The story of Luam Wersom working his way up from dishwasher to owner at this long-standing Latin American and Cuban restaurant is a great one. The food is just as remarkable. Dishes like vaca frita and pescado en guiso—even the accompanying rice—bear the finesse of 20 years of experience. Oh, and the titular mojitos? Legit. Order delivery online or peruse the menu and call 206-525-3162.
Get thee to the location in Wallingford for some goat curry, jerk chicken, aloo pie, and other dishes that express owner, and local legend, Pam Jacob’s Trinidadian roots. If you see her doubles (flatbreads made of curried chickpeas) surface as a special on Instagram, hustle to grab one ASAP.
Two brothers and a friend, all from the neighborhood, opened this striking black-and-white taproom at 23rd and Jackson. They offer growler fills and cans, but the taproom is a friendly spot to sit back with a Basement stout or pineapple IPA.
Solomon Dubie’s first spot, Cafe Avole, specialized in Ethiopia’s jebena coffee ceremony. Today, he runs Avole Ethiopian Coffee Roasters with his brother, Getachew Enbiale, sourcing single-origin beans from Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe and Guji regions. Gavin Amos runs the coffee company’s flagship cafe in the Liberty Bank Building. The counter serves up espresso, pastries, and fresh juices. Avole has adapted its signature coffee ceremony tradition; the cafe serves shots from a clay jebena, not unlike a pull of espresso. Customers can take them to go, but visitors who choose to linger with their jebena get a refill for free.
The espresso drink usually known as an Americano goes by the name “Africano” here, a subtle clue that Eritrea-born owner Efrem Fesaha wants Africa’s vast and varied coffee culture to get the recognition it deserves. Boon Boona sources coffee from small farmers across Africa, and roasts its beans at its Renton facility. A second location near Seattle University offers the same dazzling coffee lineup, fun seasonal drinks, and a small patio.
Seattle’s equivalent of Paris cafe culture perches on Post Alley at Pine. Here chef Daisley Gordon does right by classic dishes—quiche, pan-roasted chicken, oeufs en meurette—and instills in his kitchen the sort of perfectionism that renders even the simplest asparagus salad or brunchtime brioche french toast memorable. The patio hits the sweet spot for another hallmark of Parisian cafe culture: watching all the people go by.
A longtime storefront on Cherry offers up injera made with care, a lengthy menu that includes breakfast(!), genuine service, and a good-size garden patio during warmer months. Call 206-328-0404 for takeout.
In this corner space with its cheerful yellow logo and stools to match, owner Terrell Jackson is carrying on the legacy of his grandparents, who ran the original Catfish Corner at 23rd and Cherry for 25 years. Jackson ran a few short-term versions of Catfish Corner farther south before landing in a permanent home, less than a mile from his grandparents’ original. It serves that familiar lineup of cornmeal-dusted catfish, hush puppies, shrimp, greens, gumbo, and the Ohbama burger.
Bridgette Johnson opened her cafe in 2020, then made it feel instantly indispensable to the neighborhood. Don’t let the “Juice Bar” part of the name fool you; Central Cafe starts the day with breakfast burritos and espresso (plus juice and smoothies) and rolls on into grilled cheese, layer cake, and happy hour taquitos you can consume on the homey covered patio. Order online.
From a corner spot in the Liberty Bank Building, chef Kristi Brown presides over one of the town's biggest-deal restaurants. Communion fuses Southern fare and Asian traditions to reflect her personal purview of Seattle: A banh mi–po’boy hybrid stuffed with fried catfish and swiped with pate—or a piquant neck bone stew. Communion's popularity most definitely extends to its Sunday brunch. Tables go fast, either by reservation, at the bar, or on the heated, protected patio.
On weekends, crowds mill around outside, waiting for their turn at one of the town’s best brunches, a comfort constellation of fried chicken and waffles and biscuits and gravy. Co-owner Erika White presides over the dining room with a demeanor just as warm as those waffles. Fat’s serves its pimento- and gravy-filled menu starting at 11:30 on weekdays.
Trey Lamont fuses culinary training with spice inspiration gleaned from visiting Caribbean relatives on the East Coast. The result: a majestic jerk fried chicken, plus similarly kicky ribs, seafood, even a chicken burrito. A second location is headed to Midtown Square, part of Lamont’s plans to locate future Jerk Shack projects in places that create opportunity within Black communities.
Every neighborhood wishes they had a spot like Joyce Hosea’s market on Union. A counter that can whip you up a charcuterie plate, or sell you a tub of housemade posole or pot roast or pimento cheese. Hosea does all her own butchering, and ensures the cafe counter on the other side of the market puts out a menu of sandwiches, salads, and happy hour snacks that’s far broader than you might expect.
Donna Moodie might be busy as executive director of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict (not to mention the marvelous plantain chips available at area retailers), but she still runs one of Seattle's most charming restaurants, complete with covered patio and a yen for music on vinyl.
A star among Cherry Street’s cluster of great Ethiopian spots for more than a quarter of a century, this converted house now does a steady stream of takeout; owner Belaynesh Chera might have an equal fan base for both her veggie combo and meat dishes. Cash only; call 206-860-1724 to order.
Capitol Hill’s restaurant scene changes by the minute, but chef Sabrina Tinsley’s northern Italian menu is a comforting constant on 12th Avenue (ditto that gorgeous space). Tinsley embraces the Emilia-Romagna region—land of prosciutto and parmigiano-reggiano and hearty meat sauce—and channels Capitol Hill at its energetic best.
New-ish owner Jesse Rhodes continues a nearly eight-year tradition of Black ownership at the neighborly little bi-level wine and cocktail bar. Not to mention its overarching history of being a welcoming, relaxed space.
Chef Makini Howell—Seattle’s version of vegan royalty—puts out cultured, plant-based plates at her flagship restaurant. Howell has added multiple dishes to Seattle’s meatless canon (her mac and yease, a properly decadent tofu reuben, some incredible salads) but she also knows when to keep things straightforward, like pan-roasted cauliflower or truffle-topped gnocchi. Meanwhile her adjacent salad restaurant, Plum Chopped, puts Evergreens to shame.
Former ER technician Rhonda Faison sells vivid cold-pressed juice by the growler or the takeaway cup from her counter in the heart of Pike Place Market, near the Ellenos stand. The lineup is full of seasonality (watermelon in summer, cranberry and pineapple come winter) but also lots of green juice.
Mother-daughter owners Barbara Collins and Lillian Rambus recently relocated from Madison Valley to a prominent new address on Jackson Street. And they brought along a basion of family recipes. The pair makes marvelous buttermilk and corn bread waffles, shrimp and grits, or just a simple breakfast with grits or home fries. But Simply Soulful’s most distinguishing quality might be its regulars, the sort of enthusiasts who won’t hesitate to extol (rightly) the biscuit and sweet potato pie to uninitiated diners.
Inside this unexpectedly roomy Jamaican restaurant and lounge, set back from Jefferson Street like a secret, owners Carlene Comrie and Dwayne Blake ply Seattle’s decidedly non-Caribbean environs with big, bold flavors. An order of fiery-tender jerk wings, chicken or goat or shrimp in a bright curry, or the classic beef patty (a pastry with seasoned meat), and tender plantains packs serious transportive powers, even when it comes in a takeout clamshell.
Step inside this cheerful green-walled cafe and scoop shop and three generations of owner Ashanti Mayfield’s family might be waiting to assist. Ice cream flavors feel classic, but not basic: coffee toffee crunch, watermelon sorbet, a rich vegan rocky road, and wow that banana pudding. You can always warm up afterward with one of the daily soups.
Owner Tess Thomas pays tribute to her mother (and her recipes) at this no-nonsense spot where family lore lines the walls. The barbecue menu’s about as classic as it gets, but little touches like chopped brisket in the greens (and an admirable smoke ring on the brisket) turn familiar dishes into something memorable. If Thanksgiving happened in the summertime, it would taste like Emma’s sweet potato pie.
Okay, technically Bill Hart's converted home at the crossroads of Rainier and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way is a bakery, not a restaurant. But who's going to quibble when we're talking about peach cobbler, pecan, sweet potato, or multiple varieties of custardy chess pie? Order individual-size tarts or four- and nine-inch pies online, or head inside and ask for whatever just came out of the oven.
A fantastic soul food restaurant hides inside the historic Royal Esquire Club. Mother-daughter owners Talya Miller and LaShon Lewis dish up shrimp and grits, fried pork chops, oxtails and rice, gizzards, decadent mac and cheese, and a great meatloaf sandwich. Yes, the strawberry lemonade is as good as everyone says.
New-ish owners Yodit Seyoum and Filli Abdulkdra have put their own stamp on the former Amy's Merkato. The menu's huge and contains a diversity of Ethiopian and Eritrean food, including breakfast foul (even a vegan version), a traditional clay pot service for the shiro wot, and dishes like qateqna, a rarity on Seattle's Habesha menus. All this, plus espresso and market shelves of bulk spices and pantry items.
Erasto Jackson’s menu combines barbecue, soul food, and Jamaican culinary traditions. This means flawless brisket and jerk spareribs mingle with curry goat and mac and cheese with a kick. The busy smokehouse on Rainier also puts out escovitch fish, burnt ends, and deli meat by the pound.
At Stevie Allen’s friendly counter, Alaskan cod remains delicate beneath its crispy fried shell. Fries are gently seasoned, the crab puppies downright transcendent, and if it’s a Monday or Tuesday, don’t sleep on the special gumbo, packed with seafood. Nothing here is fancy, and it’s all prepped with care…and sans gluten.
Owner Theo Martin and Jamaican-born chef Bobby Laing have perfected the island food/soul food balance of oxtail stew and jerk chicken—or gumbo and tostones, fried green plantains smothered in garlic and red onions. Homespun desserts like 7-Up pound cake are absolutely worth an order—provided they didn’t sell out already. An oasis since 1978, Island Soul is the sort of restaurant to which nearby residents pledge lifelong allegiance, but also merits a drive across town. Recent years have added online ordering and a gaily covered patio; in spring 2023 the third-generation business will open a second restaurant, Arleana's, in Kirkland.
Siblings Briz Leake and Teddy Graham must perform some sort of grill sorcery to inject the taste of onions and peppers into the very essence of that finely chopped beef. By the time these hefty cheesesteaks make their way into your hands, the meat juice and cheese sauce have fused into a sort of comfort food superflavor. It’s an elbow-throwing contender for the best cheesesteak in town.
The popular Somali street cart recently leveled up to a proper brick-and-mortar restaurant. Chef Honey Mohamed and her mother Marian Ahmed (yes, she's Mama Sambusa) serve those titular savory pastries, as well as sandwiches, salads, and pasta. Dishes bear the names of family members, and the assurance that the entire menu is halal. Mohamed's cheesecakes are unexpected and fun and, wow, the kitchen will fry up those samosas until 4am.
After years of selling his okazu pan (Japanese-style fried buns stuffed with curry or creative liberties like salmon, lentils, or barbecue pork) via local coffee shops, Harold Fields now takes direct online orders from his kitchen in Rainier Beach. Submit advance orders for pickup—including the weekend-only beignets, dusted with spiced powdered sugar. (Related: Fields makes a yuzu kosho that ranks among Seattle’s best local condiments.) He's also busy supplying okazu pan, and more, for Mètier Brewing's new taproom.
The former chainlet has settled into a single location with a ton of great lunch specials plus a vast and versatile lineup (combo meals! meat by the pound!), all liberally doused in a house sauce more tangy than sweet—no wonder Jones sells it by the enormous jar. Ribs and brisket are more homestyle than high-concept, and the corn bread is as indulgent as any dessert (though that’s no reason to skip the pie).
Mark Fuller may be the culinary brains behind the General Tso’s chicken and honey walnut prawns. But co-owner Patric Gabre-Kidan is one of the savviest operators in town; he masterminded the bar, the cocktails, and the unrelentingly great atmosphere at this neo-dive inspired by Chinese American restaurants of yore.
Despite the name of his Bothell restaurant, David Hayward isn’t beholden to a particular style—the Charleston native cultivates his own brand of barbecue, smoking brisket and pulled pork over a variety of woods and making his own sauces.
Co-owner and executive chef Dre Neeley and wife/partner Pepa Brower have built a Vashon Island destination, with a menu that cross-references European and Northwest cuisine, with ample dashes of the American South. Neeley is a chef with stamina, able to shift positions and pop up in the form of burgers or souvlaki or tonkatsu sandwiches.
Rodney Hines isn’t entirely comfortable describing Métier as Washington’s first Black-owned brewery (“We have a horrible history of not telling everyone’s story, right?”) but he’s undeniably a force, helping to break the beer industry out of a very white box. His industrial Woodinville taproom pours a range of reliably great beers. You’re more likely to see his tallboy cans at markets around town. In summer 2022, Hines opened a handsome Seattle taproom at 26th and Cherry, which immediately became a neighborhood hub. Umami Kushi’s Harold Fields supplies his okazu pan, plus some just-for-Métier snacks like housemade pretzels, jerk potato chips, and smoked salmon macaroni salad.
Todd and Tanieka Minor’s duo of south King County restaurants serve up fried goodness—shrimp, chicken, catfish, and pork chops—with classic Southern sides like collard greens and mac and cheese. The original location in Kent is takeout only, while a roomy new outpost in Covington does dine-in.
Co-owner Sachia Tinsley helped open her sister’s beloved Italian spot, Osteria La Spiga, on Capitol Hill, so it’s no surprise the menu at her cafe embraces European fare like fresh pastas (lasagna with ragu, tagliatelle with forest mushroom cream sauce), crispy polenta cakes, and beef bourguignon.
Seattle’s most famous chicken shack began in 1984 as a counter across the street from Garfield High School; now more than a dozen locations across Washington dispense original, spicy, and half-and-half combos. Seattle-area locations have set up online ordering for takeout and delivery.
Ezell Stephens (yes, that Ezell) went on to found this duo of fried chicken shops, whose crispy, well-seasoned wings and thighs remind you why this man is a legend in the first place. Takeout options range from snack-size combos to family-style spreads, and the Everett location does gluten-free bird, if you call ahead.