spuds2If you’re unfamiliar with the Seattle area, you might decide that the best way to experience the city’s seafood and beach culture is by going for the flashy and expensive. To make your trip complete, or impress that special someone with reservations at Salty’s on the Waterfront. You’ll enjoy delicious food and postcard views of Puget Sound and the Seattle skyline, but you’ll also spend enough money to ship a whole giant salmon back home to you from the Pike Place Market fish-flingers. For a smaller-scale and local haunt experience for 90% off the fine dining price, get thee to Spud’s Fish and Chips on Alki Beach.

Alki Beach in West Seattle, a short ride from the downtown city center, has become a strange intersection of multi-million dollar beachfront properties and the closest the Northwest comes to beach bums (basically hipsters in shorts). Despite the spendy housing and weekend crowds, Alki’s restaurants and bars still feel markedly independent and casual. Spud’s has been in the same location since 1935, serving fish and chips my grandfather used to stop in for in between building condos and duplexes along the waterfront.

On my visit to Seattle in July, my family stopped in for the first time in years. Once you move away from your birthplace, you become a tourist again. The order area is anti-frills, perpetually overseen by a cashier as salty as Elliott Bay. She has no patience for questions on the clearly-printed menu above. As there is almost always a line stretching to the door, you have plenty of time to nail down the basics: cod or halibut, two pieces or three, extra tartar sauce or no (the answer should always be, extra tartar sauce). The menu does feature deviations from the traditional fish and chips, like buffalo shrimp, breaded mushrooms, and oysters. But this is an 80-year-old enterprise built on breaded fillets and French fries. And I have seen the disappointment in the faces of those who order chicken. Do not screw around here.

After being handed your food tray, head upstairs to the seating area overlooking Elliott Bay. Although the space doesn’t have a boatload of atmosphere aside from some old framed pictures from the beach’s decades of history, the panorama of the water provides more than enough ambiance. The view is especially breathtaking at night, when glowing ferries glide across the water and bonfires spring up along the craggy shore.

In a rare meeting of style and substance, the food waiting down on the tray lives up to the incredible sights. Spud’s fish and chips don’t look like pieces of fish. They look like entire fish caught in the fryer, ridiculously fresh and too hot to bite into right away. Malt vinegar is available on every table to go English-style, or go the only way I know how: scooping up the salty, briny, perfect tartar sauce like ice cream with each bite. The breading is crunchy without being too thick, flaking off along with the fish in each bite. As a result, you can discern that yes, this is actually the cod or halibut you ordered. The fries still have flecks of potato skin and are cut thick, which is great for scooping up, yes, more tartar. Ketchup will also work, if your arteries need a slight break. The ideal mix of fried goodness and authentic seafood. It’s a reason people keep driving themselves, and their kids, out to the beach decade after decade.

If you’re looking for warm service—or any service, save for pushing your tray across the counter and sliding your credit card—it’s not going to be here. But if you’re happy with a cheap, delicious meal gazing out on a scene only Seattle could conjure, Spud’s can’t be missed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Ongoingness: by Sarah Manguso

Sarah Manguso has made a beautiful case for living with less fear and more purpose. …