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Sep 2, 2014 08:40 AM

Seafood recs for an East Coast shellfish fresk


I'm coming to Seattle for the first time next week, and I'd love to eat several giant piles of fish. In May I went to LA and spent a few days driving around, eating ceviche, and doing generalized restaurant research. The LA chowhounders were super helpful with places I should go, and I even wound up stumbling into some useful information about a scandal involving a ceviche place called El Coraloense (next time you're in LA, if you like ceviche, that's your first stop from the airport).

I promise a detailed report of wherever I wind up getting to. I'm not looking to spend a huge amount of money, and definitely want to hit up some old-school fish houses, and maybe a more modern "here's a series of oysters I just opened for you" type places. Many thanks in advance for any advice!

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  1. My picks would be:
    The Taylor Shellfish in Melrose Market. Really it's a fish market with a couple tables, but they'll shuck oyster for you, sell you a glass of wine, and they'll probably have geoduck chowder and a few other things. The other locations of Taylor are real restaurants, and if you like the menus probably worth checking out, but I like the Melrose location. It's the best oyster deal in town.

    Westward has an unbeatable location, right on Lk Union with a firepit and outdoor seating, and a good happy hour with oysters and other things. I like dinner there but the flavors aren't my very favorite.

    Rock Creek I like better for dinner. They also have happy hour.

    Walrus and Carpenter is an obvious pick. Put your name on the list then go elsewhere on Ballard Ave--maybe get a crab roll at Chippy's if you have time--while you wait.

    There are too many oyster happy hours to name. Elliott's is the old standby, and good, but can be packed with a long wait, esp during tourist season.

    You should have Dungeness crab, but I usually have it at home so my picks aren't that current. Hopefully others will chime in. Etta's has a crabby hour that looks great:
    Seatown should be a good bet, or go to the ID and get Chinese crab at Sea Garden. I haven't been to Jack's Fish Spot in ages but people here sometimes recommend it for crab. Taylor sometimes has crab.

    You should have mussels while you're here; you can get them so many places.

    2 Replies
    1. re: christy319

      Thanks Christy! I'm not sure I can pinpoint the westward place you mean (I'm sure I could if I knew the city). Is it the Westward Little Gull Grocery?

    2. I love Sea Garden, but unless Christy319 knows something I don't know, it has been closed for months due to a fire in the building that left the building condemned. You MUST have Dungeness crab if you're from the East Coast. Also wild Alaska salmon and halibut, which are both in season. The more simply prepared the better for all three in my book. Like Christy319, however, I also usually buy my own crab and eat it at home, so don't know the best place for it. I agree with Taylor Shellfish (I don't believe they have fish, but go for the oysters) and Rock Creek. Seattle doesn't have many great places devoted to seafood (Rock Creek being an exception; some will also champion Blue Acre, but I prefer Rock Creek, although have gone only once);I've wondered about that for a while and then I decided that it must be because most restaurants offer local seafood. I like Elliott's for oysters on the half shell (although I haven't been there in a while), but the rest of their seafood is mediocre. Avoid the Crab Pot at all costs. One thing to do is to rent your own place, go to a good fishmonger, and cook your own! Or make a list of well-regarded restaurants and check their online menus to see what seafood they're currently serving.

      7 Replies
      1. re: PAO

        Thanks! I may do some cooking, since I'm staying with a friend in her actual house. I'd only be a little worried about doing the crab an injustice, since I'm used to east coast blue, and then not really getting a proper taste. I'm in NYC, and so we can get Dungeness, but after the trip it can't possibly be the same.

        I may bring my oyster knife, too, but I'd probably have to check my bag...

          1. re: JayDK

            well now I can blame you for the extra wait in the airport :-)

          2. re: estarriolvetch

            Some 'cooking' is likely more than one even needs for perfect Dungeness, the boil-in-bag meal of crustaceans. While big salted water boils, melt butter for dipping. Done. Dollar-Store pliers work. Cold, it's good with mayo.

          3. re: PAO

            Damn, no, didn't know that about Sea Garden. I don't find 7 Stars Pepper reliable for crab anymore--they used to do an amazing Szechuan crab, and you might try to order one and tell them that you like spicy (the problem is they began making it blander if you were American). Though last time I tried to do this they were out altogether.

            1. re: christy319

              thanks for the warning - I am a pasty white man, and have had to send back a lot of stuff in Szechuan restaurants after the waiter says they toned it down for me. I mean, I ordered the spicy ox tongue and tripe. What are the odds I wanted sweet and sour chicken?

              1. re: christy319

                A side note... Taylors offers a nice, simple prep of crab.

            2. Walrus and Carpenter. Lovely, fresh ingredients simply prepared. I was pleasantly surprised to arrive at 4pm on a recent Friday and get a table for 2 with no problem, but that's probably the exception rather than the rule.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Bax

                Awesome news. :-) I'll see if I can get in since I won't be working during the day...

                1. re: estarriolvetch

                  I don't think W&C takes reservations, estarr. or at least they didn't used to. Line ups start outside the resto at 3:30 - 3:45 P.M. The oysters are sooooo fresh and delicious there

                  1. re: estarriolvetch

                    I had dinner at Chippy's last week, which is in the same building as The Walrus and the Carpenter. I really liked the halibut and chips. Others at the table liked the fried clams and the lobster and crab po boy.

                    1. re: Lauren

                      I really liked the halibut and chips, too...except for the price. $24! Ouch. It was a big portion, but it's still fish and chips.

                      Are you heading north at all? I can't say enough good things about the crab sandwich at Skagit's Own Fish Market. It's on the way to the San Juan Islands ferry, Deception Pass, Chuckanut Drive, the North Cascades, Vancouver...but go at lunch, they run out by later in the day.

                      I remembered how much I liked the mussels at the Taylor Shellfish oyster bar in Pioneer Square. Not sure if the Melrose location has them.

                      1. re: christy319

                        Two things in Washington but not elsewhere are bbq salmon and oysters on bbq. Both great though fried oyster still my favorite.

                        For seafood I think going Chinese is a good idea. Or maybe cedar planked salmon.

                        1. re: christy319

                          Thanks for the tip on Skagit's in Burlington, @christy319. Aside from what I hope will be more trips to Seattle, we're through there a few times a year on the way to/from Portland. Have you tried anything besides the crab sando?

                          1. re: grayelf

                            If you are in that area you can check out bow edison with several foodie stops. Blau and taylor have oyster farms, not much to see but you can get very fresh oysters along with scoops of free ice. Chuckanut drive is waterfront scenic drive down from bellingham.

                  2. So Taylor Shellfish is basic a restaurant out of my fantasies. Tiny menu. Everything is pristinely fresh and delicious. Oysters are kept in a frickin' aquarium. Amazing. Photos to follow.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Ok - postgame.

                      Jack's at the market: ok? crab cocktail didn't have much flavor, and had all the cucumber in the world. The fired haddock & chips was overcooked. As an east coaster it's definitely weird to see so much cod and haddock these days. I might come back here if I needed some fried stuff, but meh.

                      Taylor Shellfish (Melrose location): This is my perfect restaurant. geoduck sashimi, live shrimp, great oysters. They keep the stuff in an aquarium, there are zero frills, good prices, three people working the lunch service all in. Everything is pristine and wonderful and I could go back a million times.

                      Chowder place back at the market: there was a super long line at lunch, but it's weird eating super fashionable chowder out of an artificially sour sourdough bread bowl.

                      Then I got some clams and mussels to cook at my friend's house, a big hunk of smoked salmon that's still in my fridge, and a half a sea urchin with a spook at the fishmonger's in the market. More people need to do that with sea urchins: just open them and sell them to me.

                      Turns out I don't care about manila clams. They just don't have the flavor or geoduck or a quahog.

                      Shiro's sushi was totally worth it. We went there after a comedy womb show (standup with no sexism, racism, transphobia, or any kind of oppressive language. Great show). I got all the varieties of mackerel, including herring, which you also don't see out of the Atlantic. Love it so much. I want fatty fish all day long.

                      Walrus & Carpenter: perfect. Great cocktails, AMAZING oysters. So much variety. So creamy. I was always kinda meh on the mostly kumamoto's we get out here, but the range of flavors was amazing. Also, the shucking was done brilliantly - barely lost any liquor. Plus the mignonette seemed like it had sat for a while, letting the shallots dissolve a little, and giving the vinegar a bit more body, which was lovely. My favorites, which I will now look for, were Treasure Cove and Sea Cow.

                      The small plates were good; smoked trout was cold but tasty and garnished well; sardines were grilled and gorgeous and fatty and perfect with an italian salsa verde type thing; manila clams confirmed my disinterest; fried salmon belly was basically hilarious: curl the belly up, with a little fin and skin on there, into a little nest. Deep fry. variation in the bites was really big, but the dish overall was really fun.

                      Then I went to Portland, and mostly at XOXO conference food, until I slipped away on the last day to Block & Tackle. I needed some quiet. I wound up discussing east coast oysters with the entire bar, and found out that all the restaurants on that block (including pok pok) were having a week long on-shift squirt gun fight. Love it. B&T's oysters were several cuts below the W&C ones. Just... less beautiful. More muddy flavors, more of a hint of bitterness behind the metallic. Not so much lovely creamy variety. The kumamotos there, weirdly, were lovely. I also got the seafood cocktail, which had shrimp, octopus, scallops, cocktail sauce, and some avocado. Good balance. Good easy restaurant dish. Not life changing. (I mean, I've been to LA for real ceviche & coctel). Grilled mackerel sandwich was good - sort of matjes herring preparation with dill, a cream sauce, capers, etc. Tasty, but not the just straight up grilled fishy fat that I love so well.

                      Photos attached in roughly reverse chronological order (big oyster plate above is B&T, not W&C). LMK if you need better labels. Thanks all for your recs, and if you're ever in NYC, let me know and I'll do my best to find you the chow that you would most like to hound.