As waves crash against the shores of various U.S. cities, the aroma of the sea mingles with the bustling energy of urban life, creating a haven for seafood enthusiasts. In this article, we invite you to embark on a culinary journey through coastal gems renowned for serving the freshest, most delectable seafood. From the East Coast to the West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, each region contributes to a seafood tapestry that reflects its unique flavors and culinary traditions. We’ll explore cities celebrated for their seafood prowess, where dockside eateries and fine dining establishments alike craft dishes that showcase the ocean’s bounty.
Located on the scenic and rainy Puget Sound, Seattle ranks as one of the best cities for seafood in America. This gorgeous spot welcomes a wealth of seafood to menus throughout the city, from contemporary American restaurants to traditional Italian bistros. A variety of fish could be called Seattle’s specialty, including
One of the most iconic images of the Seattle seafood scene is the bustling Pike Place Market. If you have ever seen fish flying through the air into someone’s arms, that’s the famous seafood environment of Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Visit this attraction for the freshest of fish, including special varieties selected for tourists to take home as a spectacular souvenir.
It’s not just tea that famously ends up in Boston Harbor. A city overflowing with seafood options, Boston boasts a huge variety of fish specialties within the food culture. Grab a lobster roll or munch on a cod cake. Elevate your next date night with a decadent array of raw oysters. Both are never fresher than when consumed on the historic streets of Boston. There are plenty of places to enjoy traditional New England favorites, like clam chowder and fish and chips. Boston also hosts several contemporary, upscale seafood restaurants.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Jambalaya. Gumbo. Shrimp and grits. So many of the most iconic dishes of Louisiana’s Cajun cuisine revolve around the bounty found within the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta. Shrimp, crawfish, oysters, and catfish are all considered specialties within the famous New Orleans food culture. Cajun food is characterized by vibrant spices stewed with a variety of proteins and rice. The Holy Trinity of Cajun food forms the foundation for most recipes, with ingredients like sausage, tomatoes, and cumin powder joining shrimp, crawfish, or other local crustaceans. French influences join African food traditions to develop today’s Cajun and Creole food cultures.
San Francisco, California
The City by the Bay celebrates its connection to the water with signature architecture like the Golden Gate Bridge and its unique seafood culture. San Francisco is heavily influenced by Chinese culture, as well as Italian traditions. Both of these cuisines use San Francisco’s local catch beautifully. Dishes like linguini with clams and salt and pepper crab demonstrate each food tradition’s adoption of local seafood. In addition to clams and Dungeness crab, dishes like the Italian fish stew called cioppino and, yes, oysters, rank as San Francisco treats.
When most people think about Baltimore, they think about crabs. The Maryland Blue Crab received the honor of Maryland State Crustacean in 1989. This crustacean is the most valuable seafood crop for the state of Maryland. Unlike the large and easy-to-eat Dungeness crab native to the West Coast, the Maryland Blue Crab is much smaller. However, Maryland devotees claim this makes the blue crab much more flavorful. Try some steamed and Old Bay-spiced crabs the next time you’re in Baltimore. Or dine on rockfish and deep-fried oysters, which are two other specialties of the Charm City seafood scene.
Charleston, South Carolina
The seafood scene in Charleston, South Carolina blends several strong food traditions into a unique dining culture. Look for Southern and Cajun influences on menus, like shrimp and grits and etouffee. Crab cakes and seafood in steam pots show the New England and East Coast touches in Charleston restaurants. Of course, like all of the restaurants on this list so far, Charleston is also known for its oysters. While it may seem silly that each city claims oysters as a specialty, the unique environment of each city’s water ecosystem significantly influences the taste of oysters. Some oyster connoisseurs prefer the oysters of some cities over others.
As the only island on this list, Honolulu takes the cake when it comes to access to the freshest seafood around. The vibrant and beautiful indigenous culture of Hawaii hangs on to their important customs, especially through their delicious food traditions. Poke, pronounced POE-kay, represents a delicious, seafood-heavy dish that is native to Hawaii. Diced fish, like salmon, tuna, or shrimp, is combined with rice, vegetables, and spicy and sweet marinades. This fresh fish bowl recently became popular in the United States, with Hawaiian food rising as a popular food trend.
Popular seafood dishes like Mahi Mahi, grouper, Spanish mackerel, and snapper feature prominently on menus in this South Florida city. Spanish influences can be found as well, with dishes like paella and ceviche. Miami is also located close to the bounty of the Gulf of Mexico and the influential Cajun food culture. Seafood like Gulf shrimp takes advantage of the unique flavor profile of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico to diversify Miami’s seafood options. Miami is known for its nightlife, so make sure to take advantage of late-night seafood bites as well. Keep your eyes open for some of the city’s famous food trucks and grab a succulent fish taco.
San Diego, California
Speaking of fish tacos, nobody does it better than San Diego, California. This sunny and carefree city highlights its local catch within its classic Southern California style. Grab a fish taco from a beach shack before surfing the waves. These tacos will be simple and usually served in a flour tortilla. Deep-fried fish, often topped with raw radishes and a dose of citrus juice, is all you need for a classic California fish taco. Or channel some Hollywood glamor with dinner at a chic, contemporary seafood restaurant. Yellowtail, marlin, and albacore can all be caught in the deep sea, with buttery halibut and sea bass closer to shore. California cuisine frequently features a light and healthy touch, highlighting fresh, local ingredients.
Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Like nearby Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland celebrates its local catch, namely the blue crab. However, this region provides a huge variety of seafood. A total of 348 species of finfish and 173 species of shellfish thrive within the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to their famous crabs, this region boasts one of the only places in the world where wild oysters are harvested. Many places over-harvested their oyster populations. The Chesapeake Bay is attempting to revive its wild oyster habitat, including encouraging waterfront property owners to plant their oyster beds. Be sure to sample a crab cake the next time you visit Maryland. This signature dish features big lumps of crab within a deep-fried cake. Grab one to go and enjoy its golden-brown crust and succulent Maryland crab inside.
Located about an hour inland from the Gulf of Mexico, Houston proudly features Gulf-caught seafood on its menus throughout this bustling city. Like most of the cities on this list, Houston claims their signature style of oysters. In this southeast Texas city, be sure to ask for your oysters to be char-grilled. Another signature type of seafood in Houston, Texas is the redfish. This delicately-flavored and flaky fish represents a classic Gulf coast seafood dish. Enjoy redfish on the half-shell, where redfish is coated in lemon butter and other sauces and served on top of its grilled skin.
Philadelphia may seem like an unlikely seafood city, but this East Coast location celebrates both the latest trends and old customs. Raw seafood towers are popping up on menus throughout the city, featuring oysters, shrimp, mussels, and more in a show-stopping display. Accompaniments like endive, caviar, citrus, and tapenade make this dish a fantastic way to wake up your palate. This Pennsylvania city hosts many Italian restaurants. Look for homey restaurants featuring dishes like octopus bucatini. Philadelphia also recognizes its East Coast traditions, with several eateries offering traditional seafood boils.
While Portland does not border the ocean, this city does enjoy a vibrant seafood scene. Even though the Pacific Ocean is nearly 90 minutes away from Portland, the pristine and sustainably-fished North Pacific Ocean provides enough of a draw for Portland restaurant-goers. Portland restaurants wait to receive their prized local catch at the height of their season. Seafood like Dungeness crab, salmon, and albacore tuna appear to be great fanfare on Portland menus. Check out sushi places, oyster bars, and fish and chips shops alike to enjoy some of the best seafood in Portland.
Alaska is known for its jaw-dropping wildlife and one-of-a-kind natural vistas. For those ready for adventure, a trip to Alaska provides plentiful rewards. This includes the fabulous local seafood restaurants, taking advantage of the wonderful local catch. Seafood like salmon, king crab, halibut, and oysters. Seafood in Alaska runs the gamut from refined, upscale fish dishes to quirky options from this unique place. Try an array of plump, briny oysters, or enjoy fresh, buttery halibut filets. If you’re looking for a culinary adventure to join your outdoor one, sample a king crab corn dog.
Most of the locations on this list have been household names. So this place may be the most under-the-radar option to feature. However, the seafood options available in Georgetown, Maine earn it a spot alongside some of the best cities for seafood on this list. The area of Georgetown represents the thick peninsulas making up the coast of south-central Maine. When it comes to Maine, lobster is the most famous seafood option. The ubiquitous lobster roll may be the most notable export from Maine. This dish features big lumps of sweet lobster meat, combined with a heavy dose of mayo on a soft bun.