Seattle’s Best Lunch Spots
Plenty of great lunches are portable. But some days call for tables and chairs, metal utensils, and drinks that get refilled. As always, restaurants’ hours are a moving target, so it’s a good idea to check with an individual establishment before you plan your next vital business lunch or covert midday friend hang.
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North End | City Center | South End (and West Seattle) | Eastside
Lunch in North Seattle
The famed crab roll is only available on weekends, which means weekday lunch is wide open for the salmon sandwich, rockfish banh mi, and salads and bowls centered on ludicrously fresh Northwest fish. Local Tide is kind of a seafood restaurant, kind of a sandwich shop, but the food is entirely stunning. For more liquid lunches, the Aslan Brewing taproom next door lets you order from Local Tide’s menu and has a pass-through window into its kitchen.
The Whale Wins
These days, Whale Wins operates as a market and all-day cafe, where you order at the counter and dine on sardines on toast, chicken liver pate, or a pristine seasonal salad. The dining room and small, semi-covered patio, shielded from Stone Way traffic, feel equally serene and a Renee Erickson restaurant will never judge you for ordering a little wine with lunch.
Lily Wu’s original noodle shop on the Ave looks more polished than it did in the early days, thanks to a dining room overhaul. What hasn’t changed: those skeins of biang biang noodles, named for the sound that happens when chefs slap long strands of dough against a counter, creating the fissures that lead to those wide, perfectly chewy ribbons, the specialty of the northwest Chinese city of Xi’an. (A second location in Westlake Center offers these great noodles in a food court setting.)
Kin Len Thai Night Bites
It always feels like last call in this warren of dining rooms, festooned with banners, decorative baskets, and all manner of Bangkok ephemera. But the lunch menu lets you explore some exacting, ebullient Thai dishes by the light of day. The enormous menu spans everything from fried banana blossoms to kra prao (a basil-heavy stir fry), clay pots, and noodle dishes. (Kin Len’s sibling, Isarn Thai Soul Kitchen, serves similarly great Thai lunch in Ravenna, Kirkland, Lynwood, and Queen Anne.)
This many-textured dining room on Ballard’s main drag preaches the pungent, spicy gospel of Thailand’s Isan region, using high-quality proteins, like a nam tok meat salad made extra savory with boar collar, or deceptively fiery Thai sausages. The lunch menu adds a few combos; the house Thai iced tea helps balance a warming bowl of khao soi.
This vegan restaurant is all about plant-based versions of America’s favorite fast food. New-ish lunchtime hours means it’s even easier to get your hands on a spicy chik’n sandwich, a Dick’s Deluxe–inspired Sir Richard, or an order of animal fries, sans actual animals. The menu has tons of modification options, should you prefer a different sauce, or want to turn your elote dog into a burger.
Lunch in Central Seattle
A+ Hong Kong Restaurant
It’s one of Ethan Stowell’s newer spots, but an archetype of what this restaurant group does well: An Italian menu with dashes of Northwest. Attentive service and hearty pasta. Cortina’s location at the base of Union Square (and its banquettes of saddle-colored leather) puts it in play for business lunches, but the long bar and menu of entrée salads and Italian-style sandwiches keep things from getting stuffy.
New owners moved the fiercely beloved Malaysian to a more easterly corner of Capitol Hill and added lunch service. The founders handed over the original recipes and conducted plenty of training sessions, so classic dishes like roti jala feel like reasonable facsimiles of the original. A waitlist app also helps manage the queue.
Pike Place Market
It’s a pathologically good Parisian bistro, but also a time-tested Seattle classic. Here classics spark with nonchalant finesse : a bibb lettuce and hazelnut salad, one of the best charcuterie boards in the city. Pichet’s hallowed roast chicken isn’t available at lunch, but the afternoon array of baguette sandwiches, gratins, bisque, and egg plates feels properly French, with a dash of Pike Place Market.
Brendan McGill’s trattoria (previously Bar Taglio) combines the art deco grandeur of the Exchange Building with a lineup of antipasti and a lengthy pizza menu. Pies have a slightly fermented crust, puffed and blistered edges, and toppings that hew mostly to Italy—soppressata, house pesto and potatoes, or a pizza version of carbonara. McGill's Cafe Hitchcock across the hall also serves lunch.
Little Saigon/Chinatown–International District
The dinghy-shaped building that once housed the original Pho Bac has a new identity as an all-day restaurant that serves a single dish: Com ga mam toi is a garlic-crusted half chicken, fried crisp and sticky with fish sauce. It comes with rice or a sidecar of noodle soup and a great little salad. While the food menu is hyper-focused, the drinks menu is surprisingly broad, filled with cocktails, Vietnamese iced coffee, and a memorable pandan iced tea. It’s also perfectly okay to come just for the pandan dessert waffles.
Now ensconced in a new location on 19th Avenue East (the former Vios), Taurus Ox is bigger, more mellow, and open for lunch. The Lao dishes remain, thankfully, the same: nam khao crispy rice salad, bowls of curry, sticky rice and sausage that snaps with lemongrass. The burger, topped with house-cured pork jowl and the condiment jaew, is so good it spun off its own counter over on Madison.
Fat's Chicken and Waffles
Fogon Cocina Mexicana
Tom Douglas’s former Dahlia Lounge is now HQ for Serious Pie and its oval pizzas—crackling, puffed crusts topped with Northwest-friendly combos like potatoes, rosemary, and pecorino (even better if you add lardo). The other end of the room holds an enlarged Dahlia Bakery pastry counter for all your mochi doughnut and coconut cream pie needs.
Damn the Weather
This classic old-brick bar (aka no minors) is technically a cocktail spot, but the food menu matches the drinks for care and intrigue. The menu reads like upscale bar fare—a fried chicken sandwich, a burger, duck fat frites—but housemade pasta (with garlic scapes, apples, and pimento cheese) and a salad of spicy pork and kale hint that the kitchen knows its stuff. Interbay sibling Champagne Diner also comes in handy for lunch.
In 1985, Bruce Naftaly opened Le Gourmand and edged the term “Northwest cuisine” into our lexicon. He’s still at it over in Chophouse Row, serving a lunch menu that’s far more casual, if no less careful. The seasonal soup, or house broths, unite Bruce’s knack for deep flavors and wife Sara’s elegantly sturdy bread. The rest of the menu is beautifully French and deeply vegetal.
Matt's in the Market
Pike Place Market
It’s a local institution for a reason, tucked up on the second floor of Pike Place Market. And while chef Matt Fortner (his first name a happy coincidence) puts on a spectacular seasonal dinner, the daytime menu honors the restaurant’s lunch-counter origins. The cornmeal crusted catfish sandwich is a staple, but even the housemade chips with bacon and onion dip deliver the same level of care.
Lunch in South Seattle
The large open grill drives a menu of impeccable meats by the pound. Diners can tailor their own platters with various sauces and house flatbread, then round things out with small plates that reinforce the broadly Mediterranean flavors, and the commitment to seasonal produce. It’s visceral, it’s elegant, it’s unlike any other place in Seattle.
Sure, the breakfast menu’s great, but Admiral’s all-day cafe shines just as bright when benedicts and bacon give way to trout salad, bacon sandwiches, and fried cheese curds. Okay, fine, this Australian-inspired spot also serves its breakfast menu all day, just another inducement to visit its white-tiled dining room filled with natural light and a nursery’s worth of plants.
Best Lunch in Bellevue and the Eastside
Dough Zone Dumpling House
Japonessa Sushi Cocina