The Best Bets for Lunches You'll Love in Bellevue
By Corinne Whiting
Seattle Local Expert
The Bellevue culinary scene offers an abundance of options from quick takeout snacks and food truck treats to sit-down, luxury-style feasts. The downtown area boasts hundreds of restaurants, ranging from casual sandwich spots to four-star chef-owned destinations (and of course we can't forget about those national chains, most of which can't be found within Seattle city limits).
While seafood reigns at kitchens across the Pacific Northwest, Bellevue also features a bounty of ethnic eateries, with Asian cuisine often stealing the show. (The Northwest may be known for salmon and Dungeness crab, but cultural foodies from across the region often trek to Bellevue to explore and expand their mealtime horizons.)
And for the carnivores out there, a selection of steakhouses serves up top-quality beef and unique dining experiences. When the sun shines, Bellevue diners seek flock to counltess outdoor dining options that pop up on patios and along sidewalks. For a quick lunch, stop by one of the many food trucks scattered throughout downtown Bellevue during the week or frequent a fun, whimsical spot like Lunchbox Laboratory. Added bonus: If you'd like some music with your meal, you'll find a range of options from jazz and pop to bluegrass.
10 Shanghai Cafe
Surprising flavor combinations and innovative dishes break the mold of traditional Chinese eats at Shanghai Cafe, making it a welcome departure from the norm. The restaurant's strip-mall facade and casual decor belie the food's quality and presentation. Try an appetizer of chili-spiked cucumber or the "vegetarian goose," which pairs shiitake mushrooms and tofu. Enticing entrees include sautéed sugar peas, a cilantro-tinged dish that combines chicken and jellyfish, and the house specialty: addictive, hand-shaved green noodles with your choice of meat. (While this is a great lunchtime spot most days of the week, take note that the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.) (425-603-1689)
9 Bellevue Brewing Company
The Bellevue Brewing Company is a locally-minded venue that serves up tasty brews to complement the tasty food. In their own words, "One of our main goals here at the Bellevue Brewing Company, in addition to brewing world-class beers, serving mouthwatering food, and providing our guests with old fashioned, personal service, is to become a positive force in our local community and beyond." Popular beers range from the Belgian WitBier and the 425 Pale Ale to the Brown and Extra Red ales. Enjoy fare from the NW Charcuterie Plate and the BBC Nachos to the Super Crabby Dip and stone-fired pizzas. ((425) 497-8686)
8 Pasta & Co
Although take-out is the main business at this local chain, you can also dine in on fresh pastas, meats, sides and scrumptious desserts. Seasonal changes keep things fresh; past favorites have included penne with smoked mozzarella, beef tenderloin grilled with an herb rub and parmesan smashed potatoes. Already-prepared frozen foods like black bean lasagna and veal cannelloni are an easy solution for an impending dinner party. Save room for chocolate cupcakes, lemon tarts and ginger crinkle cookies. For more than thirty years, Pasta & Co stores have become local icons in the Seattle area, and their pick-up items prove especially perfect for sunny day-picnics spent in Bellevue parks. (425-453-8760)
7 Ruth's Chris Steak House — Bellevue
Whether it's rare or well-done, prime beef is this steak house's trademark. A favorite of the business set, the place exudes class with its soft, rich carpets and paneled private rooms. Each sublime cut of meat boasts sensational flavor and texture thanks to a signature "cooked from the top down" technique. À la carte items include gulf shrimp in creole rémoulade sauce and crispy French-fried onion rings. If you make it to dessert, consider a luscious chocolate praline encore or maybe chocolate chunk bread pudding. According to their website, "The best USDA Prime steak is at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Bellevue, Washington. With our special 500° sizzle and award-winning wine list, we make any occasion an extra-special one." (425-451-1550, 800-544-0808)
6 Top Gun Seafood
Admittedly, picking one or two top-notch restaurants from the many located throughout Seattle can be a daunting task. Top Gun, though, makes at least one of the choices a no-brainer; its famously tasty dim sum and traditional Chinese fare attract a large number of fans every day, especially at lunch. White linens and friendly service are added perks. Best of all, prices won't send you running to the bank for a loan. Well-known for their dim sum menu, served daily until 3 p.m., Top Gun also features perks like food with no MSG added, a premium selection of Chinese teas and a full service bar. (425-641-3386)
5 Pagliacci Pizza
Although take-out is the main business at this local chain, you can also dine in on fresh pastas, meats, sides and scrumptious desserts. Seasonal changes keep things fresh; past favorites have included penne with smoked mozzarella, beef tenderloin grilled with an herb rub and parmesan smashed potatoes. Already-prepared frozen foods like black bean lasagna and veal cannelloni are an easy solution for an impending dinner party. Save room for chocolate cupcakes, lemon tarts and ginger crinkle cookies. For more than thirty years, Pasta & Co stores have become local icons in the Seattle area, and their pick-up items prove especially perfect for sunny day-picnics spent in Bellevue parks. (206-726-1717, 425-453-1717)
4 Lunchbox Laboratory
LunchBox Laboratory got its start in a 400-square-foot building in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood "by the MacGyver-like culinary vision of Food Alchemist Scott Simpson. The original concept was born of Scott's love for his mother." The quirky venue mixes nostalgic Americana comfort food with an off-the-wall twist, and menu items here include the "As Seen On TV Dork burger," the "Burger of the Gods," the "Astronauts Mimosa" and items such as: "Hong Kong Buffalo Wings," "Goldfish Mac and Cheese" and the "Drunken Elvis" liquor-infused shake. Be sure to check out items on the weekly "experimental" menu like the "Bahn, James Bahn." (425-505-2676)
3 Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar
Emphasizing seafood from the Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest, this innovative, upscale restaurant is one of the best reasons to make a short trip east to Bellevue. Featured main dishes include Columbia River white sturgeon with huckleberry beurre blanc, applewood-grilled swordfish with artichoke and capers and cedar plank-roasted Alaskan king crab with fresh vegetables. For patrons with something more casual in mind, the raw bar serves some of the area's best shucked oysters. Enjoy lunch here Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. (If you stick around for longer, happy hour happens on those days from 3:30 until 6 p.m.) (425-456-0010)
2 Bis on Main
This simple, elegant bistro offers an appealing mix of American favorites with a menu showing influences from France, Italy and South America. The minimal decor is serene and upscale with white tablecloths, neutral colors and candlelight. Start with a bottle of wine from a list of more than 100, and then try an entree such as roast duck with cranberry sauce and veal sirloin in wild mushroom sauce. The dessert selection changes daily, but look for the highly recommended pecan pie. Reservations recommended. While the venue is open seven days a week, lunch is served Monday through Friday. Bis on Main features Late Night Happy Hour seven nights a week in the cozy bar and lounge. (425-455-2033, 425-274-0133)
1 Purple Cafe and Wine Bar - Seattle
Lively, casual, welcoming. Wrought iron fixtures, poured concrete floors, and old-brick walls. Over 70 wines available by the pour or in flights. It's an excellent destination whether you're on a date, meeting with friends or holding a business function. There are four locations in the Seattle metro area, and you can reserve your table at their website - so no matter where you're closest to, you're close to an excellent afternoon or evening with wonderful food and amazing wines. Every day from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Bellevue, Kirkland and Woodinville locations (not downtown), the happy hour menu means $2 off drinks. Yet, more exciting news? Diners can snack on discounted, deletable dishes like gorgonzola-stuffed dates, calamari and steamed Manila clams. (2068292280)
About Corinne Whiting
Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's backpacked around Australia, taught English in Argentina and explored (so far!) countries from Cambodia and Egypt to Turkey and China. Corinne served as associate editor at Where magazine for five years; as a freelancer, she now writes for publications like National Geographic Traveler and Amtrak's OnTrak. Here in the lovely Northwest, she's attempting to debunk the rain myths, up her coffee and live music quotient and find her Zen near/on the water.
Read more about Corinne Whiting here.