Cruise ships have been known to churn out some pretty tasty spreads these days, but it's still a relief for many travelers to reach terra firma where the food options are vast and varied. Seattle has slowly evolved into a highly respectable foodie town, and visitors will delight in the many exotic flavors that contribute to the Emerald City's expansive culinary scene. Thanks to the location of both cruise ports close to downtown, passengers will find countless dining options within walking distance from the ports, and even more choices can be found after a short bus or taxi ride.
It's no surprise that many restaurants on this list center around the seafood delicacies found in the Pacific Northwest (but if you're not craving something from the sea, never fear!). Diners can get their fill of lobster, crab, shrimp, oysters, salmon, halibut and more at Seattle standards like Elliott's Oyster House. Other venues offer scrumptious dishes featuring global flavors ranging from Italian and Thai (try downtown's Wild Ginger) to Latin American. A couple of these restaurants are family-friendly, while several are fine-dining establishments that provide an elelgant setting for a special night out on the town. Be sure to check out each eatery's happy hour menu if you're looking for a more casual experience.
As the name suggests, this cozy Belltown outpost is a sustainable restaurant and food producer that fiercely promotes local sourcing. At this popular eatery based in the heart of downtown (at the corner of 1st and Bell), chefs make beautiful, flavorful dishes with fresh and seasonal ingredients, the majority of which come from within a 360 mile radius of Seattle. Restaurant staff members say, "We believe that local produce, meat, and grains are more than mere vehicles for nutrients, but vital parts of the intricate system that supports our environment and the good folks who live here." Start with the deviled eggs, PB&J bon bons or a delectable beet salad, before tucking into heartier dishes like braised rabbit leg and vegetable ragout, smoked pork shank or heirloom farro with sugar pumpkin, mascarpone and mushrooms. ((206) 441-9360)
The Hotel Monaco in downtown Seattle is really heating up, thanks in part to chef Jan Birnbaum, the driving force behind Sazerac. The fashionable restaurant serves spicy, Cajun-inspired New American cuisine, including golden hush puppies served with warm molasses, Creole shrimp cakes, black mussels with cumin butter sauce and braised beef served with a gorgonzola potato creation. Modern, amusing interiors make this a must on your restaurant list. If you want to learn some tricks yourself, check out their bartending and cooking classes. Why do the folks at Sazerac think you should stop in for a meal? "A place for serious fun and damn good food." (206-624-7755)
If you're spending time in Seattle, you must check out the talent of celeb chef Tom Douglas. This upscale dining room of his serves inventive Greek cuisine. 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, and a variety of kabobs appear on the menu, 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)
Aqua by El Gaucho
A bright, open space with sculptural lighting and barrel-backed chairs invites guests to check out great views 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. In the mood for some music? Live piano music is a treat nightly from 5 p.m on. (206-956-9171)
Anthony's Pier 66
Boasting great views (of the stunning skyline and the enthralling waterfront) 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. (Also find in this multi-tiered building: Anthony's Bell St. Diner and Anthony's Fish Bar.) Anyone up for some seafood restaurant-hopping? (206-448-6688)
Ask around, and you'll quickly discover that Wild Ginger is a definite downtown Seattle favorite. The James Beard Award-winning restaurant that introduced the satay bar to the US also welcomes an eclectic mix of business people, families and celebrities. Fragrant Duck is the signature dish, but Pow Wok Lamb and Drunken Quail are excellent choices as well. The lively atmosphere is made even better by friendly servers and live jazz, which is a Monday night specialty. Attached to popular, subterranean music venue Triple Door and its Musicquarium Lounge, this is the perfect spot to grab a delicious meal before hearing live tunes; why not make a night of it? (206-623-4450)
Elliott's Oyster House
True to its handle, this waterfront establishment serves views of bustling Elliott Bay along with its oysters; more than 30 varieties. From the outside, Elliott's looks like little more than a shack, but the interior is cozy enough to accommodate lots of folks, especially if a laid-back, casual meal is on the slate. If you're on your own, sidle up to the 21-foot oyster bar for convivial dining. Menu highlights include the aforementioned oysters (prepared just about any way imaginable), crab, lobster and more. The venue also boasts an excellent wine list, local brews and a highly desirable happy hour menu. (206-623-4340)
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," Tavolata 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)
The Pink Door
Funky and hip, this Italian eatery features rustic food and boasts live entertainment in the adjacent lounge. The interior has a certain bohemian charm, but the best area to dine is on the rooftop deck, which affords a magnificent view of Puget Sound. To start a meal, begin with bruschetta or the antipasto plate of savory morsels. Entrees, then, include Tuscan grilled chicken, gnocchi with wild mushrooms, roasted pork loin, and Muscovy duck. You'll find, in fact, a range of pastas and, also, a daily risotto special that's usually a great bet! Comforting desserts include such fare as bread pudding and apple crisp. (206-443-3241)
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 Caprial Pencevery 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. Start with the Clam Steamers, Chicken and Fennel Ragu or Pan-Fried Chickpea Cakes, and move onto the Bookstore Burger or Painted Hills N.Y. Steak (12oz). Save room for the scrumptious desserts, too! ((206) 624-3646)
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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