The Top 10 Places to Try Sustainable Seafood in the U.S.
Warm temperatures, sunny weather, and school breaks make summer almost synonymous with travel. The two go together like the classic peanut butter and jelly, or as we like to say, barramundi and lemon butter (if you haven’t tried it—do).
With the increase of food education, cooking shows, and social media, more and more food has become a reason to travel—or at the very least, something to seek out when you’re on the road.
In fact, over a third of tourism spending is on food. There are some good reasons as to why: Not only is food delicious and social, it is often a path to getting a feel and true understanding of a place and what its community cares about.
Here at Australis, we care deeply about sustainable seafood (no surprise!). And by that, we mean seafood caught or farmed by employing farming and harvesting practices that promote animal well-being, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship.
When we travel, wherever we go, we seek out sustainable seafood to better understand what that looks like in the particular place that we find ourselves. It never fails to be a delicious and educational adventure. With that in mind, we’ve gathered a collection of 10 leading restaurants across the country where you can try and explore sustainable seafood. All are a part of the James Beard Foundation’s Smart Catch program and source and serve sustainable (and delicious) seafood.
This beloved and popular Los Angeles pizzeria is the brainchild of bread queen Nancy Silverton and Italian wine aficionado and restaurateur Joe Bastianich. While LA and good pizza might make you think twice, Pizzeria Mozza gives a California twist to the classic dish with a focus on local, seasonal vegetables, sustainable seafood, and thoughtfully sourced products. The restaurant group behind the restaurant, Bastianich & Batali, has an in-house Director of Environmental Health as proof of their dedication to sustainability. The team at Pizzeria Mozza worked closely with the director, Elizabeth Meltz, to make their restaurant as eco-conscious as possible, including everything from their water use to the materials used to build the space. While the pizzas are not to be missed, go on Fridays for their cioppino made with shrimp, mussels, clams, and cod in a tomato-based broth.
Run by local Vermont native chef Doug Paine, Bleu is a restaurant that fully embodies the essence of sourcing and supporting local fisherman and growers. Its menu showcases the ingredients and offerings that Vermont has to offer with dishes ranging from fried whole belly clams to a cider-glazed Starbird salmon. As a way of educating their guests about their mission, Bleu includes tidbits about their purveyors into its story. For example, Captain Anthony Naples, the sole proprietor of Starbird Fish (the restaurant’s salmon vendor) spent his youth in Alaska. You’ll also find Ethan Wood who is described as the dictionary definition of “joie de fish” as opposed to “joie de vivre”—because that’s how much he cares about fish. To say that they are dedicated to their community and quality would be a vast understatement.
A restaurant that prides itself on serving thoughtful small plates, Saltyard’s menu reflects a dedication to sustainability, something that was very important to Nick Leahy, the former chef. “I want to uphold what Nick Leahy created here and his ethos,” says current chef Wendell Brown. “Offering a product that is sustainable is important because you are surrounded by it on a daily basis,” Brown says, referring to the salmon and tuna on the restaurant’s menus, both of which are sourced from sustainable purveyors.
While the menu changes with the seasons, go for the lump crab toast topped with tobiko as well as a smoked salmon crostini with dijon fromage blanc. For a main course, try the crispy whole snapper with spring vegetables.
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In 2014, Peche won the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in America, which was the same year that one of Peche’s chefs, Ryan Prewitt, was awarded Best Chef in the South. Peche is a result of Prewitt pairing up with famous southern restaurateur and chef Donald Link and chef Stephen Stryjewski to create a concept that celebrates local fisherman and farmers who harvest sustainably. On the menu, you’ll find local oysters and Gulf shrimp as well as small plates like catfish with pickled greens and chili broth and fish sticks made with a NoLa beer brewing batter.
Pomp, a fine dining restaurant at the stunning Resort at Paws Up, is overseen by Executive Chef Sunny Jin, who honed his skills at the French Laundry cooking under Thomas Keller. After traveling the world dining at some of the best restaurants, he brings his “cook locally, cook sustainability” philosophy to the property. Both a ranch and resort, Paws Up offers luxury accommodations in the heart of BlackFoot Valley. You can choose to “rough it” by glamping in their high-end tents or book more traditional rooms. Either way, you get to enjoy the untouched and pristine nature, quiet and slow pace of life while dining on thoughtfully sourced ingredients that celebrate American cuisine, like scallops with charred corn salad, corn butter, and corn nuts.
Both owner Amy Morton and Chef Nicole Pederson share a similar approach to creating a community that supports local suppliers and growers to drive their unique and evolving menu. In fact, most of their products come from farmers within a two-hour drive of the restaurant. As dining room manager Aja Terrier explains, for seafood, they source sustainable purveyors outside of Illinois and try to work with sources within a 100-mile radius of their establishment, whenever possible. Once inside, you’ll find a relaxed vibe with a slight French bistro feel to it, making it a perfect place to savor a cocktail like the wildcat—a nod to Northwestern University up the street—and dishes like PEI mussels with smoked onions, lager, and fennel or a rainbow trout with olive oil confit potatoes.
What began in 1890 as oyster farming in the Puget Sound has now become a five-generation family-run business that prides itself on a dedication to sustainable shellfish farming. Taylor Shellfish Farms now has numerous oyster bars in the Pacific Northwest where you can enjoy their products (they also sell them wholesale on the website). From Bellevue, WA, to Seattle, you can sit at the bar, enjoy wine, beer or a cocktail with fresh, delicious seafood, ranging from geoduck to shigoku oysters. Their mussels, oysters, and clams are considered ‘best choices’ by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program. The bars are popular amongst locals for the quality of the food and friendliness of the staff (plus, they really know their stuff).
The scent of the wood-burning oven roasting fresh, seasonal vegetables will make your stomach growl the minute you walk through the door of this Italian-focused restaurant. Chef Amy Brandwein shapes the menu based off of fresh market ingredients. At the adjacent market, you can buy many of the local ingredients and products from the purveyors Brandwein uses in her menu, including sustainable seafood like salmon, tuna, and wild striped bass. Dishes like the wood-roasted black bass and shellfish main course served with spring onions, lemon, and olive oil pair well with the Italian-forward wine list and various local beers.
Inspired by the creative and eccentric history of Austin, a group of native Austinites opened this drinking and dining space that includes several different rooms designed to enjoy both of those two things. Grab a seat behind the mahogany bar that comes from New York’s famed (and now defunct) Cedar Tavern or enjoy the atmosphere of the restaurant’s sun-filled dining spaces. Like the owners, the menu celebrates all-things Austin by partnering with nearby farms or thoughtfully procured producers. Enjoy small plates like baked oysters with black garlic and crunchy breadcrumbs or a confit Atlantic halibut with littleneck clams and shishito peppers in a saffron broth for your main course.
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For many people, seafood is a source of nostalgia, one that triggers memories of summers spent with family at the beach, enjoying fresh fish and other seafood. This is one part of what drives chef Todd Mitgang, as he explains that “Serving sustainable fish is important to all of us at Crave Fishbar because we want our children and their children to have access to the same seafood experiences that we all remember growing up, and that we continue to experience at restaurants like ours.” Crave Fishbar has two Manhattan locations that offer a full raw bar as well as dishes like a barramundi ceviche made with charred spring onion, asparagus in a piquin chile broth. Plus, don’t miss their daily dollar-oyster happy hours from five to seven pm.
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Got a favorite place for sustainable seafood? Share it in the comments below!