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Top 12 Seafood Dives

Seafood Lover? Dive Right In

By
Meeghan
Truelove

What's one of the best ways to get to know a new location? Find the area's best seafood dive and start eating like a local. Here's a roundup of some of our favorite spots.

1. Dirty Al's Seafood Restaurant - South Padre Island, Texas

Hanging out on a gorgeous barrier island with tropical breezes and crystal-clear waters can build up an appetite that's why for years beachgoers in South Padre have flocked to Dirty Al's. Fresh gulf shrimp in all its glory is one of the biggest draws, and it comes in many guises, from baskets of boiled peel and eat shrimp to shrimp cocktail to shrimp quesadillas to shrimp-and-oyster po' boys. If none of that appeals, opt instead for fried crab fingers, whole blackened red snapper, or fried fish baskets heaped with onion rings and fries. Oh, and did we mention the chilled Lone Stars and frozen margaritas?

2. Boss Oyster - Apalachicola, Florida

Locals' opinions may differ about whether this landmark spot is past its prime or better than ever, but there's one thing everyone agrees on: You need to stop by to check it out for yourself and form your own opinion. Tucked away in a bungalow with river and bridge views, you can spend the better part of a day working your way through the menu. There's gumbo, soft shell crabs, fresh gulf grouper and oysters”lots and lots of oysters. They're available raw, to be sure, but better yet, go for one of the over-the-top combos for which Boss is famous. How about baked oysters topped with capers, asparagus, bacon and artichokes? Or topped with blue crab, sherry and Monterey jack cheese? The options are almost endless. It may take you a few delicious visits to form an opinion.

seafood

3. Ed's Seafood Shed - Spanish Fort, Alabama

This family-owned, beachfront joint on Mobile Bay frequently has live music and is such a rollicking good time that it would probably be a draw even if the food weren't any good. But luckily, the food is awesome. You can dig into everything from crawfish and crab claws to platters of local oysters and soft shell crabs. The crab bisque is to die for, and the fantastic downhome side dishes just make everything more delectable turnip greens, garlic cheese grits, Vidalia onion rings, red beans and rice. You can even polish off your meal with a slice of house-made Key lime pie. Mullet Mondays are just what they sound like an all-you-can-eat feast of local mullet filets to kick each week off right.

4. Hogfish Bar & Grill - Stock Island, Florida

Wondering if the colorful, supremely laid-back vibe of the old Florida Keys still exists? Look no further than Hogfish Bar & Grill. Set on a lively yet somehow still snoozy marina, with plenty of outdoor tables and usually some patrons' adorable canine buddies milling about, this is the type of insiders' secret, where all that's required of you is to relax and enjoy being in the best spot in town. And oh, how much there is to enjoy local delicacies like conch fritters, coconut Keys shrimp and Cuban sandwiches; and glorious new-fangled concoctions such as the grouper reuben, crabmeat-stuffed hogfish and crispy hogfish fingers. Don't worry if you don't get to try everything on the menu you'll be back.

hogfish

5. Provision Company - Southport, North Carolina

Set along the Southport Yacht Basin, on the Intracoastal Waterway and the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Provision is the type of trim, cheerful place to which boaters just naturally gravitate. But you might need to wait through a short line after you tie up your dinghy at the dock plenty of landlubbers have cottoned onto this special spot too. Order at the counter inside crab cakes, steamed shrimp, steamed clams, seafood chowder then grab a beer from the cooler and find a place to sit on the deck out back. Everything's paid on the honor system, which just adds to the low-key, unbuttoned vibe. Hint: Hit Provision for sunset if you can, you won't regret it.

6. Sue Island Grill & Crab House - Essex, Maryland

We love a comeback story. After being a locals' favorite for many years, Sue Island Grill & Crab House hit a bit of a slump but new management has recently brought it roaring back to life. New in July 2016 they opened a boat bar (boat turned bar). Set on the Chesapeake Bay's pretty Sue Island Creek, this Orioles- and Ravens-regalia festooned joint is a celebration of all the things Maryland does best, chief among them blue crabs. There's crab soup, warm pretzels with crab dip, crab balls. The jumbo lump crab cake is achingly tender, one of the best you'll ever have. And then there are the steamed crabs, glorious heaps of them, ready to be washed down with an icy cold Natty Boh.

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7. Navy Beach Restaurant - Montauk, New York

Only in this neck of the woods would a chichi spot such as Navy Beach come close to qualifying as a dive, but after all, the Hamptons are right down the road. There's a charming, sparkling indoor dining room, but grab one of the tables outside on the 200-foot private beach instead. You'll look west over Fort Pond Bay and the notoriously stunning sunsets. Dig into such divine dishes as local fluke ceviche with pickled vegetables and house-made hot peppers and clam-and-corn chowder with basil oil and chives. There are killer cocktails like Painkillers and Dark and Stormies, and the extensive list of rose wines is not to be missed.

8. Seafood Sam's - Sandwich, Massachusetts

Overlooking the Cape Cod Canal, this clean, bright spot is its own slice of Cape Cod heaven and has had an avid following since 1974. In Massachusetts they're serious about their clams, and Seafood Sam's respectfully upholds this tradition, offering top-notch clam chowder, fried whole-belly clams, fried clam strips and stuffed quahogs. But they don't stop there. The fish fry for four is a bounteous spread of two pounds of fried haddock, mounds of French fries, a pint of coleslaw and tartar sauce and rolls. There's also baked haddock with a crumbled Ritz-cracker topping and lobster Newburg sauce, hand-cut onion rings and a slew of local beers. No wonder folks return again and again and again.

9. Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company - Freeport, Maine

When you close your eyes and dream about the ideal lobster spot, this is probably what you envision. Set in a barn-like building right along the rocky Atlantic coast, Harraseeket has its own fleet of lobster boats and serves up the freshest, sweetest crustaceans you can imagine. If you're a purist, you'll want to order the whole steamed lobster without getting distracted by anything else. If you're not quite as devout about your whole lobster, there are plenty of other delicious things on which to nosh. Clam cakes, fish chowder and fried scallops in crumbs or batter are all knockit-out-of-the-park bets, especially when accompanied by fried onion middles and followed by an enormous house-made whoopie pie.

10. Captain Lou's - South Haven, Michigan

Patrons wash up at Captain Lou's for many reasons its raucous atmosphere and festive ramshackle cabin appearance, outdoor waterfront deck strung with twinkling lights. But when it comes to ordering some food to help line your stomach before pouring in countless rum runners and excellent craft beers, there's really only one choice: perch. You can have it in a wrap, you can have it in a taco, but however you choose to have it prepared you won't go wrong. Devouring the tasty local catch while listening to the live band and admiring the ducks skittering across the surface of the water, you'll wonder what took you so long to find this place.

11. South Beach Bar & Grille - San Diego, California

If you're in search of fish tacos in San Diego, their birthplace, your expectations are understandably high. Head straight to South Beach Bar & Grille to have them fulfilled. The Pacific Ocean views alone are worth the trip, not to mention the 22 tequilas and more than 40 beers 20 of them on tap but let's be honest. It's about the fish tacos. So after warming up with a ceviche or an octopus cocktail or perhaps some stuffed-shrimp jalapenos or bacon-wrapped swordfish medallions, get down to business with those tacos. You can have them with mahi, wahoo, albacore, shrimp, shark or lobster, all topped with shredded red cabbage and tangy salsa fresca. Ask the surfers bobbing in the waves outside the window this is the life.

12. The Lockspot Café - Seattle, Washington

This funky, snug little spot has been in operation for more than 90 years. That in and of itself makes it a winner in our books. But add the location next to the fascinating Ballard Locks, part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the seafood-heavy menu, and it's a shoo-in for a good time. They claim to have the best fish and chips around, made with cod, and that's what many patrons go for. But we think any of the salmon dishes are more interesting options. After all, you're in a city that considers salmon king. Try a bowl of the smoked salmon chowder, a blackened wild sockeye salmon Caesar salad or the teriyaki salmon platter. And why wait for lunch or dinner? Belly up to the bar in the morning for a plate of smoked salmon eggs Benedict (and a Bloody Mary, if you so choose).

Related Articles
Back to School Bucket List
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The days are growing shorter, and the final weeks of summer are upon us. So, before the school bell rings, Marinalife is wondering if you’ve checked off everything on your must-do list this season. If you’re looking for ways to wrap up summer, consider the following ideas for last-dash, fun activities.

- Learn how to do a back dive, canon ball or jump off the back of the boat into the water.  Rope swings are also an invigorating option.

- Have a tiki party on a boat and serve your guests tropical blender drinks. Bonus points for Hawaiian shirts and grilled pineapple or savory Polynesian snacks.

- Pick a dozen crabs on your boat or at a waterfront dock bar, along with all the classic fixins’ of corn on the cob, hushpuppies, coleslaw and a cold brew.  If crabs aren’t your preference, a lobster, clam or crawfish boil will do just fine.

- Ride down a giant slide, roller coaster or death-defying ride at a waterpark while letting out a mighty yell.

- Body surf in the Atlantic waves or build a sandcastle strong enough to withstand the tide.

- Explore a hidden cove or a dream destination that you’ve never visited before on your boat.

- Go fishing and catch something big enough for dinner.

- Get pulled on a raft or inflatable behind a boat or learn how to waterski.

- Catch lightening bugs in a jar to make a glowing lantern.  But be sure to poke holes in the lid and release them when the fun is done.

- Under the stars, go to an outdoor movie, music festival or seafood feast.

- Learn how to shuck an oyster, clean a fish or pick a crab, then invite friends over to taste dishes made from the fruits of your labor.

- Invent a nautical cocktail to commemorate the summer of 2022.

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Nauti Shopper: Identify your new discoveries with these apps and guides
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RESOURCEFUL APPS


FISHVERIFY

Available on Google Play, the Apple App Store and Galaxy Store

This fish finder app lets anglers discover saltwater and freshwater catches with the snap of a picture. Take a live shot or import photos and the AI technology works its magic. Learn about marine habitats and check weather conditions including winds, tides, water temperature and barometric pressure. (Free download; premium subscription is $29.99/year) fishverify.com

SHELL MUSEUM: IDENTIFY SHELLS

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store
Take photos of your shoreline discoveries and this innovative app helps you figure out what they are and the sea creature that built it. Thanks to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, FL, beachcombers can now identify most common shells found across Florida beaches in seconds. ($1.99 download) shellmuseum.org

ARGO: BOATING NAVIGATION

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

This navigation and social boating app offers satellite, terrain and NOAA map features, depth and contours, trip planning, voyage tracking and a captain’s log for itineraries. Find points of interest such as fuel docks, anchorages, marinas and restaurants. The social boating features helps you connect with the boating community (Free download) argonav.io

SPECIES GUIDEBOOKS

REEF FISH IDENTIFICATION — FLORIDA, CARIBBEAN, BAHAMAS

By Paul Humann and Ned Deloach

Whether you’re a southern angler or marine wildlife documenter, you’ll love combing through 1,000 photographs of more than 683 species in this book. Designed as a reference guide, this new 4th edition identifies fish and aquatic creatures throughout the waterways of Florida, the Caribbean and Bahamas. ($44.95) reef.org/products/reef-fish-identification-florida-caribbean-and-bahamas-4th-edition

KAUFMAN FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA

by Kenn Kaufman Kaufman Field Guides

This guide has been a leading birdlife guidebook for decades. Vibrant photos, detailed descriptions and range maps illustrate a lively key for bird-watching excursions. The book is compact, easily portable and studies most species in North America. (Prices vary)
kaufmanfieldguides.com/birds.html

THE TRACKER’S HANDBOOK: HOW TO IDENTIFY AND TRAIL ANY ANIMAL

By Len McDougall

Whether you’re hunting for dinner, hiking or being an avid nature lover, this guide makes animal tracking easy. Discover North American species such as the American Elk and Whitetail Deer. Identify footprints, habitats and range. This book isn’t just for hunters; it’s for explorers of all kinds. ($34.56)

barnesandnoble.com/w/the-trackers-handbook-len-mcdougall/1118940778

JUNIOR EXPLORER

SKY GUIDE APP

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

Point a smartphone to the sky and suddenly you appear in your own planetarium with this stargazing app. Sky Guide locates your position and follows the stars in real time while superimposing constellations and figures interactively. Find planets in rotation, discover where Pisces is currently rising or catch the next meteor shower.($1.99 download) apps.apple.com/us/app/sky-guide/id576588894

OCEAN ANIMALS COLLECTION SERIES

National Geographic Kids
Children will become overnight marine biologists with this fun learning series. Young readers can spot sea otters, manatees, turtles and much more. Teach your kids about aquatic habitats with photography and unique fun facts on each species. ($17.99)

barnesandnoble.com/w/ocean-animals-collection-national-geographic-kids/1123056379

OUTDOOR SCIENCE LAB

SmartLab Toys

This outdoor set brings out kids’ inner scientific explorer. Examining bugs, plants, dirt, weather and more. Activities include testing various samples and tracking findings in a science log. Kids can enjoy after-dark exploration with the UV night scope. ($45)

shopsweetthreads.com/products/smartlab-toys-outdoor-science-lab-bugs-dirt-plants

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Top 10 New England Sailing Regattas
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What do a media mogul, movie maker and American President have in common? Taking part in yacht racing, one of our nation's oldest sports, and New England, the cradle of this sport in America. Ted Turner won the 1977 America's Cup in Newport. Roy Disney sailed from Newport to Bermuda with record-breaking speed in 2002. And in 1936, JFK earned a winner's cup racing Stars in the Hyannis Port Yacht Club race to Edgartown.

With more than 6,000 miles of shoreline, survival built on the sea from olden days of fishing and trading to today's seasonal tourist dollars, it's a natural that racing sailboats is a time-honored tradition and rite of passion for most New Englanders. Many sailors here boast blood as blue as the surrounding seas, yet everyone can find a home to race. Here's a sampling of some of the region's best-known regattas.

MAINE

Camden Classics Cup - new england regattas - marinalife
Camden Classics Cup | Alison Langle

Camden Classics Cup

July 28-30

Competition and camaraderie combine in this relative newcomer event sailed in Penobscot Bay and celebrated shoreside in downtown Camden. Over 100 sailboats, everything from vintage yachts to very fast one-designs like J/46s and J/42s, race. Classes are available for day sailors and cruising yachts, too. Dockage at Lyman-Morse is included in the race fee, so the party starts ashore when the racing ends, says organizer Mackenzie Lyman, who adds the marina operator and boat-builders have rebuilt the waterfront after a fire in 2020. Spectators can have just as much fun. Maine's Wind- jammers offer two-hour tours to view the racing, while landlubber's best bet is watching the parade of sail as dressed yachts with costumed crew parade through Camden harbor on the morning of July 30.

Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club Annual Regatta & Shipyard Cup Classics Challenge

July 23-24

A trend toward classic yacht racing and a nod to the area's deep sailing roots combined for the first time last year at the Shipyard Cup. This new addition to the nearly 50-year-old annual regatta put lots of eye-candy on the water. The 1926-built NY-40, Marilee and 1937-constructed 12-meter America's Cup contender, Gleam, plus classic Boothbay Harbor one-designs like the 21-foot, Geerd Hendel-designed, 1938-launched sloops, are expected back this year along with contemporary race yachts. We invited several America's Cup contenders to join Gleam this year on the start line, says co-chair Bob Scribner. Spectators can observe from Spruce Point, McKeown Point or Southport. A narrated parade of participants in the inner harbor starts at 10:00 a.m. on July 24.

MASSACHUSETTS

Marblehead Regatta - new england regattas - marinalife
NOOD Marblehead Regatta 2021 | Bruce

Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series - Marblehead

July 28-31

The 1889-founded Marblehead Race Week joined with National Offshore One-Design concept a few years back, and the result is close to 200 boats racing. We now have all our regular classes like J/70s, Rhodes 19s and Viper 640, plus there are usually one or two guest classes like RS21s, Skuds, 2.4's and J/24s, that hold regional championships as part of the week, says Leslie Rousseau, race committee chair for the host Boston Yacht Club. We expect to see the return of Jud Smith, two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and local J-70 favorite. Spectators on land can get a bird's eye view of the racing from Chandler Hovey Park on Marblehead Neck. Those with a fast center console can watch the boats line up to start off Turkey Point in Middle River or set their chutes at the windward mark in Middle River.

Edgartown Race Weekend

June 23-25

Since 1938, celebrity-studded Martha's Vineyard is home to this week of combo coastal, offshore and round-the-island racing hosted by Edgartown Yacht Club. The history, charm and summer activity on Martha's Vineyard is a meaningful draw, in addition to fantastic wind and ideal sailing conditions, says Alex Nugent, one of the event's co-chairs. Plus, we typically host a big welcome party that's sponsored by Mount Gay Rum. New is the ‘Round-the-Sound series of races, which features 20-some nautical mile coastal sprints around Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound and replaces the around-the-buoy series. There's monohull and multihull, racing and cruising, double-handed and many-handed entrants including teams from state and federal service and maritime academies.

Nantucket Race Week

August 13-21

Nine days of racing, parties and awards ceremonies take the concept of race week to the extreme. There's something afloat for everyone: kids in Optis and 420s, women in Rhodes 19s, kiteboarders, radio-controlled model boats and some of the country's top sailors competing in high-performance big boats and classic wooden yachts. This year we celebrate the 50th Opera House Cup Regatta, the grand dame of classic wooden boat regattas. The Cup, named after a legendary Nantucket restaurant, attracts some of the finest wooden boats on the East Coast and Europe. There is a big awards party on the beach after the race, says Diana Brown, chief executive of Nantucket Community Sailing. The Parade of Wooden Boats offers a brochure that describes each participating boat. The public can watch the parade from Brant Point Beach.

RHODE ISLAND

Annual Regatta

June 10-12

Hosted by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) out of its facilities in Newport, this is North America's oldest continuously held sailing event going on its 168th year. The format features two days of buoy racing, prefaced by a race around Conanicut Island. The sight of 100-plus spinnakers running north in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay from Fort Adams, Castle Hill or Beavertail Light is breathtaking. Entries are invited to one-design classes, and boats more than 24 feet race under a variety of handicaps. The Annual Regatta is one of my perennial favorites, says Paul Zabetakis, NYYC commodore and a regular participant on his Swan 42, Impetuous. The race management is impeccable with multiple course configurations. Few other venues offer the perfect combination of offshore racing in Rhode Island Sound and inshore racing on Narragansett Bay. The Saturday night regatta party is one of the biggest occasions of the Newport regatta season with sailors converging on Harbour Court for cocktails and dinner.

Edgartown Race Weekend - new england regattas - marinalife
Edgartown Race Weekend | Daniel Fors

Newport to Bermuda Race

June 17

The lawn at Castle Hill Inn in Newport and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown are ringside seats to watch nearly 200 vessels start in the East Passage on a 635-mile passage south to Bermuda. Fort Adams State Park also provides close-up views of many of the boats as they depart from Newport Harbor. The fleet then sails past Brenton State Park as it clears Brenton Reef and turns to the southeast. Charter boats and private yachts assemble to watch the start from the water as well, says John Burnham. It's one of the oldest regularly scheduled ocean races, happening biennially since 1906. This year, three high-speed multihulls -- two MOD 70s, Argo and Snowflake, and the 78' trimaran Ultim'Emotion 2 -- are entered, and each has a good chance of breaking the elapsed time race record of 34h:42m:53s set in 2016 by the 100' maxi yacht, Comanche.

Ida Lewis Distance Race

August 18-20

The fleet goes where the wind blows. The Ida Lewis Distance Race is like no other in that the Race Committee chooses from among four different courses, based on the weather. Each course incorporates some of the most storied cruising grounds in New England and is just long enough for the fleet to be offshore overnight, yet not so long to prohibit inviting family and friends to join for a first-time adventure, says Anselm Richards, event chair. The goal: get about 60-some teams to compete on race boats 28-foot and longer in double-handed, youth, collegiate and different handicap classes back to the dock in under 24 hours. The start happens off Fort Adams and ends inside Newport Harbor, where each team is handed a congratulatory bottle of Prosecco.

CONNECTICUT

Block Island Race

May 27

Stamford is the start of this Memorial Day weekend regatta that for many sailors kicks New England's offshore racing season. The 186-nautical mile course down Long Island Sound and around Block Island and back also acts as a ‘warm up' for many teams that are racing some two weeks later in the Newport to Bermuda Race, says Kate Wilson Somers, who handles media for the event. The race marks its 75th anniversary this year and is organized by the Storm Trysail Club, based in Larchmont, NY.

Cedar Point One Design Regatta

June 4-5

A 20-year+ tradition on the first weekend in June, this one-design keelboat event hosted out of the Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, CT, can draw as many as 800 competitors on over 100 boats. The key is that all the boats in a class are the same; no handicap scoring is needed. This makes it easy to watch, as first over the finish line is the winner. Currently, the event is open to J70, J88, J105 and J109, and Beneteau 36.7 fleets, but other fleets are welcome if they meet the requirements, says Joyce Oberdorf, who handles the club's communications.

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