The Seattle Guide
Every Seattle native we know has some serious hometown pride. And we get why. Seattle brings together some of the best elements from all the cities we love to visit: a gorgeous Pacific Northwest backdrop, which translates into amazing hikes, views, and family-friendly parks; an innovative, tech-forward culture that coexists peacefully with the city’s beloved small businesses; and really, really good food. In many ways, Seattle is a study in contrasts: It’s the place where grunge, Amazon, and Starbucks were born—and it still has great music (although it’s different now), indie bookstores, coffee shops, microbreweries, and the like. Pike Place Market, which is arguably the most famous tourist attraction in Seattle, is also a treasured local-approved spot. And even as Seattle’s neighborhoods continue to evolve, the city seems to stay true to itself. Even perpetual rain can’t stop us from visiting.
The Walrus and the Carpenter4743 Ballard Ave. N.W., Ballard | 206.395.9227
The seafood here is fantastic, and that's not a well-kept secret. So go early as The Walrus and the Carpenter doesn't take reservations. (There are other spots along Ballard Avenue, and even in the same building to grab a drink and/or an app while you wait—including sister restaurant, Barnacle.) The plates here are somewhat small and best shared tapas-style. Don't miss the extensive oyster list.
Stateside300 E. Pike St., Capitol Hill | 206.557.7273
Chef/owner Eric Johnson spent a decade-plus working in Paris, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, time that is reflected in the Vietnamese menu at Stateside, which takes cues from French and Chinese cuisine. The vibe here is great, too. The interior is a mix of clean wood and marble, with fun palm frond wallpaper and retro overhead lights. Make a reservation in advance to avoid a long wait. Grab a drink after dinner at next-door Foreign National.
Volunteer Park Cafe1501 17th Ave. E., Capitol Hill, Seattle | 206.328.3155
Volunteer Park Cafe (so-named because of its location in Capital Hill, just blocks from Volunteer Park) is the definition of a neighborhood joint. Long communal tables, fresh pastries every day, and best of all, chickens in the backyard (don’t worry, they’re just for eggs). There’s a counter at the front for to-go orders and coffee and pastry pickups.
Delancey1415 N.W. 70th St., Ballard | 206.838.1960
This pizza spot is the brainchild of husband-wife team, Brandon Pettit, a former New Yorker with a passion for NY-style dough, and Molly Wizenberg of the popular food blog, Orangette, and author of the book, Delancey, which tells the story of the restaurant's Seattle opening. Their awesome pies (margherita, crimini mushroom with mozzarella and thyme, hot salami) are served out of a wood-fired oven, in a minimalist, small space set with wood tables and drop-ceiling light fixtures. While the pizza here takes its inspiration from New York, many of the ingredients—from the veggies to the flour, cream, honey, and ginger beer—are locally sourced.
Oddfellows Café + Bar1525 10th Ave., Capitol Hill | 206.325.0807
We like this cozy spot for a laid-back brunch (no waiter service) or an easy dinner. It's hard to order wrong here, and we've never been disappointed by classics like homemade biscuits and eggs, Nicoise salads, and spiced caramel bread pudding. Note: Arrive early on weekend mornings, as they don't take reservations.
No Bones Beach Club5410 17th Ave. N.W., Ballard | 206.453.3223
You’d never guess that a tiki-themed restaurant that plays surf movies and serves vegan food exists in Seattle, but it sure does. Don’t miss the Northwest Nachos (cashew queso, black beans, corn salsa), plus fried avocado tacos and tempeh kabobs, which are marinated in coconut milk, turmeric, and ginger. Predictably, the cocktails are kind of a thing—and every single one, from Mai Tais to Coconut Mojitos, are potent but delicious.
Tallulah’s550 19th Ave. E., Capitol Hill | 206.860.0077
Tallulah's bills itself as a neighborhood café, and with a long, cozy bar and ample patio space that always seem to be buzzing with energy (probably in part because it's outfitted with cozy wool blankets for cold days), the place definitely fulfills that expectation. The vibe is sort of Scandinavian meets vintage, with clean, mid-century furniture juxtaposed against design prints and patinaed brass chandeliers, plus a quirky painting of a cat welcoming you at the entry. The menu is short but sweet, with a selection of small plates like halloumi with local melon, or beet salad and a straightforward roster of locally-inspired mains like a grilled albacore tuna bowl and Samish Bay King salmon; locals recommend getting at least one plate of the hanger steak frites, which are almost always a source of order envy. (P.S. They do excellent weekend brunch and weekday happy hour.)
Altura617 Broadway E., Capitol Hill | 206.402.6749
Altura's Italian-focused, rotating, multi-course tasting menu best suits a special-occasion dinner. The open kitchen atmosphere makes it more of an experience, as do the pairings: You can opt for a traditional wine combination or a more modern matching, which also includes cocktails and beers.
Taylor Shellfish1521 Melrose Ave., Capitol Hill | 206.501.4321
While there’s certainly no shortage of great seafood joints in Seattle, Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bars is our pick for pre-dinner appetizers (their selection of oysters is one of the city’s largest). The fifth-generation family fishing business has expanded to include three oyster bars in Seattle, all of which uphold the family commitment to sustainable fish farming and sourcing locally grown produce. The Shuckers Dozen, a composition of various oysters, is a good entry point. The Capitol Hill location is the first of three (they're now in Pioneer Square and Queen Anne as well).
Canlis2576 Aurora Ave. N., Queen Anne | 206.283.3313
When it comes to Seattle dining establishments, Canlis is OG, located inside a 1950’s modernist home overlooking Lake Union. A bonus: All the tables have water views, meaning there’s not a bad seat in the house. It’s a family-owned spot that began as a steakhouse, though over the years they’ve tweaked the menu, adding Japanese elements here and there. Don’t miss the stellar selection of sake, and be sure to order the truffle fries. Trust.
Black Bottle2600 1st Ave., Downtown | 206.441.1500
Known as Seattle’s first gastropub, Black Bottle remains high on our list for its creative take on different cuisines and its cool atmosphere (white walls, exposed brick, and a minimalist black bar). We suggest going with a group of friends so you can try as many tapas as possible.
Matt’s in the Market94 Pike St., Downtown | 206.467.7909
Matt's in the Market (it overlooks the landmark Public Market clock and neon sign) has been open since 1996, and is now owned by a previous Pike Place fishmonger, Dan Bugge. Not surprisingly, you'll find a lot of fresh fish on the menu (seafood stew; seared scallops with grits and bacon; wild king salmon in a smoked heirloom tomato vinaigrette), plus chicken and steak dishes and crowd-pleasing desserts.
The London Plane300 Occidental Ave. S., Downtown | 206.624.1374
The London Plane serves food all day in their café-style restaurant, offering an array of baked goods and sourdough toasts (e.g., curried avocado with radish, cabbage, and cilantro), as well as granolas, egg dishes, and veggie plates (like baby beets served with pomegranate and pistachio). Their dinner menu, which is available Wednesday through Saturday, includes mains like roasted chicken with wild mushrooms, strawberries, and hazelnuts. What makes The London Plane a bit different is that it's also part grocery and flower shop (overseen by Katherine Anderson of Marigold and Mint), so you can pick up specialty food items, gifts, floral arrangements, croissants to-go, all while brunching.
Umi Sake House2230 1st Ave., Downtown | 206.374.8717
We like this Belltown sake bar for super-fresh fish with a decidedly neighborhood vibe. Expect a miles-long sushi and sashimi menu, plus plenty of off-the-beaten-path sake options for connoisseurs. Ask to be seated on the covered back porch, where there are casual couches and low tables (these are also the best seats in the house during happy hour).
Manolin3621 Stone Way N., Fremont | 206.294.3331
Nautically designed Manolin (named after the Ernest Hemingway character) is awash in cool blues, and centered around a U-shape bar that provides front-row seats to the bustle of the restaurant's talented bartenders and the chefs manning its wood-fire grill. The menu is updated often (the plantain chips stay), with different, refreshing takes on ceviche rotating in among vegetable mains and grilled fish and meats.
Tarsan I Jane4012 Leary Way N.W., Fremont | 206.557.7059
Tarsan I Jane approaches the entire dining experience from start to finish as the chef’s choice. Everything from the day’s menu to the selection of seasonings available on the table are pre-established, and no changes can be made, so experience is, in the owner's words, about trust. Chef Perfecte Rocher tailors the daily menu to include the freshest seafood and seasonal produce, while staying close to his Catalan roots.
The Independent Pizzeria4235 E. Madison St., Madison Park | 206.860.6110
You'll find some of the best pizza in Seattle at this tiny, lakeside joint in Madison Park. Pies are made with organic tomato bases and wheat flour harvested in the Pacific Northwest, and manage to be both dough-y and crisp, as well as works of food-art. Look forward to creations like The Farmer (Grana cheese, mozzarella, ham, topped with a runny egg) and New Haven (arugula, basil, capers, Crimini mushrooms, peppers, olives, spinach, and more).
The Whale Wins3506 Stone Way N., Wallingford | 206.632.9425
Don’t be fooled by the sweet nature of the light, airy space—Renee Erickson’s James Beard award-winning menu is nothing if not serious, with many of the simple-but-innovative, vegetable-centric dishes (there’s always a roasted vegetable on the menu) coming straight to the table from a wood-burning oven. Relying on seasonal ingredients from local sources, the menu changes daily, though it stays true to chef Renee Erickson’s Southern European style, with dishes like a roasted chicken, crepinettes with ricotta and fried cucumber, and sardines on toast with a curry tomato mayo.
Westward2501 N. Northlake Way, Wallingford | 206.552.8215
The first major selling point for Westward is that the restaurant can be approached from the water—regulars stop by on boats, kayaks, or paddleboards and tie up on the dock during dinner. That said, it's also entirely worthy destination for landlubbers—the menu is inspired by the Northwest, with a heavy emphasis on fresh oysters and seafood dishes (like albacore crudo, salmon gravlax, and black cod) that rotate daily. Little Gull, their market concept next-door, is one of the best places in the city to get fresh market fish for home cooking—though it's equally nice for a glass of wine and an appetizer. In the evenings, they offer drink service at the Adirondack chairs around the fire pits.
Vendemmia1126 34th Ave., Central District | 206.466.2533
Vendemmia is technically the Italian word for vintage (as in the vintage, or harvest season, of a wine), but it's one of those knotty words that really means so much more—Italians say it also refers to the terroir, culture, and spirit that went into making the bottle. It's just that kind of passion and complexity that chef Brian Clevenger is hoping to capture in his dressed-up Madrona restaurant. In addition to the sophisticated wine list, Clevenger offers handmade pasta and plenty of gorgeous, seasonal vegetable dishes, and since the Washington native grew up near the coast, you can always count on a few fresh seafood dishes. Note: It's definitely worth springing for a reservation at the four-seat chef's counter for a special occasion.
The Corson Building5609 Corson Ave. S., Georgetown | 206.762.3330
Despite (or, possibly, because of) its unlikely location in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood, Matt Dillon's The Corson Building offers what's widely considered to be one of Seattle's most special dining experiences. The restaurant itself is located in a historic 1910 home that's around the corner from the airport and steps from a major highway, but once you walk through the green gates and into the patio of the ivy-covered home, it's easy to forget that bit. Dinner service happens Thursday through Sunday, and everything is served family style at one of two communal tables, around the historic fireplace in the home's cozy living room. Handwritten menus are changed out every day: Thursday and Fridays are a la carte; Saturday is lengthy, multiple-course prix-fixe; and Sunday, while prix-fixe, is a more casual, laid-back version of Saturday's feast. The dishes themselves, like all of Matt Dillon's creations, are soulful iterations of locally-sourced vegetables and meats, and though cuisines can vary week-to-week or dish-to-dish, everything (including the wine pairing) always comes together elegantly.
Etta’s2020 Western Ave., Downtown | 206.443.6000
Etta's is one of many restaurants by famed Seattle restauranteur, Tom Douglas. It's situated alongside Pike Place Market, and it has all the seafood staples you'd expect: oysters, Dungeness crab cakes, ahi tuna, and so on—but it's also known in part for its market brunch menu and accompanying house Bloody Mary.