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With so much fresh fish and seafood available in Seattle, eaters should probably stick to sushi and ceviche. It seems a shame to dredge a good piece of fish in breading and toss it in the fryer.
Except that when the breading's sublime and the frying oil's clean, nothing else can really compare to a golden-crusted slab of cod or halibut (or salmon, if you're feeling fancy.) The salty dish is uniquely beachy and reliably satisfying.
Here, our picks for the Seattle joints which get fish and chips right. As always, Erin Thompson corralled our contributors' comments, and there's zero significance to the ordering of the finalists: The winning plate is on the last page in the number one spot.
Jon Daniels, a 30-year veteran of the fish industry, always wanted to try cooking the sea critters he sold at Pike Place Market's City Fish. He got his chance in 2012 when he purchased and renovated West Seattle's Seattle Fish Company, installing a grill alongside its retail counter. The Fish Co.'s head chef is Dave Harris, founder of the stellar sandwich shop Other Coast Cafe; at the Grill he offers up an exceptional dish of fish and chips--fresh cod, salmon, or halibut, breaded in panko and served alongside hand-cut fries and crisp coleslaw.
In a food scene obsessed with farm-to-table freshness, there's no shorter distance from the source to the kitchen than at this popular seafood counter in Pike Place Market. The fishmonger has been selling fish since the early 1980s and what customers see on ice ends up getting prepared as classic fish dishes in the adjacent bar, including plates a flaky halibut, cod, or salmon and chips. The seating area is a bit cramped, but when the weather's warm, it makes a great option for a grab and go picnic.
Elliott Bay's brewing team regularly wins awards for their boutique brews that feature only organic barley. Seattle through and through, the Brewery recycles its waste oil for biodiesel, has entirely compostable to-go packaging, and buys wind-power credits to offset its energy use. You can watch the game at the bar or settle into a booth for specialties like the beer-battered fish and chips: Alaskan cod dipped and fried in a housemade tempura batter made with Luna Weizen, the brewery's citrusy wheat pilsner, plus just the right touch of garlic, oregano, and basil.
Come fall and winter, there is no better place to warm yourself than in an Irish pub. Tucked away in a discreet alley near the waterfront, the Owl N' Thistle is a cozy nook full of unpretentious folks. It's easy to feel at home at the Owl: the walls are made of exposed brick; the shelves are lined with old books; and, of course, there is plenty of beer. During happy hour, the biggest draw is the pub's beloved fish and chips ($3.50), two juicy pieces of cod balanced atop a heap of hand-cut fries. But the menu boasts $3 beers and $3.25 wells, too. Be warned: The food is hearty, but the drinks are stiff, making it easy to lose track of time.
This little neighborhood cafe that could is a popular crowd favorite. Basically, anything you can crisp in hot oil and dip in ranch dressing is available here, as you might expect from a no-frills hangout like this one. The Lockspot doesn't screw around with their fish and chips: The fish is fried to perfection and served scalding hot, and when you hit it during happy hour, you can pair that dream come true with a tub of tartar and a domestic draft beer for next to nothing.
5. 67 Lounge
Not only was this swank-as-hell joint named Seattle's number-one hotel bar in 2010, it's also in the hotel where the Beatles stayed when they came to the Emerald City decades ago. And the beer batter that coats their fish and chips is out of this world--light, crispy, and with just enough oil to give your heart a run for its money. Served with fries that somehow pack twice the fry flavor in every pencil-thin, golden stick, it'd be a crime to not order this and sit at the window, eating away all your troubles.
If you were a lucky kid growing up in Seattle, your parents may have taken you to Alki on a hot summer day. By the time dinner rolled around, your parents had had enough, and just herded you over to Spud's for a memory-making extravaganza full of batter, white fillets of heaven, and loads of greasy fries and tartar. You can still recapture that feeling, even if it's no longer guilt-free, knowing you'll be pulling weeds for weeks to burn this off.
The star of a basket of fish and chips at the Pacific Inn is pristine cod--juicy, firm, and clean-tasting. But where the Pac Inn sets itself apart is in the coating. Pac Inn covers their fish in a mild, intriguingly seasoned mixture of panko breadcrumbs. (The Pac Inn website reveals: "The fish is hand fileted and breaded in a delicate mixture of garlic, basil and a touch of cayenne pepper.") The flavors aren't intrusive--they awaken your mouth at the same time as a shower of panko bits crackles, pops, and dances on your tongue. These are fish and chips that are quite fun to eat. They come resting on a bed of french fries, enough to feed at least two people.
In 2011, Jim and Babe Shepherd of the hyper-successful Red Mill Burgers spent six months renovating Ballard's Totem House. And for all the thought that went into decisions involving cedar and linoleum, the brother/sister pair didn't neglect the cod: Red Mill Totem House makes a mean plate of fish and chips, perfectly seasoned and cleanly fried. They've devised a cornmeal-matzo breading glinting with Old Bay, whole thyme and a few more secret seasonings. The results are fantastic. Underneath its thick, flavorful coat, Red Mill's hand-cut wild Alaskan cod tastes fresh and clean. It's a totem of the Pacific Northwest finest regional eats.
Pike Street Fish Fry is the one Gourmet felt the need to review when it first opened in a nook underneath Capitol Hill's Neumos in 2008. No one does battered cod better--at Pike Street it's covered in a coating that comes out light, crunchy, and just greasy enough to complement anything on the single-column menu, including the unlisted, complimentary fried lemon slice that comes with every basket. (Sounds weird, right? It is, but in a good way). Six homemade sauces are available for dipping, and owner/restaurant provocateur Michael Hebb hasn't forgotten the veg-heads either: For them, there's both a Field Roast sausage and a red-cabbage-topped portobello sandwich. But seriously, just get the cod.
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