An oyster platter with benefits at Taylor Shellfish. Photograph by Amber Fouts.
Seattle may not have the century-old fish house traditions of the East Coast, but pristine seafood is everywhere. Our regional waters infuse the entree menus at neighborhood bistros with halibut and black cod, or deliver dungeness crab into our soup, our sandwiches, even our mac and cheese. Here are our favorite places that focus on great seafood.
Victor Steinbrueck cultivates a network of local fisheries that would impress the Michelin star crowd. But he turns the resulting haul into something you’d expect at an oceanside diner or deli—rockfish banh mi, salmon BLTs, a big bowl of home fries layered with bacon bits and smoked cod. Local Tide’s signature, a plush crab roll on just the right split bun, surfaces only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; even that limited run requires four hours of prep: The kitchen cracks piles of dungeness in house rather than popping it out of a freezer or can.
A region this rich in seafood deserves more spots like Eric Donnelly’s, where the chef’s fishing acumen and flavor finesse join forces for preparations you won’t see on 15 other menus around town. Donnelly’s menu is equal parts Totten Island and Hawaiian tombo, and slaloms from whole grilled snapper to tuna tiradito to a hearty stew of shellfish and Neah Bay rockfish. The menu technically focuses on seafood, but throw in the covered patio, the cocktails, the gently Southern brunch menu: RockCreek is the whole package.
Renee Erickson’s Sea Creatures restaurant group overhauled this titanic waterfront restaurant in 2020. The seafood focus now spans the Pacific coastline, from Washington spot prawns and Hama Hama clams to a brisk scallop ceviche layered carefully in a pool of aguachile. The seafood tower arranged Baja blue shrimp among the geoduck, whitefish caviar, smoked mussels, and a bevy of raw oysters. Erickson remains a champion of fresh-shucked local specimens, but Westward is her first menu to also serve oysters baked (and smothered in ancho butter or beef lardo).
Bellevue, Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, Queen Anne
The family-run oyster farming operation has four Seattle-area dining outposts, each with its own menu and ambience—a pregame-fried-food feel at Pioneer Square, a bright intimacy at Seattle Center, a genuine fish market vibe with bubbling water tanks on Capitol Hill—but multiple kinds of immaculate oysters remain firmly center stage at each one. You can order them expertly shucked by the dozen, or hot and fried, smoked into a savory dip, even in the company’s signature stew. Taylor’s kitchens also do right by geoduck, dungeness, and manila clams.
Alums from Mutual Fish and City Fish opened a seafood market in a nondescript building at 23rd and Jackson that’s just as much a destination for lunch as for black cod fillets or raw scallops and spot prawns. Custom poke bowls, shrimp cocktail, crab sandwiches, big plates of sashimi, chowder, and fresh uni and oysters are equal parts careful prep and absurdly fresh seafood, all with the perfect handful of beers to wash them down.
Newly reopened after shape-shifting into a bagel shop, then a Brazilian beach party over the past year, Manolin has resumed its embrace of South and Central American coastal fare. The rockfish ceviche (with corn nuts!) stands out even in a town filled with great raw-ish seafood. The restaurant’s bagel alter ego, Old Salt, still operates by day, selling a smoked black cod that’s capable of turning around your entire day whether you order it by the pound or in a sandwich.
Shubert Ho’s no-frills fishmonger and seafood cafe made an unexpected jump this year—a second location at Seattle Art Museum. Which means two very different spaces can now satisfy those cravings for lobster or dungeness crab rolls, fish and chips, fish tacos, and fried softshell by the bag. The Edmonds location has shifted to a walkup window with ample covered tables outside.
Downtown, Pike Place Market
It’s hard to disassociate this Post Alley counter with high-season tourist lines, but it’s even tougher to forget that superb chowder—creamy and rich with clams. Order online for quicker access to varieties made with crab and oyster, smoked salmon, even vegan lime and coconut. The Pike Place Market location has outdoor seating, but the location on the top floor of Pacific Place feels like a secret.
Of course, it’s impossible to distill all of Seattle into a single restaurant, but nothing comes closer than Renee Erickson’s oyster bar. Back in 2010 she intended this hideaway in the back of the Kolstrand Building as an unassuming hangout. Then came the national buzz—and excitement hasn’t diminished since. No wonder, given the small plates of spot prawns and smoked salmon belly, the pitch-perfect vegetable plates, that steak tartare. And, of course, fresh cold oysters from Washington and not too far beyond. Order a few of each to compare and contrast.
Ivar Haglund, Seattle’s own P.T. Barnum with a yen for pranks, started a fish and chips counter on the waterfront in 1938; it’s since grown to include more than 20 outposts, including fast-casual chowder and chip bars from Tacoma to Bellingham and the viewy special-occasion throwback Salmon House on northern Lake Union. The menus vary, the vibe is anything but cool, but the quality of the seafood is always legit, whether it’s coconut curry mussels at the waterfront flagship or a basket of fried prawns while you’re waiting for the Mukilteo ferry.
South Lake Union
Hidden away within the Ocean Alexander Marina on Lake Union, Matt’s in the Market’s seafood-focused sibling applies its rustic, seasonal lens to crab hush puppies, beautiful halibut preparations, and rich seafood stew. Even casual fry shack staples like crispy calamari and fishwiches display the care of a kitchen with high-end roots; ditto the house’s signature “poutine of the sea,” essentially fries topped with clam chowder and bacon. Also on premise: plenty of fresh-shucked oysters (and champagne to pair) and one of the town’s epic waterside patios.
Downstairs: The site of a thousand anniversary dinners. Upstairs: A more casual menu, lunch service, and a patio with Shilshole Bay views that draw summer visitors like a slushy machine in a heatwave. The common ground: seafood prepared along a spectrum of familiar to classic. Ray’s groundbreaking days are well behind it, but hoist a glass of Washington wine to the restaurant that began as a coffee and bait shop in the 1930s, then went on to introduce Northwest hallmarks like Olympia oysters and Copper River salmon into our dining vernacular. (Make it a red wine, since Ray’s was an early proponent of pairing it with salmon.)
You can forgive Duke Moscrip a few dad jokes sprinkled across the menus at his seven-location restaurant chainlet. The man’s a seafood sourcing legend, traveling by prop plane and fishing boat to support sustainable fisheries before most people even knew what those terms meant. Today, the seafood’s still beautiful and the large lunch and dinner menus balance familiar preparations (fish tacos, dungeness salads, salmon with pesto, so much chowder) with a robust and unexpected lineup of gluten-free dishes.
A sprawling, window-walled sensation at the tip of Pier 70 displays cruise-ship vistas of Elliott Bay with an interior view—shiny exhibition kitchen, shiny copper light fixtures, shiny gorgeous people—to rival them. All brought to you by the same folks behind longstanding steak house chain, El Gaucho. So: piano bar, check; lobster tail add-on, check. Fish treatments pull flavor notes from France or Japan, or even the occasional dash of kale, while the modular list of protein entrees and shareable carby sides (dungeness mac and cheese) echoes the old-school steak house menu format.
The waterfront location means tourists occupy most tables at this venerable seafood spot. But Elliott’s oyster program is peerless—a list as carefully sourced and curated as any wine roster, and a staff able to break it all down for the uninitiated. New company beverage director Amanda Reed brings a jolt of new energy that bodes well for the wine list and cocktail program.