Seattle's Hidden Dining Gems That Won't Break the Bank
By Corinne Whiting
Seattle Local Expert
Trying to pin down words like frugal, value and deal can be exasperating because different people have different ideas of cost savings. A "bargain" for one person may be be an unrealistic splurge for another. For 10Best, the range is broad; we include impossibly cheap eateries with amazing menus and dedicated followings, and we share really nice restaurants that have perks like an impressive wine list with no corkage fee or a terrifically affordable prix-fixe menu. If you're looking for Best Value restaurants in Seattle, let us introduce you to a few of our favorites, starting with Salumi and Dick's Drive-In. They're low in expenditures and high in appeal. Who says that a delicious meal has to be a multi-hour ordeal? Other restaurant options offer generous portions of delicious food, meaning you can easily split with a dining companion and still leave satisfied, or else you can have half your food wrapped up to take with you for the next meal—another doable option for keeping your spending under control. Seattle is home to a bounty of talented chefs who take their ingredients and their craft very seriously, and they also value making their food accessible to as wide an audience as possible.
Looking to go a global culinary adventure? This International District eatery makes up for its small interior and lack of decor with heaping portions of enticing Vietnamese noodles and meat dishes. Bring a group of friends to share plates like sizzling stir-frys, loaded with your choice of meat, veggies, nuts and vermicelli noodles. Spicy beef soup and steamed rice cakes topped with ground shrimp and scallions are also popular, and the wide assortment of sauces and chili pastes that arrive with your meal allow you to customize it. Best of all, most of the entrees are around $6 or $7. (206-720-4907)
Sometimes, when the mood strikes, nothing else will do. If you have a strong urge for great pizza, head to one of 24 Pagliacci's locations, where you can walk up to the counter and order a pie topped with everything from sun-dried tomatoes to goat cheese and roasted garlic. With more than 30 toppings to choose from, the pizza menu is sure to have something you'll love, whether you're a vegetarian, an omnivore or simply an eater with quirky tastes. In addition to great pies, the impressively extensive menu features fresh salads and calzones. Leave room for the locally made gelato! The eatery deliveries to some locations, too. Make orders online at order.pagliacci.com. (206-726-1717)
Red Mill Burgers
When the original Red Mill closed in 1967 after 30 years of great diner fare and ice cream, Seattle was left with but a few places to get really good burgers, crispy onion rings or butterscotch malts. Fortunately, John and Babe Shepherd saw this need and opened this Interbay gem in 1994. It was an immediate success. In fact, so popular is this burger joint that the lunch line tends to stretch outside, and the likes of Al Bundy and Darth Vader (actors Ed O'Neil and James Earl Jones, respectively) have been seen enjoying a burger or two here. A word to the wise: the Red Mill is not cell phone tolerant, so make sure your ringer is off. An additional location is at Phinney Ridge. A sister restaurant, Red Mill Totem House, has now found a home in Ballard, across the locks. (206-284-6363)
Sisters European Snacks
This bright, funky eatery dishes up hearty portions of European-inspired fare, from focaccia sandwiches (with roma tomatoes and eggplant, ham and cheese and more) to soups and salads with international flair. The menu includes many vegetarian selections as well. If you're around for breakfast, indulge in their flatbread sandwiches, which boast perfectly cooked eggs, Black Forest ham and Tillamook cheddar. The eponymous Jacobi sisters are not only welcoming and friendly, but they're expert cooks to boot! The eatery's location in Pike Place's Post Alley makes it a perfect spot for a mid-market-wander lunch or even an afternoon snack when you need an afternoon pick-me-up! (206-623-6723)
Taste of India
Featuring a vibrant, neon exterior and an intimate, welcoming interior, Taste of India offers a delightful dining experience from start to finish. The food, service and ambience make this a wonderful spot for enjoying Indian and Mediterranean dishes ranging from rich curries and creamy masalas to tasty vindaloos. Other highlights include the chicken tikka masala, spinach naan and homemade mango pistachio ice cream. Vegetarian diners enjoy dishes like the Madras chili masala with crisp-cooked squash and peppers. The large portions (easily shared) make this an affordable option, and the bottomless chai pours will leave you feeling warm, full and satisfied. ((206) 528-1575)
Choose one of Dick's five locations and return to the days of the '50s when you drive up to this fast food establishment. Burgers, fries and shakes are ordered and eaten in the very same spot -- your car or standing nearby among the masses of customers. Burgers are always prepared the same way (no special orders accepted), and fries are consistently hot (no kidding). Plus, prices are pleasantly affordable, and the place stays open late. Sure, this Seattle staple has been known to attract the post-bar crowd who have perhaps had a few too many potent Northwest brews, but it also serves as a quick day-time treat for everyone from young families to long-returning fans. (Dick's recently enjoyed time in the limelight in a Macklemore video.) (206-323-1300, 206-634-0300)
Pecos Pit Barbecue
Trying to figure out where to find the best barbecue on your world travels? This casual eatery should climb its way to the top of your list, as it has that of folks in Seattle. Have them pile a bun full of pork, beef or ham, and top it off with a drizzle of sauce for the best eating. If you like "hot" foods, just be careful -- their hot sauce makes others pale in comparison. Along with everthing else, make sure to try the yummy baked beans too. The eatery is essentially an order window with outdoor tables, so don't expect sit-down service. This is barbecue, after all. Near the baseball stadium. (206-623-0629)
What was formerly known as Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen has toned down its name, gained a little more space and become a 21+ only establishment. What hasn't changed, however, are well-proportioned tacos and quesadillas, not to mention unbeatable guacamole and a famous herb-roasted chicken burrito plus, cumin-lime sour cream makes everything even tastier. The eatery also features an array of hot sauces for you burrito (from mild to smoking' hot), and the funky hangings on the wall will keep you entertained while you await your food. Add a house-made margarita or a Negra Modelo, and you've got a great meal. However, if you get a little grief from the servers, don't be put off. It's part of the restaurant's signature attitude. (206-322-9950)
It won't take much time here in Seattle before you hear about this popular Pioneer Square outpost. For great Italian sausages, salamis, meatballs, or pork, try Salumi, whose name means "dry-cured meat" in Italian. Meats can be purchased individually as an entree or by the pound as deli take-away. If you prefer a lighter, less meat-intensive meal, order a salad, vegetable dish or one of their pastas. A comfortable interior with tin ceilings and wooden floors makes guests feel at home, as does a large communal table where guests can share conversation with their meals. Wine is available by the glass or bottle. (206-621-8772)
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.