The marina on Fairview Avenue North has long been the territory of overrated, overpriced restaurants and million-dollar yachts. The yachts are still here, but with the addition of the no-frills 100 Pound Clam (1001 Fairview Ave. N., 420-2637), the restaurant scene is changing. Perhaps taking a cue from the success of Westward, with its Lake Union location and carry-out service for boats that dock on its slips, Matt’s in the Market and Radiator Whiskey owner Dan Bugge opened the new fish-&-chips shack in early July and is now overseeing one of the most popular al fresco seaside spots in town. Though he’ll be opening a larger, enclosed restaurant called White Swan Public House just adjacent to this one in a few weeks, now is the time to embrace the sun and the Clam’s simple but beguiling menu, written on the wooden shack’s chalkboard exterior. There, you also line up to place your order before grabbing a seat at a picnic table or one of the many two- or four-tops facing the lake, and wait for the servers to yell your name as you watch seaplanes land thrillingly close and paddle-boarders occasionally take a spill.
The fish & chips, made from rockfish, have a thin but crispy exterior and the meat is juicy and seasoned well. That’s not always the case with fish & chips; often the fried part is salty but the meat bland. With this version, you barely need the malt-vinegar mayo for dipping, though it too is quite tasty. (Swap out the regular fries with dill-flavored ones for an extra $2 if you’d like.) The same coating goes on the fried avocado and white prawns. While I liked the hefty shrimp, the small chunks of avocado didn’t impress me, though I’ve never been a fan of it fried. Why turn a perfectly delicious fresh avocado to warm mush?
The seafood corn chowder is spot-on, the broth creamy without being thick and starchy and full of meaty hunks of salmon and rockfish, potatoes, and corn. It has a lingering kick of spice that sneaks up on you, which I loved. It’s a huge bowl; two can easily share it, along with the fish & chips or a sandwich, of which there are several to choose from. I went with the fascinating-sounding shrimp-ceviche sandwich, and I’m glad I did. It sounds like an odd concept with all kinds of potential problems, namely that the juice from the ceviche will soak through the bread. But the potato bun they serve it on does the job, slathered first with guacamole before being heaped with tiny shrimp that have soaked up the tangy lime. The only complaint–-and it sounds almost ridiculous to mention–-is that there are actually too many shrimp on the sandwich, which makes it a little onerous to eat as they come toppling over whenever you lift it to take a bite. They could serve a quarter less ceviche and it would still be killer. At any rate, no one’s going to say they didn’t get their $15 worth.
Other sandwiches include a salmon BLT and a “Sesame Fliptail,” the one non-seafood item besides fried corn and a seasonal salad; it sounds interesting, made with beef, green cabbage, pickled daikon, and sambal mayo. I stuck with seafood, though, so I can’t speak for it.
Like the food menu, the drink list is short and sweet, with a small selection of beers and wine (mostly white or sparkling) and just a few cocktails, including a Moscow Mule, a bloody mary, and a mimosa.
After stuffing our faces, a walk around the piers was in order and got us wondering if this whole area might soon become a more popular hangout, with places like this replacing outdated ones. It seems a shame to keep such a beautiful, vibrant waterfront accessible only to the rich, and I’m happy that it’s Bugge, who’s poured his love into Matt’s for so long, who has encroached into the territory.
While the completely open-air 100-Pound Clam won’t be open once cold weather sets in—probably sometime in October—a staffer told me that they’ll continue using its kitchen to prepare the same menu, which will be available for lunch indoors at White Swan Public House, along with whatever else Bugge will serve there. Stay tuned for a review of that in the near future.