Food & Culture

The 100 Best Things to Eat in the Seattle Area Right Now: Seafood Edition

A seafood lover’s bucket list: The region’s 100 best dishes to eat now

By Chelsea Lin & Naomi Tomky February 18, 2020

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This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the February 2020 issue, as part of the 100 Best Things To Eat Seafood EditionClick here to subscribe.

Let’s play a little game called “name Seattle’s most iconic ingredient.” Is it a rosy, glistening salmon fillet? The mighty oyster, slurped with a bubbly chaser? The giggle-inducing yet tasty geoduck? We dare you to name one that isn’t seafood.

The ubiquity of finfish and shellfish in Seattle is the reason we decided to challenge ourselves with putting together an all-seafood edition of our annual favorite dishes feature. Unsurprisingly, we ended up with more than 100 menu items worthy of a shoutout. Some of them are repeats from last year’s version of the city’s best eats—No Anchor’s smoked mussels are still great, even after chef Jeff Vance’s departure; and we found out that Opus Co.’s fish with kasu risotto is just as good with sablefish as it is with salmon. But we’re most excited about introducing you to some newcomers, such as Paju, The Ruby Brink and Rupee Bar—spots so new we’ve never written about them before and which happen to be making excellent seafood dishes.

As you peruse our picks below, note that not all of these dishes are available all the time. That’s a good thing: You should have the same patience waiting for halibut to show up on menus in the spring as you do for asparagus. But keep this as your definitive guide to the best seafood around town. And if you’re the sort who recoils at the sight of an oyster, well, there’s always next year.

Geoduck sashimi
Taylor Shellfish
The simple, thinly sliced geoduck ($12) served at this family operation’s Melrose Market oyster bar, which serves pretty much only chilled seafood (unlike its other locations), comes with only a bit of soy sauce and a dab of wasabi. Multiple locations

Camarones al tequila
Señor Moose
Folks flock to this colorful Mexican restaurant, particularly for the generous brunch plates. But this delightful dish—creamy, saucy shrimp served with rice and black beans ($18.95)—is better suited for lunch or dinner. Ballard

Honey walnut prawns
Peony Kitchen
Clearly this refined Bellevue restaurant didn’t invent the Americanized Chinese classic that is honey walnut prawns, but it has perfected it: Plump, batter-dipped tiger prawns are coated in a modestly sweet and creamy sauce, with the best part being the candied walnuts ($13 lunch, $19 dinner). Bellevue

Moules marinière
Maximilien
The mussels at this Market hideaway are the simplest of pleasures ($22). Savored from the patio, which looks out over Elliott Bay, the local bivalves taste only of butter, wine and the salt water below. Pike Place Market

Cioppino
Jack’s Fish Spot
This fish market/eatery may have origins in California, but we’re not above honoring a great import, especially when it features such a bounty of fresh fish, as in this peppery tomato-based soup ($5.49/bowl) from what has become a Pike Place staple. Pike Place Market


SHRIMP SHACK: Peony Kitchen’s honey walnut prawns get a sweet boost from diced honeydew

Smoked and pickled mussels
No Anchor
A crowd favorite for good reason: intriguing, addictive mussels ($11) tasting of both smoke and vinegar, perfect to pair with one of the bar’s unusual beers. Belltown

Hangtown fry
The Wandering Goose
Oysters may not be an obvious breakfast choice, but when fried to a perfect crisp and crowning the Hangtown fry ($14)—a plate of browned potatoes, poached eggs and a slab of pork belly—at this cozy all-day café, they’re exactly right. Capitol Hill

Sea urchin
L’Oursin
The namesake of this charming French bistro (l’oursin is “sea urchin” in French) should be on every table, served here on the half shell with bread and good butter ($18). Ask for the best natural wine to pair with it. Central District

Seafood tower
Vinnie’s Wine and Raw Bar
Your best bet at this new business from prolific bar owners Anu and Chris Elford is to go all in on the seafood tower ($98): an actual bi-level tower overflowing with the best bits of whatever is on the menu, such as raw oysters and chilled spot prawns; sweet, buttery scallops; and small portions of other dishes, such as salmon pastrami with crème fraîche, octopus terrine or clam and geoduck ceviche. Belltown

Buffalo-style oysters
Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar
You should always order the mussels when you’re anywhere near Penn Cove, but you should also get these fresh, cornmeal-dredged, barely fried oysters tossed in house-made buffalo sauce, whether in a po’ boy ($21), atop a pile of fries ($20) or just as an appetizer ($16.50). Langley, Whidbey Island

Horns of Plenty
Roquette
The menu of snacks at this swanky new Belltown cocktail bar is short but sweet, but you only want one thing anyway: the Horns of Plenty ($70), which is simply an ounce of Russian osetra caviar, crème fraîche and Bugles, those old-school corn snacks of road trips past. Belltown


BAR FOOD: Pair your cocktail at Roquette with the Horns of Plenty (yes, those are Bugles!)

Buttered Dungeness crab, charred rice cake, tarragon
Samara
This is not a crab cake, but rather a heap of generously buttered crab weighing down a delicately smoky patty of rice, all accented by a pop of bright green pureed tarragon ($23)—it’s the best dish at this lovely new neighborhood spot. Sunset Hill

Point Judith calamari ‘Kari Out’
RockCreek
The entire menu at this essential seafood restaurant is spectacular, but start your meal with the well-seasoned, deep-fried perfection of this calamari ($16), served in a tongue-in-cheek takeout box for dining in. Fremont

Sardines on toast
The Whale Wins
Leave it to this beautiful, bright Fremont restaurant to make the sort of dish you could probably make at home but wouldn’t be able to execute with such panache: a thick slice of toasted Sea Wolf bread, slathered in curried tomato mayo and topped with shaved fennel and Matiz tinned sardines ($14). Fremont

Maine lobster roll
Bar Harbor
As far as we’re concerned, Connecticut style is the only way to get your lobster roll (market price) at this popular lunch destination: knuckle and claw meat tossed in clarified butter, stuffed into a split-top white roll custom-made for this purpose. South Lake Union

Thiebou djeun
La Teranga
If you’ve never had the national dish of Senegal—a hearty stew of tilapia, tomatoes, carrots, cassava and eggplant served over broken rice ($14.50)—experience it here. Columbia City

Oyster pancake
Looking for Chai
Popular in Taiwan but originating in the Chaozhou region of China, this dish is a kind of omelet-pancake mashup, thickened with tapioca starch for a great chew and dotted with oysters ($6.95). This hip bubble tea spot, located in a strip mall, does a good version. Edmonds

Joe’s Special
Ono Poke
The assortment of ultrafresh poke at this humble spot looks so good you’ll want to order it all; luckily, you can with this sampler bowl ($21), named for an ambitious customer and featuring a little of everything they have in the case that day, from spicy salmon to tender octopus. Edmonds

Photography by Peachy Juban-Notter

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