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 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.
In Wallingford Bizzarro's awning out front remains unchanged since the place opened in 1986. The decor is the conversation piece. Vintage tandem bike, oversize dog statue in a cart, inverted year-round Christmas tree—more stuff hangs from the ceiling than most restaurants have on their walls. Small plates to share? Not on this menu. Every dish is an appetizer or an entree, and every entree comes with a salad. The bread, ferried to the table soon after you sit down, is free. Sunday is always spaghetti-and-meatballs night; the snap pea carbonara is always on the menu, seasons be damned. Sometimes the best plates of pasta are found in rooms that don’t change, atop laminated tablecloths, paired with one of two wine varietals—red or white. Places as comfortable as the food itself.
Participate in the decades-long tradition of academic caffeinating under the tall ceilings of the self-proclaimed oldest continually running espresso bar in Seattle. This UW-adjacent hub, accessible through an old alleyway—a real old-cafe-in-Cambridge sort of situation—has strong coffee, tons of tables, and overflow seating upstairs for finals week.
Maximalism reigns in chef Maximillian Petty’s 24-seat dining room atop Queen Anne hill. Dishes like his crispy pig head candy bar reveal a chef able to master a multitude of moving parts. Petty’s combo of cerebral wit and skill is all over the menu—which just changed to a tasting menu–only format, as he and wife Jennifer establish their recently opened and more casual Eden Hill Provisions down the street.
An expansion of hours means waits aren’t quite as crazy at this absurdly delightful breakfast and brunch destination. The avocado toast, various benedicts, and perfectly pulled lattes are equally photogenic and appetizing, but egg bakes are the jam here. Most tables have at least one personal-size cast iron skillet containing the egg bake Alla Boscaiola—two eggs baked in bubbling tomato sauce, with sausage, mushroom, and mozzarella.
There are other cinnamon rolls in town—the fat ones that perfume the mall; the white icing bombs—but you’ll find us at a table inside the coziest house in Madrona, the legendary Hi-Spot, where we’ve been since the late 1970s, ordering the sticky six-inch spiral of wheaty pastry, suffused with butter the way morning sky is suffused with light, exhaling soft flavors of cinnamon and just enough sugar, served warm so its almond shards slide around on the glaze like ice skates on a pond, and so substantial it’s served with a serrated knife. There are other breakfasts to order at the Hi-Spot—the Mexi-Fries, the goat cheese–chicken sausage scramble they call the Round-Up—but whenever we visit, someone has to order the cinnamon roll. It’s just that good.
Ethan Stowell’s tiny neighborhood pocket on the top of Queen Anne whose barrel-vaulted ceiling and coppery light imparts a sense of a glowing hearth. The name honors M. F. K. Fisher’s 1942 paean to eating simply; a fitting benediction for a restaurant that celebrates small plates and uncomplicated pastas shimmering with earthy precision. Thick slices of blush-perfect duck fanned across a plate with beets and mandarin oranges is about as wacky as Wolf’s kitchen gets; the rule is more like a plate of orecchiette pasta with cauliflower, screaming with garlic and anchovies; or rolls of trofie pasta, intensely brightened with parsley-walnut pesto.
Owner Bryan Jarr turned a storage closet beneath Pike Place Market into an approximation of watering holes in San Sebastián or Galicia or Lisbon, and the most welcoming of neighborhood bars in the thick of the tourist zone. In proper Iberian style—and fitting for the owner’s surname—snacks are mainly cured meat or seafood preserved in jars, like a rich rillette of smoked black cod. Cocktails are sunny and the white-walled space is about as charming as they come.
When a fire temporarily shuttered this ristorante, West Seattleites acted like they’d lost their own homes. 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.
An eloquent country-house aesthetic prevails in this airy, two-level space off Occidental, with its bakery, deli, and in-house flower shop, painting a Jane Austen dream of the English countryside—right down to the cobblestones and leafy London plane trees out the window. Foodwise it’s breakfast, lunch, and brunch iterations of Matt Dillon’s signature passions: bold salads with grains and vegetables, lots of cultured dairy, extraordinary brown bread for spreading, and plenty of vinegar counterpoints. Don’t miss a slice of strawberry cake or gateau Basque for dessert—this bakery is outstanding.
If there were ever a cafe that could double as a set in Twin Peaks, it'd be this Capitol Hill spot, all retro seating and throwback stonewalls, seemingly ripped the pages of a David Lynch script. A 24-hour diner, Lost Lake serves breakfast all day and night, including comforting classics: fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits, pancake stacks of various heights, vegan hash, benedicts. Plus, there's diner faves for lunch and dinner, too (wedge salad, BLT, tuna melts, Mom's Meatloaf). Drinks come in the form of damn fine cups of coffee, microbrews, and every shade of cocktail. Save room for dessert—pies locally sourced from A La Mode Pies.
The coffee is smooth and fine—roasted in a gleaming flagship space on Bainbridge Island—but it’s the midcentury-cozy Pike Place Market space, 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. Two other locations are Downtown Seattle and Queen Anne.
In 2006, Maria Hines instilled the town’s most stringent organic policy in a converted Wallingford bungalow. Hines and her crew seem to rise to the occasion of those sourcing constraints, delivering elegant paeans to the season in both a la carte and tasting menu form. Vegan and vegetarian versions just might be the town’s best bet for plant-based special occasions, but brunch skews more relaxed.
Tucked like a speakeasy into a brick-walled, high-ceilinged space on the second floor of the historic Oddfellows Building in Pike/Pine, the Tin Table was conceived as a joint to feed and water the swing and salsa dancers from the gilded Century Ballroom across the hall—but it’s every bit as much a candlelit destination, and underpriced to boot. The magical, Paris-in-the-’20s vibe befits the stiff cocktails, good champagne list, and sharable noshes, from salt cod fritters and fish tacos to an outstanding steak frites (truffle salt on the mountain of fries) and frisky tuna burger. Nibble enough from the long list of unfussy vegetable plates and robust, intentional salads and you’ll earn dessert—a good idea where the beignets are this light and beautifully sugared and the molten chocolate cake is this chili-fired. The most unlikely down-to-earth place in town.
Like the lovably daffy neighbor who makes you crazy but unites the community, this charming corner cafe-slash-bakery amid the residences of North Capitol Hill can pain even its hardiest loyalist, with forever-long lines and cramped quarters. Then you bite into ricotta-stuffed caramelized banana brioche French toast, or arugula-ruffled proscuitto-pepper pizza, or a butter-rich chocolate-cherry cookie, or vegetable quiche in perfect flaky pastry—and you’re making plans to come back.