clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
A bowl full of noodles and topped with whole grilled prawns, pieces of grilled beef, shredded carrots, lettuce, and herbs.
A vermicelli noodle bowl decked out with grilled beef, charred prawns, and crispy imperial rolls, from Ba Bar.
Look at Lao Studios

38 Essential Restaurants in Seattle

Restaurants that have changed Seattle’s food scene for the better

View as Map
A vermicelli noodle bowl decked out with grilled beef, charred prawns, and crispy imperial rolls, from Ba Bar.
| Look at Lao Studios

The Eater 38 is an attempt to recognize the most quintessential Seattle restaurants, those that best exemplify the city’s thriving culinary scene and an answer to the question: “Can you recommend a restaurant?”

Seattle is known for its unparalleled seafood, with briny oysters, geoduck, mussels, and other shellfish plucked from the cold, nutrient-dense waters of the Puget Sound, and sablefish and salmon caught in the nearby ocean. These ingredients — along with the best from nearby farms and ranches — are served at many Seattle restaurants, including at sushi bars where the fish is served simply atop rice in the Edomae style, and at French-inflected Northwestern restaurants like chef Renee Erickson’s Walrus and the Carpenter and Bateau. The city is also a powerhouse for Asian food — with regional Chinese restaurants like Sichuan standout Dan Gui dotting strip malls on the Eastside, and Vietnamese noodle houses, like Pho Bac, on every corner in Little Saigon. Meanwhile, the city’s Filipino food scene is having a moment with nationally recognized restaurants like Musang, Archipelago, and The Chicken Supply popping up in recent years.

The following list includes restaurants that best reflect Seattle’s diverse dining scene. Note that removal from the list does not mean a restaurant isn’t still essential to the scene and won’t return in the future (many often do), but seasonal changes allow for new additions, keeping the 38 fresh. For a list of the best restaurants that opened in the last six months, check out the Eater Seattle Heatmap.

Added to the 38 in July: Dan Gui, Ba Bar, Zig Zag Cafe, Sushi Kappo Tamura, Ono Poke.

Know of a spot that should be on our radar? Send us a tip by emailing seattle@eater.com. As usual, this list is not ranked; it’s organized geographically.

For all the latest Seattle dining intel, subscribe to Eater Seattle’s newsletter.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
If you book a reservation through an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

May Kitchen and Bar

Copy Link

Vashon Island’s celebrated Thai restaurant is so good that many Seattleites make the trek over by ferry just to sample the food. Chef-owner May Chaleoy serves up entrees with bright flavors like whole fried trout alongside mango salad flecked with mint and cashews, as well as satisfying appetizers like grilled pork skewers marinated in yellow curry. She also offers versions of ubiquitous Thai dishes with elegant twists, like pad thai served with turnips and banana blossom or tom yum soup with oyster mushrooms.

A group of small metal bowls containing an array of colorful dishes and sauces.
May Kitchen and Bar delivers beautiful Thai dishes on Vashon Island.
May Kitchen and Bar/Facebook

Cafe Munir

Copy Link

This Ballard restaurant’s food, with influences from owner Rajah Gargour’s Lebanese background, is a vegetarian’s dream, with loads of plant-based mezzes. The small plates of lentils ground with roasted garlic, house labneh, and sweet pears in savory tahini always impress, and the dining room — separated into two areas connected by large archways in the white wall — reopened a few months ago. Patrons should check Instagram for seasonal items that keep the menu vibrant.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Copy Link

James Beard award-winning chef Renee Erickson’s original Ballard restaurant and pub serves eight varieties of Washington oysters, seafood dishes like raw albacore tuna with Meyer lemon sauce and blood oranges, and snacks like beef tartare, beef shank terrine, and plates of sliced cheese, along with a long wine list and a cocktail menu. The dining room is bright and airy, and there’s a heated, covered patio with string lights for al fresco dining. It’s also one of the few Seattle-area date-night restaurants open on Mondays.

Ono Authentic Hawaiian Poke

Copy Link

Ono poke in Edmonds is a seafood-lover’s dream, offering possibly the highest-quality poke in the Seattle area. The flavorings on the fresh ahi and tuna are often lighter than at some other poke spots, which lets the natural flavors of the fish shine. There are creative varieties too, like a spicy sambal ahi poke, along with classics like spicy salmon.

After building a strong following as a pop-up inside Fremont’s Pomerol, the contemporary Indian cuisine specialist Meesha became a full-fledged restaurant in 2020. Among some of the can’t-miss dishes from chef Preeti Agarwal are rarah keema pao with expertly prepared ground lamb, the fried Amritsari fish, and the paneer in tomato sauce with black cardamom.

White Center restaurant Tomo was much-anticipated when it opened in fall 2021 with a menu of micro-seasonal Pacific Northwest cuisine served in a creative five-course dinner. The name Tomo means “friend” in Japanese, an homage to former Canlis chef Brady Williams’s grandmother, Tomoko Ishiwata Bristol. The space is intimate with a wall of vertical ash slats, and the dishes change regularly, but a sample menu on the website includes pork collar with squash, fermented radish chawanmushi, and sweet potato with miso caramel. No reservation? Go early and nab a seat at the bar for an expertly mixed cocktail and some bites (the restaurant was a 2022 James Beard Award semifinalist for its outstanding wine program). Tomo also offers an a la carte lunch menu on the weekends.

Taqueria la Fondita

Copy Link

This enormously popular food truck in White Center (with two locations in the neighborhood and one in North Seattle) has been a steady presence for years that gives a lot of bang for the buck. Plates pile up with carne asada, adobada, and lengua tacos, and be sure to request extra grilled mini-onions and spicy Serrano peppers. There’s also a small covered patio next to the truck that provides a comfortable place to dig in while the plates are piping hot.

Tacos with sides in a white container from Taqueria la Fondita.
Taqueria La Fondita serves a variety of wonderful Mexican plates to go.
Teresa Lam

El Cabrito Restaurant

Copy Link

After five years as a food truck, El Cabrito became a brick-and mortar-restaurant on Burien’s Ambaum Boulevard in 2019. Chef-owner Leticia Sánchez started making moles with her grandmother in Oaxaca when she was 5 years old, and the years of experience show in the expertly balanced mole coloradito that pools around her pork enchiladas, and in dishes like the molotes (fried masa dumplings filled with potato and chorizo) drowned in smoky morita pepper and avocado salsas, all served on brightly hued ceramics. Sanchez also serves weekly specials like rockfish ceviche, and banana-leaf green mole tamales are available during the winter. There are a few indoor seats at El Cabrito and a few tables on a covered patio behind the restaurant.

Molotes (fried corn dough dumplings) drizzled with red and green salsa and topped with cabbage and cheese.
The molotes at El Cabrito Restaurant.
Jade Yamazaki Stewart

Executive chef Aisha Ibrahim helms this 71-year-old Queen Anne icon, owned by the Canlis family. Ibrahim energizes the historic establishment with a super-seasonal approach inspired by Japanese kaiseki cooking. A recent four course menu offered options like duck with bitter chicory, celeriac, and blood orange; striploin with Walla Walla onions and wild rice; and grilled sablefish with abalone, dashi, and daikon.

Kamonegi

Copy Link

Star chef Mutsuko Soma makes soba from scratch every day at this Fremont destination, which was chosen as one of Eater’s Best New Restaurant in America in 2018. Soma serves traditional soba shop dishes like seiro soba (cold with dipping sauce) and super-crunchy tempura, but also more creative dishes like soba with oysters and gochujang broth and oreo tempura served with mini toasted marshmallows. Make a full night of it by sampling some sake and snacks at next door sibling bar Hannyatou before heading over to Kamonegi for dinner.

Chopsticks pulling buckwheat soba from a plate of green vegetables.
Kamonegi’s soba is a showstopper.
Kamonegi

2022 James Beard Award finalists chefs Rachel Yang and partner Seif Chirchi offer simple but refined dishes at their Korean-influenced Fremont restaurant, including a smoked mackerel kedgeree and a succulent kalbi short rib over grilled kimchi. Expect inventive dishes too, like smoked tofu with mushrooms or the dash grits, rich with umami and perfect topped with some bright house-made kimchi (to be ordered separately). With an inviting, open space and easy-going service, Joule offers a special night out sans pretension. Sit at the bar and watch chefs plating dishes, and sip on one of Joule’s creative cocktails, like the lapsang souchong tequila drink with lime and Thai chili agave. 

A closeup shot of the kalbi beef short ribs with grilled kimchi at Joule.
Kalbi beef short ribs with grilled kimchi
Bill Addison

Zig Zag Cafe

Copy Link

Zig Zag Café, tucked next to a stairwell in Pike Place Market, has become a symbol of Seattle’s bar scene for repopularizing the Prohibition-era gin and green chartreuse cocktail called The Last Word. The drinks remain perfectly crafted, the dark lighting in the restaurant still creates the perfect vibe for a late-night date, and the food is excellent — think fine-dining comfort dishes like steak frites, gnochi with seasonal mushrooms, oysters on the half shell, and beef tartare.

Sushi Kashiba

Copy Link

Diners have long flocked to the upscale Pike Place restaurant to watch master sushi chef Shiro Kashiba at work, with seats at the bar among the most coveted. Its meticulous attention to detail remains a big draw, as does chef Kashiba, who is credited for bringing edomae-style sushi to Seattle and has opened some of the city’s most-respected sushi restaurants, including the self-titled Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant in Belltown. First-timers should choose the omakase option and embrace each seasonal offering. Now 80 years old, Kashiba is focusing on his legacy and helping the next generation of Seattle sushi chefs continue the tradition with their own restaurants.

A selection of orange-colored nigiri on a plate
Chef Shiro Kashiba studied under the legendary Jiro Ono.
Sushi Kashiba

Cafe Campagne

Copy Link

This longtime Pike Place wonder from chef Daisley Gordon is well-regarded for its dedication to classic Parisian fare, served in a warmly lit dining room. Start dinner with escargot or calamari, order the white bean stew with lamb, pork, and duck confit for an entree and finish with a delightful chocolate cognac mousse. Lunch and weekend brunch menus offer housemade croissants and a popular quiche with Comté cheese, which can be taken to-go or enjoyed in the dining room.

Nirmal’s

Copy Link

Pioneer Square’s Indian food destination restaurant serves soups, biryani, and curries from a variety of regions and happily caters to pescatarians and vegetarians with items like paneer-stuffed bell pepper with spicy tomato sauce. Owners Oliver and Gita Bangera have always made sure the takeout service is as robust as the dine-in experience — although seeing the gregarious Oliver in person usually adds a spark to the meal.

Kedai Makan

Copy Link

Kedai Makan offers some of the only Malaysian food in the Seattle area, and the small, turquoise-walled dining room in Capitol Hill is packed late into the evening with diners scooping curry with roti and sharing piles of fried chicken with pineapple sambal. Owner Kevin Burzell was entranced by the funk and spice in Malaysian cooking when he traveled to Southeast Asia; he opened a takeout window in 2013, then opened the current space in 2015, staying true to the strength of those flavors. Cut the spice with cocktails made with Southeast Asian ingredients, like the lime-leaf gin and tonic or a bourbon drink made with green tea and pandan limeade. Reservations aren’t accepted, and a wait should be expected.

Kedai Mekan’s bright blue dining room, with dark wood stools and tables.
Kedai Mekan has a variety of Malaysian street food dishes.
Morgen Schuler

Frelard Tamales

Copy Link

From a farmers market favorite to a permanent tamale window near Green Lake, this popular Mexican spot from founders Osbaldo Hernandez and Dennis Ramey (with Hernandez’s parents helping to run the operation) serves half-pound tamales packed with rich flavors. The salsa roja pork and the salsa verde chicken versions are not to be missed, but the shop also serves vegan and vegetarian options, including tamales filled with sweet potato and mole and salsa roja and jackfruit. Everything is served with pickled onions and carrots and best washed down with the house-made agua de horchata. Diners can also buy bags of frozen tamales to steam at home.

Sushi Kappo Tamura

Copy Link

Renowned chef Taichi Kitamura (a 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist) provides a wide variety of fantastic meal options at his Eastlake destination restaurant. It has a full sushi menu, as well as a nigiri omakase, which includes 12 pieces of seasonal selections and brunch on the weekends. Sushi Kappo Tamura sources its seafood from Pacific Northwest producers like Taylor Shellfish and Skagit River Ranch and has a rooftop garden that provides produce for some of its dishes. Of all the sushi chefs in Seattle, Kitamura may know the most about local fish, providing a sushi experience that couldn’t be replicated in any other part of the country.

Plum Bistro

Copy Link

Capitol Hill’s vegan restaurant from celebrated chef Makini Howell is as versatile as it is magnificent. Some of the biggest hits include the “chicken” fried seitan burger, a mac and cheese spin called Mac and Yease (made with alternative milk), and black truffle sweet potato gnocchi with pesto and vegan sausage.

Plum Bistro’s mac and cheese twist known as Mac & Yease against a green turf background.
Mac and Yease from Plum Bistro
Plum Bistro

Ba Bar Capitol Hill

Copy Link

Out of the many Vietnamese restaurants in Seattle, those owned by siblings Eric and Sophie Banh stand out for their high quality of ingredients and consistency in preparation. Ba Bar’s Capitol Hill location is famous for brothy bowls of pho (adorned with beefy cuts like brisket and oxtail), fragrant bun bo hue, and super-crispy pork imperial rolls. Expect Vietnamese jazz music blaring through the speakers until 12 a.m. (when the restaurant closes), a leafy patio, and strong, sweet Vietnamese coffee for after the meal.

A bowl full of noodles and topped with whole grilled prawns, pieces of grilled beef, shredded carrots, lettuce, and herbs.
A vermicelli noodle bowl decked out with grilled beef, charred prawns, and crispy imperial rolls, from Ba Bar.
Look at Lao Studios

Pho Bac Sup Shop

Copy Link

The Pham family’s Pho Bac boat-shaped restaurant was a pioneer in the Vietnamese dining scene — and the more modern Pho Bac Sup Shop continues its legacy with aplomb in Little Saigon. Tender beef falls off massive beef ribs, found in the internet-famous pho. Pair the fragrant bowls of broth with cocktails made with passionfruit and mango or herbaceous ones made with Thai basil and Vietnamese coriander. In 2021, owner Yenvy Pham opened a speakeasy-style Vietnamese bar, Phocific Standard Time, above the downtown location.

A bowl of pho at Pho Bac Sup Shop with iced coffee on the side.

Spinasse

Copy Link

More than 10 years in, and this romantic trattoria on Capitol Hill continues to entrance diners with food from Italy’s Piedmont region. The nest of delicate tajarin pasta with butter and sage sauce is a Seattle comfort food mainstay, but every dish from chef Stuart Lane is memorable. After a satisfying dinner at Spinasse, head over to next door sibling bar Artusi for a digestif and dessert, or stop by the bar another night for snacks like beef tongue with salsa tonnata (tuna sauce) and burrata with pomegranate seeds and toasted pistachios.

tajarin pasta with butter and sage sauce on a white place.
Tajarin pasta with butter and sage sauce
Spinasse [Official]

Since opening in early 2020, Beacon Hill’s innovative Filipinx restaurant from star chef Melissa Miranda has developed a dynamic menu with items such as succulent short rib kare kare, smoked oysters, and mussels cooked with moringa. This year, Miranda was nominated for a James Beard Award for her cooking. The homey space makes diners feel like they’re eating in a beloved family member’s living room. Miranda also launched a community kitchen, which serves free meals every Monday and Tuesday, and a program to teach children Filipinx recipes. 

Zylberschtein's

Copy Link

Pinehurst’s Jewish-style deli and bakery is the versatile comfort food spot every neighborhood needs. Owner Josh Grunig, formerly of Grand Central Bakery, offers a bounty of baked goods, including whole cakes, sourdough loaves, croissants, and challah, as well as some of the best bagels in Seattle. There’s a covered patio, surrounded by planters, where diners can slurp matzo ball soup or eat what Grunig calls his “big, ridiculous sandwiches,” piles of house-smoked pastrami and corned beef between slices of rye bread or bagel halves. The smoked meat, and other Jewish deli staples like whitefish and chopped liver, are available by the pound, and the shop’s delivery service covers most of the Seattle area. In January 2022, Grunig opened his second Seattle business, Muriel’s, a kosher restaurant in Seward Park.

Taurus Ox

Copy Link

Expertly-made Laotian dishes shine at this Capitol Hill counter service restaurant from three chefs, Sydney Clark, Khampaeng Panyathong, and Jenessa Sneva, with strong Seattle dining pedigrees. Items such as thom khem and chicken laap utilize produce from local farms and a whole-animal approach to butchery, and the Lao pork sausage, fragrant with lemongrass and lime leaf, is not to be missed. Meanwhile, the smash burger made with pork jowl bacon and jaew tomato sauce may be the best patty in the city.

A collection of Laotian dishes at the new restaurant, Taurus Ox.
Taurus Ox specializes in Laotian dishes.
Taurus Ox/Instagram

Off The Rez Cafe

Copy Link

Seattle’s only Native American-owned food truck opened its first restaurant in 2019 at the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus. Its menu is vibrant as ever, offering fluffy fry bread tacos topped with 12-hour smoked pulled pork, braised bison, or vegetarian chili, plus wild rice bowls. Diners can order on the official website for takeout or delivery, or eat the food in the inside dining area or benches outside.

Bar del Corso

Copy Link

Chef and owner Jerry Corso’s expert Neapolitan-style pizzas are the primary draw for this Beacon Hill hideaway, thanks to their light, airy, and slightly salty crusts. The garlic mussels, baccala fritters, and grilled octopus with corona beans are also exceptional, and reservations often go fast — although the restaurant recently added more sidewalk seating, great for people watching on Beacon Avenue.

Pizza with roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, Walla Walla onions, and prosciutto di Parma.
Pizza with roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, Walla Walla onions, and prosciutto di Parma.
Bar del Corso

Seattle Fish Guys

Copy Link

The seafood in the poke at this Central District gem — with options of tuna, salmon, octopus, and scallop — is extremely fresh; the flavors of the tuna in particular are brought to life by the chopped onion and green onion in the simple shoyu sauce. But the shop also has a lot to offer beyond poke: local oysters on the half shell, smoked mussels and scallops, shrimp cocktails, clam chowder, and more. And besides the ready-to-eat food, it’s one of the best fish shops in the city, with whole fish, sashimi grade filets, live oysters, mussels, clams, and more.

Communion Restaurant and Bar

Copy Link

Chef Kristi Brown — who runs the successful catering operation That Brown Girl Cooks — calls the food at her nationally praised Central District restaurant “Seattle soul.” Brown’s memories of shopping at Chinatown-International District markets results in banh mi-po’ boy hybrids and a dish made with Washington clams, mussels, and Laotian sausage in a coconut milk “roux.” But Brown’s cooking shines most in her more traditional Southern dishes, like the pork neck bone stew, with smoky meat simmered in umami-packed broth with lima beans. After Communion made a couple of national best restaurant lists in 2021 (and nabbed an Eater Award), it’s been hard to get a seat at the dining room in the renovated historic Liberty Bank Building (the renovation, completed in 2019, is meant to support Black property ownership in Seattle’s historically Black neighborhood). Make reservations weeks ahead, or show up right when the restaurant opens on a weekday to nab a spot.

Tony's Bakery

Copy Link

Many Seattleites have their own preferred banh mi destination, but it’s hard to beat this South Seattle spot for its perfectly flaky baguettes and juicy grilled pork (though the fried catfish version is a favorite as well). There’s no sit-down service at this small deli and market, but many of the other prepared foods (like steamed hum bao) are worth a look for a takeout feast, washed down with any of the boba tea options or fresh-squeezed sugarcane juice.

Super Six

Copy Link

Marination co-owners Kamala Saxton and Roz Edison created a hit in this Columbia City Korean-Hawaiian restaurant housed in a former auto repair shop. The spam sliders and loco moco always hit the spot, and the malasadas, served plain or filled with mango or coconut cream, are among Seattle’s best desserts. Lines are typically long on weekends to secure a table, but with a large patio, there’s a festival-like atmosphere that makes the time pass quickly.

Off Alley

Copy Link

Chef Evan Leichtling and partner Meghna Prakash’s 14-seat brick-walled restaurant on Rainier Avenue doesn’t play by the rules. Inside, industry insiders chat with staff about the newest bottles in their hand-written list of natural wine, while punk rock blasts through the speakers and Leichling brings out plates of whatever he decided to cook that night. Menus change daily and are posted on a dedicated Instagram, and dishes are served until they run out. Leichling is a Seattle industry veteran who used to work at Lark, and he spent five years cooking at some of the finest restaurants in San Sebastian and Paris. His dishes use the most compelling seasonal ingredients prepared in ways that best bring out their flavors. On a recent menu: juicy smoked mussels with celery on sourdough, whole quail with nettles in a cream sauce, salt cod with squid ink rice, and a burning hot Scotch bonnet ice cream.

Archipelago

Copy Link

In 2021, Hillman City’s nationally acclaimed Filipino American fine dining restaurant restarted its intimate tasting menu dinners, known for their ingenuity, storytelling, and passion. Husband-and-wife team Aaron Verzosa and Amber Manuguid create inventive dishes that weave in their personal journeys growing up in the area and those of Filipino immigrants to the Pacific Northwest, creating a compelling history lesson through each 9-to-12-course sitting. The 12-seat restaurant is normally booked out months ahead, but there’s a waiting list on the website.

Delish Ethiopian Cuisine

Copy Link

Run by husband and wife duo Delish Lemma and Amy Abera, both hailing from Addis Ababa, Delish Ethiopian Cuisine features recipes passed down from Abera’s mother and grandmother. A relative newcomer to the vibrant Hillman City Ethiopian restaurant scene, Delish has a comfortable atmosphere with a bar area. Try the veggie combo, which includes 10 vegan selections, or the beef tibs pan-fried in garlic, butter, onion, and berbere spice. Delish also offers a coffee ceremony with three rounds of coffee, served with popcorn or a sweet bread and incense.

Antigua Guatemala Restaurant

Copy Link

Wilfredo and Elvi Reyes opened the Seattle area’s only full-service Guatemalan restaurant in a Kent strip mall in 2019, which they decorated with bright photos of symbols of their home country: a yellow clocktower on an arch in the country’s old capital, the volcanic lake Atitlán, and the turquoise-colored national bird (the resplendent quetzal). Since then, diners have flocked to the restaurant to eat comforting pre-colonial dishes like banana-leaf tamales made with loroco and chipilín (both indigenous Central American plants) while upbeat salsa music plays. The Spanish-influenced, slow-grilled churrasco chapin strip steak, marinated with tomato and garlic, is one of the best steaks in Seattle, and the tostada topped with chow mein (a popular Guatemalan street food) provides a satisfying contrast of crispy tostada and soft noodle. The restaurant also serves Guatemalan breakfast foods, a comforting atol de elote, and fried plantains stuffed with a sweet bean mixture.

Cafe Juanita

Copy Link

Kirkland’s Northern Italian fine-dining mainstay offers several excellent seasonal tasting menus, including pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan options. Chef Holly Smith’s omnivorous tasting menus include dishes like Anderson Valley lamb chops with turnip gratin, while the vegan tasting menu includes dishes like green garlic soup with fava bean toast.

Samburna Indian Restaurant

Copy Link

Samburna is one of the Seattle area’s best options for Indian food, and is rare in focusing on well-executed South Indian cuisine. The owners of the restaurant grew up in Tamil Nadu, on the Southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, where the dosa is a staple, and the restaurant serves several excellent versions, including one that’s over three feet in length; all dosas are served with sambar and a variety of chutneys. The goat curry is also a must-try, and madras coffee with a milk-based dessert makes a nice end to the meal. Order Samburna to go, or enjoy a meal with quick service in the dining room.

A dosa on a metal tray with sambar and various chutneys.
One of Samburna’s selection of dosas.
Madhi Oli

Dan Gui Sichuan Cuisine

Copy Link

Among the many Sichuan restaurants in the Seattle area, Dan Gui stands out for the balanced flavors in its dishes and its consistently high quality. The cold plates, like the sliced pig ears shimmering with chili oil and the refreshing wood ear salad, are excellent with cold glasses of beer. The beef with vine peppers leaves the tongue buzzing with Sichuan peppercorn and jalapenos. No meal at Dan Gui is complete, however, without an order of tea-smoked duck, rich with smoke flavor and cooked until just tender. The American Chinese dishes on the menu, too, like the orange chicken, never fail to satisfy.

May Kitchen and Bar

A group of small metal bowls containing an array of colorful dishes and sauces.
May Kitchen and Bar delivers beautiful Thai dishes on Vashon Island.
May Kitchen and Bar/Facebook

Vashon Island’s celebrated Thai restaurant is so good that many Seattleites make the trek over by ferry just to sample the food. Chef-owner May Chaleoy serves up entrees with bright flavors like whole fried trout alongside mango salad flecked with mint and cashews, as well as satisfying appetizers like grilled pork skewers marinated in yellow curry. She also offers versions of ubiquitous Thai dishes with elegant twists, like pad thai served with turnips and banana blossom or tom yum soup with oyster mushrooms.

A group of small metal bowls containing an array of colorful dishes and sauces.
May Kitchen and Bar delivers beautiful Thai dishes on Vashon Island.
May Kitchen and Bar/Facebook

Cafe Munir

This Ballard restaurant’s food, with influences from owner Rajah Gargour’s Lebanese background, is a vegetarian’s dream, with loads of plant-based mezzes. The small plates of lentils ground with roasted garlic, house labneh, and sweet pears in savory tahini always impress, and the dining room — separated into two areas connected by large archways in the white wall — reopened a few months ago. Patrons should check Instagram for seasonal items that keep the menu vibrant.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

James Beard award-winning chef Renee Erickson’s original Ballard restaurant and pub serves eight varieties of Washington oysters, seafood dishes like raw albacore tuna with Meyer lemon sauce and blood oranges, and snacks like beef tartare, beef shank terrine, and plates of sliced cheese, along with a long wine list and a cocktail menu. The dining room is bright and airy, and there’s a heated, covered patio with string lights for al fresco dining. It’s also one of the few Seattle-area date-night restaurants open on Mondays.

Ono Authentic Hawaiian Poke

Ono poke in Edmonds is a seafood-lover’s dream, offering possibly the highest-quality poke in the Seattle area. The flavorings on the fresh ahi and tuna are often lighter than at some other poke spots, which lets the natural flavors of the fish shine. There are creative varieties too, like a spicy sambal ahi poke, along with classics like spicy salmon.

Meesha

After building a strong following as a pop-up inside Fremont’s Pomerol, the contemporary Indian cuisine specialist Meesha became a full-fledged restaurant in 2020. Among some of the can’t-miss dishes from chef Preeti Agarwal are rarah keema pao with expertly prepared ground lamb, the fried Amritsari fish, and the paneer in tomato sauce with black cardamom.

TOMO

White Center restaurant Tomo was much-anticipated when it opened in fall 2021 with a menu of micro-seasonal Pacific Northwest cuisine served in a creative five-course dinner. The name Tomo means “friend” in Japanese, an homage to former Canlis chef Brady Williams’s grandmother, Tomoko Ishiwata Bristol. The space is intimate with a wall of vertical ash slats, and the dishes change regularly, but a sample menu on the website includes pork collar with squash, fermented radish chawanmushi, and sweet potato with miso caramel. No reservation? Go early and nab a seat at the bar for an expertly mixed cocktail and some bites (the restaurant was a 2022 James Beard Award semifinalist for its outstanding wine program). Tomo also offers an a la carte lunch menu on the weekends.

Taqueria la Fondita

Tacos with sides in a white container from Taqueria la Fondita.
Taqueria La Fondita serves a variety of wonderful Mexican plates to go.
Teresa Lam

This enormously popular food truck in White Center (with two locations in the neighborhood and one in North Seattle) has been a steady presence for years that gives a lot of bang for the buck. Plates pile up with carne asada, adobada, and lengua tacos, and be sure to request extra grilled mini-onions and spicy Serrano peppers. There’s also a small covered patio next to the truck that provides a comfortable place to dig in while the plates are piping hot.

Tacos with sides in a white container from Taqueria la Fondita.
Taqueria La Fondita serves a variety of wonderful Mexican plates to go.
Teresa Lam

El Cabrito Restaurant

Molotes (fried corn dough dumplings) drizzled with red and green salsa and topped with cabbage and cheese.
The molotes at El Cabrito Restaurant.
Jade Yamazaki Stewart

After five years as a food truck, El Cabrito became a brick-and mortar-restaurant on Burien’s Ambaum Boulevard in 2019. Chef-owner Leticia Sánchez started making moles with her grandmother in Oaxaca when she was 5 years old, and the years of experience show in the expertly balanced mole coloradito that pools around her pork enchiladas, and in dishes like the molotes (fried masa dumplings filled with potato and chorizo) drowned in smoky morita pepper and avocado salsas, all served on brightly hued ceramics. Sanchez also serves weekly specials like rockfish ceviche, and banana-leaf green mole tamales are available during the winter. There are a few indoor seats at El Cabrito and a few tables on a covered patio behind the restaurant.

Molotes (fried corn dough dumplings) drizzled with red and green salsa and topped with cabbage and cheese.
The molotes at El Cabrito Restaurant.
Jade Yamazaki Stewart

Canlis

Executive chef Aisha Ibrahim helms this 71-year-old Queen Anne icon, owned by the Canlis family. Ibrahim energizes the historic establishment with a super-seasonal approach inspired by Japanese kaiseki cooking. A recent four course menu offered options like duck with bitter chicory, celeriac, and blood orange; striploin with Walla Walla onions and wild rice; and grilled sablefish with abalone, dashi, and daikon.

Kamonegi

Chopsticks pulling buckwheat soba from a plate of green vegetables.
Kamonegi’s soba is a showstopper.
Kamonegi

Star chef Mutsuko Soma makes soba from scratch every day at this Fremont destination, which was chosen as one of Eater’s Best New Restaurant in America in 2018. Soma serves traditional soba shop dishes like seiro soba (cold with dipping sauce) and super-crunchy tempura, but also more creative dishes like soba with oysters and gochujang broth and oreo tempura served with mini toasted marshmallows. Make a full night of it by sampling some sake and snacks at next door sibling bar Hannyatou before heading over to Kamonegi for dinner.

Chopsticks pulling buckwheat soba from a plate of green vegetables.
Kamonegi’s soba is a showstopper.
Kamonegi

Joule

A closeup shot of the kalbi beef short ribs with grilled kimchi at Joule.
Kalbi beef short ribs with grilled kimchi
Bill Addison

2022 James Beard Award finalists chefs Rachel Yang and partner Seif Chirchi offer simple but refined dishes at their Korean-influenced Fremont restaurant, including a smoked mackerel kedgeree and a succulent kalbi short rib over grilled kimchi. Expect inventive dishes too, like smoked tofu with mushrooms or the dash grits, rich with umami and perfect topped with some bright house-made kimchi (to be ordered separately). With an inviting, open space and easy-going service, Joule offers a special night out sans pretension. Sit at the bar and watch chefs plating dishes, and sip on one of Joule’s creative cocktails, like the lapsang souchong tequila drink with lime and Thai chili agave. 

A closeup shot of the kalbi beef short ribs with grilled kimchi at Joule.
Kalbi beef short ribs with grilled kimchi
Bill Addison

Zig Zag Cafe

Zig Zag Café, tucked next to a stairwell in Pike Place Market, has become a symbol of Seattle’s bar scene for repopularizing the Prohibition-era gin and green chartreuse cocktail called The Last Word. The drinks remain perfectly crafted, the dark lighting in the restaurant still creates the perfect vibe for a late-night date, and the food is excellent — think fine-dining comfort dishes like steak frites, gnochi with seasonal mushrooms, oysters on the half shell, and beef tartare.

Sushi Kashiba

A selection of orange-colored nigiri on a plate
Chef Shiro Kashiba studied under the legendary Jiro Ono.
Sushi Kashiba

Diners have long flocked to the upscale Pike Place restaurant to watch master sushi chef Shiro Kashiba at work, with seats at the bar among the most coveted. Its meticulous attention to detail remains a big draw, as does chef Kashiba, who is credited for bringing edomae-style sushi to Seattle and has opened some of the city’s most-respected sushi restaurants, including the self-titled Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant in Belltown. First-timers should choose the omakase option and embrace each seasonal offering. Now 80 years old, Kashiba is focusing on his legacy and helping the next generation of Seattle sushi chefs continue the tradition with their own restaurants.

A selection of orange-colored nigiri on a plate
Chef Shiro Kashiba studied under the legendary Jiro Ono.
Sushi Kashiba

Cafe Campagne

This longtime Pike Place wonder from chef Daisley Gordon is well-regarded for its dedication to classic Parisian fare, served in a warmly lit dining room. Start dinner with escargot or calamari, order the white bean stew with lamb, pork, and duck confit for an entree and finish with a delightful chocolate cognac mousse. Lunch and weekend brunch menus offer housemade croissants and a popular quiche with Comté cheese, which can be taken to-go or enjoyed in the dining room.

Nirmal’s

Pioneer Square’s Indian food destination restaurant serves soups, biryani, and curries from a variety of regions and happily caters to pescatarians and vegetarians with items like paneer-stuffed bell pepper with spicy tomato sauce. Owners Oliver and Gita Bangera have always made sure the takeout service is as robust as the dine-in experience — although seeing the gregarious Oliver in person usually adds a spark to the meal.

Related Maps

Kedai Makan