A few years ago, the city, long called ‘Queen City’, noted the success of
more memorable sobriquets like ‘Big Apple,’ and ‘Tinseltown’. A contest was
held to select an official nickname. We became ‘The Emerald City’. More
appropriate and no less lyrical should be Seattle.
The early settlers traveled to this remote outpost for timber, they also
sold vast quantities of local oysters to gold-rich miners in San Francisco.
Alpine freshwater lakes, streams, and rivers combined with saltwater bays,
inlets and tide flats seemed inexhaustible at the time. The proximity of
vast fishing grounds in Alaska still makes Seattle ‘seafood central,’
although over-fishing and dam construction has endangered several species
including the locally beloved Salmon.
In the “Emerald City,” Salmon reigns supreme. Steelhead is Crown Prince.
Queen Halibut, at up to 500 pounds, commands respect over schools of
rockfish, ocean perch, cod, trout, herring, and sole. The court jesters of
the sound: crab, squid and octopus cohabit with all sorts of close
relatives—oysters, clams, mussels, sea urchins and scallops. Neptune is
King, of course!
Seattle’s big tourist attraction is the Pike Place Public Market with its
athletic fish throwers. America’s oldest continually operating public market
is a monument to food. At one time, most of the seafood sellers were
Sephardic Jews from Rhodes. Today ‘the market’ is an amalgam of diverse
ethnic groups boasting four seafood stalls and 125 fishmongers barking to the
crowd: ‘Fresh Salmon, don’t let the big one get away’ or ‘Eat seafood, live
longer, eat oysters, love longer’. Locals have their favorite spot—Jacks for
prepared cioppino, Pike Place Fish for smoked sturgeon and so on. We like Pure
Food Fish in the epicenter of the market. This high-energy white-tiled cube
is packed with fresh fish, barkers and customers from floor to ceiling, like
sardines in a can. Carefully stacked are colorful King, Sockeye, Silver,
Pink, and Chum Salmon, especially in summer; huge Halibuts, Ling Cod, Black
Cod, Yellow Rockfish, Petrale Sole and other whole fresh fish in season;
Littleneck, Butter, Manila and Razor Clams and erotic Geoduck. During the
winter holidays, Flat, Kumamoto, and Pacific Oysters vie with Alaska King
and local Dungeness crab for ice space. Buckets overflow all year long with
mussels, octopus and squid. A sparkling glass case is full of whole fish,
fillets, steaks, cheeks, red and black caviar and even fish bones for Tabby.
‘Have a taste!’ the monger offers, lifting the plexiglas lid off a treasure
trove of cold smoked lox ‘Jewish style;’ hot alder-smoked ‘Indian Style;’
along with choices of hot-smoked salmon with Cajun, pepper, garlic and
teriyaki seasoning. A favorite for brunch is moist, flaky, alder-smoked,
just like Chief Seattle used to make.
The market overflows with dining spots featuring great seafood. One pearl is
Place Pigalle, just above City Fish. Here, peak-a-boo views of Elliot Bay
inspired northwest artist Mark Toby. Rich oyster stew is inspiration in
itself. Down Pike Place, facing one another, are two seafood restaurants.
Can’t choose? Have oysters at Cutter’s followed by crabcakes at Etta’s.
Above the brewery, The Pike Pub offers seafood that goes with their award-
winning beers (what doesn’t?) Cheers to crab chowder, salmon in puff pastry
and mussels steamed in pale ale. For seafood with an Italian accent, you’ll
fall ‘in amore’ with Leo Melina Ristorante di Mare just next door, Il
Bistro a few feet away and Pink Door, up Post Alley. Just follow your nose
to calamari fritti, bagna cauda and spaghetti con vongole. Special event?
Elegant Campagna at the end of the alley is one of the citiy’s sexiest
restaurants. Their salmon carpaccio is, simply said, seductive. You’ll shell
out less at Emmet Watson’s Oyster Bar, named for one of the cities living
legends, Post-Intelligencer writer and resident curmudgeon, who only loves
raw oysters. Ask for a platter of tiny local Olympias; highly cupped and
flavorful Kumamotos; large popular Pacifics; and tangy, metallic Flats. It
would be a cold day in hell if you found better oysters.
Where to find great seafood in the Market:
Athenian Inn, 1517 Pike Place (206) 624-7166
Avenue One, 1921 First Avenue (206) 441-6139
Campagne, Inn at the Market, 86 Pine St. (206) 728-2800
Chez Shea, 94 Pike, Suite 34 (206) 467-9990
City Fish Co, 1535 Pike Place 1-800-334-2669
Cutter’s Bayhouse, 200l Western Avenue (206) 448 4884
Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar, 1916 Pike Place, (206) 448-7721
Etta’s Seafood, 2020 Western Ave. (206) 443-6000
Il Bistro, 93-A Pike Street (206) 682-2154
Jack’s Fish Spot, 1514 Pike Pl. (206) 467-0514
Leo Melina Ristorante di Mare, 96 Union St. (206) 623-3783
Matt’s in the Market, 94 Pike St. (206) 467-7909
Pike Pub and Brewery, 1415 First Avenue (206) 622-6044
Pike Place Fish Market, Inc. 86 Pike Place, (206) 0682-7181
Pink Door Ristorante, 1919 Post Alley (206) 443-3241
Place Pigalle, 81 Pike Street, (206) 624-1756
Pure Food Fish, 1511 Pike Place (206) 622 -5765
Charles Finkel is one of the world’s leading authorities on beer and an active member of SF Seattle.
In the photo: Pike Place Public Market (http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/seattle/s11.htm)