Duke’s Chowder House

904 Fairview Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
Phone: 206-382-9963
Lunch 11:00am-3:00pm
Dinner 3:00pm-11:00pm
Bar til 2:00am Every Night
Ratings guide:
**** extraordinary
*** excellent
** good
* fair

Knowing before hand of the high reputation held by Duke’s homemade chowders pulled my family through the doors one rainy afternoon without a minute of consideration for any other restaurant in the South Lake Union neighborhood. Duke’s proudly proclaims their chowders as the only one hundred percent natural chowders in the world, and challenges skeptics to do the research. Whether they are in fact the only chowders void of unnatural enhancement or not, they are undoubtedly bowls of hidden treasure.
We were warmed in the quaint waterfront seafood joint from the lit fireplace amid the dining area and bar. Even though the bar initially made me wonder if I had brought my children to the right kind of place, all worries were set aside when the kids’ menus and color crayons came out as well as the waiter’s willingness to warm up some specially requested chocolate milk since cocoa wasn’t listed on the menu. A wall of windows lent a generous view of Lake Union and a marina of stately yachts rocking softly in the water. At Duke’s, it is hard to keep your eyes anywhere but from dazing out the windows and wishing springtime would grace us with its blue skies already. When the clouds finally do allow the sun to shine upon us, an outdoor seating area along side the marina makes for the perfect seafood-eating scenery.
But back to the chowder. I cannot recommend anyone to go to Duke’s and not order the sampler of all five chowders ($12.50). Whether you think you like chowder or not, you just haven’t had the best until you’ve tried Duke’s. Their “Award Winning” Clam Chowder is of a classic style with Chesapeake Bay Surf Clams, ocean clam juice, fresh local cream, baby red potatoes, natural bacon, and a perfect blend of fresh herbs and spices. Note the trend in these ingredients – local, natural, fresh – a theme that is proudly upheld across the entire menu. The quality of ingredients is what Duke’s stands for, and the flavors produced are proof of that. Of the five chowders, there was admittedly one that we found just down right gross. But I’m not naming names as the sampler surely includes a favorite to be found for every taste pallet. My favorite was the Northwest Seafood Chowder. I loved the warm tomato cioppino style broth with Wild Alaska Salmon (another big theme ingredient at Duke’s), cod, and Manila Clams “swimming” inside.
Choosing an entrée was fun with so many tasty options on the menu: wild fish plates, specialty seafood dishes, fish tacos, burgers, and gourmet sandwiches, oh my! It was hard to ignore the dish noted to be, “Voted best seafood entrée in Seattle,” the Macadamia Crusted Alaska Halibut (8oz, $29), but it was impossible to pass up the Stuffed Alaska Halibut (8oz, $29) with fresh Dungeness Crab, Oregon Bay Shrimp, and imported cheeses rolled into one fantastic filet and topped with a lemon beurre blanc. The dish was literally nothing less than phenomenal and I can’t help but wonder who exactly voted for that other dish and overlooked this delectable work of brilliance.
Had our meal ended there, this review would have easily dished out four stars. But, disappointment was found in the waiter-recommended Grilled Mahi Tacos ($18). The sweetness of the slaw with fish seemed overpowering and out of place, and flour tortillas rather than corn seemed like a mistake. We were also let down by the dish ordered for the two little ones of our family to share: Dangerously “Killer” Wild Prawns ($9) from the appetizer menu. While the flavor of the garlic white wine butter sauce soaked into sourdough bread was the “killer” part of the dish, it was the focus and majority of the plate while the four measly prawns set on top were just a side note. Although delicious, it was definitely not a prawn-based appetizer meant to share like we thought we were ordering. These couple dishes dragged down our overall satisfaction, but picking out the right selections at Duke’s Chowder House can make for a four star meal on another night.
By: Christina DeSchane

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