Summer is the perfect time to try locally grown produce and sun-ripened vintages, but seafood dishes are the true star of the season. If you’re planning to savor the warm weather on tour in the summer, here are some of the best beachside spots to visit for a taste of the season’s freshest seafood.
From Galicia’s surf-battered shores to the Bay of Biscay in Basque Country, Northern Spain is the place to go for some of summer’s most delicious fruits of the sea.
Gastronomy is an integral aspect of Basque culture. Men commonly gather to cook and eat in private culinary societies known as txokos, Michelin-starred restaurants abound and, thanks to deep-rooted fishing traditions and almost 100 miles of coastline, the seafood dishes created here are some of the best in the world.
While regional delicacies such as bacalao (dried salt cod) and zurrukutuna (cod with peppers and garlic) are go-tos, it’s the pinxtos that truly shine. These Basque-style tapas are world-renowned, and Spain’s culinary capital, San Sebastian, is said to churn out the best. Some must-tries include freshly-grilled octopus, intricately prepared “squid in its own ink” (also known as txipirones en su tinta) and “the Gilda.” This famous bite is named after actress Rita Hayworth and is made from pickled peppers, olives and anchovies pulled from the Bay of Biscay. Need a way to wash all this delicious seafood down? Take a sip of crisp Txakoli—this local white wine is the perfect summertime treat.
The Atlantic Ocean flanks this northwest region, where some of Spain’s best seafood abounds. While lush forests and rolling green hills are found inland, it’s the dramatic, cliff-lined coastline that beckons in the summertime. Here, delicacies such as razor clams, shrimp, cockles and velvet crabs known as nécoras are pulled from the surf.
Head to Lugo to take a bite of paprika-garnished octopus known as polbo á feira, or opt for sea scallops in Santiago de Compostela, where the scallop’s concha de vieira or “pilgrim’s shell” serves as the symbol of the city. For a particularly special treat, spring for a plate of percebes—experienced Galician fishermen take great risks to collect these goose-neck barnacles from jagged, sea-battered rock faces, which is why they come at such a steep price.
The coastal U.S.
Whether your trip takes you to New England’s Pacific shores or San Francisco’s iconic bays, the United States has no shortage of places to taste some of the freshest seafood dishes in the summer.
New England is perhaps the U.S.’s most quintessential summertime spot. Here, small-town shops re-open their doors after long winters, native beach grass grows on sandy dunes and local fishermen push off in quint harbors, bringing back the season’s freshest catch.
One of the best things about spending leisurely summer days in New England is the opportunity to sample a wide variety of seafood, prepared in many different—yet delicious—ways. Head to Massachusetts to savor a creamy bowl of New England clam chowder on Cape Cod or use your free time to try some of the state’s best fried clams from the Clam Box in historic Ipswich. Indulge in flavorful lobster lightly tossed in mayonnaise and served in a buttery roll while admiring the sun set over Boothbay Harbor in Maine. Or, attend a classic clam bake, because it doesn’t get much more regionally authentic than steamed lobster, mussels, crabs, clams and quahogs dipped in drawn butter.
Time-honored culinary traditions come to life along South Carolina’s coast, where regional Lowcountry dishes define the area. This hearty style of cuisine is found all the way to Georgia and most often uses seafood as its base, making a warm-weather trip to the Palmetto State more than worth it.
For a taste of true summertime soul food, head to the capital city of Charleston for a bowl of bisque-like “she-crab soup,” which gets its unique flavor from sherry and crab eggs. Another Lowcountry classic is Atlantic shrimp and grits, and no visit to South Carolina is complete without a helping of Frogmore stew. Ignore the misleading name, because this simple dish’s fresh, layered flavors are created as shrimp, crab, corn on the cob, new potatoes and smoked sausage simmer in one pot.
The City by the Bay is a foodie’s paradise. It’s here that talented chefs create varied menus inspired by international flavors and local ingredients, and the rolling hills are lined with a wide selection of world-class restaurants and specialty shops. This impressive culinary scene becomes even more alluring during the summer months, when locals and visitors indulge in fresh seafood, high-end food trucks come out in hoards and mouthwatering dishes are enjoyed on outdoor patios overlooking the California coast.
For a can’t-miss summer experience, visit the Ferry Building Marketplace along the Embarcadero to savor oysters on the half shell at the Hog Island Oyster Co. This institution’s sustainable, hand-raised products are farmed in Tomales Bay, which is home to the Bay Area’s freshest oysters. Try more flavorful shellfish at the historic Swan Oyster Depot, taste authentic Peruvian ceviche at La Mar Cebicheria or seek out the popular Codmother Fish & Chips food truck to indulge in—you guessed it—fish and chips. Cap off your visit at the iconic Fisherman’s Warf, where you can marvel at the cute sea lions lounging on the docks before popping into an eatery to find everything from clams to king salmon.
Italy’s Mediterranean shores
A warm climate and a plethora of picturesque port towns make Italy’s western coast the perfect place to try mouthwatering seafood on sunny summer days.
The crescent-shaped curve of Liguria—a region better known as the Italian Riviera—carves its way along northwestern Italy’s Mediterranean shoreline. This mountainous area’s prime coastal location once earned it the title as one of Europe’s most notable maritime powerhouses, and the deeply ingrained fishing and cooking traditions make for an impressive culinary scene.
It’s the simple preparation of regionally grown produce and herbs paired with locally sourced fish and meat that allow vibrant flavors to shine, and a warm-weather visit is the perfect time to savor fresh fare. Head to Santa Margherita to try some of Liguria’s most delicious red king prawns, opt for some mussels from the “Gulf of Poets” along Cinque Terre or taste some Genovese ciuppin, a mixed-seafood stew originally invented by local fishermen. And, be sure to order some revered Ligurian anchovies during a visit to the region; they taste just as good fried as they do drizzled in olive oil, and are considered some of the world’s best.
The Mediterranean, Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas border this iconic island located at the southwestern tip of Italy’s boot. It’s no wonder, then, that some of the country’s best seafood is an integral part of Sicilian cuisine. To get to the heart of Sicilia’s sea-based culinary traditions, take a stroll on a warm summer day to Catania’s famous fish market, La Pescheria.
Here, cleaver-wielding fishermen expertly filet the day’s freshest catch as the animated voices of fishmongers rise above the din of the crowd. While seafood such as swordfish, tuna, shrimp and squid is popular, it’s the sardines that are needed for the island’s classic fennel-and-pine nut pasta dish known as pasta con le sarde. If you want to visit this historic market, here’s a word to the wise: Wear closed-toe shoes and step lightly, as the ground gets wetter and muddier as the day goes on.
What are some of your favorite places to get fresh seafood dishes in the summer? Tell us in the comments below!