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A platter of oysters on the half-shell on ice with some cocktails and bread and clams on the periphery of the photo.

An Eater’s Guide to Dining in Seattle

Where to eat and drink in the Emerald City

Local oysters served at Renee Erickson’s original seafood restaurant, The Walrus and the Carpenter.
| The Walrus and The Carpenter

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Seattle is a jewel of the Pacific Northwest, known for picturesque mountains, scenic lakes, and greenery everywhere the eye can see. The depth of the city’s diverse culinary scene is awe-inspiring. While the pandemic certainly took its toll on the city’s restaurants, bars, and cafes, 2022 has seen a comeback in the food scene with plenty of exciting new restaurants popping up despite the adverse conditions.


Local food rules

Washington is an agriculturally rich state, and Seattle restaurants benefit from an abundance of nearby vegetable farms, fruit orchards, fisheries, shellfish farms, ranches, and wineries.

In particular, this city takes its seafood seriously. Salmon is such a part of the area’s culinary identity that Sea-Tac airport throws a mini ceremony each year for the special Copper River salmon flown in from Alaska. 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, and others serving geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”), an enormous, coveted clam that sometimes catches newcomers off guard with its odd appearance (see details further below in this guide).

Seattle features many great cuisines and is perhaps known best for its Asian restaurants. The city has a rich Japanese food scene and is home to world-class sushi masters like 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. Meanwhile, the Chinese restaurant scene is diversifying to include more regional cuisines, and there’s no shortage of hot pot. But perhaps the hottest cuisine in Seattle right now is Filipino, with restaurants like Musang and Archipelago seeing national recognition during the pandemic, and newcomer The Chicken Supply wowing diners with super-crispy fried chicken.


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. Below, we cherry pick the top points on our most popular maps to help time-starved diners prioritize which spots to visit.

New Restaurants: This list changes monthly and includes restaurants changing Seattle’s dining scene for the better that have opened in the last six months. Right now, a sushi restaurant from the star apprentice of Seattle sushi godfather Shiro Kashiba is serving a nigiri-heavy omakase, paired with tea, wine, and sake, in Bellevue. Meanwhile, in downtown Seattle, star chef Philip Frankland Lee is serving an entirely different, modern American take on sushi at Sushi By Scratch Restaurants, a restaurant group which received a Michelin star in California. And in Fremont, former fine-dining chef is serving up gussied up stoner munchies at a bar called Tio Baby’s — part of a larger trend of chefs in the area ditching conventional wisdom about what to serve at a restaurant to instead engage in an unfettered pursuit of deliciousness.

A boat of nacho-cheese-covered fries topped with chopped tomato, with a shot of whiskey and a bottle of Miller Hi Life on the side.
The cheesy fries at Tio Baby’s.
Tio Baby’s

Essential Restaurants: If you need to narrow down from the 38 standout dining destinations, one might start off at Musang — the cozy Filipinx restaurant in Beacon Hill from star chef Melissa Miranda that features ingredients from local farms, ranches, and fisheries. A night at White Center restaurant Tomo, where former Canlis chef Brady Ishiwata Williams serves a creative, dialed-in tasting menu that’s served without the stuffiness present at many fine-dining restaurants, is bound to be unforgettable. And Renee Erickson’s original restaurant Ballard, Walrus and the Carpenter, is still serving up an amazing selection of local oysters, seafood, and farm-fresh produce, prepared simply to amplify the natural flavors.

A bowl of green shave ice topped with cream, a caramel-colored sauce, and grapes.
The sorrel kakigori at Tomo is served Dinah’s cheese, hazelnuts, and grapes.
Tomo

Bars: Seattle loves a well-crafted cocktail, and relaxed booze laws for to-go drinks during the pandemic helped many haunts stay afloat. The several months has seen a resurgence in new bar openings, such as Queen Anne’s elegant Bar Miriam, the immersive, sci-fi-themed Carnelian Bay in Fremont, and, from last year, Phocific Standard Time, a “Viet-style treehouse” above the longstanding Pho Bac Sup Shop in Little Saigon. Longer standing options include Canon, which features the nation’s largest spirits list, and Zig Zag Café, a Pike Place Market bar and restaurant with a rich booze history and some of the best cocktails in town. Seattle also boasts wine bars and bottleshops galore, like the playful La Dive (focused on natural wine); hopheads will want to geek out at the city’s incredible beer halls.

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 meccas for the excellent food pop-ups which have thrived in Seattle during the pandemic, particularly Ballard’s Fair Isle Brewing, which serves tangy saisons to pair with Taiwanese food, Singapore-style black pepper and chili crabs, and more offerings from some of the city’s hottest food pop-ups.

Coffee: Experience Seattle’s essential coffee shops, or hit up the hottest additions to the city’s famed scene. Recently, a young generation of coffee lovers have brought renewed appreciation for Vietnamese roasts, including Hello Em and Phin in the International District, and Coffeeholic House in Columbia City. Meanwhile, Latin American coffee drinks are starting to enter the fray with separate Mexican and Cuban coffee shops in Ballard, and cafe de olla being served at Maíz at Pike Place Market. Bubble tea is also ubiquitous and one can find some excellent options in Greenwood’s Hangry Panda, or at the University District location of Taiwanese chain Don’t Yell At Me.

Views: In this fetching city, taking in the sparkling scenery is a must. 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. 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, and — according to public health officials — considered safer than dining in enclosed spaces. Here are the heated and covered spots to seek out during colder weather days.


A few Seattle neighborhoods to know

These are the key areas of the city every self-proclaimed food-lover has got to survey — complete with what to eat and drink in each.

A grey ceramic plate loaded up with vermicelli, imperial rolls sliced diagonally, matchsticks of pickled radish and carrot, lettuce, and fresh herbs.
The vermicelli bowl with imperial rolls at Monsoon restaurant in Capitol Hill.
Courtesy of Monsoon

Capitol Hill

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, and the Laotian restaurant Taurus Ox serves sausages fragrant with lemongrass and satisfying pork jowl smash burgers. Those newer to the city may want to sample the boozy ginger beer purveyor Rachel’s Ginger Beer, 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.

International District

As diverse a neighborhood as you’ll find in the city, this is the home to Chinatown, Japantown, and Little Saigon, with all the wonderful cuisines those represent and more. See our neighborhood dining guide for tons of great options. Pho Bac Sup Shop is a standout for its steaming pho bowls loaded with whole beef ribs, Gan Bei is a great late-night hangout for beer, Chinese fried chicken, and sausage clay pots, and Saigon Vietnam Deli is a great spot for a quick banh mi.

Ballard

Once a rough-and-tumble fishing village, Ballard has changed a lot since it was annexed into Seattle city limits in 1907. 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 mezzes, while Rupee Bar delivers cocktails alongside Sri Lankan snacks. One can also work up an appetite while perusing the cases of meat at popular butcher shop Beast & Cleaver, which takes care in sourcing its cuts from sustainable ranches; it also serves cooked meat at night when the shop turns into a tasting menu restaurant and wine bar.

Georgetown

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. During the COVID-19 pandemic, local breweries, restaurants, dive bars, and cafes have made adjustments to more takeout options and outdoor seating in industrial chic spaces. One can find wonderful slices of cakes at Deep Sea Sugar and Salt, great vegan sandwiches at 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 are among the best in the city.

Fremont

Known as a neighborhood thriving with creative spirit (and a large bridge troll), Fremont is located just north of the city, to the east of Ballard. There are many great places to choose from when deciding on dinner plans, but a few standouts include chef Mutsuko Soma’s soba destination Kamonegi, the Indian restaurant Meesha, and the succulent crab rolls at Local Tide. Meanwhile, 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.

West Seattle

This neighborhood just became newly accessible with the reopening of the West Seattle bridge, which had been closed for two and a half years, making commutes to the area extremely tedious. West Seattle’s dining scene, and the picturesque Alki Beach, are equally stunnin . There are satisfying pupusas at Lillian’s Salvadorean Restaurant, fantastic pizza at Supreme, and smoked meats at Lady Jaye, which boasts a terrific backyard patio. Seafood fans should check out Mashiko for sushi that emphasizes sustainability, and for those recovering from a long night, Easy Street Records & Cafe serves breakfast with a killer soundtrack.

Other neighborhood guides:

Burien, Renton, Central District, U District, Near the Space Needle,Tacoma, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.


Glossary of Seattle food terms and celebrities

Seattle Hot Dog:

It’s a hot dog or sausage slathered in — wait for it — cream cheese and grilled onions. The origin story goes back to the late-1990s, when a bagel cart in Pioneer Square went a little rogue. Though it sounds strange, these concoctions are surprisingly good, and are available at Pike Place Market, until late at night at the stands bumping Latin dance music and selling the hot dogs along with elotes in Capitol Hill, and other places around town.

Geoduck:

Pronounced “gooey duck,” this is an enormous, coveted clam that often shocks newcomers with its odd appearance. Pre-pandemic, it was a thriving industry, but many of Washington’s geoduck merchants — particularly tribal operations — watched as business plummeted due to exporting issues, though business is starting to pick up as restaurants recover from the pandemic. Take a deeper dive on this beloved Pacific Northwest native, and look out for it at places like Taylor Shellfish, Lam’s Seafood, and the newly opened Takai By Kashiba.

Teriyaki:

This sticky-sweet Japanese-American dish is a Seattle specialty, popularized by Toshihiro Kasahara at Toshi’s Teriyaki Restaurant in the 1970s. One can still find Kasahara north of the city at Toshi’s Teriyaki Grill (16212 Bothell Everett Hwy, Mill Creek); there’s laundry paired doughnuts and teriyaki at King Donuts and Teriyaki and Laundromat; and gluten-free options in West Seattle at Grillbird Teriyaki.

The ‘Original’ Starbucks:

Even those who have never been to Seattle before probably don’t need to check out Starbucks’ faux-riginal location in Pike Place Market (the true original was nearby at the corner of Western and Virginia). But the company’s modern, copper-plated Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room on Capitol Hill (1124 Pike Street) may be worth a visit as an alternative. It’s where the company makes fresh specialty beans, and is home to a full bar and bakery. Many Starbucks workers in the Seattle area and across the country, including at the Reserve Roastery, are attempting to unionize and demanding higher pay, while the company is pushing back aggressively. Here’s a reminder that there are plenty of great independent coffee shops to check out with better coffee from companies that don’t engage in union busting.

Canlis:

Old-school yet relevant, Canlis is Seattle’s classic white-tablecloth, fine-dining, dress-code restaurant, which has shown a great deal of versatility during the pandemic by briefly becoming a burger drive-thru, an outdoor movie theater, and by throwing a crab boil event. The restaurant hired a new chef last year, Aisha Ibrahim, whose background at Japanese kaiseki restaurants is bringing more hyper-seasonality to the menu. It’s still owned and operated by the Canlis family, and it’s still setting the benchmark for quality and service in the city. One of the only permanent fixtures, the Canlis salad, is an icon; the rest of the menu rotates.

The exterior of Canlis restaurant at night with the dining room lit up
Canlis is one of Seattle’s most iconic restaurants.
Canlis

Renee Erickson:

This James Beard Award-winning chef channels rustic European country cooking by way of seasonal Pacific Northwest ingredients in her bright, airy, elegant spaces. She runs some of the city’s most adored spots, including oyster bar the Walrus and the Carpenter, the Whale Wins and Larder (which transitioned to a hybrid market in 2020), innovative steakhouse Bateau, which sells unusual cuts of grass-fed, grass-finished beef in efforts to be a sustainable steakhouse, and even a doughnut shop called General Porpoise.

Shiro Kashiba:

A legend in his own right, this beloved chef trained with Jiro Ono (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi) before bringing edomae-style sushi to Seattle and defining its scene over the past 50 years. He spent early days at Maneki and other spots, pioneering the use of local seafood, then two decades at namesake Shiro’s. Finally, after the world’s shortest retirement, Kashiba returned to the counter in late 2015 at Pike Place Market’s Sushi Kashiba, an incredible ode to fresh fish. He’s now focused on helping the next generation of Seattle sushi chefs open their own restaurants.


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