Business in the Front, Patio in the Back
Lucky Beacon Hill, that its pizzeria so embodies the soul of the neighborhood restaurant. The place bubbles, from the sheer crush of devotees inside its tidy, clean-lined quarters to its wood-fired pizza crusts—crispy and flavorful like Neapolitan with a little more tooth to the chew. These pies are the province of master pizzaiolo Jerry Corso, who delivers a short list of Italian regional antipasti, seasonal salads, and terrific Italian desserts. As for drinks, there’s wine, beer, and cocktails—those skew Italian, too. Though the most Italian thing in the place might be its back patio on which one sips an Aperol spritz in the sunshine.
Small Plates, Wine Bar
Bottlehouse is the sort of place every neighborhood would like to have in its midst. It’s a cozy Madrona hangout with a leafy, light-dappled deck, a one-stop retail shop with a curated selection of bottles to go, and a destination worth traveling to for glasses of wine or cider, even sherry-based cocktails paired with rustic charcuterie and cheese plates.
Painted bright yellow inside, with greenery atop repurposed rum barrels, this shack exudes the smoky aroma of an island-style cookout. Belltown, suddenly, feels much more Caribbean. Let Jerk Shack transport you to a warmer world in which two can share a half jerk-spiced fried chicken rustically served on a wood slab with medallions of crispy plantain. Extend this tropical retreat with rum punch. Even better if the rum’s sipped out back, under the sun, on the fenced-in patio.
It’s rustic Italian cuisine, in a setting so unabashedly sexy it makes raging lust look just a little uptight. Against a backdrop in all the sultry colors of a Tuscan twilight—or alfresco in a charming vine-entwined courtyard behind the dining room proper—feed on lush forkfuls of lamb and sausage bolognese or vermouth-simmered mussels. A vibrant tipple from the bar and perhaps an elegant piece of olive oil cake with cherry mascarpone bookend your evening in a way that altogether explains why it was so hard to get a table.
Raise the Rooftop
With its French subway tile and vintage fixtures, Bastille delivers a lively shot of Paris to Ballard Avenue. 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 daily happy hours and suppers, surveys French bistro classics through a carefully sourced Northwest lens: Taylor Shellfish moules frites and burnished salads from the rooftop garden.
Middle Eastern flavor abounds on the menu, but don’t come to this South Lake Union rooftop expecting a clone of sister restaurant Mamnoon. No, up here it’s all about purest Northwest ingredients filtered through the world-ranging sensibilities of chef Jason Stratton, the expanse of which you can take in from this viewy room and adjoining patio. Come summer, the best tables overlook downtown, naturally.
This longtime pair of Northwest (as in freshness) meets Southeast (as in Asian) hybrids brings genuine global elegance to North Capitol Hill and West Bellevue, whose denizens can’t get enough of the consistent Vietnamese favorites in polished, sophisticated quarters. Grilled beef la lot, drunken chicken, and clay pot catfish sustain breathless followings. As does weekend dim sum brunch. (As does the Seattle rooftop, glorious in summer.)
Asian Fusion, Northwest
There’s kind of an LA vibe at this bar atop the Thompson Hotel downtown. The view, however, couldn’t happen anywhere else. It’s a rare rooftop vista that gives you a bird’s-eye view of Pike Place Market, not to mention every possible angle of Elliott Bay splendor. The expansive patio is hopping in summertime, but the small-yet-stylish indoor area is great year round. Cocktails are great and reservations are a good idea.
Into the skinny, window-lined point of Melrose Market, one of Seattle’s finest chefs, Tamara Murphy, has tucked a more rustic, more casual, and more global chaser to her late, great Brasa. At wood tables or the warm triangular bar, a broad demographic of diners nibble off small plates of spot prawns in chimichurri or velvety charcuterie, or order among meat, seafood, or veggie plates—including more than a few of the classics (roast pig with clams and housemade chorizo) this pig-loving chef made famous at Brasa. The space particularly shines by streaming daylight, which Murphy exploits with lunch and brunch service. Rooftop dining too.
Supreme Square Footage
American/New American, Sandwiches/Deli
It’s a splash of down-east Maine in Seattle; a tidy nautical space in the restaurant-court lobby of the 400 Fairview, with plenty of patio seating for the large parties that colonize this spot for craft beer, trenchant appetizers and cocktails, clam chowders, and lobster rolls. They’re diminutive and served market-price (read: spendy) and served with plain coleslaw and potato chips—but they’re great, their buttery toasted white rolls spilling meaty chunks of lobster dressed in your choice of three regional styles. (Choose New England for classic mayo, celery, and chive.) Dungeness rolls provide a more regional, and no less exceptional, statement. And for dessert? A whoopie pie, for goodness’ sake.
In Georgetown, a fortress of brick walls conceals a temple of dining influenced by the grilling traditions of South America, Portugal, the Mediterranean, and beyond. Here, an open grill yields harissa-spiced chicken for the whitewashed, warehouselike dining room, where diners sit in gaily colored chairs beneath the folkloric Stacey Rozich mural. Meanwhile, just around the corner is sibling spot Bar Ciudad, home of cocktails, drafts, wine, and rotisserie chicken: whole or half birds that come with one or two sides and sauce.
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.
American/New American, Pizza
No-nonsense thin crust pizzas from the wood oven, a small list of thoughtful sides (could be a beautiful seasonal salad, could be hearty pozole) and a top-notch draft list that leans more European than hophead. Lower Queen Anne needs more casually grownup spaces like the Masonry, but for now that blessing goes to Fremont, where the Masonry opened a second spot housing a few more taps of craft beers and just as many satisfying pizzas, all of which can be had on the expansive front deck.
Heavy Restaurant Group’s Pablo y Pablo offers quite the take on the baja-style taco. Most of the requisite parts remain: housemade tortillas with locally sourced masa, a bed of crisp cabbage, a drizzle of beach-blond aioli, pico de gallo for a little sweetness. A crustacean crown of soft-shell crab adorns the three-bite taco, delivering flavors unmistakably rich and earthy. It’s in the “Baller” column of the menu for a reason. And, as some ballers do, consume said tacos or any other Mexican offerings on the roomy front patio facing 34th Street.
The crisp windowy space is clean and contemporary with bright green banquettes and long team tables with old school chairs; a shelf of gleaming trophies at the entry and a wall of lockers lining one side of the bar. This isn’t just a sports bar; it’s a commentary on a sports bar. Either way, the fire pits that flank the entrance are always packed on game days.
Josh Henderson, one of the busiest restaurateurs in town, originally designed this crisp and breezy fantasy of a French bistro—complete with wooden tables and negronis (and other rotating cocktails) on tap. But the restraint one might see in a French bistro is replaced here with a broad streak of wanton excess (see burger with Beecher’s palate-lacquering white cheddar, see over-buttered grilled Columbia City Bakery bread). The long narrow room—bar on one side, dining tables on the other—is awkwardly cramped, making summer, when the partially covered patio off the Burke-Gilman Trail is roaring morning to night, this restaurant’s prime time.
At first glance, the former auto-body shop with the raw-timbered, barrel-vaulted ceilings telegraphs old-school Americana—diner counter with barstools, TVs with the game on, ample, shaded patio, a free parking lot in downtown Columbia City—but a glance at the menu shows that the kitchen is actually a lab for inventive Asian fusion, heavy on the aloha. This is the biggest and most restauranty of the laudable local Marination chain, with a menu spanning dishes from spicy salmon poke to intelligent comfort foods like, sigh, fries topped with kalua pork, kimchi mayo, and a fried egg. Open breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and the fried dough balls known as malasadas, thank heaven, are available at all of ’em.
Pike/Pine izakaya Suika spun off this more cavernous sibling up the street, serving the same masterful mashup of Japanese drinking food. A sashimi sampler is served on a tiny wood staircase, the dan dan noodles are stunning in both looks and flavor, and sizzling hot stones serve as tabletop grills for thin slices of wagyu beef. Sake and cheerful cocktails are plenty enjoyable at the bar, even more so with a round of sushi out on the covered patio.
A popular barbecue food truck is now a popular restaurant in the Central District, with a bar full of local beer and cocktails with house-smoked ingredients. The lineup of pulled pork, brisket, and mac and cheese bowls is the work of unabashed barbecue geek Matt Davis, a former furniture maker with a degree in wood technology. The barbecue is great, but the sprawling next-door patio is even better.
Marination Ma Kai, just off the foot ferry on the West Seattle shore, peddles pork katsu sandwiches, Spam sliders, fish-and-chips, Hawaiian shave ice, and booze—with a side of full-frontal Seattle skyline on the house.
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 at 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. Inventions can miss from time to time, and the place can suffer from a surfeit of tropes. But oh, that beach in summer.
Tiny or Tucked Away
While there’s no shortage of places to perch at this airy Capitol Hill establishment, step outside to find a brick-paved patio that seats a couple dozen sun-starved Seattleites (with heaters for cool nights). Wherever you land, though, dig into the menu’s eclectic lineup that may include tobiko-topped deviled eggs, fries dusted with za’atar, or a fresh ahi tuna and avocado bowl. Cocktails are of course best sipped in full sunlight with a slight breeze.
An ever-growing catalog of rare and vintage spirits meets cocktails whose playful delivery systems (miniature bathtubs, faux IV bags) belie their clever flavors. Canon’s interior may be all dark wood and glowing bottles, but the secluded, covered back patio is the ideal spot for a sparkling negroni.
The palm-thatched, bamboo-adorned evolution of the No Bones About It vegan food truck has morphed into a fully formed coastal-inspired plant-based restaurant in Ballard. Seattle has its fair share of dreary weather to be sure, so No Bones Beach Club was born, a bastion of tiki-inspired cocktails and an oasis of paradise. Truly, it doesn’t get more offbeat than “vegan tiki bar.” Surfboards hang on the walls, Blue Crush plays on the TV over the bar, and just about every table has a towering plate of nachos, with cashew and smoked poblano faux queso as a decadent stand-in for the real thing. It’s food even an omnivore can love, and you’d have to be made of stone to resist a boat drink (painkillers, mai tais, a creamy coconut mojito) bedecked with a paper umbrella, especially if you score one of the tables out front.
The prowlers of Pike/Pine have taken to its deafeningly loud all-day commissary with unmitigated glee, and why shouldn’t they? Oddfellows covers all waking hours (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night), with espresso and a lineup of house-baked pastries by morning, meadow-fresh salads and hearty soups and paninis by day, warming nouveau comfort food by night, and cocktails and wines and foamy pints whenever. The place itself exudes the kind of rumpled, been-here-forever comfort that is the stock-in-trade of owner, legendary Seattle bar-maker Linda Derschang. And when the days eventually warm up, to the brick-walled back patio ye must go.
A French bistro menu, a fleet of crisp-white-shirted waiters, and a bubbling crowd greet diners in this fourth iteration of the minimalist cement-walled space on the Madrona strip—the best iteration yet. The reason? The steak-frites lineup, offering five cuts of meat up the ladder of price points with a choice of four sauces—a swell match to how the Madrona mix of families and young professionals want to eat. (No need to venture beyond the $26 hanger steak; it’s plenty tender and flavorful.) Beyond that, the Ethan Stowell quality control in the kitchen is amply evident across bistro classics; if it’s available don’t miss the lush goat cheese–mushroom tartine. The bar is great, but the small patio a few steps from the restaurant is almost bucolic.
Ethan Stowell’s eldest restaurant is also his most overtly Italian, a house of fresh housemade pastas, tossed simply with elegant enhancements like veal brains and brown butter, or short ribs and parsley. Truth be told, we prefer the main dishes—richly braised meats that could come in the form of lamb shank with eggplant or a masterful plate of branzino—since the short-order mandate of the pastas can get the better of its bustling open kitchen when the place gets slammed. And here we should note that we’ve never seen the concrete-and-wood, lofted urban hotspot with the windows that open onto the Second Avenue sidewalk not slammed: The big communal table in the center fills up fast, and the energy is irresistible. A second location on Pike/Pine replicates the original’s vibe, but adds a patio.