Food & Drink

The Best Seafood Restaurants in and Around Houston

Published On 11/09/2016 Published On 11/09/2016
The Dunlavy
The Dunlavy | Courtesy of SaltAir Seafood Kitchen
Christopher Dibenedetto

PESKA Seafood Culture

Galleria

When a restaurant has a dedicated “seafood sommelier” to help you pick your way through it menu, you know it’s legit. But that’s just one of the next-level aspects of this fine dining venture from sibling owners and Mexican restaurateurs Maite and Diego Ysita. There’s also a 20-something prodigy chef, in-house fish market, globally-inspired flavor profile, and seriously impressive raw bar. Chef Omar Pereney’s preparations are downright tasty, which include but are not limited to stuff like miso bacalao, lobster “cappuccino” with white truffle foam, and half-and-half red snapper that’s butterflied and finished with part moho, part talla sauce that is pretty much one of the best two-for-one deals around.

REEF

Reef

Midtown

Chef Bryan Caswell’s modern by-the-sea stunner has been bouncing around best seafood restaurants in the US lists pretty much since inception, and for good reason. Dedicated to sourcing locally and seasonally, Caswell and team put in work before the fish even makes its way to your plate. While the fish lineup may change, the flawlessly-executed preparations remain. Favorites include the jumbo crab cakes with taqueria-style vinaigrette, crispy skin snapper in tomato brown butter, and red fish on the half-shell that gets served with a giant block of fried mac and cheese, along with the 400 label wine list.

Treadsack

Bernadine’s

Heights

This relative newcomer from powerhouse restaurant group Treadsack took pretty much zero time to take Houston’s coastal food scene by storm. Executive Chef Graham Laborde and the kitchen take on a “catch of the day” mentality, with a menu that’s a self-proclaimed “love letter to the Gulf Coast.” You’ll want to start with the I-10 Tower, a truckload of oysters, crab claws, pickled shrimp and veg, smoked fish dip, heritage breed cured ham, and a massive slab of chicharrón on you which you can peel, suck, slurp, and crunch. After that, it’s Southern takes on all things seasonal, with dishes like grilled Gulf fish & grits, fried catfish and braised greens, and pan-seared snapper with sweet potato cacio e pepe. Also a great idea? Lunch, brunch and happy hour.

Gilhooley’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar

Dickinson

You’re leaving the loop for this one, so we’ll give you a moment to get over that. Alright, now take solace in that fact that it will be worth it, because this oyster dive is so fresh, it doesn’t even need to bother with trivial things like ice (or credit card machines, so bring cash). The oysters get pulled straight from the water, then get served straight up with lemon, cocktail sauce, horseradish and saltines. Perhaps better, though, is when they get a healthy brush-stroke of garlic butter and Parmesan, then take a thrill ride in a oak and peck-wood BBQ pit before coming out with a bubbling, oozing crust a la the Oysters Gilhooley.

Holley's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar

Holley’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar

Midtown

Seafood dishes cover the entire lay of the Southern landscape at this Midtown beaut from chef Mark Holley, who is also covering all the bases with crudo, ceviche, freshly-shucked oysters, caviar service, and a rad bourbon program. Southern charm shines through Holley’s endlessly creative dishes, from crispy redfish over bourbon-smoked short rib agnolotti to Louisiana flounder “plancha.” Don’t miss brunch, where smoky scotch bloody Marys are the perfect companion to citrus-cured salmon & latkes and sorghum glazed shrimp with pickled serrano-boursin grits.

Caracol

Caracol Mexican Seafood Kitchen

Galleria

Husband-and-wife team Tracy Vaught and chef Hugo Ortega already had their hands full with the success of Mexican eatery Hugo’s and classic Southern spot Backstreet Cafe. Thankfully, that didn’t stop them from expanding their empire to include another concept, this one focused on the cuisine of the coastal Mexico. Start with the wood-roasted Gulf oysters dripping in chipotle butter (unless you’re a crazy person), then dive into littleneck clam posole rojo and the catch-of-the-day a la plancha, which gets pan-seared and drizzled with tomatillo-caper sauce. Dessert is the playful El Coco, a chocolate-cocunut shell that you crack open with a tiny wooden mallet to reveal coconut buttercream, coconut ganache, coconut streusel, and whipped coconut. There’s no seafood in it, but that’s probably a good thing.

Courtesy of SaltAir Seafood Kitchen

SaltAir Seafood Kitchen

Upper Kirby

A little global inspiration never hurt anyone. This seafood kitchen from Clark Cooper Concepts (Ibiza, Brasserie 19, etc.) lives up to group’s baller status with constantly refreshed chalkboard specials, daily selections of caviar, and all coast raw oysters next to some truly standout mainstays. Here, it actually makes sense having handmade saffron fettuccine with jumbo crabmeat, lemon butter and bottarga next to tempura-battered fish and chips, Moroccan-spiced redfish on-the-half-shell and tuna poke thanks to chef Brandi Key’s gift of balancing flavors.

Danton's Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen

Danton’s Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen

Montrose

This throwback Creole and Cajun haunt proves that sometimes, old school beats new school. Third Coast soul seeps through simple platters of oysters and steamed or fried clams, shrimp and crab, and NOLA favorites like crawfish etouffee and catfish po’ boys. Then there’s the seafood gumbo, where the rous is no-joke dark, meaning it’s no-joke rich and no-joke complex, too. Get a cup loaded with bits of Gulf shrimp, oysters, and buttery crab, then throw in some fluffy white rice and hot sauce, and do it all at Sunday jazz & blues brunch, because you know how to live.

Lotus Seafood

Westchase (& Northwest & Southwest)

What began as a humble “You Buy, We Fry” shop in the ‘90s has blossomed into an incurable seafood addiction for locals in the know. What is the root of the addiction, you ask? Easy.  "Loud Packs" and "Crack Sauce.” That’s some Snap-worthy shrimp and crawfish fried rice with extra spice and more shrimp that you can and will absolutely smother in creamy garlic butter sauce. Good thing there’s three stops at which you can do so.

Number 13

Number 13 Prime Steak & Seafood

Galveston

Sitting pretty on the Pelican Rest Marina, this chic seafood and chophouse boasts a two-story, island style terrace and indoor dining room is 100% luxury. You can hit either one to feast on sweet Gulf oysters, or screw it, fine dine and go all out with the sexy Grand Amuse. The iced seafood tower comes stacked with those oysters, plus shrimp cocktail, scallops, mussels, tuna tartare, AND lobster or king crab. In the colder months, oyster chowder warms the heart with plump bivalves, bacon and oyster cream; and slash-and-burn oak-grilled snapper with bright and tangy chimichurri hits the spot all year round.

La Fisheria - Houston

La Fisheria

Downtown

True to its name, the Vuelve a la Vida soup at La Fisheria will bring you to life. The popular Mexican hangover cure is plump with fresh seafood selections like oysters, octopus, mussels and shrimp, plus a whole lotta spice so you can sweat out last night’s bad decisions. It’s great, however, it isn’t the only thing people love this fish house for. Get things like an entire lineup of seafood tacos, gorgeously-charred octopus with garlic and yucca, what just may be the city’s finest ceviches, and a whole deep-fried lobster with black beans, rice and the proper accoutrement.

Rudy & Paco’s

Galveston

Pants are required to get a taste of this Latin American fine dining game changer in Galveston’s historic district. Hit it in the afternoon for mango habanero salmon and fantastic grilled fish tacos; or go for the gold with a dinner of plantain-crusted Gulf red snapper that is a big “yes”, fiery shrimp diablos, and grilled Ahi tuna over dreamy cognac mustard sauce. There’s steak and stuff, too, for the non fish-loving crowd, if anyone cares about them.

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1. PESKA Seafood Culture 1700 Post Oak Blvd Ste 190, Houston, TX 77056 (Uptown)

After opening two successful restaurants in Mexico, sibling owners Maite and Diego set their sights on Houston. This aquatic-themed eatery and seafood market is serving up fresh, Mexican-inspired in Galleria. Peska also has an impressive raw bar and a hired “seafood sommelier” who will assist you in picking a fresh catch to fit your tastes.

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2. Reef 2600 Travis St, Houston, TX 77006 (Midtown)

This spot bounces around on lists of the best seafood restaurants in the US, and for good reason. Jumbo Crab Cakes, Crispy Skin Snapper, and Red Fish on the Half-Shell are all favorites, which along with their 400 label wine list makes this a definite winner.

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3. Bernadine's 1801 N Shepherd Dr Ste B, Houston, TX 77008 (The Greater Heights)

Distinctively Southern, Bernadine’s is a contemporary Gulf Coast seafood restaurant that gleans inspiration from restaurants along the Interstate 10 corridor, from Apalachicola oyster shacks to fish fry stands in South Texas. Bernadine’s offers brunch, lunch, and dinner menus of seafood and snacks and large plates. For dinner, you’ll dive into the menu by choosing a couple of briny starters, namely Gulf oysters on the half-shell and Gulf ceviche with Tennessee apple leche de tigre, radish, shaved onion, and pepita gremolata. Shifting away from seafood, continue your meal with the confit duck leg, paired with chaurice sausage, roasted chicken jus, creole mustard spaetzle, and fermented rainbow chard. Ask for cocktail recommendations, but you can’t go wrong with any of Bernadine’s speakeasy-inspired beverages; as you sip on your Kentucky Mule with bourbon, lime, mint turbinado, and Angostura bitters, you’ll be transported to the world of Prohibition, when Houston Heights was, begrudgingly, under the “dry ordinance.”

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4. Gilhooley's Restaurant & Oyster Bar 222 9th St, Dickinson, TX 77539

When you sell as many oysters as Gilhooley’s does, you don’t have to bother with trivial things like fancy ice, or refrigerators, or what not. You just pull the oysters out of the water, bring them over to patrons, and serve them right from the bag. Or you can opt for the namesake special (which we put on our iconic American foods list), which features roast oysters brushed with garlic butter and Parmesan, and then tucked into an oak and pecan-wood BBQ pit until the crust bubbles.

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5. Holley's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar 3201 Louisiana St, Houston, TX 77006

With multiple dining rooms – including a more casual one with an oyster shucking station -- this Midtown eatery dishes out seafood done the Southern way. Chef Mark Holley is covering all the bases with crudo, ceviche, raw oysters, caviar service, and a bourbon program, too. The interior is sleek and modern, with dark wooden accents and big windows. The drinks produced through Holley's cocktail program are not to be missed either.

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6. Caracol 2200 Post Oak Blvd Ste 160, Houston, TX 77056 (Uptown)

This glassy, sleek eatery in Midtown serves up seafood-centered Mexican fare including starters like salsa-topped oysters and headlining shrimp tacos and pan seared daily catches. Frequent happy hours, only at the bar, get you plenty of liquored up treats with salted rims and leafy garnishes like the Cuba Moderna with rum aged over 12 years.

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7. SaltAir Seafood Kitchen 3029 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098

SaltAir Seafood Kitchen is serving up global flavors and giving off a West Coast vibe. Don't miss their Moroccan-spiced redfish on-the-half-shell, or their PEI mussels with uni cream and hamachi crudo with foie gras.

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8. Danton's Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen 4611 Montrose , Houston, TX 77006 (Montrose)

Occupying the bottom floor of Montrose's Chelsea Market, Danton's Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen is a timeless 200-seat seafood restaurant with both a dining room and a separate oyster bar. You won't find any fast-fleeing trends in the atmosphere or the food here, just a constant after-work dinner rush and a menu full of Southern favorites. Big groups can usually be found around a platter of fresh-shucked oysters, and temptation for grilled fish or steak rarely bows out.

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9. Lotus Seafood Market 8550 S Braeswood Blvd, Houston, TX 77071

Westchase's Lotus Seafood Market is a one-stop-shop for any seafood you could possibly desire. Fresh from the sea, the menu items here are practically endless and include simple fried rice plates to massive seafood platters with catfish fillets and fried oysters between (all served to go in styrofoam boxes so don't expect to hang around for long). You can unexpectedly find some really good chicken wings at this spot, too, but it'd be a mockery to eat those when you've got fried lobster with Louisiana fried rice waiting for you.

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10. Number 13 Prime Steak and Seafood 7809 Broadway St, Galveston, TX 77554

Perched at the Pelican Rest Marina on Offatts Bayou, Number 13 Prime Steak and Seafood is sprucing up the Galveston Island dining scene with its Gulf fish fare and fine cuts of meat. Sit on the double-decker terrace and enjoy a cocktail (like the Texas Mule made with bourbon, ginger beer, ginger zest, lime, and mint) with a view or head inside for an upscale American menu featuring towers of fresh oysters, lobster, crab legs, and shrimp, as well as beautifully plated catch-of-the-day, grilled quail, wet aged rib eye, cabernet braised ribs, or pork belly. If you stop by for brunch, expect equally delicious, meat-forward options like prime rib and eggs … but bottomless mimosa’s go well with everything.

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11. La Fisheria 213 Milam St, Houston, TX 77002 (Downtown)

La Fisheria serves up authentic Mexican cuisine and a vibrant, neighborhood atmosphere in its large Downtown spot. With a vast menu of tequilas, cervezas, and inventive cocktails, like Tamarind, Hibiscus, and Jicama Margaritas, it’s no surprise that the food menu is just as expansive … the catch is that it almost exclusively serves fresh, creative seafood dishes. Although they are known for their ceviches, like the Ostiones en su Concha (local oysters with cucumber soy sauce and lime vinaigrette) and the Verde (fish marinated in Seville orange juice and tomatillo sauce), they also serve a host of tacos like Tacos de Pescado al Pastor (Mexico City-style marinated fish with grilled pineapple) and mains like the Pulpa a la Parrilla (grilled octopus served with sautéed veggies).

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12. Rudy & Paco 2028 Post Office St, Galveston, TX 77550

Rudy & Paco’s is a standout among the many seafood restaurants in Galveston Island’s historic district because of its authentic Latin American flare. As long as you’re not wearing shorts, this upscale corner restaurant will serve you options like Salmon a la Parrilla (grilled salmon over a mango habanero sauce), Filete de Pargo Simpatico (plantain crusted red snapper topped with crab and served over raspberry chipotle sauce), Carmones Diablos (gulf shrimp linguine served in a spicy marinara), and a 16 ounce prime rib-eye steak … it’s still Texas after all. Finish off your meal with a bang like Cuatro Leches cake or a dessert cocktail like Paco Espresso Martini. Pro tip: after dinner, plan to catch a show at the opera house next door.