Southern Brooklyn may have lost some of its charm and gritty waterfront cred as the borough’s working fishing village, but for seafood, the area from Sheepshead Bay to Mill Basin still cannot be beat.
Yet too few Brownstone Brooklynites make a trek that locals take for granted.
“Seafood is such a nostalgic thing for people born and raised near the water around here,” said Jodie Mancuso, manager of Nick’s Lobster in Mill Basin. “It’s in our blood.”
And thanks to their filling lobster rolls, steaming piles of crabs and closely guarded family recipes, these decades-old, family-run joints still stand out on strips that now house such chains as Applebee’s and T.G.I. Friday’s, continuing a long-standing summer culinary tradition.
But before you don that bib, dig in to our lip-smacking good seafood guide.
“The lobster from Nova Scotia is the best in the world,” said Jordan’s Lobster Dock owner Bill Jordan, who sources his product exclusively from the Canadian waters. “These are well-fed lobsters with plenty of meat.”
They must be good: the family-owned restaurant on Harkness Avenue in Sheepshead Bay has been a neighborhood staple since 1966, and was even the inspiration behind the Martin Scorese-produced film, “Brooklyn Lobster,” written and directed by Jordan’s brother, Kevin, in 1995.
For today’s diners, we recommend the sandwich combos, especially the quarter-pound lobster roll with fries ($17.99). Unlike the typical Maine-style roll that’s loaded with mayo, Jordan’s handpicks meat from the claws, tails and knuckles and leaves it undisturbed on a toasted and buttered potato roll. Customers then get mayo, lemon slices and tartar sauce on the side to use at their own discretion.
“We want to give out 100-percent pure lobster meat, but give people their own lobster salad kit if they want,” said Jordan.
Jordan’s Lobster Dock [3165 Harkness Ave. at Plumb Second Street in Sheepshead Bay, (800) 404-2529].
It’s all about the sauce at Randazzo’s Clam Bar on Emmons Avenue. Founder Helen Randazzo created the hot tomato sauce more than 50 years ago, and it now accompanies most of the shellfish on the Italian-influenced menu.
The slightly chunky sauce tastes like a combination of a classic tomato sauce and a shrimp cocktail sauce, but don’t expect to recreate it at home.
“We’ve kept the recipe a secret since Helen created it,” said Prini Randazzo, co-owner and granddaughter-in-law of Helen. “There’s no other sauce like it.”
For another signature Randazzo’s experience, order the lobster fra diavolo ($44.95). More than a pound of pulled Maine lobster meat rests on a bed of clams, mussels, shrimp and spaghetti.
Thanks to dishes like this, Randazzo’s fills the void that seafood mecca Lundy’s left on Emmons Avenue when it closed several years ago.
“The best thing about Randazzo’s is that it never changes,” said longtime customer Peter Romeo. “I’ve been coming here for 40 years and I’ve never been disappointed.”
Randazzo’s Clam Bar [2023 Emmons Avenue at E. 21st Street in Sheepshead Bay, (718) 615-0010].
At Nick’s Lobster, the 23-year-old eatery that overlooks the boats docked in Mill Basin, the restaurant’s namesake is the real star of the menu. The one-and-a-half-pound Maine lobster ($28) is steamed, topped with butter and served with two sides. And as long as you’re splurging on lobster, you might as well go all out and order Nick’s seafood stuffing baked right into the lobster. The savory bread pudding of scallops, crabmeat and clams is absolutely worth the extra $5.
“It took us about a year to come up with the recipe,” said manager Jodie Mancuso. “It caused a lot of arguments, but we finally figured it out.”
Nick’s Lobster [2777 Flatbush Ave. between Avenue V and Shore Parkway in Marine Park, (718) 253-7117].
Just because three of the best seafood places in town are decades old, that doesn’t mean a new-school place can’t hold its own. And the 10-year-old Clemente’s Maryland Crabhouse on Emmons Avenue has been doing just that, specializing in Chesapeake Bay-style crab boils that are rare north of Annapolis.
“We serve Maryland blue crabs,” said owner Jimmy Muir. “The sweetness of these crabs are unlike anything else, and people have a lot of fun eating them.”
Tearing through a pile of whole steamed crabs is a hands-on gastronomic activity. Eaters rip off the shell, scrape out the guts and dig through the cavities for that sweet meat.
The restaurant offers a $30 all-you-can-eat special, but make sure to order the crabs with Old Bay. It’s the traditional Maryland seafood seasoning, consisting of 13 spices, that give the crabs a zesty flavor. And if the authentic preparations aren’t enough to get you in a summer mood, Clemente’s has an outdoor deck and tiki bar that overlooks the Plumb Beach Channel.
“When I saw that this spot right on the water was for sale 10 years ago, I couldn’t resist,” said Muir.
Clemente’s Maryland Crabhouse [3939 Emmons Ave. off Shore Parkway in Sheepshead Bay, (718) 646-7373];