It's the season for shucking, slurping, dipping and deep-frying, so we went coast to coast to find the coolest raw bars, fish shacks, poke bowls, and haute poissonniers nationwide. Here are 9 places to taste America’s life aquatic.
Eventide, Portland, Maine
Arguably the country’s coolest raw bar, this granite counter offers some 20 varieties of oysters from Maine and beyond, accompanied by such creative accoutrements as red wine mignonette and kimchi ice. The brown butter lobster roll is a house favorite (this is Maine, after all), and the backyard picnic tables provide the ideal setting for the New England Clam Bake, which comes on a bed of rock seaweed and features steamers, mussels, a lobster tail and copious bragging rights.
The Walrus and the Carpenter, Seattle
Oysters are the word at this Ballard hot spot named for a Lewis Carroll poem and located in a former shipping factory. The open-air (weather permitting) space makes the most of its slim, stylish digs, offering an array of local bivalves and small plates like house-smoked trout as well as craft beers, global wines and killer cocktails featuring house shrubs, sodas and juices.
Marsh House, Nashville
New Orleans celebrity chef John Besh is behind this glam, 100-seat seafood palace in the Gulch’s sparkling new Parts and Labor-designed Thompson Hotel. The all-day menu pairs shrimp and grits, Louisiana gumbo, oysters on the half shell, and swordfish with tomato jam and Creole beurre blanc pair with seasonal craft cocktails and a considerable small-batch wine list.
Makai Sushi, Kauai
The best supermarket sushi you ever had comes courtesy of this no-frills beachside counter. Beloved by both locals and honeymooning tourists, Makai offers a chalkboard menu of fresh and local “rolls and bowls”—including the signature Gorilla Bowl, a hearty poke platter featuring ahi, ono, salmon, cucumber and daikon.
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Joe's Stone Crab, Miami
A Miami Beach institution born from a 1913 fish counter, Joe’s has served cigars and key lime pies to everyone from Will Rogers to Al Capone to Gloria Swanson. In addition to steaks and retro favorites like clams casino and twice baked potatoes, the kitchen dishes out the titular specialty in a bisque, chilled with mustard dipping sauce, or plated atop hash browns with creamed spinach, a chopped salad and slice of pie for dessert.
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Jean-Georges alum Bryan Caswell celebrates the Gulf bounty—H-Town is less than an hour from coastal Galveston, Tex.—at this mod destination in a former Pontiac dealership in Midtown. The menu spans local wahoo and crispy red snapper, as well as an American-centric wine list with 400 labels, most of which lie within the $40 range.
Son of a Gun, Los Angeles
Florida natives Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Animal, Jon & Vinny’s) celebrate all things nautical at this perennially packed Beverly Grove joint. If the quirky space vaguely resembles someone’s dad’s garage, it’s with good reason—several knicknacks found their way to the restaurant from the chefs’ parents’ personal collections. Specialties of the house include peel-and-eat Santa Barbara prawns, uni linguine, and shareable crowd-pleasers like fried chicken and two-bite lobster rolls.
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Middendorf's Seafood, Akers, Louisiana
Forty-five minutes outside of New Orleans lies this low-key roadside institution, which has served classic, country-style Louisiana seafood since 1934. (The dining room was renovated last winter, but the menu and breezy patio overlooking Lake Maurepas is timeless.) Cityfolk make the trek for such specialties as seasonal boiled crabs, oyster stew, and signature, paper-thin cuts of fried catfish.
Le Bernardin, New York City
The ne plus ultra of Manhattan seafood, Eric Ripert’s Michelin-starred temple marries impeccable French technique with classical and inventive flavors, as in striped bass with green papaya salad, and lobster tail with lemongrass consomme. Following a 2011 renovation, the space has a reserved, contemporary vibe, featuring artwork by Brooklyn’s Ran Ortner and a lively, casual(ish) lounge.