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The best seafood restaurants in NYC

From caviar-topped tasting menus to half-shell happy hours, take a dive at these feast-worthy seafood restaurants

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Crispy fish tacos at Seamore's

The city's vast expanse of concrete may not scream tropical paradise, but New York is indeed an island town. Tucked into one of the world's largest natural harbors, the five boroughs boast some of the best beaches, boat parties and freshly caught seafood. From white-clothed prix-fixe palaces to oyster-slinging waterfront restaurants and trumped-up omakase counters, here are the best restaurants offering a taste of the ocean.

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Seafood restaurants in NYC

Ed's Lobster Bar

Chef Ed McFarland's New England–style fish shack is a Soho staple. If you secure a place at the 25-seat marble bar or at one of the few tables, expect superlative raw shellfish, delicately fried Ipswich clams and lobster served every which way: steamed, grilled, broiled, chilled, stuffed into a pot pie and—the crowd favorite—in the lobster roll. Here, it’s a buttered bun full of premium chunks of meat with just a light coating of mayo.

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Nolita

Esca

Part of the Mario Batali–Joe Bastianich empire, Esca's menu takes a whirl through Southern Italian seaside cooking. Start with the signature raw antipasti, called crudo, then move on to excellent, shareable pastas such as succulent square-cut maccheroni alla chitarra with sea urchin and crab.

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Hell's Kitchen

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant

Some commuter bars are built for killing time, but this historic spot could entice you to miss your train on purpose. The O-Bar dates back to 1913, and its vaulted ceilings and desultory service suggest its institution status. Stick to platters of iced, just-shucked oysters spanning dozens of varieties, from Baja to Plymouth Rock.

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Downtown

The John Dory Oyster Bar

April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s Ace Hotel endeavor is an understated knockout. Tall stools face a raw bar stocked with a rotating mix of East and West Coast oysters, all expertly handled and impeccably sourced. True to form, the rest of Bloomfield’s tapas-style seafood dishes are all intensely flavored. Chilled lobster tastes larger than life, its sweet flesh slicked in an herbaceous tomalley vinaigrette. Meanwhile, warm dishes take their cues mostly from the garlic-and-olive-oil belt—oyster pan roast served with uni butter crostini, plus boisterous squid stuffed with meaty chorizo.

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Midtown

Le Bernardin

New York dining mores have experienced a seismic paradigm shift in the past decade, toppling Old World restaurant titans and making conquering heroes of chefs that champion accessible food served in casual environments. But Le Bernardin—the city’s original temple of haute French seafood—survived the shake-up unscathed. Guests who find the $205 tasting menu or $140 four-course prix fixe out of reach can still experience the kitchen’s finesse in the lounge area, via stunning bar snacks: raw kanpachi topped with beads of wasabi tobiko ($20), for example, or gorgeous scallop ceviche ($22) resting in a pool of grassy olive oil.

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Midtown West

Marea

Michael White's extravagant, spectacular shrine to the Italian coastline is a worthy indulgence. Spend you shall, and with great rewards: start with crostini topped with velvety sea urchin and petals of translucent lardo, then move on to seafood-focused pastas, like fusilli spiraled around chunks of octopus in a bone marrow–enriched sauce, or strozzapreti nestling hunks of jumbo lump crab, sea urchin and basil.

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Midtown West

Pearl Oyster Bar

This convivial, New England–style joint was a forerunner of the city’s fish-shack trend. The outstanding lobster roll—sweet, lemony meat laced with mayonnaise on a butter-enriched bun—is Pearl’s raison d'être, but more sophisticated dishes fare equally well: A bouillabaisse features briny lobster broth packed with mussels, cod, scallops and clams, with an aioli-smothered crouton balanced on top—a great value at $25. For dessert, try a bittersweet chocolate mousse topped with a quenelle of barely sweetened whipped cream. Finally, a restaurant worthy of its hype.

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West Village

Russ & Daughters

Russ & Daughters has been serving lox, herring and other specialty foods since 1914. But one of our favorite delicacies here is a more modern invention: the Super Heeb sandwich, slathered with horseradish cream cheese, wasabi-flavored roe and sublime whitefish salad.

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Lower East Side

Seamore's

Michael Chernow—one half of cult-status Italian chain the Meatball Shop—trades carne for catch at his first solo restaurant, focusing on underutilized species, including monkfish, porgy and flounder from local fisheries. Inspired by Montauk beach shacks, the 70-seat spot features a Daily Landings menu board showcasing seasonal seafood, served plancha-seared with choice of sauce (harissa-cashew, red curry, miso–brown butter) and sides (crispy snap peas, warm quinoa). 

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Shuko

From behind a minimalist ebony counter at Neta, rock-star chefs Jimmy Lau and a beanie-capped Nick Kim—longtime disciples of sushi demigod Masa Takayama—brazenly served peanut-butter ice cream and uni-rich risotto alongside their gleaming, à la carte tiles of nigiri. That populist streak softly colors this 20-seat follow-up—the beanie remains, as does the thumping “99 Problems”—but where a pricey omakase was an option at Neta, here it’s mandatory. A cool $135 prompts a parade of exceptionally made edomaezushi served in its purest form, each lightly lacquered with soy and nestled atop a slip of warm, loosely packed rice.

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Greenwich Village
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