Note: Restaurants are in alphabetical order; this is not a ranked list.

Altura 

North Broadway’s intimate, elegant Altura conveys a rare blend of modesty in manner and blazing self-assurance. In seven to nine prix-fixe courses a night ($137) chef-owner Nathan Lockwood applies Italian rusticity to Northwest bounty—say ramps, madrone bark, shigoku oysters, Wagyu beef—then burnishes them into preparations painterly and delectable. Down to earth service, a smart wine list, the inspiring industry of the open kitchen, and dessert (the crostata!) complete the charms. The romance reservation in town. alturarestaurant.com

Art of the Table

The new, larger quarters on Stone Way offers the same setup as its sun-streaked Fremont predecessor: tasting menu dinners (seven to nine courses) Fridays and Saturdays—you can choose a la carte on other nights—but that $125-ish menu is a deal, given chef-owner Dustin Ronspies’s gifts. A committed seasonalist, a salad maestro (perhaps microgreens over roasted eggplant over heirloom tomatoes over salted zucchini shingles over chevre mousse), a lover of braised meats, a textural artist: These are memorable dinners, in an under-the-radar treasure. artofthetable.net

Ba Bar

Open all day and till 4am weekends is Eric and Sophie Banh’s (Monsoon) love song to the street food of Saigon. So Moscow mules and brightly restored digs might be of the moment, but the food is strictly traditionalist—dumplings, five-spice rotisserie duck, noodle bowls with grilled beef sausage and sliced papaya, caramelly chicken wings, and very admirable pho, heady with herbs and fork-tender sheets of flank steak. The place buzzes, and service can be a little scattershot. babarseattle.com

Bar del Corso

Beacon Hill’s favorite neighborhood restaurant bubbles, from the sheer crush of devotees (some waiting in line) inside its cleanlined quarters to its wood-fired pizza crusts—crispy and flavorful, like Neapolitan but with a little more tooth to the chew. Jerry Corso also offers a short list of European antipasti, seasonal salads, and terrific Italian desserts. If it’s on offer, don’t miss the sassy anchovy-lit puttanesca. bardelcorso.com

Bateau

Bateau is Seattle Met's restaurant of the year! Read the full review here.

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Bateau's octopus salad.

Image: Sarah Flotard 

Brimmer and Heeltap 

The merry Ballard bistro that kicked off Seattle’s neighborhood restaurant renaissance fires on every cylinder: warm welcome, charming farmhouse vibe, brainy cocktails, and rip-roaring Korean-inspired menu, featuring enticements like steak tartare with sesame vinaigrette, grilled veg plates, octopus with cherry relish and cashew butter, even a thick butter-drenched filet of toasted bread. A neighborhood restaurant to make you want to move to the neighborhood. brimmerandheeltap.com

Cafe Campagne

After all these years, the definitive little French cafe off the definitive brick alley in the city’s definitive urban farmers market is still churning out oeufs en meurettes and lamb burgers to make a Frenchman weep. The sense of place is transporting of a lazy weekend morning or a lost afternoon; the food ageless. cafecampagne.com

Cafe Juanita

James Beard Award–winning chef Holly Smith produces the classiest Northern Italian innovations on the Eastside, now in sleekly updated midcentury quarters befitting the distinction. Smith has a gift for conception, so an Anderson Valley rack of lamb might be paired with green beans in a swell idea of a bagna cauda sauce and studded with thyme-roasted blackberries. Classics are sure-handed, like housemade pastas or heirloom tomato-burrata salads; desserts approach perfection. cafejuanita.com

Cafe Lago

Excellent pastas, including the city’s best lasagna, and wood-fired pizzas with carefully sourced toppings have pleased Italian food cognoscenti for over 25 years in this destination dinner house posing as a Montlake neighborhood cafe. If you think prices are too high when you walk in, you won’t after you’ve eaten. An Italian market/deli sibling called Little Lago, just about open at press time, promises espresso, gelato, and groceries in a bright storefront on the other side of the neighborhood. cafelago.com 

Cafe Presse

A thousand Seattle U students and starving artists have the drop-in casual Cafe Presse to thank for a dating life. It’s an authentic, bustling Parisian casse-croute stop offering international magazines, beautiful espresso, egg dishes by morning, a perfect croque madame, various dinner plates, a roast chicken for the ages (serves two), and intelligent cocktails. Come solo, in twos, or bring the tribe. cafepresseseattle.com

Canlis

The icon of nearly seven decades exhausts Seattle’s luxury category and could fill tables on its view alone. But the third generation of Canlises keeps the vision fresh—recently, via a bar expansion and a new chef who has injected a pure, nearly avant-garde aesthetic. So the Canlis salad and other classics remain, but also a straight shot of Japanese-inflected intensity: perhaps black cod seared with bonito emulsion and seaweed or aged duck finished in white birch charcoal and served with quince puree. World-class wine list. canlis.com

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Canlis.

Image: Olivia Brent

The Carlile Room

Tom Douglas’s most creative concept yet exalts plants in genuinely game-changing ways, like bulgur, pomegranate, spiced peach, and pistachio-stuffed eggplant. Carnivores can augment with smoky or grilled meats. Fun booze, fun ‘70s decor, fun, period. thecarlile.com

Cascina Spinasse

The rustic Italian farmstead with the trestle tables and wrought iron chandeliers serves the best pasta in Pike/Pine, even Seattle: rich hand-cut Piedmontese egg-yolk noodles, tajarin, which clutch the ragu or the sage butter silkenly. The pastas all achieve density and delicacy at once—ravioli of rapini with pine nuts, maybe, or hearty cavatelli with chanterelles—but meat dishes, from rabbit to angelic heritage pork, can also be extraordinary. Think earthy, long stewed, rough cut, boldly flavored—and careful. A treasure. spinasse.com

Chávez 

Within a minimalist whitewashed room, Gabriel Chávez feeds and waters Capitol Hill with the foods and mescals of his native Durango, Mexico. Deshebrada tacos, loaded with moist braised short rib meat and dried peppers; guacamole served on totopo corn cakes (they look like drywall, taste like corn nuts) imported from Oaxaca; the exquisite chile en nogada stuffed with meats, fruits, and nuts—it all elegantly adds more than just ballast to the ample supply of margaritas. chavezseattle.com

Copine

Shaun McCrain brings short menus and beautiful, precise dishes to his new French spot in North Ballard. (Read the full review...)

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Watermelon salad at Copine

Image: Sarah Flotard 

Delancey

If you’d wait an hour for simple combos of carefully sourced toppings on char-bubbled New York–style crusts—the plain Ballard haunt Delancey is your jam. Savor a brilliant chemistry project of a cocktail and a vegetable plate at the sister bar next door, Essex, then come back for a pillowy-crackly crusted pie with untempered tomato brightness and pairings of Zoe’s bacon, cremini mushrooms, basil, what have you. Gray salt, bittersweet chocolate chip cookies sustain a fan base. delanceyseattle.com

Din Tai Fung

Seattle’s love affair with xiao long bao began right around the time Din Tai Fung opened in Bellevue Square—and although the tender-fleshed little soup-filled dumplings are now peddled in a few joints across the Eastside, Din Tai Fung (now in U Village and downtown Seattle) delivers them in grand, creamy quarters with attentive service and extreme consistency. You might think that multiple locations would reduce the waits, but you’d be wrong. dintaifungusa.com

Dot’s Butcher and Deli

Miles James’s adored Fremont meatery is reborn as a streamlined butcher counter in Pike Place Market. The lunchtime menu consists of a half dozen brawny sandwiches and some gloriously starchy salads—pasta, potato, chickpea—but little details like Mama Lil’s peppers punching up the cheese-steak or provolone-blanketed meatballs in a perfect bun linger in your memory all afternoon. It’s hard to pass up the signature porchetta, but rotating sandwich specials are always worth investigating. dotsbutcher.com

Eden Hill

Chef Maximillian Petty returned home from Austin to open a house of romance and crispy pig head candy bars atop Queen Anne. (Read the full review...)

Eve

Fremont’s airily romantic “elevated hippie food” restaurant well serves the clean-eating regimen: egg-crowned grain bowls, or a kale-olive-and-currants salad that defines satisfaction. evefremont.com

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Eve

Image: Sarah Flotard

Fonda La Catrina

This color-splashed Georgetown cantina with the faintly industrial vibe and the courtyard patio might appear too enchanting and fun to be this precise—but orange-kissed cochinita pibil and grass-fed bistec tacos testify otherwise, along with (usually) the rest of the authentic Mexican menu. The salt-rimmed deal of the century, from 3pm to 6pm daily, are excellent $5 margaritas. fondalacatrina.com

Girin

High-end Pioneer Square steak house meets the ebullience of kimchi, gochujang, and chilies. Girin’s combination of upscale meats—grilled pork belly, Wagyu rib eye—and Korean ssam, platters of deluxe leafy greens for wrapping said meats, transcends trends. girinseattle.com

Green Leaf

A pair of lightning-fast sit-down joints on either side of downtown, both Green Leafs craft some of the surest Vietnamese food in a city known for its Vietnamese food. Insiders know to order the crisp, delicate banh xeo crepes—loaded with shrimp and served with a profusion of greens—or pho to impress any pho snob. Bamboo is a key decorative element. greenleaftaste.com

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Harvest Beat

Image: Sarah Flotard

Harvest Beat

Sutra’s Wallingford reincarnation offers intelligently vegan conceptions like a Napoleon with roasted cauliflower and truffle celeriac mousse. The earnestness won’t be everyone’s cup of kombucha (there’s a moment of silent gratitude preceding the meal), but reverence is absolutely the appropriate response to this astonishing food. harvestbeat.com

Harvest Vine

The best tapas in Seattle come from behind the copper counter where Basque chefs assemble platitos of glistening octopus or veal tongue or smoked sturgeon, wedges of tortilla, crab-stuffed piquillo peppers, venison in pepper sauce, sumptuous garlic prawns, grilled sardines—and on and on. Good luck snagging a seat at that bar. harvestvine.com

The Herbfarm

Once the survey course in seasonal locavorism, the pastoral Woodinville destination now seems a little like a theme park for it—see predinner garden tour, pigs with names, overwrought floral decor, extreme ($200 to $300) price tag. Still, it’s worth remembering that the Herbfarm wrote the book that inspired the farm-to-table movement, and that it still delivers legitimate greatness in its nine-course, four-hour thematic (herbs, fish, mushrooms) dinners. Don’t skip wine pairings; this cellar is deep. theherbfarm.com

Hitchcock 

Charcuterie and a fierce locavorism (chef-owner Brendan McGill raises produce and Mangalitsa pigs on his farm) distinguish Bainbridge Island’s most inventive dinner house, which also operates brisk Hitchcock Deli locations next door and in Georgetown. Though execution can vary, appetizers are dependable and if there’s a Mad Hatcher half chicken on the card, it’s shockingly flavorful. Walkable from the ferry. hitchcockrestaurant.com

Il Corvo Pasta

Don’t underestimate this order-at-the-counter, lunch-only joint; its pasta is legitimately transcendent, and quantum leaps ahead of the field in creativity. Weekday mornings pasta geek Mike Easton blogs photos of that day’s handful of seasonal choices—maybe creste di gallo pasta with braised Treviso, garlic, chilies, and olives; maybe gnocchetti with sweet corn and sage—which pulls Pioneer Square office workers in droves. Arrive early; lines can be epic. ilcorvopasta.com

Il Terrazzo Carmine 

Nothing trendy about this timeless landmark, where the family of Carmine Smeraldo has been serving Italian classics for over three decades. The establishment regulars love the peerless osso buco and the garlicky rack of lamb, but the next generation is more interested in newer spin-off Intermezzo Carmine, the most elegant bar in Pioneer Square, with its small-plate risotto, buttery lamb chops, and lovely collection of amari. ilterrazzocarmine.com

Jack’s BBQ 

Food snobs scoff that Seattle has no good barbecue. Except that’s not really true since Texan Jack Timmons set up a custom-built offset smoker outside his laid-back Georgetown roadhouse. The brisket is the star; Tuesday-only gargantuan beef ribs an adventure. jacksbbq.com

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Jack's BBQ

Image: Olivia Brent

Joule

One of Seattle’s genuinely electrifying culinary adventures, Joule is a Korean-fusion steak house—close quarters buzzing with loud music and a lively vibe—where the humblest cuts of beef (chuck steak, short ribs) get draped in chili sauces and fermented tofu and served with sides like rice cakes with greens and chorizo or Chinese broccoli with walnut pesto, all with admirable consistency. The room is swank and modern; weekend brunch, with its serve-yourself lineup of salads and pastries, legitimately fascinating. relayrestaurantgroup.com

Kedai Makan

Once a popular Malaysian walkup window, now a proper restaurant just off Olive Way, Kedai Makan’s cacophonous energy recalls the Southeast Asian night markets that first inspired chef and co-owner Kevin Burzell. Bowls of chili pan mee, lacy roti, and the country’s signature rice dish, nasi lemak, reflect Malaysia’s perch at the crossroads of so many cultures. One upside to this new iteration (besides seats and walls): Burzell’s food is even better with a beer shandy. kedaimakansea.com

La Bu La

The same vast menu of Chinese staples, now served in a grander second-floor dining room, across the street from its original Bellevue address (original name: Bamboo Garden). But La Bu La’s excitement lies in its Sichuan dishes, like chili-laced platters of fried Chongqing chicken or the massive tureen of swimming fire fish soup, its carmine chili-peppercorn bouquet ready to deliver all manner of flowery, fiery sensations to your lips and tongue. labula-dining.com

La Carta de Oaxaca

Old Ballard brick walls meet the terra-cotta tiles of old Mexico in this teeming sensation, and all those people ahead of you in line agree it’s one of the best in town. Indeed the mole is lush and sweet, entomatadas come with kicky tomatillo sauce, the margaritas rock. (Two Mezcalaria Oaxacas, a folksy one on Queen Anne and a modern on Capitol Hill, are almost as fine—the latter with rooftop seating.) lacartadeoaxaca.com

La Medusa

The apotheosis of the neighborhood restaurant, La Medusa was the first to mark Columbia City a culinary destination and has kept it so for nearly 20 years with consistent dinners of Sicilian-kissed housemade pastas, artful salads, and more. The sardine pasta, with pine nuts, olives, fennel, and saffron, is the standard-bearer in this cozy room. lamedusarestaurant.com

Lark

Culinary maestro John Sundstrom relocated Lark from smaller quarters to this sophisticated, starlit space—where grown-ups go for that disappearing species, elegant high-end dining. The long menu, studded with old faves (eel with saba, farro-mascarpone skillet), is executed, as in a recent pork belly with grits and rye whiskey glaze, with this kitchen’s reliably able hand. The operation encloses multiple places, including a buzzier crudo bar and a full-on stunning sandwich takeout, Slab. larkseattle.com

Le Petit Cochon

In a cozy, twinkling Fremont perch, owner-chef Derek Ronspies makes mad use of every last part of the animals he serves, duck testicles and pig face to blood sausage and offal crepinette. It won’t be for everyone. But Ronspies’s devotion to pork, surprisingly classical culinary vision, and killer happy hour ensure that it will be for a lot of people. Split a two-inch-thick Olsen Farms pork chop as a base for a feast. gettinpiggy.com 

Le Pichet

On First Ave above Pike Place Market sits the very Platonic ideal of a Parisian bistro: cafe au lait, jambon sandwich en baguette, quiche by day, steak frites at night. Even the servers are cool. The crackling roast chicken for two takes longer; it’s worth it. lepichetseattle.com

Lionhead

Turns out Northwest cuisine pioneer Jerry Traunfeld (Poppy) is just as skilled at the fires and fermentations of Sichuan cooking. In a space crowded and chaotic and cramped (more Chinatown than Broadway) he brings us ma po doufu, gung bao chicken, and other classics—almost certainly with more fire and funk than Westerners will be expecting, while perhaps less than Sichuanese diners will desire. lionheadseattle.com 

Little Uncle

After Goldilocks moments in spaces too small, then too big, the beloved Little Uncle has found its just right in a modern Madison Street space with wraparound windows and limited seating. A $13-ish menu of noodle bowls, starring exquisite khao soi gai, is served 11am to 9pm, with more interesting shareables offered after 5pm and the adult libations to go with them. If things come out overcooked or soggy, they’re never not delectable. littleuncleseattle.com

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Little Uncle

 

LloydMartin

Would that all kitchens were as careful and talented as Sam Crannell’s, at the twilit and sleek Queen Anne boutique named after his grandfathers. In plates large or small, compositions are gorgeous and might include porcini and morel ravioli with pea puree, or duck sugo risotto with sour huckleberry—each a self-contained universe of completing flavors. Pastas, game, and desserts reliably knock us out. lloydmartinseattle.com 

Lola

Tagines and garlicky dips, mezes and moussakas and glistening lamb kebabs—this all-day restaurant beside the lobby of the Hotel Ändra is Tom Douglas’s tribute to his wife Jackie’s Greek heritage, showcasing better than any of his other restaurants his uncanny genius at making smart food into comfort food. Some of the best breakfasts in Seattle happen here. lolaseattle.com

The London Plane

It’s a white-on-white lofted country house, complete with flower shop, borrowed off Jane Austen’s Pinterest page and plunked into the somewhat grittier realities of Pioneer Square. Breakfasts and lunches reflect owner-chef Matt Dillon’s signature passions: bold salads with grains and vegetables, lots of cultured dairy, extraordinary brown bread for spreading, and plenty of vinegar counterpoints. Don’t miss a slice of strawberry cake or gateau Basque—this bakery is outstanding. thelondonplaneseattle.com

Loulay

Soaring, lushly appointed, luxuriously open day and night, pinned to a prime corner of downtown—Thierry Rautureau’s three-level showpiece with the lipsticky walls and white booths and the buzzing bar is the midtown ticket. Which is why it will surprise some that in addition to the prettily composed French plates it’s mostly down to earth, with locavore priorities, a meaty $18 burger, and a come-as-you-are welcome from the restaurateur who invented it. thechefinthehat.com

Mamnoon 

Amid transition—new chef, new brunch, the expansion of street food with Anar and Mamnoon Street and the new SLU rooftop perch Mbar—the urbane, low-lit Syrian/Lebanese stunner still stuns, consistently, with food that tastes like it was made by a Syrian grandmother. Flavors we don’t often see—pomegranate molasses in the bright muhammara dip, fenugreek in the heartbreakingly tender braised lamb—coupled with the kitchen’s mastery (particularly with breads and pastries), make this one of Seattle’s legitimately exhilarating dining experiences. mamnoonrestaurant.com

Manolin

A couple of daily ceviches are the deserved headliner at this no-reservations small-plate bar on Stone Way, where the interior (cozy with wraparound bar and wood-burning oven) vies for exterior (seats around a fire pit) as the ideal spot for plantain chips and a pisco cocktail. Sweetest service in town. manolinseattle.com 

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Ceviche by the outdoor fire pit at Manolin

Manu’s Bodega

Imagine if every hole-in-the-wall with a patio offered food as flat-out sumptuous as chef Manu Alfau’s tribute to his Dominican heritage: yam and smoked gouda empanadas with sofrito, sloppy baguette sandwiches packed with salted green tomatoes, a swooner of a puerco asado plate whose rice and beans could proudly stand alone. A new sidewalk stall brings the sandwiches and empanadas to Capitol Hill. manusbodega.com

Ma’ono

Originality meets technical prowess in West Seattle’s sleek, upscale Hawaiian-Korean chicken shack. The food is done with verve and tremendous care—pokes, saimin noodle bowls, a killer burger—but the headliner is the brined, twice-fried buttermilk chicken (reserve in advance). Brunch packs ’em in. maono.springhillnorthwest.com

Marination

First there was the award-winning truck introducing us to Marination’s signature collisions of Korean and Hawaiian flavors. Then came the brick-and-mortar takeout, Marination Station—with another, simply Marination, at Sixth and Virginia downtown. But the city’s favorite is Marination Ma Kai, just off the foot ferry on the West Seattle shore, which peddles pork katsu sandwiches, Spam sliders, fish-and-chips, Hawaiian shave ice, and booze—with a side of full frontal Seattle skyline on the house. marinationmobile.com

Marine Hardware

Ethan Stowell turned his former fish-and-chips bar into an ode to the tasting menu. (Read the full review...)

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Marine Hardware

Image: Sarah Flotard 

Matt’s in the Market

If you have just one meal to eat in this town, this spendy upstairs aerie in Pike Place Market effortlessly combines Seattle’s winningest charms: views over market rooftops to the bay, freshest seafood, straightforward friendliness. Dishes are globally tweaked and chefs (and bartenders) are master executors. Lunch is not overlooked; sandwiches (particularly the catfish) are brilliant. mattsinthemarket.com 

Monsoon/Monsoon Bellevue

 This longtime pair of Northwest (as in freshness) meets Southeast (as in Asian) hybrids brings genuine global elegance to North Capitol Hill and West Bellevue, whose denizens can’t get enough of the consistent Vietnamese favorites in polished, sophisticated quarters. Grilled beef la lot, drunken chicken, and clay pot catfish sustain breathless followings. As does weekend dim sum brunch. (As does the Seattle rooftop, glorious in summer.) monsoonrestaurants.com

Nirmal’s

In a high-ceilinged slot in the techie thickets of Pioneer Square, brick walls and midcentury minimalist lighting create the
right worldly setting for Nirmal Monteiro’s masterful Indian food—ranging from the prawn curries of Bengal to the street food of Mumbai to the coconut seafood of the south. Subtle layerings of flavor distinguish both thalis and lunchtime sandwiches, but aim into Monteiro’s daily inventions for the real art. Tandoori steak anyone? nirmalseattle.com

Nishino

It’s exquisite sushi, in an austere yet lovely room at the gateway to Madison Park. Careful cuts and artful compositions are the hallmarks, along with near-perfect service and the sense that everyone in the room is a regular. Compose your own meal—Nishino offers omakase, where the chef designs the courses, but there are better places in town for it. nishinorestaurant.com

Omega Ouzeri

The blanched, lofted space splashed with Santorini blue and pulsing with noisy Pike/Pine vitality is home to the Greek flavors of owner-host Thomas Soukakos’s youth, plated beautifully. Salads bursting with ripe tomatoes and fresh herbs, smoked cod fritters, vivid tzatziki—all can be assembled into winning noshfests and lubricated with ouzo, quite affordably during happy hour. Larger plates might include grilled octopus or a za’atar-crusted rack of lamb. omegaouzeri.com

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Omega Ouzeri

 

Pair 

The happy hour destination north of the Cut is this farmhouse-rustic bistro on a corner in Bryant, where small-plate favorites like cambozola fondue with pears and fontina mac and cheese have fan clubs. Careful owners train a close eye on details, and, though execution can vary, goodwill is constant. The place is smaller than its popularity, so prepare to wait. pairseattle.com

Palace Kitchen

Anchored by an overpopulated bar and dripping with chandeliers, the Palace is the Tom Douglas restaurant locals like best. Food runs to Americana comfort—from the apple-wood-grilled crispy chicken to the Piedmontese ravioli to the justly famous half-pound burger Royale—but the place’s inimitable energy may be the even bigger draw, from the fleet of hospitable servers and patrons who can’t believe they’ve found a scene still roaring—and serving—at 1am. palacekitchen.com

Peloton

Flowering-garden cafe fare hides inside a bicycle shop. (Read our full review...)

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Peloton

The Pink Door

The signless entrance in Post Alley belies the cavernous theatrical dining room within. Beyond that, a patio absolutely worth braving the tourist hordes on summer afternoons: a light-strung, lattice-shaded hideaway where you can drink negronis against an Elliott Bay backdrop. The menu is straightforward Italian, the lasagna its star—an unexpectedly nuanced combo of pesto, bechamel, and herb-flecked tomato sauce on house spinach noodles. [NOTE: Temporarily closed for remodel] thepinkdoor.net

Pestle Rock

It’s a restaurant sweet spot: lantern-lit and nice enough for casual Saturday nights, able to feed the family without incurring a punishing bill. Most importantly, this little dining room on Ballard’s main drag preaches the pungent, spicy gospel of Thailand’s Isan region, using high-quality proteins, like a nam tok meat salad made extra savory with boar collar, or deceptively fiery Thai sausages. Khao soi curry noodle soup: mandatory. pestlerock.com

Pomerol

One of Seattle’s undersung heroes is seasoned chef Vuong Loc, who in a modern, crisp-edged room has brought to French food’s stuffy reputation a refreshing emphasis on wood-fired meats. Plates are composed and traditional, like short ribs over cauliflower puree with shallot confit or pan-roasted chicken in a lush sherry sauce—classics that are themselves novelties in trendy Fremont. pomerolrestaurant.com

Pop Pop Thai Street Food

The space is unassuming, almost hidden in the corner of a vast parking lot on Aurora Avenue. But the food is some of the most credible Thai in town, thanks to two detail-oriented guys who adapted their moms’ recipes so we can all revel in papaya salad, pungent with salted crab, or khao mun gai—comforting chicken and rice—in the darkest, most savory of sauces. Exciting things always happen on the specials board. poppopthaistreetfood.com

Poppy 

So casual and clattering is the Broadway room with the concrete floors and the popsicle brights, you’d never know it redefines Northwest cuisine nightly. Thank owner-chef Jerry Traunfeld, late of the Herbfarm, who composes 10-dish platters, thali, which eat like microseasonal tasting menus—pickled blackberries, spiced duck leg with blackberry and mint, chilled corn shiso soup, and on and on. Starters are a la carte; vegetarians and teetotalers are uncommonly well served. poppyseattle.com

Quinn’s Pub

The nocturnal uproar of Pike/Pine rages outside the door, but within the 1910-era auto row holdout dwells Capitol Hill at its best: preserved vintage charms like clerestory windows and a cozy mezzanine, now the backdrop for a gastropub menu of unapologetic decadence—roasted bone marrow, foie-topped fries, and a sloppy joe so rich you can’t quite believe it’s boar. Not to mention a beer list that somehow manages to be cerebral but not snobby. quinnspubseattle.com

Radiator Whiskey

Matt’s in the Market’s sibling tavern gleefully veers into animal parts, like fried nuggets of beef lip terrine with house dijonnaise. A 14-foot decorative whiskey barrel dispenses aged manhattans, negronis, and other rotating libations. radiatorwhiskey.com

Restaurant Marche 

Former Canlis chef Greg Atkinson brings his considerable pedigree to the unreconstructed French canon in this proper French bistro in downtown Winslow on Bainbridge Island, a walkable half mile from the ferry dock. Aimed squarely at the carriage trade, look for classic loveliness in place of invention—brown butter trout, steak frites, spectacular pate—with ingredients all made in house and plated gorgeously. Service can be spotty. restaurantmarchebainbridge.com

Restaurant Roux

The high-ceilinged room’s a little cool, but the dinner and brunch fare at this Fremont favorite couldn’t be warmer: a Creole feast of buttermilk fried chicken, shrimp and grits, smothered catfish, perfect oyster po’boys, so much more. Only a fool would leave without an order of the best beignets in the city, which a certain kind of obsessive will recognize from this owner’s prequel (and still rolling) food truck, Where Ya at Matt? restaurantroux.com

Revel

It’s eye-popping, rule-breaking Korean-fusion comfort food—pork belly kimchi or smoked herring chermoula pancakes, short rib and pickled shallot dumplings, seaweed noodle bowls with Dungeness crab and creme fraiche—served in a clattering upscale space with subway tile, a buzzing workshop kitchen, and a global street vibe. The casual spot from the folks behind Joule especially rocks brunch and booze—the latter at the next-door industrial-chic Quoin, whose barkeeps are fine chemists. revelseattle.com

RN74

Restaurateur Michael Mina busted the myth that national names can’t succeed in Seattle (he is from Ellensburg, after all). He did it with a downtown outpost of his San Francisco wine restaurant, marrying lovely French platings with a vast bottle list that boasts plenty of Washington cred. When diners decreed it a happy hour destination, RN74 leaned in with a lineup of snacks and booze that feel like an even better deal given the luxe room. michaelmina.net

RockCreek Seafood

Nobody doesn’t love this raw-wood-and-corrugated-metal seafood house in upper Fremont, built to showcase fish in a setting like a lofted fishing lodge. Owner-chef Eric Donnelly simply never misses in his execution of the impossibly long menu—some 15 kinds of finfish and shellfish, some barely represented elsewhere in town. A sunny patio, late hours, cocktails, and brunch crank the appeal still further. rockcreekseattle.com

Salare

Grilled octopus with watermelon gazpacho, salted plums, and preserved lemon. Plantains and Neah Bay black cod. Unexpectedly great things—and a few offbeat experiments—happen when chef Edouardo Jordan applies his Southern upbringing, Italian salumi training, and fine dining background to our Northwest seasons. He presents these arresting plates in an airy room in Ravenna, complete with an Edouardo Jordan version of a kids’ menu (einkorn grains with ricotta, scrambled hen egg with edible flowers). salarerestaurant.com

Salumi 

It’s been 17 years since Seattle embraced this string bean of a sandwich shop in Pioneer Square, with its drippy porchetta and deeply spiced salami layered onto ciabatta buns, and with its origin story of retired Boeing engineer Armandino Batali (yes, Mario’s dad) pursuing his passion of Italian cured meat. And there’s still a line outside most days. Daughter Gina and her husband now run Salumi, recently adding a Monday to-go menu. salumicuredmeats.com

Serious Pie

The rough-hewn spaces hold shared plank tables, with enormous granite pizza ovens for the serious business at hand: rustic applewood-smoky pizza crusts with blistery crackle and satisfying chew topped with seasonal harvests, like Yukon Gold potatoes with rosemary or Penn Cove clams with pancetta and lemon thyme. Short lists of vegetal starters and memorable finales round out the brief menu. (Serious Biscuit, downstairs from the Westlake branch, brings the same attention to swoonworthy biscuit sandwiches.) seriouspieseattle.com

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Image: Lindsay Borden 

Sitka and Spruce

It’s a food lab, it’s an artist’s garret—it’s genius chef Matt Dillon’s sun-drenched farmhouse dining room, where you can spy the food merchants of Melrose Market through vintage panes. Sit at the butcher’s table to watch Dillon’s crew assemble plates which satisfy at an unusually elemental level—simple constructions, like sweet whole carrots over chickpea puree with harissa and fried mint, strike global, even tribal notes, and as tone poems of Northwest place and moment may take your breath away. sitkaandspruce.com

Skillet Diner 

It’s the pleasant-looking character actor of Seattle dining—able to slay hangovers via pork belly and cornmeal waffles, make a kale salad feel decadent, and cap off a Saturday night with cocktails and a haunt-your-dreams-good grilled cheese sandwich. Skillet and its food truck progenitor put restaurateur Josh Henderson on the map; he’s moved on, but the diner (with four outposts around town) remains one of the city’s most versatile hangouts. skilletfood.com

Staple and Fancy

It’s Seattle’s favorite Ethan Stowell restaurant—and why wouldn’t it be, with the vintage brick-lined authenticity, the perpetually effervescent crowd, the crowd-pleasing purview. Many choose the $55 tasting menu—a flurry of appetizers, a pasta, a main, a dessert; it’s a deal—but if you don’t, a solid meal can be cobbled out of other Italian-tinged favorites, beloved fried oysters to pappardelle Bolognese. ethanstowellrestaurants.com

Stateside

From the sidewalk it looks like a casual Vietnamese cafe, but Stateside is in fact a singular extraordinary destination, capturing French colonial Indochina both in tropical setting and rousing food: the roots and branches of Vietnamese cuisine. Chef-owner Eric Johnson brings Michelin-starred experience and exacting standards to both classics (master stock crispy chicken) and playful inventions (Vietnamese iced coffee Creamsicles), and service is pitch perfect. A new adjoining bar, Foreign National, makes a moodier stage set for equally careful cocktails and bar noshes. statesideseattle.com

Stoneburner

The crowded sprawler off the Hotel Ballard lobby recalls early twentieth-century New York with gleaming hardwoods and antique glass (and, be warned, virtually no sound proofing). In the kitchen it’s all about the stone hearth oven and the fine blistered pizzas chef Jason Stoneburner pulls out of it. It’s also about bushels of seasonal fresh produce, which become buoyant salads, antipasti, roasted veggie plates, and pasta innovations. stoneburnerseattle.com

Suika

Vancouver exported a wisp of its rocking izakaya culture to Pike/Pine, where chef Makoto Kimoto—a veteran of the original to the north—cross-pollinates exuberant Japanese drinking food with Seattle’s penchant for the spicy. Pressed Osaka-style sushi and smoked tuna tataki are staples, but Kimoto’s rotating fresh sheet is full of riffs like a carpaccio of smoked beef tenderloin and Asian-inflected poutine. suikaseattle.com

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Suika

Image: Sarah Flotard

Super Six

The former auto body shop with the soaring timbered ceilings telegraphs old-school Americana—diner counter with bar stools, TVs with the game on, a free parking lot in downtown Columbia City—but the menu, from the Marination people, is Asian comfort fusion: sriracha kimchi salmon poke, kalbi ribs, garlic fried rice, and—mercy—fries topped with kalua pork, kimchi mayo, and a fried egg. Open and hopping all day. supersixseattle.com

Sushi Kappo Tamura

It’s easy to say the charm of this serene Eastlake dining room is all about Taichi Kitamura, the genial presence behind the sushi bar. But that would do a disservice to his carefully sourced seasonal seafood, not to mention composed plates, like rich black cod glazed in miso or chawan mushi layered with crabmeat. In matters of sushi, Kitamura knows when to simply showcase pristine fish and when to introduce a little flair—or jalapeño. sushikappotamura.com

Sushi Kashiba

Seattle sushi legend returns triumphant with this Pike Place Market gem. (Read the full review...)

Sushi Wataru

Chef Kotaro Kumita’s a minimalist, working with two glass-topped wooden boxes of fresh, raw fish and restrained Edomae sushi sensibility; somehow he knows the perfect tiny flourish—yuzu or a searing wave of the butane torch—to bring out the best in each piece of nigiri. Sushi Wataru’s tiny Ravenna dining room has all of 16 seats, but the best meals happen face to face with Kumita at the modest sushi bar (and involve his omakase). wataruseattle.com

Tallulah’s

For two decades the architect of Capitol Hill’s hipster scene, restaurant and bar impresario Linda Derschang has provided aesthetically magical settings for less-than-interesting eating. But Tallulah’s lifts its moderately priced Middle Eastern–tweaked comfort fare—like a recent crisped salmon with curried potatoes and corn custard—into a plane worthy of its perfect, casually sleek midcentury quarters. In fine weather, dining spills through double doors onto every neighborhood’s dream of a patio. aneighborhoodcafe.com

Tamarind Tree

Half the joy of this Little Saigon treasure is walking in off a crappy parking lot and into a glittering geode of low-lit sophistication and burbling water features—just right for date nights and fruity cocktails. The Vietnamese preparations are excellent too—particularly the green mango salad, the spring rolls, any of the vermicelli dishes—and less expensive than they could be. Service can be distracted. tamarindtreerestaurant.com

Taylor Shellfish Farms

Each of the three dining outposts of the premier oyster farmer in the Northwest has its own menu and ambience—a pregame-fried-food feel at Pioneer Square, a bright intimacy at Seattle Center, a fish market bustle at Capitol Hill—but each forefronts oysters, which you must order. Get them by the dozen or in the form of Xinh’s oyster stew, which is like slurping the nectar straight out of the shell. taylorshellfishfarms.com

Tilikum Place Cafe

The cozy brick-walled feel and unpretentious service and moderate prices of Belltown’s neighborhood cafe leaves diners quite unprepared for the exacting food: gruyere and bacon appetizer tarts in melting crusts, sure-handedly flavored soups, buoyant pork-chop-with-polenta-and-greens-and-a-grilled-fig dinners, luscious housemade desserts. Weekend brunch, with its rotating lineup of Dutch babies, is legendary. tilikumplacecafe.com

Tilth

The original remains the best of Maria Hines’s restaurant trifecta—a Wallingford bungalow that’s cozy in winter, breezy in summer, and precise all year. That’s in part to maintain its tough organic certification—a mandate that can limit Tilth’s purview—but mostly it’s due to Hines’s standard of care, which her crew brings to everything from sous-vide sablefish with fried green tomato to pea risotto with basil and truffle oil. tilthrestaurant.com

Toulouse Petit

Don’t let the thickly gorgeous filigreed decor or the crush of posturing singles or the fact that it’s open all day and half the night signal the place is less than serious foodwise—Toulouse’s vast menu of French Quarter classics is solid and its kitchen surprisingly consistent. Fish and shellfish, a madly popular brunch, an even more popular happy hour, and shrimp Creole are the headliners. Well, you know, and rum drinks. toulousepetit.com

Un Bien

The sons of the original Paseo founder opened Un Bien with their dad’s recipes—which makes this Caribbean roast sandwich the legendarily messy original: pork shoulder, caramelized onions, pickled jalapeños, all on an aioli’d Macrina roll. A blast to eat, especially with a cob of slathered grilled corn—but have multiple napkins handy. Two locations bookend Ballard. unbienseattle.com

Uneeda Burger

Scott Staples built his burger bona fides at Quinn’s, then turned an old Fremont auto garage into a casual burger joint. Here, all-natural patties might be topped with gruyere and two kinds of mushrooms, or watercress, blue cheese, and caramelized onions. Customers might be budget-conscious food geeks or the sort of families who try to avoid family-geared restaurants. Both camps love the covered patio. uneedaburger.com

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Uneeda Burger.

Upper Bar Ferdinand

Matt Dillon demonstrates clever restraint in this ode to Northwest abundance. (Read the full review...)

Vendemmia

Madrona’s a tough neighborhood for a restaurant to crack; the key seems to be pasta, perhaps an old-school tangle of spaghetti wherein childhood comfort collides with tomato sauce livened with basil and chili flakes. And combos like roast carrots and creme fraiche, or crunchy endive with snap peas and Dungeness crab: simple, but more elegant in one another’s company. Vendemmia’s a little Italian, a little Northwest; equally game for birthday dinners or spontaneous Tuesday nights. vendemmiaseattle.com

Volunteer Park Cafe

Like the lovably daffy neighbor who makes you crazy but unites the community, this charming corner cafe-slash-bakery amid the residences of North Capitol Hill can pain even its hardiest loyalist, with forever-long lines and cramped quarters. Then you bite into ricotta-stuffed caramelized banana brioche French toast, or arugula-ruffled proscuitto-pepper pizza, or a butter-rich chocolate-cherry cookie, or vegetable quiche in perfect flaky pastry—and you’re making plans to come back. alwaysfreshgoodness.com

The Walrus and the Carpenter

No mortal restaurant can really live up to that national hype…right? Well, Renee Erickson’s merrily jostling oyster bar on Ballard Ave remains the gold standard for showing visitors (the kind who don’t mind a two-hour wait) what Seattle is capable of. Not that you need a houseguest to justify a night of meticulously sourced oysters, octopus carpaccio, and food-simpatico cocktails beneath the glow of an enormous coral reef of a chandelier. The tile-clad watering hole Barnacle next door makes the best waiting room in town. thewalrusbar.com

Westward

It’s all about the atmosphere at this waterside fish house with the ironic decor and the Seattle skyline view: Hamptons breezy in summer, slurping oysters on the beach; hearth-oven cozy in winter, sharing plates of poached halibut or roasted trout off the short menu. It’s a menu built for noshing, as small plates are much more interesting than mains—with cocktails more interesting than those, and oysters most interesting of all. westwardseattle.com

The Whale Wins

The flagship of Renee Erickson’s fleet of white restaurants has matured to a destination dinner house showcasing her signatures—lesser seen seafood (sardines on toast, herring butter), a wood-smoky roast half chicken, those famous harissa carrots on yogurt, pickled everything. The charming room opens in summer to a leafy covered patio that brings the outside in. Service is attentive; dessert essential. thewhalewins.com

Xi'An Noodles

Owner Lily Wi brings a northwest China specialty to the Pacific Northwest. (Read the full review...)

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Biang Biang at Xi'An Noodles

Image: Sarah Flotard

 

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