Pioneer Square has been on the radar as of late with new establishments like Il Corvo and Tinello hitting the scene. But in a recent conversation with Matt Dillon about his new spot Bar Sajor on Occidental, he pointed out the importance of highlighting the chefs that have been making it work here for years. And we couldn’t agree more. Here’s a culinary timeline of some of the stalwarts of the Square:
Seattle's own self-proclaimed soup Nazi, Jason Wang has been serving (or denying) roasted turkey sandwiches to the downtown business clientele since he took over for his parents in the ’80s. Before you go, check Bakeman’s Twitter feed for daily scratch soup options, hit the ATM, and be ready to order when you reach the counter. See also: the 116th episode of Seinfeld.
Not just a sports bar, this longtime steak house is a staple of the Square with its massive wooden bar and the LeRoy Neiman paintings on its walls. Mick McHugh, true Seattleite and owner, still works the floor chatting up (or more like consoling) the Mari-Hawks diehards. Their Nebraska-raised steaks are all aged for a minimum of 21 days and their oyster selection spans the coast from BC down to Humboldt Bay, CA. McRory's has more than 20 beers on draft, so let the pre-game pre-funk commence.
Il Terrazzo Carmine
In the words of our restaurant critic Kathryn Robinson, it's the "granddaddy of Italian eateries in this town." Even after the passing of the charming Carmine Smeraldo over a year ago, his legacy remains strong in traditional Italian fare and guest hospitality. We keep asking for more Seattle fine-dining restaurants, so start here. Try not to get tomato sauce all over the white tablecloth.
The cafe has only been open since 2002, but this spot on Occidental Ave started as the Bizzarri family's roastery back in the 80s. The roastery has since moved up to 16th Avenue, and the space transformed into a sleek Italian coffee bar. Pop in for a strong pull of the Gusto Crema Blend and a scoop of gelato.
The king of coffee shops. Any Starbucks wishes they could be this cool and Zeitgeist isn't even trying. It's blessed with good bone structure, a knack for style, and their own tasty roast. Lofty ceilings, exposed brick, and fancy art prints surround patrons on Apple laptops and some reading books. Real live books.
On a quiet night you can hear chef/owner Sedat Uysal whistling away in the kitchen as he thoughtfully prepares falafel and kofta. A simple traditional Mediterranean menu is served in a cozy dining room. Tourists line up in front of the window for the Underground tour; they’ll be learning about brothels and gambling in the seedy underbelly of the city, while you eat hummus and pita.
Some people prefer peering in cake shop windows; others, like me, would rather salivate on a case full of curing meats. Salumi is the place to do that and learn about the aging process from a Batali family member. Specialties range from hot coppa, Tuscan finocchiona, and lamb prosciutto. They even have a planned schedule for oxtail sandwiches for-crying-out-loud; your next opportunity isn't until May, bring your umbrella, there will most likely be a line. Or make a lunch reservation on a Wednesday or Thursday with 8-10 of your friends and experience a five-course chef’s tasting menu.
Business meetings over a pint, minus the business part because the workday is over. By 4pm the bar is taken over by the downtown workforce ready for a brew. And the choices are many. Owner Seth Howard has a reputation for liking his beers strong and with a tap list near 25, there's an IPA or a sour suited for most anyone's tastebuds.
After a cross-country move to Seattle, it didn’t take long for Brian Tatman and Jason Simodejka, buddies from the East Coast, to realize Seattle was lacking a serious sub shop. And thus began the sandwich resurgence of the era. With a New Yorker attitude this deli tells patrons to head to the back of the line if they're not ready to order by the time they get to the counter. And if you're on your cell phone, fugettaboutit. But it's really not that hard to decide, the Tat'strami (juicy pastrami, house made coleslaw, and Russian saucy goodness) is what sandwich dreams are made of.
With a sense of humor and a craving for a "better sandwich," owners Derek Shankland and Mike Klotz opened Delicatus in the hopes of merging the traditional European deli with Northwest ingredients and local flavors. Stop in and decide if you're a Traditionalist (classic Rueben) or a Progressive (ShankLamb: pulled lamb shank and chive aioli). Recently, they've taken on bigger and boozier projects with the unveiling of their cab-sauv blend from Sous Sol wine, which can be enjoyed in their new neighboring space, The Kitchen.
The Berliner Döner Kebab
Stop me if you've heard this one before: What happens when a Seattle native meets a German native in Thailand and they fall in love? You get a serious doner that is no joke. Build your own fladenbrot sandwich with options like lamb with mild curry, spiced mango chunks, and cucumber or go for a more classic version with chicken, garlic yogurt sauce, and pickled red cabbage.