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Oct 3, 2012 08:36 AM

Hole in the wall seafood recs?

Hi All,

What are some of the best no frills seafood places in Seattle? Looking for a Saturday night dinner, nothing fancy just great seafood. Any ideas?


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  1. Pacific Inn's fish & chips are my local fav. And it is a "Hole..."

    1. Seattle seafood centers around mainstays like salmon, Columbia River sturgeon, Alaskan halibut, Dungeness Crab, and oysters. For the most part, the correct preps for these are more consistent with a restaurant operation that is not hole-in-the-wall. "Great seafood" generally requires at least a little "fancy."

      Having said that, you can get good crab cocktails, oysters, chowder, etc. on a stroll through the market. Taylor Shellfish on Capitol Hill is both a market and a sit-down operation (though eating there is not much cheaper than dinner at a full service seafood restaurant).

      For the most part though, I would suggest you not worry about "fancy." Seattle has many very fine seafood resto's where the environment is relaxed and the dress is nice casual. In almost every case you can make a good meal out of appetizers in the bar if you want an even more relaxed environment.

      The weather will be beautiful this weekend, so you should not hesitate to take in the sunset water view as you enjoy local seafood at a place like Ray's Cafe in Ballard or Elliot's Oyster House on the downtown waterfront.

      1. Pike Street Fish Fry serves pretty good fried fish without any semblance of formality. It is a tiny storefront and just about everything comes out of the fryer. That being said, unless you are planning to eat there and then spend time at other places in the neighborhood, you may be better off following Gizmo56's suggestions.

        27 Replies
        1. re: lavaca

          Thanks for all the suggestions!

          Have Walrus for Thurs night, Shiros for sushi on Fri, Elliots for happy hour, and just need to fill that Sat night spot. The suggestions sound great though, I'll do some more research!


          1. re: QMTrader

            Give Ray's Cafe some serious thought. Beautiful view, indoor and outdoor seating, casual groove with people in shorts, jeans, etc.

            Also consider Blueacre (downtown), its sister restaurant Steehead Diner( in the Market), and Etta's one block north of the market (part of the Tom Douglas empire). All of these are reasonably casual, especially on weekends.

            1. re: QMTrader

              You might think about Crawfish House over in White Center, or one of the other Cajun crawfish places in town. Most do a nice preparation of dungeness crab, along with the mud bugs, shrimp, etc.

              1. re: Booklegger451

                Cajun preps using frozen crawifish tails? in White Center?

                Fun for those seeking a touch of Louisiana in the Puget Sound, certainly, but i would not send a visitor seeking Northwest seafood to White Center for "mud bugs" on a sunny Saturday.

                1. re: Gizmo56

                  I'm not clear on your objections here. Frozen crawfish? White Center? Sunny Saturdays?

                  1. re: MsMaryMc

                    Ok here goes.

                    The OP is a visitor who is on a quest for good northwest seafood. Cajun dishes featuring frozen crawfish from Louisiana is not my idea of good northwest seafood, and White Center is not my idea of an ideal destination on what promises to be a beautiful Saturday evening, as opposed to water view seafood restaurants in the city with local fish and shellfish.

                    Call me crazy....

                    1. re: Gizmo56

                      The OP didn't say anything about northwest seafood or water views--s/he just said "no-frills seafood places, nothing fancy just great seafood." Crawfish house certainly fits that description.

                      As far as White Center not being an ideal destination...that's okay, you just stay safely up in the north end, and don't venture out to anyplace scary or unfamiliar.. That will leave more of the good stuff down here for the rest of us.

                      1. re: MsMaryMc

                        No need to be snarky. I live well south of White Center. I have nothing against White Center or Cajun cuisine. But if I were here from out of town, neither would be on the top of my list of experiences during a short stay.

                        I'd be seeking out crawfish if I was touring Acadiana in Louisiana during crawfish season, but not if I were staying in Seattle for a few days in October.

                        Right, the original poster said nothing about water views, but there are places that provide great seafood AND a water view on what will be a warm sunny evening. Seems like a winning combination for a memorable meal to me.

                        1. re: MsMaryMc

                          Hopefully this doesn't stir a huge debate, but there's no such thing as good Cajun/creole cooking in Seattle - and that includes crawfish. It's right up there with Tex-Mex, chicken wings, barbecue, Cuban food (beyond a sandwich from Paseo), Indonesian, Burmese, Turkish, Moroccan, German, Scandanavian, and Russian as cuisines you simply can't find up here.

                          Tonnes of great seafood here. None of it involves crawfish.

                          1. re: Quintious

                            That's such a silly statement.
                            What cajun/creole places have you been to? Which BBQ places have you been to? What meats did you have at each BBQ spot? No doubt there are some places that get talked up by people that aren't good, but if you say "There's no good *** in Seattle", I'll suggest you haven't been to enough "***" places.

                            Raining Ribs in Lake City, Gabriel's Fire in Shoreline are very good barbeque spots. Crawfish Grill and Where ya at Matt? as solid cajun choices (heard good things about Jemil's but haven't gotten to them yet.) Are they as good as what you'd find at Franklin or Mueller's or Smitty's in Texas or Domilise's in New Orleans? Of course not. But 99% of BBQ in Texas isn't as good as Franklin or Mueller's, so that's a bit of an unrealistic standard, no? But I'll put Crawfish Grill's shrimp po boy up against a good place in Louisiana and I'll bet you couldn't tell.

                            If you're basing this opinion on just trying a couple of places that let you down and not seeking out smaller shops that don't get recognition in the Seattle Times or Yelp, then well, you're missing out on the Chowhound experience. I'll go to three shitty BBQ spots just to find 1 good one.

                            Anyways, as I've stated before, it's such a pointless thing to say "There's no good ****** in Seattle" Especially if you haven't been to a bunch of these places. (Although, I suppose if you wanted to tell me you've been to ALL the Russian or Indonesian places in the city and none of the 3 were good, then you might have a case)

                            1. re: GreenYoshi

                              Raining Ribs: Sucks
                              Gabriel's Fire: Sucks
                              Stans: Sucks
                              RoRo: Mediocre
                              Pig Iron: Mediocre
                              Jones: Sucks
                              Dixie's: Sucks
                              3 Pigs: Sucks
                              Maximus/Minimus: Mediocre for what little they even have
                              Meaty Johnson's: Sucks
                              Carolina Smoke: Ehhhhh, it's "decent". The best BBQ restaurant you can find in this area, I guess
                              Famous Dave's: Mediocre
                              Cedar River Smokehouse: Mediocre

                              .....And with a number of these places (Gabriel's, 3 Pigs, Raining come to mind as particular offenders), I take significant offense to the fact that they use TenderQuick in order to fake their smoke rings and to hide the fact that the meat is not properly smoked. Yes, it's easy to tell the difference just by looking between a real smoke ring and a piece of meat that just got covered in TQ for a few minutes to give customers the visual appearance of a properly smoked rib or brisket or piece of butt when it's nothing of the sort.

                              Crawfish Grill: Mediocre
                              Where Ya At Matt: Mediocre once you get past Matt's charm
                              Marcela's: Mediocre
                              That Cajun/Asian fusion place in Renton: Sucks
                              That Cajun/Irish place in Redmond: Sucks

                              I've been all over town. I'm serious about my eats, especially the ones I crave often. I *have* been to a bunch of those places, almost every place in town, all said and told. Sorry, but Seattle CANNOT do barbecue, and can't do top-flight Cajun/creole. The barbecue, in particular....people seem to think that there's great eats up here largely because they haven't been exposed to what it's supposed to taste like. I can't tell you how many people come to one of my barbecues, eat the real deal, and pull a line along the lines of "holy christ, I had no idea it was supposed to taste like this. This is awesome!" People have no point of reference as to what it's supposed to taste like, because they can't get it here.

                              1. re: Quintious

                                I am going to suggest that your standard might be a tad high for some of this stuff...

                                Are you looking for the world's greatest BBQ at some of these places? Well, then yeah, I guess you're going to be disappointed. You also don't find that in most places in Texas, either. Rudy's, Black's, Stubbs. I could also name a ton of Texas places that are ok, but aren't life-changing, and some that suck.

                                Also, after reading your list, I'm now extremely curious as to what you find to be "good" BBQ. I gotta say, I think RoRo's is terrible, and Pig Iron is not much better. And Maximus is 100% gimmick. I'll agree with you on Dixie's and Meaty Johnson's, but that seems to be about it. Not sure what you're criteria are in good BBQ but apparently they are much not in line with mine.

                                (Funny about "Matt's charm", though. I have to admit that I kind of agree)

                                1. re: Quintious

                                  Also, you can't compare home Q to commercials stuff by anyone.
                                  By necessity, any commercial BBQ is going to have to sit for a little while (well, I suppose unless you get the volume you do in Texas or whatever). You get to serve yours fresh from the smoker while any restaurant has to keep it warmed, well after it's come from the smoker.

                                  The only place that , and I'll put them on their sliced brisket on the "pretty good" side.

                                  1. re: Quintious

                                    Hi, Quintious:

                                    Since so much sucks here, when's the grand opening of "Quintious Q and Cajun"? Bet you'd do really well...


                                    1. re: Quintious

                                      Can I introduce you to my husband? He thinks *I'm* a restaurant snob and an over-the-top picky eater...

                                      1. re: MsMaryMc

                                        Has nothing to do with being a snob or being picky. It just has to do with having standards. This is a common refrain *most* people who have experienced real barbecue have about this area.

                                        This city is great if you're into food - but let's not kid ourselves into thinking that it's got a respectable offering in every genre. This area's inability to do good barbecue, though - that's just bizarre.

                                        1. re: Quintious

                                          Dude, if you're putting RoRo's as one of your better, "mediocre" BBQ choices (above places like Raining Ribs and Gabriel's Fire, I genuinely question your knowledge of "real barbecue".

                                          If I recall correctly, they don't even smoke their meat, they braise in an oven with liquid smoke.

                                          1. re: GreenYoshi

                                            It's mediocre for what it is. Don't confuse me saying "mediocre" with saying "I'd ever go back there". The only one on that list I'd ever go back to is Carolina Smoke, and I'm just not up in Bothell enough to where it's likely to happen.

                                            Again, Gabriel's Fire....what really, REALLY turns me off about that place is their use of TQ to fake a smoke ring. It's bad enough that it's not very good barbecue - it's even worse that they resort to cheap trickery in order to make it look as though it is. It's not genuine barbecue. We can argue this 49 different ways, but the end result is going to be that it's not.

                                            Am I expecting something on par with the Salt Lick or Jack Stack or Corky's or even Fatbacks to appear in Seattle? Not necessarily, unless I have a moment of insanity, quit my job, and start a barbecue shack. But don't feed me Bill Miller quality and tell me that it's Arthur Bryant's. The truly sad thing is Bill Miller's, if you were to put it up here, would be one of the best barbecue joints in the area.

                                    2. re: GreenYoshi

                                      I won't comment on the bbq fight, since bbq has never been my cup of tea.

                                      As for Cajun/Creole, I am a huge fan, love dining in New Orleans, and was there just 8 weeks ago. I often get a craving here, and have tried Toulouse Petit, Le Bon Ton, Matt, the aforementioned Crawfish House, and numerous others. Most will have a few dishes on the menu that are alright, but all would struggle to make even the bottom tier of places to eat in NOLA.

                                      But that's ok. I don't think anyone in Seattle should expect it to be a mecca for Creole cuisine, just as I don't think anyone visits New Orleans or Acadiana in search of salmon grilled on a plank.

                                      I would tip my hat to Blueacre, for the occasional Louisiana influenced dishes they offer. the Chef-Owner spent some time in the kitchen at Arnaud's, so he does understand the preps. But even those dishes tend to be merely "influenced" rather than straight-ahead New Orleans preps.

                                      To push this all back to the original topic, I still hold to the position that QMTrader would be better off dining at somewhere other than Crawfish House in White Center tomorrow night, in his quest for great Seattle seafood.

                                      And, QMTrader, be sure to let us know where you ended up and your impressions of the places you visited during your stay. Enjoy!

                                2. re: Gizmo56

                                  Crawfish from Lake WASHINGTON are the only local ones.
                                  They say these are especially big ones and that they show up on the local market from time to time. Ask University Seafood and Poultry, Mutual Fish, Fresh Fish Co, Uwajimaya...

                                  1. re: mrnelso

                                    The crawfish in Louisiana (which are 90%+ of the crawfish harvested for consumption in the USA) are of two species, both of which are quite different from the crawfish in the Pacific Northwest.

                                    In fact, the crawfish here are not only a different species, but an entirely different genus.

                                    In Louisiana, crawfish "boils" of whole crawfish take place during a very brief season (Spring/ early Summer) when the crawfish surface into the water. During the rest of the year, crawfish burrow into the mud (hence the nickname "mudbug)" as a natural part of their life cycle. So, at other times of year, dishes like bisque or etoufee rely on frozen tail meat.

                                    I don't know exactly how/where Crawfish House is sourcing whole crawfish for boils year-round, and I think I am probably better off not knowing.

                                    1. re: Gizmo56

                                      Well, I can't speak for Crawfish House, but I've researched other places, and they just sort of go around the country, based on the season. Most recently (a month or two?) I was at Crawfish King and they were getting their live crawfish from Texas at that point. I know Cajun Crawfish said California at one point.

                                      1. re: dagoose

                                        The thing is... Crawfish season for the minor producers in east Texas is at pretty much exactly the same time as in Louisiana. I have heard that some crawfish are commercially harvested in California (along the Sacramento River delta if I remember correctly), but I think the season there is only a little bit later in the year. It seems highly improbable to me that one can source fresh, whole crawfish from anywhere in the USA all twelve months of the year, most especially during Fall and Winter, when logic dictates that all Northern Hemisphere crawfish will be deep in the mud.

                                        And (even if so) the critters you would find are fairly distant relatives of the crawfish being prepared in Acadiana. Out of season, I prefer to have previously frozen Louisiana tails in a home-made gumbos or a nice Crawfish Monica over eating the mystery creatures at the few faux Cajun year-round "seafood boil" spots around Seattle.

                                        I know this crawfish discussion has been a topical tangent, and I hope that the OP is enjoying a productive seafood safari in Seattle this weekend.

                                      2. re: Gizmo56

                                        we're CRAWFISH HOUSE in WHITE CENTER we HAVE crawfish year-round PLease call LOUISIANA'S BEST SEAFOOD 504 464 9808 ask for clif he will tell you we get our crawfish form louisiana( we are form louisianna just F.Y.I) houston TX california and much more places and again you alway welcome to ours restaurant , we're NOT talking about our food here just that we have live CRAWDADS , WE DO NOT SELL FROZEN CRAWFISH .just to make that clear thanks

                                        1. re: GreenYoshi

                                          GreenYoshi, I think that post contains plenty of self-promotion on top of the correction. And rather than tell us where the "crawdads" come from, the poster tells us to make a long distance call to his supplier to find out, which seems to indicate that the restaurant itself does not even know the original source.

                                          I have conceded that they don't use frozen tails at Crawfish House, but as discussed above, I'd rather eat tails flash-frozen in the actual Louisiana harvest than live crawfish of mysterious origin at the wrong time of year.

                                          Crawfish are an ultimate example of a seasonal food. Throughout the northern hemisphere they are in deep in the mud except for a few weeks that run from March (in the South) to roughly June (in the West). I have questioned how one sources quality live crawfish for consumption year round. That's all.

                                          This has been a long tangent and this dead horse is well beaten. I'm done. Everyone should dine at Crawfish House in White Center. I have eaten there and enjoyed it. But don't assume that the critters you are eating there in the Fall and Winter are from Louisian,a or that they are even the same species of crawfish that are boiled in Louisiana.

                                3. re: Gizmo56

                                  Whoa, before slandering on a place, at least do some research. Crawfish House doesnt used frozen crawfish tails. used to get their shipments from Louisiana before it got too expensive for them (from what i heard).

                                  and White Center has some destination worthy places to eat. Zippy's, San Fernando, Proletariat, some of the best Mexican and Viet restaurants. I wouldn't buy a house there, but i'm not gonna slam it either.


                                  1. re: shaolinLFE

                                    I didn't "slam" White Center, and I've enjoyed eating at some of their restaurants.

                                    I simply suggested that the Crawfish House in White Center is not where I would send an out-of-towner looking for high quality Northwest seafood on what was a gorgeous Saturday evening.

                                    Likewise, if you read further down the thread, I questioned where the live Crawfish used by CH are coming from, during what is the off-season for crawfish in the Northern Hemisphere. All in all I'd rather be eating frozen tails from Louisiana.

                          2. Emerald City Fish & Chips
                            Facing East

                            1. Sunfish Seafood West Seattle Alki Beach.
                              Get the "shish kabob."
                              (it's a skewer of grilled fish and shrimp) and pretty solid for the price.
                              And then you've got Alki beach to walk off the meal.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: JayDK

                                Excellent choice! Both for the fish shish kabob and for the Alki scenery and people watching.

                                The patio at Cactus would make a nice preliminary stop for chips and excellent Margaritas.