The Korea-born fast-casual chain imported its much-hyped fried chicken to First Hill in February and has been satiating fanatics ever since. Bonchon ushers out wings and drums that have taken two dips in the fryer for extra crunch. Chicken arrives coated in signature sauces like a spicy gochujang and soy garlic: Umami-packed things come to those who wait.
It’s the most come-as-you-are French cafe in town, suffused with a casual dailiness that makes it dangerously easy to become a regular. Pop into the front room for a quick croque monsieur and some televised European football, or linger in the obscured back room over dazzling roast chicken, or sip on a glass of Ricard at the busy bar, perhaps with a little something off the charcuterie list. That deja vu you’re having right now is courtesy Le Pichet, Presse’s downtown cousin, which has been stylishly mining similar territoire for years. Think of Presse as the more quotidian of the two, with its international newspapers and magazines for patrons’ perusal, its all-day casse croute menu, its way-low prices, and its informal joie de vivre. But don’t let the informality fool you: This food defines unfussy elegance, from the classy bibb lettuce and hazelnut salad to steak frites in a Madeira sauce so exquisite you’ll want to slurp it through a straw.
The former Hunt Club inside the Hotel Sorrento was refreshed and reborn as a bistro of sorts, with dark wood paneling, Moroccan tile floors, and an uberseasonal Northwest menu. While entrees like plank-roasted sockeye salmon and Waygu sirloin certainly satisfy, attention is paid even to smaller plates. Take the charcuterie board, an oft-apathetic arrangement of cured meats and cheese; here, it’s near bacchanalian—folds of prosciutto, coppa, and salumi are gently piled beside fanned-out gouda and Humboldt Fog. Come happy hour, saunter to the adjacent Fireside Room, off the Sorrento lobby, when the evening calls for brandy by firelight.
If the family owners at this First Hill pie shop don’t know your name on your first visit, they will by your third. And there will be a third, for their Jersey-style pies feature golden, perfect crusts crackling with heft and bursting with flavor. Of course, such elevated descriptors are all wrong for pizza this down-to-earth. Order a white pie (built on ricotta, romano, and mozzarella) or a bright tomato version, with choices of toppings, to the strains of good old ’70s rock. Family photos and cheap price tags dial up the sense of community. The large pie is, in fact, gargantuan.
It’s the newest taqueria on the block, and unlike Monica Dimas's other joints—Sunset Fried Chicken, Westman’s—it’s no mere walkup window. Spacious digs on First Hill beget a bigger menu than the original (now-retired) Neon Taco, graced by nine tacos, like one with slabs of crispy pork belly and fresh salsa that test the max capacity of a corn tortilla, plus sandwiches, mole pork ribs, and sides aplenty. Don’t sleep on the agua fresca either.
The Sugar Bakery and Cafe was spun from a husband and wife’s experimentation with the apples from a tree in their front yard, but they didn’t stop there: pumpkin mousse cake, chocolate truffles, and toasted coconut cake show they’ve moved well past the apple tree.
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.