Daily Catch: 10 Can’t-Miss Seafood Dishes
The seaside has been a welcoming destination for generations of travelers looking to let the ocean breeze blow their worries and to-do lists out of sight and out of mind. And while the rejuvenating benefits of sun, sand, and surf are reason enough to pay a visit to the shore, there’s an additional pleasure you can count on, if you know the right spots to find it: the seafood.
As you bask in the ocean’s healing power, local fishermen are bringing in the day’s catch, and waiting chefs are grinding their secret spices in preparation for the fresh harvest. It all makes for a timeless quality that you can partake in by savoring the seafood specialties at coastal regions around the country. Each of these dishes offers its own spin on the local catch, feeding both body and soul as you fall into step with the rhythm of the sea.
THE ‘DOWNEAST’ LOBSTER EXPERIENCE
Stewman’s Lobster Pound | Bar Harbor, ME
In the ice-cold Atlantic waters off Bar Harbor, Maine, lobsters scuttle and mollusks do whatever mollusks do (hanging out, mostly), but ultimately they both end up on the plates of hungry visitors. These are the signal seafoods of Maine, and the basics of cooking them have remained tried and true for generations. No one does it more authentically than Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina‘s Stewman’s Lobster Pound, with its “Down East” Lobster Experience. This is where Stewman’s puts the full weight of its seafood chops into a one-and-a-quarter-pound steamed Maine lobster, served alongside New England clam chowder, local mussels, buttered sweet corn and potatoes, and finished off with homemade pie made with Maine blueberries.
Clubhouse Grill | Rockport, ME
If you’re not quite hungry enough for the full lobster experience, check off this Maine bucket-list item instead. Wars have (nearly) been waged over whether this iconic sandwich is best served cold with mayo (the traditional Maine style) or warm with butter (Connecticut style); on a toasted top-split hot dog bun or a potato roll; garnished with lettuce or greens-free. At Samoset Resort, The Clubhouse Grill’s signature take keeps it pure and chilled: tender, just-shucked Rockport lobster with creamy lemon mayonnaise on a chewy, crusty baked roll.
Havana | Bar Harbor, ME
Just less than a 15-minute walk from West Street Hotel and Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina, the Latin-inspired restaurant Havana has been putting its spicy spin on local seafood for more than 20 years. Its seafood paella is an artful intersection of New England and Valencian culinary traditions. A coastal cornucopia of sustainably harvested lobster, mussels, shrimp, and scallops is melded with chicken smoked to perfection, zesty chorizo, and tomatoes and peppers from the restaurant’s own organic garden. It’s all cooked in saffron rice and finished off with socarrat, the charred layer of rice from the bottom of the pan — which is considered by aficionados to contain the essence of this transatlantic dish.
BLUE CRAB-CRUSTED GROUPER
Drift Kitchen + Bar | Jensen Beach, FL
With its chunky flakes and mild, light taste, grouper is the perfect foil for strong flavors like orange, basil, and thyme. At Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa, Drift Kitchen + Bar‘s signature dish folds in all three while multiplying the seafood quotient: The fish is rolled in a mixture of crabmeat and panko, rather than the classic breadcrumbs, before being pan-fried and finished in the oven. It’s served over garden veggies and roasted Yukon potatoes, with a tangy citrus butter sauce. The most popular dish on Drift’s menu since the restaurant opened in 2017, it’s a special-occasion entree that’s simple enough to recreate at home.
GULF COAST CIOPPINO
Sea-Guini | Clearwater Beach, FL
An Italian take on bouillabaisse, cioppino was invented in San Francisco in the 1800s, when Italian immigrant fishermen shared the day’s catch with their fellow fishermen who had come home without a haul. Think of it as the seafood version of stone soup. At Opal Sands Resort & Spa, Sea-Guini’s East Coast version is packed with locally harvested littleneck clams, mussels, shrimp, diver scallops, and lobster tail, simmered in a spicy tomato broth. It’s one of the restaurant’s extensive selection of gluten-free options; even the house-made penne, gnocchi, and rigatoni can be swapped out for gluten-free pasta.
Sails Restaurant | Naples, FL
Tuna tartare was invented in the United States by a Japanese chef looking to satisfy some picky customers who rejected the beef version. His light and fresh Asian-European fusion, a seafaring cousin to the French steak tartare, quickly became a hit. At Sails Restaurant, a mere 6-minute drive from Edgewater Beach Hotel, tuna tartare is featured on the prix fixe and Sunday Champagne Brunch menus. Sushi-grade tuna is marinated in a white soy vinaigrette, encased in fennel marmalade, and served over avocado mousse with sesame tuiles on the side.
The Sandbar | Jupiter, FL
No seafood roundup would be complete without the humble yet unbeatable fish taco. The Sandbar, Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa’s poolside restaurant and bar, takes this perennial favorite to new heights, complementing grilled, blackened, or tempura-battered mahi mahi with crispy slaw, jack cheese, tomato salsa, cilantro sour cream, and chipotle aioli, all wrapped up in a flour tortilla. Add the Sandbar’s Fresh Agave Margarita, made with organic agave nectar, fresh lime, and Florida orange juice, and life doesn’t get much better than this.
50 Ocean, Delray Beach, FL
You can’t go wrong with anything at 50 Ocean – the view, the food, the tipples are all worthy of endless praise. Positioned to face the white sands of Delray Beach, the restaurant puts seafood under its own menu category, so you already know you’ll have a superior seascape meal. Start off with a plate of mussels, which comes with roasted shallots, white wine-chili broth and heirloom tomatoes, and then direct your attention to the main course. The blue crab-crusted grouper is a crowd-pleaser, and so are the scallops – lightly sweet and buttery, seared to perfection. They come accompanied by asparagus, sweet peas, wild mushrooms, aged balsamic and grana padano. One word: Delicious.
CRACKED CONCH BENEDICT
Key Largo Conch House | Key Largo, FL
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day (brunch qualifies when you’re on vacation), so why not up the nutritional ante by making it conch, rich in vitamin A and healthy omega fatty acids. Staying at Reefhouse Resort & Marina? Fuel up for a day of sightseeing or wave-hopping with Key Largo Conch House’s Cracked Conch Benedict, a medley of golden fried conch, poached eggs, and sliced tomato on an English muffin, topped with hollandaise and lobster and conch ceviche. (It’s only a quick, 6-minute drive away from your home base.) While the mollusk is no longer harvested in the US due to overfishing (wild-caught Bahamian conch is typically served instead), it’s definitely worth sampling this traditional food that has become a symbol of the Keys.
YUZU-GLAZED YELLOWTAIL SNAPPER
Latitudes | Key West, FL
At Sunset Key Cottages, Latitudes’ dual focus on locally sourced fresh fish and tropical fruit comes together in this unique dish. With its mild flavor and firm flesh, yellowtail snapper — one of the most popular and plentiful Keys fish — is the ideal canvas for the tart and fragrant yuzu, aka Japanese citron, a hybrid of the Ichang papeda (another Asian citrus fruit) and a sour mandarin orange. Pan-seared and served with jasmine rice, mint snap-pea salad, and vin blanc sauce, it’s a sensual taste explosion that could easily have helped elect Latitudes as one of the 100 most romantic restaurants in America.