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A pate with some grilled bread and a whole grilled quail with morels on ceramic plates with glasses of dark and light red wine on a wooden countertop.
A lamb brain pate and grilled quail served with wine at Off Alley, a restaurant recently named one of the country’s 50 best by the New York Times.
Suzi Pratt/Eater Seattle

The 38 Essential Restaurants in Seattle

Seattle’s defining restaurants, across an array of cuisines, neighborhoods, and price points 

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A lamb brain pate and grilled quail served with wine at Off Alley, a restaurant recently named one of the country’s 50 best by the New York Times.
| Suzi Pratt/Eater Seattle

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 October: Lupo, Flintcreek Cattle Co, The Chicken Supply, Beast and Cleaver, Marination, Le Pichet, Monsoon, Pestle Rock

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.

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Ono Authentic Hawaiian Poke

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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.

Zylberschtein's

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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.

Cafe Juanita

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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.23

FlintCreek Cattle Co

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Chef Eric Donnely’s Greenwood steakhouse is one of the best in the city, serving simple 21-aged dry aged Washington steaks that are perfectly grilled and buttered, with options for filet mignon, New York strip, Delmonico, and tomahawk steaks. Flintcreek Cattle Co. also stands out for incorporating game meats, like elk and wild boar, into the menu. The drinks from the full bar are well-balanced, and the Prosciutto di Parma with local plums, burrata, pistachio oil, and saba is one of the best appetizers available in the city right now.

Cafe Munir

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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.

Beast and Cleaver

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London native Kevin Smith has built a cult following over the last few years for Beast and Cleaver, quickly turning into one of the city’s top destinations for carnivores. During the day, the business is simply an excellent whole animal butchery shop serving house-made sausages and pates, local and imported steaks, and chicken, duck, and pork products. But at night, the celebration of meat continues with exclusive weekend tasting menus under the moniker The Peasant, which serves dishes like koji-aged beef and duck confit with Yorkshire pudding waffles, and at a casual wine bar concept on Tuesdays and Wednesdays which serves wine with charcuterie and small plates. Smith’s staff are all dedicated butchers and are more than open to chat about unusual cuts of beef and what to do with them.

The Chicken Supply

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This Phinney Ridge Filipino fried chicken shop was recently named one of the best fried chicken restaurants in the country by Eater. The gluten-free batter on the chicken — wings, drumsticks, or 10-inch long cylinders of white meat on sticks — crackles under the teeth and has the puffy texture of Rice Krispies or Frosted Flakes. The meat is packed with flavor from soy sauce and garlic. The restaurant’s owners, Paolo Campbell and Donald Adams, had wanted to start a fried chicken restaurant for years while working in fine dining, and now serve the fried birds with Filipino sides like collard greens served with coconut milk, marinated vegetables, and garlic rice.

Frelard Tamales

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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.

Pestle Rock

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Among Seattle’s many neighborhood Thai restaurants, Ballard’s Pestle Rock stands out for using only local meat in it dishes, and for staying laser-focused on Isan (Northeast) Thai cuisine. The flavors in Pestle Rock’s dishes are bold and unadulterated, with bright lemongrass and spicy chili enlivening the house-made sausage, and funky, earthy shrimp paste covering the green beans and caramelized pork belly in the tea phad kapee. Anything on the list of “tossed” dishes, which come with lime juice and toasted rice powder, is a good bet, though the pork larb and nam tok (grilled wild boar collar), are particularly memorable.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

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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.

Off The Rez Cafe

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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.

Lupo is among a growing number of excellent independent pizzerias in Seattle created by pizza nerds on obsessive quests for their version of the perfect pizza, which all turn out a little different, but most of which employ local grains and seasonal toppings. Fremont’s Lupo stands out for its chewy, blistered sourdough pies served with powerfully flavored, but perfectly balanced, toppings. The burrata and soppressata pizza, topped with sharp Calabrian chili peppers, hot honey, and grand cheese, is a standout. Lupo also has a full bar and a solid list of natural wines.

Kamonegi

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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

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.

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

Sushi Kappo Tamura

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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.

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.

Dan Gui Sichuan Cuisine

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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.

Monsoon Seattle

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Eric and Sophie Banh’s original Seattle Vietnamese restaurant still hold up as one of the city’s best destinations for the cuisine, and is one of few that primarily uses local meats in its dishes. Though you can find casual Vietnamese favorites like imperial rolls with vermicelli on the menu, the focus here is on Chinese-influenced fine-dining style Vietnamese dishes, served family style. Highlights include the wokked Anderson Ranch lamb with chili and cumin, the steamed catfish (cooked in a clay pot with coconut juice), and a perfectly balanced green papaya salad with charred prawns.

Spinasse

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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

Taurus Ox

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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.

Communion Restaurant and Bar

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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.

Le Pichet

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Le Pichet is as close as you can get to a classic Parisian cafe in Seattle, a place where you can get an unbelievably pillowy quiche or a croissant and a cafe au lait in the morning, chicken liver terrine with bread and simple salad for lunch, a roast chicken or steak frites for dinner, or a glass of wine anytime in between. It was a favorite of the late Anthony Bourdain, and it remains a refuge for local food writers, off-duty chefs, and Francophiles.

Sushi Kashiba

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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

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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

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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.

Pho Bac Sup Shop

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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, which was recently named one of the 50 best restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit.

Marination Ma Kai

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Seattle’s favorite

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. 

Bar del Corso

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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.

Off Alley

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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. This bold approach recently got recognized by the New York Times, which named Off Alley one of the 50 best restaurants in the country. 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

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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

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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.

Taqueria la Fondita

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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

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.

El Cabrito Restaurant

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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

May Kitchen and Bar

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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.

Antigua Guatemala Restaurant

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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.

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.

Zylberschtein's

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.

Cafe Juanita

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.23

FlintCreek Cattle Co

Chef Eric Donnely’s Greenwood steakhouse is one of the best in the city, serving simple 21-aged dry aged Washington steaks that are perfectly grilled and buttered, with options for filet mignon, New York strip, Delmonico, and tomahawk steaks. Flintcreek Cattle Co. also stands out for incorporating game meats, like elk and wild boar, into the menu. The drinks from the full bar are well-balanced, and the Prosciutto di Parma with local plums, burrata, pistachio oil, and saba is one of the best appetizers available in the city right now.

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.

Beast and Cleaver

London native Kevin Smith has built a cult following over the last few years for Beast and Cleaver, quickly turning into one of the city’s top destinations for carnivores. During the day, the business is simply an excellent whole animal butchery shop serving house-made sausages and pates, local and imported steaks, and chicken, duck, and pork products. But at night, the celebration of meat continues with exclusive weekend tasting menus under the moniker The Peasant, which serves dishes like koji-aged beef and duck confit with Yorkshire pudding waffles, and at a casual wine bar concept on Tuesdays and Wednesdays which serves wine with charcuterie and small plates. Smith’s staff are all dedicated butchers and are more than open to chat about unusual cuts of beef and what to do with them.

The Chicken Supply

This Phinney Ridge Filipino fried chicken shop was recently named one of the best fried chicken restaurants in the country by Eater. The gluten-free batter on the chicken — wings, drumsticks, or 10-inch long cylinders of white meat on sticks — crackles under the teeth and has the puffy texture of Rice Krispies or Frosted Flakes. The meat is packed with flavor from soy sauce and garlic. The restaurant’s owners, Paolo Campbell and Donald Adams, had wanted to start a fried chicken restaurant for years while working in fine dining, and now serve the fried birds with Filipino sides like collard greens served with coconut milk, marinated vegetables, and garlic rice.

Frelard Tamales

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.

Pestle Rock

Among Seattle’s many neighborhood Thai restaurants, Ballard’s Pestle Rock stands out for using only local meat in it dishes, and for staying laser-focused on Isan (Northeast) Thai cuisine. The flavors in Pestle Rock’s dishes are bold and unadulterated, with bright lemongrass and spicy chili enlivening the house-made sausage, and funky, earthy shrimp paste covering the green beans and caramelized pork belly in the tea phad kapee. Anything on the list of “tossed” dishes, which come with lime juice and toasted rice powder, is a good bet, though the pork larb and nam tok (grilled wild boar collar), are particularly memorable.

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.

Off The Rez Cafe

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.

Lupo

Lupo is among a growing number of excellent independent pizzerias in Seattle created by pizza nerds on obsessive quests for their version of the perfect pizza, which all turn out a little different, but most of which employ local grains and seasonal toppings. Fremont’s Lupo stands out for its chewy, blistered sourdough pies served with powerfully flavored, but perfectly balanced, toppings. The burrata and soppressata pizza, topped with sharp Calabrian chili peppers, hot honey, and grand cheese, is a standout. Lupo also has a full bar and a solid list of natural wines.

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

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.

Joule

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

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Sushi Kappo Tamura

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.