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Royal River Grill House

Royal River Grill House

NEW ENGLAND REGION

ROYAL RIVER GRILL HOUSE
Yarmouth, Maine
The Royal River in Yarmouth, Maine, is a scenic destination that flows for 26 miles from Sabbathday Lake to Casco Bay and includes more than 100 miles of tributaries. Located on the riverfront is Royal River Grill House, which serves wood-grilled seafood and steaks. (Note that the dock in front of the restaurant is private and does not have space for customers.) The restaurant serves dinner daily and lunch on Monday through Saturday, with a lighter mid-day menu available from 3 to 4 p.m. every day. There’s also a breakfast menu on Fridays and Saturdays, and a brunch menu on Sundays. Signature house specialties include wood-grilled salmon, duck breast and kurobuta pork chop, with a number of a la carte steaks cooked in the woodfire grill offered as well. Seafood-lovers will appreciate the halibut, pan-seared panko haddock and scallops au poivre.

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THE OAR
New Shoreham, Rhode Island
Located at the Boat Basin in New Harbor on Block Island, The Oar is a famed summer destination with beautiful views of the Great Salt Pond. According to island legend, if you visit Block Island by boat, you must leave behind an oar, which can be decorated with the names of your boat and crewmembers, and date of your visit. The restaurant has been displaying oars left by its customers since the 1950s, and many visitors to the island agree that The Oar is a destination unto itself. While best known for its frozen Block Island Mudslides, the restaurant serves up American cuisine and seafood, including clam chowder and New England lobster rolls. There’s also a full sushi bar. With a laid-back atmosphere and outdoor seating, it’s a great place to tie up the boat and grab a bite to eat with your crew after a day on the water. 

MATUNUCK OYSTER BAR
Wakefield, Rhode Island
Offering indoor and outdoor dining on Potter Pond in Wakefield, Rhode Island, Matunuck Oyster Bar delivers stellar views and fresh shellfish that are harvested on-site. Guests can order oysters, clams, shrimp, lobster and more from the raw bar or enjoy one of the many prepared shellfish dishes on the menu. Matunuck Oyster Bar is unique in that it not only serves locally sourced seafood, but it allows its customers to see exactly where the food comes from. The restaurant offers hour-long tours of the Matunuck Oyster Farm on Potter Pond, where visitors can observe different species of shellfish in various stages of growth.

CHART ROOM
Cataumet, Massachusetts
Located in a converted New Jersey Central Railroad barge that was formerly used as a machine shop to produce Army and Navy vessels for the Korean War, The Chart Room serves fresh seafood and offers views of Red Brook Harbor in Cape Cod. There’s a lively atmosphere here, with piano players frequently performing, and ample outdoor seating is available so guests can watch the sunset over the harbor while enjoying their meal. The Chart Room is famous for its lobster salad, but other classic New England seafood options include steamers, clam chowder, fish tacos, swordfish and scallops.The Black Dog Tavern

THE BLACK DOG TAVERN
Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
The Black Dog Tavern is known far outside of its home on Martha’s Vineyard for its souvenir T-shirts featuring its black dog logo. The restaurant itself has been a fixture on the Vineyard since 1971, when Capt. Robert Douglas decided to open the first year-round restaurant on the island. He built the restaurant at the head of Vineyard Haven Harbor overlooking the beach and named it after his canine companion, Black Dog. Today, the restaurant offers classic tavern food and local seafood, including fried calamari, P.E.I. mussels and fried oysters. The Black Dog Tavern also serves breakfast daily, so guests can start their day with lobster benedict or fill up with a more traditional diner-style breakfast. 

CLARKE COOKE HOUSE
Newport, Rhode Island
A quintessential part of Newport history, the Clarke Cooke House has hosted royalty and yachting stars, including victorious America’s Cup crews. It offfers both casual and upscale dining on Newport Harbor. All food operations are overseen by Chef Ted Gidley, including the Bistro café, the Candy Store, the SkyBar on the top floor, the Oyster Bar, and the famous Summer Sushi bar. After starting his career at an Italian bistro in Newport, Chef Gidley worked at the famed Moulin de Mougins on the French Riviera and now brings Mediterranean-influenced American cuisine to the Clarke Cooke House.

SCHOONER LANDING
Damariscotta, Maine
The Schooner Landing Marina offers boaters in the twin villages of Damariscotta and Newcastle, Maine, ample docking facilities and slips, serving as a great jumping off point for locations such as Bristol and Pemaquid Point. Schooner Landing is more than just a marina, however. Its on-site restaurant is worth a visit itself. Schooner Landing serves Pemaquid oysters, Pemaquid mussels and lobster prepared in just about every way imaginable, including lobster rolls, stews, pies and quesadillas. There are a variety of other seafood options on the menu, along with burgers and sandwich options for the less seafood-inclined. 

TOP OVERALL IN REGION
The Oar, New Shoreham, RI
Matunuck Oyster Bar, Wakefield, RI
Chart Room, Cataumet, MA
Clarke Cooke House, Newport, RI
Abel’s Lobster, Mt. Desert, ME

TOP FAMILY RESTAURANT IN REGION
The Oar, New Shoreham, RI
Chart Room, Cataumet, MA
The Black Dog Tavern, Vineyard Haven, MA
Clarke Cooke House, Newport, RI
Finz, Salem, MA, and Islesford Dock, Islesford, ME

TOP LOCATION FOR DATE NIGHT
Clarke Cooke House, Newport, RI
The Oar, New Shoreham, RI
Chart Room, Cataumet, MA
Royal River Grill House, Yarmouth, ME
CRU, Nantucket, MA

TOP LOCATION BASED ON QUALITY OF FOOD
Matunuck Oyster Bar, Wakefield, RI
Clarke Cooke House, Newport, RI
Chart Room, Cataumet, MA
Royal River Grill House, Yarmouth, ME
The Back Eddy, Westport, MA

TOP LOCATION BASED ON VALUE
Chart Room, Cataumet, MA
Schooner Landing, Damariscotta, ME
Royal River Grill House, Yarmouth, ME
McSeagulls Restaurant, Boothbay Harbor, ME
Barking Crab, Boston, MA

TOP RESTAURANT BASED ON LOCATION
The Oar, New Shoreham, RI
Chart Room, Cataumet, MA
Clarke Cooke House, Newport, RI
The Seafood Shanty, Edgartown, MA
Five Islands Lobster Company, Georgetown, ME

TRI-STATE REGION

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

ABBOTT'S LOBSTER IN THE ROUGH
Noank, Connecticut
Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough is one among a hit parade of restaurants from the same owners, including Costello’s Clam Shack in Noank and Abbott’s Outpost in downtown Mystic, Connecticut. Abbott’s has been serving hot lobster rolls and lobster dinners for 75 years, and locals still line up on opening day—this past May, they were outside the door salivating for lunch before 11 a.m. Abbott’s was ready to feed them, with lobsters on the menu ranging from a 1¼-pounder to a 10-pound behemoth. The lobster rolls, too, come in various sizes up to a full pound of meat.

THE CLAM BAR AT BRIDGE MARINE
Bayville, New York
All types of boats are welcome at the clam bar, which has a 160-foot floating dock along with a launch service to get diners to and from their vessels. The clams served here are harvested daily from Long Island’s Oyster Bay, and are served on the half shell, steamed, baked or fried. There also are oysters on the menu, along with various kinds of seafood including a sampler platter that adds fried shrimp to the mix. Signature dishes include platters piled high with snow crab or king crab legs, and there are burger and pizza platters to keep the kids happy.

CLAUDIO'S RESTAURANT
Greenport, New York
If you want to dock and dine at a spot with serious boating heritage, you’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that fits the bill better than Claudio’s. Manuel Claudio pulled into the harbor at Greenport in 1854 and loved the place so much that in 1870, he took all his earnings as a sailor and opened Claudio’s Tavern. The Victorian bar he installed in 1886 is still there today, serving cocktails, wine and beer. (Try the Greenport Julep, made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, mint and Giffard Banane liqueur.) Dockage for boaters is $1 per foot of length overall for two hours.

DOCKSIDE AT DAUNTLESS
Essex, Connecticut
Safe Harbor Dauntless and Dauntless Shipyard are the setting for the Dockside at Dauntless restaurant, which has the same owners as the Dockside Seafood and Grill at Safe Harbor Bruce & Johnsons in Branford, Connecticut. Lunch and dinner are served seven days a week in-season, from 11:30 a.m. till 9 p.m., with indoor and outdoor dining available. Specialty dishes include honey lemon salmon served with golden raisins and butter sauce, and a captain’s platter of fried shrimp, scallops and cod served with fries and sesame slaw. For a quick bite, try the Dockside lobster roll with a side of “famous” onion rings.

DOG WATCH CAFE
Stonington, Connecticut
This café takes its name from the “dog watch” hours that sailors have served on board as part of deck duty for centuries. Luckily, diners aren’t limited to those times, with the café open daily from 11:30 a.m. till 9 p.m. The location is ideal for boat lovers, overlooking Dodson Boatyard and Stonington Harbor, and the vibe is family-friendly with a summertime ice cream tent. Kids can build their own burgers while gourmands try the brisket grilled cheese or truffled scallop risotto. The Dogwatch seared tuna is a local favorite, served over Asian noodles with a cusabi drizzle and seaweed salad.

FRESH SALT
Old Saybrook, Connecticut
This restaurant is on the premises at Saybrook Point Resort & Marina, which has transient slips in addition to seasonal and megayacht dockage. Fresh Salt proudly adheres to its “local food commitment,” working closely with the area’s farmers and artisans to source ingredients. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and takeout is available to bring back to the boat. A kids’ menu has standards such as fish sticks, chicken fingers and hot dogs, while the main menu includes a full raw bar, classic dishes and sandwiches, and specialties such as lobster pot pie, Moroccan lamb tagine and chickpea penne.

FORD’S
Noank, Connecticut
From its earliest days several centuries ago, Noank has been synonymous with boating. The spot where Ford’s sits today on Riverview Avenue was a gas dock with bait and tackle back in the 1950s. Orion Ford took over that business in 1970 and added a lobster shack that’s still there today. His successors have since added menus for indoor dining and takeout, with lobster in all kinds of forms ranging from lobster avocado grilled cheese to lobster risotto. The Bisque Bomb is a fan favorite. It’s a sandwich packed with a half-pound of fresh-picked lobster and then smothered in creamy lobster bisque.

MARKER 37
Chester, Connecticut
Chester Point Marina is this restaurant’s home. Boaters cruise up the Connecticut River and then tie up for a meal. (Call for transient slips on VHF channel 9.) The food is described as “contemporary aquatic,” with soups such as New England clam, corn and jalapeno chowder on the menu alongside sea scallops casino and coconut shrimp. Tacos are offered with beef or fish, and flatbreads run the gamut from blackened shrimp scampi to red fig jam and prosciutto. There’s a taste of regions from Italy to the Florida Keys among the main dishes and desserts, with finishing touches of toasted almond tiramisu or house-made key lime pie.

PRIME
Stamford, Connecticut
Opened in summer 2016, Prime is a sister restaurant to an eatery with the same name across Long Island Sound in Huntington, New York. The two locations have similar styles, with glass walls for broad water views and open-air dining in good weather. There’s deck seating, along with an outdoor cabana bar. Wine enthusiasts can take a gander at the glass wine room holding more than 750 labels, while culinary aficionados can explore the menu of sushi, seafood and steaks. A prix fixe “power lunch” is offered from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday with Hudson Valley steelhead salmon as one of the main-course selections.

RED 36
Mystic, Connecticut
This popular spot is located on the Mystic River, just inside the famous railroad bridge with reserved slips for diners at Noank Shipyard and Seaport Marine. The views are spectacular, with the restaurant’s “window wall” fully opening on summer days to combine the inside dining space with an outdoor bar, lounge areas and tables. Menus here are seasonal. Boaters will find classics such as clam chowder or beer-battered cod on the menu, alongside more eclectic offerings ranging from grilled Mexican corn to an ahi tuna poke bowl.

TRES PALMS
Babylon, New York
This restaurant takes its name from a surf break in Rincon, Puerto Rico, where the owners discovered a memorable combination of good waves, fun times and great meals. They have imbued their location on Long Island’s Great South Bay with much of the same, offering lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, with Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. till 2 p.m. Boaters can also tie up and eat at the bar if they just want to nosh on guacamole, wings or fried calamari. On Tuesday nights starting at 5 p.m., there’s a lobster bake special with lobster, crab cake, baked clams and corn-on-the-cob. 

TOP OVERALL IN REGION

Tres Palms, Babylon NY
Ford’s Lobster Restaurant, Noank, CT
Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank, CT
Claudio’s, Greenport, NY
Dog Watch Café, Stonington CT 

TOP FAMILY RESTAURANT IN REGION
Tres Palm, Babylon, NY
Ford’s Lobster Restaurant, Noank, CT
Claudio’s Restaurant, Greenport, NY
Red 36, Mystic, CT
Dog Watch Café, Stoningon, CT, and Abbot’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank, CT

TOP LOCATION FOR DATE NIGHT
Red 36, Mystic, CT
Prime, Stamford, CT
Dog Watch Café, Stonington, CT
Breakwater, Stonington CT
Fresh Salt, Old Saybrook, CT

TOP LOCATION BASED ON QUALITY OF FOOD
Dog Watch Café, Stonington, CT
Fresh Salt, Old Saybrook, CT
Prime, Stamford, CT
Dockside at Dauntless, Essex CT
Red 36, Mystic, CT

TOP LOCATION BASED ON VALUE
Tres Palms, Babylon, NY
The Clam Bar at Bridge Marina, Bayville, NY
Dockside at Dauntless, Essex, CT
Crab Shell, Stamford, CT
Shanks Waterfront Dining, Clinton, NY

TOP RESTAURANT BASED ON LOCATION
Red 36, Mystic, CT
Marker 37, Chester, CT
Dog Watch Café, Stonington, CT
Breakwater, Stonington, CT
Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood, Rowayton, CT

MID-ATLANTIC REGION

Crab Claw Restaurant

Crab Claw Restaurant

CRAB CLAWSt. Michaels, Maryland
The motto at the Crab Claw is that “if he don’t kick, we don’t cook.” It refers to the specialty dish of Maryland blue crabs, which is fitting, given that the restaurant started in the 1950s as a clam-shucking and crab business. Today, the Crab Claw has indoor dining as well as outdoor dock dining, all of it overlooking the harbor. Menu options include a Chesapeake Bay sampler with crab cake, shrimp, oysters, fried clams and fish; or a full pound of king crab legs. For those with a swimsuit figure, the Dieter’s Delight includes backfin crabmeat served with seasonal fruit and dipping sauce. 

BRIDGES RESTAURANT
Grasonville, Maryland
Bridges is on the Kent Narrows with a private dock that has 16 slips for boats up to 65 feet length overall. Slips are complimentary for on-site diners and for boaters who want carry-out. There’s a $25 overnight dockage charge for boaters who want to stick around after dinner to enjoy the live music on Friday and Saturday nights. The menu includes salads, pizzas (including a crab pesto variety), sandwiches, burgers and entrees. The restaurant’s signature lump crab cake, available with one or two cakes, is served with sweet corn hash and sauteed green beans with a fire-roasted tomato vinaigrette.

CARROLL'S CREEK CAFE
Annapolis, Maryland
This café takes its name from Charles Carroll, a Marylander who signed the Declaration of Independence. That rich history seems baked right into the food, which includes catch harvested from the bay and served in new American style. For example, there’s baked oysters Carroll’s Creek, topped with horseradish, house-made bacon and Cabot Vermont cheddar. Another example is the herb-encrusted rockfish fillet served over toasted sunflower and sundried tomato risotto with sautéed baby spinach, lump crab and beurre blanc sauce. Boaters who plan to visit a few times each season can check out the frequent diner club to earn points redeemable for food and beverages.

CHICK'S OYSTER BAR
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Since 1998, Chick’s has been serving up food, drinks and live music. It opens at 11 a.m. daily and stays open till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, allowing time to try various flavors of the Chick’s Crush (flavored drinks ranging from mango and grapefruit to blackberry and creamsicle). Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4 to 5:30 p.m., with $10 bites of fried shrimp, calamari and more. Larger meals include Chick’s signature crab cakes.

FOXY’S HARBOR GRILLE
St. Michaels, Maryland
Foxy’s is known for its steamed seafood, homemade crab cakes, grilled burgers and frozen drinks, along with a revolving menu of craft beers on tap. The patio seating is first-come, first-served, and boaters with parties of five or more can make reservations for indoor dining. Appetizers are intended to be shared, with fan favorites such as chicken wings, seafood nachos and fried local oysters. Sandwiches range from veggie burgers to tuna, and entrees include rockfish imperial topped with lump crabmeat. Anyone looking for a place to party should note that the menu of crush buckets, shots and frozen drinks is an entire page long.

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HARBOR VIEW
Cape May, New Jersey
When Harbor View Marina opened in 1994, it had a few slips, a tackle shop and fuel. Harbor View Restaurant was added in 2004 to serve up seafood, steaks and chips. Today, the indoor and outdoor spaces (including two bars) welcome visitors with wide views of Cape May Harbor. The indoor menu is different from the deck menu, which includes a sizable section of hand-rolled sushi. Some of the other interesting menu offerings include Yuengling-battered shrimp or haddock, a South Jersey Devil flatbread with sausage, peppers and fra diavolo sauce, and a grouper Reuben topped with Russian dressing. 

THE LOBSTER HOUSE
Cape May, New Jersey
If you want fresh seafood, then it’s a smart bet to grab a table for lunch or dinner at a restaurant with its own fishing-boat fleet. That’s one of the calling cards at The Lobster House, which also has a fish market and a takeout shop on site. Anyone staying for a sit-down meal has a choice of five dining rooms overlooking Cape May Harbor, along with a selection of appetizers, soups, shellfish, salads and entrees from a packed two-page menu. One of the specialties is the Schooner Dinner, which includes a 1-pound lobster, cherrystone clams, scallops, shrimp and mussels served in a kettle.

ROBERT MORRIS INN
Oxford, Maryland
This inn on the Eastern Shore is a location that has stood the test of time. It was built in 1710 and has rooms where George Washington once slept. The red brick fireplaces were built by carpenters using bricks that had been ballast in ships arriving from England. The inn serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with Sunday brunch, and the style is considered “modern British.” That means the food has classical sensibilities in Chesapeake Bay style. Some examples include spiced blue catfish tacos, local White River perch tempura, and a surf-and-turf that comes with Atlantic flounder topped with crab imperial.

WATERMAN’S CRABHOUSE
Rock Hall, Maryland
Waterman’s got its start on the upper Eastern Shore a half century ago as a seafood market filled with freshly unloaded Chesapeake Bay fare. Today, it’s an award-winning restaurant with live weekend entertainment, indoor dining and a waterfront deck near deep-water slips on the Upper Bay for boats of most any size. Whereas restaurants inland focus on farm-to-table fare, Waterman’s has a boat-to-table ethic, especially for steamed Maryland blue crabs. Maryland crab soup and cream of crab soup are on the menu, along with dinners that include seafood and meat. There are even crabby burger and crabby chicken sandwich options. 

TOP OVERALL IN REGION
Lobster House, Cape May, NJ
Chick’s Oyster Bar, Virginia Beach, VA
Waterman’s Crabhouse Rock Hall, MD
Hook at Harvey, Cape Charles, VA
Cantlers, Annapolis, MD

TOP FAMILY RESTAURANT IN REGION
Harbor View Restaurant, Cape May, NJ
Waterman’s Crabhouse, Rock Hall, MD
Crab Claw, St. Michaels, MD
Tides Inn, Irvington, VA
Cantlers, Annapolis and Bridges, Grasonville, MD

TOP LOCATION FOR DATE NIGHT
Robert Morris Inn, Oxford, MD
Bridges, Grasonville, MD
Crab Claw, St. Michaels, MD
Foxy’s Harbor Grille, St. Michaels, MD
Surfing Pig, Wildwood, NJ

TOP LOCATION BASED ON QUALITY OF FOOD
Lobster House, Cape May, NJ
Crab Claw, St. Michaels, MD
Carrol’s Creek Café, Annapolis, MD
Harbor View Restaurant, Cape May
Hook at Harvey, Cape Charles, VA and Chick’s Oyster Bar, Virginia Beach (3) or Bridges (3)

TOP LOCATION BASED ON VALUE
Lobster House, Cape May
Chick’s Oyster Bar, Virginia Beach
Bridges, Grasonville, MD
Cantler’s Annapolis, MD
Surfrider, Norfolk, VA

TOP RESTAURANT BASED ON LOCATION
Bridges Restaurant, Grasonville, MD
Harbor View, Cape May, NJ
Crab Claw, St. Michaels, MD
The Porch on Long Creek, Virginia Beach, VA
Chick’s Oyster Bar, Virginia Beach, VA and Cantler’s, Annapolis, MD 

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MarineMax is proud to sponsor the Sounding’s Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Dock & Dines. Congratulations to all of the winners. If you’re a boater who plans to visit the top waterfront restaurants in each region, we encourage you to stop by a MarineMax location while cruising in the area.

Lobster House, Cape May, NJ: MarineMax Island Marine Center, Ocean View, NJ

Tres Palms, Babylon, NY: MarineMax Huntington, Huntington, NY

The Oar, New Shoreham, RI: MarineMax Wakefield, Wakefield, RI

This article was originally published in the July 2022 issue.

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