Best Restaurants 2017

Seattle's Best New Bars That Are Secretly Dining Destinations

Remember when Seattle’s bars and restaurants were kind of indistinguishable? These newcomers are proudly, defiantly drink destinations, two from the same pair of local beverage luminaries. And yet we keep coming back for the food.

By Allecia Vermillion August 18, 2017 Published in the September 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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New Luck Toy

New Luck Toy

The ceiling is thick with red paper lanterns and diners wield disposable chopsticks in pursuit of honey-pecan prawns (below) or fried rice with the sort of breezy flavor punch that chef Mark Fuller long ago nailed at Ma‘ono, his beloved destination restaurant just down California Ave in West Seattle. But here, against a backdrop of Skee-Ball and karaoke, Fuller embraces the sort of throwbacky Chinese-via-midcentury American dishes you might eat out of a carton, in sweats on the couch. (Except, irony alert, the crowds mean the kitchen doesn’t offer any actual takeout.) New Luck Toy flicks sticky General Tso’s sauce in the eye of Seattle’s move toward more regional Chinese flavors; the black, gold, and bamboo bar in the back, with its bevy of slushy machines and draft rum drinks, exhibits a similarly genial disregard for tropical drink traditions.

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No Anchor

The closure of Spur, a seminal Seattle gastropub, left chef Jeffrey Vance a free agent with a deep reservoir of ideas about intelligent bar fare. It was right around the time Chris and Anu Elford sought a chef to make food worthy of their new Belltown bar’s beer program, designed to show off the particulars of each hard-sourced pour with minimal snobbery. In Vance, the couple found a similarly relentless attention to detail plus a kindred belief that, if you’re doing your job right, those specific efforts go unnoticed: The guy dehydrates and pulverizes charred scallions to dust on radishes (decadent when dipped in Vance’s parmesan custard) to mimic the earth they came from. Ceramic dishes of fried oyster mushrooms, or dungeness crab on a pretzel roll with ketchup chips—yes, Vance powderizes his own ketchup too—slay as IPA companions but lure people with minimal beer interest in for dinner.

Navy Strength

Tiki culture is appealing because it can transport you—though too often straight into a drunkenly chanted Jimmy Buffett chorus. In a handsome room next to their new beer bar (see above), Chris and Anu Elford, she a longtime tiki proponent at her first bar, Rob Roy, have created a Belltown destination for anyone who’s ever hankered after a well-made fog cutter without the ubiquitous side of thatched roof. Jeffrey Vance does the food here too; that’s why the go-to snack is a savory beef heart tartare with salmon roe, and the clever fish sauce caesar with paneer and (unwieldy) pretzel croutons arrives beneath a shower of nasturtium petals, as though it passed through a ticker tape parade en route to the table. Plates are more relaxed than at No Anchor, but nail the adventure and sidestep cliche with as much savvy as the tropically inclined drinks.

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