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A dosa on a metal tray with sambar and various chutneys Madhi Oli

38 Essential Restaurants in Seattle, Winter 2022

Restaurants that have remained resilient and innovative, while offering some of the city’s best food

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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?” In an ongoing pandemic, many local restaurants have struggled to endure, but consistently show innovation, heart, and, of course, a dedication to quality food, no matter how (or where) it’s served. Now that indoor dining can resume at full capacity in Washington, destinations around Seattle are returning to a familiar form of hospitality, while holding on to some adjustments that may last for the long term. Here are the places that display the wonders of eating in Seattle, listed from north to south. 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.

Added to the 38 in January: Antigua Guatemala Restaurant in Kent, El Cabrito Restaurant in Burien, Tian Fu in Northgate, and Samburna in Bothell.

King County requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours for everyone ages 12+ at indoor establishments, restaurants, and bars. Studies indicate there is a lower exposure risk when eating outdoors, and the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines. Please visit King County’s COVID website for resources and current information.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Samburna Indian Restaurant

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20806 Bothell Everett Hwy UNIT 100
Bothell, WA 98021
(425) 408-1368
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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 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

2. Zylberschtein's

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11752 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98125
(206) 403-1202
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Pinehurst’s charming 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 eat what Grunig calls his “big, ridiculous sandwiches,” piles of house-smoked pastrami and corned beef between slices of rye bread or bagel halves, or sip on matzo ball soup. 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. 

3. Tian Fu

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300 NE Northgate Way
Seattle, WA 98125
(206) 363-3292
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Tian Fu’s locations in Northgate and Bellevue are constantly filled with large parties speaking Mandarin and sharing plates of some of the Seattle area’s best Sichuan cuisine. Servers dash around tables serving large portions of regional classics, like boiled fish in chili and peppercorn sauce and toothpick lamb. The mapo tofu coats the tongue with chili oil and makes it buzz with Sichuan peppercorn while the twice-cooked pork belly and string beans offer a jolt of umami from fermented beans and vegetables.

Mapo tofu, made with cubes of soft tofu swimming in chili oil.
Tian Fu’s mapo tofu.
Tian Fu

4. Cafe Juanita

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9702 NE 120th Pl
Kirkland, WA 98034
(425) 823-1505
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Kirkland’s Northern Italian fine-dining mainstay reopened its dining room in 2021 with several excellent tasting menus, including pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan options. Dishes from chef Holly Smith’s omnivore’s tasting menus include grilled Alaskan spot prawns with roe and squab (young pigeon) breast, while the vegan tasting menu includes beet carpaccio and borlotti bean ragout.

5. Cafe Munir

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2408 NW 80th St
Seattle, WA 98117
(206) 783-4190
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This Ballard restaurant’s food, with influences from owner Rajah Gargour’s Lebanese background, is a vegetarian’s dream. 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.

6. Frelard Tamales

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6412 Latona Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 523-6654
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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 some of the most satisfying tamales in Seattle. 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 pickled onions and carrots and best washed down with the house-made agua de horchata. Diners can also bring home bags of frozen tamales to steam at home.

Two tamales side-by-side topped with sour cream next to a pile of cut carrots
Frelard Tamales has given out free meals to the community during the pandemic.
Frelard Tamales/Instagram

7. Off The Rez Cafe

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4300 15th Avenue Northeast Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Seattle, WA 98105

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 on site.

A fry bread taco topped with meat, cilantro, and pickled onions from Off the Rez Cafe
Fry bread tacos are Off the Rez’s specialty.
Off the Rez/Facebook

8. Kamonegi

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1054 N 39th St
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 632-0185
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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 [Official]

9. Meesha

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127 N 36th St
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 632-0135
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After building a strong following as a pop-up inside Fremont’s Pomerol, the contemporary Indian tasting menu 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. Takeout is still an option, but the lively dining room and patio are also open for business.

10. Joule

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3506 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 632-5685
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James Beard Award-nominated chef Rachel Yang and partner Seif Chirchi offer simple but refined dishes at their Korean-influenced Fremont restaurant, including a smoked mackerel kedgeree and a famed kalbi short rib over grilled kimchi. Expect inventive dishes too, like smoked tofu or beef tartare with Asian pear and pine nuts. 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

11. The Whale Wins Larder and Cafe

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3506 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 632-9425
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James Beard Award-winning chef Renee Erickson’s former full-service restaurant in Fremont transformed into a fast-casual counter spot and grocer in 2020, but hasn’t lost its charm. Customers can find charcuterie, cheese, wine, and fresh pasta, as well as a selection of full made-to-order meals, including a geoduck clam ceviche with ginger crème fraiche and black cod in a pastry crust with curry sauce and melted leeks.  

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12. Canlis

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2576 Aurora Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 283-3313
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In March 2020, the Canlis family — who owns the 71-year-old Queen Anne icon — posted on its website that “fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now.” Since then, the restaurant wasn’t afraid to try out a host of different looks, including a burger drive-thru, but has now returned to full indoor service with new executive chef Aisha Ibrahim at the helm. The past year of creative menu shifts and a super-seasonal approach from Ibrahim inspired by Japanese kaiseki cooking has re-energized a classic. The current four course menu offers options like poached and chilled mussels with kohlrabi, striploin with green onion and celeriac, and grilled sablefish with matsutake mushrooms.

The exterior of Canlis at dusk, with the brick facade moodily lit.
Canlis has been a fine-dining Seattle staple for 71 years.
Canlis/Facebook

13. Ba Sa

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101 Winslow Way E
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
(206) 565-3287
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Vietnamese siblings Trinh and Thai Nguyen— who came to the U.S. as refugees — explore the food of their childhood at this excellent modern Bainbridge Island restaurant. Southeast Asian flavors meet locally farmed and foraged ingredients in dishes like its pho, served with dry-aged ribeye or mushrooms, while small plates like the shrimp and pork wontons swimming in pools of chili and truffle oil and the tempura soft shell crab with tamarind ponzu offer moments of decadence. The wood-floored dining room is decorated with a 10-foot-wide painting of a catfish that oversees diners who take ferries from all over the Seattle area for the Nguyens’ cooking.

14. Kedai Makan

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1802 Bellevue Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

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

15. Spinasse

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1531 14th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 251-7673
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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, one might want to 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]

16. Jerk Shack

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2510 1st Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 441-7817
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Chef-owner Trey Lamont crafts Jamaican dishes and other Caribbean-influenced fare at this colorful Belltown restaurant and bar, where reggae is always playing. The namesake jerk chicken has a sneaky kick, while the remoulade sauce on the fried white fish is a star on its own — and the portions are always generous. Don’t sleep on the many potent rum cocktails on the menu, like the Carribean Sunset (chilled with a rum and pineapple ice cube), which enhance the party vibes.

17. Taurus Ox

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1523 E Madison St suite 101
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 972-0075
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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.

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

18. Stateside

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300 E Pike St #1200
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 557-7273
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Chef Eric Johnson, who’s worked at Michelin-starred restaurants with some of the world’s best chefs, cooks casual but elegant dishes at his Capitol Hill restaurant specializing in Southeast Asian cuisine. Since opening in 2015, he’s won over Seattle diners with dishes like chili cumin pork ribs, fried master stock chicken, and crispy duck fresh rolls. In addition to reopening for dine-in, Stateside is also bottling some sauces for retail (the Sriracha made with Alvarez Farms chilis should be a staple in any pantry), and the well-conceived cocktails, featuring Southeast Asian ingredients like galangal and lime leaf, typically pack a punch.

A selection of colorful plates from Stateside, including cumin ribs
Stateside has both dine-in and takeout options.
Stateside/Instagram

19. Plum Bistro

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1429 12th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 838-5333
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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. Takeout orders go through Toast, delivery is available via Caviar and Doordash, and there’s now onsite dining.

Plum Bistro’s mac ‘n’ cheese twist known as Mac & Yease against a green turf background.
Mac and Yease from Plum Bistro
Plum Bistro [Official Photo]

20. Communion Restaurant and Bar

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2350 E Union St
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 391-8140
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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 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 dine in.

21. Sushi Kashiba

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86 Pine St #1
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 441-8844
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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 best-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, although Kashiba’s popular black cod off the a la carte menu is also stellar.

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

22. Cafe Campagne

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1600 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 728-2233
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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 Comtè cheese, which can be taken to-go or enjoyed in the dining room.

23. Nirmal’s

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106 Occidental Ave S
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 683-9701
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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.

A selection of Indian plates at Nirmal’s with the low-lit dining room in the background.
Nirmal’s serves a wide variety of well-crafted Indian fare.
Nirmal’s/Facebook

24. Maneki

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304 6th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98104
(503) 662-2814
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Seattle’s oldest sushi restaurant has been open since 1904, surviving the incarceration of its owners during WWII. Maneki remains as resilient as ever: Since the pandemic started, the Japantown restaurant has offered online takeout orders for its large menu of sushi rolls, udon noodles and Japanese comfort food. Indulge in the beef sukiyaki or unagi donburi, or make a takeout meal out of snacks, like the spicy cod karaage, potato croquettes and onigiri (rice balls).

A top-down view of a seafood dish from Maneki with bright green and pink colors.
Maneki has been a mainstay in the International District since the early 1900s.
Maneki [Official Photo]

25. Pho Bac Sup Shop

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1240 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 568-0882
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The Pham family’s Pho Bac “boat” 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 on its internet-famous pho or on the spicy bun bo hue. Pair the fragrant bowls of broth with cocktails made with passionfruit and mango or herbaceous drinks made with Thai basil and Vietnamese coriander. Finish the meal with Viet coffee and ube cheesecake.

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

26. Jackson’s Catfish Corner

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2218 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 420-1911
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It’s difficult to find a restaurant more representative of Seattle’s Central District than Jackson’s Catfish Corner. Woodrow and Rosemary Jackson opened the original Catfish Corner in 1985 in the Central District on East Cherry Street and MLK Way. When the restaurant closed in 2014, their grandson Terrell Jackson took on the business. After some short-lived incarnations on the South End, Jackson reopened in the Central District on Juneteenth in 2021. Try the fried catfish, prawns, hush puppies, or the Ohbama Burger (topped with a crispy hot link) to get your fix of soul food. The restaurant is open for takeout and onsite dining in its small dining room.

27. Phnom Penh Noodle House

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913 S Jackson St suite A
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 785-6936
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After a two-year hiatus, this beloved Cambodian restaurant from the Ung family got a revival in 2020 at a slick new location in Little Saigon. The menu is pared down, but longtime staples, including the honey-black pepper chicken wings, mee katang (wide rice noodles in gravy), and beef lok lac (marinated steak cubes), are still on point. Don’t leave without trying the restaurant’s signature dish, a rice noodle soup with fish cakes and balls, ground pork, prawns and calamari. The clean new digs are perfect for settling in for a leisurely comfort meal.

Phnom Penh Noodle House’s soup, with prawns, sliced pork, fish cakes, and calamari, topped with cilantro.
Phnom Penh Noodle House’s prawn, sliced pork, and fish cake soup
Kong Lu

28. Musang

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2524 Beacon Ave S
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 708-6871
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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. 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. 

29. Il Nido

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2717 61st Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98116
(206) 466-6265
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Acclaimed chef Mike Easton turned the historic Alki Homestead into a classic Seattle dining experience, with his intricate pastas and hearty entrees, like the coveted seared ribeye. Easton also recently added Roman-style pizza to the menu and aims to make the restaurant more accessible with a new “aperitivo hour” that doesn’t require reservations. But the main dinner service continues to be one of the more sought-after tickets in town.

30. Bar del Corso

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3057 Beacon Ave S
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 395-2069
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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.

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 [Official]

31. Super Six

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3714 S Hudson St
Seattle, WA 98118
(206) 420-1201
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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.

Pulehu ribs with kimchi mac ‘n’ cheese and bottled cocktails in the background
Pulehu ribs with kimchi mac and cheese
Super Six/Instagram

32. Archipelago

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5607 Rainier Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118

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 the narrative of their personal journeys growing up in the area and that of Filipino immigrants to the Pacific Northwest, combining a meal and a compelling history lesson in each 9-to-12-course sitting. The 12-seat restaurant is fully reserved through the end of March, but there’s a waitlist on the website.

33. Delish Ethiopian Cuisine

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5701 Rainier Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118
(206) 723-3821
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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, classic atmosphere with a bar area. Try the veggie combo, which includes 10 vegan selections (most veggie combos offer about five), or the beef tibs, slices of beef pan-fried in garlic, butter, onion and spices. Delish also offers a coffee ceremony with three rounds of coffee, served with popcorn or a sweet bread, and incense.

34. Tony's Bakery

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6020 Martin Luther King Jr Way S
Seattle, WA 98118
(206) 722-8800
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Many Seattleites likely 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). No sit-down service here — Tony’s is a 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.

35. Taqueria la Fondita

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9811 15th Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98106
(206) 551-0529
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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 versions, and a special request for extra grilled mini-onions and spicy Serrano peppers is key. 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

36. El Cabrito Restaurant

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14631 Ambaum Blvd SW
Burien, WA 98166
(206) 849-5449

After five years as a food truck, El Cabrito became a brick-and mortar-restaurant in Burien’s Ambaum Boulevard in 2019. Chef-owner Leticia Sánchez started making moles with her grandmother in Oaxaca when she was five 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. Sànchez also serves weekly specials like rockfish ceviche, and banana-leaf green mole tamales are available during the winter. There’s 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

37. May Kitchen and Bar

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17614 Vashon Hwy SW
Vashon, WA 98070
(206) 408-7196
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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 fried 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. For now, service is take-out only.

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

38. Antigua Guatemala Restaurant

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120 Washington Ave N
Kent, WA 98032
(253) 236-4437
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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.

1. Samburna Indian Restaurant

20806 Bothell Everett Hwy UNIT 100, Bothell, WA 98021
A dosa on a metal tray with sambar and various chutneys
One of Samburna’s selection of dosas.
Madhi Oli

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 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.

20806 Bothell Everett Hwy UNIT 100
Bothell, WA 98021

2. Zylberschtein's

11752 15th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98125

Pinehurst’s charming 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 eat what Grunig calls his “big, ridiculous sandwiches,” piles of house-smoked pastrami and corned beef between slices of rye bread or bagel halves, or sip on matzo ball soup. 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. 

11752 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98125

3. Tian Fu

300 NE Northgate Way, Seattle, WA 98125
Mapo tofu, made with cubes of soft tofu swimming in chili oil.
Tian Fu’s mapo tofu.
Tian Fu

Tian Fu’s locations in Northgate and Bellevue are constantly filled with large parties speaking Mandarin and sharing plates of some of the Seattle area’s best Sichuan cuisine. Servers dash around tables serving large portions of regional classics, like boiled fish in chili and peppercorn sauce and toothpick lamb. The mapo tofu coats the tongue with chili oil and makes it buzz with Sichuan peppercorn while the twice-cooked pork belly and string beans offer a jolt of umami from fermented beans and vegetables.

300 NE Northgate Way
Seattle, WA 98125

4. Cafe Juanita

9702 NE 120th Pl, Kirkland, WA 98034

Kirkland’s Northern Italian fine-dining mainstay reopened its dining room in 2021 with several excellent tasting menus, including pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan options. Dishes from chef Holly Smith’s omnivore’s tasting menus include grilled Alaskan spot prawns with roe and squab (young pigeon) breast, while the vegan tasting menu includes beet carpaccio and borlotti bean ragout.

9702 NE 120th Pl
Kirkland, WA 98034

5. Cafe Munir

2408 NW 80th St, Seattle, WA 98117

This Ballard restaurant’s food, with influences from owner Rajah Gargour’s Lebanese background, is a vegetarian’s dream. 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.

2408 NW 80th St
Seattle, WA 98117

6. Frelard Tamales

6412 Latona Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115
Two tamales side-by-side topped with sour cream next to a pile of cut carrots
Frelard Tamales has given out free meals to the community during the pandemic.
Frelard Tamales/Instagram

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 some of the most satisfying tamales in Seattle. 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 pickled onions and carrots and best washed down with the house-made agua de horchata. Diners can also bring home bags of frozen tamales to steam at home.

6412 Latona Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98115

7. Off The Rez Cafe

4300 15th Avenue Northeast Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle, WA 98105
A fry bread taco topped with meat, cilantro, and pickled onions from Off the Rez Cafe
Fry bread tacos are Off the Rez’s specialty.
Off the Rez/Facebook

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 on site.

4300 15th Avenue Northeast Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Seattle, WA 98105

8. Kamonegi

1054 N 39th St, Seattle, WA 98103
Chopsticks pulling buckwheat soba from a plate of green vegetables.
Kamonegi’s soba is a showstopper.
Kamonegi [Official]

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.

1054 N 39th St
Seattle, WA 98103

9. Meesha

127 N 36th St, Seattle, WA 98103

After building a strong following as a pop-up inside Fremont’s Pomerol, the contemporary Indian tasting menu 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. Takeout is still an option, but the lively dining room and patio are also open for business.

127 N 36th St
Seattle, WA 98103

10. Joule

3506 Stone Way N, Seattle, WA 98103
A closeup shot of the kalbi beef short ribs with grilled kimchi at Joule.
Kalbi beef short ribs with grilled kimchi
Bill Addison

James Beard Award-nominated chef Rachel Yang and partner Seif Chirchi offer simple but refined dishes at their Korean-influenced Fremont restaurant, including a smoked mackerel kedgeree and a famed kalbi short rib over grilled kimchi. Expect inventive dishes too, like smoked tofu or beef tartare with Asian pear and pine nuts. 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. 

3506 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103

11. The Whale Wins Larder and Cafe

3506 Stone Way N, Seattle, WA 98103

James Beard Award-winning chef Renee Erickson’s former full-service restaurant in Fremont transformed into a fast-casual counter spot and grocer in 2020, but hasn’t lost its charm. Customers can find charcuterie, cheese, wine, and fresh pasta, as well as a selection of full made-to-order meals, including a geoduck clam ceviche with ginger crème fraiche and black cod in a pastry crust with curry sauce and melted leeks.  

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3506 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103

12. Canlis

2576 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
The exterior of Canlis at dusk, with the brick facade moodily lit.
Canlis has been a fine-dining Seattle staple for 71 years.
Canlis/Facebook

In March 2020, the Canlis family — who owns the 71-year-old Queen Anne icon — posted on its website that “fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now.” Since then, the restaurant wasn’t afraid to try out a host of different looks, including a burger drive-thru, but has now returned to full indoor service with new executive chef Aisha Ibrahim at the helm. The past year of creative menu shifts and a super-seasonal approach from Ibrahim inspired by Japanese kaiseki cooking has re-energized a classic. The current four course menu offers options like poached and chilled mussels with kohlrabi, striploin with green onion and celeriac, and grilled sablefish with matsutake mushrooms.

2576 Aurora Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109

13. Ba Sa

101 Winslow Way E, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Vietnamese siblings Trinh and Thai Nguyen— who came to the U.S. as refugees — explore the food of their childhood at this excellent modern Bainbridge Island restaurant. Southeast Asian flavors meet locally farmed and foraged ingredients in dishes like its pho, served with dry-aged ribeye or mushrooms, while small plates like the shrimp and pork wontons swimming in pools of chili and truffle oil and the tempura soft shell crab with tamarind ponzu offer moments of decadence. The wood-floored dining room is decorated with a 10-foot-wide painting of a catfish that oversees diners who take ferries from all over the Seattle area for the Nguyens’ cooking.

101 Winslow Way E
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

14. Kedai Makan

1802 Bellevue Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
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

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.

1802 Bellevue Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

15. Spinasse

1531 14th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
tajarin pasta with butter and sage sauce on a white place.
Tajarin pasta with butter and sage sauce
Spinasse [Official]

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, one might want to 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.

1531 14th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

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16. Jerk Shack

2510 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

Chef-owner Trey Lamont crafts Jamaican dishes and other Caribbean-influenced fare at this colorful Belltown restaurant and bar, where reggae is always playing. The namesake jerk chicken has a sneaky kick, while the remoulade sauce on the fried white fish is a star on its own — and the portions are always generous. Don’t sleep on the many potent rum cocktails on the menu, like the Carribean Sunset (chilled with a rum and pineapple ice cube), which enhance the party vibes.

2510 1st Ave
Seattle, WA 98121

17. Taurus Ox

1523 E Madison St suite 101, Seattle, WA 98122
A collection of Laotian dishes at the new restaurant, Taurus Ox.
Taurus Ox specializes in Laotian dishes.
Taurus Ox/Instagram

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.

1523 E Madison St suite 101
Seattle, WA 98122

18. Stateside

300 E Pike St #1200, Seattle, WA 98122
A selection of colorful plates from Stateside, including cumin ribs
Stateside has both dine-in and takeout options.
Stateside/Instagram

Chef Eric Johnson, who’s worked at Michelin-starred restaurants with some of the world’s best chefs, cooks casual but elegant dishes at his Capitol Hill restaurant specializing in Southeast Asian cuisine. Since opening in 2015, he’s won over Seattle diners with dishes like chili cumin pork ribs, fried master stock chicken, and crispy duck fresh rolls. In addition to reopening for dine-in, Stateside is also bottling some sauces for retail (the Sriracha made with Alvarez Farms chilis should be a staple in any pantry), and the well-conceived cocktails, featuring Southeast Asian ingredients like galangal and lime leaf, typically pack a punch.

300 E Pike St #1200
Seattle, WA 98122

19. Plum Bistro

1429 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
Plum Bistro’s mac ‘n’ cheese twist known as Mac & Yease against a green turf background.
Mac and Yease from Plum Bistro
Plum Bistro [Official Photo]

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. Takeout orders go through Toast, delivery is available via Caviar and Doordash, and there’s now onsite dining.

1429 12th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

20. Communion Restaurant and Bar

2350 E Union St, Seattle, WA 98122

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 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 dine in.

2350 E Union St
Seattle, WA 98122

21. Sushi Kashiba

86 Pine St #1, Seattle, WA 98101
A selection of orange-colored nigiri on a plate
Chef Shiro Kashiba studied under the legendary Jiro Ono.
Sushi Kashiba [Official]

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 best-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, although Kashiba’s popular black cod off the a la carte menu is also stellar.