The summer season on Long Island brings throngs of beach lovers to its some 118 miles of coastline. But, for foodies, it’s the road to the beach that holds the main attraction: the seafood shack. These often ramshackle roadside venues serve up fresh local catch, quintessential fish fry, and a casual beach-y ambiance that can only be had in the glorious summer months between May and September.
On the long haul through the Hamptons via traffic-prone Montauk Highway, this supreme seafood pitstop is clutch for, you guessed it, clams. Yellow-and-white-striped umbrellas give shade to the dozen or so outdoor dining tables where many a weary city passersby love to stop for a seafood fix on their way to their summer homes. But, this seafood shack is not necessarily just a stopover. On the contrary, Clam Bar holds its own as a dining destination, thanks to its fresh locally-sourced fish that make menu items like lobster macaroni and cheese, grilled swordfish, and “Montauk Pearl” oysters especially tasty. Clam Bar is open June through September.
Tucked away in Bayville’s Bridge Marina, this waterfront seafood shack is a little-known gem, even to many locals. Patrons are served on covered decks dockside or can order drinks and bites from the small tiki bar. The no-frills menu comprises simple fare: clams (raw, baked, or fried), fried calamari, crab cakes, lobster rolls, as well as burgers and sandwiches. The meaty lobster rolls here are a fan favorite and the peaceful setting make it a worthwhile stop for lunch or sunset dinner. There’s also live music every Wednesday night from 6 to 9pm in summer.
The North Fork’s Southold Fish Market pulls double duty as a seafood market and shack. The substantial dine-in or take-out menu, written on blackboards behind the counter, covers the gamut from the usual favorites, like fried clam strips (which are very good here, by the way), steamed mussels and local little neck clams, to some more interesting items, like a fish reuben wrap and daily specials, like grilled striped bass with mango coconut sauce. We recommend going for the grilled options like the mahi mahi tacos with avocado sauce over the fried alternatives since the fish here is guaranteed fresh. Shack seating includes indoor tables and an outdoor picnic area. There’s also a little bar inside serving beers and local North Fork wines. Fair warning: orders are announced outside via jarring loud speakers while country music plays on repeat.
This raucous little roadside shack has been serving solid seafood and a hopping curbside scene since 1980. Located on 25A in Centerport, a clapboard shack strung with lights, a handful of picnic tables, and a pebbled parking strip, comprise The Shack. The popular summer eatery attracts all walks of life (including a large biker crowd) for seasonal beers and seafood comfort food like buffalo calamari, beer battered fish and chips, and tuna steak BLT. The Shack is open May through September from 11am to 9pm.
Located only a block from Corey Beach in Blue Point, this tiny seafood shack is a longtime summer favorite. Flo’s shabby shack and picnic-table setup draw summer crowds for their exceptionally good clam strips, lobster rolls, and ice cream floats, just as it has since 1926. More recently, the shack opened a secondary location right on Corey Beach, Floasis, which doles out Mexican-style street food and acai bowls. Bonus: Flo’s also has a food truck which you can rent for your next summer shindig. Flo’s is open 10am to 10pm daily, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The North Fork’s waterfront town of Greenport is a great summer destination (read: charming historic town, choice restaurants, cute shops, waterfront park and carousel, easy access to Shelter Island via ferry, and a couple of marinas). The landmark Claudio’s Restaurant and Clam Bar attracts a big boating crowd to its dockside eatery in summer as does its tiny sister shack, Crabby Jerry’s, just across the wharf. Boating slips surround the pier and a blue tent covers most of the seating. Whether arriving by boat or foot, fun cocktails, steamed lobster, peel-and-eat shrimp, baked clams, and salads topped with blackened fish make this shack an ideal stop for a summertime seafood snack. Crabby Jerry’s is open Memorial Day through September, 11:30am to 7pm.
No list would be complete without Amagansett’s four-decade-old mainstay, recently made even more famous with regular appearances on HBO’s series The Affair. Also known as Lunch, as its neon sign suggests, the diner-slash-shack does a swift business despite Hamptons pricing and even offers a gluten-free menu and paleo options. The namesake lobster roll is a must-try, made with 100 percent cold water lobster (though many complain it’s hit or miss of late), along with the tempura fried fish “puffers.”