Critic's Notebook

Anthony’s Shilshole Is Closing

And what it tells us about Seattle.

By Kathryn Robinson March 14, 2016

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What will be here next?

Image: Facebook

Possibly it was the place you always brought your grandparents. (For that pre-6pm “Sunset Dinner” special—as “old Ballard” a promo as is possible to conceive.) Or maybe you came when that other famous fishhouse in Shilshole was full.

The fact is, over the last decade-and-a-half or so Anthony’s HomePort on Shilshole Bay has made an artform of its second-fiddle status and early-bird-special clientele—nevermind its genuinely breathtaking location on a rocky promontory over the bay, or its long history as a chain restaurant that actually cared about fish.

Anthony’s Shilshole in fact goes back three decades, opened in the '80s by the Gould family as a follow-up to their madly successful prototype on the water in Kirkland. Growth would follow, as the company burgeoned to include suburban waterfront and out-of-state clones, and Seattle properties like Anthony’s Pier 66, Bell Street Diner, and Chinook’s.

And while other seafood restaurants would outpace Anthony’s for innovation and consistency, few chains could best the company for its commitment to thoughtful seafood sourcing. In the ‘80s Anthony’s was one of the first local fishhouses to feature the new sensation, Copper River Salmon. Soon, its owners opened its own wholesale seafood company at Pier 91 to ensure quality and freshness of its catches.

These were unusually connoisseur strokes for a chain, raising the bar for emerging restaurants that would take a more sophisticated approach to seafood—including many that were part of chains of another kind. During the last decade Seattle has seen a startling rise in these chef-driven restaurant groups—think Tom Douglas, Ethan Stowell, Renee Erickson, and their ilk—which replaced the cloned chain as the growth method of choice in this city of food sophisticates.

In short: Places like Anthony’s simply stopped being what Seattle was hungry for. “It was a tough, sad decision for us,” longtime marketing VP Lane Hoss emailed over the weekend, refuting rumors that the property had lost its lease and thus leaving us to assume it was a necessary business decision. Sunday, March 27 will be the restaurant's last day.

There will always be a demographic that’s up for a good Sunset Dinner—but the closure of Anthony’s Shilshole reveals that that demographic no longer meaningfully exists in Seattle. Not even West Ballard.

“We are completing a refresh at our Kirkland restaurant including a brand new kitchen, new bars, carpet and more,” Hoss offers, proving the point. “We’re adding a casual cabana to our Anacortes Anthony's and opening a new restaurant in June in Coeur d'Alene.”


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