The Highliner: World's Biggest Seafood Menu?

The new owners' nearby fish market brings unprecedented variety to the grill.

For food-industry entrepreneurs bent toward ambidexterity, what should come first: the restaurant or the store? Judging from the sudden shuttering of Local 360's highly publicized mercantile, perhaps it's better to trade in raw goods before cooking them.

Whether or not the Highliner, a spacious Fisherman's Terminal dive which reopened with the same name under new ownership, sinks or swims will put this theory to the test.

Highliner 2.0 is no longer a dive, for one. The paint's too fresh, the tables too clean, and the newly installed televisions too modern to limit the bar's appeal to the crusty-stevedore set. But the Highliner's husband-and-wife owners, Jon Speltz and Paula Cassidy, are hardly intent on erasing the bar's legacy.

"We were more interested in bringing the Highliner back to its glory days of 20 years ago," says Cassidy, who ticks off such reanimated attributes as "great food on the menu, good selection of beer, great wines, and a clean and comfortable atmosphere where everyone's welcome." Since it reopened on October 21, the Highliner has instituted karaoke every Friday night, and will soon recommit itself to live music—the Shifty Sailors, a sea-chantey chorus, will play in honor of the bar's rechristening on December 1.

Cassidy and Speltz also operate Wild Salmon Seafood Market, which occupies a space "around the corner and six doors down" from their newly acquired bar. Hence, every piece of fish on the Highliner's menu comes by way of Wild Salmon, which purchases the bulk of its product from fishermen moored at or near the Port-owned Terminal. This enables the bar to employ a uniquely dynamic kitchen, one that serves such catches-of-the-day as albacore, sole, mahi, or sturgeon atop a bed of fries. (On my visit, the sturgeon was moist and flavorful, while the crab cakes were a bit overseasoned.)

But if that level of deep-fried variety impresses you, prepare to have your brain battered: Within the next couple of weeks, Cassidy promises that the Highliner will cook any fish its patrons walk over from the fish market for a modest plating fee (same premise as a corking fee).

"On any given day, there are 30 to 40 varieties of fish on hand" at the Market, says Cassidy. "That gives me the biggest seafood menu in the world."

mseely@seattleweekly.com

 
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