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The Best Seafood Shacks for Summer

lobster_dinner1There’s little we associate with summer as much as shellfish… from whole steamed lobsters served with corn on the cob and drawn butter to toasted rolls piled high with fried clams, and iced platters lined with freshly shucked raw oysters, cocktail sauce, and lemon wedges.

Can’t make it to Nantucket, Newport, or Montauk this year?  There are plenty of seaworthy spots in New York that are no more than a subway ride away – from The Lobster Place and its new eatery, Cull & Pistol, in Chelsea Market to the recently opened Kittery in Brooklyn.  So treat yourself to a crustacean staycation this summer by chowing down at some of the city’s best seafood shacks.

The Lobster Place and Cull & Pistol

The Lobster Place and <em>Cull & Pistol</em>
75 9th Avenue
Chelsea,New York 10011
(212) 255-5672

There’s no shortage of terrific lunch spots inside Chelsea Market, such as Amy’s Bread, Sarabeth’s Kitchen, and Dickson’s Farmstand Meats.  But its hard to resist the allure of The Lobster Place’s glittering shellfish display.  Or their brand new restaurant, Cull & Pistol, for that matter.   First, let’s stick with the Lobster Place and its seemingly endless array of super fresh items to take home and cook, including live lobsters, head-on shrimp, Jonah crabs, sea scallops, cockles and whelks.  (We could go on and on.)  And the recently expanded roster of sit-down options only add to the appeal.  There’s a sushi bar, a stand-up oyster stand, a steamed lobster counter and the “Shack in the Back,” which sells bisques and chowders, Po’Boys, cold cocktail plates, fried fish, and Picnic Boxes.  Choose a Crab Club, Tarragon Shrimp or Lobster Roll, sided with Cape Cod Chips, an oatmeal raisin cookie, and a Maine Root soda.  And if you don’t have the patience to cook at home, just head next door to Cull & Pistol for classics, the likes of a New England-style Lobster Roll, crab claws and a rotating menu of 10 oysters daily.  This place is the real deal.

Red Hook Lobster Pound

Red Hook Lobster Pound
16 Extra Pl
Bowery,New York 10003
(212) 777-7225

This no-frills spot in Red Hook boasts some of the tastiest lobsters in the city.  That’s because instead of purchasing pounded lobsters (that have been held in tanks) they actually serve as the pound itself, obtaining fresh-off-the-boat crustaceans daily from the coasts of Maine.  They pack a ton of sweet meat into their best-selling rolls, served either Maine-style (cold and with mayo) or in the Connecticut fashion (warm and slathered in butter).  Not that you need to trek out to Brooklyn to get your hands on one.  The Red Hook Lobster Pound is a regular at various festivals, like SmorgasBar in the South Street Seaport, and their fleet of lobster-roll peddling trucks, called Big Red, keep regular routes throughout the city.

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Lobster Joint

Lobster Joint
201 E Houston Street
Lower East Side,New York 10002
(646) 896-1110

The Crab, Clam and Crispy Oyster Rolls (also available as wallet-friendly sliders) are totally awesome at Lobster Joint, which has locations in both Greenpoint and the Lower East Side.  But when it comes to seafood sandwiches, lobster is always the last word.   Sample the  straight-up, Connecticut-style Roll or the killer, “everything-but-the-kitchen sink” Lobster Club, made with celery, fresh herb mayo, avocado and bacon.  Looking for even more lobster?  The house Bloody Mary actually comes garnished with an entire claw! Yup.

Pearl Oyster Bar

Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia Street
West Village,New York 10014
(212) 691-8211

Widely touted as having one of the city’s best Lobster Rolls, this West Village favorite expanded a few years back to cater to the crustacean-loving crowds, too.  And yes, the roll, brimming with claw and tail meat, and swimming in rich mayo is a delight (it better be at $30).  But there’s a lot to love here besides lobster.  We gravitate towards the selection of Market Oysters (this is an oyster bar, after all),  the buckets of Steamer Clams, and the surprisingly affordable Combination Cocktail, which includes shrimp, oysters and clams.  And yes, lobster.

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The Lobster Club

The Lobster Club
169 Thompson Street
Greenwich Village,New York 10012

After cornering the market on Italian-American cuisine with their three insanely popular restaurants, Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone have their sights on the East Coast.  The upcoming Lobster Club is their ode to fish shack fare, although instead of offering rolls, succulent shellfish will be integrated into towering triple deckers.  Especially if they can manage to open for the start of the summer season, we predict another runaway hit for the boys behind Parm, Torrisi, and Carbone.

Kittery

Kittery
305 Smith Street
Brooklyn,New York 11231
(718) 643-3293

It’s pretty hard to rival the experience of slurping shellfish on the actual waterfront.  But there’s plenty to love about the new Smith Street shack, Kittery, which offers coastal specialties from Maine to the Gulf.  Enjoy Steamers, Fish baskets, Full Belly Clam platters and pints of Allagash White beer at wooden picnic tables in the courtyard, overlooking the steady, small-town bustle of Carroll Gardens.  It may not be oceanside, but it’s not a bad conciliation prize.

Johnny's Famous Reef Restaurant

Johnny's Famous Reef Restaurant
2 City Island Avenue
Bronx,New York 10464
(718) 885-2086

The Bronx’s City Island is a seafood lover’s dream.  In fact, there are 12 devoted restaurants packed into a 1.5 mile stretch of land.  And though you can’t really go wrong here if you’re craving shellfish, Johnny’s Famous Reef Restaurant is a hands-down favorite among locals and ours.  The circa-1950 eatery serves its food cafeteria-style along an expansive boardwalk overlooking Long Island Sound.  There are a few raw offerings, like oysters and clams, but the primary draw here is anything deep-fried.   It’s an art here and a tasty one.   Think fried shrimp, calamari, scallops, flounder and even lobster tail, piled on a massive tangle of skinny french fries.

Grey Lady

Grey Lady
77 Delancey Street
Lower East Side,New York 10002
(646) 580-5239

This classy Lower East Sider emulates a more monied fish shack (the name refers to the rolling grey fogs of Nantucket).  Look for a tad more refined options like New England Clam Chowder with Applewood Smoked Bacon and Chili Oil, Lobster Pot Pie with Peas and Shitakes, and Grilled Fish.  Lest we forget their specialty cocktails (worth ordering), like the Whiskey Diablo, made with Bourbon, Chambord, ginger ale and lime.  It’s a bit more casual at their adjoining takeout spot, Nor East Clam Shack,which serves Fried Clam Rolls, Lobster Rolls, and an extensive raw bar.

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