With its French subway tile and vintage fixtures, Bastille delivers a lively shot of Paris to Ballard Ave. Few restaurants have mastered ambience like this one—from the speakeasylike Back Bar (anchored with a crystal chandelier big as Marie Antoinette’s hair) to the breezy patio. The menu, Sunday brunches through nightly happy hours and suppers, surveys French bistro classics through a carefully sourced Northwest lens: Taylor Shellfish moules frites, burnished salads from the rooftop garden, and North African dishes like the very satisfying Anderson Ranch lamb sausage sandwich with artichoke mustard. Execution can be inconsistent and service tone-deaf. In this room, c’est la vie.
The only restaurant in the city to legitimately rate as mythic has been perched out over the vertiginous eastern edge of Queen Anne Hill since 1950. That makes it about as classic as it gets around here—right down to the midcentury split-level architecture, the dress code (jackets for the gents), the noblest mixed drinks in town, the fathoms-deep wine list, the perfectionist standard of hospitality (where the valets remember your car without aid of a claim ticket), and the whole breathtaking sweep of Lake Union twinkling just beyond the windows. Because the third generation of Canlis family restaurateurs insist on culinary relevance, the food is every bit as grand: Both the warhorses (yes, the Canlis salad is still on the menu) and the more experimental, rigorously Northwest, Asian-leaning multicourse dinners are genuinely impeccable. Service has been updated as well, to a most intelligent and nimble brand of affability.
Driving from Seattle to this destination restaurant at the Cedarbrook Lodge retreat facility and hotel is like falling down a 15-mile rabbit hole: You’re in a separate ecosystem, pristine as a terrarium, amid a spongy wetland of ponds and native gardens, dining in a classy hearthside space that’s a cross between the lobby of a resort and the living room of a very fortunate friend. It’s a suitably Northwest backdrop for determinedly Northwest fare—venison two ways with celeriac and tart cherries, spoonable beef short ribs with organic vegetables and stunning truffle-beet relish—presented with laudable execution and strict attention to organic, sustainable ingredients. Dishes can err on the side of safe—but for hungry South County–ites (or folks stuck at Sea-Tac airport, just minutes away), that’s a small price to pay for the best food in miles.
American/New American, Northwest
The former Hunt Club inside the Hotel Sorrento is refreshed and reborn as a bistro of sorts, with dark wood paneling, Moroccan tile floors, and an uberseasonal Northwest menu. While entrees like plank-roasted sockeye salmon and Waygu sirloin certainly satisfy, attention is paid even to smaller plates. Take the charcuterie board, an oft-apathetic arrangement of cured meats and cheese; here, it’s near bacchanalian—folds of prosciutto, coppa, and salumi are gently piled beside fanned-out gouda and Humboldt Fog. Come happy hour, saunter to the adjacent Fireside Room, off the Sorrento lobby, when the evening calls for brandy by firelight.
Smooth as a Don Draper ad pitch, the luscious Goldfinch is culinary overachiever Ethan Stowell’s claim upon the increasingly commendable hotel restaurant market. It sprawls across the Four Seasons lobby, its layout of midcentury, suspended globes and slatted panels and textured upholstery making much better sense of the space (and the view) than its former occupant. Ditto the menu, unapologetically comfort focused and Northwest inspired, with crab cakes and housemade pastas and wild king salmon and a fine Wagyu burger. The kitchen’s interest dials up when orders stray from the well-trod path, so order something like the crisp-fried quail with the cider sauce and you may just forget you’re in a hotel.
It’s the pull-out-all-the-stops, Big Night Out dining room in the state, maybe in three states—and it’s pure culinary pleasure. Its genesis is the stuff of legend; a couple of humble Fall City gardeners with extra chives began selling their bounty out of a roadside cart, then a small retail shop, where they began turning the herbs into festive lunches, then multicourse dinners. Before long, the charming restaurant had earned a regional reputation for nine-course feasts built upon a theme—Copper River salmon perhaps in late spring, truffles midwinter. These days, like his predecessors before him, chef Chris Weber combs the wilds and the deeps for the freshest seasonal components, then ingeniously combines them into the sorts of preparations that make bold new sense of Northwest plenty: dungeness crab and spot prawns with apple-fennel salad and a frothy sea urchin sauce; Douglas fir sorbet, a bracing Herbfarm classic; or, during root vegetable week, Wagyu beef short ribs with truffled beets, glazed turnips, and a parsnip praline. It’s all served with astutely matched wines by a staff of courteous pros and preceded by a lively tutorial from the chef on the herbs and ingredients on offer that evening. There’s a lot that’s unique about the Herbfarm: its refined yet rustic decor, its five-hour dinners, its Chilean guitarist, and its lavish formality (Five forks! Five wineglasses!). But for our money, and it’s a lot of money, its oh-so-earnest delight in the garden is its most endearing quality. Reservations essential.
The most elegant bar in Pioneer Square is all light hues and ladylike linens, every inch the next generation of the legendary Il Terrazzo Carmine, down the hall. The food is its equal—classics like beet salad and octopus risotto and buttery lamb chops, served as small plates—with an amaro collection headlining at the bar. At Il Terrazzo Carmine, the Smeraldos have been serving sumptuous Italian classics for over three decades. If pressed, the establishment regulars will praise the peerless osso buco, the garlicky rack of lamb, the noble cioppino—but nobody wants to cultivate competition for their favorite tables. Which, incidentally, are formally sheathed in white and arrayed handsomely in a windowed room. Or, sit beside the outdoor fireplace on the front patio for optimal people-watching. The latest endeavor, Carmine’s in Bellevue, comes from the sons of the late restaurateur Carmine Smeraldo, for whom it’s named.
When a fire temporarily shuttered this ristorante, West Seattleites acted like they’d lost their own homes. Or their kitchens and dining rooms, anyway. La Rustica is the kind of place all its neighbors (and a few of its not-so-neighbors) regard as home away from home—so much that its size is no match for its fan base. (“Please be sensitive to waiting guests during peak hours,” the menu simpers.) Whether they praise the undersize place as “cozy” or pan it as “cramped,” they generally agree that the mottled walls, interior streetlights, and dripping grapevines cast an appealing Roman luster over the room. Straight-up Italian food completes the picture—bruschettas, pizzas, pastas, a robust toss of gnocchi and housemade sausage, a deservedly renowned lamb shank special with risotto and grilled vegetables; all served with addictive pillowy fingers of herbed garlic bread—providing happy sustenance and wistful homage to what life was like before Dr. Atkins came along and ruined everything.
Tagines and garlicky dips, mezes and moussakas and glistening lamb kebabs—this all-day restaurant beside the hearth-enhanced lobby of the Hotel Ändra is Tom Douglas’s tribute to his wife Jackie’s Greek heritage, showcasing better than any of his other restaurants his uncanny genius at making smart food into comfort food. Some of the best breakfasts in Seattle happen here.
It’s a known fact that rockfish ceviche and plantain chips taste their brightest and best within quarters as cerulean and sparkling as a wave breaking on a tropical beach. That’s Manolin on Stone Way, whose rounded bar within and surroundable fire pit out front create all the right kinds of warmth—heightened when you throw in the sweetest service in town and a pisco cocktail or two. Add food to the mix—small plates of halibut cooked with restraint over a light mole, smoked arctic char posing artfully on oiled and herb-flecked sour cream, one of those startlingly fine ceviches (there are two on every daily menu)—and the place is not only transporting, it’s gastronomically spot on. Seek out Manolin chef Alex Barkley’s other culinary whims at the Rain City Chefs Alliance’s monthly popups.
From the people who brought us Bastille comes this glorious stage set of Colonial Mexico, dripping with wrought iron, Talavera tiles, and saturated bursts of color. A woman sits crafting tortillas on site. As distinguished a place as this is to be—not to mention drink (there’s an enclosed deck with tables graced by personal fire pits)—it’s not quite as rewarding a place to eat. Unremarkable tacos and enchiladas may fill you up, but not memorably; better are the entree platters like the Yucatan-style grilled chicken, in a fiery three-pepper marinade with a side of habanero sauce. Poquitos’ emphasis on sourcing ensures natural and local meats, something you hardly ever see in Mexican restaurants. We can’t speak for the sourcing of the, um, grasshoppers however; it was all we could do to eat the crispy bar snack fired with guajillo chilies, salt, and lime. (On our visit, these were not on the menu, but all we had to do was ask.)
A massively tricked out German-style beer hall, dripping with chandeliers and reclaimed wood paneling and finished off with some bocce ball courts—it’s an unconventional combo, but man Rhein Haus is fun. The lineup of housemade sausages—kielbasa, cheddarwurst, nurembergs—is impressive but the spiral-cut fried potato impaled on a stick is drinking food at its sartorial best. The beer list is long and split between German brews and local ones (often in German styles). Inside a fire blazes beneath a wall-mounted elk head, while an outdoor fire pit allows for stein hoisting in any season.
Until some fool plants a restaurant upon the crown of Mount Rainier, no place will capture the Pacific Northwest’s numinous splendor quite like Salish. Perched on the ledge alongside thundering Snoqualmie Falls (hard to see them from most of the tables, FYI), the lodge overlooks a horizon so mystically mist-obscured one understands immediately why David Lynch set his Twin Peaks here. The interior gleams with a burnished elegance befitting autumnal dinners, with a fire roaring in the fireplace and a wash of amber light. The fawning service and formal food mirrors that elegance—with tabs to match. The wine list offers a stunning selection of Northwest reds.
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. Preparations are pricey and busy—lots of sweet sauces, about a third too many ingredients—but taste good. Folksy service.
It’s a food lab, it’s an artist’s garret—it’s genius owner Matt Dillon’s sun-drenched farmhouse dining room, where you can spy the food merchants of Melrose Market through vintage panes. Logs of wood are stacked against a white brick oven, issuing chicken and vegetables kissed by its flames. Sit at the butcher’s table to watch Dillon’s crew assemble plates which satisfy at an unusually elemental level—simple constructions, like sweet whole carrots over chickpea puree with harissa and fried mint, strike global, even tribal notes, and, as tone poems of Northwest place and moment, may take your breath away.
Bakery/Pastry Shop, Coffee Shop
The coffee—roasted in a gleaming space on Bainbridge Island—is smooth and fine. But it’s the midcentury-cozy Pike Place Market flagship, an upstairs aerie in the Corner Market Building with a fireplace and an iconic Seattle view out demilune windows, that draws loyalists. Baked goods and sandwiches are careful, too.
Oyster Bar, Seafood, Small Plates
In summer it’s pure Hamptons, as you tie your boat to the North Lake Union dock and slurp beautifully shucked oysters from an adirondack chair on the tiny beach. In winter it’s all about the cozy, sipping inspired cocktails in the glow of the hearth oven.