Seattle is synonymous with seafood, which is why you’ll find well-prepared fish, crab, oysters, and other local catches on practically every menu in the area — that is to say, you don’t really have to seek out seafood, as you’d be hard-pressed to avoid it here. But some places dedicate more of their focus to high-quality seafood both regional and international, from ocean-to-table specialists and peerless sushi bars to Sichuan restaurants with tanks on-site and fish markets that turn out masterful poke and crab rolls. For those times when you want to be awash in options, here are some of Seattle’s essential seafood restaurants.Read More
Essential Seattle Seafood Restaurants
Oyster bars, sushi specialists, fried fish shacks, and more restaurants showcasing the bounty of seafood in the Pacific Northwest and beyond
The Walrus and the Carpenter
James Beard Award-winning chef Renee Erickson has had a major hand in the evolution of Seattle’s dining scene, and her Sea Creatures restaurant group owns many of Seattle’s top restaurants (including another seafood-focused treasure, Westward on Lake Union). But Erickson has never let her original Ballard bar slip. The Walrus and the Carpenter serves several varieties of Washington oysters, seafood dishes like raw albacore tuna with Meyer lemon sauce and blood oranges, and snacks like beef tartare, beef shank terrine, and plates of sliced cheese, along with a long wine list and a thoughtful cocktail menu. The dining room is bright and airy, and the heated, covered patio sparkles with string lights. Be warned that you can’t make reservations at this perennial favorite; on the upside, this is one of the few Seattle-area date-night restaurants open on Mondays.
RockCreek Seafood & Spirits
This rustic-chic Fremont restaurant, with its two floors of exposed wooden beams and a covered patio, evokes a fishing lodge, a fitting nod to chef Eric Donnelly’s passion for the outdoors (he also owns a game-focused steakhouse in Greenwood). Not surprisingly, RockCreek sources and prepares all of its seafood thoughtfully, whether it’s lightly fried squid from Rhode Island served in a Chinese-style takeout box with a sweet soy sauce or sturgeon from the Columbia River with an herb-peppercorn crust and parsnip puree. The cocktail game here is strong, too.
Fremont’s Local Tide is a seafood dream, a former pop-up drawing long lines in particular for the sandwich that started it all: an impeccable Dungeness crab roll with house mayo on a griddled split-top bun, currently available just Friday through Sunday. Owner Victor Steinbrueck, who shares a name with his grandfather — the architect who led the charge to protect Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market from demolition in the 1960s — has melded fast-casual vibes with painstaking sourcing and prep for a concise menu of hits from a rockfish banh mi to salmon teriyaki over red rice. This attention to detail carries through to the design as well, which shines thanks to touches like light fixtures carved by Steinbrueck’s brother.
Co-owner and chef Liz Kenyon looks to Latin America for much of the flavor inspiration at this upscale Fremont destination modeled after a beach vacation, which wows with small plates like rockfish ceviche studded with sweet potato, avocado, and corn nuts; salmon ceviche splashed with mezcal and grapefruit; and escabeche mussel toast. The flexible menu may also include squid ink risotto with chorizo and halibut with saffron and coconut. During the day, Manolin pulls double duty as Old Salt Fish and Bagels, selling house-smoked cod, kippered salmon, and gravlax by the pound or on beautifully blistered bagels made from local flour.
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Of China’s many regional cuisines, peppery Sichuan has the strongest presence in Seattle, upheld by excellent restaurants like Frying Fish in Bellevue. You’ll find relatively common seafood dishes like honey walnut prawns at this unassuming yet graceful spot, but also lavish specialties like Feitang platters with crab, carp head, frog, and fish pulled fresh from tanks on-site.
On Seattle menus, the term “local” has started to lose some of its significance, a welcome side effect of a movement to prioritize ingredients sourced close by. Nevertheless, Seabird, Brendan McGill’s new Bainbridge Island restaurant, has upped the ante, winning a recent Eater Award for its ocean-to-table approach. Executive chef Grant Rico wields oceanic umami so cleverly — lifting an herb cream sauce for Manila clams with fish fumet and exponentially deepening the sweetness of Dungeness crab with a reduction of crab broth, crab butter, and crab fat — that you might think he has gills. Even the house martini’s local gin benefits from an infusion of shellfish.
Seattle’s most influential sushi chef, Shiro Kashiba studied under Jiro Ono and brought edomae-style sushi to the city decades ago. Kashiba retired several years ago before making a triumphant return with Sushi Kashiba, this modern stunner in Pike Place Market. Diners rightly covet the first-come, first-served seats at the chef’s counter as they guarantee face time with Kashiba’s masterful team, but even if you can’t score a spot there, you should embrace the seasonal approach with an omakase menu, which will likely include local delicacies like geoduck. You can also explore octogenarian Kashiba’s legacy at restaurants like 2022 Eater Award-winner Takai By Kashiba, a Bellevue newcomer run by one of Kashiba’s many proteges, Jun Takai.
Jackson’s Catfish Corner
Beloved since its inception in 1985, Jackson’s Catfish Corner has closed and reopened multiple times now, most recently making a triumphant return to the Central District thanks to Terrell Jackson on Juneteenth of 2021. The star of the menu, of course, is the Southern-fried catfish, delightful on its own or on a squishy bun with house-made spicy tartar sauce and pickles. If catfish isn’t your thing, you can order similar dishes with fried prawns or snapper instead; just don’t forget the hush puppies.
Seattle Fish Guys
Seattle Fish Guys seems to be largely unknown outside of the Central District, which is a shame since owners Sal Panelo and Desiree Chinn have built one of the top poke cafes and seafood markets in the Seattle area in the neighborhood where they grew up. Load up on generous plates of soy-marinated tuna, spicy salmon, octopus, and scallop poke along with sides like mac salad, squid salad, and kimchi — plus maybe a Dungeness crab sub for good measure — then take home a fantastic array of seasonal and often local seafood including oysters on the half shell, smoked fish, mussels, scallops, and uni.
Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar
More than a century old and now the country’s largest purveyor of farmed shellfish, Taylor Shellfish Farms and its handful of hip oyster bars (in Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, and Queen Anne) are an educational experience. Be sure to ask lots of questions about the many Kumamotos, tiny native Olympias, and other types of locally grown oysters available on the half shell. If you want something a little heartier to go with your Bloody Mary, try geoduck chowder or a fried oyster po’ boy.
Gather a group and secure your bib for this one: The joyously messy Viet-Cajun seafood boil reigns at Hiep Ngo’s Crawfish House in White Center. Order seafood by the pound — including regional delicacies like Dungeness crab and, from May to October, signal crawfish, the only one native to the Pacific Northwest — and add sauces like garlic butter or Tango, a house specialty with tamarind for a sweet-savory tartness. The extensive menu also features the likes of seafood egg rolls, oysters fresh or fried in po’ boys, clam chowder, and fried catfish with crawfish etouffee.