The 4th of July is the ultimate summer weekend – long days, warm weather, fireworks and the beach are all part of what makes our nation’s birthday celebration special. So, before swarms of Americans make their way this July 4th to beaches from the Pacific to Atlantic, and the Great Lakes to the Gulf, Cheapflights thought it’d be fitting to feature the best of the best locations for lobster, crab, oysters and other melt-in-your-mouth delicacies. Without further ado, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive into the top seafood towns and regions in the United States and Canada.
Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Each summer the Eastern Shore of Maryland draws thousands of tourists nostalgically eager to swim, sail, kayak and – possibly most important – eat. Crab houses line the shores of the Chesapeake, offering East Coasters a chance to crack and pick at the freshest crabs in the country. At neighborhood favorites like Waterman’s Crab House in Rock Hall, brown paper-covered tables set the scene for sun-kissed families to maneuver mallets and crackers to get to the good stuff. Those less enthused about manual labor should stick to the award-winning crab cakes – broiled or fried – prepared with lump crab meat and intricate spices.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Between swamp tours of the Bayou and Saturday morning visits to the Red Stick Famers Market, visitors to Louisiana’s capital indulge in the city’s culinary claim to fame: crawfish. The freshwater crustacean is traditionally prepared down south in a crawfish boil, combined with potatoes, corn on the cob, garlic, sausage and cayenne pepper. It’s the crawfish étouffée though – similar to a gumbo – that lures visitors 40 minutes west of the city to Joe’s Dreyfus Store Restaurant in Livonia for a taste of the best.
Way before Starbucks staked its claim, Seattle was known for seafood. And though some tourists visit solely for the caffeine, the Northwest hub continues to reel up and serve some of the finest filets in the world. More than 10 million people annually visit Pike Place Market, a massive public market that’s satisfied locals for more than 100 years. Bring your camera and capture the excitement of merchants tossing the latest catch among the countless stalls before placing orders for fresh salmon, Dungeness crab and other shell fish.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
All the biking and walking you’ll be doing in Nova Scotia is bound to leave you hungry for delicious meals. You’re in luck – the tiny Canadian province is renowned for its top-notch food from the sea. After exploring the working lighthouse and views of Peggy’s Cove – situated just over 20 miles southwest of Halifax – stop in Shaw’s Landing for out-of-this-world fish and chips, seafood chowder or lobster jambalaya. The restaurant, run by a seasoned chef and retired lobster fisherman, serves up the freshest catches of the day against views of operating wharves. Needless to say, it’s authentic Nova Scotia.
Whether you’re visiting outlying beach towns on the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket – or the city itself – Boston is the East Coast destination for fresh-shucked oysters. Take a break from duck tours and overcrowded Faneuil Hall and venture to the South End, where B&G Oysters plates the finest oysters in New England. The raw bar changes daily to feature more than a dozen types of briny treats from both coasts. Hesitant to go raw? Mediterranean seafood dishes and meaty lobster rolls will satiate any appetite. Not to mention B&G’s signature clam chowder, prepared with bacon lardons and spicy croutons. Remember when ordering that you’re in New England; it’s pronounced “chowda”.
Key West, Florida
Florida’s hippie haven serves up much more than just Caribbean vibes and turquoise seas – not that you need more than that for an idyllic vacation. Local, straightforward ingredients abound at eateries across the island. Stop by Half Shell Raw Bar between snorkeling and sunbathing for quintessential Key West aesthetics and grub. Conch, the island’s seafood specialty, is prepared both as fritters and ceviche at the neighborhood favorite, offering guests the opportunity to try both recipes done right. The southernmost point of Florida offers endless excuses for visitors to do nothing but soak up rays and cocktails completely guilt free.
Prince Edward Island, Canada
Though you’ll spot Prince Edward Island mussels on menus up and down the coast, there’s nothing like trying the bite-sized shellfish on their home turf. If you can pry yourself away from the Prince Edward Island Potato Museum (it’s real, we swear!), then head on over to Lobster on the Wharf, disregard the name, and dive into bowl of the famous Island Blue Mussels or the mussels of the day. Then you can – of course – indulge in one of the many lobster dishes, fresh from the Atlantic.
Maine is synonymous with lobster – and for good reason. Long before the clawed crustacean ascended from being considered fit only for a state prisoner to a delicacy paid for at a premium by the pound, hearty lobstermen were plying their trade along the rocky coast. No place represents this history better than Georgetown’s Five Islands Lobster Co., a simple clapboard structure without indoor seating. This place is pure Maine: beautiful views of the forested shoreline and no-frills ingredients picked straight from the saltwater tank and consumed on the dock.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston offers the best of South Carolina in one coastal town: Historical homes with sweeping verandas and rocking chairs, an indulgently slower pace of life – and delectable Atlantic shrimp. Hank’s Seafood Restaurant carries on that tradition with pride. Named the Charleston City Paper’s Best Seafood Restaurant 12 years running, Hank’s serves up a mean take on classic shrimp and grits, with Andouille sausage stewed with tomatoes, garlic and white wine. Sit back, relax and enjoy: You’re not going anywhere for a little while, and that’s the point.
San Diego, California
Southern California presents plenty of excuses for Americans looking for a Latin vacation to stay north of the Mexican border. Top on that list is the food, and there’s no better city to discover its caliber than enchanting San Diego. Spend afternoons on miles of pristine beaches and nights exploring the So-Cal-Mex offerings. The place to go is El Indio, a small fan favorite that serves up the best fish tacos around. Family owned and operated since 1940, El Indio tops corn tortillas and white fish with an addictive tartar sauce, cabbage and tomatoes – better known as West Coast seafood done extremely right.
By Lauren Sullivan