The Walrus and the Carpenter Geoffry Smith
There's no shortage of seafood eateries in Seattle. Our proximity to Puget Sound means that we've got a constant supply of fruits de mer gracing our tables—lucky us! But sometimes those seafood restaurants are more about the dazzling waterfront view than, you know, the food. We've rounded up places with the freshest catches, our favorites ranging from cheap to swanky.


Bar Melusine

This Renee Erickson seafood and oyster bar inspired by the French Atlantic coast is decked out in kicky nautical decor, its bright white aesthetic accented by sea-green chairs lined up around the counter. A daily rotating selection of fresh oysters on ice sits in baskets atop the curved marble bar, where you can perch and slurp briny Hama Hamas and Blue Pools topped with a refreshing, verdant cucumber mignonette. On the menu: cocktails, wine, and seafood-centric small plates like fried oysters with vadouvan aioli. Don't miss the fried fish skin, a kind of crispy, crackly, eminently snackable chicharrón-of-the-sea dotted with crème fraîche and punctuated by salty bursts of fish roe and shavings of radish.


Emerald City Fish & Chips

In a video from Buzzfeed's "Worth It" series, two testers set out to try salmon from three different restaurants in Seattle at varying price points. They found that the $8.50 meal from this humble Rainier Valley fish-and-chips shop had the best value compared to much spendier dishes at Ivar's Salmon House and AQUA by El Gaucho. What makes Emerald City Fish & Chips so good? Owner Steve Allen, a Seattle native whose family hails from New Orleans, dredges the fish in a gluten-free corn-flour breading before it hits the fryer to create a thin, crispy, chewy golden coat that lets the vibrant pink wild Alaskan salmon shine through. Thoughtful details like rémoulade and tartar sauce (fresh and slightly spicy) prepared fresh on site and fries with Cajun-style seasoning set it apart from the rest. Other dishes of note: the "crab puppies," house-made gumbo every Monday and Tuesday, and an unmissable smoked-salmon chowder.


L'Oursin

The wine menu at L'Oursin—a lively seafood-focused French restaurant in the Central District—is so good, you'll want to stuff one in your purse. Featuring funky, offbeat biodynamic natural wines, it cites such evocative, abstract flavor descriptions as "soft wool and winter kisses, peach pits and hippie tits" and "has amazing posture, is very loud and will kiss you right on the lips." That same sparkling, irreverent joie de vivre suffuses every square inch of the space, which is dim and imbued with a faint golden glow from the pendant lighting at the bar. A crudo plate I tried knit together the exquisite saltiness of albacore tuna, capers, preserved lemon, and radishes to brilliant effect. The San Juan pink scallops were sweet, plump, and swoon-worthy, and an order of crusty house-made bread sopped up the broth perfectly. This is a funny valentine of a restaurant, equal parts witty and romantic.


Manolin

The crew at this beachy Fremont restaurant is composed of former employees from Renee Erickson's Walrus and the Carpenter, and her fairy-godmother influence certainly twinkles in the locally sourced, seafood-centric small plates and wood-fired grill. But Manolin is something all its own: sensual, artfully plated, Caribbean-slanted dishes. Snag a spot near the cozy fire pit and get an order of plantain chips to snack on. Definitely try the rockfish ceviche—the sweet, fresh rockfish with buttery avocado cubes and bright pickled onions is doused in tart, refreshing lime vinaigrette and topped with a crunchy cluster of deep-fried sweet-potato strings. Other standouts include the black cod with mole and the smoked arctic char.


Taylor Shellfish Farms Oyster Bar

"Tide-to-table" retailer Taylor Shellfish has been in the seafood game for five generations, and the offerings at all four of their oyster bars are sourced directly from their own oyster farms daily, so you know they're going to be fresh. Sit at the bar and sip a glass of something crisp and sparkling while you gulp down oysters with lemon and champagne mignonette, and eavesdrop on conversations around you. Some of the oysters, like their popular "Fat Bastard," are tide-tumbled—a technique yielding an oyster with a deep cup, more meat, and a smooth, polished shell—at Hamish Bay, while others were beach-grown at various oyster farms. Taylor's resident shuckers are affable and game to explain the finer points of the bivalves of the day to you.


The Walrus and the Carpenter

The Walrus and the Carpenter Jim Henkens

The wait at this acclaimed Renee Erickson oyster bar in Ballard, which doesn't accept reservations, is famously long, and rightfully so. To kill time and prepare your belly for all the bivalves you're about to slide down your gullet, go sip an aperitivo made with one of the many amaros from the bar's extensive collection at Erickson's Barnacle next door. Once you're back, get ready to glut yourself on a parade of chubby, buttery oysters from Hama Hama and other local suppliers, along with frites and sourdough bread from the excellent local Sea Wolf Bakery. Cap it all off with an order of salty roasted medjool dates for dessert.


Westward

Westward’s sweeping Lake Union view. Sarah Flotard

Formerly helmed by Joshua Henderson, who recently sold the restaurant to restaurateur Renee Erickson, this waterfront restaurant is a little bit Northwest, a little bit Jacques Cousteau, with its nautical decor inspired in part by The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and has an outdoor area featuring Adirondack chairs for lounging around an oyster-shell fire pit. There are fresh oysters on the half shell, small plates like steamed Manila clams and grilled octopus salad, larger plates like roasted arctic char, and veggie sides. Menu offerings change often depending on seasonal availability, but the wood oven roasted rainbow trout—grilled whole and deboned tableside—is a highlight, tender and rich with clean, sweet brown butter and romanesco.