Dining

A First-Time Visitor's Guide to Seattle's Seafood

Or, how to make it from Pike Place to Taylor Shellfish without accidentally ending up at The Cheesecake Factory
Photo: Alabastro Photography
What to Do in Seattle the First Time There

It's true what you've heard: Seattle excels at both rain and seafood. If you want to find the former, visit almost anytime between November and June, but the latter—uniquely in the Northwest—is abundant and excellent year-round.

With Puget Sound to the west, Lake Washington to the East and crisp mountain water in the taps, Seattle's food centers on the water. Beyond the seafood itself, the city's culinary hub is Pike Place Market, famous for its fish-throwing spectacle, and many of the best high-end restaurants specialize in sushi. For those exploring the Emerald City for the first time, this guide will steer you clear of soured salmon and point you on the path to the city's briny best.

Start Your Day at Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market (yes, the place where they actually hurl fish through the air) is the country's oldest continually operating farmers' market, providing great regional cuisine to locals and visitors alike. The atmosphere is best at breakfast, when the crowds are a bit thinner and patience a little less frayed. Start the day with Australian Greek yogurt from Ellenos, a uniquely thick treat made from local dairy, or try the curry beef hom bow at Mee Sum Pastry, a Chinese-style bun transformed in name and recipe by decades in Seattle. If you miss the morning, stop in for lunch or dinner at Matt's in the Market, long the standard bearer for a classic seafood lunch with a view. Alternatively, grab happy hour on the porch at Maximilien, where the mussels are affordable and the panorama worth a million bucks.


Eat All the Oysters You Can

The best introduction to Seattle's specialty shellfish comes from Taylor Oyster Bars. The fifth-generation family-owned shellfish farm operates its own restaurants, where only the best of its product goes and where the staff undergo intense training on everything from oysters to geoduck. The Salish Sampler, an array of raw local shellfish, is the best way to try it all.

If you're in need of good oysters on Capitol Hill, head to Bar Melusine. The stylish spot, from Renee Erickson of The Walrus and the Carpenter fame, brings together the flavors of the French Atlantic and the pristine ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. The results include chicharrón-like fried fish skins and Manila clams in a tarragon cream sauce. A more straightforward Northwest seafood experience lies down the hill at Matt's in the Market sibling White Swan Public House, which gained fame for its Lake Union location and chowder-based Poutine o' the Sea. 

RELATED   The Tide Is Turning for Sustainable Seafood »

Find Seattle's Sushi Stars

For a less-festooned taste of Seattle's finest fish, make your way to one of Seattle's two world-class sushi houses for omakase. At Sushi Kashiba (in Pike Place Market), the eponymous septuagenarian—widely regarded as the man who brought sushi to Seattle—turns out stunning spreads. Across town, Wataru quietly rivals Kashiba: equal in quality, but with less buzz and, therefore, smaller crowds. Or head to West Seattle and dive into sustainable sushi at Mashiko, the first established sushi restaurant in the U.S. to switch to serving only sustainable fish.

Save Room for Dinner at Seattle's Best of the Best

Just up the street from Wataru, solidifying the street's rep for good eating, you'll find national darling JuneBaby serving chef Edouardo Jordan's unique brand of Southern food—personal dishes crafted by his own story and fine dining training. At Eden Hill, Max Petty cooks elegant Northwest fare, and you can visit Altura for a more traditional luxury experience, where Italian cooking melds with local ingredients. 

 

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Lunch Gems in the Emerald City

Once you've planned your fancy meals, pencil in a few casual lunches, starting with a marker of Seattle's strong Vietnamese presence: pho. The noodle soup is everywhere, but the family behind Pho Bac opened the city's first shop in the early 80s. At the corner of 14th and Jackson, you can choose between the bare-bones boat-shaped original or the next generation's new Sup Shop, which adds a modern space, fun snacks and cocktails. Other local favorites include hand-pulled biang biang noodles from China's Xi'an at Qin or a taste of Ethiopian food at Meskel—either on the pleasant patio, inside the remodeled craftsman or downstairs at the bar.

Finally, don't leave Seattle without hitting a trio of local favorites, including the Caribbean sandwiches from Un Bien (best taken down the street to the beach at Golden Gardens), and the daily specials of handmade pasta and seasonal ingredients at Il Corvo. Then, there are the Hawaiian Korean tacos and Spam sliders from the Marination group, which can be found at their locations around town and let you hit peak Seattle when you enjoy your meal from the brightly colored Adirondack chairs that line the beachfront patio at their Ma Kai location, looking at the panoramic view of Elliott Bay and the Downtown skyline.

Welcome to TT on Tour, where Tasting Table's editors guide you through everything you'll want to eat, drink and do in rising travel destinations around the world.

Naomi Tomky is an award-winning freelance food and travel writer. Follow her edible adventures on Twitter at @Gastrognome and on Instagram at @the_gastrognome.

  • Taylor Shellfish

    This fifth-generation family-owned shellfish farm operates its own restaurants, where only the best of its product goes and where the staff undergo intense training on everything from oysters to geoduck.

    Photo: Taylor Shellfish 

  • Matt's in the Market

    Stop in for lunch or dinner at this restaurant in Pike Place that's long been the standard bearer for a classic seafood lunch with a view.

    Photo: Sandy Lam

  • Matt's in the Market

    The Arctic char from chef Jason McClure.

    Photo: Sandy Lam

  • Un Bien

    The Caribbean sandwiches at Un Bien are a local favorite.

    Photo: Un Bien

  • Maximillien

    Grab happy hour on the porch at Maximilien, where the mussels are affordable and the panorama worth a million bucks.

    Photo: Maximillien

  • Marination

    Enjoy a Korean-Hawaiian fried rice bowl while overlooking Elliott Bay and the Downtown skyline at Marination's Ma Kai location.

    Photo: Ma Kai

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