Seafood shacks provide no-frills gustatory delights. But what, exactly, qualifies as a seafood “shack”? The definition is inexact. In general, seafood shacks – whether specifically crab, lobster, clam, or whatever or all-purpose – are casual places, usually by the water, often with walk-up windows for ordering (or counter ordering inside), and with mostly outside seating (if they’re only open seasonally) or picnic table style seating indoors.
Some places that call themselves “shacks” are obviously a good deal more formal – more restaurant than shack. Perhaps they came from humbler origins and kept the original description – or maybe they style themselves shacks as a branding device, much as some bars prefer to call themselves “speakeasies.”
To identify the best seafood shacks around America, 24/7 Tempo reviewed lists, ratings, and reviews from websites including The Daily Meal, Gayot, Food Network, Eater, FED Guides, Gourmandize, Tasting Table, Cheapism, Men’s Journal, and Yelp, as well as numerous regional and local sites. The resulting list covers seafood shacks across much of the nation, but not in New England – whose shacks are the subject of a story of their own: “The best seafood shacks in New England.”
In general, the shorter the distance from the fishing boat or shellfish farm to the plate, the better the seafood shack. Proximity to the ocean makes a big difference, and almost all of the entries on this list are located in coastal areas – five of them in New York state, six in Florida. (If you’re looking for something a little fancier than a shack, here’s a list of the best seafood restaurant in every state.)
Some menu items common to the majority of these seafood shacks include oysters, clams, shrimp, and various kinds of fish – often catfish or flounder. However, some serve more exotic options. Florida seafood shacks might offer frogs’ legs, alligator, or conch. Louisiana shacks celebrate crawdads (freshwater crayfish). Chicago’s Calumet Fisheries features eel.
> Location: Malibu, CA
What if fishermen decided to skip the middleman and serve their fresh catch directly to customers? Malibu Seafood does just this. Owned and operated by commercial fishermen, the eatery is a no frills sea-to-table seafood shack. Patrons highly rate the clam chowder, often served in a sourdough bowl.
The Marshall Store
> Location: Marshall, CA
Located North of San Francisco, Marshall is home to beautiful coastal scenery and an abundance of Pacific oysters. The Marshall Store carries a variety of them from their family oyster farm in nearby Tomales Bay. They come raw, grilled, or smoked – the last of these served with crostini and local cheese, chipotle aïoli, chives, and lemon.
> Location: Malibu, CA
The Reel Inn has been in business since 1986, serving well-priced dishes with beach views. The menu contains a plethora of deep-fried seafood items, including oysters, calamari, and crab cakes. The seafood shack has received a notable amount of press, much of which describes the experience of ordering from a blackboard and waiting for your food while enjoying a beverage and soaking up the laid-back atmosphere.
> Location: Key Largo, FL
Whether you arrive by car or by boat, Alabama Jack’s is a worthwhile seafood shack destination in the Florida Keys, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Diners cite the conch fritters as one of their top picks. On weekends, patrons are treated to live music in addition to the good food.
B.O.’s Fish Wagon
> Location: Key West, FL
You know how casual this place is by its faded wood sign reading “No shirt, no shoes, no problem.” Buddy Owen started operating his seafood business out of an actual wagon 25 years ago. The restaurant has been featured in the New York Times and on the Food Network.
> Location: Everglades City, FL
City Seafood is both a restaurant and a market, with items that range from crab to alligator to frogs’ legs. Seafood is caught by restaurant-owned boats, so you know it will be fresh. Diners can sit outside and watch local wildlife (like manatees) while eating. Apart from the expertly fried seafood, the key lime pie comes highly recommended.
The Conch Shack
> Location: Key West, FL
Conch fritters are the favorite of this aptly-named eatery on Duval Street, awarded Trip Advisor’s “Traveler’s Choice Awards” in 2021. Reviewers recommend pairing dishes with the restaurant’s signature key lime aïoli. And if musically inclined guests wish, staff are trained to teach them how to blow a conch shell.
> Location: Lighthouse Point, FL
Cracked conch for dinner and key lime pie for dessert…. Reviewers who ate at the family-owned Fish Shack note this winning combination. Located on the southeast Florida coast, Fish Shack is popular among locals and tourists alike. Guests need not worry about leaving hungry, as the portions are very generous.
Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish
> Location: St. Petersburg, FL
Seafood can be baked, grilled, fried, sometimes eaten raw….But at this seafood shack, it’s smoked. Ted Peters opened his first restaurant in the late 1940s, enticing passers-by with the smell and spectacle of smoking fish. He moved to the present location in 1951, and it grew into a family business – still run by family members. The menu offers salmon, mahi mahi, mackerel, and mullet.
Fat & Fine Crab Shack
> Location: Brunswick, GA
Situated on the Georgia coast, the Fat & Fine Crab Shack is a local favorite with a rating of 4.7/5 stars on Google. Diners rave about the fried shrimp and affordable prices. Grouper, snow crab, and Dungeness crab in various forms are also on offer.
Da Poke Shack
> Location: Kailua-Kona (Big Island) HI
In 2017, Anthony Bourdain referred to Da Poke Shack as a “local favorite” where patrons would find the “freshest ahi.” The tuna is served in numerous variations, including one with sweet miso and honey with roasted seaweed; another with Hawaiian chiles, garlic, and sesame seeds; and an “award-winning” version with roasted kukui nuts. Scallops, octopus, and other seafood is also available in various forms. Many diners opt for food to go, and take their poke bowl to the beach nearby.
> Location: Chicago, IL
One of the few seafood shacks that isn’t in a coastal state, Calumet Fisheries is located off the Calumet river, directly next to Lake Michigan. It’s known for their smoked seafood, including sturgeon, trout, and even eel.
The Fish Stand
> Location: Seymour, IN
While The Fish Stand is also located in a state without coastal access, reviewers have raved about its delicious seafood options, particularly the catfish sandwiches. The eatery is also very affordable: A large catfish dinner costs less than eight dollars.
Jo-Bob’s Gas & Grill
> Location: Grand Isle, LA
At Jo-Bob’s Gas & Grill, you can fill up and grill up; this seafood shack on Louisiana’s Grand Isle is also a gas station. While the idea of finding stellar seafood at a gas station might seem strange, Jo-Bob’s Gas & Grill is highly rated. Customers recommend the shrimp po’boy and the gumbo.
> Location: Amite City, LA
Fried, boiled, or in a po’boy, crawdads are one of the specialties of Amite CIty’s Seafood Shack. Located in northern Louisiana, close to the Tangipahoa River, the shack also offers a variety of seafood sandwiches, po’boys, and seafood plates, based on fish and shellfish including flounder, catfish, and crab.
Stevensville Crab Shack
> Location: Stevensville, MD
The family-owned Stevensville Crab Shack has been serving softshell crab, king crab legs, snow crab legs, and crab cakes since it opened in 1988. Oysters, scallops, clams, and calamari are other possibilities.
P’Reaux’s Cajun Mudbugs and Shrimp
> Location: Yazoo City, MS
Crayfish. Crawdad. Mudbug. Called by many names, this delectable crustacean features prominently on the menu at P’Reaux’s, along with other Cajun fare. Oysters, shrimp, catfish and more are other choices, and there are tacos and po’boys as well as platters available.
Bull on the Barn Bayshore Crab House
> Location: Newport, NJ
Bull on the Barn sits on the banks of the Nantuxent Creek, and serves its crabs South Jersey style – cleaned, then seasoned and cooked (in Maryland, the crabs are cleaned after they’re steamed). Kenny Lore, the chef and owner, comes from generations of oystermen, and guests can enjoy also Delaware Bay oysters at the establishment.
> Location: Brigantine, NJ
Crab Shack only serves wild-caught seafood, their website noting that no farm-raised fare will end up on the menu. They make jumbo lump crab cakes by hand every morning, and their lobster roll is acclaimed by many reviewers. The lengthy menu also offers seafood pastas, including one with mussels marinara and another with jumbo shrimp fra diavolo.
Viking Fresh Off the Hook (closed for the season)
> Location: Barnegat Light, NJ
Viking Fresh Off the Hook keeps seafood quality and sustainability front and center. They are family-owned, and operate in conjunction with Viking Village, a commercial fishing dock that allows for fresh, high-quality catches. Patrons recommend the scallops and the grilled tuna appetizer.
Butler’s Flat Clam Shack
> Location: Port Washington, NY
Located on the North Fork of Long Island, Butler’s Flat Clam Shack derives its name from a lighthouse in the town where owner Christopher Blumlo’s family lived for seven generations. Here, Blumlo spent his childhood searching for, and eating, clams and scallops, a process which inspired him to open his seafood shack.
Clam Bar at Napeague
> Location: Amagansett, NY
For New Yorkers headed to Montauk from April to November, the Clam Bar at Napeague is an enticing stop, located right off the highway. The seafood shack has been around for 41 years, developing landmark status in the area, and garnering plenty of favorable press.
Duryea’s Lobster Deck (closed for the season)
> Location: Montauk, NY
Another popular seafood shack in the Hamptons, Duryea’s Lobster Deck refers to itself as a “casual seaside gem” with a chic twist, where guests can sip rosé alongside their seafood. The prices are higher than at many other seafood shacks on our list, but reviewers love the lobster cobb salad, and the restaurant’s ocean views.
Flo’s Famous Luncheonette
> Location: Blue Point, NY
Flo’s Famous Luncheonette has been around for nearly 100 years, when it began as a stand run by Florence Kimball. The shack has seen changes in both ownership and structure throughout the years, but has been well-loved for generations. The restaurant hosts live events, and has a satellite food truck.
LoLo’s Seafood Shack
> Location: New York City, NY
Located not on the seashore but in Harlem, LoLo’s Seafood Shack was opened by travel enthusiasts Chef Raymond Mohan and Leticia Skai Young. Inspired by locally owned, locally operated seaside eateries – “lolos” – in the British West Indies, their seafood shack offers seafood in numerous different seafood styles and forms. One unique menu item: Belizean conch fritters, made with conch, salt cod, fresh corn, and diced peppers, and served with LoLo’s rémoulade.
Calabash Seafood Hut
> Location: Calabash, NC
Calabash styles itself the “seafood capital of the world,” and is home to a vast array of seafood restaurants. The well-loved Calabash Seafood Hut is known for the thin, crunchy coating on its fried seafood. Shrimp, scallops, and flounder are particularly appreciated.
Lewis Seafood Shack
> Location: Topsail Beach, NC
Fried shrimp or fish tacos and sandwiches are the specialty at this actual shack on Topsail Island, but there are also daily specials – for instance seafood stew or black sea bass with sautéed peppers.
Bowpicker Fish and Chips
> Location: Astoria, OR
Housed in a converted gillnet boat at the mouth of the Columbia River, across the street from the Columbia River Maritime Museum, Bowpicker Fish and Chips primarily serves, yes, fish & chips, drawing lines of customers from Oregon and beyond. The eatery has won rave reviews, with customers noting the perfectly crisp breading on the fish.
Old Oregon Smokehouse
> Location: Rockaway Beach, OR
The Old Oregon Smokehouse, on a dock in Rockaway Beach, offers a variety of seafood items like fish and chips, crab melts, and clam chowder – a customer favorite. Much of the fresh seafood served is caught along the Oregon coast.
Tony’s Crab Shack
> Location: Bandon, OR
In 1989, Tony Roszkowski began to steam crabs out of the tackle shop he’d just bought at the mouth of the Coquille River, quickly gaining a following among locals and tourists alike. Today, the menu includes oysters, grilled halibut, smoked salmon, and more as well as crab, and Tony proudly notes that everything is always fresh and never deep-fried.
The Shrimp Shack
> Location: Saint Helena Island, SC
One of the most popular dishes at this family-owned seafood shack is the shrimp burger, but there are also flounder and shrimp salad sandwiches and platters based on shrimp, flounder, scallops, or clam strips.
Fish Company Taco
> Location: Galveston, TX
Chef Daya Myers-Hunt, who heads up Fish Company Taco, has gained fame in the local restaurant scene for her delicious seafood taco creations. The menu changes frequently, based on what seafood is the freshest.
Hama Hama Oyster Saloon
> Location: Lilliwaup, WA
The Hama Hama Oyster Company has been farming seafood for five generations, with oyster beds located by the Hood Canal, using low-impact sustainable techniques. The menu at their Oyster Saloon includes raw and roasted oysters, clams, crab cakes, and chowder.
> Location: Anacortes, WA
The family-run and operated Shrimp Shack opened in 1973, serving items like fresh-caught pink, sidestripe, and coonstripe shrimp and sockeye salmon, blue crab, and oyster burgers.
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