Inside the Embassy Suites on King Street, tall leather booths, high-backed counter chairs, and a whole manner of 1930s-era bachelor pad aesthetic dominate the restaurant space. 13 Coins may have relocated from its former home in South Lake Union after 50 years, but time-honored dishes (and decor) remain at its new Pioneer Square digs. French onion soup shockingly thick with melted cheese comes with a sweet and hot broth. The crab louie—big tomato wedges, fresh Dungeness, assuredly familiar iceberg lettuce—abides by tradition. Like a secret jazz lair, a staircase leads you into a subterranean lounge below, which offers the same menu as the dining room. No matter where you sit, a 24/7 restaurant will never go out of style.
All Day Breakfast
Like cross-country road trips to national monuments and drive-in theaters, this 24-hour diner in Phinney Ridge is peak Americana, with black coffee that could raise the dead and carb-dense platters to cure that hangover before it even begins. Beth’s has been open since 1954, placating late-night (or very early morning) hunger with six- or 12-egg omelets—sorry, no polaroids or prizes for finishing the feast des oeufs, just the sobering knowledge that you did that—get them with smoked salmon or three kinds of meat (bacon, sausage, ham) or just good old American cheese. Yes, there are traditional breakfasts in appropriate proportions plus a mini option, too. Waffles, pancakes, all-you-can-eat hash browns await.
The only restaurant in the city to legitimately rate as mythic has been perched out over the vertiginous eastern edge of Queen Anne Hill since 1950. That makes it about as classic as it gets around here—right down to the midcentury split-level architecture, the dress code (fancy attire encouraged), the noblest mixed drinks in town, fathoms-deep wine list, perfectionist standard of service (where the valets remember your car without aid of a claim ticket), and the whole breathtaking sweep of Lake Union twinkling just beyond the windows. Because the third generation of Canlis family restaurateurs insists on culinary relevance, the food is every bit as grand: Both the warhorses (yes, the Canlis salad is still on the menu) and the more experimental, rigorously Northwest multicourse dinners are genuinely impeccable. Service has been updated as well, to a most intelligent and nimble brand of affability.
James Beard award–winning owner and chef Holly Smith has long produced the classiest Northern Italian innovations on the Eastside, now in sleekly updated midcentury quarters befitting the distinction and white-tablecloth ideal for special occasions. Smith has a sixth sense 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. But much of the menu is sure-handed classics, like richly sauced housemade pastas, or burrata with belgian endives and walnut anchovy salsa. Executions sometimes falter, but not so anyone notices, and desserts approach the perfect. It helps to be familiar with Kirkland’s lakeside community of Juanita, though renovations to this hidden spot have made it easier to find.
Tom Douglas’s unique brand of culinary effrontery was foreshadowed in Dahlia’s vermillion walls and paper lanterns. There, seafood wasn’t just served, it was revered: items like lush sashimi and ceviches, caramelly black cod, often a piece of perfect local salmon. There, the skilled irreverence in the kitchen made for the kind of brazen pairings that would later be called fusion—and helped pave the way for the recent upmarket embrace of doughnuts and cupcakes. All that and Dahlia coconut cream pie.
This storefront treasure isn’t fancy, but it is cherished for serving unheralded specialties from around the old royal capital of Huê, the epicenter of Vietnamese cuisine. And it’s stayed focused for more than two decades on turning out some of the very best Vietnamese food in town, using impeccably fresh ingredients, for no more than $10 a person. Of particular note are soups, especially hu tieu thap cam, a clear pork broth with egg or glass noodles, a full brace of squid, shrimp, sliced pork, and quail eggs; and (weekends only) banh cuon banh cong, delicately steamed rice flour crepes harboring pork and black mushrooms.
The crowd at this International District restaurant and bar at times skews young, but in fact, it does not get more old-school in Seattle than the 114-year-old Maneki, a homey haunt of homely delights kept in line by a couple of no-nonsense aunties and traditional Japanese cooks. Regulars know to look to the whiteboard for exceptional daily specials, but then there are much-adored mainstays, like monkfish liver, sliced sashimi-style over shredded daikon with ponzu sauce. Yep, there’s a bar. But Maneki shines brighter for its comforting bar snacks and homestyle entree combinations.
Like its surroundings, this second-story hideaway has evolved over the years but remains the market’s culinary epicenter—collegial by day, elegant by night, and fiercely beloved by locals. 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. Owner Dan Bugge’s market tenure dates back to his days as a fishmonger and thrower downstairs, but new chef Matt Fortner stewards the Northwest menu (and restores a Matt to the premises for the first time since the days of founder Matt Janke).
For over four decades, this dockside legend defined iconic Northwest dining, with its archetypal seafood menu, its record of pristine sourcing (Copper River salmon was practically invented here), its stunning wide-angle view over Shilshole Bay and the Olympic Mountains. It’s now settled into a more staid level of accomplishment along with a more casual decorative retrofit, eliminating some of its big-night-out cachet. The menu gussies up the mainly seafood preparations more than it once did but fish is still cooked with appropriate restraint. Service is careful and desserts terrific. Upstairs is Ray’s Cafe, home of an even better view and a breezy deck.
As Seattle’s oldest Chinese restaurant, its homey, steadfast dishes have been passing muster—Bruce Lee was a regular diner—since 1935; a third-generation owner sees to that. He also sees to the quick-but-kind service and makes sure to proffer a cheery wave goodbye as you waddle out the door as many a patron has done for over 80 years after stuffing themselves with the likes of oyster sauce–smothered beef, pork-suffused egg foo young, chop suey heavy with sauteed vegetables, life-giving egg drop soup, and noodles of every thickness from chow mein to chow fun.
American/New American, French
Up there with Seattle’s timeless treasures—perpetually crowded Pike Place Market, Mount Rainier on a clear day—stands the inimitable Virginia Inn, which for over a century has held down the corner of First and Virginia on the sheer, soul-satisfying strength of consistently great food and terrific beer—and marbled bistro tables with woven chairs that evoke trips to Paris. The owners expanded the bar into the neighboring space, upgrading from a galley to a full kitchen and extending the classy brick-walled, wood-boothed, lavishly windowed space into an area twice its original size, but no less intimate. And now that kitchen is turning out food worth eating: flawlessly done duck leg confit, moules-frites, and other Frenchified items.
For years, Vito’s on First Hill was a dingy dive of disrepute, frequented by a blend of irony-addicted hipsters and the truly down on their luck. Then the owners of the Hideout around the corner bought it, renovating the place top to bottom, from the grisly kitchen to reupholstering the booths lining the lounge. Thankfully the sexy-seedy vibe remains, with lights so low the bartenders must use flashlights to locate bottles, but the drinks are much improved, with 18 specialty cocktails. The food, pastas and sliders and the like, is solidly satisfying. Come Wednesday through Sunday when a jazz trio graces the lounge or a duo of singers croons classic Italian tunes the whole night through.