Where to Eat in Seattle
I'm by no means an expert in food criticism, but I know what I like to eat. I like restaurants with purpose and identity, but the food obviously also needs to be awesome.
I lived in Western Washington for 15 years. My family moved to Olympia in 2003 after the War on Terror started. Both my parents were Army soldiers at the time, so a bunch of consecutive deployments kept us in the area.
I started my bachelor's degree in Tacoma and finished it in downtown Seattle. When I met Ravi, I moved to Bothell with him. We ended up in Edmonds before moving down to Texas. I'd just moved further up north every year or two that I almost expected to be in Vancouver at some point.
The I5 corridor of Washington has a food culture that is unique from anywhere else in the United States. The seafood and wine are so special. It's a very liberal area, so there are plenty of "dietary constraints" that keep chefs on their toes. Every decent restaurant in the city is blessed with incredible ingredients and damned with some of the pickiest eaters in the country.
Especially since I don't live in the city anymore, I wanted to share some of my favorite places to eat in Seattle. There are in no particular order.
Von's 1000 Spirits - Downtown, Seattle
Von's boasts one of the most desirable locations in the city. It's across the street from the Seattle Art Museum and sits at the top of the Harbor Steps. It's the perfect restaurant to be paired with the SAM, Aquarium, Pike Place Market, or the underground tour. As well placed as it is, it's never completely packed unless there's a sports game that day. Watching the sun go down while having a cocktail on the patio overlooking the harbor steps is such a beautiful experience.
There really do have 1000 (often more) bottles of liquor at this bar. They distill their own vodkas. They have playful drinks that offer a little bit of show. They also have this Cocktail Hour wheel that is spun on the hour to determine the cocktail specials.
Anytime I had a visitor, I'd meet them at Von's for a Skinny Bitch martini and the salmon pasta. Once you find that one delicious thing that doesn't leave your mind for days, only order that. The first thing I ordered at Von's was a French Onion Soup Burger. Yeah, it was incredible, but after the pasta, I can never go back.
How to Cook a Wolf - Queen Anne, Seattle
My husband turned me on to Ethan Stowell restaurants. He'd stepped into How to Cook a Wolf with some friends when he'd moved to the city and fell in love with it. When we first started dating, it was the only restaurant he ever talked about.
We visited for the first time together in the spring. It's a tiny restaurant and they don't take reservations. We had a 20 minute wait for a table, which we enjoyed with a glass of wine from the place next door. We were seated at the bar. The bartender knew a great deal about wine, so we let him pair our meal with various wines for the evening. I love when employees know about the wines. It adds a lot to the experience.
The menu changes regularly, so you may not get to enjoy the Cacio e Pepe that I ordered, or Ravi's agnolotti. The pasta is fresh and rustic. The bruschetta was vibrant. It's celebratory while also being so simple. This restaurant is humble and uncomplicated. It's Italian, but also very truly Pacific Northwestern.
Aptly named after the book by MFK Fisher, Chef Ethan Stowell sends the same message at HTCAW as she did in her writing- sustenance is more than just filling your belly. Mealtime is adventurous and emotional.
Stowell really killed it with this restaurant. There are plenty of popular restaurateurs in Washington, but Stowell's seem to outshine all the touristy ones in the city center.
Goldfinch Tavern - Downtown
Long after our experience at How to Cook A Wolf, I took Ravi to another wonderful Ethan Stowell restaurant: Goldfinch Tavern. At the time, I was working with the Four Seasons Private Jet tour operator, so I was always hearing about the restaurants in the hotels. When I learned that one of them was an Ethan Stowell restaurant, I thought it was incredibly fitting.
Ravi and I got all dressed up and drove into the city. We valet parked at the restaurant, almost next door to Pike Place Market. The hostess greeted us and sat us down, promptly asking about food allergies, which I always appreciate since I do have a weird food allergy: juniper! We opted for the chef's choice, which was a 10 course series of small dishes that were meant to surprise and delight.
I can't deny that many of the fancier restaurants in the Seattle area are overtly pretentious (cue every single restaurant in the touristy magazine at your hotel). I didn't get this vibe from Goldfinch. Simple and celebratory would be the two best descriptors of our experience.
Our first dish was a raw oyster with a mignonette, followed by an array of salads and vegetables, seared tuna, lightly dressed pasta, then steak and fingerling potatoes, before a delightful dessert and chocolate sampler for Ravi's birthday.
We opted for the wine pairing, which was excellent. The pairings felt obvious, which I think is a symptom of being either incredibly knowledgeable or thoughtful.
I rarely refer to this restaurant as Goldfinch Tavern. I almost always simply say Goldfinch, since I think it better represents the cuisine and experience.
It's smart, sexy food.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ethan Stowell at the annual Jungle Party at Woodland Park Zoo. He's bubbly and gregarious and totally lovable.
Belltown Brewing - Belltown, Seattle
It's with a heavy heart that I even mention Belltown Brewing because it's not what I fell in love with.
Belltown Brewing used to be Bell + Whete. Bell + Whete opened in 2014 and lasted only 3 years. They had a fun bar with a wide selection of beers, which is where most of their money came from. The menu was gently inspired by medieval fare.
I took Ravi here on our first real 1:1 date. This was the first time I dressed special and he picked me up to go somewhere. It was a really great night.
I remember ordering foie gras with quince paste. We shared a bottle of wine. He had a beautiful lamb dish with herbed couscous.
As I always did at this restaurant, I ordered steak with bruleed blue cheese. It was the best steak I ate in the non-Texan United States. The blue cheese was toned down by the sugar, but still added an funky richness to the perfectly seasoned steak. It was almost a sexual experience to eat this steak.
From what I understand, the restaurant is still owned by the same restauranteur and simply rebranded as a brewery. Fine. I assume that means their food will still take your pants off.
I really miss that steak, though.
*note: I tried to hyperlink a website to the new place and couldn't find any- there's not even a Facebook page anymore! This restaurant looks to be closed. What a shame.
Cafe Belltown - Belltown, Seatte
This little hole in the wall is not everyone's destination dinner spot. It's low-key and quiet. The owner, Jackie, is a Korean angel and she puts so much soul into the food she cooks. It's an 8 seat little place that is a coffee shop in the morning and a Korean/Mediterranean/American take-away in the evening. It rocks.
Jackie makes bibimbap, or B-Bap as she calls it, with a whole bunch of deliciously pickled vegetables and spicy chicken, topped with a sunny-side egg. One of the most unique and awesome dishes is the bolgogi gyro. It's a pita with all the gyro fixings, but instead of lamb, it's filled with sweet marinated bolgogi meat.
She closes on Sundays. Go there on other days.
Wann Izakaya - Belltown, Seattle
Wann Izakaya is a Japonese Gastropub. It's dimly lit and well-decorated, but it's not Umi or Japonessa. By that, I mean that it isn't trying too hard.
It's simple and honest. I absolutely love it.
I lived on the corner of Blanchard and 2nd Ave in Seattle for about 2 years. I probably ate at Wann about once a week. The sushi happy hour specials make it a totally reasonable spot to go on a regular basis.
It should be your team lunch spot, your meeting spot for a hot night out, your lonely afternoon between errands spot. I used to get an unagi roll, spider roll, and miso soup for like $10. I never felt the need to order outside of that. Everyone I've taken there has always heavily enjoyed their food. The bartenders are pleasant and make good classic cocktails.
This restaurant was part of my existence in Seattle. It always feels empty but it absolutely deserves some attention. In a city that does sushi in a big way, you don't ever really get less than awesome sushi. Sushi shouldn't have strawberries in it, nor should it be $30 a roll. It should be a fun and friendly experience. It should be what you crave all the time. It's clean and satisfying.
It is, without question, my favorite sushi place in the Pacific Northwest.
Why aren't there any Indian places on this list? My family eats a ton of Indian food and, honestly, none of the restaurants in the greater Seattle area are really that good. Kathakali in Kirkland was probably the best Indian dining in Washington that we had, and we always enjoyed Curry Point in Redmond for casual dinners. I hate that none of my experiences were recommendation-worthy.
We also ate at Burger Hut in University District after every Bollywood party. When you're totally ham sandwich after a night out, go have a spicy chicken burger from Burger Hut. There's 10 seats and they're all really good places to park your ass for the night, since it doesn't close until 4. Don't visit the website- it's not the kind of place that finishes the website. That doesn't matter. Eat.
Leave a comment telling me your favorite restaurants in Seattle. What's the most fun experience? What was the most memorable dish? I'd love to know for when I visit next.