New England clam chowder, Maryland crab, Louisiana oysters, gulf shrimp, Maine lobster, and Alaskan salmon are just a few of the culinary seafood delights that are unique to American regional cuisine. Culinary gatekeepers and international food snobs like to claim that food in the United States is comprised solely of burgers and fries. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our list of the top five best U.S. cities for seafood proves that America’s rich culinary traditions are world-class.
All along the northeastern Atlantic states, New England, and the eastern seaboard of the United States, regional seafood dishes reign supreme. Classic dishes like Lobster Newberg and Clams Casino took advantage of the bountiful ocean harvests that were brought into port by American fishermen. These dishes were once considered common fare for ordinary working people but have grown to become costly luxury foods enjoyed by those seeking great flavor.
Across the American South, seafood is also notably amazing. From Virginia to the Carolinas, seafood takes center stage on many menus. In South Florida, classic American restaurants like Joe’s Stone Crab were established in 1913 and continue to serve hungry guests bountiful piles of scrumptious shellfish today. In Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama variations of gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée or smothered dishes are popular seafood stews. Regional seafood sandwiches including South Florida seafood arepas and fried shrimp po’ boys are also delicious Southern treats for eager eaters.
Hungry yet? The United States of America has an incredible history and tradition when it comes to regional Seafood cuisine, and what we’ve covered above only skims the surface. We turned to our sources to rank the top five best cities for seafood in the United States. Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments below!
The List: Best U.S. Cities For Seafood, According to Foodies
1. New Orleans, Louisiana
NOLA is king when it comes to serious American seafood. The moment travelers disembark at Louis Armstrong International Airport, delicious Cajun and Creole seafood dishes are immediately available. Confetti Travel Café describes, “Another Southern city with charm, history and parties galore, New Orleans is a unique city with Creole, French, and Cajun influence that is prevalent everywhere. Here, you may find some similar types of seafood as you would when visiting Charleston, South Carolina, but one seafood option that is unique to NOLA is crawfish. This delicacy is usually served boiled with the shells still on, so you can get the full experience of peeling and eating them. You’ll find crawfish offered in étouffée, too, and you may even find it on a menu baked or sautéed.”
“Located at the confluence of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River, New Orleans has some of the freshest seafood selections in the United States. From buttery fried oyster po’ boys to savory gumbo to a casual backyard crawfish boil—seafood is deeply rooted in the historic overlapping cultures of this city. Different types of seafood are served up in an infinite number of ways, so you can’t pass up a trip to the Big Easy without a taste,” adds Lat + Long.
“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 [and Creole] food is characterized by vibrant spices stewed with a variety of proteins and rice,” offers Restaurant Clicks.
2. Anchorage, Alaska
Alaskan seafood is reputed for its abundance, freshness, and flavor. Salmon in particular, is often a center-plate specialty of the city. Travel Republic exclaims, “Wild Alaskan salmon is famous for its fresh flavor, and where better to eat it then in Alaska itself? Anchorage in particular is renowned for its many seafood restaurants, where you can tuck into heaping plates of freshly caught salmon, as well as other delicacies. Or cook something up yourself with a visit to one of Anchorage’s fish markets!”
The Travel reckons, “If your state gets a brand of seafood named after it, then you must be doing something right with your seafood industry. Alaskan 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 seafood restaurants – all of which boast fantastic reviews.”
“It’s no surprise that the Alaskan crab here is like nowhere else in the country, but Anchorage is home to plenty of other seafood options as well. With an abundance of fish in these cold waters, salmon is one of the most popular fish dishes with some of the freshest salmon available on the market. The best part of dining all the way up north? You’ll find plenty of restaurants with unparalleled views of Alaska’s natural beauty,” writes Confetti Travel Café.
3. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is a wonderful city for culinary explorers. Travelers should be sure to include a visit to the Pike Place Market. Condé Nast Traveler explains, “The first stop on any seafood lover’s visit to Seattle should be the iconic Pike Place Market, where all the region’s freshest catch, from shimmering whole salmon to fat Dungeness crabs, is for sale. From there, head to one of the many restaurants taking advantage of this local bounty.”
Mashed chimes in with a description of an odd practice at the Pike Place Market, “For anyone who’s unfamiliar with it, ‘the flying fish’ refers to Pike Place Fish, the world-famous fish purveyor at the waterside Pike Place Market. The self-proclaimed ‘soul of Seattle’ was founded in 1907, and today, a fish-throwing spectacle draws the most attention. According to National Geographic, massive Turbot, king salmon, or Alaskan halibut fly through the air, taking flight from one fishmonger’s hands and (hopefully) landing in the others without any slippage. While tourists come for a show, home cooks come for the selection of sustainable fresh seafood.”
Of the famous Seattle market CBS New York writes, “As one of America’s largest, oldest and most important public markets, Pike Place also serves as an indispensable spot for local farmers and artisans to sell fresh produce, dairy products, crafts and other specialty items, as well as for excellent seafood dining… including oysters, king salmon, king crab, Dungeness crab, and Pacific cod.”
4. Key West, Florida
Key West lays claim to several famous culinary delights like conch, key lime pie, and endless Floribbean cocktails. Hip and filled with flavor, the regional dishes of Key West are closely tied to the restaurant community. Trip Advisor declares, “With a nickname like the Conch Republic, it should come as no surprise that this is a seafood-mad town… you can try conch in fritters, chowder, and even ceviche… [or] crispy cracked conch ‘seawiches.’ But it’s far from the only signature seafood in these parts: Other standouts include lobster-like royal red shrimp, which are in season from late summer through late fall, and Florida stone crab claws, best enjoyed cold with mustard dipping sauce.”
“Key West isn’t just about partying it up in the bars on Duval Street or sailing the turquoise seas, you’ll find countless outstanding seafood eateries from casual bites to fine dining. The Half Shell Raw Bar is a great place to sample some, serving the island’s specialty, conch, prepared as ceviche or fritters along with fresh oysters, of course. Order a dozen of your favorites, including BBQ oysters, garlic oysters or Oysters Rockefeller, then watch as they’re shucked right from the shell onto your plate,” writes Vagabond Summer.
Lat + Long adds: “Jetting out more than 100 miles into the ocean, the Florida Keys is a haven for fresh fish and seafood that’s harvested daily. One fan favorite is the Key West pink shrimp, which is generally sweeter than other crustacean species. Try it sauteed in scampi, fried, or steamed and served with a savory sauce—you can’t go wrong!”
5. Portland, Maine
Rounding out our list is the pearl of the Northeast, Portland. Maine seafood is famous for lobster, particularly the famous lobster roll, a simple yet luxurious sandwich that highlights the sweet flavor of Atlantic shellfish. Travel Republic offers up, “Maine is known for its lobster, and Portland knows just how to serve it. The humble lobster roll is a thing of beauty: lightly toasted bread, heaps of sweet lobster meat and maybe a dash of lemon mayonnaise. It’s one of the best meals you can eat when you travel to Portland, knowing that every mouthful of delicious lobster is freshly caught from Maine.”
Nearly everyone has had one.
Good but missing something.#MaineLobster BLTs:
Fun & exciting.
People will ask you what’s on your sandwich.
— Lobster From Maine (@LobsterFromME) August 7, 2023
Lobster isn’t the only seafood you’ll eat in Portland (though you definitely shouldn’t skip it). The area’s diverse fisheries supply its vibrant restaurant scene with everything from mussels to monkfish. At Eventide Oyster Co., sample from an incredible 12 different varieties of Maine oysters, while Fore Street offers a rotating selection of local fish cooked whole in a wood oven. Or head to Scales, a waterfront restaurant offering modern riffs on New England classics like fried clams,” according to Condé Nast Traveler regarding three great Portland restaurants that all survived the pandemic and continue to delight hungry guests in 2023.
CBS New York also states, “No list of the best American seafood cities would be complete without Maine. As the nation’s largest supplier of lobster, America’s northeastern-most state boasts a number of outstanding seafood cities, primarily along the rugged Atlantic coast. The most populous is Portland, the former capital of Maine, first permanently settled as a fishing and trading village in 1632. As the fishing industry continues to play a major role in the local economy, virtually every restaurant in Portland can be simply described as a seafood restaurant.”
You might also be interested in:
- Best Places to Live on the East Coast
- Healthiest Fish
- Best Places to Live in Louisiana
- Best Ways to Cook Salmon
- Confetti Travel Café
- Lat + Long The Rand McNally Travel Blog
- Restaurant Clicks
- Travel Republic
- The Travel
- Condé Nast Traveler
- CBS New York
- Trip Advisor
- Vagabond Summer
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.