The jerseyed fans drinking beer on Damn the Weather’s Pioneer Square patio might never realize such transcendent food lurks on the menu, just beyond pregame staples like chicken fat fries and hush puppies. A tender halibut special, with its crunchy golden exterior and accompanying beet agrodolce, would be the envy of far fancier restaurant kitchens. Bryn Lumsden’s bar, all dim and brick-lined, burst onto Seattle’s drinking scene as a pedigreed cocktail destination, but the food now wins as much praise as those clever drinks.
Food snobs long scoffed that Seattle has no good barbecue. Except that’s not really true since Texan Jack Timmons set up a custom-built offset smoker outside his laid-back SoDo roadhouse. The brisket is the star, the breakfast tacos a bonus, and Jack’s status as the town’s barbecue godfather has grown along with his business. Subsequent locations (so far to South Lake Union and Columbia Tower) have proved a blessing for the city’s smoked meat devotees.
In 2014, Matt Dillon reinforced his commitment to Pioneer Square with this 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 the city’s oldest neighborhood. Breakfasts and lunches reflect a few of its owner’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.
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 French restaurants in Shanghai and Hong Kong informs intelligent explorations of the flavor crossroads of Vietnam and China (and, lately, beyond), like master stock crispy chicken and Vietnamese iced coffee creamsicles. For a guy driven to produce such exacting food, Johnson is an exceedingly modest and hospitable sort, a vibe that extends to the entire front of house, too.
Like its seafood boil brethren, crab, clams, mussels, and crawfish come with potatoes, corn, and sausage all splayed upon the tabletop for your handheld dining pleasure. But this Chinatown–International District stalwart reflects the owners’ strong Southern and Vietnamese roots, which means a range of spice options, such as Cajun, lemon pepper, garlic butter, or the Big Easy house special—a combination of them all.
Has it only been a decade since these cheerful Korean-Hawaiian flavors defined Seattle’s earliest food truck scene? Kamala Saxton and Roz Edison have since cemented a brick-and-mortar empire, from tiny Marination Station on Capitol Hill to an Amazon lunch favorite, Marination, at Sixth and Virginia. (If we must pick a favorite, it’s Marination Ma Kai, just off the West Seattle water taxi, which combines the company’s favorite dishes with shave ice, great beer, and one of the city’s epic patios—a beer garden complete with sweeping skyline view.)
The best aspects of White Center emanate directly from the busy ovens of Proletariat Pizza, where the Albaeck family labors to feed the masses simple, spectacular pizza. Thin crusts, puffed and golden and bursting with flavor, underpin pristine ingredients: organic over-easy eggs and prosciutto and a meadow of fresh arugula on the ham and egg pie,
or anchovies and ricotta and milky mozzarella. Works by various local artist hang on Proletariat’s otherwise sterile walls, and the expectation-surpassing vibe extends to the beer list.
Tucked like a speakeasy upstairs in the Oddfellows Building, a dining room drenched in exposed-brick charm serves approachable dishes like braised short ribs or cauliflower tempura (though it’s hard to pass up the truffle shoestring fries). 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 for dinner, a cocktail, or flight of sparkling rosé.
Tagines and garlicky dips, mezes and moussakas and glistening lamb kebabs—this all-day restaurant beside the lobby of the Hotel Ändra is Tom Douglas’s tribute to his wife’s Greek heritage, showcasing better than any of his other restaurants his uncanny genius at making smart food into comfort food. Some of the best breakfasts in Seattle happen here.
Caffe Vita’s sibling Neapolitan-style pizzerias—the first landed on Capitol Hill 15 years back—make little visible from the street. Inside its trio of locations, though, you can count on springy, heat-blistered crusts sparsely topped with sprightly tomato sauce, along with every imaginable combination of mushrooms, mozzarella, fresh garlic, cured meats, fresh sausage, and so on. The pies, slid into the roaring brick oven for 90 seconds or so, don’t need much by way of adornment. Just an olive- and prosciutto-packed house salad and a good bottle of sangiovese.
Eric and Sophie Banh’s pair of elegant Vietnamese restaurants crackle with as much texture and finesse as they did when the first Monsoon won over denizens on Capitol Hill. The original location and its Bellevue spin-off each retain their own personas, but both nail consistency—in the warm service, the grilled beef la lot, drunken chicken, and clay pot catfish, and the allure of weekend dim sum brunch. Beverage director Jon Christiansen ensures cocktails are on point, and the Seattle rooftop remains one of the town’s best, most secluded patios.
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 2017, 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 salami. 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.
The Belltown sushi bar’s founder and namesake has moved on, and yet Shiro’s remains one of the town’s most beloved destinations for omakase and expertly wrought sashimi, with the sidewalk lines to prove it. You’ll eat exceptionally well in the small dining room, but the 11 seats at the sushi bar are the place to be, both for the show and for the entirely unpredictable, sometimes revelatory, offerings of the evening. Best to dispense with ordering (unless you crave uni, which will mark you as a customer deserving of attention) and ask the chef to surprise you.
Tom Douglas’s original restaurant is where the chef developed his signature cuisine: seasonal, regional ingredients, spices and flourishes magpied from all over the globe, plenty of crisp textures. So influential is Douglas’s approach—today, he and wife Jackie Cross own more than 20 Seattle-area businesses—we tend to gloss over it. But when Dahlia debuted, it announced to tourists and locals alike that Seattle had an ambitious food style all its own. Regulars return to the vermilion-walled Belltown dining room for Dahlia’s five-spiced rotisserie duck, crab cakes, DIY doughnuts, and of course the triple coconut cream pie whose fan base helped launch Dahlia Bakery down the street.
One of the stalwarts of Seattle’s craft brewing community also serves solid pub fare (don’t miss the pretzel) in the Pike Pub, a rambling space that wraps around brewery operations. On tap: a mix of Pike’s classic brews, like the Scotch-style Kilt Lifter and XXXXX Stout, and less-common pours, from small-batch IPAs to Belgian-style tripels. Don’t let the beer focus fool you: This place is very kid friendly.
Back in 1989, Rick and Ann Yoder’s restaurant defined that nebulous dining category known as “Pan Asian” with dishes plucked from Thailand and Vietnam, not to mention China, Cambodia, Burma, even Indonesia. Today Wild Ginger spans three locations, and Seattle counts its black pepper scallops, fragrant duck with steamed buns and plum sauce, and seven-flavor beef as indisputable classics. Few Seattle restaurants have made so smooth a transition from hot newcomer to accomplished mainstay; the mind-boggling wine program no doubt helps.
The go-to in this town since 1979 for delivery pizza, now in neighborhoods from Kirkland to West Seattle, Shoreline to Capitol Hill. Crusts are bready and serviceable, and best as platforms for some inspired combos. Classicists like the AGOG (roasted garlic, kalamata olives, tomatoes, and goat cheese, along with mushrooms, mozzarella, and fontina) but don’t discount seasonal specials, like winter’s inimitable gorgonzola pear pizza. A sophisticated call-in system lets staff greet you by name, but the new app is pretty damn handy, too.
This 24-hour diner on 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.
This 115-year-old legend could easily coast on lore, from its original owners’ forced incarceration during World War II to the motherly order imposed by longtime stewards Jean Nakayama and Fusae “Mom” Yokoyama. The food, however, drives the inevitable wait for a table. Though home to Seattle’s first sushi bar, Maneki’s soul resides in more comforting Japanese fare—black cod collar, beef sukiyaki, savory broiled eel.