Whether you go for shacks or top shelf, you probably agree that summer and seafood go together like a hammock and a sizzlin' read. Put a seafood joint next to a perfect beach, by the shores of a quiet creek, or hugging the end of a historic wharf and you've got the kind of place you'll dream about all winter.
We need your help! Tell us about your favorite waterfront restaurant and we may include it in a future Budget Travel story. Here, to get the beach ball boppin', my highly subjective, by-no-means-scientific short list of fabulous American seafood joints by the water. Yeah, two of my picks are in Maine and one is in the Bronx—you got a problem with that?
Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. At the end of the wharf with views of the Pacific and fresh locally caught seafood, this is the place you want to be at the end of a SoCal day (230 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, Calif., sbfishhouse.com, Dungeness crab Louie $17.95).
Johnny's Famous Reef Restaurant. Look, I grew up in the Bronx and there's no way I can leave the amazing City Island (the "Nantucket of the Bronx") off this list and still hold my head high. Johnny's is at the tip of the island with views of Long Island Sound and knockout fried lobster tails, chowder, and even frogs' legs (2 City Island Ave., Bronx, N.Y., johnnysreefrestaurant.com, fried lobster tails $27).
The Lobster Shack at Two Lights. Located on what Budget Travel has called one of New England's "other" capes—Cape Elizabeth—this is the place to grab a classic New England lobster roll and a bowl of chowder by the ocean (225 Two Lights Rd, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, lobstershacktwolights.com, lobster roll market price).
LuLu's. On Alabama's Intracoastal Waterway, Lulu's is a Gulf Coast riff on the seaside seafood shack with cold beer, great burgers, and local seafood (200 East 25th Avenue, Gulf Shores, Ala., lulusathomeport.com, shrimp basket $16.99).
Cantler's Riverside Inn. On Mill Creek, near Annapolis City Dock, Cantler's specializes in—what else?—Maryland crabs (458 Forest Beach Rd., Annapolis, Md., cantlers.com, fried crab cakes $25).