The seafood that is served here, at restaurants of many stripes, often highlights bounty from the nearby Gulf like shrimp, blue crab, oysters, redfish and red snapper. Influences from neighboring Louisiana are very common, and New Orleans, a city familiar with most restaurant-savvy Houstonians, is a seafood-loving place. The substantial Chinese population provides a different type of ethos and delights in several, usually large places. There are also a number of Mexican ostionerias that feature seafood cocktails, shrimp, oysters and tilapia, mostly in humble fashion. Below are the best of those restaurants that mostly, or largely, are devoted to serving seafood in Houston, across a few different cuisines listed in order of preference.
Navy Blue – American – The most impressive entry onto the Houston dining scene in 2022 was this beautiful blue 7,000-foot-plus seafood place, palace, from the folks at Bludorn that opened around Thanksgiving following plenty of anticipation. It immediately became the best restaurant in the eatery-laden Rice Village. The moneyed set quickly followed from Bludorn, and reservations have been very tough since doors opened. Executive Chef Jerrod Zifchak arrived from New York where he was the last one at the Michelin-starred Café Boulud on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, succeeding Aaron Bludorn in that role. Notably for the cuisine, Zifchak also had four years in the kitchen at Le Bernardin, widely regarded as the top seafood restaurant in the country. There are other impressive CV’s on staff here, which quickly shows upon entry and with the first drink, as service is noticeably professional – unusually so for just opening and for the city in general – solicitous, knowledgeable, accommodating and friendly. The menu is actually quite approachable, ranging from oysters and clams (and caviar) to start with crab cakes, a mussel bisque en croute, fresh pasta preparations and fish. There is a swordfish steak served in a green peppercorn sauce, and an entire Dover sole is fileted tableside, expensively. With that and the lobster, you’ve got options; almondine, Oscar and Provençal for the former. A French accent is found in other items, too, a good thing, plus there are a couple of nods to our area with a blackened red snapper and a different-tasting take on seafood gumbo. This is a must-visit for seafood lovers, at least those with some means. Rice Village
The Rest of the Best
Golfstrømmen Seafood Market – Norwegian – The name is quite appropriate, meaning Gulf Stream in Norwegian, as this seafood spot from a duo of acclaimed chefs, one from Norway and the other in Texas, employs products, inspirations and preparations from there and here. It begins with excellent fish and shellfish sourced nearby and the north Atlantic, the bounty of the Gulf Stream and the Gulf. In the Post Market development downtown, the food hall setting isn’t much, but there is usually a tempting display of seafood set on ice that can be gastronomic eye-candy that might include fish not commonly seen and not like langoustines, scallops, and oysters like the delicious and different Belon (though from Maine rather than Brittany). Christopher Haatuft, from coastal Bergen where his restaurant Lysverke has a Michelin star, and Paul Qui, a James Beard Award-winner who once had the excellent Aqui on lower Westheimer, have a kitchen that highlights the high quality of their sourcing with mostly straightforward creations in ways usually familiar to locals that can be absolutely delicious. A seemingly simple open-faced sandwich featuring plenty of the slightly sweet lump Jonah crab meat with melted lightly herbed butter, a bit of mayonnaise and some welcome strands of raw onion atop a toasted, tasty sourdough loaf with a side of crisp, freshly made potato chips is excellent. A nice array of wines, too, to complement, that have a welcome strong French accent. Downtown
1751 Sea and Bar – American – From the folks at The Pit Room who took over operations in 2018, grandly improving this seafooder, which presents a broad range of items sourced from well beyond the Gulf including a raw bar featuring colder water creatures along with over 230 different gins spun into a number of different cocktails. Those are fun, if not nearly the magic concocted by the gin tonics at BCN and MAD. But the main draw is from the kitchen. Enticing small plates, oysters, seafood towers, stone crabs and caviar can start. These and the entrees reflect influences from around the globe, applied appropriately and interestingly. There is a section for proteins simply grilled over white oak then served with grilled lemon and butter, and more elaborate entrées including a slowly baked king salmon with artichokes and fried capers, and a seasonal whole fish preparation. Happy hour from 4:00 to 6:00 Tuesday through Friday is a popular choice to sample shucked oysters from several locales, crudo and a handful well-turned cocktails for low tariff. Heights
Goode Co. Seafood – Texas Gulf Coast – It’s tough to think about Goode Co. without its iconic, oft-copied Campechana coming quickly to mind. This Mexican-style seafood cocktail made with top-notch shrimp and/or blue crab meat that is very flavorful, refreshing, and features popular south of the border flavors that’s perfect for Houston. The entire restaurant, too, actually. Both locations. Shrimp, blue crab, oysters and fish from nearby waters served up enticingly be it raw, cured, grilled and even fried. The Mexican heritage of the Goode family extends delectably to other preparations like the remember-to-wait-for-it-cool-down empanadas filled with shrimp, and salsa and avocado on mesquite-grilled fish. Goode signature mesquite grilling can be had with several fish. Local coastal favorites like redfish on the hall shell, jumbo shrimp stuffed with jalapeño and cheddar, wrapped in bacon and roasted, can be terrific. There are oyster, enticing soups – their take on seafood gumbo and a blue crab, corn and poblano bisque – and even salads to start. For a quicker or more casual meal, the seafood po boys are excellent, and available mesquite-grilled in addition to fried. West U, Memorial City
Eugene’s – Texas Gulf Coast – Inspired in part by the robust regional Gulf Coast cookery of yore along with a healthy dose of influences from neighboring Louisiana, this dark-wooded, clubby-looking space in the heart of a neighborhood, can delight in a number of ways with its updated presentations. Redfish stuffed with a blue crab dressing and broiled, several baked crabmeat dishes straight out of New Orleans, and the Oysters Kyle, green onion sautéed in a seasoned lemon garlic butter sauce are a few of main plates. The highlight here might be a starter, the very dark roux-based gumbo filled with shrimp, crab and oysters and served with white rice that quickly set the local and, for some critics, the gold standard anywhere for a dish that has been locally popular since soon after the first person with a French surname moved west from the Crescent City here. There’s a lot from which to cheese including fish and shellfish that can be cooked grilled over oak and hickory, fried in peanut oil, pan-broiled or blackened. Plus, it always pays to note the daily specials like locally caught red snapper, ling, mahi mahi and grouper and crawfish and soft-shell crabs in season. Montrose
Hai Cang Harbor – Chinese – Set in one of the many strip centers along Bellaire Boulevard that’s adorned with live sea creatures along the walls – fish, lobsters, crabs, large geoduck clams, spot prawns, and striking marbled goby swimming in the large tanks – that are primed to star in a meal. Dungeness crabs are a specialty along with one of the whole steamed fishes. Less grand, traditional preparations like Shrimp with Scrambled Egg and Walnut Shrimp with Mayo Sauce can also aptly satisfy. The menu is huge, but the helpful staff can provide recommendations or there are dinners for six, eight and ten that might be easiest of all with a group. Chinatown
Fung’s Kitchen – Chinese – Returning from an enforced two-year hiatus due to a fire in late 2022, the dim sum service hit its stride more quickly than its later-in-the-day seafood emphasis. Tanks hold lobster, a restaurant specialty, that can be prepared in a number of ways, featuring jalapeño and garlic, black pepper, black bean, coconut curry and even in a hot pot. Blue crabs appear in a number of preparations, even in soft shell form, as do another top local product, shrimp. The menu is voluminous; Peking duck, of course, a section highlighting free-range chicken, and a number of noodle and fried rice items that should be able to entice most palates. After the rebuild, the expansive setting is nicer, more inviting than ever, sitting at what is about the gateway to restaurant-mad Bellaire Boulevard. Chinatown
Segari’s – Texas Gulf Coast – Around for fifty years in various forms and since 2003 in its current spot, this homey, quaint spot is a throwback to days before Houston and its restaurant scene became so sophisticated and varied. The emphasis is on the bounty and flavors of this part of the Gulf Coast, largely shrimp, crab, oysters that come in a variety of ways. Grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp is a star, the seafood and sausage gumbo are found on many tables to start, while its signature platter featuring fried shrimp and oysters and cocktails with shrimp and another with crab. Though most entrées are grilled here, the fryer is put to good use at times, and the sauté pan on occasion. Décor is comfortable, to be charitable, except for the rollers on some of the chairs that once plied office space, the wine list is short and pathetic, and there are no prices on the menu. The last can be annoying to all but the regulars. Segari’s does have it charms, though, especially those succulent shrimp. Washington Corridor
Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers – Louisiana Gulf Coast – As you might expect with the name, this a sibling to the acclaimed Gatlin’s barbecue joint, which is just a couple of miles away. Similarly, this is very friendly and even homey, and family run, providing Southern-rooted comfort fare that goes a little beyond. The “Fins & Feathers” following the surname is quite descriptive, too, though shellfish is another theme here with oysters served grilled, fried and raw to start and crab and shrimp found in things like New Orleans style barbecue shrimp and additionally straight from the fryer, of course. The menu, actually a little less fish and seafood than land-borne, ranges even further beyond our neighbors to the east to Mexico for a few dishes and then to southeast Asia for a whole fish preparation that’s grilled with sambal. It all makes sense for today’s Bayou City. This is a comfortable stop, including the interior, which is a welcome contrast – much nicer – to the Mexicatessan, which occupied the building for years and the decidedly old-school Barbecue Inn that’s been down the street for even longer. North Side
One of the many delights found at Navy Blue.