Critic's Picks

The Best Restaurants in Pioneer Square Right Now

Seattle's historic district lays claim to long-lived institutions and newcomers alike.

By Seattle Met Staff Edited by Courtney Cummings September 16, 2019

Go to Copal. Get the roast chicken. You're welcome.

13 Coins

Inside the Embassy Suites on King Street, tall leather booths, high-backed counter chairs, and a whole manner of 1930s-era bachelor pad aesthetic dominate the restaurant space. 13 Coins may have relocated from its former home in South Lake Union after 50 years, but time-honored dishes (and decor) remain at its new Pioneer Square digs. French onion soup shockingly thick with melted cheese comes with a sweet and hot broth. The crab louie—big tomato wedges, fresh Dungeness, assuredly familiar iceberg lettuce—abides by tradition. Like a secret jazz lair, a staircase leads you into a subterranean lounge below, which offers the same menu as the dining room. No matter where you sit, a 24/7 restaurant will never go out of style.


Think Bierstube: brick walls, bar stools, brats (terrific), beers (even better), and braised sauerkraut to make a fan of any hater (why thank you, duck fat!). You’ll find German brews—dunkelweisse, pilsners, schwarzbier—alongside local beers with a slight German bent. Even the pretzels are brezels—dense, pillowy, and freakishly exquisite with hot, sweet housemade mustard. 

Biscuit Bitch

Equipped with cheddar-topped hangover cures, this self-described “trailer park to table” cafe serves up gravy-drenched biscuits with southern-inspired fixings: garlic grits, hot links, pork sausage, and more. Bitches get stuff done, and can do so with biscuits in hand.

Casco Antiguo

It’s a pretty rugged stretch of Pioneer Square, but walking into this rustic brick-and-timber storefront—with the peerless booze and the very happy happy hour—feels like you found a secret nook. Food is seriously flavor forward, including terrific tacos (try the meaty mahi) and a notably subtle mole. And if it looks like you won’t get a table, don’t despair...there’s a room with a breezy alleyway-facing patio in back. 

Cherry Street Public House

The family behind the venerable Cherry Street Coffee House also runs this amiable all-day cafe, which combines third wave coffee with a slightly Australian-style breakfast menu (think toasts and waffles sweet and savory), but also gyro, falafel, and deeply flavored Persian rice bowls for lunch, a nod to owner Ali Ghambari’s heritage. Not to mention cocktails whenever you might need them—all enveloped in the Weyerhaeuser Building’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

Cone and Steiner

The always-there-when-you-need-it market, Cone and Steiner is like a best friend who’s well-stocked with fresh flowers, really good beer, and those local snacks you love so much. Like its downtown and Capitol Hill siblings, the Pioneer Square outpost sells the same mix of pantry items, beer and wine, and grab-and-go items like roast chicken, mac and cheese, whole grain salads, or baguette sandwiches. And it houses a growler station with five beers and a hard cider on tap.


The wood-powered grill and oven that defined Matt Dillon’s Bar Sajor now focuses on Latin American flavors—grilled Salvadoran cheese, stuffed trout, quesadillas filled with smoked pumpkin, superlative tacos, braised beef adorned with massive slices of charred pineapple and a salsa made with bone marrow. Drinks are as sunny as the space; Dillon’s a partner, but the actual chef is Taber Turpin, the guy previously behind the tiny, superb Taco Gringos on Olive Way.

The food's just as pretty as the space at London Plane.

Damn the Weather

The sun’s out, the Mariners are at home, and the jerseyed fans drinking beer on Damn the Weather’s patio might never realize a transcendent plate of halibut lurks on the menu, just beyond pregame staples like chicken fat fries and hush puppies. Inside, all dim and brick-lined, the place unites brainy cocktails with sly small plates: That tender fish, with its crunchy golden exterior and accompanying beet agrodolce, would be the envy of far fancier restaurant kitchens. So would the burrata, transformed from mound of cheese to proper composed dish via a salad of radicchio, pistachios, and bread crumbs.

Good Bar

Out of one of Pioneer Square’s really stunning historical rooms—two airy levels, broad pillars, marble bar, vintage bank vault doors—come mostly small plates of food made on two induction burners and one convection oven (read: there to justify the adult beverages). Those bevs are masterful, particularly the craft cocktails and a very well-curated selection of beers. The food is in capable hands as well—notably a fathomless sloppy joe (emphasis on the sloppy) and a deconstructed potato salad that eats more like addictive fries. Louder than hell.

Il Corvo

The lines cannot be overestimated. Neither can the pasta that prompts them. Mike Easton’s order-at-the-counter, lunch-only joint delivers pasta that’s legitimately transcendent, quantum leaps ahead of the field in creativity, and usually less than $10 a bowl. These days, the menu gets announced on Instagram each morning, and Mike’s wife Victoria Diaz Easton runs the show, ensuring service is smooth and gracious, even as they process an astounding number of Pioneer Square office workers in the course of a lunch hour. 

Il Terrazzo Carmine

Nothing trendy about this timeless Pioneer Square landmark, where the family of Carmine Smeraldo has been serving Italian classics for over three decades. The establishment regulars love the peerless osso buco and the garlicky rack of lamb, and pasta preparations are flawless enough to win over new customers unimpressed with bygone lore. Up front, newer spin-off bar Intermezzo Carmine serves small-plate risotto, buttery lamb chops, and a lovely collection of amari.  

London Plane

It’s a white-on-white lofted country house, complete with a flower shop, borrowed off Jane Austen’s Pinterest page and plunked into the urbane realities of Pioneer Square. Breakfasts and lunches reflect owner 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—this bakery is outstanding. 

Manu's Bodega

Imagine if every hole-in-the-wall with a patio offered food as impressive as chef Manu Alfau’s tribute to his Dominican heritage: yam and smoked gouda empanadas with sofrito, sloppy baguette sandwiches packed with salted green tomatoes. Even the rice and beans on his puerco asado plate could proudly stand alone. His nearby taco walk-up is one of Pioneer Square’s best lunch options.

Is there a better lunch in this city than a Salumi sandwich?

Meg's Hamburgers

You could be fooled into thinking Meg’s Hamburgers has been around for decades: neon signage, dinerlike pale yellows and light blues, plus the old-school charm of a joint that knows burgers. And Meg’s knows burgers. These are smash patties, adorned simply with special sauce, and cheese if you want it. It’s a purist’s dream on fluffy buns, inside a low-slung brick building in Pioneer Square. Get the beef fat french fries.


In a high-ceilinged slot in the tech thickets of Pioneer Square, brick walls and midcentury minimalist lighting create the right worldly setting for masterful Indian food—ranging from the prawn curries of Bengal to the street food of Mumbai to the coconut seafood of the south. Subtle layerings of flavor distinguish both thalis and lunchtime sandwiches, but aim into the chef’s daily inventions for the real art. Tandoori steak anyone?


Though he’s mostly a silent partner, Matt Dillon transformed his Little London Plane event space into this boldly verdant and plant-filled bar, dedicated to Latin drinks (lots of agave cocktails) and a very few snacks, like sikil pak (a pumpkin seed spread with roots in the Yucatán), vegetable escabeche, and the Brazilian dried meat known as carne seca, made in house. They’re all the handiwork of chef Taber Turpin, chef of sibling taqueria Copal across the street. Nope, no tacos over here, but a Cubano can stand in as a proper meal.

Quality Athletics

Quality Athletics is an unlikely combo, indeed: A bona fide postmodern sports bar. 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 (which can be sealed off into a party room by a clever vertical-slider Ping-Pong table). This isn’t a sports bar; it’s a commentary on a sports bar. Either way, the firepits that flank the entrance are always packed on game days.


In 1999, Seattle embraced this string bean of a sandwich shop in Pioneer Square, with its drippy porchetta and deeply spiced salami layered onto ciabatta buns, and its origin story of retired Boeing engineer Armandino Batali pursuing his passion of Italian cured meat. In 2018, daughter Gina sold the majority stake in one of Seattle’s most beloved food institutions to two women with formidable business backgrounds, but a longtime love of the meatballs and mole salumi. These days the deli occupies larger, brighter quarters a few blocks from the original in Pioneer Square; lines move faster, the merch is more tasteful, but thank goodness, the soul of Salumi remains largely intact.

Tat's Delicatessen

The headliner in this crammed East Coast–style deli is the Tat’strami, a sweet-meets-savory heap of pastrami and Russian dressing, coleslaw, and melting swiss: the unholy spawn of a pastrami sandwich and cheesesteak, served hot and dripping inside an Italian roll. For the two of you who don’t like the sound of that, Tat’s offers nearly 30 other sandwiches—bountiful riffs on cheesesteaks, hoagies, subs, and grinders—that make Seattle feel more like Jersey.

Taylor Shellfish

Each of the three dining outposts of the premier oyster farmer in the Northwest has its own menu and ambience—a pregame-fried-food feel at Pioneer Square, a bright intimacy at Seattle Center, a fish market bustle at Capitol Hill—but all forefront oysters, which you must order. Get them by the dozen or in the form of Xinh’s oyster stew, which is like slurping the nectar straight out of the shell.

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