Raw or grilled, buttered or spicy, new-school or old-school—seafood is always an enjoyable meal. Whether it’s a casual mom-and-pop joint with no-frills steamers, or an elegant raw bar with innovative flavors and plates, fresh catches are abundant in Philadelphia. Check out our roundup of the best seafood spots in town:
Image via oysterhouse
THE DIGS: Quirky and colorful oyster plates on the walls and professional shuckers at a raw bar overflowing with ice and fresh seafood help to make this contemporary fish spot with an old-time oyster house-feel a hit. Everyone knows about buck-a-shuck happy hours (one dollar oysters and three dollar shooters), but the restaurant maintains a fun, party-like atmosphere despite the crowds.
THE EATS: Oyster House has been serving fresh, East Coast-style seafood since 1947, a tradition that remains evident in the stellar selection and execution of various dishes. Oysters may be the namesake star, but guests can dine on soups, squid, shrimp, lobster, crab, or fish as well. For a large party, have the newspaper rolled out at the farmhouse tables for a New England clambake called the “Dump Dinner,” with clams, mussels, and lobster for $25 a person.
INDEPENDENT PICKS: Clams casino, lobster roll, baked clams
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THE DIGS: Get comfortable, because this tiny, 22-seat hidden treasure on a corner in Bella Vista is definitely cozy. With a small setting and an open-kitchen design, it’s a charming spot for a date or solo meal. Catches from the sea dominate the menu, which changes daily and is updated on a chalkboard wall. Since space is limited, be sure to get there early or be prepared to wait.
THE EATS: With a menu that fluctuates with the fish market, this bistro highlights a variety of traditional items (like King salmon or halibut) and more obscure seafood dishes (such as kampachi and tilefish). Chef Chadd Jenkins’ dishes are always simple and creative combinations of ingredients, with memorable tastes and plating designs. Ingredients are sourced from local farms.
INDEPENDENT PICKS: Striped marlin, octopus, king salmon
Image via crabbypiazza
THE DIGS: You won’t find fancy decor or a refined ambiance at the Chinatown or Northern Liberties locations of Crabby Shack. Don’t wear your Sunday best—get ready to tie up your bib and pick-n-peel your own meal. The Northern Liberties location offers a sports bar atmosphere inside, or an evening of alfresco dining outside on the stringed-lights-lit Piazza at Schmidt’s.
THE EATS: What Crabby Shack lacks in white tablecloths, it makes up in ridiculous flavor and freshness. Cajun & Creole flavors mix with Vietnamese culinary style in savory seafood boils that are served piping hot in plastic bags. The fish sauce elevates every option, and can be enjoyed with various heat levels and flavors (go bold for big flavors like paprika and red pepper, or enjoy a simple garlic butter glaze). Hit up any of the Crabby Shack spots around town for some of the best Cajun eats and crawfish in the city.
INDEPENDENT PICKS: Crawfish boil, sailor bucket (snow crabs and shrimp), cajun fries
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THE DIGS: This dim, old-school Belgian pub is the perfect destination for a night of delicious food and craft beer (contained in a self-dubbed “Beer Bible”). There are multiple rooms, but the relatively small space gets crowded quickly. The wood tones and casual atmosphere create the closest thing to a pub in Amsterdam that one can get in the heart of Philadelphia.
THE EATS: While not a seafood restaurant, Monk’s has some of the best Moules-frites in Philly. Order a pot, and enjoy broths so good that you’ll soak your bread in it and drink every last drop. The Ghent mussels are a swirling, salty-and-savory cauldron of caramelized leeks, bacon, blue cheese, garlic, and parsley. The Red Light option is a mix of Belgian wheat beer, white wine, garlic, and spicy chile de arbol peppers. With plump, juicy, and flavorful mussels as a base, each of the broths is a strong choice.
INDEPENDENT PICKS: Ghent mussels, Red Light mussels, grilled Atlantic salmon filet
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THE DIGS: The Olde Bar is set in the Old Original Bookbinder’s Building, a famous oyster saloon that opened in 1898. The new spot is a contemporary update on the seafood restaurant that was once there, and harkens to the traditional culinary and nautical ties. The original woodwork and decor remains or has been restored, and the heavy wood tones, marble tabletops, and long bar with red leather seats recall to a bygone time.
THE EATS: The menu is a reimagined version of Bookbinder’s, with modern takes on all the great items that made the original famous. Oysters on the half shell are the highlight of the raw bar, and guests can enjoy a myriad of seafood options: lobster, clam chowder, crab cakes, and a variety of plates make it hard to decide. If you’re feeling adventurous, try Chef Jose Garces’ take on the Bookbinder snapper turtle soup (with sherry cream and a split quail egg).
INDEPENDENT PICKS: Oysters Belmont, crab cake, fish & chips