Chippy’s is a fish-and-chips joint with an Ethan Stowell spin, which is to say it has about as much in common with Ivar’s or Spud as Stowell’s Italian flagship, Staple & Fancy, does with Olive Garden.
As it happens, Chippy’s is Staple & Fancy’s new next-door neighbor in the Kolstrand Building. (For those keeping track: Chippy’s makes four busy restaurants in that historic brick edifice, including Renee Erickson’s two, the Walrus and the Carpenter, and Barnacle — and yet, still just two stalls in the women’s restroom.)
The restaurant’s red-neon sign glows discreetly beneath a fading painted banner that reads “Marine Hardware.” You have to wonder if they toyed with the idea of making that the restaurant’s name. It’s not a bad moniker for a place whose menu celebrates the sea.
Chippy’s kitchen falls under the purview of Staple & Fancy chef Brian Clevenger and sous chef Jessica Rudell. Chowders, sandwiches, salads and snacks compete for your attention, but assorted finfish and shellfish with chips are the centerpiece of the menu.
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Faced with a choice of true cod, rockfish, salmon, oysters and East Coast clams, all fried, I opted for cod — a generous hunk encased in a well-seasoned beer-batter that forms an impressively crusty carapace — and small, sweet oysters crusted with semolina.
Faced with a choice of five sauces, I asked for some of each. Purists will be happiest with the malt vinegar mayo or the classic tartar. The rémoulade has a little more zip, but not as much as the spicy mayo. The horseradish-heavy cocktail sauce tastes just like a Bloody Mary.
The “chips” that accompany the fried fish are stubby, creamy-in-the-middle fries, but you can substitute another side dish. (Why do that? Perhaps to justify later indulging in the signature dessert: chocolate-chip-cookie ice-cream sandwiches dipped in fudge sauce.)
Sides to consider: finely shredded coleslaw flecked with caraway seed, or the British chip-shop favorite “mushy peas.” Chippy’s version mixes whole peas with a minty, buttery, lemony purée: irresistible, but only if you love peas.
Mushy is not a good thing when applied to tuna poke. The morsels of St. Jude’s albacore in a tangle of seaweed had softened too much in the sesame-soy-citrus dressing. But Dungeness crab bound with creamy avocado made a lovely mash scooped up with house-made potato chips that I kept eating long after the dip was gone.
Dungeness teams up with king crab on a roll, not the soft toasted bun you might expect but a hard French roll.
The salad was delicious, with lemon aioli binding the sweet lump crab under a carpet of chopped chives, but the sandwich was difficult to handle, especially if you tried to fold in the lettuce, tomato and onion.
Saltine crackers provide transport for shrimp ceviche. About six medium shrimp were curled among radish coins, cucumber rounds, diced avocado and sliced serrano chili dressed with lime juice and a touch of olive oil.
The ceviche is ideal for a hot summer night. So was a special of chilled tomato soup, sort of a smooth and creamy gazpacho, drizzled with good olive oil and heaped with celery leaves, parsley, serrano chili and lightly smoked mussels pulled from their shells.
Clam chowder was similarly presented, but with the tiny Manilas still in their shells, mounded with small potatoes and bacon bits in a shallow bowl of milky, smoky, ocean-y broth.
Beer or cider rightly dominate the drink offerings. Draughts are mostly local, but the list of bottles and cans hopscotches across this continent and Europe.
That said, the bar’s shelves display an impressive array of spirits, and cocktails are made with care. Monkey Knife Fight is a gingery riff on a bourbon sour. Motherboy IV is a grapefruity but flowery vodka cocktail, so named, said the bartender, because it took four tries to get it right.
Chippy’s seems to have got it right from the get-go. It attracts potbellied fishermen, inked hipsters, dressed-up date-nighters and the highchair set with their parents, all crammed elbow-to-elbow at the counter, bar or banquette in a 600-square-foot space with an open front that catches the breeze. You only imagine it comes off the ocean.
Providence Cicero is The Seattle Times restaurant critic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.