Mac’s flagship fish market on the Wellfleet dock.Photo Credit : Mike Urban
The seafood bounty from New England’s waters is best experienced at the region’s numerous, excellent seafood markets. Fiercely independent and mostly family-owned, these purveyors are the top source for fresh fish and shellfish from New England waters and beyond. Yankee contributor Mike Urban, author of The New England Seafood Markets Cookbook (Countryman Press, 2016) gives his picks for the 10 best New England seafood markets.
Though by no means the oldest, Harbor Fish is the granddaddy of all best New England seafood markets. Located in the commercial wharf section of Portland, Maine, this bustling fish bazaar is packed with seafood cases and fresh fish and shellfish iced down on display tables throughout the cavernous store for customers’ close inspection. There’s little you can’t find here in the way of fresh seafood, and proprietor Nick Alfiero makes sure his knowledgeable staff tends to your every seafood need.
This market is the seafood gem of the lower Connecticut River valley. Owned by Lisa Feinman, everything here is as fresh as it can be. CIA-trained resident chef Jerry Doran and his staff cut all their fish fresh and make all their prepared seafood delights from scratch every day. Late spring is a good time to pay a visit, when the shad are running up the Connecticut River and fresh shad and shad roe are in plentiful supply.
Much of the catch for sale at Champlin’s is literally walked off the back of fishing boats straight into the market’s display cases. Front and center on the docks of Galilee, this place has a lock on fresh seafood in southwestern Rhode Island. Locally caught squid is a specialty, as is the marinated snail salad, made from the meat of locally harvested conch. You may pick out your own lobster from Champlin’s bubbling tanks, and they’ll cook it and serve it to you upstairs at their airy seafood-deck restaurant.
Just north of Newport, Rhode Island, in a nondescript warehouse on a commercial stretch of highway sits Anthony’s Seafood, one of the top retail markets in southern New England. The market features a 28-foot-long seafood display case that stretches from one end of the room to the other. It’s loaded with fresh local fish and shellfish, all iced down and in full view for perusal and selection. The market’s famous Portuguese fish chowder is stocked in an adjacent freezer case. Be sure to pick up a pint or a quart to take home, or have a fresh bowl in Anthony’s adjacent restaurant.
Mac’s is as close as you’ll get to a seafood dynasty on Cape Cod. With four retail stores, this place has the upper Cape thoroughly covered. Owner Mac Hay has developed close personal relationships with many of the local fishermen, and there’s probably no better place to procure world-famous Wellfleet oysters than at Mac’s flagship store by the town dock in Wellfleet.
SEE MORE:The Best Cape Cod Lobster Rolls
This upscale fish market on the Portland, Maine, waterfront is known primarily as a purveyor of fine caviars from all over the world. It also has a first-rate fish market stocked with finned fish and shellfish from New England, Europe, and beyond. Smoked fish is also a specialty here, with Browne’s employing its own “smokemaster.” Browne’s wine shop, upstairs from the fish market, is considered one of the finest in the city.
Sashimi is king at New Deal Fish Market, a 90-year-old shop that has an amazing variety of fish, shellfish, and sushi-related products for every seafood lover’s needs. Owner Carl Fantasia keeps his display cases packed with fish from all over the world, each type identified by their English and Japanese names. There are lots of gourmet Italian foodstuffs and plenty of fresh produce on display on the shelves lining the shop and in front of the seafood cases.
Housed in a handsome blue, colonial-style clapboard building just down the street from historic Strawbery Banke, Sander’s Fish Market is the go-to place for fresh seafood along New Hampshire’s coastline. An offshoot of nearby Sander’s Lobster Company, this fish market is bright, cheery, and always stocked with daily deliveries from local fishermen. Their lobster roll is great, too.
The best place for fresh seafood north of Portland in Maine is Jess’s Market, a compact store a couple of blocks off the main drag in Rockland. Owner Sharon O’Brien works with her daughters to supply mid-coast Mainers with everything from fresh lobsters trapped in nearby waters to hard-to-get seasonal specialties such as shad and shad roe from the Connecticut River. Jess’s also has a small but amazing wine selection in a back corner of the store that’s worth checking out once your seafood selections have been made.
Hiding in plain sight in the Indian Neck neighborhood of Branford, Connecticut, is the oversized, wonderfully stocked seafood market known as Bud’s. Owned by Hal Beckley, this place is a seafood lover’s dream, with warm lighting, well-stocked seafood cases, and lots of add-ons for cooking, serving, and enjoying the bounty of the local seas. Hal cuts virtually all of his fish fresh in the back room, and his lobster tanks are the biggest and best stocked on the Connecticut shore.
What tops your list of the best New England seafood markets?
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.