HOME > Chowhound > Pacific Northwest >


New To SEA Want Good Seafood Without Being A Tourist

I'm new to Seattle and I am looking for good seafood without having to experiment with all of the touristy places on the pier or the chains I've heard so many negative comments about. Where do the locals go for what's real, fresh, served well, and priced in accordance with the value? Everything from middle to low end cost wise to the higher end would be great. Thanks !

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I actually do like McCormick and Shmick's- especially during happy hour...
    Try La Isla in Ballard and order the Salmon
    Try Pacific Inn on Stone Way and order the fish and chips

    I have heard a few good things about- Pike Street Fish Fry & Jack's Fish Spot

    1 Reply
    1. re: natalie.warner

      Thanks for the advice. I'll check them out.

      Some of the things I've heard about Ivar's (all restaurant types) has been a bit scary. Some consider it touristy, overpriced, and constant mention of poor service.

      Trying to avoid that kind of stuff. I've lived in the Cape Cod area and remember a wonderful place out on the working fishing docks where the locals went. The trawlers come in, the lobster and fish come off, and directly into the kitchen. You ate in a large, rustic paneled dining room and it was a moderately priced smorgasbord. One line fried , one line not. Excellent chowda :) and all the trimmings. Everyone from the dock workers, to real estate agents, and lawyers. The locals know the good places. Huge fresh lobster for a song.

    2. Chinook's is reliable for the money - and it is at the Fisherman's Terminal, not in the downtown tourist zone.

      In the tourist zone, Elliott's progressive oyster happy hour is still worthy of note.

      I generally avoid "seafood restaurants" though, preferring restaurants serving a particular cuisine containing seafood.

      9 Replies
      1. re: terrier

        Thanks, that sounds like good advice. I'm going to have to acquire a taste for raw oysters. I love them pretty much all other ways.

        Have any places been caught selling one fish or shellfish for something else? It's a big problem in Florida, particualy in the tourist areas. People go to a specific area for grouper and and end up getting farmed fish from Vietnam, Thailand, or China. The state officals caught 160 different places in "grouper country" misrepresenting their product.

        I've never heard about it here so I guess it's not a problem.

        1. re: terrier

          I would agree, there are certain seafood menu items at many good places, but they aren't really seafood restaurants. Anything from 7 stars crab to Matt's catfish.

          Flying Fish is a great seafood restaurant, not touristy at all. Ray's (upstairs cafe or downstairs upscale) is consistently good seafood. Pike place chowder is good, and has interesting flavors. The Lock Spot has really good salmon chowder.

          1. re: bluedog67

            I love chowder, so tell me what Northwest Chowder is? I like New England and Long Island is OK. I may have to try the local variety. Chownder on the East Coast was a meal by itself. I'm sure what is done locally is unique.

            1. re: TaylorRoot

              I am from the east coast also. Chowder here is NE style, chunky, thick and often creamy. Some places have bread bowl. Pike place chowder serves lots of variations of fish and flavors. There a a couple locations, one in the market, and one in Pacific Place mall. It is actually quite good, so don't be deterred by the food court feel if you go to the mall location.

              1. re: bluedog67

                That all sounds great. My company has a shuttle to Pacific Place I'll have to check that out. Thanks:)

                1. re: TaylorRoot

                  The mall and the market are about 6 blocks apart... I would suggest the market.

                  1. re: natalie.warner

                    When the weather improves I'm going to have to take some Saturdays and just walk around downtown and see the sights. You always see and remember more on foot it seems. Thanks for the advice.

                  2. re: TaylorRoot

                    Shuttle to Pike Place?
                    My kind of company.

                    1. re: mrnelso

                      Yes my company encourages us to commute using mass transit. They pay us infact rather than drive as they have several confined campuses around town. So they run shuttles so we can go to meeting and a few places around town for errands and lunch. They are good to us :)

          2. Ponti, over in Fremont is a nice seafood choice.
            Admittedly, I've had varying experiences with them over the years, but when they're good, they're very good.

            1. Steelhead Diner in the Market has terrific fish with a New Orleans twist. Best fried oysters in the NW.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Roger livingston

                That sounds great for sure! Anything New Orleans gets my attention. Fried oysters are great, but I'm going to have to get into raw oysters. I've heard so many descriptions of the experience. For a newbie, do you do them straight? Or put the sauce on them?

              2. Matt's in the Market
                Steelhead Diner
                Third Floor Fish Cafe (Kirkland)
                Pacific Inn Pub
                Jack's Fish Spot

                1 Reply
                1. re: equinoise

                  I'll check these out. More consistent advice and that really is good. Thanks !

                2. The best seafood is in Japanese restaurants with good sushi bars (you don't necessarily have to order sushi) and in Chinese spots with tanks of live shellfish. Oddly enough, Seattle does not, in my opinion, have a great seafood restaurant per se. Elliott's is good for oysters on the half shell. In my opinion, Ponti's has never been the same since chef Alvin Binuya left, and I cannot recommend any of the McCormick's empire places or Chinook's (although Little Chinook's has nice fish and chips if you like the spice mix they use in their batter and their chowder is OK) or Oceanaire. I have not been to Ray's in many years---it used to be reliable for simply made dishes. I can't say what it's like now, one way or the other. The best way to get great seafood (other than the ways I have suggested) is to go to Mutual Fish in the southend of Seattle or University Seafood & Poultry in the north end and buy seafood and cook it yourself, or go to a good restaurant that may have a local fish or seafood dish on the menu.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PAO

                    I love Japanese! I agree with the cooking idea. I've been working so much since I arrived here, I really haven't had much time to do that. But I will. :) Thanks !

                  2. Taylor, I second the recommendation for Seven Stars Szechuan crab. An incredible dish. Sun Fish in West Seattle has great fish & chips; Matt's at the Market catfish sandwich is also excellent. Tulio's serves branzini, the traditional Itialian fish. Mutual Fish should be your resource for great raw seafood including oysters. The Brooklyn has an excellent oyster bar and should not be missed. Don't worry about being a "tourist." One of the great reasons for living in Seattle is 9 million tourists visit each year and we get to live here year 'round.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Leper

                      I love Szechuan anything for the most part. Cajun, Creole, and anything spicy. I found an amazing West Indies place in Minneapolis. They didn't speak English but they made incredible food. Very friendly service, excellent red snapper, safron rice, and fried plaintains. Looks like Matts gets another vote. Thanks all for the great advice!

                    2. Market Grill for grilled salmon (or halibut) sandwiches. Matt's for everything. Elliots for oyster happy hour (they have other good happy hour deals too, and lunch is a pretty good value). The Brooklyn happy hour. I've heard good things about Franks Oyster House (it's new--there's a thread a little ways down); I've also not tried, but heard good things about, Sunfish on Alki (for grilled fish skewers and fish and chips). 7 stars or Bamboo Garden for crab. Pike Place Chowder not just for chowder but seafood bisque, soups, etc. Mussels at Cafe Presse. All of the Tom Douglas restaurants--Etta's, Dahlia--are going to do a nice job with a variety of seafood, though you'll pay downtown prices for it.

                      I would agree that all around, good value seafood restaurants are not as common as they should be. Maybe we are all cooking our seafood at home? And when you can get the stuff right from the fisherman or grower like you can at our farmer's markets (particularly WIlson's salmon and Taylor shellfish at the Ballard farmer's market) for so much less than you pay in restaurants, why not.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: christy319

                        Wow. Lots of great advice. I'm making a list of all of the advice and categorizing it. When I have friends visiting, I'll have lots of places to share with them. Raw oysters are someting I have to dive in to. Looks like this is a great place to do that.

                        I love to cook and taught adult education cooking classes as a community service project, so I completely agree with buying and cooking at home. It's nice to pick up techniques from restaurants and see new presentations.

                        Farmers markets are great sources. We had the highly commerical stuff downtown where most of it was not really being sold by the farmer or point of origin. But the ones on the edges of town and in neighborhoods were excellent. Thanks again for the advice.

                        1. re: TaylorRoot

                          Go to Mutual Fish or University Seafood & Poultry and ask them to crack and clean a dungeness crab for you. Serve with a sauce made of mayonnaise and chipotle or with mayonnaise, lemon juice, and stone ground mustard. Easy! Or get large (not extra large) prawns and shell. I never bother to devein. Heat up some olive oil. Add a lot of chopped garlic and, if you like, a pinch of red pepper flakes. When translucent, add shrimp. Stir fry with a good helping of kosher salt. Squeeze a lemon half over and serve. Or broil or pan fry a salmon steak. Or salt, pepper and flour a halibut steak. Pan fry on both sides. Remove and keep warm. Add a garlic clove or two, halved, to the pan drippings along with a rosemary sprig and a solution of white wine vinegar and water. Reduce. Remove garlic and rosemary sprig and pour over halibut. Buy steamer clams and steam in a mixture of olive oil, white wine, and garlic. Ditto with mussels. Sprinkle with parsley.

                          1. re: PAO

                            I'm going to save that. My best friend is obsessed with crab. I'll have to get her to visit and we'll do some cooking. She's another major reason I'm looking for places in advance. When she visits I want to Wow her with some great food. She flies for Northwest (soon to be Delta) and loves crab and really great barbecue. Thanks !

                      2. i'm adding the Dungeness crab with black bean sauce & the salt + pepper prawns at Sea Garden in the ID. The sauteed Geoduck at Shiros and other better Japanese places ...

                        1. Welcome to Seattle, Taylor! Enjoy the oysters at The Brooklyn for Happy Hour along with a microbrew or wine flight. Wonderful choices of oysters on the half shell - Kumamotos are a personal favorite and I favor the smaller sweeter varieties of our NW oysters.

                          If you find yourself on the Eastside, try Tim's Seafood in Kirkland Parkplace. Impecably fresh shellfish and fish. In a few months, Tim's may have Ivory or White salmon. It's expensive by the pound, but it's rich and you should only get 4-5 ounces per person. Round out your meal with wild rice or couscous and a salad or other fresh veg. YUM.

                          1. North of Lake Union, on Fremont Avenue, near 43rd Street, is Paseo.
                            This is the all time best takeout ever. Well-balanced spicy, with excellent marinades, Lorenzo Lorenzo does scallops in red sauce, prawns and a fish of the day. They are all standouts, and you haven't even got to the rest of the menu, which will not disappoint. The place is tiny, the tables are tippy and crowdy, and there is so much food it struggles with itself to stay on the table, not to mention the plate. If you dan make a sneaky show of getting takeout smuggled in through the kitchen and plate it up for presentation, you will go down in date-history. Chill a nice white for this.

                            Another, newish, fish spot with interest is Pike Street Fish Fry, up on Capitol Hill. It's a classic fish&chips joint, but with access to more variety than many towns can have. The Fish Fry does several oddities each day (speaking of which, enjoy the fried lemons).

                            Matt's, in the Market (the Pike Place Market) is pricey for dinner, but a lovely catfish sandwich and a salad can be had with change for a twenty at lunch.

                            If it's change for a ten you want, you can go downstairs from Matt's to Jack's Fish Spot and get a cup of top-drawer Cioppino. If a twenty is available, Jack will also shuck you a few oysters, right out of their saltwater tanks or feed you a Dungeness crab cocktail, and you'll feel like a native. Grilled Salmon and Halibut sandwiches can be found across Pike Place at the Market Grill, too. Watch the clock M-F and hike down the long stairs from the Market to the waterfront for Elliott's oyster happy hour. It starts at 3:00, when oysters are 50 cents (!) each, then they go up 20 cents every half-hour or something til prices are back to painful. I avoid the rest of the menu. It's not bad, it's just oriented more to the tastes and pocketbooks of the expense account crowd.

                            Though a chain, Anthony's has been a respectful and respectable franchise that treats fish well enough, usually. For messy fun, go to the all-you-can-eat-Dungenes crab feed at Shilshole is a kick, though it cam be even funner to bring some cracking-accoutrements (pliers, tiny forks, plenty of wipes, lemons, maybe a tub of mayo) and grab up a few freshly-cooked crabs and take them to the nearest flat place and eat. The Market has many lovely little seating nooks built for just this enjoyment.
                            The International district, nee Chinatown, has much great food with good value.

                            You flirt with the usual risks of chain-store inattention at The Pike Place Bar and Grill, but on a good day, their beer-battered halibut is a golden, flaky, killer.

                            Fish is easy if you go light on the sauces and the heat, and the good folks at the following will steer you right:
                            Mutual Fish, on Rainier
                            Uwajimaya, in the I.D.
                            Jack's Fish Spot, at Pike Place
                            Wild Salmon, at Fisherman's terminal
                            University Seafood and Poulty, in the University District.
                            I don't know anything yet about Fremont Fish Company