Seattle's downtown hotel boom has spawned an equal outburst of hotel restaurants. The best of these is Ben Paris, a tall and stately dining room in the State Hotel near Pike Place Market that serves Americana comfort fare given smart modern updates—fried chicken dressed with honey and sesame, an old-fashioned wedge salad whose bacon lives up to 2019 pork-obsessive standards. Really, though, we’re all about the wallpaper. Artist Kate Blairstone’s custom series of prints mixes vivid drawings of essential Northwest emblems, like dahlias, octopuses, mushrooms, and even the occasional weed pipe. Bar manager Abigail Gullo delivers cocktails (and a bar atmosphere) bright and clever as the wallpaper.
Ethan Stowell’s biggest restaurant yet sits at the corner of Seventh and Union, a hybrid house of Northwest-Italian and mainstream staples aimed at the professional occupants of the skyscraper above. Cortina’s menu encompasses just about every facet of the restaurant company’s repertoire: crudo, pasta, pizza, careful salads, a vastly underappreciated burger, and share plates aplenty. As vast as the menu, the sleek oak-slatted dining room gives way to a moodier bathroom hallway lined floor-to-ceiling with a black-and-white woodland wallpaper from Schumacher.
East Trading Co. has an unpolished and comfortable vibe, something owner I-Miun Liu was intentional about. Yet its sharp aesthetics, thanks in large part to design by Electric Coffin, and Asian nuances make the Capitol Hill bar feel entirely new and fresh. The eastern wall is postered with bright imagery: Bruce Lee on repeat (a nod to Liu having grown up practicing martial arts), tigers, fireworks, “Thank You” roses from those red-and-white plastic bags. The bar’s bones are very much the same from its Sun Liquor days, except Liu’s added an apothecary-style gift shop in the back where the distilling once happened. Beverage director Michael Chu pioneers the drink menu. You’ll find housemade tea-infused syrups and Chu’s balanced way with booze—gin, Aperol, and chartreuse here, bourbon-smoked tea with angostura bitters there. The cocktail list is a set lineup of 12, one for each sign of the Chinese zodiac.
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. Though flavors run bold in the petite restaurant, Eden Hill's romantic blue-and-white chintz wallpaper is a sort of demure counterpoint.
After a stint as head chef at Sitka and Spruce, Logan Cox transformed a former yoga studio on Beacon Hill—now wainscoted and wallpapered in a graphic ostrich pattern, name glowing in cool yellow neon out front—into a casual neighborhood spot that puts out some of the most vivid flavors in the city. The rugged ease of dishes large and small belies the deliberate hours of stewing, grinding, and roasting that transform something as humble as meatballs into a kefte-inspired monument amid a pool of sauce—tomato and fried fruits, cinnamon and yogurt whey, reduced for hours into something so rich it’s more syrup than sauce. Homer dedicates a menu section to things one might spread on saucer-size pitas, which arrive at the table almost too hot to touch, soft interior still puffed up with hot air from the dome oven in the corner of the open kitchen. Brace yourself for a wait, but that’s what the gamay spritzes are for.
Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi’s Korean-fusion steak house remains one of Seattle’s genuinely electrifying culinary adventures—close quarters buzzing with loud music and a lively vibe—where the humblest cuts of beef (chuck steak, short ribs) get draped in chile sauces and fermented tofu and served with sides like rice cakes with greens and chorizo or Chinese broccoli with walnut pesto, all with admirable consistency. These are chefs who like to have fun, as evidenced by the playful dining room (see: teal brocade wallpaper) and weekend brunch, with its serve-yourself lineup of salads and pastries, built around a new theme each month.
A funhouse of booze, this Fremont bar from barman Paul Shanrock has a stately vibe, that is until you pop into the loo where the flamingo wallpaper in an arresting shade of pink is, well, sobering. Around the corner, a tropically set room is the ideal spot to drink the Desert Poetry, a concoction of tequila, passion fruit, pineapple, lime, agave syrup, and Peychaud’s Aperitivo liqueur. It’s sunshine in a glass.
Eric Johnson’s dining room doesn’t look like anything in Seattle—a balmy subtropical paradise of palm-fronded wallpaper and minty accents. His food is similarly singular, even in a town with superb Vietnamese food of all stripes. The chef’s background in the highest of high-end restaurants informs intelligent explorations of the flavor crossroads of Vietnam and China, from master stock crispy chicken to Vietnamese iced coffee creamsicles. For a guy driven to produce such exacting food, Johnson is exceedingly modest and hospitable, a vibe that extends to the entire front of house, too.