Embraced by the waters of Puget Sound and nestled within a region rich in mountain rivers and protected bays, it’s no wonder that Seattle is known for fresh seafood.
Add to the mix the city’s thriving epicurean energy, and you have the perfect gourmet milieu that celebrates the bounty of the sea. Here are 8 picks for restaurants invigorating, refreshing or just plain satisfying the seafood scene in Seattle.
Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, this Latin American-esque restaurant (manolinseattle.com) offers quality seafood that is meticulously executed at an affordable price. Cool blue tiles on the back wall give a nautical feel to the space, and a horseshoe-shaped counter surrounds a central cooking station and bar made from a dark, stained wood, as well as an Argentinian-style, hearth-like stove where an open fire burns applewood to coals to cook over – sit at this counter for a theatrical food experience. Any of the ceviches are a great bet, incorporating ingredients like thin slices of pork jowl that have been cooked sous vide then crisped, and if you can, get the halibut with the mole sauce, a creamy-yet-bold sauce featuring a nuttiness from ingredients like pureed walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Go for happy hour when all of the ‘fish’ category dishes are $2 off.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
This Renee Erickson restaurant has been featured in many best-of lists, and its award-winning status is certainly justified. The James Beard award winner’s first restaurant in Seattle is in Ballard, on a main strip just a few blocks down from the hustle and bustle of Ballard Ave, alongside a string of several restaurants, bars and music venues. Seafood options are light and bright, mirroring the decor and ambiance, with small plates meant for sharing running the gamut from perfectly breaded and fried oysters to grilled sardines. Fresh oysters from various regions are available to slurp down with one of the many delicate cocktails on offer. While this place is known to have a wait, it's hit and miss, so head there early and hungry.
Located in an unassuming square of a brick building in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, Omega Ouzeri’s (omegaouzeri.com) doors open up to a bright and airy restaurant, pristine in white and baby blue with tinges of gray metallic and marble accents woven throughout. While this Greek restaurant, which celebrates ouzo (a traditional anise-flavored aperitif), is first a Greek restaurant before a seafood restaurant, its seafood dishes are prepared thoughtfully and beautifully, making Omega Ouzeri a worthy stop while jaunting around the vibrant Capitol Hill area. Rich in taste, but not overwhelming, try the Octopadi, grilled octopus garnished with fresh and hearty parsley and purslane greens sprinkled atop the lemony and creamy fava bean santorini, tart capers and juicy roasted cherry tomatoes.
A nondescript Japanese sushi and ramen joint on the outskirts of the International District, Tsukushimbo (facebook.com/Tsukushinbo) has no sign outside to indicate its location, but can usually be spotted by a group of people standing outside waiting for a table, or the long line on Friday afternoons for its ramen lunch, a special Friday afternoon-only offering. Locals frequent this sushi restaurant for its fresh and affordable seafood, which ranges from simple melt-in-your-mouth salmon to sweet amaebi, or spot prawn, topped with a raw quail egg. A busy, no-frills dining environment, Tsukushimbo somehow feels authentic, comfortable, and classy all at the same time. Reservations are highly recommended.
If you’ve watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi and the thought of eating sushi prepared by anyone within six degrees of separation from Jiro makes you giddy, head to Sushi Kashiba (sushikashiba.com), Shiro Kashiba’s newest venture. Kashiba, a disciple of Jiro’s, opened this restaurant after selling off Shiro’s, his first namesake, in the Belltown neighborhood. Located just south of there, Sushi Kashiba sits in Pike Place Market’s Post Alley and strives to source locally when it’s sustainable, such as its sweet prawns sourced from Puget Sound. The New York Times-famous black cod marinated in sake lees and miso paste is available à la carte for $24 or as a meal for $75, and unique preparation methods for some of its sushi items include a marinated tuna (zuke maguro) and hay-smoked mackerel. Views on one side of the restaurant showcase the waterfront and Seattle ferris wheel on the pier. Reservations are highly recommended, but walking in on a Sunday when the restaurant opens at 5pm has proved successful for many.
Recognized for his work with Toulouse Petit, Chef Eric Donnely has opened RockCreek (rockcreekseattle.com), a sustainable seafood-focused restaurant in Fremont. The extensive menu is heavily seafood focused and uses seasonal ingredients throughout. The oven-roasted Barron Point oysters from South Puget Sound are rich and comforting with toasted fennel, garlic, lemon and pastis butter, and the grilled Norwegian mackerel ‘in Saor’ expertly combines the flavors and textures of currants, pine nuts, pickled shallots, celery, and saba, all atop a nicely blackened piece of grilled local bread. The space feels like a place to eat rustic seafood dishes – woodsy with a touch of industrial with high ceilings, raw wood, dark metal accents and true to its name, a large mural of a river bed overlooking the space.
Westward & Little Gull
A quick favorite of many Seattle-ites, Westward’s location on the waters of Lake Union is a perfect fit for its beautiful seafood dishes. Self-described as a ‘water-inspired restaurant that celebrates Mediterranean cuisine with an emphasis on showcasing the freshest, most-seasonal ingredients from local purveyors whenever possible,’ Westward (westwardseattle.com) has a pretty accurate self image. Enjoy an afternoon sitting in the adirondack chairs next to oyster-shell fire pits with Lake Union at your feet as boats drive by and dock with the city’s skyline as the backdrop. Pair your quintessential Seattle surroundings with fresh raw oysters and dishes that combine bold Mediterranean flavors with Pacific Northwest seafood.
Ivar’s Salmon House
For the ultimate in Pacific Northwest cabin vibes, head to Ivar’s Salmon House (ivars.com/locations/salmon-house) to feast on the jewels of the sea, where Northwest art and images adorn the rich wood walls and a fireplace sits by the bar. Located on Lake Union, where boats, kayaks and stand-up paddleboarders can dock and order food, and views of the lake and city skyline are visible, the Salmon House’s menu is extensive, offering various alderwood-smoked salmon dishes and a bevy of seafood-focused appetizers, but the chowder and fish and chips are the traditional favorite. From fish and chips, which uses a recipe from 1937, to the classic clam chowder, chances are this visit will plant that seed in your mind’s tongue where you’ll have to make a stop at any of the Ivar’s locations during every subsequent visit to Seattle. If you can’t make it up to the Salmon House, try the Ivar’s Fish Bar on the pier, a casual spot where you order at the counter and can grab a seat among the seagulls on the pier.