Today we announce the seventh annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and restaurants that truly made an impact over the past twelve months. These are the establishments — from steakhouses and cocktail bars to Indian restaurants and poke places — that have taken the food world by storm. Thank you to everyone who voted last week, and congratulations to the winners of the Readers’ Choice and Editors’ Choice awards. Read on to learn more about this year’s best of the best.
Chef of the Year
Bateau, Capitol Hill
For years, chef Renee Erickson has been a leading voice in the continual evolution of Pacific Northwest cuisine. Just when it seemed she was truly at the top of her game, with acclaimed hits The Walrus and the Carpenter and The Whale Wins, Erickson lept over her own high bar with Bateau, her stunning steakhouse concept, not to mention oyster spot Bar Melusine and doughnut shop General Porpoise next door. She even has a wonderfully intriguing line of pickled fruits under the Boat Street Pickles name. This year, Erickson also finally sealed the deal on a well-deserved James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest. Over her illustrious career, Erickson has cooked her way into the nation’s upper echelon of chefs, and without her excellence, Seattle’s culinary scene simply would not be the same.
Chef of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Perfecte Rocher, Tarsan i Jane
Restaurant of the Year
Nirmal’s, Pioneer Square
Part of Pioneer Square’s renaissance, Nirmal’s has managed something remarkable. It’s supremely inviting, with co-owner Oliver Bangera greeting customers, working the dining room, and quite earnestly befriending and remembering guests visit after visit. It’s romantic, with its restored, exposed brick and filament light bulbs. And it’s delicious for lunch or dinner, with talented chef and namesake Nirmal Monteiro displaying a mastery of cuisines from around India, showing off the country’s incredible diversity in a stunning array of dishes on a constantly changing menu. Soups, Thalis, curries, and more — Monteiro arranges all of these complex plates thoughtfully, each one arriving as a work of art. In a city sorely lacking upscale Indian fare, Nirmal’s is a welcome addition to the dining landscape.
Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Bateau
Design of the Year
San Fermo, Ballard
Seattle’s no slouch in the design department, so this is always a stacked category. This year, rooftop bars like readers’ choice runner-up Mbar are all the rage, and as long as they don’t get in the way of their own view, they’ve got a leg up with built-in beauty. But 2016’s Stone Cold Stunner is a gorgeous ground-level blend of rusticity and modernity in the heart of Ballard, making great use of the historic (yet formerly kind of unattractive) Pioneer Houses. Gone is the sage green; in its place is bright white offset with black, tons of sleek and warm wood accents, and a simply stunning patio. It’s a striking transformation, and a wonderful setting in which to enjoy comforting Italian fare.
Design of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: San Fermo
Bar of the Year
Foreign National, Capitol Hill
Considering that sibling restaurant Stateside won both Restaurant of the Year and Design of the Year in last year’s Eater Awards, it should come as no surprise that chef Eric Johnson and team’s Asian-inspired cocktail bar next door took the city by storm in 2016. A dark, vintage vibe channels the 1970s, setting the stage for an all-star team of bartenders to work their magic. Expect sophisticated, inventive, tiki-inspired, and playful drinks featuring ingredients like sorrel and yuzu, which pair perfectly with pungent Vietnamese bar snacks like fermented sticky-rice sausages or spiral-cut curry puffs. If you haven’t squeezed into this cozy den yet, make it a top priority.
Bar of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Foreign National
Poke Restaurant of the Year
Sam Choy’s Poké to the Max, Hillman City
It’s almost impossible to keep up with the rush of new poke places in Seattle, for which Sam Choy deserves major credit. Known as the Godfather of Poke for his role in popularizing the Hawaiian raw fish salad throughout America, Choy canvassed the city with a fleet of food trucks before finally opening a beautiful brick-and-mortar in Hillman City this year, just in time to fully capitalize on the explosion he sparked. There are tons of worthy successors, like the runaway success that is readers’ choice winner 45th Stop N Shop and Poke Bar, but in this case, the trendsetter with the fresh digs had to get the nod.
Poke Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: 45th Stop N Shop and Poke Bar