Updated: December 6, 2017
Seattle Restaurants – Tips and Recommendations
- Seattle’s a laid-back place. Casual attire is suitable just about anywhere (except Canlis).
- Most of the best restaurants in Seattle take reservations, so call ahead if there’s a spot you really want to to try.
- Seattle’s best brunch is at Toulouse Petit and Portage Bay Cafe.
- The best restaurant for a fancy splurge is Canlis.
- Seattle’s best restaurant patio can be found at Westward.
- The best Chinese restaurant in Seattle is Din Tai Fung.
- Seattle’s best Mexican restaurant is La Carta de Oaxaca.
- The best vegetarian restaurant in Seattle is Café Flora.
- The best spots for dinner and a show in Seattle are The Pink Door and Teatro Zinzani.
- Seattle’s best sushi is at Sushi Kashiba and Wataru.
- Seattle’s best Japanese restaurant is Maneki.
- Seattle’s best sandwiches are at Salumi and Paseo.
- The best restaurant in Pike Place Market is Matt’s.
- The best bakery in Seattle is Macrina. Their Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter might be the best cookie on the planet.
- Seattle’s best restaurants on the water are Elliot’s Oyster House and Ray’s Boathouse.
- The best pasta in Seattle is at Il Corvo (weekday lunch only) and Spinasse.
- Seattle’s best steakhouse is El Gaucho.
- Seattle’s best late night eateries are Green Leaf and Ba Bar.
- The best seafood in Seattle is at Etta’s and Rock Creek.
- Seattle’s best burger is at Red Mill. The best in downtown is at Lil Woody’s.
- The best dessert in Seattle, hands down, is the coconut cream pie at Dahlia Bakery. (But all Tom Douglas restaurants have it – if it’s not on the menu, just ask.)
The 18 Best Restaurants in Seattle
- Armandino’s Salumi • Pioneer Square • $$
The best cured meats this side of Manhattan can be found at Armandino’s Salumi in historic Pioneer Square. Locals simply call this spot “Salumi,” and know that time spent waiting in line here will be amply rewarded with mouth-watering, hand-cured Italian goodness. A variety of cold deli-style sandwiches and 3-4 hot sandwiches are offered (the meatball and porchetta being particular crowd favorites). This is a small, family owned operation (and what a family: Armandino is Armandino Batali, Mario’s dad), so hours are abbreviated: it’s open exclusively for weekday lunch, and Mondays are take-out only. Come early to avoid the long lines, or call before 10am with your sandwich order (cold sandwiches only) and skip the line altogether.
- Café Campagne • Downtown • $$-$$$
A picture perfect Parisian-style brasserie comfortably nestled into Post Alley in Pike Place Market, Café Campagne consistently delivers French classics, flawlessly prepared. Divine egg dishes like their velvety quiche, brioche French toast, and an impeccable croque madame have made this spot particularly popular for weekend brunch, while the legendary lamb burger, handcrafted charcuterie, steak frites, and roast trout regularly draw crowds at lunch and dinner. Snag a window seat or a table on the sidewalk terrace to enjoy the frenetic energy of the market, or leave the bustle behind – the simple and classic décor of Café Campagne’s large dining space provides a cozy respite and feels intimate, despite the crowds. Reservations are recommended, especially for weekend brunch.
- Canlis • Westlake • $$$$
Since 1950, this revered restaurant has been universally considered the apex of Seattle fine dining. The warm and polished midcentury interior with sweeping views of Lake Union, downtown Seattle, and the Cascade Mountains; the impeccable service, at the same time gracious and unpretentious; the unique and much-celebrated cuisine that chef Jason Franey calls “comfort geek” – modernist and molecular without being unapproachable: these superb elements combine to create evenings that guests consider more an experience than a meal. It’s special occasion, blow-your-paycheck dining, and you are expected to dress the part – this is the only restaurant in Seattle which requires a suit or sport coat for men. (Leave your Levis at home, there’s no denim allowed.) With nightly live piano music and plush décor, Canlis’ lounge area provides a luxurious spot to wait for your table or enjoy an expertly-crafted cocktail and snacks from the a la carte bar menu. Reservations in the dining room are a must, and should be booked well in advance; lounge seating is available for walk-in guests. Parking is valet only.
- Cascina Spinasse • Capitol Hill • $$$
Cascina Spinasse is the place to go for classic Northern Italian cuisine in Seattle. This rustic-casual trattoria serves authentic Piedmontese dinner fare, crafted from local and seasonal ingredients. The menu here is small – a handful each of antipasti, primi, and secondi plates – but every dish is pitch-perfect. The braised rabbit and salt cod bruschetta is rave-worthy, and the pasta has been called “transformative.” (Particularly the finely-cut tajarin, whether ordered enveloped in a rich ragu or divinely dressed in butter and sage.) Those in the mood for a real treat would do well to arrive with an empty stomach and a full wallet: Cascina Spinasse’s Menu Degustazione allows you to try it all – each antipasti, primi, and secondi on the menu for $100 a person. Book table reservations well in advance; bar seating is reserved for walk-in guests.
- Cycene • Downtown • $$
This humble kitchen on the eastern edge of Pike Place Market serves up Southern-style comfort food that’s rich, satisfying, and worth writing home about. Cycene has a limited menu, offering a handful each of grilled sandwiches and grits, plus a couple of sides and dessert choices. Bottled beers, sodas (including Mexican Coke), and juice wash it down. The pimento grilled cheese sandwich with sweet peppers and olives is mouth-watering, served on a bed of crispy, salty home fries. Their grits are unfathomably luscious and cheesy – those topped with sweet corn and a perfectly vinegary North Carolina-style pulled pork are my personal favorite. Cycene is only open for breakfast and lunch, and the menu is the same for both. In contrast to the richness of the food, decor here is spare, with gallon-sized mason jars of spices lining the shelves, and honkey-tonk blues on the stereo.
- Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant • Belltown • $
A local favorite for authentic and exquisite Vietnamese cuisine, Green Leaf boasts generous portion sizes, exciting flavors, and bargain basement prices. This jewel of a restaurant takes some digging to find – its subterranean location is marked only by an unassuming green sign – but is well worth the trip. Fresh and vibrant soups, salads, noodle, and rice dishes abound in Green Leaf’s comprehensive menu, with many vegetarian options and too many standouts to count. Casual and friendly, Green Leaf’s grand-sized dining area is made intimate by carved wooden furniture and Vietnamese décor. The cozy and comfortable lounge area is the perfect spot for sipping a specialty cocktail from Green Leaf’s extensive drink menu. Perhaps best of all, this hidden gem is open until 2am nightly, making it the perfect spot for a late night bite.
- Il Corvo • Pioneer Square • $$
The line is long and the menu is short at this hectic hole-in-the-wall pasta shop in Pioneer Square: just three fresh-made pastas daily (a standout pappardelle bolognese and a vegetarian option are always available) and a handful of antipasti. That’s enough to have earned chef Mike Easton a James Beard Award nom in 2016, though, as well as the intense loyalty of local pasta aficionados. The atmosphere here is casual, friendly, and chaotic; the queue cuts through the middle of the dining room and tables are in high demand – there’s no lingering over a glass of wine and a good conversation without incurring the wrath of those standing in wait. Il Corvo is only open during weekday lunch hours; get there before opening to avoid lines of an hour or more. If you can’t get there early, rest assured that it’s worth the wait.
- Lecosho • Downtown • $$-$$$
In the heart of downtown, but tucked into a quiet corner of the Harbor Steps pedestrian corridor, Lecosho features seasonal American cuisine in a graceful atmosphere. The menu here is fairly meat-heavy (the pork chop and homemade sausage are best bets), though there’s always something delicious like artichoke ricotta ravioli to satisfy any vegetarians in the bunch. The restaurant’s dark wood decor feels cozy in the rainy months, and there’s a generous patio and large windows that open wide to balmy summer air – Lecosho’s Harbor Steps location allows guests to enjoy alfresco dining downtown without the street noise. Choose an entree or small plates to share for dinner, sandwiches during weekday lunch, or stop by after going out – an abbreviated late night menu is available ’til 1am every day.
89 University Street (The Harbor Steps)
Phone: (206 623-2101
- Matt’s in the Market • Downtown • $$$
For a quintessentially Seattle dining experience, one can do no better than Matt’s, serving new American lunch and dinner in the heart of Pike Place Market. The lunch menu here is brief but outstanding – the catfish and pulled-pork sandwiches are two dependable favorites – and the dinner menu changes regularly, determined by what’s available from the market stalls below. With high timber-beamed ceilings and checkerboard floors, Matt’s feels light and airy during the day, and romantic after the sun goes down. Large demi-lune windows frame postcard-perfect views of the iconic market sign, Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains beyond. You won’t get a table at Matt’s without a reservation. Book well in advance and ask for a seat with a view.
- The Pink Door • Downtown • $$-$$$
Equal parts enchanting, delicious, and entertaining, The Pink Door is an Italian food lover’s dream. Inside this unassuming gray building near Pike Place Market lies a whimsically romantic trattoria that serves up delicious Italian standards with a view. Perfect for lunch and dinner al fresco, the charming dining deck overlooks Elliot Bay; and inside is all about entertainment. Jazz musicians, tarot-card readers, and magicians that perform nightly within the high-ceilinged dining room, with trapeze artists appearing on Sunday and Monday evenings. On Saturday nights, head back after dinner into the lounge area to enjoy The Pink Door’s weekly late night cabaret/burlesque show (separate cover charge). All this razzle-dazzle is grounded by a deliciously simple, seasonal menu of homestyle Italian favorites that manage to hit all the right notes. Reservations recommended – but note that online reservations are for deck seating only, call to reserve a spot in the dining room.
- Place Pigalle • Downtown • $$$
Utterly charming French fine dining, tucked into a cozy corner of Pike Place Market. This is your quintessential intimate date night spot: candles on white table cloths, romantic waterfront views (call ahead and ask for a window table if you can), and wait staff that make you feel special. The cuisine is upscale French with a Northwest twist: heavy on seafood and local ingredients like mushrooms – and man is it good. From the best onion soup you’ve ever had to a killer pot-de-creme, every dish sings. Take note: like any true gem, this place can be hard to find – look for the sign just to the left of the Pike Place fish throwers, then exit out the back and head down the stairs.
- Serious Pie • Belltown • $$
There’s pizza, and then there’s Serious Pie – thin and amazingly crispy-crusted, and created by iconic Seattle chef, Tom Douglas. Serious Pie’s pizzas are baked in an apple wood-fired oven and crafted using fresh, local ingredients, house-cured meats, and innovative toppings such as smoked duck and Penn Cove clams. The atmosphere is cozy and boisterous, with most of the seating at communal tables. Large parties can call ahead and reserve the “Kitchen Table,” which is exactly what it sounds like (it’s where they shape their dough), and enjoy full menu access and a truly behind-the-scenes experience.
- Shiro’s Sushi • Belltown • $$$
For over 20 years, Shiro’s has been considered the gold standard of Seattle Sushi restaurants. Highly-trained chefs craft their sushi in the edomae method, traditional to Tokyo. This unique blend of Eastern tradition and ultra-fresh Northwest seafood will impress both sushi connoisseurs and novices alike. Don’t expect any flashy décor – expertly-prepared food shines within the simplicity of this small and casual space. Seats at the sushi bar are hard to come by, and the only way to order the open-ended chef’s-choice omakase – customers line up before opening to snag these coveted seats. If waiting in line isn’t for you, two omakase tasting menus are available with table reservations, or order the black cod; a stand-out that’s been featured in the New York Times.
- Steelhead Diner • Downtown • $$-$$$
Perched above Pike Place, with a view of the Market and Puget Sound, Steelhead Diner offers contemporary comfort food with a Pacific Northwest twist. The atmosphere here is family friendly and casual, serving up thoughtfully upscale renditions of the classics we all know and love. Modern seafood standards like beer battered fish & chips, cioppino, and crab and shrimp tater tots are standouts in Steelhead’s menu, which also includes signature soups, salads, and sandwiches, as well as more sophisticated options like grilled whole trout and coffee-crusted New York Steak. Their commitment to local and sustainably-sourced ingredients means that even the soda hails from nearby. Reservations recommended for dinner and large lunch groups.
- Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge • Queen Anne • $$$
A taste of the Big Easy in Seattle, Toulouse Petit will win the heart of any fan of Cajun cuisine and French Quarter-style excess. Their beignets, fried chicken gumbo, and shrimp and grits are on par with the best that New Orleans has to offer, and they’ll serve you a mean Sazerac at any time of day. The voluminous menu extends beyond New Orleans inspired fare, however, into impeccably-prepared rustic European, Mediterranean, and steakhouse-style offerings. (It can be difficult to choose, so it’s good that Toulouse Petit’s two daily happy hours proffer a plethora of their most popular menu items for under $10 apiece – bring friends and share.) The décor here is fittingly rich and ornate – think velvet-clad booths, hand-cut tile floors, and inlaid-wood tables – and the vibrant atmosphere can get loud, especially after dark, when late night drink and food specials attract the young, local crowd. Reservations accepted (and recommended) for dinner.
- Trove • Capitol Hill • $$-$$$
Capitol Hill’s Trove is four restaurants in one – each featuring the big, bold flavors of chef Rachel Yang’s inventive take on modern Korean cuisine. Noodle offers quick and casual counter service and a front row view of the chefs preparing a handful of knock-out seasonal dishes (the Rice Cake with Lamb Curry was named one of Bon Appetit’s five best pasta dishes of 2015). At Trove’s intimate and enclosed Bar, enjoy food service from the noodle bar, as well as custom cocktails, six local beers on tap, and a variety of international beers, wines, and sake. The largest (and most fun) jewel in Trove’s crown is the BBQ; diners sear their own expertly-marinated beef, pork, and prawn platters on built-in tabletop grills within this vibrant and club-like Korean-style barbecue. Sides and starters are top-notch and perfect for sharing – come with a group and order a variety. Guests preferring a less hands-on experience can sit at one of the many non-grill tables and leave the cooking to the chefs, or pick a perch at the bar and watch the show in the open kitchen. Desserts are from Parfait, Trove’s street-side “ice cream truck” window – a rotating menu of multilayered custard creations, based on traditional Korean desserts and served in individual mason jars. Reservations are taken for parties of four or more in BBQ, and recommended for weekend night dining.
- Westward • Fremont/Wallingford • $$-$$$
Westward serves up seafood and Mediterranean/new American cuisine in a charming lakeside location on the north shore of Lake Union. The atmosphere inside is casual and cool, done up in a fresh and modern maritime theme. In good weather, however, the place to be is outside. Chilling lakeside on Adirondack chairs, or sipping champagne around the bonfire; the beachy atmosphere of Westward’s patio area is truly unique and delightful. (Boaters are welcome to use Westward’s dock or pull kayaks and paddle boards up onto the beach.) If a light or quick meal is in order, the oyster bar at attached Little Gull Grocery offers a generous selection of snacks, and their knowledgeable bartenders are happy to teach you everything you never knew you wanted to know about oysters. Reservations recommended.
- The Walrus and the Carpenter • Ballard • $$$
The small menu and small plates at this humble Ballard oyster bar have garnered huge amounts of national praise – Bon Appetit has called The Walrus and the Carpenter one of the 20 most important restaurants in America. Only the freshest local oysters are served here, along with regional clams and mussels, house smoked fish, specialty meats (including a killer steak tartare), and fresh vegetable sides prepared to perfection. Amid the accolades, The Walrus and the Carpenter has retained the friendly feel and casual charm of an old neighborhood fishing pub; expect to rub elbows with your neighbors within this bustling and light-filled space – the dining room seats around 40, and it’s always chock-full. This popular spot is walk-in only, so line up before opening or be prepared for a wait.