Yes, the Fishwife has crabs, so don't bother calling to ask. While coastal towns enjoy a variety of places like the Fishwife, River City only has a couple of these homespun seafood shanties, and that's a shame.
Inside, her walls are decked with the usual maritime flotsam and jetsam, offering plenty of eye candy upon which to set your gaze while eating. Seating is informal, something of a diner arrangement, with nondescript booths and tables. Good enough for the likes of me.
The menu abounds with choices from the briny deep, and most of it is carefully chosen and fresh; one notable exclusion being steamer clams, which I fully expected to see and wanted to eat. Check out the "specials" board, where you'll find the catch of the day.
My crew's fare was well prepared, if overshadowed a bit by the harried but friendly waitress. To start, we special-ordered a coconut-encrusted tiger shrimp appetizer, along with a similarly dressed tuna steak for dinner. The cook obliged; the coconut coating was crispy-toasty and served with a sesame-kissed pineapple salsa. It went off in my mouth like fireworks. Yum, and not a hint of the usual freezer taste you often encounter with restaurant shrimp.
One swabbie ordered the signature platter, which promised a combo of prawns, scallops, and fish. It turned out to be incomplete, due to a shortage of tiger prawns (we must have gotten the last of them in the appetizer), and overall, it was a little lackluster. Also hauled aboard was the blackened halibut, which I found to be as good as any, but not worth gushing about. Rather, I now believe fresh halibut should be left to stand on its own. I chose the fresh Willapa Bay oysters, which were tasty and bite-sized, but their pan-fried preparation gave them a sort of wilt. It tasted as if they'd been waiting in a heating area.
The sides were mostly good; we were served fresh bread almost immediately, and the slaw was homemade and just right. The fresh-cut waffle fries were great too, like a big pile of driftwood hiding my little oysters. The one curiosity remaining was the choice of vegetable. All were stoked when spying the other patrons grazing on fresh green beans, yet we were taken aback when served hash-brown style spaghetti squash (you heard me) with our dinners instead. Actually, in retrospect, it wasn't that bad--just weird.
It's important to note that when you attend the Fishwife, in all her barnacled glory, you are making a choice. You are choosing against other things. You are choosing comfort over atmosphere, surprise over status quo, and little versus big. While there are plenty of options, including affordable meal baskets and sandwiches, the dinners are a little too pricey ($12 to $16) for me to be completely in love with. It's true that the siren song of homemade cioppino and marionberry cobbler will indeed lure me back, but these are dicey waters to navigate. She is humble, the Fishwife, but not too humble to make you pay.