The fact that Seattle is surrounded by water is good news for both your stomach and your phone’s camera roll—don’t pretend like you don’t have an entire album devoted to waterfront sunsets at Pike Place in July. Our proximity to the coast means that we have access to some of the best seafood in the country, from crab to salmon to geoduck. Whether you’re looking to achieve your annual fresh oyster quota, sit down to a Nice Piece of Fish for dinner, or eat some spicy marinated poke stuffed inside of a taco, use this guide to get it done.
There are a few ways to have a meal at Sushi Kashiba. You can wait in line for a seat at the sushi bar, or call ahead and book a table. Either way, you’ll end up eating some very high-quality fish, from uni to otoro. In addition to the omakase, there are a few set menus, or you can select nigiri a la carte. It’s worth paying over $100 per person for the greatest sushi in the city.
The Walrus And The Carpenter
Whether you’re looking to eat your first oyster or your 6,387th, the best place to slurp them is at The Walrus And The Carpenter. If having them raw isn’t your thing, we can also vouch for the cornmeal-dredged ones served with an excellent cilantro aioli. With a mollusk in one hand and a glass of sparkling wine in the other, there’s no better place than their big marble bar overlooking baskets of gray, craggy oyster shells. Eating here is a Seattle rite of passage, which means there are going to be a lot of other people trying to do the exact same thing—prepare for a wait.
Ono Authentic Hawaiian Poke
Our favorite poke in Seattle is actually about a dozen miles northwest of Downtown. This Hawaiian spot is located at a shopping center just outside downtown Edmonds, and their menu of seasoned and cubed fish has us giving up on making lunch at home ever again. From oyster-sauced salmon to spicy ahi soaked in shoyu and showered with flecks of togarashi, the marinades here are always on-point, especially when they start to seep through each grain of sushi rice underneath. Round out your bowl with tangy cucumber kimchi and a pile of mac salad that comes with ridged elbow noodles to catch every bit of mayo.
With highlights that range from pork fat-laced shrimp toast to a mayo-y Dungeness crab roll, Local Tide is a stellar one-stop shop for exciting seafood-based genius. This counter spot in Fremont deserves a mention on this guide for their creamy smoked belly dip alone, served with paper-thin potato chips tossed in a house seasoning that you can and should purchase. But their lineup of sandwiches, like a McDonald’s-style Filet-O-Fish copycat made with panko-coated dover sole, or an option with seared albacore and pickled fresno chile on sourdough, proves that phenomenal Seattle seafood doesn’t have to involve salmon or chowder. But damn, Local Tide has great salmon and chowder too.
This Hillman City bakery specializes in bánh mì and custom cakes. Though, as much as we love licking whipped frosting off of Disney princess figurines, you’re really here for a stellar seafood sandwich featuring Tony’s lemongrass fish. It’s an outstanding baguette of flaky, fragrant, dry-fried fish that only softens slightly on contact with the custardy egg-forward mayo. And it’s a sandwich that we want for lunch daily.
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photo credit: Westward
In case you missed it, this waterfront institution—was purchased by the team behind The Walrus And The Carpenter back in 2018. The result? A slick, coastal-inspired place to slurp briny oysters with a view that reminds you where oysters come from. Their small plates are marginally better than the entrees, so consider Westward an A+ spot for sipping sparkling wine while snacking on potato chips with spicy clam dip, scallop tostadas, and baked oysters with 'nduja butter and melty beef lardo (courtesy of Bateau). Bonus points if you do all of your seafood snacking while sitting in a water-facing Adirondack chair.
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Rockcreek Seafood & Spirits
RockCreek is somewhere you should go if you’d like to be continuously reminded of the fact that you’re eating seafood. We’re not just saying that because the massive babbling brook artwork makes it difficult to forget the theme of your meal—it’s also because the menu is stacked with options. You’ll find everything from oyster shooters and crudo, to Chilean seabass with provençal herbs and jerk-marinated swordfish. Luckily, the shrimp and brown butter-slicked grits (our favorite dish here) is a mainstay on the rotating menu. It has subtle heat tempered by creamy grits, and the prawns are always cooked perfectly.
Matt's In The Market
Matt’s In The Market, a.k.a. the pride of Pike Place, has had the same fried catfish sandwich on its lunch menu for more than 20 years—and its unchanged simplicity is beautiful. This thing is just crispy cornmeal-crusted catfish, sambal mayo, and shredded romaine on untoasted potato bread. If you’re trying to play hooky from work, make this your day-off lunch—just hope you don’t run into any coworkers. If you do, catfish sandwiches make good bribes.
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The Pacific Inn
This dive bar in Fremont is our first choice for sitting on a patio, eating fried seafood, and drinking beer—so beeline here whenever the sun uppercuts its way through a mass of clouds. The panko breading on the fish has a wonderful crunch, and it’s even better submerged in their housemade tartar. Whether you go with fish and chips, crispy little cajun-spiced shrimps, or the salmon sandwich covered with herby pesto and parmesan, a seafood-fueled meal here is a great way to spend a summer afternoon.
Emerald City Fish & Chips
This fish and chip shop on the corner of Rainier Ave S. and S. Charleston does serve great crispy halibut, salmon, and everything in between. But Emerald City’s true pièce de résistance is their crab puppies. No, they’re not a zoology experiment gone wrong—they’re made up of a crab cake mixture combined with hushpuppy batter in one convenient package that has a brittle shell giving way to fluffy, crabby cornbread fritters. Dunk them liberally in the accompanying zesty tartar sauce.
The Best Fish & Chips In Seattle
If you look around on Communion’s menu of Southern dishes, you’ll see a lot of cornmeal-crusted catfish. It’s wrapped in sushi-style rolls with seasoned rice and pickled vegetables alongside watermelon hot sauce. It’s laid on a bed of creamy parmesan grits drizzled with a savory creole sauce. And it’s stuffed in a cross between a po’boy and a bánh mì—where the mayo is replaced with tangy remoulade, and the liver pâté is replaced with a phenomenal salty pork spread. Whatever preparation you choose, know that you’re in for a delicious crunch that still lets the fish shine despite all of the other flavors involved. Don’t leave Communion without something involving catfish.
We love Manolin because of the combination of high-quality seafood and the space that looks like a beachside vacation rental. From a very refreshing rockfish ceviche with avocado and corn nuts, to a squid ink-dyed risotto, this Fremont spot knows its way around stuff that comes from the sea. Sit at the bar or outside on the patio if you can. It’s also worth noting that Manolin serves homemade bagels and cured fish on Thursday-Sunday mornings—while the bagels themselves are underdone and too cornmeal-y at times, you should get your hands on their smoky and velvety lox.
Sam Choy's Poke to the Max
The raw marinated fish at Sam Choy’s is delicious, whether you order yours on a furikake-sprinkled rice bowl alongside sesame seaweed salad or packed in crunchy-shelled tacos with layers of creamy edamame hummus and spicy mayo. With many marinade options like classic shoyu, sriracha, and chili mango, there are lots of different ways to customize your raw salmon or tuna experience. And while this is a seafood guide and not one about canned meat, it’s still our obligation to recommend some spam fries—or musubi—swirled in tonkatsu sauce on the side.
This seafood market in the Central District, another one of Seattle’s poke greats, is an excellent choice for tasty tuna bites. The options range from soy-sauced ahi to salmon coated in spicy mayo and an abundance of tobiko. The mac salad features housemade shredded smoked salmon, which adds real depth to an otherwise mayo-laden dressing. And if poke’s not your thing, you could grab some shrimp cocktail or pulled crab on a sub roll with sriracha and Japanese mayo—or buy something fresh to cook at home.
Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar
Much like The Rolling Stones, excessive student loan interest, and polystyrene foam, it is our firm belief that Seastar will be around until the end of time. This iconic restaurant has gone through a flashy renovation or two, but the menu of sushi and seafood dishes will forever be perfect for anniversary dinners, milestone birthdays, or a casual Tuesday dinner if you’re a tech millionaire. From their silky Dungeness crab bisque loaded with Madeira to ancho chili-rubbed steelhead with lime cream (or other entrees that cost upwards of $55), we can definitively say that it’s worth the potential sticker shock of filling the table.
Bait Shop is another excellent spot for fish and chips. The french fries here are some of the best in Seattle, but the pillowy and salty battered cod shines, too—on its own, on a sandwich with homemade tartar, or in a couple of Baja-style tacos. Pair it all with a Painkiller slushie and a game of Uno with friends.
photo credit: Sugo Hand Roll Bar
Sugo Hand Roll Bar
Sometimes, you don't want a meal to feel like a meal—you want it to feel like a small break from reality as you enjoy excellent seafood and soak up some limited free time. Sugo is the place to do that. This four-sided sushi counter specializes in handrolls, and it's incredibly exciting to sit here among the soundtrack of Alesso tunes and the blast of a flame as it blowtorches king salmon sashimi on a pink Himalayan salt block. Expect a whirlwind of delicious fillings like sesame-forward ahi poke, marinated ikura, and melty chopped otoro that won't set you back too much money or take too much time out of your afternoon.
Little Chinook’s is a counter-service operation that serves nearly every type of fried seafood: salmon, halibut, clams, shrimp, ling cod, and more. It’s a quintessentially rainy-day lunch (especially paired with a warm chowder), and you can eat it all while looking at all the yachts on the Salmon Bay docks. If you’re with an out-of-towner who wants a “Seattle” experience and you’re not interested in dealing with crowds at Pike Place Market, share some halibut fish and chips here.
We’d weave through hundreds of Pike Place tourists sampling artisanal honey on wooden sticks for the blackened salmon sandwich from Market Grill. In fact, we have. Many times. This terrific sandwich comes with caramelized onion, romaine, and rosemary mayo on a charred baguette, and it’s one of the best seafood dishes you can eat in this city. The grilled halibut, herby clam chowder, and tuna poke here are also great, too.
Fremont Bowl is where you can get tasty seafood in large quantities at relatively low prices. They specialize in donburi bowls, and you want one of those with fish—like consistently tender salmon or zuke maguro— on top. You can also get poke, broiled eel, or, if you’re really indecisive, the $16.45 chirashi with tuna, chopped fatty tuna, salmon, yellowtail, albacore, shrimp, freshwater eel, and masago. Take full advantage of the housemade smoky soy sauce, which is miles better than the regular supermarket stuff.
The White Swan Public House
So you want some quality seafood, but you don’t want to carve a massive dent out of your wallet on one meal, and you still want to be eating in a nice space worthy of out-of-town guests or a date. Also, the sun is out. For this specific scenario, we give you a specific solution: The White Swan Public House. We love their warm-weather stand on Lake Union, complete with a pretty patio lined with picnic tables and string lights. It works well for oysters and champagne along with some fish and chips and a beer.