Shiro Kashiba is a verifiable sushi legend in this town; 50 years after he arrived from Japan to become Seattle’s first sushi chef, Kashiba opened this serene restaurant in the heart of Pike Place Market, where people queue up for a spot at the 14-seat sushi bar and perhaps the most pristine sushi experience Seattle has to offer. If you’re more into reservations than long waits, the dining room offers the same omakase menu as the counter, plus classic Shiro dishes a la carte. To clear up any confusion: The chef no longer affiliated with his previous more casual restaurant, Sushi Kashiba in Belltown, though it still bears his name and is still worth a visit.
Sincerely friendly and snazzily appointed, the cafe; with the menu on the paper place mats enshrines the casual hospitality of a diner, and displays through huge windows the distinctive iconography of the region—the ferries on the bay, the snow on the Olympics, the rooftops of the Market. Therefore you’ll want to bring visiting inlanders, who will love the pristine Northwest ingredients—house-made beef bresaola, Samish Bay gouda, organic greens—and the comfort-food treatments they receive, from slow-braised short ribs with hominy polenta to a Dungeness crab sandwich with bacon and melted cheddar. Purists may find the chef’s touch heavy, with lots of sauces, lots of fried things, big goopy desserts, and that French Canadian curiosity, poutine, which consists of French fries drenched in gravy and melted cheese curds. The rest will secretly love it. A big private room is great for meetings.
It’s a pair of joints at the north edge of Pike Place Market, dedicated to the just-folks fare Tom Douglas has made a career of preparing to four-star standards. Seatown Seabar is the sit-down spot—at tables, a diner counter, or the sidewalk—which appears to hold down the corner of Western and Virginia by the sheer weight of its tourists. They’re enjoying roast chicken with roasted potatoes or crab a half dozen ways (try the terrific crab BLT). Next door is the to-go storefront, Rub with Love, open 8am to 7pm, with few seats but so many aromatic options for tonight’s dinner—sage butter turkey pies in buttery crusts, creamy corn grits made with Beecher’s jack, garlic-rosemary-rotisserie chickens—you may be forgiven for suddenly forgetting how to cook. Morning brings a swoony lineup of portable McMuffins—if it’s on, try the porchetta and fried egg.
Tom Douglas’s restaurant for tourists—owing to its Pike Place Market location, not its reach. Trout or salmon is dressed with deceptive simplicity, steamed clams might get a kick from oven-roasted tomatoes, and meaty Dungeness makes for Seattle’s most famous crab cakes. The kitchen wields a seasoned hand with entrees like butternut squash tortellini, which melt on the tongue. As for atmo, no ironic haircuts fill the roomy booths opposite windows running the length of this prime people-watching restaurant. Forget hipster fanfare in decor or presentation—Etta’s doesn’t need it. Great weekend brunch.
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.
Matt’s in the Market’s sibling tavern shares a Pike Place Market upstairs address and a talent for delicate seasonal salads, but chefs Tyler Palagi and Charlie Garrison gleefully veer into animal parts, like fried nuggets of beef lip terrine with house dijonaise for dipping or a porchetta sandwich overloaded with pulled pig cheeks, smoked cheddar, and a softly fried egg.. The bar is overseen by the talented Sara Rosales, but also by the butt of a 14-foot decorative whiskey barrel, bearing seven taps for barrel-aged manhattans, negronis, and other rotating libations.
When your houseguests clamor for a restaurant that feels like the real Seattle, set your GPS to the belly of Pike Place Market and find yourself in a glittering jewel box that celebrates the cuisine of Korea. Sort of. Chef Heong Soon Park honors his origins with classics: kalbi-braised short ribs, kimchi pork belly. But that’s just half the menu. The other half fuses Korean cuisine to, well…whatever fancy Park is flying that day. Brioche buns pack bulgogi beef, cucumber kimchi, and chili mayo for some of the most entertaining cocktail sliders in town. Kimchi fried rice—a Korean classic—goes Euro with bacon in the fiery rice and a thick crown of melted mozzarella. Yes, purists will be horrified. Heat is dialed way down from what you’d taste at the Korean mom-and-pops in Shoreline or Federal Way—Park’s banchan, the pickled and spiced vegetal side dishes integral to Korean dining, can be much too tame—but Park is in it for the converts.
The quintessential French bistro, tucked in Pike Place Market’s beguiling Post Alley. Perched at one of the amber-lit tables beneath a vintage French poster—savoring steak frites or crackling duck confit, tippling a Kir Royale—you may find yourself seized by the urge to stand and belt the Marseillaise or tragically break someone’s heart. Not to worry. The urge will pass, and you will soon be content merely to become a regular along with the rest of the Francophiles in town, coming perhaps on a quiet early weeknight for a solo nosh (a particularly lovely place for that), or on a summer evening for a cafe table on the alley, or on a weekend morning for a sensational breakfast, when the sunbeams slant in to spotlight your brioche.
This hidden bistro behind the Pike Place Market fish tossers is francais to the max—down to the black-and-white floor tiles and tres cosmopolitan little bar boasting regulars who come for the hard-to-find aperitifs. But the little place with the charming ferry view has a Seattleite soul, lighting with particular fondness on Northwest seafood. The bacony steamed mussels are locally famous—they’re an appealing antidote to the ubiquitous wine-butter rendition, served in a tangy balsamic near-gravy you’ll want every last French roll to dispatch. Other dishes ply the regions between solid and pleasing, with the occasional foray into truly admirable—like the lush creme brulee for dessert.
A quarter century ago, it was Seattle’s original cult restaurant, with a the signless entrance in Post Alley that 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. The Door has never been about the food, a list of pastas and seafoods that unreliably satisfy. But we dare you to stop going.