18 Seaboard

18 Seaboard Ave #100, Raleigh, 18restaurantgroup.com/18-seaboard

Chef-owner Jason Smith’s penchant for local, sustainable sourcing is evident across the upscale Southern menu, particularly when it comes to seafood. You’ll find N.C. oysters, Pamlico Sound shrimp, and Carolina Classics catfish.

Akai Hana Japanese Restaurant 

206 West Main Street, Carrboro, akaihana.com 

For sushi in Carrboro, proceed directly to Akai Hana, a welcoming, communal room where bright, fresh nigiri, sashimi, and rolls are longtime local fixtures. Not to worry, there’s plenty of udon and tempura for the sushi-squeamish. Dare you try the sushi burrito?

City Market Sushi

315 Blake Street, Raleigh, citymarketsushi.net

When it comes to fresh, creative roll combinations, City Market Sushi is tops. Look for specialty rolls such as the Spicy Tuna Dynamite, with crab inside and baked spicy tuna outside, or the Hamachi Volcano, with crab, seared yellowtail, and eel sauce. For the best variety at lunch, opt for the “go” lunch box with multiple pieces of sashimi, nigiri, a tuna roll, and a seaweed-and-squid salad.  

The Cortez Seafood + Cocktail

413 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, cortezraleigh.com

The Cortez lives up to its billing with a menu of raw N.C. oysters on the half-shell, super-fresh ceviches punched up with citrus and spice, and plenty of plates starring N.C.-caught fish, including seared big-eye tuna, grilled swordfish, and whole red snapper. Don’t miss the gambas al ajillo, shell-on shrimp sauteed in a garlicky lemon-butter sauce.

J&J Fish and Chicken 

1403 South Miami Boulevard, Durham 

J&J serves perfectly cooked seafood with a vast array of sides, including fried okra and collards, along with a rainbow-like assortment of cakes. The popcorn shrimp is way more shrimp than breading, and the flounder is always fresh and cooked just right—crispy on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside. Confronted by the tempting menu and colossal portions, you’ll order way too much. That’s OK—everybody does. 

M Sushi

311 Holland Street, Durham, msushidurham.com 

To put it simply, M Sushi is the best sushi spot in Durham, bar none. Here, the fish is fresh, the rolls are artfully prepared, and the nigiri is to die for. What else do you want? 

Postal Fish Co.

75 West Salisbury Street, Pittsboro, postalfishcompany.com

With its location in a former Pittsboro post office and fish-centric menu, it’s easy to see where Postal Fish Co. gets its name. Look to the “Hand Selected from the Docks” part of the menu to see what chefs James Clark and Bill Hartley have picked out that day—things like local monkfish and amberjack. Carolina peel-and-eat shrimp, raw oysters, and small plates such as steamed clams and fish cakes complete the seafood lineup.

Saint James Seafood

806 West Main Street, Durham, saintjamesseafood.com 

Saint James’s main draw is a raw bar with all manner of oysters, from fat and briny to mild and sweet. But if you want to go all in, there are towers overflowing with lobster and crab and beautifully plated seafood entrées bringing out the best in lobster, swordfish, and whatever else swims to shore. 

Saltbox Seafood Joint 

608 North Mangum Street, 2637 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, Durham, saltboxseafoodjoint.com 

Whether you stop by the original shack on Mangum Street or the roomier location on 15-501, you’re guaranteed the freshest regional seafood around. You’ll find familiar species such as fried shrimp and flounder, but chef Ricky Moore is an evangelist for whole-pan fish like croaker. And while we’re at it, allow us to proselytize the virtues of Moore’s drool-worthy hush honeys. 

St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar

223 South Wilmington Street, Raleigh, strochraleigh.com

Chef Sunny Gerhart’s DTR eatery puts the spotlight on oysters, raw, roasted, and fried, but you’ll also find N.C. clams, a catch of the day, peel-and-eat shrimp, and crawfish—a nod to his New Orleans roots.

2018 Best of the Triangle Readers’ Pick, Best Seafood Restaurant: Saltbox Seafood Joint.

Best Sushi:

M Sushi, Durham County

Akai Hana Japanese Restaurant, Orange and Chatham Counties

Waraji Japanese Restaurant, Wake County