On this island, seafood is one of the most popular cuisines. Local fish and shellfish and their imported relatives are served grilled, baked, broiled, fried, sautéed, poached, steamed, pan-seared, marinated, and raw.
And, over the years, the staples have gone well beyond those served in the era of the combo platter, fried or broiled; basic clam-bar specialties; and lobster-salad rolls.
A new generation of eateries takes in true oyster bars, whole-fish specialists, casual spots with fish markets as well as restaurants, and destinations for ceviche, seasonal fare, and whatever a creative chef finds challenging. It’s easy to become a pescatarian.
Here are Newsday’s choices for the top 10 seafood restaurants of 2019.
Note: Most dishes mentioned are samples of the restaurants’ menus and may not be available at all times. Seasonal changes and dish substitutions are common.
Head out to the Montauk Seafood Festival
Glory in the menu at the Montauk Seafood Festival, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7 and 8. Local restaurants sell their signature dishes under a big tent at Gurney's Star Island Resort and Marina, 32 Star Island Rd. Look for Manhattan and New England clam chowders, lobster rolls, stone crab claws, sushi and more, along with beer and wine for sale. Not a fish fan, there will be steak and burgers on the menu, too. Children's activities include goldfish and crab racing and an ocean petting zoo. Live music with After Memphis on Saturday and the 3Bs on Sunday.
INFO 631-668-5077, montaukseafoodfestival.com
ADMISSION $2, free younger than 12; fee for food
At Bostwick's Chowder House in East Hampton, fried oysters are served with roasted-corn salsa and remoulade sauce.
Catch Oyster Bar
Catch Oyster Bar (63 N. Ocean Ave., Patchogue): The son-father team of Michael and Jim Avino opened Catch Oyster Bar in 2017. And the casual, 30-seater has been a downtown dining destination from the start. Subway tiles, exposed ductwork, models of fishing boats, and a distressed sculpture of a mermaid decorate the compact place, where most customer sit on stools. The obligatory choice, naturally, is oysters, raw or cooked, both east and west coast varieties. The oyster po'boy with Blue Points, the roasted oysters, and the spin on oysters Rockefeller with Parmesan cream rival them. Baked clam "stuffies" with bacon are excellent. So are the ceviche of scallops, vivid bluefin tuna crudo, and tender octopus salad. New England edges Manhattan in the clam-chowder competition. The shrimp-and-chicken jambalaya packs just enough heat; and the South Shore fish stew, with cod, calamari, and shellfish delivers them in a snappy garlic-tomato broth. Buttermilk-fried chicken and the "dockside dog" of kielbasa should satisfy the exclusively carnivorous. More info: 631-627-6860, catchoysterbar.com
Chicken and shrimp jambalaya with andouille spicy sausage, smoked ham, peppers, onions and arborio rice, served at Catch Oyster in Patchogue.
Inlet Seafood (541 E. Lake Dr., Montauk): Inlet Seafood is owned by fishermen. They respect the catch, the waters and you. Their second-floor restaurant is waterside, with a heady view of sailboats drifting by at sunset. More important, however, the seafood consistently is a pleasure, plain or fancy, cooked or uncooked. Baked Montauk Pearl oysters, with blue cheese and panko; spiced yellowtail and jalapeño sashimi with yuzu sauce; a spicy lobster and avocado roll wrapped in kombu seaweed paper; tuna tartare; shrimp shumai dumplings; and elegant nigirizushi are super starters. In season, try soft-shell crabs, either sautéed or fried; and pan-seared striped bass. Fluke piccata with mashed potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, olives, and capers; and tempura-style codfish and chips deservedly are mainstays, along with lobster, expertly steamed or broiled. Casually savor the Cajun-seasoned fish tacos and burritos. Linguine with clams is a deftly done version. Grilled sirloin steak with crisp onions and baked potato; and sliced skirt steak Bearnaise with fries will satisfy any diner not lured by seafood. The warm, double-fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream; and the chocolate chip cookies with ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce are apropos finales. More info: 631-668-4272, inletseafood.com
Inlet Seafood in Montauk serves cooked fish as well as an array of sushi such as this FM Station Roll.
The Jolly Fisherman & Steak House
The Jolly Fisherman & Steak House (25 Main St., Roslyn): The Jolly Fisherman opened in 1957. It has been owned by three generations of the Scheiner family. Steven Scheiner is the current chef-owner of the very traditional, ever-reliable seafood house that looks onto the Roslyn duck pond. There are some seasonal dishes, such as stone crabs, soft shell crabs and Nantucket Bay scallops. And, yes, you can bite into a tender filet mignon or sirloin steak. But the essentials each week are highlighted by the swordfish steak "extra thick cut" with mustard sauce, sautéed Florida red snapper, Dover sole meunière, broiled or boiled lobster, marinated and seared rare tuna, fried Ipswich clams, fish and chips, oysters and clams on the half-shell, shellfish cocktails, crabcakes with sauce rémoulade, New England-style clam chowder, lobster macaroni and cheese, and, for the landlocked, roast duckling a l'orange. At lunch, try the lobster-salad sandwich. Banana cream pie and chocolate cream pie, cheesecake and rice pudding are the better desserts. More info: 516-621-0055, jollyfishermanrestaurant.com
One of the signature dishes at The Jolly Fisherman & Steak House in Roslyn is banana creme pie.
Kingfish Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Kingfish Oyster Bar & Restaurant (990 Corporate Dr., Westbury): Chef Tom Schaudel's newest venture has a name that suits both the cuisine and the restaurateur. His vibrant establishment is situated in The Vanderbilt, a luxury hotel and rental residence. Eat here a couple of times and you'll want to stick around. The polished, smart, and flavor-packed spot is devoted to "Atlantic Rim," and is a seafood showcase where the day's catch counts. Apropos starters: oysters, either on the half-shell, grilled with Sriracha mayo, or fried; yellowtail poke; shrimp pad Thai; and an inventive undersea "charcuterie" combo that may include smoked bluefish pate, beet-cured gravlax and sea urchin custard. Segue to pan-roasted cod with Vidalia onion risotto; almond-crusted swordfish; crabcakes with soba noodles and seaweed; yellowtail poke; and the casual pleasures of the oyster po'boy, mini-lobster rolls and the tempura-fried ish-and-chips sandwich. Seafood alternatives: pan-roasted chicken and the bacon cheeseburger. The brown butter-and-fig tart with mascarpone gelato and the passion fruit cheesecake are satisfying finales. More info: 516-640-5777, kingfishoysterbar.com
Kingfish Oyster Bar & Restaurant in Westbury serves a seafood charcuterie platter.
Kyma (1446 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn): Kyma transports you to a reverie in sky-blue and white, a daydream of the Aegean and a hint of Santorini. The daily selection of whole fish ready to be grilled may include fagri, the sweet and meaty Mediterranean pink snapper; red snapper; royal dorado; pompano; and black sea bass. The grilled langoustines and giant tiger shrimp, the Maine lobster and Alaska king crab legs, will be pricey, but they're excellent. And the skewered swordfish materializes moist and splashily fresh. Precede any of these with a selection of flavorful Greek spreads, zucchini and eggplant chips with tzatziki sauce, zucchini fritters, grilled halloumi cheese, pan-fried graviera cheese, sesame-crusted feta cheese with candied figs, and an exceptional starter of grilled octopus with onions and capers. The watermelon salad with feta and the familiar Greek salad are refreshing. Kyma also prepares some of the best moussaka in Nassau or Suffolk, a superb charcoal-grilled sirloin steak, juicy lamb chops, and a savory lamb shank oven-baked with feta, orzo, and tomato sauce. Desserts matter here, from baklava, galaktoboureko and ekmek, to lush Greek yogurt. More info: 516-621-3700, kyma-roslyn.com
A side salad of feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and olives is served at Kyma in Roslyn.
Limani (1043 Northern Blvd., Roslyn): Grandeur is the order of the day at Limani, a sprawl of airy, elegant dining rooms surrounding an open kitchen and fresh fish displayed on ice. This Greek estiatorio serves a harvest of seafood, from Kumamoto oysters on the half shell to grilled whole fish. You can start off light, with a chili-laced salmon tartare; or luxe, with either grilled calamari stuffed with feta, manouri, and kefalograviera cheeses or smoky Tunisian octopus, also grilled and drizzled with oil and vinegar. For the main event, whole grilled and perfectly deboned fish such as loup de mer and royal dorado stand out alongside langoustines and skewers of swordfish with grilled peppers and tomatoes. Carnivores will find plenty to savor, too -- lamb chops, veal chops, and steaks all see flame here. Limani's prices can match its splendor, but lunchers and early birds should seek out the fixed-price menus, four courses that might finish with a moist slab of karidopita, or honey-drizzled walnut cake. More info: 516-869-8989, limani.com
Crab cake served with asparagus at Limani in Roslyn.
Lost at Sea
Lost at Sea (888 W. Beech St., Long Beach): About 22 diners fit snugly into Lost at Sea, chef-owner Alexis Trolf's name marine counterpart to his nearby, New American, and equally appealing Lost & Found. The menu at the cash-only eatery is just as tight as the dining room. But the food comes first on the terse menu, especially oysters and clams on the half-shell; Peconic Bay scallops with agrodolce, or a sweet-sour Italianate accent; a rich Arctic char tartare spiked with dill and Dijon mustard; broiled scallops with drawn butter and salsa verde; salmon with horseradish-dill crema; and the crudo, which changes daily. Consider the flaky cod finished with crisp breadcrumbs and lemon-zest sparked sauce; seafood salad with citrus vinaigrette; smoked fish dip with crostini; a peel-and-eat shrimp cocktail; and baked topneck clams. Steak frites with aioli may be the lone consolation for the landlocked customer. More info: 516-632-5263
A seafood salad in a citrus vinaigrette is one way to start things off at Lost at Sea in Long Beach.
Pearl (4338 Austin Blvd., Island Park): Pearl glistens, balancing contemporary flair with the style of a refined, white-tablecloth establishment. Chef Michael Ross's resume includes Jewel in Melville, Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport and Fiddleheads in Oyster Bay. His fare starts pristinely with excellent raw oysters, east and west coast varieties. Move on to standout grilled oysters finished with lemon-Sriracha butter. Octopus is boosted by black tahini, chickpeas, olives, as sweet peppers. Go casual with a mini-lobster roll accented with lemon aioli. They vie with lemon-panko fried clams, seared yellowfin tuna with soba-seaweed salad, and the ceviche du jour. Pan-seared Arctic char is a flavorful, colorful choice, paired with soft, purple cauliflower. Fresh linguine in an herbaceous tomato sauce stars lobster, but also basil, mint, and garlic. If for some reason you're not drawn to the seafood, Ross prepares an exemplary roast chicken. His banana trio, of cake, custard, and brulee; Greek yogurt with local honey, pistachios, and biscotti; and a sundae, with vanilla bean and caramel gelati and chocolate sauce suit Pearl. More info: 516-432-0723, pearlrestaurantny.com
Panko-lemon-crusted fried littleneck clams at Pearl in Island Park.
The Plaza Cafe
The Plaza Cafe (61 Hill St., Southampton): Chef-owner Doug Gulija, a master of seafood, opened this extraordinary spot in 1997. His cuisine is imaginative, meticulous, seasonal, served in a handsome, comfortable setting. Appetizer highlights include pan-seared local calamari with piquillo pepper, preserved lemon, and hummus; ceviche of sea scallops with purple potatoes; fluke sashimi with lemon confit and jalapeño-yuzu emulsion; grilled lobster-and-shrimp sausage with lobster sauce; pumpkin-lobster bisque with butter-poached lobster; lobster-and-corn chowder; spring pea soup with seared scallop, lime "air" and micro pea shoots; and grilled baby asparagus with a lobster-and-morel ragout. Gulija's main courses show flash and fervor, from the immediate-classic lobster-and-shrimp shepherd's pie and grilled swordfish loin matched with sweet-sausage meat in carrot-chive broth to grilled local skate wing with roast garlic-le puy lentils and macadamia-crusted mahi mahi with a plantain-chorizo mash; steamed red snapper with a mushroom trio, udon noodles, and ginger-lemongrass broth to a grilled, pasture-fed sirloin with potato-spinach hash. A memorable dessert: devoted to variations on the theme of strawberries. More info: 631-283-9323, plazacaferestaurant.com
Grilled baby asparagus with lobster-morel ragout at The Plaza Cafe in Southampton.