In this town, we often say: The more, the merrier. In recent years, Seattle's culinary scene has become increasingly renowned and even more memorable, putting the city up there on the dining circuit with destinations like New York and San Francisco. Not only is the food here exquisite, the service memorable and the drink local and tasty, but the ambience also leaves an impression at the majority of the town's favorite eating establishments.
Once inside spaces funky and formal, intimate and inventive, diners enjoy the flavors of the Northwest that permeate their dishes and their surroundings. And thankfully for those who like to convene with family and friends (I mean, who doesn't enjoy breaking bread with loved ones in a festive atmosphere, right?), countless Seattle venues offer roomy tables at which groups of folks can collectively enjoy the food and the company.
The rise in popularly of "family-style" meal servings also complement the trend of group dining. Whether it's heaping bowls of crispy chips, juicy oysters, fresh pasta or sweet beignets you're after, the following restaurants we've gathered follow the philosophy that dining is most enjoyable when shared with those whom you love. So gather your people, and get ready to chow down.
Elysian Brewing Company Tangletown
Come for the brews and the company; stay for the food. The northern (and younger) sibling of Capitol Hill's Elysian Brewing Company, this easy-going brewpub enjoys a loyal neighborhood following thanks largely to excellent house ales, pilsners and porters. The kitchen, too, impresses with a global take on pub grub; offerings include Chinese black-bean squid, steamed mussels, shredded pork tacos and wild mushroom penne. In the afternoon and early evening, patrons enjoy drinks and meals in the sunbathed dining room, whose focal point is an impressive supply of brewing equipment. The venue's casualness and airiness mean large groups are warmly welcomed. (206-547-5929)
F.X. McRory's Steak Chop and Oyster House
Located right next to Qwest Field, F.X. McRory's is the ideal spot for a pre-game or post-game meal and drink. Whether the Seahawks win or lose, an extensive and impressive menu consisting of aged steaks, Alaskan king crab legs, Pacific Northwest salmon and oysters, among other delicious options, are sure to keep you happy (or your stomach, at least). You should also stop by the whiskey bar – the 135 varieties of American bourbon are impressive, even if you aren't imbibing. In our humble opinion, sports, steaks and a wee bit of whiskey make for a perfect and enjoyable evening out. (206-623-4800)
At the Alexis Hotel just off downtown's Madison Street, the cozy yet hip Bookstore Bar stocks its shelves with impressive reading material and an extensive stash of Scotches, bourbons and whiskies. New chef Chris Lobkovich sends out delectable, locally-fueled dishes. An extended happy hour (from 4 to 7 p.m.) means deals on draft beers, select wines and well drinks ($4) plus a rotating menu of tasty food options costing only $3 to $7 per plate. Lobkovich finds influence in Asian and Latin flavors, putting his own modern twist on northwest dishes, and calls his cooking style "eclectic, yet minimalistic." Diner favorites range from the banh mi sandwich and the cobb salad to the veggie burger and grilled hanger steak. Save room for the scrumptious desserts, too! ((206) 624-3646)
Aqua by El Gaucho
A bright, open space with sculptural lighting and barrel-backed chairs invites guests to check out great views (of the water and the mountains) and a wonderful, seafood-based menu. Although options change depending on what's fresh, you may find oven-roasted Manila clams to start or Northwest oysters served with grapefruit tequila sorbet. Main courses include lobster risotto, Thai seafood stew, and sesame-seared sea bass. If you prefer meat, there's rack of lamb, pork tenderloin, and grilled steaks. Vegetarians are pleased by plank-roasted vegetables, and desserts are eminently rich and satisfying no matter what you choose. Live piano music is a treat nightly from 5p.m. (206-956-9171)
Although El Camino is a favorite gathering spot for friends to test potent margaritas, it also serves wonderful Mexican cuisine. The menu isn't extensive, but selections are flavorful and well-prepared. Along with braised pork shoulder and chicken enchiladas with mole sauce, which have earned a faithful following, are seafood options like halibut tacos and salmon with tamarind. Steak tacos are also incredibly popular with patrons, who come to check each other out amid terra cotta tiles and wrought iron detailing. Don't go if you're looking for a quiet eatery and introductory chips and salsa; instead, go for authentic food and a festive populace. (206-632-7303)
Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge
Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge has been earning accolades almost since it opened. The ornate and filigreed interior of the space is just the beginning of a dining experience built on the food, style and attitude of New Orleans' French Quarter. Offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night dining, the restaurant has a voluminous menu encompassing Italian, Spanish and French-countryside and coastal-Mediterranean cuisine, along with a full slate of affordable American-style Prime steakhouse selections, traditional Northwest seafood and a multitude of house-made charcuterie and small-plate offerings. And as you might expect from a spot that takes its cues from the French Quarter, Toulouse is renowned for its happy hour, including the one timed perfectly for a leisurely and extended brunch. (2064329069)
In Belltown, Ethan Stowell has done it once again by wowing diners at his Italian gem Tavolta. Here, pasta reigns--from rigatoni to casarecce, conchiglie to linguini. A restaurant whose name means "to gather around a table," Tavolta is an ideal space for large parties and private events. Monthly Sunday Feast dinners mean four-course family meals served at the communal table (that seats up to 26 diners), perfectly embodying the venue's philosophy. Enjoy nightly happy hours (from 5 to 7 p.m.) as well as dishes like brushcetta and salumi boards to start, rigatoni and potato gnocchi for pasta dishes, salmon and beef short ribs as entrees and grilled carrots as a side. (206-838-8008)
Bastille Cafe and Bar
Get transported to a Parisian cafe with charming, authentic decor like 19th-century sconces from a church in the French countryside, a clock that once hung in a Paris metro station and a host stand that once serviced a small French hotel. The food is equally delightful; try main dishes like moules frites, steak frites, the fish of the day, ricotta Cavatelli and the roasted half chicken with Dijon dumpling, black trumpet mushroom and Brussels sprout gratin. The Back Bar, the self-proclaimed "sexiest place in town" with a crystal chandelier and Art Deco sconces, is the ideal spot for cocktails before or after your meal. (206.453.5014)
Anthony's Pier 66
There are few better places better for relishing the fresh seafood of the Northwest. Boasting great waterfront views and an expansive dining area with several distinct venues, this branch of the Anthony's chain is inviting and bright. It also offers outdoor dining when the weather cooperates. The menu features a cornucopia of fresh, well-prepared Northwestern seafood. Among the dishes you'll find are lobster, salmon, Dungeness crab cakes, coconut prawns, and Alaskan halibut. The restaurant also has a good selection of desserts, and cheesecake rates especially high on the list. If arriving by car, complimentary validated parking is available in the Art Institute Parking Garage (bring your parking voucher with you for validation). (206-448-6688)
In downtown Seattle, celeb chef Tom Douglas has done it again. This upscale dining room serves inventive Greek cuisine that draws diners from near and far. Making an excellent starter, pita bread is served with your choice of spread, like roasted sweet red pepper, barrel-aged minty feta or skordalia. Meze, such as grilled octopus and dolmades with rice plus a variety of kabobs appear on the menu (and are great to share with a great), and Lola doesn't skimp on main courses either. Offerings vary but may include a tagine of stuffed artichokes, avgolemono and saffron couscous or a whole fish with pickled green garlic and herbs. (206-441-1430)
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.
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