Seattle is surrounded by water and a thriving fishing community, so it should come as no surprise that seafood is a local staple. But with so many options, how do you find the best place to grab a bite during your vacation? In-the-know Seattleites recommend these five local favorites to visitors looking for a seafood fix.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Tracie Kahikina, head concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, recommends The Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard for its (mostly) locally sourced oysters. Run by chef Renee Erickson, winner of the 2016 James Beard Award in the Best Chef Northwest category, this seafood-centric spot is breezy, bustling and convivial, and emphasizes small plates. On the restaurant's ever-changing menu, you may find dishes like spot prawn crudo or cured king salmon, though a pile of fresh Sea Wolf Bakers bread is available at any meal.
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The Walrus and the Carpenter takes walk-ins only and tends to be busy most nights, so plan accordingly. If there's a wait, pop into Barnacle, Erickson's adorable 500-square-foot spot next door, for a quick cocktail and a bite to eat. The restaurant will call when a table is ready.
Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar
"Taylor Shellfish is just the best," says Jessica Gomes, VIP coordinator at Hotel 1000. Taylor Shellfish Farms, which sources seafood to its namesake restaurants, has been family-owned for five generations. Although it has a handful of Seattle locations, "Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar in Pioneer Square has their most abundant menu," Gomes says.
Gomes recommends trying the geoduck (pronounced GU-ee-duhk), an obscenely large saltwater clam, though she notes it isn't for everybody. "It's only for the most adventurous eaters, and you certainly don't want to Google a geoduck. Just let it come out delicious and raw and perfect, with just a little wasabi and soy sauce." If geoduck isn't your thing, be sure to sample freshly shucked oysters, including local varieties like Kumamoto, Virginica and Shigoku. Don't miss happy hour, which is held Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.
"If you're looking for something more casual, try Seatown Seabar at Pike Place Market," Gomes says. Located at the north end of the market, this spot near the water is a bit more low-key than chef and owner Tom Douglas' other nearby seafood restaurant, Etta's.
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"Just show up and get some crunchy bread and stew and some rosé and watch people," Gomes says. "The crazy Seattle people walk by. It's amazing."
Seatown Seabar's menu features Seattle favorites like the salmon burger – order it with a fried egg – and the crab BLT. And, of course, there are oysters.
RockCreek Seafood & Spirits
"For a proper seafood meal, I don't think you can do better than RockCreek," Gomes says. "It's so good, especially at 9:30, 10 o'clock at night, when it's a little quieter."
Located in the Fremont neighborhood in what was once an auto body shop, the seafood establishment cooks up local staples like crab, though it offers more than the usual Northwest fare. To make the most of its extensive menu, go with a group and order a variety of oysters, followed by some small plates (the wild Carolina prawns and grits are to die for) and something from its diverse finned fish selection.
Be sure to check out RockCreek's happy hour, held daily at the bar from 4 to 6 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to close.
The White Swan Public House
"A little bit newer on the scene, The White Swan Public House is awesome," says Lara Dennis, concierge at Kimpton Alexis Hotel Seattle. "They're on South Lake Union, and they have some really cool happy hour specials."
Dennis is a fan of the Poutine O' The Sea. "Think poutine, but with a thicker clam chowder instead of a gravy on the top. So, you're getting that comfort food but really fresh seafood as well, right on the water," she says. "They're calling it the new Seattle signature dish."
Other must-try dishes include the local oil-poached albacore tuna salad, served with shaved and braised celery, and the scallops with roasted carrots and bonito fish crumbs.
To experience more of what Seattle has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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