If you can’t make it to the waterfront town of Anacortes, Washington, you can still enjoy a taste of the Pacific Northwest thanks to SeaBear Smokehouse.
Since it was established in 1957, SeaBear has been creating authentic smoked salmon and other artisan seafood products from its smokehouse base in the small waterfront town of Anacortes, Washington, on Fidalgo Island, where it has a storefront full of the stuff of a specialty-seafood-lover’s dreams.
We’ll get to the food in a sec, but a little about the history of the place first. From anacorteswa.gov:
“The fishing tradition depicted in television’s The Deadliest Catch began in the 1890s as Anacortes men ventured to Alaskan waters for months of danger at sea. The town’s early fishing industry was based on schooners like Lizzie Colby and Wawona that sailed from Anacortes to the Bering Sea and brought back tons of salted cod, which was then dried on racks, then packaged and shipped internationally. Mechanized salmon processing began in 1894 at the Fidalgo Island Canning Company and expanded to eleven seafood canneries operating along the swift-moving Guemes Channel, allowing Anacortes to boast of being ‘the Salmon Canning Capital of the World.’ The salmon fishery attracted immigrants: fishermen from Scandinavia and Croatia, cannery workers from Japan, and Chinese men, who sometimes arrived illegally on the boat of Smuggler Kelly, a Confederate veteran who occasionally eluded the authorities with cargoes of opium; and Chinese workers brought from Canada.
“Smugglers, bootleggers, sailors, fishermen, lumberjacks and other adventurers created an atmosphere of a frontier town, which would remain a part of Anacortes for decades to come. This was balanced by teachers, ministers, boosters and laborers who, thanks to hard work in a land rich in resources, survived periodic hard times and a rowdy past to succeed in becoming a proper city.
“Prior to the boom and bust of the 1890s, Fidalgo Island was home to the Samish and the Swinomish people for thousands of years. Old-growth cedar and Douglas fir trees dominated the landscape from seashore to lake shore. Members of the Samish tribe lived in cedar longhouses measuring over 1,000 feet; their Guemes Island longhouse stood into the 20th century. These Coast Salish tribes oriented their villages toward the abundance of the sea and built a wealthy and sophisticated culture based on harvesting salmon and shellfish, fashioning clothing and basketry from natural materials, while plying the waters in canoes for trade, harvest, and occasional raids.”
The bounty of the sea would dictate the future of Anacortes. Located on Fidalgo Island in Washington’s Puget Sound, the city was founded in 1879 by railroad surveyor Amos Bowman, who chose the name to honor wife Anne Curtis. His vision of the fledgling city as the “New York of the West” would never come to pass as the city went the way of a coastal frontier town.
The legacy of the sea and the city’s history as a salmon canning capital animate the shelves of SeaBear Speciality Seafoods. A peek inside and a whiff of the products on offer and you’ll start dreaming of the eating in your future.
The store itself is a destination that gets five stars on TripAdvisor with this invitation to visit: “Stop by the Smokehouse Store for a wide variety of fresh and smoked salmon and other locally made foods by our guest purveyors, perfect to enjoy during your trip to Anacortes, to take back to family and friends, or we'll ship it home for you. Enjoy our newly remodeled store featuring our new SeaBear History timeline, full wall mural of The Messenger (prized fishing boat of our founder), and get your photo taken with a real King Salmon. We feature free samples daily, and don't miss our Smokehouse Tasting Flight to learn and try something new and unique to our area. Plus, each Friday we feature the latest creation by our Smokemasters, fresh from the smoker and available by the ounce.
Get your SeaBear goods and pack an impromptu picnic for somewhere scenic on Fidalgo Island, where woodland and seascape views await along Anacortes’ more than 50 miles of trails through 2,800 acres of forests, meadows, wetlands, and lakes. Or pack your picnic, take a ferry ride, and unpack your goods in the San Juan Islands.
But you don’t have to head to Washington State or Fidalgo Island to get your SeaBear fix: You can order online — which is great news around the holidays, when salmon can make any meal special. (Order by December 15 to be in time for Christmas; by December 22 to be in time for New Year’s.)
“While people enjoy smoked salmon year-round, the holidays are by far its most popular season — both for serving at parties and for sharing as a gourmet gift,” says Michael Mondello, president and CEO of SeaBear Smokehouse. “’It wouldn’t be Christmas Eve at our home without the smoked salmon’ is how one customer put it to me!”
We couldn’t agree more. Smoked salmon on fresh toasted “everything” bagels with cream cheese, purple onion, and capers — add an egg strata, hash browns, sausage, bacon, cinnamon buns fresh from the oven, sliced orange rounds sprinkled lightly with powdered sugar, and a carafe of excellent coffee and you’ve got Christmas morning and New Year’s brunch covered.
Here are some of SeaBear’s seafood delights:
- In conjunction with Waterbrook Winery of Walla Walla, the brand created this special culinary celebration of their region
- They brush the wild Alaskan Coho salmon with a glaze of Waterbrook wine and smoke using vines and American Oak Chardonnay wine barrels from their vineyards
- The result — a wonderfully moist Pacific Northwest smoked salmon with subtle, complex layers of flavor
- Price: $14
- A complete lox brunch for six to eight
- This makes a great gift and is also wonderful to serve on Christmas morning to family gathered
- 6 bake-at-home croissants
- 6 bake-at-home bagels
- 1 pound of our signature lox Everything Seasoning
- Smoked Salmon Schmear
- Price: $100
- From the clear, cold waters of Alaska
- Smoked in the centuries-old traditions of the Pacific Northwest
- The SeaBear signature fillet since the beginning
- Moist, flaky, fully cooked and ready to serve
- Packed in SeaBear’s famous Gold Seal Pouch, so no refrigeration required until opened
- Price: $42
Photography: (All images) courtesy SeaBear Smokehouse