This open-all-day-and-half-the-night nosh bar is Eric and Sophie Banh’s love song to the street food they ate as children in Saigon—and therefore hews to a more traditionalist standard than we’ve seen in their Monsoon restaurants. Where those represent bright fusion, Ba Bar serves up street-style classics: like noodle bowls topped with grilled chicken or charry prawns or peking duck with peanuts and caramelized shallots and greens and nuoc cham, seared catfish wraps fragrant with turmeric and dill and full of frisky greenery, or big loaded bowls of pho heady with basil and onions and mint and sprouts and fork-tender sheets of flank steak. Ingredients are scrupulously sourced and lovingly handled; beverages, coffee to cocktails, are bright and free flowing. The only flaw in this engaging model is service that’s well meaning but diffident. Open till 4am weekends.
Din Tai Fung Dumpling House
Upon its opening in Lincoln Square, waits at this Taiwanese hotspot were clocking in at two and three hours. The reason? Quite simply the finest xiao long bao, or Chinese soup dumplings, in the universe. Now that there’s a second Northwest location in University Village, waits aren’t as epic—but devotees still abound. From the entryways of these high-end dumpling houses, you can see behind the glass 20 or so young chefs hand-rolling, filling, and decoratively pinching the tender-fleshed little morsels, whose pretty swirls will arrive at your table in round bamboo boxes to be plucked out with chopsticks, then placed carefully upon a soup spoon. Pierce the pale dough with your chopstick; the spoon bowl will flood with the savory broth. That’s your cue to put the whole glorious mess in your mouth and thank god there are nine more in the box.
Il Corvo Pasta
The order-at-the-counter, lunch-only relocation of a beloved pasta popup has hit its stride, serving three to five daily plates all made from pasta cut, extruded, or hand formed in house that morning. By about 11am, chef and owner and pasta geek Mike Easton emails a photo of the headliner dish to his slavering fans—a money shot of beet spaghetti in a caramelized garlic sauce perhaps, or conchiglie seashells wet with meaty ragù, or gnocchetti with sweet corn, fresh sage, and cream—and that one will sell out by 12:30 easy. His repertoire is bottomless, his seasonality admirable, his passion winning. A couple smaller dishes round out the offerings, making this ticket to Italy no more than $15 total.
The London Plane
An eloquent country-house aesthetic prevails in this airy, two-level space off Occidental, with its bakery, deli, and in-house flower shop, painting a Jane Austen dream of the English countryside—right down to the cobblestones and leafy London plane trees out the window. Foodwise it’s breakfast, lunch, and brunch iterations of Matt Dillon’s (Sitka and Spruce, Bar Sajor) signature passions: bold salads with grains and vegetables, lots of cultured dairy, extraordinary brown bread for spreading, and plenty of vinegar counterpoints. Don’t miss a slice of strawberry cake or gateau basque for dessert—this bakery is outstanding.
The epicenter of downtown from the moment it opened—Loulay is one of the most cosmopolitan lunch and dinner stops in Seattle, its packed bar and plummy fixtures and soaring sight lines making it feel like a great party in a gloriously unaffordable home. The huge room has plenty of seating options, romantic (the corner table in the bar should have a room number) to solo to life of the party, from which to sample the classic food of seasoned chef Thierry Rautureau (and his staff from the former Rover’s). Look for careful execution on short, well-chosen menus of both French classics (terrific fish dishes, seared foie gras) and accessible everyman food, like the killer 12-buck rib-eye burger, at prices below what you might expect amid this much style. Great service.
Matt's In the Market
Pike Place Market’s neighborhood restaurant, boasting the kind of ever-present crowd and soul-rich vitality that showier joints only dream about. The appeal? One of Seattle’s iconic views, for starters, through pretty half-moon windows looking over market (there’s the pig!) and bay. As for the food, look for fresh, exuberant innovations that showcase that day’s bounty from the fishmongers and high-stallers downstairs, at times pleasantly, at times extraordinarily. Lunchtime brings prices into the realm of the affordable, along with a famous lineup of inspired sandwiches. Where to bring the out-of-towners.
It’s fusion comfort food to wing you around the world, from the culinary masterminds of Fremont’s upscale fusion dinner house Joule. Revel is more down-market—subway tiles, hard chairs, a youthfully informal vibe—anchored by a buzzing workshop kitchen and, in the adjoining industrial-chic bar Quoin, barkeeps who knit their brows like chemists while precision-dribbling lavender bitters. But the food’s the real revelation: a lineup of Asian street fare (dumplings, pancakes, noodle bowls) embellished across cuisines—now a dumpling stuffed with smoky Earl Grey tea-soaked ricotta and draped in delicata squash and candied pecans, now a pork belly–kimchi pancake loaded with bean sprouts and fire. Not to be missed are daily innovations like an arugula salad with corned lamb and nuoc cham dressing—showcasing this kitchen’s genius for layering flavors and textures. Desserts are fun and themey: ice cream sandwiches, soda pop, and other good stuff.