Seattle is a city that loves unforgettable dining experiences, whether it’s a fancy evening at Canlis or waiting in line for a doughnut pop-up on a Saturday morning. Now, one experience gaining traction is the intimate chef’s counter meal. Though hardly a new concept — counter eating beyond greasy spoons has been around a long time and open kitchens have been chugging along for decades — lately there have been more of these experiences popping up around town (in part because real estate is at a premium). And patrons are loving them.
When Outlier chef Anthony Sinsay started offering a two-seat noodle bar at two times during lunch service in early-June, he figured he would probably book the seats twice or three times a month. Instead, as he told Eater in late June, “There’s been one every single day this week. Three last week, three the week before. It’s been blowing up, which was pretty unanticipated.”
For those looking to get up and personal for a chef’s counter meal, here are four wildly different experiences to try. Pull up a seat and enjoy.
Noodle Bar at Outlier
Offered at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday for two people (don’t email asking for more seats; Chef Sinsay says that’s not the point), the noodle bar at this downtown spot is a $25 two-course experience. Sinsay pulls from his Southern California upbringing and Filipino heritage to present Pacific Northwest ingredients in the form of lumpia Shanghai and rich, steaming bowls of bulalo. The bone marrow-rich broth brims with fresh corn sautéed in Maggi and butter, shredded cabbage, star-shaped carrot coins, hunks of short rib, and ramen noodles made from Oregon-grown wheat and aged for a few days to give them a slight fermented flavor.
The vibe: Extremely personal. The noodle bar is a chance for Sinsay to talk about his family history and relationship with the food as well as spark conversation about everything from MSG and the calamansi you’ll drink to funny stories about his Filipino aunties.
To book: Click on the noodle bowl icon on the bottom of Outlier’s menu page. An email will automatically generate asking for a reservation.
1101 4th Ave; outlierseattle.com
Addo Chef Counter
Billed as your choice of seven or 12 courses ($65-85/person), the counter with Eater Seattle’s 2018 Chef of the Year Eric Rivera takes place Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights for up to eight people in Ballard. The wonderfully animated chef also recently launched a $45/person five-course brunch counter experience every Saturday at noon (not to mention a new wine and fermented food pop-up Wednesday through Sunday). Rivera’s got a deep bag of tricks and the menus change every week, so there’s almost nothing that’s off the table. The only guarantee? You’re going to roll out of there stuffed and you’re going to see or eat something that’s a little bit bonkers in the best way.
The vibe: Keyed up and incredibly fun. Rivera’s been known to whip out a flame thrower on occasion. His playlist slaps, and the chef’s counter is a wonderful way to see up close the precise skill and method to his madness.
6420 24th Ave NW; ericriveracooks.com
Opus Co. Chef Counter
There aren’t a whole lot of seats in the dining room at this PhinneyWood spot as it is (14 to be exact) — but the chef’s counter space adds an additional four. Opus is a little different in that you can sit at the chef’s counter and still order a la carte, but the way to go really is the Opus Feast, a $55/person six-course romp through family-style dishes that highlight the best of what Chef and owner Mark Schroder does. There’s going to be some interesting pickles, probably some sausage Schroder or his sous chef Paolo Campbell has made, and bold flavors that pull from Korean, Middle Eastern, North African, and Indian flavors.
The vibe: Cool, calm, and collected. The counter at Opus is like having dinner at the house of a cool friend — if that friend was a really amazing chef. It’s chill, but also a little chic.
To book: Click through Resy on the Opus website where there’s a button to specify the chef’s counter.
7410 Greenwood Ave N; opuscorestaurant.com
Tucked behind Marmite in Chophouse Row on Capitol Hill, By Tae is the city’s only lunch-only, omakase-only (save for a grab-n-go case). Just eight seats are available for this $25 sushi ride. It’s a lighthearted atmosphere filled with nigiri, hand rolls, and surprise snacks all made by the friendly Chef Sun Hong. Miso soup is the only additional add-on besides drinks. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m., and recently there have been a few “drinking hour” events hosted at night from 5-7 p.m. Keep an eye on the By Tae Instagram page for notice of those, as they aren’t every night.
The vibe: Focused yet fun. Leave your phone in your pocket or risk getting (slightly) shamed here, for the food is supposed to be eaten quickly, not fussed over for that perfect shot.
To book: Walk up. There are no advanced reservations here.
1424 11th Ave Ste. E; instagram.com/bytaeseattle