Coffee at Hood Famous becomes a pre-noon revelation when mochi waffles are added to the equation.

Image: Sarah Flotard

The Banner Breakfast (and Brunch)

Dacha Diner

The team behind one of the town’s criminally undersung pizzerias—the Independent in Madison Park—exported their lace curtains and “make every last sauce and bread slice” ethos to a low wedge of a building on Capitol Hill. Latkes, matzo ball soup, and brisket take a schmaltz-speckled page from New York’s classic Jewish delis; the layered Herring Under a Fur Coat salad and the most delicate of pelmeni dumplings give Eastern European comfort fare a rare Seattle spotlight. But those pizza-making skills really come in handy with khachapuri, Georgia’s staple dish that involves a boat of dough, baked golden, molten white cheese bubbling within, and one vivid egg yolk.

Hood Famous Cafe and Bar

Friends relax into midcentury modern bar stools, while laptop warriors at small tables tap away at keyboards. But Filipino elements punctuate the common cafe scene thanks to Chera Amlag, the baker who’s confirmed purple yam ube cheesecake as a Seattle staple. Her compact new cafe in Chinatown–International District serves up ube iced macchiatos, calamansi citrus espresso tonics, longanisa sausage quiche, and mochi waffles in sweet and savory variations. Forthcoming: an evening menu of cocktails crafted with Philippine gin and island-style interpretations of the old-fashioned.

Ben Paris serves fried chicken and wedge salads in one handsome room.

Image: Sarah Flotard

The Grown-Up Night Out

Ben Paris

Downtown’s hotel boom has brought an attendant glut of new hotel restaurants. Some are good, others forgettable, and then there’s this tall, bright, and handsome dining room that borrowed its name from a colorful Seattle restaurateur of a bygone era. Transom windows and brass accents evoke a midcentury urban train station (the kind with a giant back bar) and the food matches the aesthetics: Americana comfort food, calibrated to modern-day sensibilities. Peppery bacon could be a stand-alone snack; instead it populates an action-packed wedge salad. Sesame honey adds surprise to classic fried chicken, and you gotta appreciate the server who gently nudges you away from your professed dessert order, and toward a majestic layered carrot cake. Ben Paris feels like a great Seattle restaurant that happens to be in a hotel; we’re still not over the custom wallpaper in both dining room and lobby, in patterns replete with civic talismans, like dungeness crabs and weed pipes.

Samara

On its striking surface, this Sunset Hill corner spot is a pleasant new neighborhood restaurant. Except, wait—the wood grill fires nothing but liberty ducks and heritage mangalitsa, plus vegetable dishes so cleverly rife with texture, you’d expect to see twice as many hands at work in Eric Anderson’s open kitchen. Order the bread and you get four different types, all housemade. Exceedingly attentive servers explain the prep on the crispy chicken skins and suggest wine to pair with the menu’s smash hit: buttery dungeness crab layered atop a patty of carefully charred rice. Anderson, an alum of Palace Kitchen, set up his wood-paneled dining room in a mellow residential enclave in the city’s northwest corner, but this is food worth a trip across town.

New digs. Same crisped cheese goodness.

The Neighborhood Go-Tos

Windy City Pie

In four years this tribute to Chicago-style pizza graduated from clandestine parking lot transactions to an Interbay counter, and now a neighborhood restaurant on Phinney Ridge, the kind with roomy wood booths and a bar that serves solid cocktails and draft pours of Goose Island Bourbon County stout—one of owner Dave Lichterman’s many small tributes to his former hometown of Chicago. The biggest, obviously, is the pizza: deep of dish and circled with a corona of crispy cheese. Ordering your pie online before dining at a casual neighborhood hangout seems a rather cumbersome step, but Windy City’s legion of fans knows it helps pace the meal, which diners can round out with a competent kale caesar or salad of marinated beets.

GH Pasta

Brian Clevenger set aside his usual predilection for cloth napkins and proper chairs to give Denny Regrade’s badged lunch brigade some of the most legitimately accomplished pasta to inhabit a compostable bowl. Sure, GH Pasta has some stools and counter seating, but this pocket on Sixth Avenue is essentially just takeout: less precious iterations of comfort bucatini and the bolognese (here made with lamb and damn near unmissable) that built Clevenger’s full-service restaurants. There’s no accounting for your office productivity after you polish off his cacio e pepe riff, which puts black truffle on equal flavor footing with black pepper. Still, GH Pasta is a nice reminder that Seattle’s exploding fast-casual universe need not be a creative wasteland. 

Stunning sushi hides at Taneda.

The Chef’s Counters

Taneda

Sure, part of the charm of this place is traversing the beat-up passage of Broadway Alley, only to find a nine-seat sushi restaurant hidden behind a barber and a tobacco shop. Here, chef Hideaki Taneda inlays some ornate seasonal traditions of kaiseki within a high-end sushi omakase. Nigiri, naked save a light sear and a swipe of the condensed soy sauce known as nikiri, bookend ritual-thick kaiseki courses like the hassun: eight disparate bites—from a morsel of rich wagyu to broiled eel wrapped in a tamago ribbon—on a single plate. This unlikely alliance of two Japanese culinary traditions works, thanks to the meal’s measured tempo—and some excellent sake pours.

Archipelago

Hillman City’s sole chef’s counter (eight stools that book up months in advance) may appear small, but it contains multitudes. Namely, the Filipino heritage and cuisine of chef-owner Aaron Verzosa and co-owner (and Verzosa’s wife) Amber Manuguid, whose families both hail from the archipelago. The tasting menu consists of multiple courses—each one served with flair and a short historical tidbit from Verzosa, the meal’s professor, who explains how he achieved a traditional soup’s tamarind level of tang with local cranberries or how he uses Washington grains to bake puffy Philippine pandesal bread rolls.

Renee Erickson embraces Roman–style pizza inside the Amazon Spheres.

Image: Amber Fouts

The Landmarks

Willmott’s Ghost

Any restaurant that sets up shop inside an enormous Amazonian glass orb was bound to be a curiosity. Even more so when it’s Renee Erickson adapting Rome’s sturdy squares of street-snack pizza into a landscape of pink tiles, curved booths in dark teal leather, and all the metal cladding required to support a three-story glass bubble. This glam, public-facing space in the Spheres lives its best life as a lunch and happy hour oasis, a beautiful sit-down counterpoint to all the fast-casual counters nearby. Pizza comes by the square, or in whole pies to cut with winsome two-tone scissors. At the risk of carb overload, the focaccia involves so much salt and oil, it feels as indulgent as a plate of transcendent french fries.

Il Nido

The only thing crazier than the buzz levels surrounding Mike Easton’s new dinner destination in West Seattle: the chef’s ability to deliver, fully, on those expectations. It helps that Easton, the guy behind popular pasta spot Il Corvo, restores life to the historic and long-neglected Alki Homestead, but he also fills its log-hewn rooms with perfectly grilled steaks and lush vegetables. Yes, there’s pasta—breathtaking creations too laborious for Il Corvo’s lunchtime crowds, but the handmade mezzaluna and strozzapreti are just part of the elegant Italian menu. For more on this unlikely alliance of chef and log cabin (and a hack to score the toughest reservation in town), see this month's feature story.

Pasta-in-the-making at Scott Carsberg's revived Bisato.

The Third Acts

Bisato

This most decorated, complicated chef returns after a six-year (mostly) hiatus to a well appointed Pioneer Square dining room where jacketed staff take your coat, unfold your napkin, and murmur “very good” after you order. While Scott Carsberg reinstated the name of his former restaurant in Belltown, Bisato 2.0 has perhaps more elements of Lampreia, the predecessor that earned the legendarily tough chef—and his modern take on northern Italy—a James Beard Award. Carsberg revived his sheet of pasta, flecked with truffles and spread with fonduta, from Lampreia, and devised some newcomers, like a tart shell that harbors a puree of smoked salmon belly and barely cooked egg. Chefs in actual toques populate the open kitchen, which never stumbles on pacing.

Violet

The kitchen at William Belickis’s former restaurant, MistralKitchen was roughly 10 times larger than his current quarters on Capitol Hill. It’s a testament to the chef’s talent that he still pulls off such technical precision—crispy skinned sea trout atop dates and cauliflower, a pair of tender lamb chops to win over people who think they don’t like lamb. Only the folk art saltshakers and dwindling tequila surfeit on the back bar hint that this was once the Mexican restaurant Chávez, even though the whitewashed dining room, with a Pottery Barn catalog’s worth of tastefully neutral lighting remains mostly unchanged. The rustic vibe is a long way from his very first restaurant, Mistral, but in this smaller space, Belickis homes in on the artful food he does best, without the huge happy hour sideshow of his days in South Lake Union.

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