As summer weather slips into town, most Philadelphians long to be just one place — down the shore.
If you can’t make it to the coast, the next best thing might be convincing yourself you’re at the beach by dining on chilled seafood and fresh fish.
From delicate crudos and buck-a-shuck oysters to creamy lobster rolls, spicy peel-and-eat shrimp and steaming seafood suppers, Philadelphia has diners covered when it comes to fabulous meals of fruits from the sea.
Satisfy that craving for fresh seafood.
Read on for our picks for top seafood spots in Philadelphia, below.
• Oyster House: Since 1947, the Mink family has shucked and served super-fresh East Coast-style seafood at Oyster House in Center City. Show up early to scoop up a seat for the ever-happening buck-a-shuck happy hour, which runs Monday through Friday, 5 to 7 p.m., and Saturday 9 to 11 p.m. For groups of six of more, the best bet is definitely the Dump Dinner, a New England-style clam bake for $25 per person. In July and August, look for Twin Lobster Nights to be added to the catch of specials, too.
• Route 6: Named after the highway that runs from Provincetown through the heart of Cape Cod, Route 6 deals with classic seafood plates. Stephen Starr’s airy seafood house on North Broad Street cooks, shucks and sears fruits of the sea from up and down the East Coast. Don’t miss the raw bar, fried Ipswich clams or the Carolina trout, oven-roasted on a cedar plank.
• Luke’s Lobster: The lobster roll trend is in full swing at new Rittenhouse-area spot Luke’s Lobster, a subterranean seafood shop dishing up a straightforward menu of lobster rolls, shrimp rolls and crab rolls, with some chips and chowder thrown in for good measure.
• Red Hook Lobster Pound: Every Sunday at Brooklyn Flea Philly, New York-based Red Hook Lobster Pound dishes out a taste of Maine by serving up luscious lobster rolls. Red Hook’s sammie stands out with large chunks of buttery lobster with a touch of mayo on a soft roll.
• Little Fish: Surprisingly sophisticated lands on tables at Little Fish, a charming, teeny-tiny BYOB in Queen Village. The menu changes with the fish market at this seafood-dominated bistro, and catches of the day range from familiar (King salmon, striped bass) to the less so (kampachi, cobia).
• Seafood Unlimited: A recent renovation polished up the interior at Rittenhouse neighborhood favorite Seafood Unlimited, but the menu remains (thankfully) very much the same with stellar standards like grilled Atlantic salmon, crab cakes and jumbo shrimp cocktail playing a starring role. Plus, the menu changes a bit daily based on fish availability and the chef’s whims.
• Anastasi Seafood: In Bella Vista’s Italian Market, Anatasti Seafood is a venerable seafood institution. An excellent source for live crabs and fresh fish to take home, Anatasi also offers a casual seafood bar where dining in means an icy cold beer and a huge pile of Baltimore-spiced crabs.
• Snockey’s Oyster and Crab House: Family-owned since 1912, Snockey’s Oyster and Crab House in South Philly serves up half a dozen varieties of raw oysters on the half shell, plus great standards like soft shell crab, flounder stuffed with crab and crab cakes.
• DiNardo’s Famous Crabs: In Old City, DiNardo’s Famous Crabs lives up to its name with a menu chock-full of crustaceans. Start with a half dozen steamed “hot and dirty” Baltimore style or sautéed with plenty of garlic. Familiar seafood-house fare is done well here, too, including steamed clams, crab cakes and surf and turf.
• Devon Seafood Grill: You can’t really beat Devon’s sweet location right on Rittenhouse Square, especially when the weather is nice. Enjoy fresh seafood with a side of people-watching.
• Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House: With four regional locations, Doc Magrogan’s in West Philadelphia is an excellent standby for casual seafood dinners of New England clam chowder, lobster ravioli, seafood bouillabaisse and Maryland crab cakes.
• McCormick and Schmick’s: Hailing from the great Northwest, this national chain and 290-seat establishment prides itself on serving a fresh selection of seafood. Snag a spacious booth at McCormick and Schmick’s Philadelphia outpost and dig in to the varieties of fresh fish (usually more than 30 a day) flown in daily from around the world.
• Pearl’s Oyster Bar: At Reading Terminal Market, Pearl’s Oyster Bar is a great pick for an on-the-run seafood lunch. Belly up to the buzzing counter for savory homemade snapper soup, broiled fish and lightly battered fried oysters.
More picks for stellar seafood spots, below.
• a.kitchen and a.bar: At the AKA Rittenhouse Square, a.kitchen serves a curated selection of snacks and small plates, including lovely crudos and a creamy blue crab salad. Th neighboring and soon-to-open a.bar is slated to focus its menu on raw shellfish like razor clam ceviche with pink peppercorns and mussels escabeche in a sherry-vinegar sauce. The oyster lineup appeals, too, with a lovely list of mostly East Coast varieties.
• Fork: At sophisticated dining destination Fork in Old City, chef Eli Kulp’s deft touch always delivers delicate plates of fresh fish. In addition to menu staples like the sea scallop crudo, Kulp serves a Mid-Atlantic seafood feast meant to be shared among at least two diners. For a very reasonable $44 per person, indulge in a crispy whole black bass, watercress salad, clams casino, fritto misto and more.
• Pennsylvania 6: Raw bar plus cocktail bar equals Pennsylvania 6, a classically appointed two-tier spot that restaurateur Gary Cardi named after the reputedly longest-held phone number in Manhattan (at the Hotel Pennsylvania). Chef Marc Plessis’ specialties are crudos (read: don’t miss the hamachi), but his forward-thinking American menu also includes charred octopus, delicate scallops and hearty lobster rolls.
• Vernick Food & Drink: Though the menu spans both land and sea, the raw fish on the menu at Vernick stars. Score a table at this chic Rittenhouse destination (read: make a reservation) and order the Island Creek oysters with ginger and citrus, immediately followed by the Arctic char with crispy skin and dill. Of the cooked fare from the sea, opt for the excellent grilled black sea bass.
• Nineteen (XIX): On the 19th floor of the Hyatt at The Bellevue, Nineteen is an elegant destination for a seafood supper. The grand interior of the restaurant’s main dining room is complete with a dramatic, 19-foot chandelier and a majestic seafood bar, from which raw delicacies flow to tables with sweeping city views.
• Pub & Kitchen: Dishing out restaurant-quality fare, Pub & Kitchen has established itself as a must-visit for gastropub enthusiasts. A short but discerning draft list pairs well with a consistent selection of fine oysters on the half shell — a standard order at P&K — from both the East and West coasts.
• Varga Bar: Known for a full menu of gastropub fare (and scantily clad pin-up girls painted on the wall), chef Evan Turney regularly adds a sweet buck-a-shuck oyster special to his menu at Varga Bar in Washington Square West. No second-rate bivalves here — Varga shucks lovely varieties like Chesapeakes and Naked Cowboys.
• Parc: This always-bustling French brasserie right on Rittenhouse Square is known for its soaring seafood towers. On a sunny summer afternoon, there are few better spots to order up a dozen oysters alfresco. And not only does Parc have the most outdoor seating in the Rittenhouse neighborhood, it’s also arguably the best people-watching spot in the whole city.
• Branzino Italian Ristorante : In Rittenhouse Square, Branzino specializes in Italian-style fresh seafood. The recent hire of chef Mike Stollenwerk (formerly of the now-shuttered Fish) means that an expert touch will be applied to such staples as salmon, halibut and — of course — whole grilled branzino.
• SoleFood: Inside the Loews Philadelphia hotel, SoleFood serves up contemporary American cuisine and seafood-inspired choices at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Look for regional tastes like Pocono trout alongside global tastes from the sea (and land).