Seattle sits at the forefront of foodie culture, so options here are endless when it comes to finding local flavor. This proves excellent news for residents and visitors alike, especially those who are particularly fond of seafood. In order to direct travelers toward sure-bet eateries, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. In case time is of the essence, we present our Best Restaurants list, a special selection of 10 places that promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that represents the essence of Seattle dining.
While some venues showcase the region's local bounty of seafood, meats, cheeses, produce, wines and more, others bring exotic ethnic cuisines to this corner of the States. Whether you are an adventurous diner or one who likes to stick within your comfort zone, you will find options that suit your fancy. Master chefs here introduce us to flavors ranging from sushi and curries to barbecue and jambalaya, and restaurants offer ambiences that run the gamut from casual and chill to fancy and fine. Wherever you land or whatever the occasion, just be sure to bring your appetite!
The Whale Wins
The Whale Wins is another can't-miss destination from award-winning chef Renee Erickson and partners Jeremy Price and Chad Dale (renowned throughout Seattle, thanks to their other masterpiece, Ballard's acclaimed The Walrus and the Carpenter). At this welcoming Fremont venue, the culinary team draws inspiration from the cuisine of some of Erickson's favorite places in southern Europe and England, and they promise their "wood-fired, vegetable focused menu will feature the very best foods from local beaches, gardens and farms prepared simply and served casually in a lively, light-filled, cottage-like space." Diners should expect ripe, seasonal vegetables, wood-oven fired meats and fish and pickled treats served in a bright, beautiful setting. ((206) 632-9425)
This Fremont gem is owned by husband-wife chef duo Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, who met while cooking at New York's Alain Ducasse at the Essex House. According to their website, even though "both chefs have a distinctly different point of view, their tastes blend together to create modern, creative and seamless cuisine in their restaurants." (They also own nearby Joule.) The successful result of their merged talents? Urban-style Korean comfort food (small plates perfect for sharing) that ranges from dumplings and pancakes with pork belly, kimchi and bean sprouts to scrumptious dishes of noodles (think Dungeness crab, seaweed noodle, creme fraiche, spicy red curry) and rice (try the short rib, sambal daikon and mustard greens). Diners delight in the charming ambience, too; walls are covered with funky art in this re-imagined former industrial building, transformed thanks to the innovative use of glass, metal, wood and other unexpected materials. ((206) 547-2040)
Matt's in the Market
This once-tiny restaurant, greatly expanded in 2007, offers incredible views of the Market and the Puget Sound, courtesy of huge, semicircular windows. Flawless seafood is the name of the game, and it's collected fresh from vendors set up below. Oyster sandwiches, often eaten at the counter, are much-coveted at lunchtime, and dinner calls forth such delicacies as tortilla-crusted Alaskan halibut, pan-roasted wild salmon and mussels steamed with chorizo, charmoula and cava. In the evenings, the atmosphere turns to candlelit and romantic, although tables are at a premium. Don't leave without treating yourself to the chocolate pot de creme, a signature dessert that's a perfect ending to the fantastic cuisine. (206-467-7909)
Dining at the The Herbfarm is an event. In fact, just getting in can be a process, since this culinary jewel is booked months in advance for its legendary prix fixe feast of Pacific Northwest fare. The nine-course meal plays out over four or five hours, with perfect regional wine pairings poured along with each dining selection. According to travel guides, this is diamond-level dining. With a strictly regional focus, each meal is seasonally themed, whether Copper River salmon in spring or root vegetables in winter. The greens and herbs that augment main dishes come from the restaurant's own garden, picked by one of your servers. Along with each course comes dialogue from the chef, who informs diners about the specifics of what's on their plates. Finish off with Douglas Fir sorbet, a standby standout at The Herbfarm. (425-485-5300)
If the crowd it draws is a measure of a restaurant's standing, Shiro's reputation is assured. While not much to look at, the unadorned space is one of Seattle's premier sushi spots, and it is often filled with loyal local patrons, including sports stars, business executives, and the rest of the city's ravenous raw-fish fans. White tablecloths drape the tables, but the prime spot is at the sushi bar, where the blade-wielding Shiro Kashiba or one of his partners slice fresh fish with utmost skill. Sitting here, you never know what kind of extra treats might come your way. The understated restaurant also features an extensive and well-chosen sake list. Kashiba, who decades ago helped introduce Seattleites to sushi with his original restaurant, Nikko, still sets the bar for fresh fish and friendly hospitality, even in a town overflowing with top-notch sushi places. (206-443-9844)
Sophie and Eric Banh grew up eating street food in Saigon, and thanks to these siblings' vision and talent, Seattle diners now get to experience their sophisticated, creative takes on authentic Vietnamese fare at Bar Bar. (The restaurant's named for their dad; "ba" means "father" in Vietnamese.) Located in a stylish, industrial setting, the vibe is warm in this welcoming space, located on the cusp between Capitol Hill and the Central District. Amongst Ba Bar's paper lanterns and vintage artwork, the recently launched breakfast menu can be enjoyed daily. Dishes take on a more traditional Vietnamese bent, rather than reflecting Western sensibilities. For example, diners dive into show-stopper items like Banh Xeo; a crispy crepe of shrimp and pork belly rolled up with bean sprouts, fresh herbs and nuoc cham; or Sai Gon Beef Stew, a mouthwatering combination of lemongrass, star anise and anato seed oil. ((206) 328-2030)
How to Cook a Wolf
While there are no wolves being braised here, just the thought – How would one cook a wolf, where would you start? – gets to the core of chef-owner Ethan Stowell's philosophy for this branch of his Seattle foodie empire (Tavolata, Anchovies and Olives). He breaks things down to their base elements, deconstructing dishes to the bare essence of their perfectly-chosen ingredients. Stowell achieves this through a simple and rustic take on Italian-inspired plates, served in a sleek, urban-lodge of a space outfitted in rough-stacked stone and unfinished vertical wood paneling. Start with the simplicity of dishes like the Celery Root Soup. Savor the Soft Boiled Eggs with parsley, pine nuts and crispy potato. Dinner-sized plates that rotate through include options like seared scallops with roasted beets, pearl onions and balsamic and grilled pork belly with honey crisp apple and Treviso, a red Italian radicchio. (206-838-8090)
Westward & Little Gull
One of the city's newer "hot spots," Westward is a water-inspired, full-service restaurant and bar that first opened its sails in the fall of 2013 on the north shore of Lake Union. Chef Zoi Antonitsas sends out delectable, innovative dishes that balance contemporary Northwest and Mediterranean flavors with an approach called "natural and continually evolving, reflecting the simplicity of great products, fresh ingredients and the changing seasons." A wood-burning oven anchors the kitchen, and each seat in the restaurant boasts stunning views of the lake and cityscape. Outside, a large deck, fire pit and beach area provide the ideal vantage point for sipping cocktails in the warmer months or snuggling under wool blankets (provided by the venue) in the winter. A 150-foot dock provides boat parking or a place to tie up kayaks while enjoying plates of oysters and creative cocktails. ((206) 552-8215)
No Seattle food guide would be complete without a mention of Canlis, for generations a stalwart standby for special occasions and wowing visitors. The traditional, white-tablecloth dining room lets visitors take in serene views of beautiful and busy Lake Union below. Such stunning surroundings only enhance the phenomenal gustatory experience, which includes offerings of stuffed chicken, lamb shank with pureed mint and garlic, plus delectable cuts of beef and fresh seafood. For diners who can't decide, a great option is the fixed price menu; each of the five courses gets paired with the appropriate glass of wine from the spectacular Canlis cellar. In fact, Canlis is one of only 85 restaurants worldwide to have received the "Grand Award" for its wine collection. (206-283-3313)
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Award-winning Chef Renee Erickson (The Whale Wins, Bateau, Barnacle, Bar Melusine) partnered with Business Manager Jeremy Price and Developer Chad Dale to realize her long time vision for an oyster bar. It makes perfect sense then, that she would do it in her own neighborhood. The Walrus and the Carpenter blends the elegance of France with the casual comfort of a local fishing pub. "The idea is to serve the highest quality food and drink in a space that is stripped of pretense and feels like home." Opened in 2010, The Walrus and The Carpenter proves one of the city's most delicious and popular culinary scenes (and for good reason). Expect tallboys, Muscadet, piles of chubby oysters, a delightful array of local cheeses, meat delights like steak tartare and smart plates served in a lively, approachable space in Old Ballard. ((206) 395-9227, (206) 395-9227)
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.
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