Seattle is a jewel of the Pacific Northwest, an urban landscape with Lake Washington on one side and Puget Sound on the other. On clear days, you can look west to see the Olympic Mountains and east to the Cascades. The metro area is home to immigrant communities from all over Asia as well as Mexico, Ethopia, and Somalia; there is also a substantial Indigenous population here. The cultural and ethnic diversity combined with the wide range of local ingredients makes for a truly awe-inspiring cultural scene. While the city’s restaurants, bars, and cafes have largely rebounded from pandemic lockdowns — Seattleites are certainly going out to eat again — a combination of supply chain issues, rising costs, and worker shortages have made running a business here challenging. Despite that, plenty of exciting new restaurants are popping up. Here is a guide to the city’s ever-changing dining scene.
Local food rules
Washington is an agriculturally rich state, and Seattle restaurants benefit from an abundance of nearby farms, fruit orchards, fisheries, shellfish farms, ranches, and wineries. But the city is most famous for its seafood. Salmon is such a part of the area’s culinary identity that in the past, Sea-Tac Airport has literally rolled out a red carpet for the first Copper River salmon of the season to arrive from Alaska. (Opinions vary on whether Copper River salmon is really worth the hype and the high price.) Tourists are also fond of dodging flying fish at Pike Place Market. Shellfish is a Seattle staple, with many places serving oysters plucked out of the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Puget Sound. One local delicacy-bordering-on-novelty is the humble geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”), an enormous clam that sometimes catches newcomers off guard because it looks like a penis.
Seattle features many great cuisines but is perhaps known best for its Asian restaurants. The city has a rich Japanese food scene and is home to world-class sushi masters — most notably Shiro Kashiba — and sustainable sushi pioneers like Taichi Kitamura. Pho is ubiquitous around town, and teriyaki — that sticky-sweet Japanese-American dish — is a Seattle specialty, popularized by Toshihiro Kasahara at Toshi’s Teriyaki Restaurant in the 1970s. The Chinese restaurant scene is diversifying to include more regional cuisines.
But perhaps the hottest cuisine in Seattle right now is Filipino. Though Filipino people have lived here since the 19th century, and Pike Place institution Oriental Mart can attest to the longtime influence of Filipino cuisine, in the past half-decade there’s been an explosion of innovative restaurants, like Melissa Miranda’s Musang and Aaron Verzosa and Amber Manuguid’s Archipelago. There are also a bevy of buzzy more casual Filipino spots, like The Chicken Supply, Moto pizza, Hood Famous, and Ludi’s Restaurant.
Where to start on Eater Seattle's top maps
Eater publishes plenty of maps detailing the top places and things to eat and drink in Seattle. Here are a few of our most popular guides to help you get started:
New Restaurants: This list changes monthly and includes restaurants that have opened or reopened in the last six months. Right now, notable new spots include buzzy new bakery Ben’s Bread, the Central District takeout spot Jerk Shack Kitchen, and Miranda’s new restaurant Kilig.
Essential Restaurants: If you need to narrow down the quarterly guide to Seattle’s 38 standout dining destinations even further, you might start off at at Off Alley, a 14-seat restaurant in a renovated brick alleyway in Columbia City, with its hyper-seasonal French-inflected small plates, excellent natural wines, and punk rock soundtrack. For something more casual, head to one of several locations of Pho Bac, which introduced Seattle to Vietnamese cuisine decades ago, for a deeply satisfying bowl of pho. Renee Erickson’s Sea Creatures restaurant group has come to define PNW cuisine in the past couple of decades, and her oyster bar the Walrus and the Carpenter is a must-visit. And you can’t forget about Communion, the soul food restaurant in the Central District from chef Kristi Brown.
Bakeries: One underrated aspect of Washington State’s agricultural prowess is the high-quality wheat that’s grown here and the top-notch flour that comes from local sources. That flour has fueled an abundance of creative bakeries, some of which straddle the line between bakery, coffee shop, and restaurant, like Uptown’s Bake Shop or Saint Bread in the University District. Some draw on Scandinavian baking traditions, like Ballad’s Larsen’s Bakery, while others are Asian-influenced, like the ID’s Fuji Bakery.
Bars: Seattle’s bar scene is marked by countless dive bars, elegant craft cocktail lounges, and everything in between. Standouts include James Beard–nominated Rob Roy; Canon, which features the nation’s largest spirits list; and Zig Zag Café, a Pike Place Market bar and restaurant where the Last Word, a locally famous cocktail, was reintroduced to the world by bartender Murray Stenson. Seattle also boasts wine bars and bottle shops galore, like La Dive, a playful Capitol Hill hub for natural wine, as well as incredible beer bars like Slow Boat Tavern, which pairs a divey neighborhood coziness with a tightly curated beer list.
Breweries: There’s been an exciting proliferation of breweries throughout Seattle in recent years, but Holy Mountain, with its constantly changing menu of off-beat, barrel-aged beers, is a must-visit. Cloudburst, just north of Pike Place Market, is a masterful maker of award-winning IPAs. Many breweries, too, have become hosts for the excellent food pop-ups which have thrived in Seattle lately, particularly Ballard’s Fair Isle Brewing.
Coffee: Seattle’s coffee shops run the gamut from lived-in hangouts that have been there for decades to trendy new-wave espresso spots focused on lighter roasts and more diverse flavor profiles. Recently, a young generation of coffee lovers has brought renewed appreciation for Vietnamese-style phin-brewed coffee, which you can find at places like Hello Em and Phin in the International District, Coffeeholic House in Columbia City, and Aroom in Wallingford. Latin American coffee drinks are starting to enter the fray with coffee shops in Ballard and Beacon Hill tapping Mexican and Cuban traditions and Pike Place Market’s Maíz serving cafe de olla. Bubble tea is also ubiquitous, and you can find some excellent options at Greenwood’s Hangry Panda or the University District location of Taiwanese chain Don’t Yell At Me.
Views: You can’t help but notice the sparkling scenery in and around this fetching city, but some restaurants boast particularly stunning views. Trek across Elliott Bay to dine on Hawaiian-Korean creations at Marination Ma Kai or nab an Adirondack chair on the north end of Lake Union for Mediterranean-inspired fare with a skyline view at Westward. And now that Seattle has made it a little easier to get a street plaza permit, outdoor seating is more prevalent than it’s been in the past. Here are the heated and covered spots to seek out during cold-weather days.
A few Seattle neighborhoods to know
These are the key areas of the city every self-proclaimed food lover has to survey — complete with what to eat and drink in each.
Capitol Hill is Seattle’s historically LGBTQ neighborhood, and though it’s contending with gentrification, it’s still home to many colorful queer businesses. It’s also one of Seattle’s best dining neighborhoods. See some of the finest options in our neighborhood guide. For Mexican, don’t miss Carmelo’s Tacos; for Laotian, see Taurus Ox, which serves sausages fragrant with lemongrass and satisfying pork jowl smash burgers (the burgers got so popular Taurus Ox now has a burger-only restaurant, Ox Burger). Those newer to the city may want to sample the boozy ginger beer purveyor Rachel’s Ginger Beer — whose beloved founder, Rachel Marshall, recently died — and Eric and Sophie Banh’s Ba Bar and Monsoon are perennial favorites for top-notch pho, super-crispy imperial rolls, and Chinese-influenced haute Vietnamese cuisine.
The Chinatown-International District (also known by shortened names like the CID, the International District, or the ID) is home to Chinatown, Japantown, Filipino Town, and Little Saigon, as well as too many incredible restaurants to name here. See our neighborhood dining guide for tons of great options. Sizzling Pot King draws fans for its superb Hunan-style Chinese food, the dishes loaded with sharp pickled chile peppers. Gan Bei is a perfect late-night hangout for beer, Chinese fried chicken, and sausage clay pots, while Saigon Vietnam Deli is a great spot for a quick banh mi. Don’t forget Tai Tung, Seattle’s oldest Chinese restaurant, founded in 1935.
Once a rough-and-tumble Scandinavian fishing village, Ballard in the 21st century has become startlingly hip. The neighborhood — mapped out for your dining convenience here — straddles the line between modern development and the preservation of its early history. There’s plenty worth eating here, including wood-fired pizza perfectionist Delancey and Lebanese restaurant Cafe Munir with its plethora of meze. You can also work up an appetite while perusing the cases of meat at popular butcher shop Beast and Cleaver, which takes care in sourcing its cuts from sustainable ranches; it also serves meaty dishes at night when the shop turns into a tasting menu restaurant (good luck getting a reservation).
Georgetown has a history of grit and brick, but has also become a thriving culinary and cultural destination over recent years, fostering a local character that draws in visitors from all over town. You can find decadent slices of cakes at Deep Sea Sugar and Salt, wonderful vegan sandwiches at the divey Georgetown Liquor Company, and intricate six-course prix fixe meals at the Corson Building. Of course, don’t forget about the beer — the breweries here, including Georgetown Brewing with its local-favorite Manny’s Pale Ale and Machine House Brewery with its British-inspired cask ales, are among the best in the city.
Known as a neighborhood thriving with creative spirit (and a massive troll under a bridge), Fremont is just north of Lake Union, to the east of Ballard. A few standouts among the strong selection here are chef Mutsuko Soma’s soba destination, Kamonegi, the Indian restaurant Meesha; and Local Tide, where people line up for the succulent crab rolls in particular. James Beard Award-winning chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi run the kitchen at Joule, known for its kalbi short ribs, local pickled vegetables, and a fresh take on Korean cuisine.
This neighborhood was a bit tough to get to for two and a half years while the West Seattle Bridge was closed, but it’s worth the trip, especially now that the bridge has reopened. West Seattle’s dining scene and the picturesque Alki Beach are equally impressive. You’ll find fantastic pizza at Supreme, inventive dinners from hyper-local ingredients at Driftwood, and top-notch smoked meats at Lady Jaye, which also boasts a terrific backyard patio. Seafood fans should check out Mashiko for sushi that emphasizes sustainability; those recovering from a long night can eat breakfast (or get some hair of the dog) with a side of killer soundtrack at Easy Street Records & Cafe.
Other neighborhood guides:
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