1. When your editor suggests that this could be just the year to choose the Top 100 Restaurants in Seattle—a feature we've never before done—you have a minor panic attack. It's not that you can't name 100 terrific ones; on the contrary. We have so...many...more. (Have you checked our new Gastronaut App?) You list the Seattle restaurants you seriously love, careful to stop short of the ones you just very much appreciate certain aspects of…and it numbers 209. You have a major panic attack.
2. You apply rationality: What are the standards you most value in a restaurant? This calms you; you have developed and refined these standards in 30-plus years of reviewing. The best restaurants know precisely what they are. They do what they do with integrity and purpose. They are in it for the art of food, not the bottom line. (Oh well, of course they’re in it for the bottom line—only it doesn’t show.) The food is fresh, authentic, creative, consistent. The service is wholehearted, genuine, knowledgeable, not overly familiar. When you’re there, all around you is a deep sense of place—sleek, folksy, posh, divey—doesn’t matter, as long as it fits the soul of the operation. That soul? Ineffable, impossible to quantify, even harder to describe—and the very most important part of all.
3. You eat. YOU EAT. Many of these places you’ve sampled recently, many more of them you need to go back to. Your food and drink editor Allecia Vermillion brings her list. We go to bat; we make our case. We winnow more. We add! (OMG I just tried X! OMG How could I forget about Y!) We reluctantly subtract. (Gaaaah...how could Stumbling Goat be closing!?! And Blind Pig??!!)
4. You consider the restaurants you admire that have opened recently, and the ways they are influencing the course of Seattle dining, and you are delighted to give them their due. The soaring innovation at Eden Hill. The old-school precision at the beautiful Copine. The genuinely groundbreaking hybrid that Renee Erickson created in Bateau. With difficulty you choose one to be Seattle Met’s 2016 Restaurant of the Year, and you are proud of the choice.
5. You survey the final list, to find yourself proudest of this: The statement these works of art called restaurants ultimately add up to. Seattle is blessed—with an astonishing regional bounty of fresh food, yes, but crucially with the creative talent to turn that bounty into this many great establishments. Amid the flurry of attention new restaurants get their 15 minutes in, it’s particularly gratifying to throw love at the less newsworthy but enduring winners that, day in and day out, keep doing what they do—really, really well. So well they give Seattle its storied culinary soul.
So without further ado: Seattle Met’s Top 100 Seattle Restaurants.