A quintessential Seattle experience consists of having a meal at Ray's. (At lunchtime, head upstairs to Ray's Cafe.) Views of the mountains and the water, especially in sunset's glow, thrill diners almost as much as the cuisine. Located close to Golden Gardens, this venue makes the perfect dining spot before or after a windswept or sun-tinged day at the beach. While many dishes have Asian flair (like pan-seared scallops in green curry or kasu-marinated black cod), others revel in simple preparations, like oysters on the half-shell, crab cakes and grilled wild salmon. The downstairs venue offers upscale dining; the cafe upstairs is a bit more casual. A wonderful wine list ensures that you'll have a terrific vintage to complement the food.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Enjoy a quintessential Seattle experience at Ray's, where large tables can be reserved and the water-meets-mountain views cannot be beat.
John's expert tip: At lunchtime, head to Ray's Cafe (upstairs); views on the second level might even be a bit more sensational. This restaurant proves the perfect pit stop during a day at Golden Gardens beach.
Recently refreshed Thackeray comes with a brand-new addition: Claret wine bar, located in the venue's back half. This popular neighborhood restaurant and bar, straddling the line between Fremont and Wallingford, draws enthusiastic support from loyal locals. The spacious, light-filled venue offers an inviting atmosphere that combines welcoming service with an eclectic interior. (Sit on at the whimsical "porch swing" up front, or cozy up next to a stocked bookshelf in the back.) The seasonally-inspired menu melds northwest ingredients and Mediterranean influences. Share tasty dishes like mezze spreads, braised meatball subs, hamachi crudo and lemon-anchovy charred broccoli, or dive into mains like seared black cod, Ethiopian spiced fried chicken, ancient grain risotto and the popular house burger. Drink offerings, developed by Heavy's Spirits Director Casey Robison and Wine Director Chris Horn, feature a wide assortment of spirits, cocktails, wine and beer; rotating taps feature local brews and, since we're in Seattle kombucha, too.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: This spacious restaurant and bar straddles the line between Fremont and Wallingford and features a patio plus brand-new wine bar in the back.
Corinne's expert tip: Happy hour takes place from 3 to 6 p.m. Thanks to this restaurant's proximity to the Burke-Gilman Trail, this destination proves the perfect spot for cyclists and walkers/runners to begin or end their journey. Be sure to check out the venue's brand-new Claret wine bar, opened in April!
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.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Toulouse Petit's menu features Italian, Spanish and French-countryside and coastal-Mediterranean cuisine, and groups will enjoy the lively vibe.
Corinne's expert tip: Only at a New Orleans-inspired restaurant will you find an extended happy hour designed to coincide with brunch, and right into lunch, seven days a week.
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).
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Anthony's Pier 66 is a Seattle waterfront staple; the large patio and dining room cater well to groups of business travelers, families and seafood-craving friends.
Corinne's expert tip: Enjoy complimentary validated parking in the Art Institute Parking Garage. (Bring your parking voucher with you for validation.)
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, you'll find seafood options like halibut tacos and salmon with tamarind. Steak tacos are also incredibly popular among patrons, who come to check out the crowd and colorful setting marked by 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 the eatery's authentic food and festive vibe.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Fremont's El Camino features an intimate patio, killer happy hour, authentic Mexican cuisine and a spacious front room perfect for a large crew.
Corinne's expert tip: On sunny evenings, the back patio here gets amazing light--just in time to enjoy happy hour!
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 savor dishes featuring plank-roasted vegetables, and desserts are eminently rich and satisfying no matter what you choose. Live piano music enlivens the space nightly from 5p.m. on.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Aqua by El Gaucho boasts a large waterfront space ideal for seating large parties. Choose between indoor dining--or alfresco seats with a view!
John's expert tip: On a clear day, views of the Olympic Mountains across Elliot Bay are unbeatable, especially from the restaurant's expansive deck. Gliding ferries and other maritime activity are also on display, and sunsets from this vantage prove spectacular.
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.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Ethan Stowell's Tavolta features a few long, communal tables and fresh Italian, best enjoyed family-style.
Corinne's expert tip: Enjoy the monthly Sunday Feast, a four-course family meal served at the communal table where seating is limited to 26 diners.
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.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Bastille Cafe and Bar brings delicious French fare and ambience to the heart of Ballard. (Try reserving a patio table for groups.)
Corinne's expert tip: This is a perfect weekend brunch spot, thanks to its proximity to the wonderful Ballard farmers market.
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; think 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 group). 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.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Tom Douglas's upscale dining room Lola serves Mediterranean fare that is great to share with large groups.
Corinne's expert tip: Celeb chef Tom Douglas is a regional foodie hero, and this is one of his first and still-best restaurants. Check out classes hosted at Douglas's cooking school, located right next to the restaurant (https://www.hotstovesociety.com/).
Since late 2013, this charming neighborhood venue has been delighting loyal patrons in an environment they call "inviting, lively and comforting." (We concur; it's all true!) The friendly staff pridefully brings "a sense of playfulness" to everything they do–from the authentic hospitality and warm ambiance to an inventive menu of fresh, seasonal dishes. Veggie lovers savor the delightful Poached Radish Salad and seasonal goodies like grilled, local asparagus, while stand-out mains range from the Salmon Aguachile (cured, sockeye salmon, radish, coriander) to the Guajillo Braised Beef Cheek (masa gnocchi, olive confit). For a memorable grand finale, tuck into the Horchata Panna Cotta (chile caramel, chocolate crisp), while vowing to return this to this welcoming Seattle oasis as soon as possible.
Recommended for Group Friendly because: Tucked away on the edge of Ballard, this friendly eatery serves delicious, seasonal food; groups celebrate in private in a delightful haven out back.
Corinne's expert tip: Enjoy delicious weekend brunches, served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and be sure to check out the magical "secret" patio.