Thanks to the city’s proximity to open waters, seafood has always been an important part of the New York diet. In the early days of settlement, street vendors hawked fresh oysters for just cents apiece; today, a happy hour oyster goes for a buck. (To us, that’s still cheap eats.) Gotham’s obsession with seafood hasn’t died down, and no matter where you are in the city—whether you’re near the source at one of these waterfront restaurants or far from any shore at one of many Midtown restaurants—you can score a great plate of fish. These are the best seafood restaurants in NYC.
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Seafood restaurants in NYC
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.
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.
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.
Scuffed into submission by owner Joshua Boissy and the designers behind nearby Moto, this gorgeous salon—its green walls fogged with a faux patina that suggests decades of Gauloises smoke—is devoted to the twin pleasures of oysters and absinthe: two French Quarter staples with plenty of appeal in Brooklyn. The bar is especially roaring during happy hour (4 to 7pm Monday through Friday and 11am to 1pm Saturday and Sunday), when you can sample from the salon's 30 different bivalve varieties for a buck each.
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.
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.
After music-industry pal Adam Geringer-Dunn noticed a plethora of butchers but zero fish shops in the nabe, the pair began hosting pop-up lobster bakes. Now they’ve ventured into purveying, sourcing only seasonal and sustainable—and sometimes local—catch like wild Alaskan salmon and Arctic char at a retail counter. They put the fresh goods to use in dishes like lobster rolls, kelp-noodle pad Thai and Baja-style fish tacos dressed with citrus-cabbage slaw and chipotle-lime mayo, doled out in a tiled space outfitted with marble counters and high-top tables.
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.
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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Café Zona Sur
This casual Sunset Park dinette run by a husband-and-wife team serves breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. For the morning meal, start with a La Colombe espresso ($2.25) along with lemon-ricotta crepes ($7), huevos rancheros ($10) or a pesto focaccia topped with mozzarella and two sunny-side up eggs ($14). Not a fan of brunch? Try something savory from the lunch menu, like the croque monsieur ($10) or Zona Sur burger with gruyere, caramelized onions and roasted tomato on a brioche bun ($14). The dinner options include larger portions like a seafood linguini with mussels, cockles and the catch of the day ($16), pan-seared salmon with kale ($17) or cavatappi mac and cheese ($16). Thirsty? Order a glass of red or white sangria ($7 for a glass, $25 for a liter), or one of the assorted wines and beers. Cafe Zona Sur even offers a few sweet options for dessert fiends, like a chocolate souffle ($7), apple bread pudding ($6) and tiramisu ($6).
Venue says: “SERVING BREAKFAST, EGGS PANCAKES AND CREPES EVERYDAY UNTIL 4PM!!!”