Taylor Shellfish boasts “the freshest shellfish you’ll ever eat,” which is a statement that’s hard to argue. The family operated company literally takes oysters, clams, and geoducks from their farms straight to the tables of their restaurant on Capitol Hill.
Serving the Puget Sound for more than 120 years, Taylor Shellfish (the largest producer of Manila clams and geoducks in the United States) has farms from Hood Canal to Vancouver Island. They provide shellfish to restaurants all over the world, including several hot spots in Seattle. You can find Taylor Shellfish at The Walrus and The Carpenter, Elliott’s Oyster House, Ma’ono, and many more.
Taylor Shellfish also serves up fresh shellfish at their spot on Capitol Hill, but that’s not how business originally started there. The company opened the Melrose Market location (1521 Melrose Ave.) to be their “premier “tidelands-to-table” retail experience,” offering farm raised shellfish and other local specialties for folks to take home. But as they explain on their menu, “the temptation of fresh shucked oysters was too much for our customers to resist and too much fun for us to deny.” Within a year, Taylor Shellfish transformed into a restaurant (while still also serving the retail needs of their customers), and now they also have a new spot in Lower Queen Anne (124 Republican St.).
Fresh really is the name of the game at Taylor Shellfish. The first thing you notice when you walk in is the large live holding tank loaded with shellfish in the middle of the room. They’re constantly pumping water over the oysters, clams, geoduck, and mussels inside. You also can’t miss the huge tanks slammed full of Dungeness crab along the wall. What you won’t find at Taylor Shellfish — seafood sitting on ice. Everything there is alive and kicking.
When I think of ordering oysters at a restaurant, I usually think of a fine dining experience. That’s not the case at Taylor Shellfish — but that’s one of things that makes it stand out. The servers will take your order, bring your drinks, and deliver your oysters, but that’s it. If you want soup, you go to the chowder bar, fill a paper bowl, and serve yourself. The same goes for water, napkins, and silverware. In fact, there is no silverware at Taylor Shellfish, there are only compostable spoons. It’s not fine dining; it’s fun dining.
Tove and I ordered the oyster stew and 18 fresh shucked oysters when we were at Taylor Shellfish. We let our waiter decide how he wanted to split up the oysters, so we got a combination of Shigoku, Kumamoto, Peale Passage, Totten Virginica, and Naked Cowboy Virginica oysters. Taylor Shellfish keeps it simple with their oysters, only serving the shellfish with slices of lemon and mignonette. There’s hot sauce available, but you have to grab it yourself from the counter.
The oysters at Taylor Shellfish are fresh and delicious. I rarely used any toppings on them, I just sucked them down as they were. I’m always a huge Shigoku fan, but I also really enjoyed the Naked Cowboy Virginicas. They were really salty! As always, Tove was torn between the Shigokus and Kumamotos, but she also liked the Totten Virginicas.
Taylor Shellfish is not a massive restaurant. There are no more than 30 seats that they offer on a first come, first serve basis. There are no reservations. Ideally, they like to serve groups of one to four people. Parties of six or more are discouraged, but Taylor Shellfish is willing to work with you. They just ask that you call ahead to check for availability and wait time. If you don’t want to dine in, you are welcome to dig into the live holding tank and buy shellfish to-go.
Taylor Shellfish on Capitol Hill is easily one of our new favorite spots. I’m pretty sure I heard Tove say “I love this place” ten different times when we were there. I fully back her up on that. The place is pretty darn cool. If you’re into shellfish (especially fresh shucked oysters), you need to check out Taylor Shellfish. And before you even have a chance to get back to us about your experience there…you’re welcome.
Have you ever been to Taylor Shellfish? How was your experience? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also visit Seattle Bloggers for more great places to eat in the Emerald City.