13 USA Cities With The Absolute Best Seafood (10 To Avoid At All Costs)
It should be obvious, but most of the best seafood places will be found within a few miles of the ocean. Inland is dangerous seafood territory.
One major way that cities try to draw in tourists is with their restaurants. Major cities along the coasts of the United States undoubtedly have some of the best restaurants in the world, and in particular, the seafood joints are globally renowned. Not everyone is a fan of seafood, but there are many who love to eat creatures taken from the ocean. To distinguish the best from the worst, this article brings some of the country's most incredible seafood cities, along with the absolute worst.
Naturally most of the best seafood places are found within a few miles of the ocean, which means most of these featured cities are located near the coast. Still, with that being said, there are a few entries that break this trend in both directions. It is also worth noting that the northern half of the country (both east and west) has several more good entries than the southern half – but who knows, perhaps this list will help dispel the reputation of good homemade southern seafood? Without further ado, let's dig in!
Updated by Lauren Feather, February 26, 2022: Fish fanatics gather, for we've added even more fantastically fishy foody features to this fetching list of fresh seafood-laden cities across the USA. Featuring both the best of the bunch and the undoubted worst, seafood "aFISHionados" around the world should consult this new and updated guide when casting the net for the nation's top seafood spots – whilst heeding warning of the absolute crummiest.
Absolute Best: Honolulu, Hawaii's Heavenly Seafood Favorites
It shouldn't be a surprise that the USA's only island state ranks very high for the likes of seafood. Much of Hawaii's delectable fruits of the sea selection is comprised of a sumptuous Hawaiian staple; delicious, fresh poke – and the capital city of Honolulu is one of the best places in the state to sample this dish.
Many of the city's small takeout joints offer this tasty fishy dish, including Ono Seafood, Ahi Assassins, and Maguro Brothers, with some even serving their raw fish straight from boat to plate. Other seafood spots in Honolulu are also worth visiting, such as the various izakayas and sushi restaurants that serve up some of the season's freshest fishy feasts.
Sample The Sensational Seafood in The Seaside City Of Seattle, Washington
Anyone lucky enough to live in Seattle will tell visitors of the city's many glorious seafood restaurants that blow all others out of the water. When a seafood lover visits Seattle, the very first place they should immediately head to is the legendary Pike Place Market, where the entire region’s freshest catches are sent, sold and served. Think chunky crabs, sumptuous shellfish, hearty whole salmon, and other massive meaty fish all on offer in this famous bustling market place – where there are also no lack of opportunities to indulge in the day's catch, as well as marvel at it.
There are plenty of restaurants and food vendors within the market itself too, while those who head further down the street outside are rewarded with even more exceptional restaurants to pick from. In particular, seafood fans will love The Walrus & the Carpenter – a local trendy spot serving up delicious seafood dishes, fresh oysters, amazing cocktails, and more. On the other hand, RockCreek is also a great choice offering a lengthy menu of fish favorites, while the city's sustainable sushi scene is also superb with the well-loved Mashiko being one of Seattle's top sushi joints.
Crab Shacks Central At Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Along the Atlantic coast are a number of top-tier seafood hotspots, and one of them is in Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay area in particular is notably famous nation-wide as a delectable seafood hub home to an incredible number of delightful seafood restaurants that all leave hungry visitors with very little to be desired.
And tourists who arrive in summer will be in for even more of a treat; the shore of Chesapeake Bay is lined by quaint crab shacks in the summer season offering award-winning crabby creations that'll make mouths water. Don't forget to try out the area's famed crab cakes either – they come seasoned and in a variety of forms, such as broiled or fried to absolute perfection.
Related: The Best Seafood Chain Restaurants That Make Splurging On Lobster Worth It
Absolute Best – Boston, Massachusetts: Great Seafood Since the Revolution via youtube.com
Millions of tourists come to Boston Harbor every year to see the spot where the Sons of Liberty exclaimed their dissent to Britain's rule by dumping crates of tea into the harbor.
The Boston Tea Party exhibit itself is pretty lame but the harbor has other advantages. One of these is the amazing seafood that is available in Boston. Most of this food is caught right off of the coast and almost every seafood place in downtown Boston knows how to cook it to perfection. Seafood is just one of the many things that the city of Boston has to offer.
Avoid – Miami, Florida Has Lost Its Seafood Touch via timeout.com
It's surprising that the state of Florida doesn’t have a very good reputation for its seafood. The entire state is surrounded by water, so you would think that some of its coastal cities would be able to rustle up some good grub.
According to several travel websites, the seafood in Miami is especially sad. Miami is one of the biggest cities in the state and it is the home to a diverse group of people. Under normal circumstances, this would lead to a vibrant food scene, including several great seafood restaurants. It is unknown why this hasn’t happened it Miami, but reviews of the major seafood restaurants in town are abysmal.
Absolute Best – Check Out the Zoo and Seafood in San Diego, California via tastingtable.com
San Diego just has everything. This Californian city is one of the places at the top of many bucket lists and now "great seafood" is one extra excuse to visit. San Diego has everything that every other coastal California city has, plus a lot of really popular tourist attractions like the San Diego Zoo. It appears as if it is also a great place to go for seafood on the West Coast. There are several famous seafood restaurants in the city and people routinely drive down all the way from LA to visit them.
Avoid – San Francisco, California via:That Food Cray
If being the most progressive city in America came with an award, San Francisco would have been in the running for the past four decades. The city is incredibly liberal and this has allowed San Francisco to develop a bustling culture that is totally unique from everywhere else in the country.
The popularity of the city brings in a lot of people, who inherently bring with them their own unique cooking skills and recipes. This has led to a vibrant food scene in San Francisco, but unfortunately that does not include a bunch of good seafood restaurants (yet!)
Absolute Best – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and East Coast Bias via uwishinu.com
The city of Philadelphia is famous for a lot of things but the great seafood available in this coastal city isn't one of them. Almost everyone knows that Philadelphia was an important news and shipping hub during the Revolution, but what they do not know is that this Pennsylvania city got its start as a fishing village.
Colonists would come to Philly to trade the pelts and crops that they harvested in exchange with Britain for goods and food that the fisherman pulled from the Philadelphia Harbor. A lot has changed since then, but Philly’s obsession with seafood has not.
Related: Traditional Greenlandic Cuisine Is A Celebration Of Local Seafood
Avoid – Topeka, Kansas: Because This Makes Sense via ticketprinting.com
As mentioned, most of the entries on this list are from the coast. It is probably unfair to hold cities in the interior of the country to the same standards as cities who have fresh seafood harvested for them a few miles off shore, but this list would be incomplete without a passing reference to this dichotomy.
Despite being thousands of miles from the sea, many Midwest areas do offer some seafood restaurants – though many of them aren't very highly rated. Topeka, Kansas is a good example; the city is home to half a dozen seafood restaurants – none of which are reportedly very good.
Absolute Best – Good Southern Cooking in Charleston, South Carolina via americancuisine.com
A lot of the entries on this list are from the northeast but now we get to move south for some old time southern cooking. Out of all the cities in the deep south, Charleston has the best reputation for its seafood. Charleston is the capital city of South Carolina and it has been around since before the American Revolution.
It got its start as a major merchant and fishing hub and not much has changed since then. Since so many fish are being brought into the Charleston harbor, it is only natural that they have a few good seafood restaurants.
Avoid – Houston, Texas: All Beef and No Seafood via thepostoak.com
It's initially very surprising to see how bad the reviews are for seafood in Houston, Texas. Houston is the largest Texas city that is close to the ocean, so you would naturally think that it would be an important center for the state's seafood industry. After giving it some thought, however, it's clear that there is no such seafood center in the state of Texas.
It would seem that because Texas is famous for its cattle industry, the state’s reliance on beef has hindered the development of other foods and recipes. This includes seafood. Therefore, it is not surprising that the seafood restaurants in Houston have such a bad reputation.
Related: Seafood Summer: Mastering The Art Of Grilling Delicate Dishes
Absolute Best – Provincetown Massachusetts Off The Coast of Cape Cod via ptownlobsterpot.com
A lot of the entries on this list are major cities, but big urban centers aren't always the best places to get good seafood. Sometimes, the best seafood restaurants are found in little seaside towns like this one: Provincetown – a famous gem among New England tourists thanks to its location on the very tip of an archipelago surrounding Cape Cod, and also the home of a very vibrant, open community.
Provincetown is also home to the Lobster Pot – commonly cited as one of the best seafood places in the area. It is also consistently ranked by travel sites as one of the best places to get seafood in the entirety of New England.
Avoid – Denver, Colorado: No Good Seafood Miles High via pinterest.com
Cities in the United States go through trends. In the past decade, cities like Detroit, Michigan have appreciatively declined while places like Denver, Colorado have become significantly more affluent. As more and more people and money flood into Denver, it will have more things to offer.
One thing that it does not currently have in abundance, however, is good seafood restaurants. The Rocky Mountains separate Denver from the sea, and that has apparently been enough to keep good seafood out of the Mile High City. It just isn’t feasible for sea creatures from the Pacific Ocean to make it over these mountains and remain fresh.
Absolute Best – Join Stephen King in Georgetown, Maine via youtube.com
Despite the fact that Pine Tree State does not have any national acclaim outside of what it gets for being the homeland of celebrity author Stephen King, the residents of Maine are very proud of their state.
Among the many things that Maine is known for and the locals rave about, one of them is seafood – particularly lobster. There are several cities along the coast that boast good seafood restaurants, but Georgetown might be the best. On a list of best seafood restaurants in New England, Georgetown had three of the top ten entries.
Avoid – New York City: The Big Apple Has Everything but Good Seafood via substainableseafoodweaknyc.com
New York City is the largest city in the USA, and it isn't even close. Anything that you could possibly imagine, you can get in New York City. The Big Apple has a seemingly unlimited variety of shops, tourist attractions, and restaurants. This includes several seafood places. But quantity does not always equal quality.
New York City rarely shows up on lists of greatest seafood cities in the country and you are much more likely to get a bad seafood place than a good seafood place in NYC. It's also been heard that some neighborhoods in New York City have better seafood than others.
Related: 10 Best Beaches For Seafood Lovers
Absolute Best – Join the Hipsters in Portland, Oregon via timeout.com
When people think of Portland, Oregon, they don’t normally think about their seafood. This is a mistake. Portland is nationally renowned for being one of the super progressive cities in the Pacific northwest and there are a ton of vegetarian and vegan options at just about every restaurant that you can go to. This is true, even of the best seafood restaurants. Even if you're not a vegetarian, it's super cool that the city's seafood places are offering some different options. According to many sources, the seafood options in the city that offer real seafood are also very good.
Avoid – Providence, Rhode Island: The Scourge of New England Seafood via foodtravelist.com
It's surprising to say that seafood in Providence, Rhode Island, doesn't have a very good reputation. Rhode Island isn't a very big state but most of the state is coastline and Providence is really their only major city. Apparently, most of the good seafood restaurants are in Massachusetts and other parts of the northeast, so the best fisherman don't even try to sell their wares in Providence. The only ones that do usually being in a subpar catch, thus lowering the value of the meal. It is hard for Providence to compare with the seafood in Boston, so it looks like they don’t even try.
Absolute Best – Baltimore, Maryland Has One Thing Going for It via baltimoremagazine.com
As a city, Baltimore, Maryland has unfortunately suffered a serious downslope in recent decades. Years of economic struggle and mismanagement have seriously lowered the standard of living in Maryland’s biggest city. However, despite this, one thing that they do have going for them is the their great seafood.
Baltimore remains one of the major port cities on the East Coast and there is a flourishing fishing industry along the coast of Maryland, and seafood restaurants in Baltimore take advantage of these natural resources. There are also two restaurants in the city that are consistently ranked as the best places to get seafood on the East Coast.
Avoid – Head Inland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania via thecorkfactory.com
Reports from locals and visitors to Pittsburgh suggest that even at the Burgh's most popular seafood restaurants, the seafood is not that good. Whilst fish markets are a huge industry, perhaps opening a seafood restaurant when your city is hundreds of miles from the ocean might not be such a great idea; fish just doesn't stay fresh the way some other foods do.
Absolute Best – Head North to Anchorage, Alaska via wordpress.com
If your state gets a brand of seafood named after it, then you must be doing something right with your seafood industry.
Alaska crab isn’t just available in Alaska, it is actually available in most parts of the United States. To get the freshest Alaskan crab, however, you have to go to the source. It would appear that Anchorage is the best Alaskan city for seafood, and as one of the biggest cities in the state it seems that they have the necessary resources and customers to support several sea food restaurants – all of which boast fantastic reviews.