Agua Verde Cafe
1303 NE Boat Street
Seattle WA 98105
Come For the Kayaks, Stay For the Food
By: Steve G
Named after a bay in the Sea of Cortez, Agua Verde Café and Paddle Club is a great spot to relax and unwind on a great summer afternoon. For those who aren't familiar with it, it's secretly located in an inconspicuous building on Boat Street near the south end of the University of Washington campus. Home to some of the best fish tacos and freshest salsa around, it has a notorious reputation for scarce parking and being overrun with customers at night but if you can look past these minor inconveniences, you'll be treated to some of the best Baja food in the city of Seattle.
During lunch, the place is setup ala fast food style with people ordering at the register and exchanging their hard earned cash for a fake fruit of sorts that substitutes as a number. I still don’t know how they identify which order went with which fruit, but it seemed to work out well for them.
If the fast food setup isn't really your thing, don't fret. Agua Verde offers an expanded menu with a traditional restaurant setup at night with daily night specials and even live music on certain nights. There are lots of small tables that seat up to four people and a medium size deck and outdoor patio for those looking for a quick drink.
Parking is a bit of a nightmare since it is near impossible to find a good spot within reasonable walking distance. The gravel lot across the street is opened up for Agua Verde at night, but during the day only the street parking along boat street is available.
Anyone who's a frequent patron of Agua Verde knows their signature items: Tacos and their infamous salsa bar. Agua Verde offers up nine different options for tacos mainly consisting of fish and a few meat fillings for those carnivores out there. Each plate comes with three corn tortillas and a side of puree black beans and green rice. Most of the fish tacos are a can't miss and prices during lunch are quite the deal. Here's a little hint: Before diving into the tacos, try to separate the filling into three equal parts. You don't want to sell yourself short by running out of filling by the time you get to your last tortilla. Other than that, feel free to dig in!
The fresh salsa bar is a big highlight of Agua Verde. Made every morning and wildly popular, Agua Verde had to put a cap on how many salsa cups you get as a few too many people abused their generosity over the years. If you love the salsa, customers can even buy it by the pint to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes.
Since I hyped up the salsa bar, you probably have some image of an uber bar with a large variety of salsa, but I'm going to shatter that image in your head. There are only three choices of salsa, which I like to categorize as green(mild verde), red(hot habenero), and brown(sweet chipotle). There are actual names for this, but for simplicity's sake I don't want to confuse people. I recommend the brown salsa with is sweet and spicy flavor with a few smoky flavor notes that will having you going back for more. Feel free to add onto your tacos to add an extra punch of flavor, but trust me, you probably won't.
If three tacos doesn't seem too filling, opt to grab an appetizer. I recommend the Mangodillas. I was one of the many non-believers that didn't believe mangos and quesadillas could work, but Agua Verde really proved me wrong. Mixed with some Monterey Jack cheese and a little bit of sour cream (order it as an extra, since it doesn’t come standard with the dish anymore), it turned me into a convert very quickly.
Overall, it's a great experience at Agua Verde with some really great food and a fabulous view of the water during the Spring and Summer time. It's been one of my favorite haunts since my undergraduate days at UW and I'm sure many other people can attest to that. Oh and before I forget, Agua Verde is a paddle club as well. They offer kayak rentals right below the restaurant. So if you feel like taking an adventure out into Lake Washington, give it a go. It's a lot of fun and if you go the entire span of 520, you can hang out right behind Bill Gates house, though his cabana boy security detail will quickly run out there to shoo you away.