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
Black cod curry at Rupee Bar

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
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

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
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
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
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’
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

Purple savory clams
The Shambles
It’s known as a destination for serious carnivores, but this neighborhood highlight does a great job with seafood, too. Try these gorgeous purple clams ($16) with pork belly and tofu in an umami-rich kimchi broth so good you’ll want to lick the bowl. Maple Leaf

Caramelized sea scallops
Last year we called out this quiet, under-the-radar Ballard gem for an excellent crab salad; this year, we celebrate the perfect sear on the sea scallops ($29), regardless of what seasonal produce accompanies them. Ballard

TO PERFECTION: Copine’s sea scallops arrive with an optimal sear

Ray’s Boathouse
Should you find yourself at this iconic restaurant overlooking Shilshole Bay, you should absolutely order the signature sablefish (more commonly known as black cod, $46), whether house-smoked or marinated in sake kasu and grilled over applewood. Ballard

Crab cakes
Experience a true Seattle moment by dining on Tom Douglas’ iconic crab cakes ($26.50 for one, $39.50 for two) while taking in the views of Pike Place Market from this charming little bistro. Pike Place Market

Waterfall snapper
Kin Len
Fried bite-size morsels of snapper ($28) are the perfect vehicle for maximum enjoyment of the sour, salty, funky spicy sauce that gives this dish a kick. Wrap a piece in one of the accompanying lettuce leaves, top with herbs and enjoy the ride. Fremont

Spaghetti nero
Chef Ethan Stowell’s first temple to pasta is still our favorite, with two locations to serve your extruded-pasta needs; when it’s available, get the spaghetti nero ($26), a squid ink pasta unctuous with soft leeks and uni butter, improved with the addition of delicate geoduck. Multiple locations

Fish and kasu risotto
Opus Co.
The day’s fresh fish ($24) comes seared with crispy skin over an innovative “risotto”—really more of a savory sauce—made from kasu, a by-product of brewing sake, at this beloved, intimate neighborhood restaurant. Greenwood

Chirashi bowl
Fremont Bowl
Everyone’s favorite dish at this Japanese-influenced spot is a rainbow of raw sashimi-sliced fish, chopped tuna and eel, along with all the necessary accoutrements—wasabi and citrusy yuzu kosho—over warm rice ($14.95). Fremont

House sauce crawfish boil
Crawfish House
Whether flown in each day from Louisiana or caught locally, fresh crawfish ($10.99/pound) are the priority at this giant, barebones White Center spot. The diminutive crustaceans come spiced to your desired level, from “Chillin’” to “Can’t feel my mouth.” White Center

The Fish
Mean Sandwich
A wild ride of rambunctious flavors, this deli’s innovative fish sandwich ($12) stars fancy tinned sardines, along with the satisfying crunch of celery root slaw and a jolt of flavor from fried lemons and pickled jalapeños. Ballard

Catfish and grits
Swim toward the South with an impressively crispy semolina-crusted catfish ($23), served over a creamy bed of cheese grits. Ravenna

Poutine of the Sea
White Swan Public House
Think of it as the comfort food of a Canadian mermaid: thick, rich chowder ($17) poured over crispy french fries and studded with clams and bacon. Best enjoyed from a window seat overlooking Lake Union. South Lake Union

COMFORT FOOD: Poutine of the Sea from White Swan Public House features hearty chowder and bacon

Bar del Corso
Arranged almost like the petals of a flower, the black shells bloom open to reveal plump mussels ($11) inside, heavy with the flavors of the garlic, fennel and pancetta with which they were cooked. A perfect opener for pizza at this South End favorite. Beacon Hill

Geoduck fried rice
Leave it to chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi to create a rare chance to try a cooked version of the Northwest’s most famous (infamous?) clam, stirred into an aromatic fried rice ($17) with leeks and pickled pork rinds. Fremont

Pan-fried cornmeal-crusted catfish sandwich
Matt’s in the Market
Soft potato bread stuffed with a plank of crispy catfish ($16) gets a boost of flavor from sambal mayonnaise and texture from shredded lettuce. Downtown

New Haven
Independent Pizzeria
The chopped clams and parsley sprinkled over the garlic oil base of this thin but chewy, charry-bubbled pizza ($16) earn this family-friendly pizzeria the same kind of spotlight shone on its sibling restaurant, Dacha Diner. Madison Park

House special rice roll
Hong Kong Dim Sum
You won’t want to miss this dim sum dish: soft rice noodles wrapped around crispy fried noodles and a jumble of tiny shrimp and corn for a riot of textures ($7.50). Haller Lake

Smoked sprats
This all-day café excels at simple, balanced dishes. In this offering, robust, oily little fish ($9.75) meet their match in the cool creaminess of labneh and the heartiness of Sea Wolf rye bread, with pickled beets cutting through the richness. Fremont

Poke bowl
45th Stop N Shop & Poke Bar
The shop that popularized poke in Seattle now has a second location, but thankfully it hasn’t outgrown the use of pristine fish and balanced sauces in its poke ($13). Wallingford and South Lake Union

Herring Under Fur Coat
Dacha Diner
Everyone loves this Eastern European restaurant’s khachapuri, but don’t miss this Russian salad ($13), which looks more like a dessert. The colors come from the layers of potatoes, carrots, beets and eggs, and the delightful flavor derives from the oil-cured herring. Capitol Hill

EAT THE RAINBOW: Herring Under Fur Coat is a popular Russian salad, done well at Dacha Diner

Hae dop bop
Red Bowls
Before raw fish popped up in every poke shop around town, you could find a Korean variation at this lightning-fast shop, which sates its long lines of customers with simple but satisfying spicy raw fish salad ($10.59) over rice. Downtown

Sea urchin
Seattle Fish Guys
Fresh sea urchins ($13) need a bit of cracking and cleaning, so plan a few extra minutes to slurp one down when you stop in at this seafood shop. Central District

Spicy hot fish fillet on romaine lettuce
Chiang’s Gourmet
From this unassuming Chinese restaurant’s “Szechuan Heaven” menu section comes this version of the classic water-boiled fish ($21), served like a stew, thick and red with mild spice, soft fish and yes, the odd (but tasty) cooked romaine. Maple Leaf

Crab fried rice
Noodle Hut
This tiny suburban strip mall eatery quietly turns out some of the best Thai food in town, including the crab fried rice ($12.95)—heavy on the crustacean and light on the cooking, resulting in tender meat and egg. Edmonds

Chef Aaron Verzosa expertly interprets Filipino flavors and dishes with Northwest ingredients, as he does in this verjus-cured scallop (or fish, depending on the evening) dish, creatively served over a sardine tin representing Filipino immigrant cannery workers (part of the $130 tasting menu). Hillman City

From the ocean
Pasta Casalinga
Sourcing right from its Market neighbors, this little pasta corner features a new rotating seafood special ($13) every two weeks, ranging from spaghetti with squid and squid ink to steelhead with leeks over paccheri. Pike Place Market

Lobster coconut curry
Thick, creamy curry is poured over a large lobster tail ($24) at this Eastside spot, which features the big flavors and seafood specialties of southern India. Kirkland

Tostadas de atún
El Sirenito
Raw slices of gleaming, gem-colored ahi ($13) are tucked into a pillow of creamy avocado mousse and sandwiched between a crisp fried tortilla and a frizzle of fried leeks at this Mexico City–style seafood bar, brought to you by the same folks who own neighboring Fonda La Catrina. Georgetown

Rotating fish special
Northwest seafood meets Middle Eastern flavor in all the items on this charming restaurant’s menu, including in the rotating fish specials ($24), which could feature lingcod with red chermoula or salmon with preserved lemons and za’atar. Beacon Hill

Tinned fish trio
The Ruby Brink
A plate of top-notch canned fish ($12) with lemon mayonnaise and house-made emmer cracker shows that this restaurant is so much more than its in-house butcher shop. Vashon Island

Hên xúc bánh da
Tamarind Tree
A dinner-plate-size, black-sesame-studded rice cracker dominates this dish, but it’s just the tool for scooping up the hundreds of tiny, pinhead-size clams ($11) marinated in a delightful assortment of alliums, herbs and chilies. Chinatown–International District

Ganjang gejang jungsik
Sam Oh Jung Restaurant
Pickled crabs ($31.99) soaked in salty soy sauce and topped with crunchy peppers and dollops of their own creamy fat present a seafood texture rarely seen around here, accompanied by an intense jolt of flavor. Lynnwood

Wood-grilled octopus
Chef Preeti Agarwal calls on her Indian background and diverse sources of cooking inspiration to bring intrigue to French classics, like this charred tentacle served over chickpea confit with roasted garlic aioli ($22). Fremont

Sea snails
Ba Bar
The epitome of simplicity on the plate, these snails ($16) have actually seen a long simmer in white wine with fresh tarragon and thyme, so they barely need the lemon aioli or ginger fish sauce that come with them. Multiple locations

Wild peony shrimp
Dolar Shop
Among the luxurious offerings at this temple to Chinese hot pot cuisine is this circular arrangement of six enormous shrimp ($39.99) facing skyward around flowers, ready for a light bath in boiling broth. Bellevue

Shrimp aguachile
Spicy and sharp with fresh lime juice, this raw dish ($19.99), typical of Mexico’s Sinaloa state cuisine, comes dressed in a banging blended chile sauce. Kent

Albacore tuna rice bowl
Bitter escarole and bright fennel kimchi boost the subtle flavor of the albacore, and an egg yolk sauce brings it all together in this signature Rachel Yang dish ($17), available at the restaurant’s new (old) home. Fremont

Wild Alaskan smoked salmon benedict
The Fat Hen
Perfectly runny poached eggs and house-made sunshine-lemon hollandaise sauce drip over a jumble of fish chunks and toasted English muffin ($17.50) at this quaint, light-filled café. Ballard

HAPPY HOUR: Find $2 oysters like these at Shuckers from 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays

Seattle didn’t invent happy hour, but selling fresh shucked oysters at steep savings is a time-honored tradition here. An oyster happy hour makes an affordable entry point for rookies while offering the perfect opportunity to feed an insatiable slurper without going broke. And with the Northwest’s prodigious and pristine supply, the words “discount raw shellfish” don’t have to strike fear in the hearts of oyster lovers, as these five spots prove.

3–5 p.m. weekdays, $2 each. Downtown

Frank’s Oyster House
5–6:30 and 10–11 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday, $2 each. Ravenna

The Brooklyn
4–6 p.m. every day, $2 each. Downtown

Coastal Kitchen
3–10 p.m. Tuesdays, $1 each; 3–10 p.m. Thursdays, $1.25 each; 3–6 and 9–10 p.m. daily, $1.50 each. Capitol Hill

Elliott’s Oyster House
3–6 p.m. weekdays, $2 each. Downtown

BATTER UP: Proper Fish does fish and chips the real-deal British way, with a single massive fillet

According to a Polish proverb, to taste good, fish must swim three times: in water, butter and wine. But for many fish lovers, the alternative version would be in water, batter and oil. The satisfaction of cracking through a crisp crust—be it of beer batter or panko breading—to reveal tender, flaky fish is one of the greatest culinary pleasures in the world. Thankfully, Seattle is full of both impeccably classic versions and exciting spins on fried fish.

Proper Fish
This place is as proper as tea with the queen, right down to serving the beer-batter-dipped, fried cod ($16) in faux newspaper with minted mushy peas. Bainbridge Island

Marination Ma Kai
The Korean flavor and the Hawaiian flair of this seaside shack show in the combination of beer-battered- and panko-encrusted pollock ($13.75), served with a choice of miso or kimchi tartar sauces. West Seattle

Burien Fish House
You have a choice of cod, salmon, halibut, etc., either beer-batter-dipped or panko-breaded. Go for the Captains Platter, which has one piece of each ($15). Burien

Pacific Inn Pub
The hint of spices in the batter causes this signature dish ($9.50) to sing, making an accompanying pint almost a requirement. Fremont

The Market
A huge single fillet of batter-dipped rockfish ($16) is served British-style with fries and minty peas. Edmonds

TASTY RETREAT: Sushi from Wataru, best ordered omakase-style

Nowhere does our bounty of seafood shine so brightly as at a sushi restaurant, where quality ingredients and freshness are de rigueur. The ideal way to get in on the best catches of the day is to turn your meal over to the whim of the chef. Sit at the counter, be prepared to pay market price (read: quite a lot, but worth every penny), order the omakase and await a parade of delights at these favorite spots.

Sushi Kappo Tamura
Traditional omakase served at the counter. Choose “counter seating” when booking a reservation online to ensure you’re in the right place. Eastlake

Sushi Kashiba
Traditional omakase served at the counter. Reservations not accepted for the sushi bar; join the line outside and wait your turn. Pike Place Market

Traditional omakase at the counter served at 5:30 and 7:45 p.m. nightly. Reservations taken up to four months in advance. Ravenna;

By Tae
Meal includes three hand rolls plus a couple of bonus dishes. Reservations taken only on the day of and by signing up in person—get there early in the morning for the best shot at scoring a seat. Capitol Hill

Tasting menu includes a combination of sushi and kaiseki dishes. Reservations taken up to 60 days in advance. Capitol Hill

Traditional omakase served at the counter. Reservations required; call 425.412.3417 to reserve. Edmonds

Variety of tasting menus available, but most elaborate omakase (honkaku) served only at the counter. Be sure to indicate that reservation is for omakase when booking online. West Seattle

LITTLE FISH: Piquillos and anchovies at Jarr Bar pair perfectly with dainty cocktails

These small, salty fishies top every kid’s list of greatest food fears, but there’s much to love about the anchovy. Cured with salt and packed in oil or marinated in vinegar, the mild anchovy turns into an embodiment of savoriness, improving everything from sauces to salads to your sad desk lunch. Discover what you may have been missing out on by trying these great bites.

Kale Caesar salad
This stellar, simple salad ($12), topped with boquerones (vinegar-marinated anchovies), is almost as popular as this little empire’s bacon-jam-slathered burger. Multiple locations

Puttanesca pizza
Bar Taglio
Between the capers and the anchovy-laden sauce topping this new pizzeria’s Roman-style square puttanesca slice ($8), expect an explosion of umami flavor. Downtown

Bread plate
At Altura chef Nathan Lockwood’s latest venture, anchovies come as a pasta topping on pappardelle with tripe and oxtail ragu ($18), with spicy roasted brassica vegetables ($17) and on small plates ($3–$11) served from a rolling cart. But they are at their finest in oil with garlic as bagna cauda on the bread plate ($8). Capitol Hill

Piquillos and anchovies
Jarr Bar
Pair a glass of excellent sherry with a plate of oil-cured anchovies and perky piquillo peppers ($13) at this petite cocktail bar, where tinned fish is the focus of the menu. Pike Place Market

Som tum mua
Bangrak Market
A little of everything goes into this funky, spicy salad ($14)—green papaya, baby crab, fermented fish, herbs, vermicelli and the star, crispy anchovies—at this colorful Belltown Thai spot. Belltown

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