Though Los Angeles is a seaside county, we don't have the number of seafood restaurants that most other ocean-facing locales enjoy. But of the relatively few we do have, there are some pretty excellent choices when you're in a fishy mood. This particular list doesn't include sushi — that is, blessedly, its own category in L.A.
Read on to find out where to get the tastiest sea creatures, in tacos and soups, fried and boiled.
We're breaking our own rule somewhat with this choice, as Fishwives does serve a small sushi menu. But it's dwarfed by the East Coast–inspired majority of the menu, with clam chowder, a fried seafood basket, crab Louie and cod fish and chips. It's a very Californian, “we do what we want” setup, and though it just opened in September it's already winning over fans. Pair your Scottish salmon with a Dungeness crab roll, because you can. —Katherine Spiers
88 N. Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena; (626) 219-6199, fishwives.com.
9. Lost at Sea
Lost at Sea is cozy and appealing, with its black subway tile and blue walls, its white-painted and wood tables, its fresh flowers and round mirrors that evoke portholes. It has a human scale that is one of the trademarks of Pasadena's best restaurants. What owners Tim Carey and Santos Uy seem to want to achieve here is fairly straightforward: a neighborhood seafood restaurant with cooking that reaches significantly higher than that of the average fish house, and a wine list that follows suit. —Besha Rodell
57 E. Holly St., Pasadena; (626) 385-7644, lostatseapas.com.
8. Fishing With Dynamite
Fishing With Dynamite's popularity clearly speaks to a yearning in Manhattan Beach for that seafood shack of our fantasies, casual but high-quality, laid-back but delivering the seafood of our dreams. The raw bar delivers on its promise. Lobsters can be had for $22 for a half and $38 whole. There's a mix of East and West Coast oysters, seven varieties on any given night, and the quality rivals any oyster spot in town (though at close to $40 for a dozen oysters, it's fairly steep compared with some crosstown rivals). There's grilled octopus and New Zealand Tai snapper for two. Platters of assorted, chilled seafood range from $45 for a restrained “SS Minnow” meant to feed one or two to $160 for the “Mothershucker” meant to feed five to six. —B.R.
1148 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach; (310) 893-6299, eatfwd.com.
7. The Boiling Crab
The Boiling Crab has many imitators, but then it's an imitation itself: The small restaurant chain built its premise on East Asian Gulf Coast culture, where Louisiana's Cajun spices meet Vietnamese fishermen and everyone has a party. Really, there's no way to not have fun when you're eating seafood out of a bag. Diners order the sea bugs of their choice (shrimp, crawfish, crab, mussels, etc.) by the pound, add in sausage, potatoes and corn if they like, then choose the seasoning and level of desired mouth burn. Then get in there — it's meant to be a full-body experience. —K.S.
Multiple locations; theboilingcrab.com.
6. Mariscos Jalisco
Don’t be fooled by the imitators, the lesser producers, the many other tacos dorado de camaron in L.A. The version at Raul Ortega’s Mariscos Jalisco, the Boyle Heights mariscos truck, is far and away the king of fried tacos, in this city and perhaps in the country. Don’t be confused by the crowds surrounding the other trucks nearby. Go directly to this corner of Olympic Boulevard and wait as they fold the shrimp into a tortilla and fry the whole thing in hot oil, pulling it out at the perfect point of golden crisp, then coat it with creamy slices of avocado and pert red salsa. If you’re in the mood for a feast, the Poseidon tostada, loaded with a jumble of ceviche, octopus and shrimp aguachile, will have you feeling like a god of the sea yourself. For that, and for the crispy tacos, our loyalty will never waver. —B.R.
3040 E. Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights; (323) 528-6701, twitter.com/mariscosjalisco.
5. The Hungry Cat
Southern California is now down to just one location of the Hungry Cat, and as sad as we are to see the Santa Monica and Santa Barbara outposts close, we’re glad it was the Hollywood Hungry Cat — the original Hungry Cat — that survived. Why? Because it’s still our favorite place to eat in Hollywood proper, the place we most heartily recommend to folks looking for a pre-Pantages birthday dinner, the most welcome escape from the tourist mayhem of the neighborhood. Chef-owner David Lentz has been a pioneer of Pacific-focused seafood (as opposed to the odes to New England that have proliferated in recent years) for more than a decade, serving cold oysters on the half-shell, fresh Santa Barbara uni and modern, creative seafood dishes that sometimes hint at Maine or Massachusetts but more often celebrate the bounty and spirit of the California coast. Rather than classic fish-house fare, your Manila clams are more likely to come with merguez, sofrito and garbanzo beans; your barramundi over freekeh, kabocha squash, pea tendrils, yogurt and pumpkin seed pesto. The bright and airy restaurant tucked away in the center of the block is perfect for a brunch of johnny cakes with smoked trout salad, or as a place to drop by the bar for a lobster roll and a very good cocktail. —B.R.
1535 N. Vine St., Hollywood; (323) 462-2155, thehungrycat.com.
4. Connie & Ted's
If you grew up, as Michael Cimarusti did, fishing in the Atlantic and dining on the bounty of the great Northeast, you’ll understand the chef’s nostalgia for the brine and comfort of that type of seafood. Connie & Ted’s is Cimarusti’s ode to New England, and he’s created a restaurant that would be utterly at home on Boston Harbor but also feels exactly right for West Hollywood. The large dining room is an immensely convivial place to scarf down chowder and lobster rolls and fried clams, and the bar is one of the best places in town to watch the Dodgers while slurping on oysters from the massive raw bar. On top of all this is Cimarusti’s dedication to only the freshest, most sustainable seafood, so you can rest assured that not only is your meal enjoyable but it’s also entirely ethical. —B.R.
8171 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 848-2722, connieandteds.com.
3. L&E Oyster Bar
Weekend mornings in Silver Lake are awash in brunchers of all kinds, from the ragged party kids at Millie's to the expensively clothed Audi drivers at LA Mill. But for some reason that is, as far as I'm concerned, L.A.'s biggest mystery, L&E is always practically empty. Is it because it's kind of dark in there? Is it that the idea of seafood in the morning is too much to contemplate for some people? You don't have to eat fish at L&E — there's a breakfast sandwich with sausage, fried egg, cheese and peach-infused hot sauce — but we recommend giving it a try. The smoked trout deviled eggs are a good starter for the table, the pan bagnat tartine is an indulgent mess, and the beet-cured salmon platter is beautiful to look at and even more gorgeous to eat, with the herbs and pickles and whipped cream cheese. Get oysters or not, but definitely get some bubbly. —K.S.
1637 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 660-2255, leoysterbar.com.
There’s been some debate and consternation over the fate of Coni’Seafood since chef Sergio Peñuelas left, but we’re here to tell you there’s nothing to fear. Left in the hands of owners Vicente Cossio and his daughter Connie Cossio, the restaurant is still turning out some of the best Mexican seafood in town. It’s not surprising — Vicente Cossio was the originator of almost all of the dishes that garnered Coni’Seafood so much attention in the first place. There are all manner of cocteles, such as the ceviche marinero, a jumble of shrimp marinated in lemon, cucumber, cilantro and tomato, topped with hunks of sweet mango and bathed in a wicked, dusky “black sauce.” Then there are the camarones, giant, head-on shrimp that come in many different variations of sauce: diablo for the spice lovers; borrachos — in a broth made from tequila, lime, cilantro and crushed peppers — for the hungover. And yes, you can still get the pescado zarandeado, the whole split, grilled, tender white fish that came to be Coni’Seafood’s signature dish. And yes, it’s still as thrillingly delicious as ever. —B.R.
3544 W. Imperial Highway, Inglewood; (310) 672-2339, coniseafood.com.
There are only a handful of restaurants in Los Angeles that aim for the same heights as Providence does, and perhaps none that achieve those lofty aims quite so well. Michael Cimarusti’s seafood-focused, fine-dining standard-bearer excels at the formal service that much of the restaurant world has abandoned. There’s a lot of joy to be found on the plate as well. No kitchen does the flurry of amuse-bouches as well as Cimarusti and crew, from a darling taco made with a nasturtium leaf to cigars made from Wagyu beef that come presented in a cigar box. Ultra-fresh (and always sustainable) seafood, such as Santa Barbara spot prawns or Norwegian red king crab, is presented elegantly and simply. During the winter, you can get perfectly cooked soft eggs (or risotto, or pasta — we prefer the eggs) showered in an obscene amount of black truffle. You could come here for all kinds of reasons — for the cheese cart, for the wine list, for the opulence of the room. The pleasures of this type of beauty and professionalism will have you wishing it wasn’t so very rare. —B.R.
5955 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; (323) 460-4170, providencela.com.