Once or twice a year, my travels take me to Seattle. This isn’t that surprising when one takes into account that both sides of my family hail from there; and my brother and I were raised there, on and off; until we left for prep-school, at age 14. Anyhow, I invariably stay at the W Downtown, due to the fact that the hotel management puts me up in one of their “Wow Suites” with spectacular views of Puget Sound and the ferries that cross it (not to be confused with Capitol Hill and the fairies who cruise it – which can be seen from the opposite side of the hotel), Mount Rainier, and the Space Needle.
Across the street from the W is the historic Olympic Hotel. Now a jewel in the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts crown of properties, it was the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel, from 1981 to 2003, and before that the flagship of the Western Hotels chain. A bit of trivia – Western was the first to introduce the guest credit card (1946) and 24-hour room service (1969); and in 1980 (on the occasion of the company’s 50th anniversary), changed its name to Westin Hotels & Resorts. Also (and this is a bit closer to home) my maternal great-grandmother was the final full-time resident of this Seattle landmark.
Anyhoo, on the ground floor of the Olympic, facing Fourth Avenue, is Shuckers – a former high-end haberdashery (c.1930s) that became an oyster bar, just before I popped outta my Mom and onto the scene (1973). Now, I’m a firm believer that atmosphere and ambiance can make or break a room, and the fact that many decades and a few companies later, the restaurant maintains the lush carved oak paneling and original pressed-tin ceiling, from that Victorian-era men’s shop – well, it just works. Whether a bright, sunny day or dark, damp, and grey (the latter of which is a more common occurrence, in these climbs) the décor exudes a warmth that subliminally helps distract from the fact that you’re soaked to the bone.
Accordingly, whether indulging in summertime faves like the Shuckers Caesar Salad with fresh-from-the-boat Dungeness Crab and the Chili Spiced Popcorn Shrimp; or partaking of the warm goodness of the Shuckers Seafood Chowder and Microbrew Batter Halibut & Chips; I have never had a meal that was less than good, with most falling into the great-to-fantastic range.
And as far as those bivalves are concerned, the kitchen sends-out roughly 3,600 oysters, each week (13 different varieties of oyster, prepared in any of nine ways). By Vegas standards that might not sound like a lot, but for a 20-table joint in Seattle, that’s big. There are fancier oyster bars in Seattle, and trendier ones, to be sure; but seeing as Chef Rachel (whose name graces the daily lunch special featuring seasonal, sustainable, locally sourced ingredients) has been running the kitchen since the late ‘80s, and the average staff member has been ringing the register for nearly two decades, consistency is pretty much guaranteed. Maybe that’s why the only change I’ve noticed is that where once I brought a book, I now bring my iPad.
Shuckers Oyster Bar
The Fairmont Olympic Hotel
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