Fish 'n' chips is a dish that is as intrinsically Seattle as excessive politeness and civic gridlock. This classic dish does not originate here, but it is undeniably an Emerald City tradition. Ivar's has been battering and frying cod filets for well over half a century, and fish 'n' chips also commonly appears on menus at gastropubs and upscale seafood joints. And thanks to Ethan Stowell, we now have an upscale fish 'n' chips restaurant, Chippy's. As a lover of fried fish atop a heap of golden potato slivers, I can honestly say I'm enthused that we have so many gourmet options for this beloved deep-fried dish.
But as a native Seattleite, I still think of fish 'n' chips as something meant to be cheap—and filling. So while I appreciate all the sustainably sourced halibut filets served alongside hand-cut, organic fries, I'm also glad you can get crispy fried fish for less than $10. Here are some of my favorite places to do so:
6860 E Green Lake Way N, 524-0565; 2666 Alki Ave SW, 938-0606
Spud has been around since 1935, longer than Ivar's. Its business model is pretty similar: a counter manned by as few teenagers as possible serving as much fried fish as possible. While I love Ivar's—I have many fond memories of sitting outside and mowing through a plate of fish 'n' chips while fending off the seagulls—Spud is better. Its basic fish 'n' chips starts at $7.49 and is plenty filling. On a recent visit to its Green Lake location, the cod was flaky and tender, and the crust simple and light. Spud's breading, fried to a light golden hue, is the perfect consistency for holding up to several condiments. This is not fish you lightly squeeze lemon on; this is fish you liberally douse with Spud's garlic-infused malt vinegar and dunk in tartar sauce. Like the fish, the fries are similarly suitable for condiments. The malt vinegar from my cod seeped down into the paper boat of fries, making a soppy, vinegary, potato-y mess of deliciousness. Crisp frites with aioli these are not, but they are an equally guilty pleasure.
3501 Stone Way N, 547-2967
The fish at the Pacific Inn Pub, a cozy Fremont stalwart on the corner across from Joule and The Whale Wins, is the type of fish you sprinkle lightly with lemon. The fish is breaded in-house, and the resulting dark, herbed crust is a delight—and a steal. The basic two-piece fish 'n' chips costs $7.99 and comes with a heap of fries, plenty of tartar sauce, and a ramekin of lightly dressed coleslaw. When I marveled at the low price to my server, she informed me that "the boss doesn't get out much. He doesn't realize that prices have changed." Keep him locked up, I say! Further evidence that he's living in a cabin somewhere in the Cascades: You can get 11 delicious fried oysters with the same plentiful sides for a mere $9.49. If you want to break the $10 mark, the Pacific Inn Pub also has a great selection of local microbrews to wash down your fried feast with, and the upcharge for the side Caesar salad ($2.49) in place of fries is money well spent.
2050 S Columbian Way, 764-9607
Fou Lee is not technically a fish 'n' chips joint, but it's worthy of note for its ridiculously low prices. The other day, I got four breaded bass filets for $1.99. They were delectably oily, with the skin still on and a tiny fin protruding from the craggy crust. Drizzled with soy sauce and devoured while sitting on the tailgate of my friend's truck in the parking lot, they were divine. Although they don't come with potatoes, and the side of glass noodles with hard-boiled eggs that we ordered was tough and a little funky, it was still a great deal. The two of us ate well for the astounding price of about $7.
2424 Beacon Ave S, 322-7861
Another place where you wouldn't expect to find fish 'n' chips, this humble gas station serves up fried catfish 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The catfish isn't always amazing, but it's the perfect meal at 1 a.m., after you've gone through a keg of Rainier with your friends. (If you're a purist, get some jojos and a few sides of tartar sauce and it's essentially the same dish.) Another incentive to visit: The other night, a friend of mine encountered the station attendant dancing alone to Robyn's "Dancing on My Own" as he breaded and fried up a fresh batch of catfish. That's definitely the type of dude I want cooking my fish 'n' chips.