We eat more and more seafood every year in America, including fresh, canned, and cured or smoked fish and shellfish. We ate 16 pounds of seafood per capita in 2017, according to the Fisheries of the United States report issued annually by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In 2016, we ate only 14.9 pounds.
Shrimp is the most popular variety of seafood in the United States, accounting for about a quarter of our annual seafood consumption. The next most popular seafood varieties are salmon, tuna, and pollock (which we eat not only in its native form but also as fish sticks, fish cakes, or surimi — imitation crab).
The leading seafood restaurant chain by far is Red Lobster, which has about 680 outlets around the country and racks up an estimated $2.5 billion in annual sales. Other chains, including Landry’s, Joe’s Crab Shack, Bonefish Grill, Legal Seafood, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. take in billions collectively.
There are also countless independent operations serving seafood, of course, as well as small regional restaurant groups with a focus on fish and shellfish. And many restaurants that don’t specialize in seafood also include a good variety on their menus. Steakhouses, for example, frequently offer a large and varied selection of top-quality seafood, from oysters on the half-shell to broiled swordfish steaks.
What makes seafood restaurants popular? According to online reviews, price or at least perceived value for the money is a key factor — good seafood is almost always expensive. Casual atmosphere seems to appeal to diners, too, and many of the most popular places are modest in decor, some with counter service only, though fancier places with well-known chefs also gain favor.
The restaurants on this list are not necessarily the ones that professional restaurant critics would judge as best, nor are they necessarily the highest-grossing ones — but they’re the ones that ordinary diners prefer, based on their reviews.
To identify the most popular seafood restaurants in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed rating and review data on seafood restaurant establishments around the country from review website Yelp!. Shops are ranked by average rating and then by number of ratings.
To be considered, a seafood restaurant needed to be in or near a city with a population of at least 100,000 people. In states with few or no cities of this size, seafood restaurants in smaller cities were also considered. The restaurants also had to have an average rating of at least 4.0 out of 5 and no fewer than 100 reviews. In the few states this was not the case, the restaurant with the more reviews or higher rating was considered.