Ray’s Boathouse turns 50 this year

Ray’s Boathouse in Ballard is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month.

In 1939, Ray Lichtenberger opened a boat rental and bait house in the current Ray’s Boathouse location, eventually adding a coffee house. He then started serving fish and chips alongside renting out boats well into the 1960s.

In 1973, Russ Wohlers, Earl Lasher, and Duke Moscrip bought the business and turned it into what it is today.

Ray’s has a long history of introducing Seattle to popular seafood dishes such as Olympia oysters, singing scallops, Loughborough Inlet spot prawns, Copper River Salmon, and Bruce Gore “frozen at sea” salmon.

Ray’s has had two major fires in its 50 years: The first fire was in 1987, when a wiring problem beneath Ray’s pier sent the restaurant up in flames and burned it nearly to the ground. Another fire in 1997 burned for six hours before it was extinguished.

“Ray’s started with the small kernel of an idea that salmon and other fish could be broiled just like a steak on a beach bonfire grill, after reeling it into the boat from a day of fishing. Then came halibut, lingcod, sablefish, oysters, mussels, and clams. Excellent seafood that could be cooked in a way that made the true flavor of the food shine. Simple, good ingredients, cooked with herbs and salt and pepper,” Russ Wohler’s, Ray’s founding partner and chef, said in a statement.

To celebrate its half-century in business, Ray’s will be serving Copper River Salmon through June 30.

“Our guests are incredibly special and the reason we’ve been doing this for 50 years. We’ve seen generation after generation return to Ray’s with their kids, and their kids after them. We have so many guests who become engaged and then married at Ray’s. It’s truly a magical place with a rich history and I’m honored to be a part of it and shepherd in the start of the next 50 years,” Douglas Zellers, Ray’s general manager and co-owner said.

Photo: Ray’s Boathouse