Seattle Food Worth Seeking

Market Seattle

Pike Place Market is the epicenter of Seattle's food scene, which is thriving.

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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.

Sandwiches Seattle

Mean Sandwich features creative sandwiches on Macrina Bakery bread.

8. Mean Sandwich

Seattle local Alex Pemoulie and husband Kevin founded Mean Sandwich just over the bridge in Ballard in 2016, featuring creative house-made fillings on Macrina Bakery bread, and friend Dan Crookston took over the business in spring 2019. He subsequently added a dry-aged burger and Hama Hama oyster po’ boy. During my two visits, Mean Sandwich was still running the opening menu in the modern space with big-mouthed logo, boxy wooden booths, wraparound counter, and big back patio with picnic tables and cornhole. The signature Mean Sandwich featured a thick-slab of corned beef, tangy pickled red cabbage, yellow mustard, and two surprising flourishes: mint leaves and maple syrup. JCVH is a cross between a breakfast sandwich and a Reuben, piling a house-made pork sausage patty with sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and Russian slaw. Their steak tartare club comes at sandwiches from a totally different direction, featuring classic BLT components – thick-cut bacon, iceberg lettuce, and tomato – punched up with raw, rough-cut steak and piquant yuzu kosho mayo served on local Sea Wolf Bakers rye bread. Skins & Ins – Loaded involved crusty deep-fried potato chunks dressed with melted cheese, bacon bits, chives, and white sauce, an invigorating white vinegar, sour cream, and mayo mix.

MUST ORDER: JCVH, Mean Sandwich, Skins & Ins – Loaded, Steak Tartare Club

Mussels Seattle

No Anchor serves seriously ambitious bar bites like smoked & pickled mussels with black garlic aioli.

9. No Anchor

Anu Apte and husband Chris Elford are two of Seattle’s most revered bartenders and the visionaries behind Rob Roy, Navy Strength, Vinnie’s Raw Bar, and The Bar Bazaar. No Anchor is their most ambitious concept, featuring creative seasonal bar bites, cocktails, and craft beers plotted on a graph from approachable to esoteric and modern to traditional. I visited No Anchor twice in the course of a month and their menu changed considerably between visits. I left most impressed with their “Snacks, Finger Food & General Ballyhoo,” Dishes, and “The Important Stuff” (aka dessert). No Anchor serves potato salad unlike any other, smoked and dressed with seasonal accompaniments like popping salmon roe, green strawberries, ramps, and celery seeds. Salmon roe also factors into delicately fried, tempura battered hen of the woods mushrooms with punchy horseradish buttermilk and herbs. Their alder wood-smoked and pickled local oysters appear in a bowl with burnt garlic aioli “plated while listening to black metal” that delivers thrumming base notes. Their compact shrimp roll incorporates celery aioli and hot sauce dots and comes with chips coated with dehydrated ketchup. Veal sweetbreads worked best as schnitzel in a set with spaetzle, Savoy cabbage, kraut, and yolk-rich gribiche. Finish with a spruce ice cream tart that tastes like a walk in piney woods or popcorn mousse that packages popcorn-infused cream with maple-cured yolk, tart Granny Smith granita, and crumbled shortbread.

MUST ORDER: Local Shrimp Roll, Popcorn Mousse, Smoked & Pickled Mussels, Smoked Potato Salad, Spruce Ice Cream Tart, Veal Sweetbreads Schnitzel

Vietnamese Food Seattle

Pho Bac Súp Shop is a Little Saigon standout, particularly for short rib pho.

10. Phở Bắc Súp Shop

Theresa Cat Vu and Augustine Nien Pham helped to sprout Seattle’s Little Saigon by opening a red “boat of Saigon” in 1982. Their kids Yenvy, Quynh and Khoa Pham, who grew up in the restaurant, started running bustling Phở Bắc Súp Shop across the parking lot to start 2018 featuring an airy space with “Phocific Northwest” neon sign, Honda motorcycle, and full liquor license. Short rib pho (pho suon bo) is the star attraction, starring meaty bones so big that they don’t fit into the bowl of aromatic broth, scallions, and onions that comes with crunchy bean sprouts. Pho tron tom features turmeric noodles slicked with “OG Phở Bắc” sauce and tossed with fried shallots, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, and a choice of protein (prawns), which all comes with a side of broth (choose beef). They coat large, juicy twice-fried chicken wings – canh ga chien nuoc mam me – with tangy tamarind sauce and let customers dip crispy French fries (khoai chien) in garlic lemongrass sauce.

MUST ORDER: French Fries, Short Rib Pho, Turmeric Noodles

Cinnamon Roll Seattle

Sea Wolf Bakers has become famous for their raisin studded cinnamon rolls.

11. Sea Wolf Bakers

Sea Wolf is an airy Fremont bakery from Kit Schumann and brother Jesse that houses skylights, an open kitchen, and sizable patio. The far wall features sacks of flour from Cairnspring Mills and low-gluten Shepherd’s Grain that power impressive pastries. Their famed raisin-studded cinnamon roll sported a crusty bottom and crumbly cinnamon streusel top that was soft, caramelized, and chewy in all the right places. Ask for cream cheese frosting because why not. Croissant brittle is doused with brown sugar syrup and re-baked. I’d also endorse their seasonal braided “sweet croissant” with candied ginger, zingy lemon peel and lemon glaze. Even a simple butter croissant warrants attention.

MUST ORDER: Cinnamon Roll, Croissant Brittle, Sweet Croissant

Pizza Seattle

Willmott’s Ghost serves crisp-edged mushroom pizza with scissors.

12. Willmott’s Ghost

Willmott’s Ghost, the latest restaurant from chef Renee Erickson, resides in The Amazon Spheres, a Denny Triangle building on Amazon’s campus that resembles a glass golfball, or a biosphere. The airy space features a central kitchen, a circular marble bar, green cushioned banquettes, a satellite patio, and pink accents. The restaurant name refers to botanist Ellen Willmott, who “would surreptitiously plant in friendsʼ yards and in public places.” A Wood Stone oven powers pizza, and a big Italian menu that shifts seasonally and includes Roman-style pizzas, seasonal salads, fried bites, fire roasted dishes and tiramisu. Fat roasted asparagus spears arrived dressed with umami-rich bagna cauda and crispy prosciutto. Mushroom pizza with crispy edges arrived on a wooden board with gold-handled scissors and touted zesty tomato sauce, sliced button mushrooms, crispy leeks, mozzarella, lemon zest, and olive tapenade crafted with Gaeta, Taggiasca and Castelvetrano varietals.

MUST ORDER: Asparagus, Mushroom Pizza

Chinese Food Seattle

Xiao Chi Jie specializes in Chinese crepe sandwiches called jian bing.

13. Xiao Chi Jie

Norman Wu and business partner Danny Brawer debuted a highly focused “Chinese street food” concept in a food hall at the base of a Bellevue office tower. They specialize in jian bing, traditional crepes crafted with thin egg sheets, scallions, cilantro, crispy wontons, pickled radishes, lettuce, and three sauces that coalesce and achieve a savory crescendo. Complementary fillings all proved satisfying. Meltingly rich braised pork belly came brushed with hong shao rou reduction. Juicy, spicy sliced beef shank slices stewed before joining lao gan ma (chile crisp) and aforementioned accompaniments. Even ginger scallion chicken shines in the crepe wrapper. Xiao Chi Jie also serves sheng jian bao, fluffy Shanghai-style bao with crispy bases and pork fillings that have been known to spurt juice. Best to pack a bib.

MUST ORDER: Braised Pork Belly Jian Bing, Ginger Scallion Chicken Jian Bing, Grandma’s Spicy Beef Jian Bing, Original Pork Sheng Jian Bao

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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