Bastille Cafe and Bar French
With its French subway tile and vintage fixtures, Bastille delivers a lively shot of Paris to Ballard Ave. Few restaurants have mastered ambience like this one—from the speakeasylike Back Bar (anchored with a crystal chandelier big as Marie Antoinette’s hair) to the breezy patio. The menu, Sunday brunches to nightly happy hours and suppers, surveys French bistro classics through a carefully sourced Northwest lens: perhaps Taylor Shellfish moules frites, burnished salads from the rooftop garden, and North African dishes like the very satisfying Anderson Ranch lamb sausage sandwich with artichoke mustard. Execution can be inconsistent and service tone deaf.
Canlis has been perched out over the vertiginous eastern edge of Queen Anne Hill for over 50 years. That makes it about as classic as it gets in this town—right down to the reconstructed surf-and-turf menu, the midcentury split-level architecture, the dinner-jacketed clientele, the noblest mixed drinks in town, the fathoms-deep wine list, the perfectionist standard of service, and the whole breathtaking sweep of Lake Union twinkling just beyond the windows. Now in its third generation of Canlis family operators, what was once the most intimidating dining room in Seattle has a friendlier, almost folksy air—but the food remains, as ever, impeccable.
Copperleaf Restaurant Northwest
Driving from Seattle to this destination restaurant at the Cedarbook Lodge retreat facility and hotel is like falling down a 15-mile rabbit hole: You’re in a separate ecosystem, pristine as a terrarium, amid a spongy wetland of ponds and native gardens, dining in a classy hearthside space that’s a cross between the lobby of a Northwest resort and the living room of a very fortunate friend. It’s a suitably Northwest backdrop for determinedly Northwest fare—perhaps venison two ways with celeriac and tart cherries, or spoonable beef short ribs with organic vegetables and stunning truffle beet relish—presented with laudable execution and strict attention to organic, sustainable ingredients. Dishes can err on the side of safe—but that’s a small price to pay for the best food in miles.
Fresh Bistro Global
As if biscuits and gravy weren’t already going to be the giddiest part of your day…how about biscuits fashioned into a cheese-enriched bowl brimming with sausage? This windowy West Seattle bistro is calming as a bath-and-body shop, with food that’s considerably more entertaining. Menus (brunch, lunch, and dinner) traffic in crowd-pleasers—crab cakes, kalbi-marinated flank steak—but gussied up in creative global guises. So pork belly is served as a banh mi sandwich; honey prawns come (delectably) sheathed in a shiso crust with a green mango salad. Desserts, like s’mores that arrived with a flame-shaped graham cracker, are tons o’ fun. Surprise surprise.
The Herbfarm Northwest
It’s the pull-out-all-the-stops, Big Night Out dining room in the state, maybe in three states—and, unlikely of unlikelies, it’s also pretty close to culinarily flawless: Copper River salmon perhaps in late spring, truffles midwinter. Chefs comb the wilds and the deeps for the freshest seasonal components, then ingeniously combine them into the sorts of preparations that make bold new sense of Northwest plenty: Dungeness crab and spot prawns with apple-fennel salad and a frothy sea urchin sauce; Douglas fir sorbet, a bracing Herbfarm classic; or, during root vegetable week, Wagyu beef short ribs with truffled beets, glazed turnips, and a parsnip praline. It is all served with astutely matched wines off a fathomless list by a staff of courteous pros, and preceded by a lively tutorial from the chef on the herbs and ingredients on offer that evening. There’s a lot that’s unique about the Herbfarm. But for our money, and it’s a lot of money, the gently instructional tone is the best part of the experience, revealing that the heart of this world-class destination remains its earnest and down-to-earth delight in the garden. Reservations essential.
The Hunt Club Continental
It’s de-lightful, it’s de-lovely, it’s de Hunt Club. From the Rosemary Clooney soundtrack to the votive-lit, brick-and-mahogany interior, nothing says classic in this town like the Sorrento Hotel’s crown jewel. Seattle cognoscenti aim for the sidewalk tables when they want a breezy shot of Amalfi; the beloved Fireside Room, off the Sorrento lobby, when the evening calls for brandy by firelight. But the big-ticket Hunt Club, which in recent years has fallen off the radar after a long moment in the sun, still performs Italian classics and Continental warhorses with eagerness and aplomb. And no shortage of verve, if one recent success—masterfully cooked greenling with fingerling potatoes and braised greens crowned with frizzled leeks and presented in a sweet puddle of riesling sauce—serves as indication.
La Rustica Italian
When a fire temporarily shuttered this ristorante, West Seattleites acted like they’d lost their own homes. La Rustica is the kind of place all its neighbors (and a few of its -not-so-neighbors) regard as home away from home—so much that its size is no match for its fan base. (“Please be sensitive to waiting guests during peak hours,” the menu simpers.) Whether they praise the undersized place as “cozy” or pan it as “cramped,” they generally agree that the mottled walls, interior streetlights, and dripping grape vines cast an appealing Roman luster over the room. Straight-up Italian food completes the picture—-bruschettas, pizzas, pastas, a robust toss of gnocchi and housemade sausage, a deservedly renowned lamb shank special with risotto and grilled vegetables; all served with addictive pillowy fingers of herbed garlic bread—providing happy sustenance and wistful homage to what life was like before Dr. Atkins came along and ruined everything.
Lola Greek/Small Plate
One day the gonzo ingenuity of Tom Douglas will cook up an organic Japanese-Jordanian-fusion taco kitchen–tapas bar. Until that day comes we have Lola, Douglas’s homage to his wife Jackie Cross’s Greek heritage, and his greatest departure so far, doing three-meal-a-day duty as the house restaurant for downtown’s Hotel Ändra. As ever, the food shimmers with vitality—dazzlers like minty feta and hot roasted-red-pepper spreads on grilled housemade pita; a salad of arugula, pickled peppers, local peaches, and Greek pastrami (cured, natch, in house); a caramelly goat tagine with shallots and dates; a grilled lamb burger, complete with chickpea fries and tamarind ketchup—fusing global influences and impeccable Northwest ingredients with his signature offhand style. The coolly Mediterranean place bustles loudly. Some of the best breakfasts in Seattle happen here.
MistralKitchen Modern European
It’s several restaurants in one at foodie darling William Belickis’s visual extravaganza at the threshold of South Lake Union. Enjoy a cocktail and a nosh in some of the most intimate private rooms in town; several carefully crafted courses in the quietly elegant back dining room, the Jewel Box; or—our favorite—an order-off-the-menu dinner of herb-bright scallops or mushroom-topped squash soup with basil drizzle in what has come to feel like the fizziest urban bistro in town. Lunch and brunch too.
The Old Sage Gastropub
This smoked-meats-and-whiskey bar from the prolific Brian McCracken and Dana Tough (Spur, Tavern Law, the Coterie Room) feels like a casual watering hole but traffics in haute cuisine—with each of its eight or so nightly meats smoked in wood, herbs, corn, bamboo, or other mediums. (When’s the last time you dined on lavender-smoked pork cheeks and $40 drams of single malt in a place blaring classic rock?) The food can be sumptuous: a gorgeously composed plate of roasted and raw gourds, where smoky roasted squash, curled cuke slices, and chunks of compressed watermelon come masterfully accented with mint leaves, dollops of yogurt, and Calabrian chili.
Ponti Seafood Grill / Cafe Ponti Seafood
There may be a drawbridge out the window, but don’t go assuming the draw is the bridge. Ponti is a Seattle classic, now with original chef Alvin Binuya back in the kitchen. From the casual bar or one of the elegant butternut rooms, diners look over the breezy patios to the Fremont Bridge and drifting ship canal traffic. The menu colors Northwest classics with Asian and Continental hues, as in the salmon (always a good bet here) done with, say, a green curry ratatouille. And the grilled, marinated, unbreaded calamari, lively with olives, tomato, and watercress, make you wonder why everyone else insists on battering the poor cephalopods.
Salish Lodge Modern European
Until some fool plants a restaurant upon the crown of Mount Rainier, no place will capture the Pacific Northwest’s numinous splendor quite like the -Salish. Perched on the ledge alongside thundering Snoqualmie Falls (hard to see them from most of the tables, FYI), the lodge overlooks a horizon so mystically mist-obscured one understands immediately why David Lynch set his Twin Peaks here. The interior gleams with a burnished elegance befitting autumnal dinners, with a fire roaring in the fireplace and a wash of amber light. The fawning service and formal food mirrors that elegance—with tabs to match. The wine list offers a stunning selection of Northwest reds.
Six Seven Northwest
Forget what you know about hotel restaurants: The over-the-water centerpiece of the charming Edgewater Hotel doesn’t rely on captive audiences or killer Elliott Bay views—there goes another ferry!—to fill its cushy seats. Instead, in a room as warmly Northwest as a forest clearing, the menu celebrates land (perhaps braised short ribs with parsnip puree) and sea (a beautiful hunk of cedar-plank salmon with blackberry honey and several dozen other components) with general skill. Preparations are pricey and busy—lots of sweet sauces, about a third too many ingredients—but taste good and can be ordered in half portions. Folksy service.
It’s a combination pizza joint–slash–swanky singles bar just south of the Junction in West Seattle, where the thin-crusted, sweet-sauced pie is influenced not only by legendary New York establishments like Lombardi’s and Grimaldi’s but by the Mall of America. Talarico’s one-size-fits-all is a whopping 28 inches, and you can’t have it delivered. You can, mercifully, get it by the slice. Swinging boomers fill the plush, semi-circular banquettes watching the game on a high-def, high-volume TV while second-daters slip into a stack of tall wood booths high enough to hide inside. In back: a velvet-draped pergola for you and 75 of your closest friends. Good thing this pizza palace was built to suit the scale of its pie.
Downtown Kirkland was a pretty sorry place to find yourself with an appetite—until this sleek stunner opened off the lobby of the Kirkland Heathman Hotel. The farm-to-table tagline means that thick steaks cooked to tender succulence may arrive in a sauce electrified with fresh leeks, and homemade ravioli might come stuffed with an herby-sweet winter-squash puree and swathed in a beurre blanc enlivened with powerful bursts of fresh sage and sauteed squash. Chances are the squash, herbs, and leeks were harvested that afternoon, from the chef’s own acreage a few miles north. This earthy orien-tation lends a homegrown flavor to a classy room, lit with the golden hues of California and ringed by a marvelous outdoor (heated) patio. Order a winning complement to your meal off the great wine list.