Odd as it may seem, finding a high quality seafood restaurant in Portland, Oregon can be a challenge. You would think, with our proximity to the Pacific Ocean and access to an abundance of the best our waters have to offer — Dungeonness Crab, King Salmon, Alaskan Halibut, fresh clams and mussels, dayboat Sea Scallops — that outstanding seafood restaurants would be a dime a dozen in this town.
Aside from chain restaurants, there are few who dare to make Pacific Northwest seafood the main shining light of their restaurant. Oh sure, there are many incredible establishments that offer exquisite seafood dishes, but there are few places that are focused seafood restaurants. Then along comes Ringside Fish House.
Ringside Fish House is, without a doubt, my favorite restaurant in town at this very moment. I could eat seafood for breakfast, brunch, lunch, second lunch, snack, dinner, second dinner, and dessert (ok, fine, and even for second dessert).
I decided to take my husband there for dinner on the night of his 40th birthday. Yep. THE birthday of all birthdays.
I made my reservation via OpenTable and on a whim, added a request to have his favorite drink — the Vesper Martini, a la James Bond — ready and waiting for him when we arrived.
Ringside Fish House did not disappoint. In fact, I forgot all about my silly request until after we sat down… and a beautiful Vesper Martini was presented to the birthday boy, along with a super sweet card.
That right there? That’s amazing service you don’t get at most places these days (says the old woman). You basically had me at “hello,” Ringside Fish House, but no, your awesomeness did not stop there.
The service was fantastic, thanks to a very helpful Sommelier and our attentive-but-not-hovering waiter, Ed (who gave us his business card at the end of the night. Again. Amazing!).
Ringside Fish House’s menu is outstanding in its commitment to traditional fish house offerings. Chowder, shrimp salad, halibut, cedar plank salmon, sesame-crusted ahi tuna, prime rib. While creativity and experimentation is the name of the game in many newer Portland establishments, Ringside Fish House’s crowning glory is in its ability to cook traditional dishes to near perfection.
My husband ordered the Sole, which was presented with herbed basmati rice. The preparation was simple, but beautiful.
I ordered the 3-course theatre dinner special ($36 before 6pm and $46 after 6pm):
First course: Maine lobster bisque. It was smooth and buttery and oh so delicately divine.
Second course: Surf and Turf. The prawns were meaty and tender, seasoned just right. The steak medallions of certified angus beef were cooked to perfection: juicy, full of flavor, with just enough light pink.
Dessert: Creme Brulee. Served with a crispy lace cookie, this vanilla bean creme brulee was light and sweet. A nice finish to a hearty meal.
This 3-course dinner quickly moved to my Last Meal list. You know, the list you have created of the top dishes you would eat for your last meal on Earth. The only thing I might change would be the creme brulee — not because it wasn’t delicious (it was), but merely because it’s not my top dessert choice.
Oh, and what did Birthday Boy have for dessert? Ringside Fish House surprised us with a gorgeous chocolate and vanilla ice cream birthday treat. The photo doesn’t do it justice: it was delicious, and a wonderful, thoughtful surprise to wrap up our delightful evening. They truly went above and beyond to give us a night we’ll never forget.
Ringside Fish House also offers a very impressive wine list, featuring an extensive assortment of top Oregon wines and Washington wines, as well as French wines. Many of our favorite special occasion wines were listed, as well as a decent amount of moderately priced, everyday wines. The Sommelier was extremely helpful in helping us choose a bottle.
Ringside Fish House is a fantastic special occasion and date night restaurant. Dinner entrees range from $25 – $55. For two people enjoying an appetizer or starter, dinner entree, dessert, and a decent bottle of wine, you’ll likely spend between $100 – $200 for a nice dinner. Lunch entrees range from $10-17.
If I worked downtown, I could see heading down here for happy hour with co-workers after a long, grueling day for some sips, apps, and to refresh with a fun city view of Director Park. Happy hour is definitely a budget-friendly way to enjoy the deliciousness Ringside Fish House has to offer, with small plates ranging from just $1.25 – $4.75. It has a happy hour menu that tops most in the city, with delicious items such as chowder, shrimp rolls, mussels, fried calamari, and fish tacos, as well as non-seafood items on the menu.
If Ringside Fish House loses any marks at all with me (and they would be teeny tiny marks lost, at that), it’s in the decor category. It’s a little too predictable, too Old Portland beige and bland, for me. I prefer modern with touches of surprise, which would not suit the restaurant’s brand at all so I’m glad they didn’t try to delineate. Ringside Fish House is about strength in stability, reliability, tradition. So even though I personally don’t jive with the decor, they’ve done a decent job of pulling together an atmosphere that is truly warm and welcoming, with well-spaced tables so you never feel like you are sitting on top of your neighbors overhearing their conversations. The space is comfortable and elegant without being stuffy. The decor and space design works as a great backdrop for highlighting the divine dishes.
I am so happy we decided to try Ringside Fish House for my husband’s official 40th birthday dinner (see our trip to Washington Wine Country Tri-Cities Wine Country for the pre-birthday trip!). This is dining done right. The service was fantastic: they make you feel comfortable and un-rushed, are attentive, and are helpful and fun without being cheesy. The location is great because you can walk to so many places before or after your meal: the movie theater, the Park Blocks, the library, downtown shops, Pioneer Square. The food is so fresh and prepared with such simple presentation and amazing skill, I am salivating just sitting here thinking about when I might have my next meal there.
As you can see, the birthday boy was pretty pleased:
Thanks so much for a fabulous Portland dining experience, Ringside Fish House. We’ll be back!
Ringside Fish House
838 SW Park Avenue
Mon – Fri 11:30 – 2:30
Mon – Thurs 5:00 – 10:00
Fri – Sat 5:00 – 11:00
Sunday 4:00 – 10:00
Mon - Thurs 11:30 – 11:00
Fri 11:30 – Midnight
Sat 3:00 – Midnight
Sun 3:00 – 11:00
Mon – Sat. 3:00 – 7:00, 9:00 – close
Sundays 3:00 – close