One Hundred Percent Chance of Sun
Summertime at Seattle Fish Company
Underneath the Juneuary jokes, Seattleites seem to be genuinely unsure if sunlight will ever grace the skies again. Let me tell you, right now: IT WILL. Granted, there have been summers composed of an endlessly woolen sky, and there have been stretches of July and/or August drizzle so long we thought we'd raisin, but the sun is, in fact, scientifically known to still be in the sky, and it will be poking its face out again. Soon, even! Barring the apocalypse, there is a 100 percent chance of sun at some point in the future.
When the sun does arrive, we will become, immediately and en masse, my favorite version of this city: the insane one. People will get personality transplants and become everybody else's best friends—every last man, woman, genderqueer person, child, and Labrador talking manically to and smiling in a charmingly deranged fashion at any other human or beast with whom they cross paths.
When you feel the thrum of this madness, get thee to West Seattle. People in neon rollerblade along the waterfront. Teenagers light bonfires on the beach, make out, shoot each other. It's like California in an '80s movie. Head to the Junction, the land of free street parking and at least one intersection (California and Alaska) where all the pedestrians may cross at once, all four lines of cars stopping chivalrously. Here you can buy strange European candy and homemade ice cream at Husky Deli, which has been making its own ice cream since "Herman put an ice cream machine in the front window" of the "farms store" in 1932 (according to its website). You can go to a greasy-spoon diner inside of a superb record store (the famously wonderful West Seattle Easy Street Records and Cafe). You can go to Ma'ono, formerly Spring Hill, which describes its offerings now as "fried chicken and whisky" (yesssss).
But what do you want out here in this Northwest Brigadoon, after a day of rollerblading or maybe windsurfing/falling in love/finally writing your novel on the beach? This is West Seattle, and you can smell the water and hear seagulls. You want fish. On a sunny summer day (or, if you must, a rainy one), you want to eat like a bear, or a seal, or a merperson. And Seattle Fish Company—under new ownership and suddenly offering lunch and dinner among its ice tubs of fresh, luscious fish—is an ideal place to go.
It's next door to Ma'ono, and you can tell the moment you walk in that you've found the right place. Smiling young men in coveralls or fish-themed T-shirts? Check! Incredibly friendly waitresses, the kind who ask if you're "actually fine or just-okay fine"? Check! The exact right amount of fishy smell—not too much—that you catch faintly at the door? Check! The possibility that the owner might take your order himself? Check! It's a very Seattley, very unpretentious little fish shop. Order at the counter, then find a seat near the big front windows for maximum light. There are a couple of diner-style booths and a long row of tables; there are crab pots and buoys.
The fish and chips ($5.99 for a one-piece order, $8.99 for two, $10.99 for three, $2 extra for halibut), while sometimes slightly overdone, are perfectly adequate, all golden and lightly breaded and long and slender and fragrant. (You can order salmon or halibut—just get old-school cod and call it good.) You can have half a Dungeness crab ($9.99) to crack apart and dip in butter, and as we PNW types know, you can tell a lot about someone by how devoted they are to getting every last morsel of meat out of its intricate chambers (the more crab you extract, the higher level of heaven you get into!). The cioppino ($7.99 a bowl) is so spicily rich and chunked-up with different bites of fish, it may cause you to make shamefully noisy expressions of satisfaction. If you'd really like to embarrass yourself, wait until you're starving and order crab cakes ($11.99 for one, $14.99 for two—and lord, get two). Made seemingly entirely of crab, yet maintaining their cakey integrity, juicy and tender, they could send you into a full Meg Ryan.
The chef is Dave Harris, formerly of Other Coast Cafe and Chelsea Deli; everyone who works here is jocular and good-looking. There's a hand-painted sideways map (ocean at the top) of Puget Sound on the wall, and you can also buy oyster knives, salmon jerky, all manner of sauces, and, of course, fresh fish to take home. Beers are $3. You're home, salty person. The sun will be out forever. Take 99 there and back, for these last few times you can—the likelihood that you will be crushed to death in a catastrophic earthquake is so very small considering the beauty of the view of the water and that new Ferris wheel.