Seattle Lunch Spots Offer Grab-and-Go Options and Sit-Down Feasts

In our work day lives, lunch is often relegated to leftovers from the night before or a quick meal out found out of convenience. So while traveling, one of the luxuries becomes mapping out enough time in your itinerary to track down and enjoy a leisurely lunch, which provides just one more chance during the day to truly take in the flavors of a city.

In Seattle that means immersing yourself in numerous Asian cuisines while on a treasure hunt in Seattle’s International District, where import and gift shops neighbor Japanese sushi joints, Korean barbecue houses and Vietnamese eateries. Even beyond the International District, sushi and teriyaki spots abound and make for a tasty, affordable lunch.

If something on the gourmet circuit is in order, lunchtime proves a great time to check out ultra-chic, celebrity chef eateries at a discount; try lunch menus at spots like Tom Douglas’s Lola, for example. Some Seattle lunch icons have become celebrities in their own right, with Red Mill Burgers and Fare Start having received treatment on the Food Network and Travel Channel. Guaranteed go-to meals can be found at numerous brewpubs, where chefs tend to keep things interesting to match the creativity of local brewers.


Ivar's Acres of Clams
Photo courtesy of Ivar's Acres of Clams

A while back, Ivar's recently unveiled a massive transformation at its flagship location on Pier 54, located on Seattle's waterfront overlooking Elliott Bay. The stunning remodel, the biggest in the storied eatery's 77-year history, means expanded indoor dining space, a brand-new outdoor patio, enhanced state-of-the-art kitchen and a completely refreshed interior that pays homage to the iconic restaurant's roots. If you prefer dining alfresco, enjoy a meal on the picture-perfect patio deck, while taking in the sights and sounds of Elliott Bay. To satisfy your craving for Northwest seafood, Ivar's chefs have created award-winning preparations to reflect the season's bounty, yet they continue to showcase Ivar Haglund's world-famous original recipes. Choose between dishes that feature wild Alaska salmon, deep-water halibut, Alaska King Crab, Dungeness Crab, jumbo prawns, manila clams and weathervane scallops, to name a few of the eatery's fresh, regional delights.

Photo courtesy of Lola

This upscale dining room serves inventive Greek cuisine in the heart of downtown Seattle. 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 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. This is a great spot for lunch any day of the week, but be warned that the weekend brunch menu often leads to queues on Saturdays and Sundays.

Pioneer Square

It won't take much time here in Seattle before you hear about this popular Pioneer Square outpost (open at lunchtime Monday through Saturday). 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 takeaway. If you prefer a lighter, less meat-intensive meal, order a salad, vegetable dish or one of their pasta. A comfortable interior with tin ceilings and wooden floors makes guests feel at home, as does a large communal table where guests can share a conversation with their meals. Wine is available by the glass or bottle. Note that, while the handcrafted salami and cured meats are still made at the original location (309 3rd Ave South), the deli has moved two blocks away in Pioneer Square (404 Occidental Ave South).

Ciudad Grill
Photo courtesy of Ciudad Grill

This vibrant venue celebrates community in Seattle's thriving Georgetown neighborhood, south of downtown. You'll find two spaces inside the Oxbow Building, Ciudad Grill (a happening restaurant and bar with colorful murals and soaring skylights) and neighboring Bar Ciudad, a coveted cocktail bar and rotisserie. Ciudad Grill's menu focuses on tasty meats and vegetables cooked over a charcoal grill, with sharable plates offering good value and a fun, relaxed dining environment. Standout dishes range from flatbread sandwiches, pomegranate honey chicken wings and pork belly with grilled pineapple and cabbage to grilled delights like harissa-marinated chicken and beef and lamb kofta. At the bar, order a cocktail through the windows to enjoy outdoor seating as you watch planes landing at nearby Boeing Field.

Marination Ma Kai
Photo courtesy of Marination Ma Ka/GreenRubino

In West Seattle, Marination Ma Kai brings the delectable flavors and happy vibes of Hawaii to a stunning beachside setting (near Alki). The venue's Hawaiian-Korean cuisine "melts delicate heat and the flavors of aloha together in [diners'] mouths," while the expansive patio offers to-die-for skyline and water views. As the owners put it, "it started with a truck, some exquisite marinades and a lotta love," and now, more than one million tacos and five years later, Marination has expanded to three separate venues and "one big aloha family." Loyal fans rave about the Kimchi Fried Rice Bowl, spicy pork tacos, award-winning Pork Katsu Sandwich, the boozy shave ice bowls, hibiscus-tinged cocktails, the special tangy "NUNYA" sauce and so much more. At Marination, life is good!

Pioneer Square
Quality Athletics
Photo courtesy of Sarah Flotard

With the tagline "We celebrate sport," Quality Athletics proves that it's the perfect addition to Pioneer Square. Located near Seattle's stadiums loved by enthusiasts of football, baseball and soccer, this full-service sports bar and restaurant proves a swankier twist on the traditional pub. The vibe is bright, festive and fun, and flat screens abound. Chef Josh Gaylor and his talented team have developed a menu around rich world flavors, introducing surprising takes on expected sports bar fare. Think honey-dipped fried chicken sandwiches, burgers, ramen and rice bowls, chicken tortilla soup and creative salads. Guests enjoy features like a large wood-fired grill, a private event space plus indoor and outdoor seating enhanced by alluring fire pits.

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.

Portage Bay Café
Photo courtesy of Portage Bay Cafe

At four bright and airy spaces around town, enjoy consistently delicious fare at four Portage Bay Locations, where the food is always "local, organic and sustainable." The menu boasts the tagline "eat like you give a damn" and an impressive list of local farms and producers that the restaurant's chefs proudly work with. Breakfast and brunch items include migas, an array of Benedicts (from pork belly to Dungeness crab cake), gluten-free French toast (topped with unlimited fresh berries), goat cheese omelets and Swedish pancakes. Tuck into a pitcher of refreshing mimosas, or savor Columbia Gorge fresh-squeezed juices (the berry-lemonade is a sure bet). These restaurants are ideal for large groups and families, and patios prove popular summer hangout spots at the 65th and SLU locations.

Photo courtesy of Paseo

Keep your eyes peeled, or you may just drive past this little Caribbean eateryâ€" home to what many refer to as "the best sandwich in Seattle." Indeed Paseo offers a terrific change of pace from standard options found at quick-food joints, doing a healthy amount of take-out business as well as hosting dine-in visitors at its friendly yet compact spaces in SoDo and Fremont, too. Loyal regulars swear by the kitchen's grilled pork sandwiches with slow-caramelized onions, dinner-sized orders of spicy black beans and rice, chicken, and more. Seasonal seafood dishes are also available, and popular sides include the eatery's "Famous Roasted Corn."

This welcoming restaurant offers incredible views of the Market and Puget Sound, courtesy of huge, semicircular windows. Flawless seafood is the name of the game, and the menu features fresh fare collected from vendors below. Oyster sandwiches, often eaten at the counter, are much-coveted at lunch, 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 is candlelit and romantic, although tables are at a premium. Don't leave without treating yourself to a Candy Bar Square, featuring salted caramel mousse, peanut butter nougat, chocolate cookie crumble and fried peanuts.


Meet 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...  More About Corinne