They stare across puget sound at each other like jealous lovers, but really they are more like brother and sister. Cutters gets the tourist traffic and serves the cruise-boat-crowd and Sleepless-In-Seattle-wannabes expensive seafood, while Salty’s gets the locals and serves them expensive seafood. In both cases you are paying for the view and in both cases the view justifies the price (mostly).
If you are a local, these are special occaison places. Places where you go to celebrate a birthday or other event. Locals know that there are many better places to get seafood in Seattle, but few with a view such as these. If you are tourist, you don’t know any better.
I don’t know if they have the same owner or if they just are stealing playbooks from each other, but both serve seafood that might be fresh or might be frozen. You’ll need to ask if you really care. To an extent it doesn’t really matter, because they will smother it in butter or cream sauces or surround it by mashed potatoes so that the flavor is lost anyway.
I find both to sort of fill a comfort food niche. You know that you’ll leave feeling full and somewhat bloated, your arteries clogging rapidly, but the food tasted decent, so you might not care (until you remember how much that you paid).
If you are going during daylight or near sunset, west-facing Cutters will be your choice. If you are having brunch or are eating after dark, Salty’s is the appropriate choice.
Get a reservation in either case.
If quality is your main concern, don’t bother with either. For the same prices, you can eat much better seafood in this town.
In fact, I can give a general tip that seems to hold up for every sea-side town I’ve ever been in: don’t eat in the restaurants on the waterfront (especially in the main part of town). They exist for tourists and will charge you too much money for average food.
I can’t think of an exception on Alaska Ave. I haven’t been to that pier-end place near the sculpture garden yet, and the bar at the Edgewater had good drinks, but I’ve eaten in pretty much every other establishment on the Seattle waterfront and the only place with a decent meal for the price is the walk-up window at Ivar’s and that is because it is cheap, not good.