Equipped with cheddar-topped hangover cures, this self-described “trailer park to table” cafe serves up gravy-drenched biscuits with Southern-inspired fixings: garlic grits, hot links, pork sausage, and more. Bitches get stuff done, and can do so with biscuits in hand.
What’s a Cajun joint doing in this Vietnamese section of the Rainier Valley? Something very tasty, it turns out. Shellfish, sausage, pepper, and garlic are a universal language; Vietnamese immigrants took to Cajun cooking, then took it on the road. The Cajun Crawfish hews to the formula: crawfish, shrimp, crab legs (snow or king), sea snails, clams, or a mix, served by the pound in a heavy plastic bag with steaming sauce (Cajun spices, butter, lemon-pepper, or a “boom bang” combination) and optional potatoes, andouille, and corn. No utensils, just plastic bibs, paper towels, and butcher paper covering the table. Wimps may request plastic forks or (more effective) chopsticks. The only obvious sign of a cuisine crossover is “boom bang fried rice,” a sort of rice bowl-slash-jambalaya mish-mash with shrimp, sausage, onion, celery, and pineapple, saturated with filé and sprinkled with nori. It works.
Like its seafood boil brethren, crab, clam, mussels, and crawfish come with potatoes, corn, and sausage all splayed upon the tabletop for your handheld dining pleasure. But here, its Vietnamese–New Orleans roots take hold; Crawfish King offers a range of spice options, like Cajun, lemon-pepper, garlic butter, or the Big Easy house special, which is a combination of them all.
Several family-owned chicken shacks across the region prove that you don’t need fancy digs—heck, you don’t even need tables—to dazzle the High Priestess of Comfort Food, Oprah Winfrey. (Yup, there’s a portrait of her with Ezell up on the wall.) The crunchy fried chicken is dazzling enough—moist, not greasy (okay…maybe a little greasy)—especially when you order it spicy, along with a few fried livers and gizzards, throw in some coleslaw…and how about just one slice of sweet potato pie? Best to make sure it’s all there, as friendly servers invariably miss something. “Honey,” replied one, double-checking an order, “there’s a whole lotta love in that bag.”
A thread of Catfish Corner’s Southern legacy continues on at this storied Central District corner via fried chicken atop old-fashioned thin waffles, the kind with tiny squares. Chef Patrick Dours coaxes heroic amounts of personality from boneless, skinless chicken breasts; his tricks include a combo buttermilk–pickle juice brine and an elaborate dredge-and-chill process to keep the crust from falling off the minute it encounters your knife. Seasoning is sufficient for grown-ups and mellow enough for the many (many) kids in the room. Replacing a landmark of a neighborhood’s African American heritage is a tricky business. Sure, owner Marcus Lalario—of Li’l Woody’s and Ciudad—brought in some hip midcentury benches and a busy brunch service. But you can eat well for $15, and service is incredibly hospitable: promising signs of a new neighborhood institution.
As you may have guessed, the house specialty here is fried chicken, specifically a thigh and drumstick, still attached. These meaty behemoths get brined overnight, smoked, dredged twice, and fried. The hulking result looks like something you would brandish at a medieval feast and has more skin than a really good Game of Thrones episode. The spoons and forks are of the disposable-compostable variety, but Harry’s knows to hand out actual metal knives when it comes time to attack these mammoth chicken plates.
Neither dense nor obscene in size, the baked-to-order butter biscuits at the new Palihotel's restaurant are, in short, divine. They come in threes atop a wood board with quenelles of maple butter and pimento cheese, a dollop of jam, and a tiny mound of flake sea salt—but the biscuits are only the beginning. Hits from the original LA restaurant are in bountiful supply, but executive chef Joey Elenterio imbued the Southern-verved menu with some Pacific Northwest additions too, like sweet-and-spicy salmon jerky, smoked salmon board, and vegetarian, smoked mushroom barbecue sandwich.
The Pike Place Market biscuit shop couples its airy, square-shaped creations with a few ingredients from its neighbors: Beecher’s Flagship cheese, Bavarian Meats bacon, and mustard crafted with Pike Brewing stout ale. Biscuit sandwiches, gravy, and sides like kale-slaw and three cheese grits nod to owner Art Stone's North Carolina heritage. And the gluten-free biscuit recipe is legit.
Chef Edouardo Jordan cemented his fine-dining cred at Salare, but his second restaurant is far more personal: A thoughtful telling of Southern food, from crowd-pleasers like biscuits and Sunday-only fried chicken to more culturally nuanced fare like chitterlings and oxtail. A few seasonal dishes hint at Jordan’s high-end training, while desserts like bourbon dark chocolate bread pudding and hummingbird cake make you want to hunt down pastry chef Margaryta Karagodina and hug her tenderly. There’s a reason this restaurant is on the national radar.
It’s soul food, sometimes great soul food, tucked-away in a folksy Madison Valley storefront. Service can be slow but the food usually puts things right, from the headliner chicken and waffles to stunning biscuits (with or without gravy) or the individual pies (try the sweet potato). In here, Seattle still feels like a small town.
Nashville’s signature hot chicken—brined for 48 hours, fried, then daubed in spice-saturated crimson lard—has arrived in Seattle. Moreover, it’s landed at an unassuming bar with a wide-angle view of Mount Rainier and the regular rumble of airplanes landing across the street at Boeing Field. Chicken comes naked, medium, Nashville hot, or insane; even the mild will make things tingle. The rest of the small menu has way more finesse than you’d expect at a place with video game tables and a black velvet Pegasus painting on the wall: smoked gouda mac and cheese, fried green tomatoes, a wedge salad with dressing and bacon both made in house.
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 that 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.
Pastries overburden the antique case up front—big almond–orange blossom–blueberry buttermilk cakes, triple chocolate chip cookies, biscuits filled with raspberry freezer jam—and yes, they taste as moist and sumptuous as they look. This laid-back breakfast-lunch spot on 15th is a teensy shot of the Carolinas, by way of owner-baker Heather Earnhardt’s Southern heritage. If close tables and drafty quarters sometimes compromise comfort, her food sure doesn’t: Biscuits, the rightful specialty of the house, crackle thickly at the edges and surrender to fluffy interiors that melt away on the tongue—pure pleasure when piled with soft egg and cheese and Benton’s chewy bacon, or with fat chunks of expertly fried chicken, sharpened with aged cheddar and flooded over with fiery sausage gravy. Dinners happen family style, Friday nights only: four courses that roam across Dixie. Hope for Creole anything.
Apparently Broadway needed a shot of old-time religion, because it has taken to this Southern church-themed bar with evangelical zeal. Partly that’s because of the food: straight-up Southern fare—shrimp and grits, Carolina pulled pork sliders, buttermilk beignets—that’s impossible not to crave, even if it can err on the side of blandness. (The fried chicken and waffles featured terrific bourbon maple syrup, but the chicken strips—crisp and moist to be sure—held no flavor.) The cocktails, for their part, runneth over with flavor—including hickory-smoked cherry in the bourbon-and-Benedictine concoction known as Witness cocktail; and a tequila, lime-ginger beer-cassis blend, el Diablo, one can only call inspired. Happy hour here, with $6 cocktails amid twinkling votives and 100-year-old church pews, turns late afternoon into a religious experience.
*Listing information for Harry's Chicken Joint is in the midst of updating as of March 18, 2019.