Chef Edouardo Jordan cemented his fine-dining cred at Salare, then opened a second restaurant that’s far more personal: a thoughtful telling of Southern food, from the biscuits and Sunday-only fried chicken crowd-pleasers to more culturally nuanced fare like chitterlings and oxtail. Jordan’s high-end training is apparent in a handful of composed plates, but that deep technique remains the stealth ingredient in homier favorites—oxtail, fried catfish on grits, sweet mother that pimento cheese. It’s hard to get a table, but easy to see why this restaurant is on the national radar.
This Ballard haunt has been open for a decade, and still people wait upwards of an hour for simple combos of carefully sourced, often seasonal toppings on char-bubbled crusts. While Delancey’s name and pizza style nod to New York, chef Brandon Pettit’s pillowy-crackly crusted pies with untempered tomato brightness and pairings of Zoe’s bacon, cremini mushrooms, and basil have become a Seattle institution. Impeccable seasonal salads and those bittersweet chocolate chip cookies dusted with gray salt only seal the deal.
One of Seattle’s genuinely electrifying culinary adventures is Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi’s Korean-fusion steak house—close quarters buzzing with loud music and a lively vibe. Here, the humblest cuts of beef (chuck steak, short ribs) get draped in chile sauces and fermented tofu and served with sides like rice cakes with greens and chorizo or Chinese broccoli with walnut pesto, all with admirable consistency. The room is swank and modern; weekend brunch, with its serve-yourself lineup of salads and pastries, is endlessly fascinating.
Don’t underestimate this order-at-the-counter, lunch-only joint; its pasta is straight-up transcendent, and quantum leaps ahead of the field in creativity. On weekday mornings pasta geek Mike Easton posts photos of that day’s handful of seasonal choices—maybe creste di gallo pasta with braised treviso, garlic, chiles, and olives; maybe gnocchetti with sweet corn and sage—which pulls Pioneer Square office workers in droves. Easton’s repertoire is bottomless, his seasonality admirable, his passion winning. A couple of salads and a dessert round out the offerings. Arrive early; lines can be epic.
John Sundstrom relocated his fanatically beloved Lark to the warehousey flank of Pike/Pine off Madison, spinning out a starlit space—deep blue banquettes, white linens, a welkin of pendants overhead—as elegant as any in town. Out of the rafters he carved a casual lofted upstairs dining room, downstairs a proper bar area with plenty of bitter cocktails. But Lark, once the upstart that pioneered small-plate dining, has become the noble elder; grown-ups come here for that disappearing species—relaxing high-end dinners—assembled from a combination of mains and Sundstrom’s famous grains. The menu is long and speckled with old favorites (the eel with saba, the skillet of mascarpone-creamy farro) and executed, as in the crisped pork belly with farro grits and a rye whiskey glaze, with Sundstrom’s reliably able hand.
First there was the award-winning truck introducing us to Marination’s signature collisions of Korean and Hawaiian flavors. Then came the brick-and-mortar takeout, Marination Station—with another, simply Marination, now a lunchtime staple at Sixth and Virginia downtown. But the city’s favorite is Marination Ma Kai, just off the foot ferry on the West Seattle shore, which peddles pork katsu sandwiches, Spam sliders, fish-and-chips, Hawaiian shave ice, and booze—with a side of full-frontal Seattle skyline on the house.
The only restaurant in the city to legitimately rate as mythic has been perched out over the vertiginous eastern edge of Queen Anne Hill since 1950. That makes it about as classic as it gets around here—right down to the midcentury split-level architecture, the dress code in the dining room, the noblest mixed drinks in town, fathoms-deep wine list, perfectionist standard of service (where the valets remember your car without aid of a claim ticket), and the whole breathtaking sweep of Lake Union twinkling just beyond the windows. Because the third generation of Canlis family restaurateurs insist on culinary relevance, the food is every bit as grand: Both the warhorses (yes, the Canlis salad is still on the menu) and chef Brady Williams’s more experimental, rigorously Northwest multicourse dinners are genuinely impeccable. Service has been updated as well, to a most intelligent and nimble brand of affability.
Like its surroundings, this second-story hideaway has evolved over the years but remains the market’s culinary epicenter—collegial by day, elegant by night, and fiercely beloved by locals. If you have just one meal to eat in this town, this spendy upstairs aerie in Pike Place Market effortlessly combines Seattle’s winningest charms: views over rooftops to the bay, freshest seafood, straightforward friendliness. Owner Dan Bugge’s tenure here dates back to his days as a fishmonger and thrower downstairs, but new chef Matt Fortner stewards the Northwest menu (and restores a Matt to the premises for the first time since the days of founder Matt Janke).
Chef Eric Donnelly built his casual raw-beamed fish house as a Montana fishing lodge smack in the heart of upper Fremont. And if the deep menu of small and large seafood plates seems overambitious, Donnelly has navigated his share of long menus in corporate restaurants, with startling success. Here, his wild Carolina prawns over grits is a sure-handed and bright Napa Valley–style plate; his mad variety of finfish preparations, often topped with handfuls of leafy herbs, are exact and supremely satisfying. Genial service completes the picture; a perfect place to bring your out-of-town guests when they say they want fish. Open late.
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 a handful of additional locations, each with the same streamlined menu, eye-catching signs, and five-cent surcharge for ketchup.
Once upon a time, retired Boeing engineer Armandino Batali drew on his family recipes and Tuscan butcher training to build a sliver of a salumeria in Pioneer Square; a plucky deli grew into a dry-cured Seattle institution. In 2018, his daughter, Gina, sold the majority stake in the business, and Salumi moved to larger, brighter quarters not far from its original storefront. It’s all there—the sandwiches of cured meat and gloriously unwieldy porchetta, the meatballs, the private lunches in a back room—plus actual tables and chairs (though not many) and streamlining features like to-go sandwiches and four-packs of sliced meat.
It’s a food lab, it’s an artist’s garret—it’s genius chef Matt Dillon’s sun-drenched farmhouse dining room, where you can spy the food merchants of Melrose Market through vintage panes. Sit at the butcher’s table to watch Dillon’s crew assemble plates which satisfy at an unusually elemental level—simple constructions like sweet whole carrots over chickpea puree with harissa and fried mint strike global, even tribal notes, and as tone poems of Northwest place and moment, they may take your breath away.
Shiro Kashiba is a verifiable sushi legend in this town; a half-century after he arrived from Japan to become Seattle’s first sushi chef, Kashiba opened this serene restaurant in the heart of Pike Place Market, where people queue up for a spot at the 14-seat sushi bar and perhaps the most pristine sushi experience Seattle has to offer. If you’re more into reservations than long waits, the dining room offers the same omakase menu as the counter, plus classic Shiro dishes a la carte. To clear up any confusion: The chef is no longer affiliated with his previous more casual restaurant Shiro’s in Belltown, though it still bears his name and is absolutely worth a visit.
The sons of the man who founded Fremont’s legendary Paseo sandwich shop (now with a new owner) went on to open 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’d Macrina roll. This beast is a blast to eat, especially with a cob of slathered grilled corn—but have multiple napkins handy. Two locations bookend Ballard.
Oyster Bar, Small Plates
Settle into the whitewashed-and-windowpaned rusticity (dig the enormous, coralesque chandelier) of Renee Erickson’s Ballard oyster bar and nibble a melon and cucumber salad or the house specialty, fresh oysters with champagne mignonette. Or cobble together a few heartier dishes—gin-cured Copper River salmon, perhaps, or breathtaking steak tartare with egg yolk and toast—and call it dinner. From its position on the backside of Ballard Avenue’s Staple and Fancy (the two share a windowed wall) the Walrus is at once at the center of everything and away from it all; on the back patio you can smell the tide turning.
The red boat–shaped restaurant credited as the city’s first pho shop has transitioned to the next generation of owners, and to a big, urbane structure just across the parking lot. The rich, delicately spiced bowls of pho are the same; the new menu of bar snacks walks a tasty line between classic Vietnamese flavors and American bar food. Definitely order the fries with herbaceous garlic-lemongrass dipping sauce, and if you can tear yourself away from the classic pho, the menu’s other noodle soups are definitely worth exploring (load up on napkins if you go for the short rib pho, complete with a caveman-worthy hunk of meat perched on top). All this casual goodness happens in the perpetual summer of the airy dining room, preferably with a cocktail from the bar.