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The best seafood restaurants on Long Island

Bouillabaisse at Bell & Anchor in Sag Harbor.

Bouillabaisse at Bell & Anchor in Sag Harbor. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Long Island's top seafood restaurants take fish seriously-- be it grilled whole, freshly shucked or hard-shelled. The best bets include come-as-you-are casual clam bars as well as upscale fish houses.

Anchor Down Dockside (2479 Adler Ct., Seaford) You might be forgiven for confusing this new Seaford eatery with Stephen Rosenbluth’s Merrick restaurant, called simply Anchor Down. Both offer a similar medley of fish, shellfish and more, but Dockside has one distinct advantage over its sister property: an outdoor deck on the Seaford canal with a pier to, yes, put one’s anchor down. While the place played host to Rosenbluth’s Cardoon in a past life, only the Mediterranean eatery’s delicious falafel balls have been grandfathered in. Otherwise, fried whole belly clams are the star of the menu--the buttermilk-buttered mollusks are revelatory. But don’t overlook Rosenbluth’s lobster roll--both Connecticut and New England styles are served--or his fancier dishes, to include crab- and shrimp-stuffed Montauk fluke, blackened swordfish and grilled branzino. Another winner: the crispy fish tacos, in which lightly fried cubes of cod are hammocked in a tart and flavorsome casing of cilantro, lime and pickled mango. More info: 516-785-2390, anchordowndockside.com

Bell & Anchor (3253 Noyack Rd., Sag Harbor): One frigid winter night at the Bell & Anchor, which is perched on the edge of a working marina, the dining room erupted into applause for a marriage proposal at one table while, at the bar, the bartender plunked down seared Peconic Bay scallops, in a lemon-cream sauce, during a month when scallops were nowhere to be found. "We know the baymen," she winked. That scene is typical of the Bell & Anchor, an irrepressible spot which manages to be a locals hangout, special-occasion place and superb seafood restaurant all at once. The connections forged with local fishermen over the last eight years translate to rare magic inside chef Sam McClelland’s kitchen, whether lobster thermidor panini, tilefish with Lyonnaise-style potatoes or pan-roasted monkfish (with littleneck clams and shrimp, of course) over saffron risotto. The drinks are on-point, the vibes are nautical and the welcome here is warm and lasting. More info: 631-725-3400, bellandanchor.com

Bigelow’s (79 North Long Beach Rd., Rockville Centre): Since 1939, this stalwart has been the Island’s unofficial Ipswich ambassador, frying up with abandon whole-belly clams from the town and environs. Just as delicious as those briny, oyster-like treats are Bigelow’s fried strips of Atlantic surf clams, sweeter and less rubber-band-y than anything Mrs. Paul ever stuffed into a box. The Andreolas family, exacting stewards of this local treasure since the 1990s, preside over a 20-seat counter and beautifully built new outdoor area, even as they serve up New England clam chowder that’s nothing like the milk soup you’ve been eating all your life, along with a Manhattan variant that's just as muscular. Let’s face it, though, Bigelow’s is a shrine to the fryolator, and rare is the sea creature that escapes its breaded, deep-fat treatment. Results are usually excellent, though, especially when accompanied by crunchy onion rings and hand-cut fries. An assault on your arteries? Maybe. But what a way to go. More info: 516-678-3878, bigelows-rvc.com

Catch Oyster Bar (63 N. Ocean Ave., Patchogue): Subway tiles, exposed ductwork and a distressed sculpture of a mermaid lend this cozy spot a nautical vibe, but Catch’s appeal goes far beyond décor. Though you’ll likely sit on a barstool (there are only a few tables), an hour or two spent here usually includes meeting some locals, slurping oysters not found anywhere else, downing an excellent cocktail and leaving the premises proud to be a Long Islander. Those oysters — mostly harvested locally, but a few hail from points north and west — are delivered daily and listed on a chalkboard; order some on the halfshell, and they’ll be shucked within eyeshot. Get a few more grilled with parmesan and butter — trust us on that — then segue to a tuna nicoise salad, scallop ceviche (an occasional special) or an oyster po’boy made made with lightly fried bivalves from the Great South Bay. Lovers of bouillabaisse can go for the South Shore seafood stew, and if you’re wondering why there’s a hot dog on the menu, it’s because co-owner Michael Avino (his dad, Jim, is a partner in Catch) owns a hot dog joint down the block called Duke’s. More info: 631-627-6860, catchoysterbar.com

Fatfish (28 Cottage Ave., Bay Shore): In the early aughts, chef Brian Valdini returned home to his native Long Island for a brief vacation — but instead ended up taking over this waterfront bistro to create a restaurant devoted to Mediterranean-style seafood and meat dishes. Even after superstorm Sandy took the place down to its pilings, the rebuilt Fatfish remains one of the South Shore’s tucked-way gems and Valdini is nowhere near to losing his edge. The crowd is resolutely local, the deck seems to hover over the Great South Bay and Valdini layers magic over every piece tuna, salmon, scallop, shrimp, oyster, monkfish, blackfish and fluke fillet that passes through the kitchen. Intuitive servers deliver the goods, from a finely-tuned crudo of tuna with oranges and pistachios to seared scallops meunière or roasted halibut with shiitake mushrooms. Nibblers can stick to plates of charcuterie, carousers to icy martinis and a raw bar, and everyone can drink in the jaw-dropping view. More info: 631-666-2899, fatfish.info

Five Ocean (5 New York Ave., Long Beach): This flip-flop-friendly dune-side eatery belies packs serious culinary firepower: Chef-owner Craig Attwood made his name running a number of high-end East End restaurants (East Hampton Point and Jedediah Hawkins Inn, among them). He brings his all experience and passion to bear on the modest surroundings. The menu reflects the seaside location, with local seafood pitched high (tuna tartar, roasted whole fish on a bed of caponata), low (fish tacos) and high-low (butter-poached lobster nachos). Any dish featuring clams is going to be a winner, as is the distinctly non-pescatarian fried chicken, two mahogany-crusted boneless thighs that share a big, low-sided galvanized steel bucket with a peppy slaw and hand-cut fries dusted with Old Bay seasoning. There’s a burger at lunch a strip steak at dinner, and good cheer all day long. More info: 516-517-2828, fiveoceanlongbeach.com

Kyma (1446 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn): Until it’s safe to travel to Santorini, Kyma will have to do. This beach party of a Greek seafood restaurant swings all year with Roslynites and anyone looking for a scene plus top-notch seafood. Operating partner Reno Christou and chef Chris Kletsides are veterans of nearby Limani; they were lured one mile east in 2013 and Kletsides’ menu hasn’t strayed far: the selection of pristine fresh whole fish may include fagri, the sweet and meaty Mediterranean pink snapper, red snapper, royal dorado, pompano and black sea bass, plus huge shrimp, Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab legs and plenty of Greek salads and spreads. Moussaka, steaks, chops and braised lamb shanks will satisfy non-fish-eaters. During prime time the noise level here can range from hubbub to din; early dinners are relatively serene. More info: 516-621-3700, kyma-roslyn.com

Limani (1043 Northern Blvd., Roslyn): Before Limani opened in 2008, Long Island had never seen either a fish restaurant or a Greek restaurant to match it. The sumptuous design eschewed Greek key motifs and paintings of Santorini in favor of mosaic tile, luxe upholstery and fine stemware. The fish, dozens of species sourced from all over the world, reclined upon a bed of ice, waiting for their turn over the fire where they would be grilled and then, in deference to their excellence, anointed simply with imported olive oil and lemon juice. Twelve years later, the restaurant still meets the high standard it set. None of this comes cheap, nor is the place to waste your money on the farmed branzino or salmon you can find elsewhere: go for the whole grilled fagri (Greek snapper) or the mammoth head-on South African shrimp. Pescaphobes will enjoy the fried, wafer-thin zucchini and eggplant, tomato salad (good year-round!) or lamb chops. More info:516-869-8989, limani.com

The Jolly Fisherman & Steak House (25 Main St., Roslyn): Yes, it’s old-fashioned, and that’s fine by us. Who isn’t charmed by a breadbasket overflowing with homemade nut bread and corn muffins, or a practically extinct "relish tray" full of celery, carrots and radishes on ice? And if old-fashioned means that you can expect snapper, sole and swordfish in addition to salmon and branzino; that you can dive into a platter of fried jumbo shrimp, Ipswich clams and sweet scallops; that you can order a three-pound lobster or fish and chips with malt vinegar; that stone crabs, soft-shell crabs and bay scallops are only served in season; that you can also get prime steaks and Long Island duck a l’orange—well then, we wish there were more old-fashioned seafood restaurants on Long Island. The Jolly Fisherman opened overlooking the Roslyn duck pond in 1957 and three generations of the Scheiner family have kept it going strong. More info: 516-621-0055, jollyfishermanrestaurant.com

Pearl (4338 Austin Blvd., Island Park): This restaurant, which marks a reunion for owners Paul and Candy Holand and chef Michael Ross, who all worked together 25 years ago at Pasta Grill in Syosset. Ross, whose résumé includes Fiddleheads in Oyster Bay and Jewel in Melville, has fashioned a contemporary menu that, since the pandemic, has expanded beyond its original focus on seafood. Now seared octopus with Romesco sauce and chickpeas, and pan-roasted halibut with wild mushrooms, fingerling potatoes and lobster sauce are joined by Thai barbecued ribs, grilled Duroc pork chop, chicken scarpariello and lots of pasta. More info: 516-432-0723, pearlrestaurantny.com

The Plaza Café (61 Hill St., Southampton): A fine cook as well as a leading voice among Island restaurateurs, chef-owner Doug Gulija’s fare is always delicious, frequently fascinating, and served in a polished and refined Hamptons dining room. The oft-changing menu reflects a searching, restless creativity, one whose recent appetizer highlights have included a salmon napoleon with pea pancakes, prosciutto-wrapped shrimp and a tian of crab meat, tuna tartare, and a wasabi-goosed avocado mash. Lately, the list of intriguing so-called medium plates has featured tuna poke nachos and a lobster roll with meat poached in butter. Main courses of note include the signature lobster-and-shrimp shepherd's pie, grilled swordfish loin matched with sweet-sausage meat in carrot-chive broth, and pan-seared king salmon with lardons and a mustard seed vinaigrette. But no visit to the Plaza is complete without sampling at least one (preferably more) of Gulija’s mother Maria’s desserts. Among the five or so available at any one time are the chocolate mousse cake and orange vanilla torte with a Creamsicle-ish sce cream, both epic in the best sense of the word. More info: 631-283-9323, plazacafesouthampton.com

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