints the sky red and gold. And you still have key lime pie to look forward to. Life is good.

Good to know: Open mid-March to mid-December. The unusual ordering and seating process may confuse first-timers; asking for help is expected.

9. Star Fish Company, Cortez, Florida

The view is classic old Florida: blue-green water, mangrove islands, pelicans, and, across Sarasota Bay, the sandy barrier island known as Bradenton Beach. The kitchen sticks to simple preparation of fresh local seafood (starfishcompany.com). Try the blackened grouper and hush puppies to see how profound such a simple formula can be.

Good to know: Cash only.

10. Sea-N-Suds Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Gulf Shores, Alabama

Sea-N-Suds (sea-n-suds.com) stands on stilts in the middle of a white sand beach, with high-rise condos on one side and turquoise water on the other. You can’t go wrong with the spicy gumbo (a family recipe passed down for more than 200 years), and the fried oysters and shrimp.

Good to know: It’s a long hike from the free parking across the street. Cut that in half by dropping off passengers at the boardwalk next to the right side of the Boardwalk condominium building.

spinner image three plates of food on a table at Wanna Wanna Inn Beach Bar & Grill on South Padre Island
Hungry patrons have a view of the water at the Wanna Wanna Inn Beach Bar & Grill on South Padre Island, Texas. ​
Visit South Padre Island

11. Wanna Wanna Inn Beach Bar & Grill, South Padre Island, Texas

Wanna Wanna (wannawanna.com) has added extra seating over the years (some shaded, all open air), but at heart it’s still a thatched beach hut tucked behind the Wanna Wanna Inn motel. Ease into island time as you eat fresh Gulf shrimp (fried or boiled), enjoy a beer or cocktail, and watch both the waves and the people. Live music on weekends enhances the escape.

Good to know: In case you have too many Turbo Piña Coladas: The motel rooms are basic, comfortable and clean.

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