On Tuesday, May 18, 2021’s first shipment of Copper River salmon arrived at SeaTac airport from Alaska with great ceremony. Star chefs Shota Nakajima and Tom Douglas were on hand to take photos with the prized fish, which is coveted for its bright hue and fatty meat. Nakajima even hosted a private five-course dinner with the salmon as a centerpiece at his Capitol Hill restaurant Taku.
Despite its high price tag (typically above $50 per pound), Copper River fillets sell out quickly. But some grocers and fishmongers still have some cuts left, and it’s a perfect dish for home cooks looking for something special to throw on the grill over Memorial Day weekend. For those who want to buy it already prepared, there are also a handful of restaurants offering dishes that highlight the flavorful salmon.
Note that, due to fluctuations in demand, supply, and sourcing, prices for Copper River can vary greatly at retail — and the cost often changes weekly (also, sockeye cuts are generally a little less expensive than king, since they have less fat). Best to call ahead to check on availability and latest prices.
Anthony’s Beach Cafe: This family-owned, Pacific Northwest chain continues to keep its Copper River tradition going this year. The Edmonds location has a chargrilled version of the dish, usually served with sundried tomato basil butter. Open for takeout, delivery, and limited dine-in service.
Big Fish Grill: The understated local Woodinville spot (with a location in Issaquah as well) has Copper River fillets on its takeout menu, served with wild rice and blistered asparagus. There are also some steamer clams and coconut prawns for those who want to round out the meal. Open for takeout, delivery, and limited dine-in.
Elliott’s Oyster House: Pre-pandemic, Elliott’s probably filled with more tourists than locals, but the waterfront restaurant is still a classic. There’s grilled Copper River king and sockeye on the menu, served with charred scallion-citrus butter, spring peas, and morels. Open for takeout and limited dine-in, including outside seating on the patio.
Haymaker: Chef Brian Clevenger’s West Seattle restaurant (with an Eastlake outpost) usually highlights just three key ingredients, and its Copper River preparation is no exception, served with fingerling potato and english peas. Open for takeout and limited dine-in.
Ivar’s Salmon House: After taking a hiatus for most of 2021, the iconic seafood restaurant in Northlake is ramping back up, serving Copper River salmon here and at its Mukilteo Landing location. Open for takeout and limited dine-in.
Old Stove Brewing: This five-year-old brewpub located at Pike Place Market has a robust food menu, and currently features a $40 six-ounce Copper River dish, served with rice cakes, garlic scapes, lemongrass confit tomato, Thai chili, and coconut pan sauce.
Ken’s Market: This neighborhood Greenwood grocer had a good amount of Copper River sockeye cuts available as of May 24, going for $54.99 per pound. But best to call ahead because the fillets are going fast: (206) 784-3470.
Metropolitan Market: Leaning high-end, this grocer with multiple locations around the Seattle area has a quality seafood department. Though products can usually be a bit pricey, at $40 per pound for sockeye and $50 per pound for king at the moment, its Copper River prices seem decent compared to other retailers. Delivery is available via Instacart.
Pike Place Fish Market: Yep, these are the guys famous for throwing the fish around at Pike Place. But they deliver as well (across the country no less), with a robust online retail operation. They’re also usually among the first to get the best product, so the salmon is always top notch. Right now, Copper River sockeye fillets are $59.99, king fillets are $74.99, and for those who just want the whole damn thing, that can run into the hundreds.
Seattle Fish Company: West Seattle’s neighborhood fishmonger doubles as a low-key grill, with prepared dishes for takeout and local delivery. For those who just want the raw Copper River, the prices are at $50 per pound for sockeye and $60 for king. It might not hurt to pick up Hood Canal oysters and plan a whole Pacific Northwest seafood feast.