clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
You don't make friends with salad — unless it's the Canlis Salad.
You don't make friends with salad — unless it's the Canlis Salad.
Courtesy of Brian Canlis

Iconic Dishes That Define Seattle Dining, Mapped

Classics to share with visitors

View as Map
You don't make friends with salad — unless it's the Canlis Salad.
| Courtesy of Brian Canlis

Diners in Seattle, whether they're moss-backed natives or transplants who just happen to live here now, probably do what everyone else does on an average night: Go for pizza or teriyaki or burgers, right? But when visitors come to Seattle, whether it's an old college roommate or Aunt Minnie from Minneapolis, they tend to clamor for the entire "Seattle experience." Fair enough.

So here's a primer to the area's iconic dishes that should satisfy first-timers and veterans of the local scene — and they don't even require a trip up the Space Needle. There's plenty of seafood, like oysters at Taylor Shellfish Farms bars; there's classy Canlis' compelling table-side salad; there's the ultimate pho at Ba Bar; and there's even the cheeky inclusion of a ubiquitous cinnamon bun for the sweet-toothed.

Note: Map points are listed geographically and no ranking is implied. What iconic dish(es) do you insist on sharing with Emerald City visitors? Show some love in the comments, send an email, or start a forum thread.

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

Salty's on Alki

Copy Link

If it's a weekend and the sky is clear (and someone else is picking up the check) you should consider a traditional brunch buffet at Salty's; it's the best waterfront view in town.

Metropolitan Grill

Copy Link

If you want to show your visitors the baddest steak in town, order the long-bone, bone-in ribeye at Metropolitan Grill — especially if your visitors are from Texas.

Elliott's Oyster House

Copy Link

Don't miss the freshly-steamed Dungeness crab here. The restaurant's splashy service (cloth napkins, crab crackers) is without peer. (Naturally, Elliott's is a great spot for oysters, too.)

Place Pigalle

Copy Link

If it's mussels you're after, Place Pigalle has an excellent recipe, with Zoe's smoked bacon, celery, shallots, and balsamic vinaigrette. (Nearby Maximilien is another great option for mussels.)

Seatown Seabar & Rotisserie

Copy Link

If all you want (hah!) is perfect salmon, you'll have great luck throughout the city, especially with local restaurateur Tom Douglas' restaurants, including Seatown and Etta's. (Local chain Anthony's Homeport is another safe bet.) The wide availability of wild-caught fish from the Copper River and Yukon runs has made high-quality salmon a familiar ingredient for dozens of local chefs. Along that line: avoid the temptation to ask for medium rare. "It really does taste better when it's cooked all the way through," says fish guru Jon Rowley.

Le Pichet

Copy Link

If you want to be transported directly to Paris, order a glass of Beaujolais here and nibble on the gâteau de foie de vollaile, a smooth-as-silk chicken liver pâté, served with a baguette, Amora mustard, and cornichons.

Ba Bar

Copy Link

Pho is the ultimate Vietnamese street food, sold from braziers on every street corner. In Seattle, the Health Department insists the broth be prepared indoors, more's the pity, but thankfully the bureaucrats haven't yet stuck their instant-read thermometers into the raw tenderloin. That said, perhaps the best pho in town is the oxtail version at Ba Bar, which cuts its own noodles and uses local ingredients. A couple of bucks more expensive than your average bowl, but you know the mantra: You get what you pay for.

Cascina Spinasse

Copy Link

Spinasse's success was predicated on the great taste of homemade pasta, and its tajarin with butter and sage sauce has become a classic.

Taylor Shellfish Farms

Copy Link

The nation's top supplier of premium shellfish has three oyster bars of its own to satisfy Seattle's demand for fresh bivalves. The stores (takeout or dine-in, full bar) are in Melrose Market, Lower Queen Anne, and Pioneer Square. Taylor's shuckers are so good, you'd be forgiven if you suspected them of "washing" the oysters — they don't. Treat yourself to a dozen (especially the plump Virginicas, or the tiny Olympias) and a glass of one of the winning West Coast oyster wines like Cedergreen Sauvignon Blanc, and then go have dinner.

Mondello Ristorante Italiano

Copy Link

At this much-lauded neighborhood spot, Mamma Enza assembles several hotel pans of lasagna bolognese every week, luckily for you.

The word "iconic" is intimately linked to the Canlis Salad, prepared table-side by a maître d'hotel. Chilled romaine, olive oil, lemon juice, chopped bacon, a coddled egg, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and slivered green onions showered with romano cheese, mint, and oregano.

Courtesy of Brian Canlis

Cinnabon

Copy Link

If you're the one who's out of town, and you want a genuine taste of home, you could do worse than follow your nose through the nearest mall to the inevitable Cinnabon. Not quite as ubiquitous as Starbucks' coffee, but very much a Seattle export, created by Edmonds baker Jerilyn Brusseau for Restaurants Unlimited three decades ago.

Original Pancake House

Copy Link

For another breakfast treat, make your way to the Original Pancake House for the classic Dutch Baby pancake, hot and quivering from the oven. Tilikum Place Cafe, near the Space Needle, does another perfect example of this baked classic.

Salty's on Alki

If it's a weekend and the sky is clear (and someone else is picking up the check) you should consider a traditional brunch buffet at Salty's; it's the best waterfront view in town.

Metropolitan Grill

If you want to show your visitors the baddest steak in town, order the long-bone, bone-in ribeye at Metropolitan Grill — especially if your visitors are from Texas.

Elliott's Oyster House

Don't miss the freshly-steamed Dungeness crab here. The restaurant's splashy service (cloth napkins, crab crackers) is without peer. (Naturally, Elliott's is a great spot for oysters, too.)

Place Pigalle

If it's mussels you're after, Place Pigalle has an excellent recipe, with Zoe's smoked bacon, celery, shallots, and balsamic vinaigrette. (Nearby Maximilien is another great option for mussels.)

Seatown Seabar & Rotisserie

If all you want (hah!) is perfect salmon, you'll have great luck throughout the city, especially with local restaurateur Tom Douglas' restaurants, including Seatown and Etta's. (Local chain Anthony's Homeport is another safe bet.) The wide availability of wild-caught fish from the Copper River and Yukon runs has made high-quality salmon a familiar ingredient for dozens of local chefs. Along that line: avoid the temptation to ask for medium rare. "It really does taste better when it's cooked all the way through," says fish guru Jon Rowley.

Le Pichet

If you want to be transported directly to Paris, order a glass of Beaujolais here and nibble on the gâteau de foie de vollaile, a smooth-as-silk chicken liver pâté, served with a baguette, Amora mustard, and cornichons.

Ba Bar

Pho is the ultimate Vietnamese street food, sold from braziers on every street corner. In Seattle, the Health Department insists the broth be prepared indoors, more's the pity, but thankfully the bureaucrats haven't yet stuck their instant-read thermometers into the raw tenderloin. That said, perhaps the best pho in town is the oxtail version at Ba Bar, which cuts its own noodles and uses local ingredients. A couple of bucks more expensive than your average bowl, but you know the mantra: You get what you pay for.

Cascina Spinasse

Spinasse's success was predicated on the great taste of homemade pasta, and its tajarin with butter and sage sauce has become a classic.

Taylor Shellfish Farms

The nation's top supplier of premium shellfish has three oyster bars of its own to satisfy Seattle's demand for fresh bivalves. The stores (takeout or dine-in, full bar) are in Melrose Market, Lower Queen Anne, and Pioneer Square. Taylor's shuckers are so good, you'd be forgiven if you suspected them of "washing" the oysters — they don't. Treat yourself to a dozen (especially the plump Virginicas, or the tiny Olympias) and a glass of one of the winning West Coast oyster wines like Cedergreen Sauvignon Blanc, and then go have dinner.

Mondello Ristorante Italiano

At this much-lauded neighborhood spot, Mamma Enza assembles several hotel pans of lasagna bolognese every week, luckily for you.

Canlis

Courtesy of Brian Canlis

The word "iconic" is intimately linked to the Canlis Salad, prepared table-side by a maître d'hotel. Chilled romaine, olive oil, lemon juice, chopped bacon, a coddled egg, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and slivered green onions showered with romano cheese, mint, and oregano.

Courtesy of Brian Canlis

Cinnabon

If you're the one who's out of town, and you want a genuine taste of home, you could do worse than follow your nose through the nearest mall to the inevitable Cinnabon. Not quite as ubiquitous as Starbucks' coffee, but very much a Seattle export, created by Edmonds baker Jerilyn Brusseau for Restaurants Unlimited three decades ago.

Original Pancake House

For another breakfast treat, make your way to the Original Pancake House for the classic Dutch Baby pancake, hot and quivering from the oven. Tilikum Place Cafe, near the Space Needle, does another perfect example of this baked classic.