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Mozzarella salad from our Restaurant of the Year.

Earlier this year, the former editor of a national magazine, upon learning I’d moved to Seattle since we last spoke (we last spoke 10 years ago), straightened his stance, tilted his head in a manner that registered something akin to I know what I’m saying, don’t question this, and proclaimed Seattle the greatest food city in America. 

I scanned the room to make sure none of my colleagues from New York, LA, or New Orleans were within earshot before nodding in agreement.

Honestly, though, I don’t know that it had entirely sunk in that my town belonged in the same gastronomic star system as those other cities. Oh, we get accolades. National publications will applaud this new restaurant or that ascendant chef, splashing her photo on the cover with nine other white smocks, but I don’t believe any of those outlets have committed to print (or web page space, for that matter) a declaration of Seattle’s superiority. I do know on a gut level our food scene’s overall greatness—and I do mean gut, the one my five-restaurants-a-week habit threatens to render ab free. And of course I’ve edited countless reviews and stories about Seattle chefs over the years.

It still took reading this month’s cover story for the idea to fully take root. “The 100 Best Restaurants” clocks in at nearly 10,000 words, the most ambitious measure of the city’s food scene we’ve ever published. Starting with our annual unveiling of the Restaurant of the Year—a whole-animal steak house that, in the words of Seattle Met restaurant critic Kathryn Robinson, “translates to genuine exhilaration at table”—our compendium drops in on other new 2016 standouts before soaring into an omnigeographic celebration of consistently excellent eateries around the city and, in some cases (see cover model Cafe Juanita), beyond.

What every restaurant on our list has in common is the confidence to take risks, to place in front of diners a foie gras “cake batter” dessert (Eden Hill) or to foist upon concertgoers a plantcentric diner (the Carlile Room). It’s that culture of invention that makes, say, a retired editor in New York take notice.

It also comes, as all great things must, at a price. Four restaurants that appeared on our initial list—compiled by Robinson and food and drink editor Allecia Vermillion—shuttered before we went to press. It happens: A concept comes to a neighborhood too ahead of its time; rising rents outpace a tight-margined local icon’s budget.

Luckily in “the greatest food city in America,” ample choices abound. There’s always another restaurant ready and worthy to assume its role on a list of the best.

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