to Try in ‘22
By Amy S. White
Grilled, fried, baked, broiled, steamed, or raw, seafood is the go-to food of summertime. With so much of our great state on or close enough to the shoreline, there are plenty of options to to enjoy the freshest, locally caught fish and shellfish available. Here are twenty-two of the best seafood places from across the state for you to enjoy all summer long. Some are seasonal, and most have outdoor seating with water views. We’ve also included three recipes that show that cooking seafood at home is not the daunting task it seems to be.
Note: This list was crowd-sourced, does not include chain restaurants, and does not follow any particular order.
Maine Fish Market and Restaurant
60 Bridge Street, East Windsor.
Maine Fish is located in one of the oldest commercial buildings in East Windsor; it dates back to the 1790s. Their most recent renovation/expansion includes a much larger dining room and beautiful outdoor eating area. The extensive menu offers seafood cooked every way and in just about any combination possible. You can also purchase local seafood at market price at their retail counter. MUST TRY: Maine Seafood Market’s Famous Fried Seafood Platter of fried shrimp, pollock, whole-belly clams, scallops, and seafood salad served with a salad and two sides.
Mickey’s Oceanic Grill
119 Pitkin Street, East Hartford.
An institution since 1953, this diner serves its seafood specialties with counter ordering and mostly outside tables. Besides some of the best fried seafood around, they serve breakfast and lunch with plenty of non-seafood options like burgers and hot dogs. Watch for specials like LobsterFest Thursday, Friday and Saturday, when lobster rolls are buy 2 save $5, buy 4 save $10. MUST TRY: Fried Fish Sandwich – https://www.restaurantji.com/ct/east-hartford/mickeys-oceanic-grill-/
Donahue’s Clam Castle
1324 Boston Post Road, Madison.
This seasonal shoreline spot has been serving seafood-shack favorites just down the street from Hammonasset Beach for sixty years. It’s BYOB and dog-friendly, with indoor and outdoor seating, and award-winning clam chowder. You might even catch a glimpse of Chef Jacques Pepin who is known to be a fan. MUST TRY: Scallop Taco—fried, broiled, or blackened wild-caught scallops with pico de gallo, cilantro, cabbage slaw, and lime crema.
Saybrook Fish House—2165 Silas Deane Highway, Rocky Hill.
At this busy restaurant in Rocky Hill, you can enjoy a complete meal of your choice of seafood entrée served with warm bread, salad, and a fresh fruit basket. Besides their dinner options, Saybrook Fish offers a lighter lunch menu, early bird specials, a children’s menu, and a lounge menu that make this a popular family dining spot. MUST TRY: Surf and Turf of three baked stuffed shrimp served alongside grilled Angus sirloin.
271 Newington Avenue, Hartford.
While this Portuguese-American restaurant is not a seafood place per se, their seafood dishes are well-known and beloved. Clams, shrimp, cod, and other seafood options can be found in both their appetizer and entrée lists often served in flavorful wine sauces that will make you think you’re jet-setting on Portugal’s Silver Coast. MUST TRY: Pasta Primavera—Sauteed shrimp and steamed clams with white wine and garlic over pasta.
110 Glastonbury Boulevard, Glastonbury. For a more upscale seafood experience, visit Max Restaurant Group’s Max Fish. Their extensive raw bar is nearly unparalleled and includes sampler, hi-rise, and “skyscraper” options. Seafood is highlighted on their lunch, dinner, happy hour “shark bites,” and brunch menus, which include appetizers, entrees, and poke bowls. MUST TRY: Bouillabaisse–shrimp, mussels, clams, and hake in a saffron broth with roasted fennel and tomato and saffron rouille.
Lenny’s Indian Head Inn
205 South Montowese Street, Branford.
This bustling family-owned spot is popular with locals, visitors, and boaters who flock to its outdoor deck and “boat bar” that offer a beautiful view of Sybil Marsh. From lobster bisque and clam chowder to fried and broiled seafood to hot and cold lobster rolls, Lenny’s has it all. Their “takeout trays” are great for parties and picnics, too. MUST TRY: Ultra-local Montowese Cove oysters.
The Place Restaurant
901 Boston Post Road Guilford.
What began with a sailor hosting an informal clambake along Route 1 has become perhaps the most unusual restaurant on our list. The Place opens for the season in May and closes in late October. Visitors sit on tree stumps around bright red painted tables while cooks roast clams, lobsters, and corn on the cob over an 18-foot open fire pit. The a la carte menu is posted, and guests are invited to BYOB along with their own side dishes, tablecloths, and candles. A truly unique experience. MUST TRY: Roast Clam Special—littleneck clams bathed in a cocktail sauce and butter mixture then roasted directly over the fire.
CT Chowder Co.
268 Quinnipiac Avenue, North Haven.
As the name implies, chowder is a staple at this newcomer. That said, there are several other distinctive options on this place’s menu, including a surf and turf burger (stuffed with cheese and topped with lobster), lobster pot pie served in a bread bowl, cod fish Reuben, and specials that change weekly. MUST TRY: CT Clam Chowder—a hearty mix of New England, Rhode Island, and Manhattan clam chowders.
13 Water Street, Mystic.
With its zinc bar and roomy deck, Mystic’s Oyster Club delivers boat-to-table fine dining from a seasonal menu that features locally sourced ingredients. The in-house butcher cuts sustainably and locally raised meats, and the raw bar menu features clams and oysters from CT, RI, and NY. For obvious reasons, the menu changes often. MUST TRY: Oysters Rockefeller made with creamed spinach, sourdough breadcrumbs, and Finback Cheese from The Mystic Cheese Company.
Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale
86 Boston Post Road, Westbrook or 1301 Boston Post Road, Madison.
With two locations, Lenny and Joe’s is the shoreline favorite for its countless “fin-atics.” The Westbrook location has both a dining room and enclosed heated porch while the one in Madison features an indoor dining room, outdoor picnic area, and a carousel whose proceeds go to charitable causes. The menus and hours vary by location, so check online before you go. MUST TRY: Fried Whole Belly Clam Dinner.
548 Boston Post Road, Westbrook.
Shoreline seafood fans gather at Bill’s near the “singing” bridge to feast on seafood and more at the outside picnic tables and dining room overlooking the Patchogue River. The menu is wide-ranging and includes a steamed and raw bar as well as fried seafood platters, sandwiches, and Italian-inspired seafood entrees. Try to save room for a visit to the ice cream and gift shop. This is a cash-only restaurant. MUST TRY: Bill’s Own Seafood Platter with shrimp, clam strips, scallops, cod, French fries, onion rings, and coleslaw.
2 Bridge Street, Old Saybrook. Fresh Salt serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Saybrook Point Resort and Marina. Diners come to enjoy local, seasonal seafood and other specialties with a breathtaking view of Long Island Sound. There is indoor and outdoor dining as well as the Fresh Salt Porch, which are the most longed-for seats. MUST TRY: Lobster Pot Pie—lobster, shrimp, scallops, asparagus, carrots, leeks, tarragon, and lobster cream sauce in puff pastry.
Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock
80 Hamilton Street, New London.
Another seasonal favorite, Captain Scott’s has plenty of outdoor seating in the sun or under their large pavilion on Shaw’s Cove. Fans rave about their hot lobster roll, which comes in two sizes, with plenty of lobster meat drenched in hot butter with a sprinkle of Old Bay on a perfectly soft bun. BYOB and hours, especially in spring, can change depending on the weather, so call ahead. MUST TRY: Clam fritters.
Shell and Bones Oyster
Bar and Grill
100 South Water Street, New Haven.
Shell and Bones offers waterfront dining amidst romantic fireplaces in historic City Point. That it is CT’s only restaurant acknowledged by the James Beard Foundation for being “Committed to the goal of the Smart Catch Program” proves their dedication to serving only fresh and sustainable seafood. Their daily selection of boutique farm-to-table oysters is as dazzling as the view.
MUST TRY: Alaskan black garlic cod with bok choy, bamboo tacu tacu, and ginger lemongrass broth.
152 Commerce Street, Clinton.
A seafood shack at its very core, Lobster Landing sits at a marina, is decorated with buoys, and has crushed clamshells instead of pavement. It lacks pretension as well as an actual website, but the service is fast and friendly, and the lobster rolls are rumored to be among the state’s best. Dog-friendly and BYOB. MUST TRY: Lobster roll—¼ lb. hot lobster meat on a toasted sub roll with lemon and melted butter.
15 Riverview Avenue, Noank.
What was once a small gas dock and bait shop is now a bustling seafood restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating on the water in Noank. Ford’s is open year-round (except February), is pet-friendly, BYOB, and does not accept reservations. The wait is worth it, however, for the views, the ambience, and the famous bisque bomb. MUST TRY: Bisque Bomb—½ lb. hot lobster meat served in a bread bowl and topped with creamy lobster bisque.
S and P Oyster Restaurant and Bar
1 Holmes Street, Mystic.
New England meets South America at this chic hot spot on the Mystic River. The food here is perfectly seasoned, beautifully presented, and skillfully served by a top-notch staff, several of whom have been there more than a decade. Catch the scent of the wood fired grill as you savor some of Mystic’s best cuisine, all with a view of the town’s famous drawbridge. MUST TRY: Seafood Paella—monkfish, shrimp, mussels, little neck clams, Spanish chorizo, and Bomba rice.
575 Riverside Avenue, Westport.
This seafood restaurant and bar on the Saugatuck River has an ever-changing menu featuring sustainable seafood and local produce. Find buck-a-shuck Copp’s Island oysters during happy hour (starting at 4:30 Tuesday-Friday). While you’re there, indulge in grilled octopus, a rarity in this state’s seafood scene. MUST TRY: Deviled eggs with fried oysters and pickled onions.
The Fish Market
1307 West Main Street, Willimantic.
Eastern CT’s best retail seafood market, The Fish Market also carries prepared seafood lunches and dinners for takeout. Soups including chowder, gumbo, and bisque are available by the pint or quart. The menu also has fried seafood platters, rolls, and sides. MUST TRY: Fish and chips.
Flanders Fish Market and Restaurant,
22 Chesterfield Road, East Lyme.
A second-generation, family-run business, this restaurant and retail market runs buck-a-shucks from 3-5 daily, and a $7 fish and chip special on Tuesdays. The market carries fresh fish and shellfish, as well as offerings from the restaurant such as their lauded lobster pot pie, soups, dips, seafood salads, and their own “Tears of Joy” cocktail sauce. They do catering and clambakes too. MUST TRY: Cappy’s Combo—crab cake, shrimp, stuffed clam, stuffed flounder, stuffed shrimp, fish filet, and bay scallops served blackened or broiled with a choice of side.
884 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield.
Recognized as one of the best fresh fish markets in southern New England, City Fish is retail, wholesale, restaurant, and takeout counter all in one. They have been delivering the highest quality seafood products throughout the state for over 85 years. Their extensive website includes FAQs and recipes along with their vast seafood offerings. MUST TRY: Soft Shell Crab Sandwich (available from April to August).