A water buffalo burger will never surpass the primal appeal of, say, an eight-ounce slab of juicy natural beef in a brioche bun, heaped with balsamic onions, Hill’s bacon, Beecher’s Flagship cheddar, and truffle aioli. The latter, 8oz Burger’s namesake showstopper, is why we adore this duo of homegrown burger shops. But the buffalo burger, and other novelty combos, is why we admire it. Throw in hormone-free and grass-fed beef, perfect vanilla shakes, fries that hail from uber-flavorful Kennebec potatoes, and you have a local find, in two locations that do the Great American Meal proud.
Like cross-country road trips to national monuments and drive-in theaters, this 24-hour diner in Phinney Ridge is peak Americana, with black coffee that could raise the dead and carb-dense platters to cure that hangover before it even begins. Beth’s has been open since 1954, placating late-night (or very early morning) hunger with six- or 12-egg omelets—sorry, no Polaroids or prizes for finishing, just the sobering knowledge that you did that. Yes, there are traditional breakfasts in appropriate proportions, if you’re into that, plus a mini option, too.
This four-location chainlet makes unstoppable Korean-style fried chicken—its delicate shattering crust akin to a Pringle, in the best possible way—then proceeds to have a lot of fun with it. Wings, drumsticks and thighs, and even the tenders can surely stand alone, especially next to some kimchi mac and cheese or tots with chile salt. But the lineup of chicken sandwiches (like the one with yuzu aioli and charred chiles) packs major flavor and texture inside soft, toasted buns. Chef Brian O’Connor is a veteran of Skillet Diner and Roux, as evidenced by Bok a Bok’s perfect biscuits.
Along the University District’s main restaurant-lined drag awaits chicken at Chi Mac, where Korean-style, crackle-skinned wings arrive coated in parmesan and onion powder or a red, glossy glaze of tangy gochujang hot sauce.
Nothing soaks up an evening’s intemperance better than a Dick’s deluxe burger with fries and a shake, served till 2am every night of the week. The original Wallingford drive-in debuted in 1954 and has since hatched six more locations, each with the same streamlined menu, eye-catching signs, and five-cent surcharge for ketchup.
A thread of the original Catfish Corner’s Southern legacy continues on at this prime Central District corner via fried chicken atop old-fashioned thin waffles, the kind with tiny squares. Chef Patrick Dours coaxes heroic amounts of personality from boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Seasoning is sufficient for grown-ups and mellow enough for the many (many) kids in the room. Replacing a neighborhood landmark is a tricky business, but at Fat’s you can eat well for $15, and service is incredibly hospitable: promising signs of a new neighborhood institution.
Of-the-moment brunch spots abound on Capitol Hill, and yet weekend mornings invariably mean a throng of people milling around on East Olive Way, outside a weirdly pastel little building that defies the glossification happening all around. The 13-table diner’s been a morning mainstay since 1987, and while the menu’s enormous, at least half the people in that queue probably showed up craving an eggs benedict. Five varieties, including one with spinach and another with smoked salmon, are built upon a classic, silken housemade hollandaise sauce, refreshing with lemony sweetness, poached eggs like cloud puffs, and thick cuts of canadian bacon.
If the family owners at this First Hill pie shop don’t know your name on your first visit, they will by your third. And there will be a third, for their Jersey-style pies feature golden, perfect crusts crackling with heft and bursting with flavor. Of course, such elevated descriptors are all wrong for pizza this down-to-earth. Order a white pie (built on ricotta, romano, and mozzarella) or a bright tomato version, with choices of toppings, to the strains of good old ’70s rock. Family photos and cheap price tags dial up the sense of community. The large pie is, in fact, gargantuan.
The stools, if you can get one at all, are cracked and worn. The last diner likely didn’t bother to clean his crumbs off the tiny metal counter. View this well-loved Pike Place Market joint as a greasy spoon that serves pristine seafood—golden fish-and-chips, fresh fish tacos, even a whole steamed crab with melted butter—and you’ll find its true charms.
What dark art of the grill injects the taste of peppers and onions into the very essence of finely chopped beef? How is it that meat juice and cheese sauce fuse into a super strain of flavor? The $10 cheesesteak from this tidy Rainier Valley strip mall may not yield answers—but probably leftovers.
The burger at South Park’s stalwart watering hole has been a legend for years, and rightfully so. It tastes like fond memories from a midcentury, small-town drive-in—fat slice of cheese melted over a slender chargrilled patty, squishy bun, sprinkle of onion, and coins of dill pickle. The tavern’s been-here-forever ambience is just a bonus.
If a Hall of Fame for restaurant pivots existed, this West Seattle storefront’s transformation back in 2012 from high-end Spring Hill into the more affordable, more Hawaiian Ma‘ono would be in there. So would the spam musubi and the burger on a King’s Hawaiian sweet bun. But Ma‘ono’s calling card remains the fried chicken: Every night (reserve early!) about 30 all-natural birds are brined, soaked in buttermilk, dredged in flour, battered, floured yet again, fried—and, yes, fried one more time. The result is, well, perfect. As are the fried chicken sandwiches owner Mark Fuller spun off at two Ma‘ono counters inside the Capitol Hill and U Village Rachel’s Ginger Beer bars.
You could be fooled into thinking Meg’s Hamburgers has been around for decades, with its neon signage, dinerlike pale yellows and light blues, plus the old-school charm of a joint that knows burgers. And Meg’s knows burgers. Here they come as 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.
This neighborly tavern in Fremont is an ode to the big games and even bigger cuisine of the upper Midwest. The menu bolsters bar food standards with regional favorites like bouja and tater tot hotdish, and every dish receives more attention than the jersey-driven decor might suggest. The pizza skews a little more Neapolitan than you’d expect—the Italian wood-fired oven is a souvenir from the space’s previous identity and does better with that type of dough than its cracker-crust brethren—but the large groups that descend upon square-cut slices while watching basketball don’t seem to mind.
It’s the pleasant-looking character actor of Seattle dining—able to slay hangovers via pork belly and cornmeal waffles, make a kale salad feel decadent, and cap off a Saturday night with cocktails and a haunt-your-dreams-good grilled cheese sandwich. Skillet and its food truck progenitor put restaurateur Josh Henderson on the map; he’s since moved on, but the diner (with outposts all around town and at the airport) remains one of the city’s most versatile hangouts.
What Mark Fuller’s pizza bars lack in proper plates or utensils, or napkins not from a dispenser, they make up for with gonzo pies, fun frozen drinks, and a blaring soundtrack seemingly lifted from some illicit teen house party. The pizza lineup starts in familiar Americana territory, like ample curled-edge pepperoni, and gets ever bolder. One of the best sports bits of Ma‘ono’s famed fried chicken, kimchi, and slices of American cheese. They all come on a crust that hints at Fuller’s culinary cred; so do the wings, caesar, and the cult favorite garlic knots.
The sons of the original Paseo founder opened Un Bien with their dad’s recipes—which makes this Caribbean roast sandwich the legendarily messy original: pork shoulder, caramelized onions, pickled jalapenos, all on an aioli-swiped Macrina roll. A blast to eat, especially with a cob of slathered grilled corn during warmer months—but have multiple napkins handy. Two locations bookend Ballard.