These spots offer the freshest catch in the South.
We admit it: We had fun researching this story. When charged to find the region's best seafood dives, we jumped in, belly first. With such restaurants, sometimes there's a fine line between yummy and slummy. First and foremost, we made sure our choices were places we'd take our mamas. Each also had to have great food, an unforgettable atmosphere, and had to be either on the water or a casting net's toss away from it. Here are a few of our favorite spots we know you'll enjoy.
Location, location. The Crab's Claw on Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, has it, claws down, over most seafood restaurants scattered along the state's coast. Here's
why: Their two-story wooden deck rewards you with a commanding view of the beach. For the best effect, be there at sunset,
when the golden rays ignite sand, sea, and sky with the colors of fire.
Don't Miss: the Spicy Crab Dip (you can also get a milder version). Blue crabmeat, cream cheese, and spices (served with grilled pita points) make this the ultimate appetizer. For an entrée, try the fire-grilled salmon served with yellow rice and peas and sautéed plaintains with honey butter. The pastry chef's blackberry cobbler à la mode tastes like a sweet slice of summer. Mark Stith
The Crab's Claw: 201 West Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach, NC 28512; (252) 726-8222 or www.crabsclaw.com.
The sign outside J. B.'s Fish Camp & Seafood Restaurant proclaims "Southern Seafood With an Attitude." That's exactly what you'll find at this out-of-the-way spot on the Indian
River. Sandwiched between the river on one side and the Atlantic Ocean across the street, catches its own blue crabs and serves
them steaming hot in buckets.
Don't Miss: Oyster stew strikes a perfect balance between sweet and spicy, with kernels of corn, cream, parsley, paprika, and small, flavorful oysters. Save room for the Key lime pie, the real star here. Warner McGowin
J. B.'s Fish Camp & Seafood Restaurant: 859 Pompano Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169; (386) 427-5747 or www.jbsfishcamp.com.
Anglers have to backstroke for table space among the bankers, lawyers, secretaries, and other landlubbers who anchor for lsucculent
seafood specialties fresh off the boat at the hidden-away eatery between Houston and Galveston.
Don't Miss: About the best treasure you'll find here now is flavorful pecan-crusted snapper topped with lemon butter and fresh Drunken Red-fish cooked in a white cream wine sauce. Start with an order of shrimp, grilled or fried. Sit outside on the deck, and watch as the catch is unloaded from the fleet of shrimpboats. Then you'll see why the TopWater Grill is a secret too good to keep. Les Thomas
TopWater Grill: 815 Avenue O, San Leon, TX 77539; (281) 339-1232 or www.topwatergrill.com. Directions: From I-45, take State 517 east to the blinking red light in San Leon, and go right on Ninth Street to the water.
Exit east off I-95 at the coastal Georgia town of Eulonia, and soon you're winding along back roads barely wide enough for
two cars. Keep your nose toward the Sapelo River, and after a few turns you'll find yourself dead-ending at a gravel parking
lot. Welcome to Pelican Point Restaurant.
Don't Miss: You'll notice the freshness right away as you wade through the all-you-can-eat buffet and its more than 25 seafood items. If you're not quite that hungry, try the Fresh Fried Shrimp, a small mound of sweet Georgia whites landed right off the coast. No matter what you decide, you must try a cup of their spicy crab stew (accompanying all the entrées and the buffet); it's a must-slurp. Tanner Latham
Pelican Point Restaurant: On the Sapelo River in Crescent, Georgia; (912) 832-4295 or www.pelicanpointseafood.com. Directions: From I-95, take Exit 58, and go east 4 miles. Turn left onto Johnson Road, drive 3 miles, and turn left onto Sapelo Drive. The road dead-ends into the restaurant's parking lot. If using GPS insert: 1398 Sapelo Avenue, Crescent, GA.
The flashing lights and clanking coins of the nearby casinos seem a lifetime away here on the banks of the serene Bayou Bernard.
Snag a table out on the deck close to sunset when about the only shows around are the easy ripples from an occasional outboard
Don't Miss: Settle in with a cup of the She-Crab Bisque, and sail on to the Combination Po'boy heaped with fried shrimp and oysters. Tanner Latham
Blow Fly Inn: 1201 Washington Avenue, Gulfport, MS 39507; (228) 896-9812 or www.blowflyinn.com.
Alabama: Pirates Cove, 6664 County Road 95, Elberta, AL 36530; 251-987-1224 or www.piratescoveriffraff.com.
Florida: Boon Docks Restaurant, 14854 Bay View Circle, Panama City Beach, FL 32413; (850) 230-0005.
Maryland: Harrison's Chesapeake House, 21551 Chesapeake House Drive, Tilghman Island, MD 21671; (410) 886-2121 or www.chesapeakehouse.com.
South Carolina: Bowens Island Restaurant, 1870 Bowens Island Road, Bowens Island, SC 29412; (843) 795-2757 or www.bowensislandrestaurant.com
Virginia: One Fish-Two Fish, 2109 West Great Neck Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23451; (757) 496-4350 or www.onefish-twofish.com.