Focus on fresh fish

  • By Anna Poole / Herald Restaurant Critic
  • Thursday, July 29, 2004 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

OAK HARBOR – “It’s hard to find fresh seafood on the island. I ate at Seabolt’s Smokehouse and it was wonderful. It’s a real addition to the island.”

A glowing recommendation from a silver-penned public-relations writer?

No, it’s an unsolicited comment from noted chef Susan Vanderbeek, who operates the Oystercatcher in Coupeville.

When the chef of a fine-dining restaurant makes an endorsement like that, I listen closely and then visit.

Seabolt’s Smokehouse began as a roadside stand in 1978 near Deception Pass. The current owners, Charisse and Vinton Waldron, bought the stand and the recipes eight years ago. The stand is still open. But the Waldrons decided to “branch out and meet local needs,” Charisse Waldron said. So, they opened the Oak Harbor restaurant and seafood shop in mid-May.

The newly constructed restaurant faces Highway 20 with the smokehouse behind it. The enticing aroma of alder smoke seeps into the parking lot and greets customers as they arrive at the door. Inside, a case of smoked salmon sits next to the deli-style order counter. There are about a dozen tables plus a short counter with a few stools. All orders can be packaged for take-out.

The menu focuses on fresh fish, and there’s always a Friday night special. When I visited, it was mussels and clams steamed in white wine, with coleslaw and garlic bread ($8.95). Other selections include wild salmon or halibut sandwiches with barbecue sauce ($7.95 and $8.95), fish and chips ($8.50 to $9.95) plus salads ($3.95 to $10.95) and seafood stew or clam chowder ($4.50 each for a small).

It was a fish and chips kind of night, I noticed as I surveyed other customers’ orders in the dining room. The friendly counter staff said the halibut and chips ($9.95) are the most popular, so I ordered that and a cup of clam chowder.

The clam chowder was so rich and thick, many of us ignored our spoons, turning the soup into dip and using our garlic bread. It was a delicious combination. The fish in my main dish was perfectly cooked, flaky and very fresh. The fries were undercooked and soggy. In my post-meal telephone interview, I shared my experience with Charisse Waldron.

“When you start out with good fish, it’s hard to go wrong,” she said. “We switched to a different fry. Originally, we had a seasoned one that was really good but it killed our oil, and we had to change it every day. You’re not the first to comment about the fries. We may have to go back to the first ones.”

Herald restaurant reviewers accept no invitations to review, but readers’ suggestions are always welcome. Reviewers arrive unannounced, and The Herald pays their tabs.

E-mail Anna Poole at features@heraldnet.com.

Seabolt’s Smokehouse

31640 Highway 20, No. 3, Oak Harbor; 800-574-1120

Specialty: seafood

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Price range: inexpensive

Liquor: none

Smoking: non-smoking

Reservations: not available

Disabled accessibility: no apparent barriers

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Master Card, Visa

Seabolt’s Smokehouse

31640 Highway 20, No. 3, Oak Harbor; 800-574-1120

Specialty: seafood

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Price range: inexpensive

Liquor: none

Smoking: non-smoking

Reservations: not available

Disabled accessibility: no apparent barriers

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Master Card, Visa

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