There are plenty of fish in the sea, and just as many at the best seafood restaurants in D.C., specializing in oysters, crabs, lobster rolls and fish from splurge-worthy spots to your next cheap date idea. The District offers diners just-caught delicacies along the East Coast. And since cocktails and oysters are a natural match, many of these top establishments double as the most standout bars in DC. Still feeling fishy? Let the city’s best sushi restaurants lure you in for a visit.
Best seafood restaurants in DC
This pearl of the Georgetown waterfront comes from Fabio Trabocchi, the same deft chef behind Fiola and Casa Luca. It’s hard to focus on your meal with welcome distractions like docking boats and glistening chandeliers in the opulent dining room (maritime kitsch need not apply). But dishes like olive oil-poached Maine halibut and a whole dole carved tableside hold your attention. For the full rigmarole, order a seafood tower that puts Pisa to shame. The stack is brimming with cooked and raw shellfish, bivalves and more served chilled atop crushed ice. This is definitely the place for a special occasion—with a price tag to match.
Offering a daily rotation of oysters on the half shell, Hank’s has become a serious contender among Washington raw bar destinations. For this reason alone, a visit is worthwhile. But the cocktails and small plates (garlic steamed mussels, popcorn shrimp and calamari, peel ’n’ eat shrimp) are also nothing to sneeze at. Feel like loosening your belt? Then three cheers for their larger plates, like the lobster roll with fries. The only thing that’s missing is dessert, the reason for the parting gift of dark chocolate chunks delivered with the bill.
From the same team that brought you Pearl Dive comes BlackSalt, a combination fish market and seafood restaurant. Whereas Pearl Dive tends to draw the happy hour crowd, BlackSalt is a bit more refined. (Translation: Expect martini-sipping high rollers versus chatty groups letting off steam.) Tried something you loved? There’s a fish market in the front portion of the restaurant filled with fresh fish and hard-to-find-seafood like shad roe. Grab a filet on your way out and try (the operative word here being try) to recreate the magic at home.
Quickly after Pearl Dive Oyster Palace opened in 2011, restaurateurs Jeff and Barbara Black’s fifth restaurant became the Delta prize of Logan Circle. When the weather’s nice, the building’s garage door facade is flung open, so folks can enjoy their drinks and light fare curbside. East and West Coast oysters are available and come with a cilantro-jalapeno “dive sauce.” For a real treat, ask for a list of the premium oysters available. Corn muffins are good for soaking up the belly-warming seafood gumbo, which is loaded with oysters, Louisiana shrimp, local crab, Tasso ham and okra.
This sophisticated food stall within Union Market comes from the Rappahannock Oyster team, a family-run company that produces over 1 billion bivalves a year. The first and only DC outpost does a swift business within this frenzied food hall. (Can’t find it? Just listen out for the “sluuuurps”.) Of course there’s oysters, but don’t overlook heftier dishes like lambs and clams, easily the restaurant’s most popular made with merguez sausage, sofrito, peas and aioli.
A raw bar, suspended row boats hanging from the ceiling and water-front views make this New England-leaning restaurant a must-visit if you’re in the mood for seafood. Chef Kyle Bailey (formerly of Birch and Barley) weaves magic in the kitchen, including crispy skin rockfish and stuffed shells with ricotta, tomato sauce, broccoli rabe and pinenuts.
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sara R.
From the same team behind DGS in Dupont Circle comes this sparkly, water-side restaurant in Yards Park. Nautical rope and splashes of blue hues set the stage for teetering seafood towers, Virginia- and Main-sourced oysters and hot plates like seared day boat scallops with farro, baby corn and huckleberry juice. Every day from 5-7pm, Whaley’s holds a $1 oyster happy hour. And, if the weather is nice, get yourself into the rosé garden, where over 10 different varieties of pink wine are poured alongside light snacks.
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sherry H.
Owned and run by renowned culinary pair Ann Cashion (chef) and John Fulchino, Johnny’s relocated to Adams Morgan a few years ago. The restaurant has stayed the same, though: it’s famous for its super high-grade seafood ingredients, from oysters on the half shell to sea scallops lightly sauteed and served with roasted vegetables and a lemon caper sauce. Jazz and blues—and strong drinks—create a vibrant atmosphere and the restaurant hums with its own success.
If Joe’s is good enough for President Obama, it’s good enough for us. This Miami import practically next door to the White House draws celebrities and high rollers (including the President himself) with rich surf-and-turf menu items like their New York strip and a Chilean sea bass with miso glaze. The restaurant has made a name for itself (literally) for its quality stone crabs. The coral and black claws are filled with sweet, flakey meat that begs to be doused in melted butter.
From Travis Croxton (co-owner of Rappahannock Oyster Bar) comes this Mosaic District hot spot. You’d never believe you were in the middle of a land-locked shopping center when plates of glistening clams, oysters and ceviches whiz past your table. Similar to the Rappahannock outpost in Union Market, Brine also serves the famous lambs and clams dish, made with house-made merguez sausage, harissa and clams. Order it and don’t look back.
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Catch 15