Editor's Note: This article was updated April 22, 2019 to reflect restaurant closures and several new walk-up windows.
Pure joy will only cost you $2.50 inside the Hillcrest Market (or from its Olive Way–facing walk-up window) on Capitol Hill, where a family-run counter creates Mexico City–style tacos that aren’t just great but divine. Offerings include carne asada, al pastor (for the purists, this one’s not carved off a spit, but the lightly grilled pineapple slice on top is perfect), and one called campechano, which is the divine combo of chorizo, asada, potato, and nopal (cactus), all doused in mild verde and roja salsas and piled upon corn tortillas that are handmade daily.
Grass-fed meat, housemade pickles—there’s much to admire in the faux-lowbrow burger joints semi-recently inducted into the pantheon of Renee Erickson restaurants. But OMG these fries: crinkle cut, genuine flavor, perfect crunch. And, man, those Parfait Ice Cream milkshakes. There’s the OG location in Denny Regrade, but two newer walk-up windows—one in Chinatown–International District, another downtown on Third Ave—promise the same full menu and a swift lunch trip.
From the owners of Knee High Stocking Co. (and just around the corner from the East Olive Way speakeasy) comes a walk-up window doling out Filipino-style American comfort food to the bar crowds of Capitol Hill. Lumpia come stuffed with all kinds of meat fillings (or cheese, or veggies) alongside sweet and sour, garlic honey, or cilantro sour cream dipping sauces. For those recovering from a late-night binge, more substantial sammies are to be had—steak smothered with Velveeta, cured pork tocion, pork adobo, grilled cheese—all served on traditional pandesal buns. Spuds come with all matters of toppings (sriracha mayo, duck fat, mushroom gravy, pork). Open late.
Taking cues from the ever-popular Middle Eastern street foods from Mamnoon’s to-go menu up on Capitol Hill, owners Wassef and Racha Harouns have transported this quick-and-casual concept to the Amazon patch of Sixth Ave. The same small plate, or mezze, favorites are here such as the bright quinoa tabbouleh and (yes!) the spicy harra frites with Aleppo pepper, cayenne, and cilantro. A staple of Lebanese street food, their mana’eesh flatbread lineup can naturally be found here too. But folks cluster on the sidewalk for this: shawarma made with chicken or lamb accompanied by pickled turnips, herbs, and a special Mamnoon Street sauce, or pickled pepper and a roasted garlic sauce.
SoDo may not be a land of lavish dining, but this neighborhood is a goldmine of fast food. Case in point: Pick-Quick Drive In. It’s been passing burgers, fries, and shakes through windows since 1949—now the Fife landmark has come to Seattle. At the drive-through or walk-up window on Fourth Ave South, nab a burger made with Painted Hills grass-fed beef, handcut fries, and a Snoqualmie Ice Cream milkshake. Pick quickly, but thank us at your leisure.
A sweets-and-cocktails specialist in the thick of Capitol Hill that’s all about pie. The line outside the walk-up window on weekends can be massive, with Ubers blocking traffic to drop off bar-hopping crowds (read: don't wait until 2am or you may just find a sold out sign). What not to bring: a party of four (I mean it's teensy, hence the walk-up window), your children (it’s licensed as a bar), a liquor snob (they don’t call these creamy cocktails rimmed in streusel Pie-tinis for nothing), or a big-dinner appetite (savory pies are limited in number, blandly spiced, and diminutively portioned). Do bring a sweet tooth, for the half-dozen-nightly varieties of dessert pie, built proudly on leaf lard crusts, which explains their extraordinary richness and flake.
Along the Pike/Pine corridor awaits a most delightful cafe filled with fruit tarts, French macarons, a slew of specialty cakes, plus a myriad of other baked goods. But don’t be fooled: This isn’t just a bakeshop. You can stay and dine on savory fare, but should you require a more expedited experience, stop by the walk-up window and order from a short menu of sweets to go. Bonus: It’s open Friday and Saturday until 2am when the dessert hankerings are strong and your desire to bake anything is weak.
Part of Ballard’s tiki bar Hotel Albatross, this sidewalk stop issues street food that could satisfy many a munchie: deep-fried taco shells with carnitas or chorizo, pico de gallo, and avocado; chili–stuffed tamales; and an holy mashup of tater tots and nachos, aka totchos.
Tortas Condesa closed
Monica Dimas’s walkup window on Olive Way serves Mexico City’s signature signature oblong sandwiches, each toasted bolillo stuffed with meat (housemade chorizo and fried eggs, braised beef mole) or veggies (roasted broccoli and spicy mushrooms, roasted beets and quinoa) and piled with all manner of spicy, crunchy, creamy accompaniments. Take it to go, or eat these messy wonders at Montana down the street. Next: We're counting down to Dimas's Lil Neon Taco to open its window on First Hill.
Occupying the walk-up counter at 1509 East Madison, a humble spot with a surprisingly noble lineage that includes Little Uncle and Manu’s Bodegita now serves a half-dozen varieties of bagels, plus plenty of schmears. Look for flavors like sesame, salt, pumpernickel, and the classic “everything,” made with spices from Villa Jerada. In other words, don’t come here expecting sugar bomb bagels, though there is a version made with cinnamon and currants. A special caviar schmear is available on Fridays, lovely atop a Maldon sea salt bagel. And now, a little more than a year after Westman's first caused Seattle to lose its bagel-loving mind, production will be able to keep up with demand: Owner Monica Dimas will open Cafe Westman's in Pioneer Square and a commissary-slash-wholesale operation in Seward Park this spring.
Imbibers on Capitol Hill have a new, international sandwich to snack on: Middle Eastern saj wraps courtesy of Taylor Cheney, whose Arabic popup Yalla has settled into the walk-up space formerly home to Tortas Condesa. Wrap options include combinations of rich labneh with bright, herby za’atar or spinach doused in olive oil with citrusy sumac and caramelized onion. For carnivores, there’s traditionally prepared meats, like hawashi, flavorful Egyptian-style lamb or beef grilled in oil, and musakhan, a traditional Palestinian dish of chicken cooked with sumac-melted onions. An ever-changing cast of Yalla's biggest hot and cold mezze hits can be found too, from charred eggplant salad to hummus.