Trusting just any seafood restaurant that you spot on your daily commute isn’t a wise move. A fly-by-night joint that promises cheap seafood could be sourcing their seafood from unregulated suppliers. That could result in a subpar meal or worse. Instead, there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe and going with one of the many national seafood chains in the United States. You can trust their food, which is especially important when dealing with seafood.
No matter which seafood items you prefer, there’s sure to be a seafood chain that can come through for you. And while seafood tends to be more expensive than other types of food, you don’t need to empty your bank account to fill your stomach. Go to the right chain and you can find the perfect balance between great seafood and a low price tag.
This ranking will help you avoid the worst national seafood chains and get you pointed in the direction of the very best.
16. Long John Silver’s
Unless you are really desperate, Long John Silver’s isn’t a national seafood chain you should visit. While they have more than 850 locations, which is more than any other seafood chain in the United States, this fast food restaurant just isn’t that good. Everything is so oily and greasy that you will feel regret by the time you’ve finished your meal. Unless showering in fish scented oil sounds like a fun time to you, stay away.
It also shouldn’t surprise you that Long John Silver’s has some of the unhealthiest meals that can be found anywhere. With seemingly all their menu options drenched in oil, your caloric intake is destined to be quite high by the time you’re finished.
If you ignore this advice and still venture to Long John Silver’s out of your own volition, skip the fish and all the other seafood options and just order a platter of their yummy hush puppies.
15. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Don’t be confused and think that Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is a historical seafood chain that is somehow a part of Forrest Gump’s origin story. The truth of the matter is that this chain didn’t become a thing until two years after the fictional movie was released in theaters.
The seafood at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. isn’t terrible, but everything about this place is undeniably gimmicky. The decorations at their more than 30 locations are neat, but their seafood is overpriced. In fact, it’s easy to find people who classify Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. as a tourist trap. Considering that these restaurants are often strategically located in places where tourists congregate, that’s a claim that would be difficult to deny.
14. Arthur Treacher’s
You might remember Arthur Treacher’s as the place to go for amazing fish and chips. With a history that dates all the way back to the 1860s, this national seafood chain used to have more than 800 locations. However, don’t let nostalgia convince you that it’s a good idea to track down their nearest restaurant. It’s not what it used to be.
While there were multiple reasons for the demise of Arthur Treacher’s, perhaps the most damaging to their business was when the price of cod skyrocketed in the 1970s due to the Cod Wars between Britain and Iceland. While Americans loved their fish and chips when the price was right and the portions were huge, the enthusiasm faded when the cost of their food started to increase.
Even if you live near one of the remaining Arthur Treacher’s restaurants, you’d be wasting your time if you paid it a visit. The fish isn’t as good as it used to be, and the food no longer offers a good amount of bang for your buck.
13. Landry’s Seafood House
Landry’s Seafood House is like a slightly upgraded version of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. This restaurant isn’t as gimmicky, but most of the food options are bland, and when you factor in the high prices, this is just not a national seafood chain that’s worthy of a recommendation. Not surprisingly, if you scour the internet, you’ll find lukewarm reviews for many of their locations.
If you decide to go to Landry’s Seafood House, the best plan is to keep your order simple. Skip the overpriced seafood dishes that don’t live up to expectations and go with something simple, like the IPA Fish and Chips. You get beer battered fish fillets, breaded strings of onions, and fries for a price that won’t break the bank.
Most locations of Landry’s Seafood House can be found in the South. For example, Texas has seven locations and New Orleans has a pair of locations, including one in the French Quarter.
12. Joe’s Crab Shack
Joe’s Crab Shack is a safe place to go but, before you do, you have to know exactly what you should order. There are a handful of menu items at this national seafood chain that you should never order. Those items include the shrimp scampi, fried calamari, and the crab and shrimp dip. Additionally, all of their non-seafood offerings, like their pasta dishes and anything with chicken in it, should be skipped.
What you’ll be happy with at Joe’s Crab Shack is either the Crab Bucket or the Peel ‘N Eat Shrimp. If you opt for crab, your sweet tooth would appreciate it if you order the snow crab, as its meat has a surprising amount of sweetness to it. If you want your crab to be tender and have a mild flavor, go for the Dungeness crab instead. As for the Peel ‘N Eat Shrimp, it comes blessed with Old Bay Seasoning and you can order it hot or cold.
11. Chart House
Chart House is a national seafood chain that has locations from sea to shining sea and many places in between. All of their restaurants are beautiful, and the views are often breathtaking. From waterfront properties in epic destinations like Atlantic City and San Francisco to a perch 750 feet above San Antonio, this is definitely a place to go if you’re looking to impress a date or if you’re looking to close an important business deal. However, if the quality of the food is your one and only concern, Chart House isn’t as memorable.
While Chart House has really good crafted cocktails and a host of tasty appetizers, their seafood entrees don’t taste as fresh as the dishes you can find elsewhere. To make matters worse, the sizes of the portions will leave you feeling underwhelmed. Considering the lofty prices at this restaurant, only visit if you value the views and aren’t too hungry.
10. King’s Fish House
If you live on the East Coast, you’ve probably never heard of the seafood chain King’s Fish House. That’s because all of their locations are in the West, with a majority being in the state of California. East Coasters might be jealous of the impressive array of items on their dinner menu, but the truth is that they aren’t missing out on much.
King’s Fish House has just about every type of seafood you can imagine. They have a raw oyster bar, a variety of sushi options, all the shellfish you could want, tuna from the Pacific Ocean, catfish from Mississippi, trout from Idaho, and tilapia from Mexico. The issue with King’s Fish House is none of their menu items stand out from the rest. Yes, everything is pretty decent, but nothing will blow you away.
Go to King’s Fish House if you want to sample an array of seafood. But don’t visit if you’re looking for something that you’ll remember for the rest of your days.
9. Ocean Prime
Ocean Prime is an award-winning seafood chain with locations throughout the nation, from Beverly Hills to Boston. The restaurants are pleasantly fancy and most of the food is good. Ocean Prime is the first chain on this list that can be described as consistently above average in terms of the food it offers. No matter what you order, you’re not going to be disappointed.
What stops Ocean Prime from climbing higher in this ranking of national seafood chains? It’s the fact that their steaks are what truly steal the show. For a seafood restaurant, they have great steaks. Their seafood, from the Blackened Snapper to the Alaskan King Crab Legs, is above average, but it’s not quite at the same level. Preferably, you’d want a seafood restaurant to treasure the surf more than it treasures the turf. Besides, if it’s an outstanding steak that you’re after, you’re better off going to one of the top national steakhouse chains.
8. Red Lobster
Red Lobster is the McDonald’s of casual seafood chains — and that’s not meant as an insult. If you want seafood that reliably tastes good and a restaurant that you can count on to carry your favorites, go to a Red Lobster with confidence. They’ve been in business since 1968 and they’re responsible for many advancements and trends in the world of seafood restaurants. For example, Red Lobster claims to have literally invented popcorn shrimp. No matter which of their tasty menu items you decide to order, you can also look forward to their mouthwateringly amazing cheddar biscuits.
But if you’re looking for the ultimate seafood, Red Lobster is not the place where you should go. Just like if you’re looking for the best burger in your town, you wouldn’t go to McDonald’s. Red Lobster serves its purpose of offering quality seafood at reasonable prices. If you go here with those expectations, you’ll leave the restaurant wholly satisfied.
7. Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
There’s a lot to like about Eddie V’s Prime Seafood. If you think that you’ve already tried every type of seafood imaginable, visit this national seafood chain for an exciting change of pace. Eddie V’s Prime Seafood was born in Austin, Texas, and their South Texas roots are apparent on their menu. Their Maine Lobster Tacos are phenomenal. These tacos are created with homemade tortillas and are topped with pico de gallo that features grilled corn. Other homegrown favorites include the Texas Redfish and the Jumbo Gulf Shrimp.
While Eddie V’s Prime Seafood has steak, you’ll definitely want to stick to the seafood. Their steak isn’t bad, but it’s not on the same level as the rest of their menu. Be courageous and order something unique and unforgettable like the Petrossian Caviar or the South African Lobster. You’ll be glad you did.
You can find Eddie V’s Prime Seafood in over a dozen states from the East Coast to the West Coast.
6. McCormick & Schmick’s
McCormick & Schmick’s is a funny sounding name for a national chain of seafood restaurants. However, there’s nothing humorous about the food they serve. They’re serious about their seafood — and you will grow to appreciate that fact.
If you love eating fish, McCormick & Schmick’s is a place you should visit at least once in your life. While most of what can be found on their menu is really good, it’s their fish that stands out from the rest. Their Cedar Roasted Atlantic Salmon is spectacular. It’s extremely flavorful and satisfyingly moist. If you find that most salmon is too dry, you’ll adore this dish.
The other menu item to consider is their Open Blue Cobia. If you’ve never had cobia before, it’s white fish with a rich flavor that has a naturally buttery taste. McCormick & Schmick’s prepares it perfectly. While you could also get it pan-seared or broiled, order it grilled to experience cobia at its best.
5. Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen
While seafood that you acquire through a fast food window usually isn’t something to write home about, Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen is one of the rare exceptions. Compared to Long John Silver’s, the fare you can find at this restaurant is much better. After you finish eating at this national seafood chain, you won’t feel an ounce of regret.
The menu at Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen is surprisingly extensive, especially for a place that offers drive-thru service. Whether you want fish fillets, popcorn shrimp, blackened entrees, or just a crab cake, you can find it on their menu. Everything has a good amount of flavor, and you won’t be overwhelmed by oiliness like you would at Long John Silver’s.
Your order at Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen should always include one of their scrumptious desserts. While their Funnel Cake Stix and their Cheesecake with Strawberry Topping are both delicious options that people of all ages will enjoy, their Pecan Pie reigns supreme.
4. Legal Sea Foods
Not only are the menu items at Legal Sea Foods pristinely fresh, the variety is quite impressive. From New England Clam Chowder to Crispy Fried North Atlantic Sea Scallops, and from Grilled Swordfish Steak to Blackened Raw Tuna, you’ll be thrilled with whatever it is that you order. Even if you think you don’t like clam chowder, try the chowder at Legal Sea Foods and be prepared for your mind to be changed.
This national seafood chain began life as a fish market more than 70 years ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Today, you can find locations in the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Rhode Island in addition to Massachusetts. Conveniently, most of their locations offer dine-in, take-out, and delivery.
If a super fancy seafood restaurant is what you desire, head to Truluck’s. This national chain offers fine dining, with their immaculate seafood taking center stage. Sure, a lot of their food is costly, however there’s a reason why their reviews are virtually perfect no matter where you look online.
While the menu at Truluck’s isn’t lengthy, everything is absolutely excellent. Their lobster, specifically, is as good as you can find anywhere. Whether you order a lobster tail, lobster bisque, or even their one of a kind lobster mashed potatoes, your taste buds will experience seafood nirvana.
If you want something adventurous, the Mediterranean Branzino features a whole fish that’s been roasted to perfection and topped with olive oil, while the Hawaiian Kauai Prawns has shrimp from the island of Kauai that are covered with a pineapple-infused garlic sauce.
Truluck’s has been around since 1992, with the same two owners they’ve had since the beginning.
2. Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
A trip to Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen always results in a happy time for everyone in your party. While the food and the atmosphere isn’t nearly as fancy as what you’d find at a seafood chain like Truluck’s, they make up for it with a fun and relaxed ambiance, an attentive waitstaff, and a diverse menu.
If it’s your first visit and you don’t know what to order, simply tell your waiter that you want the Pappadeaux Platter. You’ll soon be presented with a ginormous feast that includes catfish, crawfish, shrimp, oysters, and crab. While it’s all really good, the crawfish is what you’ll remember. It’s the best crawfish you will ever taste.
If you want seafood with a more flavorful punch, consider one of Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen’s Cajun offerings. Their Crawfish Etouffee is as good as anything you could find in New Orleans, as is their Jumbo Shrimp Brochette that features shrimp wrapped by bacon and small slices of jalapeno peppers.
1. Bonefish Grill
While Bonefish Grill is a relatively young national seafood chain, it’s now far and away the best of the best. How did they blow away the competition? This place is simply the perfect balance of what makes a seafood restaurant great. Founded in 2000, their restaurants are upscale, but still comfortable and casual enough that you can feel like you’re at home.
When it comes to the menu at Bonefish Grill, they have all the favorites covered and add to it with a wide array of creative options that will leave you yearning for more. For example, you can keep it classic with Fish & Chips or try something completely new like Pecan Parmesan-Crusted Rainbow Trout that comes with artichoke hearts and lemon butter.
Regardless of what you select, the presentation will be beautiful, the food will be delicious, and you will agree that you have successfully located the best seafood chain in America.