Why Fresh Seafood Is A Historical Commitment At 190 Sunset

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By the time `fresh’ seafood reaches many Seattle restaurant kitchens, it’s anything but fresh because it’s spent up to six days  in transit on fleets of large fishing vessels.

At 190 Sunset, seafood travels from the sea to your plate in less than 24 hours. Tom Budinick, proprietor of this top-tier restaurant-cum-bar in Edmonds, personally guarantees its quality, because he sources all the restaurant’s seafood from small boats that venture out to sea and return the same day. Freshness is confirmed via tags on the gill of each whole salmon and halibut identifying the time, location and vessel from which it was caught. Whole fish are quickly delivered to the restaurant where they are promptly filleted, served and savored by guests.

From the grilled wild Alaskan salmon and fresh pan roasted halibut to 190 Sunset’s famous Dungeness crab cakes – every seafood dish on the 190 Sunset menu represents Tom Budinick’s highest commitment to quality. And he should know, because seafood is an extension of his family’s Croatian fishing heritage.

The proprietor of 190 Sunset comes from a long line of fishmongers who’re now part of Seattle’s famous seafood lore. Back in the early 1900s, Tom’s grandfather Martin Budinich ran Rainier Fish Company, a seafood marketplace that was located at 6th and Olive, near the current site of downtown Nordstrom.

An archival photo of Tom’s grandfather displaying freshly-caught fish at his market, hangs in the restaurant’s entryway. A crystal decanter can be seen in the backdrop of the photograph, which contained what Tom describes as “godawful plum brandy” (Slivovitz) that was traditionally drunk to seal the deal when a Croatian fishmonger sold 10 lbs. of fish.

Tom’s uncle owned and operated two fish markets in the Seattle area: American Fish Market and Pure Food Fish Market. The latter business still thrives today in the heart of Seattle’s Pike Place Market. The family lived in Queen Anne, which was home to a large community of Croatian immigrants who earned their living by going to door-to-door, selling fish to nearby owners of  homes and mansions.

Passion for seafood skipped a generation with Tom’s father, whose only memorable contribution to the family’s business was stealing the family’s fishing boat SS Mars to go joyriding under the Ballard Bridge (without sounding a whistle to alert the bridge operator to open the leaves of the draw bridge that allow tall boats to pass).

But Tom reclaimed his family’s legacy when it was his turn, and after 20 years of managing some of Seattle’s best restaurant kitchens (13 Coins, El Gaucho, Palisades and Cutters Crabhouse, to name a few), he opened 190 Sunset in Edmonds – an upscale property  with the freshest seafood you’re likely to find anywhere in Greater Seattle.Try his signature Crab Cakes that outsell everything else on the restaurant’s menu 3:1, or the Pan-Seared Scallops, or the `Nacho Average’ Poke Nachos. Tom Budinick’s kitchen is `not your average’ seafood kitchen – not by a long stretch. Because fish isn’t just food at 190 Sunset.. It’s tradition, inspiration, commitment, and a way of life. 

Nabanita Dutt