White Swan Public House and 100 Pound Clam: Seafood With Views, Too
Inventive waterfront seafood dining, courtesy of the folks from Matt's in the Market
By Chelsea Lin
February 7, 2017
The least confusing way to describe the differences between lakeside newcomers The 100 Pound Clam and The White Swan Public House is that the former serves lunch and the latter serves dinner. But it’s more than that. On warm days, The 100 Pound Clam acts as a walk-up lunch spot with a 65-seat patio; when the weather turns too cold for even the restaurant-issued patio blankets to warm diners, they can choose to eat indoors (at The White Swan) while still ordering from the seafood-shack menu. Beginning at happy hour, there’s a more sophisticated dinner menu, courtesy of White Swan chef Josh Nebe, plus more oysters and cocktails. Got it? Yeah, we hear you.
But forget your confusion for a moment and focus on the important stuff: These two restaurants, both owned by Dan Bugge, who also owns Matt’s in the Market and Radiator Whiskey, offer unconventional seafood with the kind of water views that make Seattleites salivate. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
At lunch, you’ll find the Clam staff frying up salty, cornmeal-crusted rockfish with fries dusted in dill ($14). They’re ladling big bowls of what may be the city’s best seafood chowder ($9)—thick, not from a cornstarch slurry, but from the sheer quantity of a rotating assortment of fin fish, together with potatoes and bacon. The dinner menu, Bugge explains, was designed to offer “the Matt’s style with a little bit of the Radiator flair.” It makes sense, then, that he hired chef Nebe to lead the kitchen. Nebe has spent the past couple of years at Radiator Whiskey; before that, he was crafting corn dogs at the carnival-themed Unicorn bar on Capitol Hill.
Image by White Swan Public House
The 100-Pound Clam walk-up lunch shack (left) shares a patio with The White Swan (right)
The melding of Bugge’s daring dish ideas and Nebe’s “why not?” approach results in a menu that is boldly flavorful and a little tongue in cheek. Smoked oysters and bacon are matched with bone marrow in an over-the-top, umami-packed take on an old-school English dish called bone marrow “Kilpatrik” ($16). Hawaiian blue prawns ($23) swim in something Bugge describes as “clarified brain butter,” made from the prawns’ shells (and all those tasty bits inside the heads) and lemons roasted in the wood-fired oven. One of the best dishes isn’t seafood at all: a house-made bratwurst served in a pool of cashew curry sauce ($19), which Nebe’s fans may recognize as a version of a dish he offered from his days running a German pop-up called Dackel back in 2014. Nebe and Bugge are hoping to add some celebratory whole-table seafood spreads, similar to Radiator’s “beast feasts,” which will require you to roll up your sleeves and get at those little fish bones with your hands.
Image by White Swan Public House
Chef Josh Nebe hands over his whole roasted steelhead trout with fennel, leek, dill, house Old Bay spice and ozette potatoes
Bugge says the inspiration for both eateries came from the 10-plus years he spent slinging fish—yes, literally slinging, in bright orange rubber pants—in Pike Place Market. Seafood, he says, has always been a big deal to him. But when visitors would ask, “Where can I get [clams or salmon or the day’s catch] prepared around town?” he came up dry on what to recommend. Mind you, this was before RockCreek, the seafood place I currently recommend, and before Westward, the seafood restaurant with one of the city’s best views. But still, what Bugge and Nebe have accomplished is unlike either of those: a pair of waterfront restaurants casual enough for after-work cocktails and oysters or a quick weekday lunch, yet celebratory enough for date-night dinners—as long as you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty.