As is tradition, Eater closes out the year by surveying local food writers on various restaurant-related topics. Here, the experts weigh in on this question: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2019? (Here are the top standbys of the year, the standout newcomers, the best dining neighborhoods, the biggest surprises, and the biggest grievances.)
Allecia Vermillion, editor-in-chief, Seattle Met: I wandered into By Tae soon after it opened, and that feeling of walking in with zero expectations and experiencing greatness is really rare and special. The tasting menu at Eden Hill is better than ever; I’d do unseemly things for another round of that spaghetti with uni butter. And shout-out to Gado Gado in Portland.
Chelsea Lin, editor-in-chief, Seattle Magazine: Best period wasn’t in Seattle, but I had a four-hour vegetarian tasting menu at Art of the Table that blew my mind, better than any other tasting menu I’ve had there.
Providence Cicero, food writer, former restaurant critic for the Seattle Times: Tarsan i Jane continues to be an all-around dazzling experience from the opening gin & tonics to the gummy bear and bonbons at the end. A smart, engaging service team backs up the astonishing artistry of chef Perfecte Rocher.
Frank Guanco, food and wine writer, Seattle Refined: We finally made our way to the Restaurant at Meadowood [in Napa Valley] and it was perfection. Imagine taking the finest ingredients in the world and then preparing them in the most perfect way possible. And then it’s served to you. Locally, we had a dinner at Cafe Juanita that was magical and reminded me why they’re in the upper echelon of Seattle-area restaurants.
Rosin Saez, former associate editor, Seattle Met: It might’ve been a weird-fun savory ice cream dinner I had with Salt and Straw and Ciudad in Georgetown. Though a meal at Homer — chamomile crab soup, what? — is always memorable. But over Memorial Day weekend, I went to Hoodsport with a group of friends, and we drove to Hama Hama Oyster Saloon in Lilliwaup and ate oysters and drank rosé at a covered picnic table as it down poured. (This may be a loose interpretation of a restaurant setting, but it was a great meal.)
Jill Lightner, Seattle food writer, author, and person who gets asked, “Is it still safe to eat this?” a lot: Being the last jerks at Il Nido, because my table was having such a great time we hadn’t noticed the restaurant had emptied. Sorry, and thank you!