Seattle has come a long way from the 1800s, when settlers to the waterfront land between what became Elliott Bay and Lake Washington became best known for logging and fishing. More recently, chefs like Renee Erickson, Eduardo Jordan, Shiro Kashiba, Tom Douglas, and John Sundstrom have helped vault the food scene forward. Considering Seattle is such a technology hub, it makes sense that the city would be so open to global tastes and innovation. Discover 13 of my favorite places to eat in Seattle, based on two 2019 trips. Sadly, Kurt Farm Shop’s terrific ice cream didn’t quite make it to 2020.
Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
1. B-Side Foods
Tim Hayden and Danny Hanlon turned low-fi Analog Coffee into a hit on Capitol Hill. The duo added breakfast and lunch around the corner in 2017, teaming with chef Jake Vorono on B-Side Foods. The spinoff resides at the base of a brick building with burgundy awning and blue patio tables. The interior touts multi-color tile walls, wooden two-tops, and matching counter. Both B-Side breakfast dishes I tried were best in class. Their basic egg sandwich cradles thin folded omelet, Cheddar, a pickled daikon disc, and aioli on a toasted Fran’s English muffin. Bolster the sandwich by adding roasted cremini mushrooms and spicy, house-made fermented Fresno chile hot sauce. Their seasonal rice bowl combines roasted vegetables (snap peas and broccoli), fermented vegetables (beets and mustard greens), fresh vegetables (radish matchsticks), puffed rice, runny egg, earthy tahini miso sauce, and canned sardine fillets that are worth the supplement. Bonus: Analog’s coffee knowhow extends to B-Side.
MUST ORDER: Egg Sandwich, Rice Bowl
2. Bar Melusine
Chef Renee Erickson, the James Beard Award winning powerhouse behind Sea Creatures restaurant group, continues to produce Seattle hits. She debuted French leaning seafood concept Bar Melusine at the base of a mixed-use Capitol Hill building in 2015 by sister concepts Bateau steakhouse and General Porpoise Doughnuts. The ocean-inspired design includes white and green tiles, banquettes, and green stools that face a marble counter starring six rotating oyster bins. I couldn’t resist ordering a half-dozen local bivalves, served sweetest to briniest: Chelsea Gem, Eld Inlet, and Dana Passage. Crispy, thin-sheathed fried Sea Cow oysters are also noteworthy, served with warming vadouvan curry aioli sprinkled with chives. Ling Cod Rillette piles a supple Ben’s Bread English muffin with smoked fish, horseradish and tangy pickled onions. Seafood is the focus, but don’t sleep on rosy, thin-sliced, salt-brined, and smoked lamb Pré-Salé plated with piquant sauce Gribiche.
MUST ORDER: Fried Oysters, Lamb Pré-Salé, Ling Cod Rillette, Oysters
The meatiest option in the Sea Creatures restaurant group focuses on atypical steak cuts, creative appetizers and sides. They get in one whole cow per week, butcher it, age it for 21 or 28 days, and list parts on a blackboard. Staffers cross off portions with chalk once they’re gone. I’d highly recommend Carman Ranch bavette, aged 21 days, butter basted and cooked to medium rare, featuring a beautifully rosy center. Each steak comes with a choice of butter. Preserved lemon & brown butter was tasty, but clashed with my steak’s horseradish-pine condiment, a classic case of user error. Creamed stinging nettles folded with sweet onion provided a fitting seasonal complement. Other flavorful cuts fuel dishes like sautéed heart with fermented mushroom, piquant local rowan berries, brown butter and wood sorrel, served with crackers; and ultra-savory French onion croquettes forged with black barley, Comté cheese, garum, egg yolk, and Dijon mustard. Small plates include wild olives tossed with green walnuts, baby apples and unripe plums in aromatic olive oil. My meal started with a Parmesan gougère that delivered a savory rush and finished with a surprisingly refreshing chocolate mint meringue.
MUST ORDER: Bavette, Creamed Stinging Nettles, French Onion Croquettes, Sautéed Heart, Wild Olives
4. Country Dough
Cheng Biao Yang’s Sichuan restaurant resides two doors down from the oldest operating Starbucks, tucked inside Pike Place Market’s Soames Dunn building. “Over 1800 years of history” have been on display since 2014 at this restaurant, which features a boomerang-shaped counter and a bucolic courtyard with chirping birds. Yang did away with Sichuan-style flatbreads and Chinese crepes, but Country Dough still has plenty to offer diners. “Pie” and “cake” translate as savory finger foods. A substantial hand pie contains cumin-tinged ground beef, tomato paste, potato, onion, ginger, scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil. Fried chicken “cake” triangles contain tangy filling with matching ingredients, plus vinegar. Country Dough’s house-made noodles form the basis for bowls like tongue-tingling hot & spicy dry noodle topped with ground pork tossed with chiles, Sichuan peppercorns, and more of the aforementioned ingredients. Toss to integrate the different flavors.
MUST ORDER: Chicken Cake, Cumin Beef, Hot & Spicy Dry Noodle
Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi have carved out a flavorful niche for themselves, running Revel and bygone Trove in Seattle and Revelry in Portland. Joule remains their crown jewel, a contemporary Korean steakhouse in Fremont that garnered them #9 in 2013 Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurant in America and 2018 James Beard Awards Finalist nod for “Best Chef: Northwest.” Small starters generate big flavors, including potent yellow curry pickled beet co-starring figs, olives, and spiced pistachio oil; and a bracing white stuffed kimchi stuffed with carrots and pine nuts; and kaya toast served with black sesame butter. Black sesame also factors into a seasonal noodle preparation that incorporated nutty edamame pesto, pea shoots, and pistachio. A memorable rice cake preparation tossed alternately chewy and crispy cylinders with spicy chorizo and punchy pickled mustard greens. Meat – both “steak” and “other than steak” – stands out in main courses, particularly tender Wagyu zabuton “pillow” plated with chanterelle mushrooms, tikka masala, and crème fraîche; and rosy duck breast served with earthy hoisin prune sauce and tangy butter bean escabeche.
MUST ORDER: Duck Breast, Kaya Toast, Spicy Rice Cake, Wagyu Zabuton, White Stuffed Kimchi, Yellow Curry Pickled Beets
Chef Mutsuko Soma previously made soba at Miyabi 45th in Wallingford, took maternity leave, and reemerged with her own restaurant. Kamonegi is an award-winning triangular Fremont space featuring a duck logo and plenty of meat that previously quacked. The interior touts wooden banquettes and tables and counter seats overlooking an open kitchen. Soma serves three types of house-made buckwheat noodles: bukkake (cold soba salad), seiro (cold noodles dipped in hot broth) and nanban (soba in soup). Kamonegi nanban is a signature noodle soup starring duck breast, duck tsukune (meatball), leeks, mitsuba (wild parsley), and yuzu zest in dashi shishito broth. Yakitori duck tsukune presents grilled meatballs with soft egg, shichimi, eggplant, shishito peppers, microgreens and crispy fried duck skin. Even a pickle plate shoots for the stars. Tsukemono combines shio koji cured daikon, cubed daikon stained pink with beet powder, two types of cucumber – one dyed with beet powder, the other marinated with soy and sake – simple salt-cured cabbage and fiddlehead ferns, and celery. They plated seasonal fiddlehead golden beet shirae with sweet tofu tahini puree and toasted almond. Hickory-smoked halibut collar cradled alternately fatty and fluffy nooks and joined peavines and ginger blood orange vin. Save room for desserts. Fluffy Osaka-style cheesecake crafted with rhubarb and strawberry joined tart yuzu lemon curd. Duck fat mochi carrot cake was equally compelling, plated with walnuts, duck cracklings, shio koji caramel and cream cheese ice cream.
MUST ORDER: Fiddlehead Golden Beet Shirae, Kamonegi Nanban, Smoked Halibut Kama, Tsukemono, Yakitori Duck Tsukune, Duck Fat Mochi Carrot Cake, Osaka Cheesecake
The Haroun family showcases bold Middle Eastern flavors at their stylish Capitol Hill restaurant that debuted in 2012 and achieved success that spurred a more casual spinoff in 2016. House-made pita sandwiches, dips and sauces all feel vibrant and fresh. Start with moushakal, a four mezze combo that pairs supple griddled Arabic flatbread with creamy hummus, smoky baba ganoush, spicy walnut and pepper fueled muhammara, and shamandar, a bold, vivid grated beet preparation folded with yogurt, garlic and tahini. Flatbreads also fuel flavorful wraps. Lovable lahm bi ajine hosted minced lamb, Aleppo peppers, pomegranate molasses, herbs, and if you’re game, a firm, salty white halloumi cheese slab. Za’atar, the “King of Lebanese street food,” comes coated with wild thyme, sesame, olive, labneh, tomato, herbs, and for diners needing meat, luscious chicken shawarma. Wraps come with sides like lentil soup, and even better, harra frites, Aleppo-spiced French fries taste made for za’atar mayo and house-made harra (spicy) ketchup. To spice your meal even more, request house-made harra sauce crafted with Fresno chiles, smoked paprika, and caraway.
MUST ORDER: Harra Frites, Harra Sauce, Lahm Bi Ajine + Halloumi, Moushakal, Za’atar + Chicken Shawarma