By Beth Hartwick
Located just west of the Fremont Bridge along the ship canal in Seattle, Ponti Seafood Grill has been synonymous with fine seafood dining for two decades, but if you’re looking for a more casual family experience, the iconic restaurant fits the bill as well. Fancy or casual, first-time visit or regular, Ponti doesn't disappoint.
When out-of-town visitors want to know where to go for good seafood, I always recommend Ponti. The food has been exceptional and at times less so over the years, but the good news is that the restaurant got its original chef back two years ago and things have been sailing smoothly into exceptional waters once again.
Ponti is an excellent choice for the whole family, groups, or a date — equally amenable to a laid-back or formal night out. Most diners come to Ponti to eat in the festive and elegant main dining area, or on the charming deck overlooking the ship canal, where you can pretend you’re in Europe! These spaces always seem to have tables celebrating some special occasion. For a casual meal, head for the bar or Café, where you can order off the main menu, bar menu, and the "plenty for $20" menu. The back portion of the Café, which looks out onto the ship canal, is open to minors so the family can get in on the deals.
My favorite meal, something that I could easily eat each visit, is the Thai curry penne. The penne is served with grilled scallops and Dungeness crab in a creamy basil chiffonade and tomato-ginger chutney sauce. This is probably the signature dish of the restaurant and it is addictively good. The grilled salmon is always expertly prepared and served with a rotating cast of seasonal accompaniments. If you see pan-roasted lingcod on the menu, order it, especially if it’s served with seasonal vegetables and yucca fries!
Other items I recommend are the Willie greens salad, Dungeness crab spring rolls, the cheese plate, jumbo Gulf prawn linguini, succulent pan-seared Alaska weathervane scallops, pommes frites served with a garlicky aioli, and, for dessert, the lemon cheesecake or a classic moelleux au chocolat. The Café menu features salmon and pepperjack quesadillas and a satisfying bacon cheeseburger.
To eat or not to eat…
The seafood fresh sheet usually features salmon, halibut, tuna, scallops, and, as available, Dungeness or King crab. Meat options include chicken, steak, and lamb shank. The restaurant falls short on vegetarian options, though a few salads and a singular risotto or pasta dish are available. I would avoid the heirloom tomato salad, smoked grilled fish — the flavor was too smoky for my taste — and the ho hum trio of custards.
So next time you’re hankering for a taste of great Northwest seafood, you now know where to go!
Ponti Seafood Grill
3014 3rd Ave. N
Seattle, WA 98109
Reservations: Open Table or call (206) 284-3000
Prices: Appetizers, soup and salads: $6-$14; pastas and risottos: $19-$24; seafood entrees: $20-$32 (crab — market price); meat entrees: $19-$39; desserts: $6-$7
Café Menu: $6-$15; and plenty for $20 — soup or salad and a choice of select entrees. During happy hour, certain items from the Café menu are half price.
About Beth Hartwick
I love food — growing it, cooking it, and eating it. I also love to eat out (who doesn’t, right?), and I want to share my favorite Seattle restaurant experiences with your family. Let me take you to neighborhood haunts, hidden gems, overlooked favorites, and new territories. I’ll let you know if a restaurant will be right for treating the whole family, gathering with friends, or spending time with that special someone.