On our last full day in Seattle we decided to hit the beach.
“What?” you say. The beach in November? In Seattle?
But I say, there is more to do at the beach than show off my shiny red speedo. In fact when someone says beach to me when I am in Seattle. I think food. Specifically seafood. More specifically Fish and Chips.
This town is blessed when it comes to Fish and Chips. So the choices are nearly endless. If you are from Seattle then Fish and Chips may be considered your comfort food. A food tied to summers (and winters) at the beach. In Seattle there is plenty of coastline and lake-side life to get you in the mood for seafood. That’s no secret. But just how did Seattle become such and Fish and Chips kind of town.
Well it all started with Spud Fish and Chips on Alki Beach. Spud is often called the first fast-food restaurant in Seattle. Which really downplays just how good the fish is at this place. But it is a distictive moniker, one that seems to keep the people lining up; both locals (like the BF) and tourists! (like me)!
To help you understand how all this fish fry mania got started here is an excerpt from an article I found an by John Reddin. It was first published in the Seattle-Times on Feb. 16, 1962.
Conquest of Seattle by Fish and Chips
For centuries past, fish and chips has been the popular stand-up-an-eat snack in England, similar to our hot dog or bag of popcorn. Street vendors and fish-and-chips shops, some of them doing business at the same old stand for a 100 years or more, have sold the delicacy to passers-by and after-theater crowds in Drury Lane and other colorful streets and towns of England.
Two brothers, Jack and Frank Alger, are credited with giving fish and chips its biggest boost in Seattle, however. The Algers formerly lived in Vancouver, B.C., and were familiar with the fish-and-chips stands at English Ban and Kitsilano Beach.
England-born Jack Alger wondered why similar stands wouldnâ€™t go big in Seattle, especially along its beach drives. So, in 1934, he opened the first Spud Fish & Chips in a small, garage-type building on Alki Avenue.
Now I am a sucker for all the old original places that help define a city. So when we had a hankering for Fish and Chips we headed over to West Seattle to get a plateful of the oldest operating fried fish place on the beach.
When we walked into Spud on Alki Beach it had that feeling of stepping into a place where time stands still.
In some ways time had stood still. Because the people I had the pleasure of dining with (the BF and his parents), in some formulation of their family, the have been coming to this particular beachside hot-spot for more than 50 years. Once there were kids in the picture, the BF and his brothers had picnics with their parents across the street from this very restaurant, which still stands on the same spot where it was started more than 60 years ago. It was natural to walk across the street and order up a plate of fresh fried cod.
I got a delightful recounting of their many family outings along this stretch of beach. It’s easy to feel sentimental for a place like this; especially when in the company of people whose youth was defined by the place.
Despite the sentimentality, there are other reasons people keep coming back here. The fish is delicious. I mean as close to fried perfection as I have ever experienced. So too the oysters, and also the fries. Heck, even the Diet Coke seemed to remind me of days gone by– and I had never set foot in the place before.That’s because I absorbed the essence of the place while I was dining, and I liked what I saw and what I ate.
We walked in moments after the restaurant opened. Meaning the oil was fresh and hot and waiting to get cookin’!
One bite into these perfectly golden slabs of moist and flaky true cod and you too will swoon. Spud’s cod, halibut, oysters, and shrimp are dipped in a generous amount of batter. So there is enough crust to create plenty of crunchy goodness. Still it’s light, in fact it is light enough to let the fish do the talking. Too many fried fish platters in my life have been over powered by batters with too much of everything. This is not the case at Spud.
Not only did they get the fish just right, but the fries were way more than an after thought. These were Sup!’s kind of fries. They were hot and crisp, yet they remained creamy under their papery exteriors. Of course they were hand-cut, so they retained a bit of potato skin on each of their perfectly fried tips.
Spud does not lack for condiments either. Sure there was the mandatory malt vinegar, and it remained my favorite. But there was also garlic vinegar which was more watery than garlicky; tartar sauce which was perhaps a bit cloying– but adequate; and a Tabasco-like red pepper sauce that was delicious.
Afterwards we walked along the waterfront, where more memories of wonderful days spent along this shore were passed between the BF and his parents. I felt honored to hear these stories. Tales that had never been shared with me before involving frisbees and other examples of boys being boys. It was fun watching the remembrances roll out and get picked up by his parents where they were bounced right back at the BF. Yeah, despite the full belly, we laughed. But not always at the BF’s expense…
It made me love this little stretch of beach in West Seattle.