Today, the process of choosing this year’s stars in the Seattle restaurant world — the Eater Awards winners for 2019 — continues apace. After fielding many solid ideas from readers during the course of our month-long nomination period, it’s time to narrow the playing field. There are four finalists in three categories: Restaurant of the Year, Design of the Year, and Daytime Destination of the Year.
Here they are, presented by category in alphabetical order:
Restaurant of the Year
- Archipelago: At this small, tasting menu restaurant in Hillman City, husband-and-wife team Aaron Verzosa and Amber Manuguid execute wonderfully inventive dishes that weave the narrative of their personal journeys, and that of Filipino immigrants to the Northwest — a deeply affecting dining experience.
- Dacha Diner: From the “herring under fur coat” tower (with a healthy portion of fish) to the signature khachapuri (a decadent Georgian bread and cheese dish that’s rare in Seattle) to the hot borscht with brisket, Capitol Hill’s quaint, unassuming newcomer delivers Eastern European comfort food that leaves a lasting impression.
- Il Nido: Renowned chef Mike Easton — known for the critically-acclaimed Pioneer Square spot Il Corvo — has another hit in this West Seattle Italian restaurant, with fantastic pastas, a grilled ribeye that could be one of the best dishes of 2019, and a dining room that preserves the rustic spirit of the historic Alki Homestead building.
- The Ruby Brink: Butcher shop-kitchen-bar hybrids are becoming more common in the region, but this Vashon Island gem has refined the form, as esteemed local butcher Lauren Garaventa and her partner Rustle Biehn (of the popular Meat and Noodle Soup pop-up) bring creativity to each seasonal menu, with sustainability as a key tenet.
Design of the Year
- Bar Taglio: This intimate, Roman-style pizza place downtown from star chef Brendan McGill (of Hitchcock fame) has a brassy, art deco feel to it, with features like a 30-foot bar of tambour oak and walnut, embossed leather bar stools, and marble counters.
- Eight Row: Inspired by the farms and orchards he grew up around in Wenatchee, WA, chef David Nichols has brought a bright, plant-filled dining room to Green Lake, complete with a floral mural and sanded-down cherry tree pruners for beer taps.
- Kin Len Thai Night Bites: Owners Jennifer Politanont and Saravut Nawasangaru (who run the popular Isarn Thai Soul Kitchen in Kirkland) opened this new restaurant in Fremont with splashes of vivid colors, moody lighting, and vintage decor, hip and welcoming at once.
- Samara: Sunset Hill’s handsome new bistro on the block is a warm, farm-to-table spot that leans heavily on dark wood and earth tones, which gives it an appropriately Pacific Northwest feel — but perhaps the best design feature is in its sound abatement panels, something that many local diners may wish more Seattle restaurants employed.
Daytime Destination of the Year
- By Tae: Seats at this eight-person, lunch-only sushi counter in Capitol Hill’s Chophouse Row are coveted for good reason — chef Sun Hong serves up a masterful omakase at the wallet-friendly price of $25 with a fun, casual pace.
- Dochi: Since this stand inside the Uwajimaya food court on 5th Ave S opened in August, there have been lines down the block for the chewy mochi-doughnut hybrid concoctions, with flavors including matcha Oreo, taro with Fruity Pebbles, and Viet coffee red velvet — all served in pretty light blue boxes the color of a gift from Tiffany’s.
- Hood Famous Cafe and Bar: The sparkling International District offshoot of Ballard’s Hood Famous Bakeshop serves ube machiattos and satisfying small bites (such as longanisa sausage quiche and waffles with calamansi syrup); it also recently expanded hours with an excellent cocktail menu, so a day hang can easily spill into night.
- Watson’s Counter: This small Ballard coffee shop has blossomed into a Korean brunch star, featuring chicken wings with gochujang, eggs Benedict with doenjang marinated pork belly, and cereal-topped French toast, as tasty as it is Instagrammable.
All of these finalists have either opened or come into their own in a new way since we declared the winners last year (November 2018 to October 2019 is the timeframe). All of them were key contributors to making 2019 a great year of eating in Seattle. So please, take a moment to give these brave finalists a round of applause. Winners will be crowned, with much fanfare, on December 10, 2019.