Does the skyline view really sparkle just a little more from Marination's beer garden–esque patio? Or is it just the attendant high from the kalua pork tacos, Spam sliders, shave ice, and some of the best fries in town? Few things impress an out-of-towner like a water taxi ride across the bay for a meal at Marination, preferably accompanied by a drink or two from the great beer list.
Since waterside restaurants aren't as abundant as you'd think in this city, the sparkling French cafe across Alki Avenue from the beach is noteworthy even before you add in the menu of bistro classics. It's a neighborhood crowdpleaser, at slightly higher-than-neighborhood prices.
Over at the Alki location, food is as straightforward as it gets—blackened wild salmon, seafood chowder, halibut and chips—but views don't get much better than this sweeping Seattle vista, sandwiched between equally broad blue swaths of baywater and sky.
True, there are crowds, and drinks with the sort of prices you might expect at a rooftop hotel bar. And a reservation-encouraging policy people don't always expect at a bar. But no other place in town gives you that birds-eye view of Pike Place Market, with a sweeping backdrop of Elliott Bay's various personas. The vast patio is a summertime scene, but the moody indoor bar is a solid perch year round.
Viaduct construction and endless tourists be damned, this is waterside atmosphere at its best—dockside, screeching gulls, the smell of creosote and fried fish—with viewy outdoor pier tables in summer. And locals know that beneath the corporate chain veneer lurks one of the most city's most legit destinations for oysters. Even in summer's oyster-challenged months, the vast list mixes big names, small farms, and rarities from here and beyond.
Pike Place Market's longtime French bistro brings off all the familiar dishes adeptly, and is on a lot of people’s short list for its happy hour booze on the great deck, its terrific view of the bay, and its destination weekend brunches.
A quarter century ago, it was Seattle’s original cult restaurant, with a the signless entrance in Post Alley that belies the cavernous theatrical dining room within. Now, newly reopen from a remodel, the straightforward Italian restaurant retains a patio absolutely worth braving the tourist hordes on summer afternoons: a light-strung, lattice-shaded hideaway where you can drink negronis against an Elliott Bay backdrop.
El Gaucho's sprawling, window-walled seafood sibling at the tip of Pier 70 features cruise-ship vistas of Elliott Bay, along with an interior view—shiny exhibition kitchen, shiny copper light fixtures, shiny gorgeous people—to rival them. The vibe is more piano bar and surf-and-turf than waterfront happy hour, but the deck trends more casual.
Forget what you know about hotel restaurants: The over-the-water centerpiece of the charming Edgewater Hotel doesn’t rely on captive audiences or killer Elliott Bay views—there goes another ferry—to fill its cushy seats. Instead, in a room as warmly Northwest as a forest clearing, the menu celebrates land (perhaps braised short ribs with parsnip puree) and sea (a beautiful hunk of cedar-plank salmon with blackberry honey and several dozen other components) with general skill.
Sometimes it feels like every other table has someone proposing marriage or planning their Ride the Ducks tour , but this longstanding spot does boast one of Seattle’s great views, the sweep of Elliott Bay and Puget Sound toward the Olympics. Inside, the whiff of grandeur only an indoor pond can provide. Food is safe and spendy (but hooray for free valet).
From the folks who brought us Matt’s in the Market comes the rare South Lake Union spot with waves lapping at its toes. Strictly speaking this is just a fish-and-chips shack—but quality on the casual menu is cranked a full notch or three up from expectations, from steamed clams elevated with leeks, fennel, and Mama Lil’s peppers to fried chunks of corn on the cob slathered with smoked jalapeno cream. It's the place to come by bike, or kayak, all summer; and if you’re lucky enough to have a boat—they’ll deliver to it. And if the weather isn't nice, you can eat your food inside at its sibling seafood bar...
The other new spot from the good folks who brought us Matt’s in the Market and Radiator Whiskey, a waterside pub along the docks of South Lake Union that treats seafood as robustly as Radiator treats meat. White Swan nails casual food like clam chowder poutine, deep-fried brussels sprouts, steamed clams, and fried oyster salad and both the dining room and wraparound patio deliver marina views aplenty.
In summer it’s pure Hamptons, as you tie your boat to the North Lake Union dock and slurp beautifully shucked oysters at an Adirondack chair on the tiny beach.
There's a time and a place for Ivar's Salmon House. The time is summer visitors (particularly ones who aren't into trendy restaurants); the place is the umbrella-dotted patio in back, where boaters tie up their vessels and saunter up for fish and chips and diners who don't own marine vessels simply enjoy the Space Needle view.
Take in Gas Works Park and taxiing sea planes from the picnic benches on the back patio, most likely over some serviceable Mexican food and excellent drinks (which can take a while to make it to your table, given the sunny day crowds).
It's unlikely anyone goes to Seattle's fine dining destination nonpareil strictly for the views, but the whole breathtaking sweep of Lake Union twinkling just below the windows surely adds to its mythic charms. The lower dining room takes full advantage of Canlis's perch on Queen Anne hill, so speak up when you make your reservation (side note: definitely make a reservation, and do it well in advance) and the staff will try to accommodate your view-seeking needs.
A dockside legend for over four decades, thanks to an archetypal seafood menu and a record of pristine sourcing (Copper River salmon was practically invented here), its stunning wide-angle view over Shilshole Bay and the Olympic Mountains. It’s now settled into a more staid level of accomplishment The menu gussies up the mainly seafood preparations more than it once did but fish is still cooked with appropriate restraint. Service is careful and desserts terrific. Upstairs is Ray’s Cafe, home of an even better view, a breezy deck, a family-oriented menu, and mediocre food.
The remaining location of this erstwhile local chain is all about crowdpleaser menus (chipotle-honey bbq ribs, Dungeness mac ‘n’ cheese). Depending on who you ask, the interior is either comfortably worn, or has seen better days. But there are surprisingly few restaurants along Lake Washington's western shore, and the water views are lovely. FYI, all those views happen from the indoor seating, since the patio faces the street.
This charming tudor-style house of stacked stones is just across Rainier Avenue from the water, an easy low-key spot for breakfast and baked goods and classic sandwiches.
A lakeside restaurant at Carillon Point, with a Franco-corporate sheen and sweeping views over the marina. All the bistro staples are here—coq au vin, moules frites, bouillabaisse...
The restaurant anchor at Kirkland’s Woodmark Hotel delivers a rigorous wine emphasis and even better view.
So. Many. Views.
Mamnoon's sibling has an unobstructed perch atop the 400 Fairview building, which means there's a lot of water to take in. Not to mention Jason Stratton's world-ranging sensibilities, as applied to Pacific Northwest ingredients. The dining room has plenty of windows, but this time of year it just seems wrong to miss out on the patio, complete with firepits, stylish chairs, and custom blankets for chilly nights.
Updated May 4: Maree Bistro closed March 31, 2018.