Having grown up between Hawaii and the Seattle area, seafood has always been one of my favorite foods. (I can easily polish off two pounds of crab legs myself.) Maybe that’s partially why I could never live anywhere too far from the coast – I need to know the freshest catches are readily available. Speaking of the freshest fish, aficionados will reference Le Bernardin as the best seafood restaurant in NYC, and rightfully so, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Whether you’re looking for an upscale dining experience or something more casual, here are six places where you’re guaranteed to find good seafood in NYC.
Marea, 240 Central Park South
With its name meaning “tide” in Italian, it’s no surprise that Marea would specialize in delectable Italian seafood dishes. Owned by Chef Michael White, this high-end establishment offers everything from caviar to whole fish preparations. Its seasonal menu includes seared scallops, Adriatic seafood soup, and strozzapreti pasta with jumbo lump crab, sea urchin and basil. Half of Marea’s wine menu is also dedicated to European white wines to ensure the perfect accompaniment.
Il Pesce, 200 5th Ave
Il Pesce is probably where I had my favorite impromptu lunch in NYC. My friend Bekki and I were walking through Mario Batali’s Eataly, when we decided to stop at the Il Pesce counter – the fresh fish on display looked too good to pass up. Over a few glasses of prosecco, we ended up sharing the whole branzino, along with a salad of dandelion greens, preserved tuna and anchovy, crème fraiche vinaigrette, and toasted breadcrumbs. It’s seriously one of my favorite dining experiences to date.
Pearl Oyster Bar, 18 Cornelia St
As one would expect, Pearl Oyster Bar is a great place to go if you’re an oyster fan. But aside from the obvious, this restaurant is also famous for their lobster rolls. Many locals even claim Pearl Oyster Bar as having “the best lobster rolls in NYC” – so try one for yourself. If you prefer your lobster rolls with a touch more mayo, you’ll probably agree.
Wallabout Seafood & Co, 271 Adelphi St
There’s a lot of elegance in simplicity, and Wallabout Seafood & Co. in Brooklyn has mastered that balance. Enjoy gourmet-level dishes like red snapper ceviche, Spanish octopus, and squid ink linguine, or try something more down-home like fish tacos. Wallabout’s menu has something for everyone.
Flex Mussels, 174 E 82nd St (also at 154 W 13th St)
What seafood lover wouldn’t enjoy brunching over mussels and fries? Flex Mussels takes the classic French concept of “moules-frites” and gives it a cosmopolitan, NYC-like twist. Although Flex has other seafood dishes besides mussels, I prefer to stick with what they do best. And with more than a dozen variations – like Parma mussels with parmigiano cream, lemon, scallions, toasted garlic and crispy shallots – you can try a different type of moules-frites with each visit.
Johnny’s Reef, 2 City Island Ave
Good seafood doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be fresh. And when several of my Bronx-born friends say they’ve been going to Johnny’s Reef for decades, I listen up. This no-frills, cash-only eatery is the ultimate place to go for fried seafood, especially when the weather is nice enough to enjoy the outdoor seating area. Fried calamari, crab legs, clams, oysters, soft shell crab, and more are served in large portions alongside French fries and coleslaw. Even a mountain of fried shrimp will only set you back about $14 – so Johnny’s Reef is definitely worth the trek to City Island.
In your opinion, which are the best seafood restaurants in NYC?
Pearl Oyster bar photo via their Facebook page, Il Pesce branzino photo by Jenny L via Yelp, Wallabout Spanish octopus photo by the restaurant via Yelp, Johnny’s soft shell crab photo by Chelsea B. via Yelp.