Desperately seeking seafood restaurants in DC? Peruse our list of the capital’s best restaurants specializing in oysters, crabs, lobster rolls and fish from splurge-worthy spots to your next cheap date idea. And… since cocktails and oysters are a natural match, some of these top establishments double as the most standout bars in DC. Done with the list and still feeling fishy? Hit up the best sushi in the city next, you shameless seafood-loving machine.
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The 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 or 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.
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.
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.
Sea Catch Restaurant’s position along Georgetown’s scenic C&O Canal is perfect for a seafood restaurant, but the off-the-beaten-track location means it’s easy to miss. Here’s why you should track down this white whale: The raw bar serves up clams, oysters and colossal shrimp by the piece, as well as different types of ceviches; whole Maine lobsters are available by the pound; and for those who like their filets with a bit of crunch, rejoice knowing that the chef isn’t afraid to fire up that fry basket and cook fish to a golden brown. Come brunch, expect dishes like smoked salmon sliders and Bloody Mary oysters.
Owned and run by renowned culinary pair Ann Cashion (chef) and John Fulchino, Johnny’s relocated to North Capitol Street 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.
Captain White is located within the Maine Avenue Fish Market, a bustling DC institution teeming with seafood just-plucked from the ocean and bay. The market is the longest continually running market in the United States and Captain White is a major player. This stalwart hums with energy as fishmongers fling the day’s catch onto a bed of ice or corral anxious lobsters that can sense their fate. Captain White’s lets you pick your fish and cooks it to your liking on the spot. A tip: You’ll find some of the best prices for fresh crab in town here, so think twice before settling for that imitation stuff.
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.
Much like the bad boy with a checkered past, we don’t recommend you fall in love with any one item at The Oceanaire: The menu changes so frequently according to what’s freshest that you’re unlikely to see many repeats. One exception is the near-legendary New England clam chowder packed with cream and plump clams. Though there are a dozen locations of this restaurant sprinkled throughout the United States, Oceanaire stays sleek with an interior reminiscent of a cruise ship. Think paneled wood walls, swanky leather booths and marlins hung on the walls.
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.