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A deli spread with fried items, steamed buns, stir fries,, soups, and more.
The deli spread at Saigon Vietnam Deli.
Jay Friedman/Eater Seattle

16 Seriously Underrated Restaurants in the Seattle Area

The unsung heroes of the dining scene

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The deli spread at Saigon Vietnam Deli.
| Jay Friedman/Eater Seattle

Over the last few years, Seattle’s restaurant scene has risen to even greater national prominence, and some of the city’s best establishments and chefs have attracted an enormous amount of media attention.

But what about those hidden gems, the neighborhood favorites that make outstanding food without the praise showered on the shinier spots? Maybe they're way off the beaten path, tucked away in a lesser-known corner of the neighborhood, or maybe they don't have dedicated PR teams. Whatever the case, they deserve more love. With that in mind, here's a map highlighting 16 of Seattle's seriously underrated restaurants.

New this month: Thaiku, Off Alley, Gan Bei

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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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Samburna Indian Restaurant

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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

This Thai restaurant, which started off as Fremont Noodle House in 1995, consistently offers some of the best Thai classics in town, served with carefully crafted cocktails in a restaurant space with a large outdoor patio. The yum tua fahk yow is a nicely balanced dish of prawns, ground pork and toasted coconut in a tangy-sweet coconut milk sauce, the papaya salad is funky with small dried shrimp, and the khao soi’s turmeric-heavy broth is restorative.

Despite doing brisk business, it seems this Caribbean-themed restaurant is on the radar of only those in the neighborhood; otherwise, it's not nearly as celebrated as similar shops like Un Bien and Paseo. But the sandwich and plate selection here is much broader, and the flavors just as indulgent, with ingredients like braised pork, jerk chicken, yucca fries, and fried plantains.

Sen Noodle Bar

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This small Thai noodle spot, a sister restaurant to Pestle Rock next door, serves some of the best pad see ew in the city and a huge selection of excellent noodle soups and stir fries made with locally sourced meat, a rarity in Seattle’s Thai food scene. Diners can build their own noodle bowls (the clear broth soup with a pork patty and thin rice noodles is a restorative option), or choose dishes like guay jab, rolled rice noodles with pork spare ribs, tofu, and a hard boiled egg in a five-spice broth fragrant with star anise. 

Little Duck

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This pint-sized restaurant (with just a few tables inside) next to a laundromat in the University District serves some of the best Chinese food in the city. The focus here is on Northeastern Chinese dishes, like the braised pork ribs potatoes and green beans, but the menu also includes dishes from other parts of China, and the fried rice dishes here are consistently satisfying. It also serves particularly refreshing jellyfish salad with cucumber matchsticks. Open for indoor dining and takeout.

Union Saloon

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Wallingford’s Union Saloon is flying criminally under the radar. The restaurant maintains a convivial combination of neighborhood watering hole and high-brow comfort food. The kitchen composes dishes that range from thoughtful seasonal vegetable small plates to downright delicious twists on comfort food like barbecue brisket and fried chicken. The attention to detail here makes it clear this is a labor of love.

Dan Gui Sichuan Cuisine

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This restaurant in a strip mall in Bellevue’s Bel-Red neighborhood serves some of the best Sichuan food in the Seattle area, at much lower prices than most of its competitors. The mapo tofu (made with fermented black beans and chili fava bean paste) has unparalleled depth. The cold dishes, like cucumber salad and wood-ear salad, are refreshing and satisfying. And the restaurant also serves excellent renditions of American Chinese dishes like sweet and sour chicken — something that some of the other Sichuan restaurants in the area don’t offer.

Sal Y Limón

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This Lower Queen Anne (Uptown) Mexican restaurant receives shockingly little recognition considering the breadth and consistent quality of its menu. The red pozole here is deeply satisfying with big, juicy, tender pieces of pork, and the green ceviche is balanced and generously portioned. Go on a weekday lunch, and you’ll have the restaurant almost all to yourself.

Omega Ouzeri

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Omega Ouzeri's bright white and blue space on Capitol Hill transports diners to the Greek isles, where fresh seafood lands on the plate with an array of fresh ingredients from a deeply flavorful playbook. Meals can be assembled family-style, from multiple shared plates, and it all goes down smoothly with sips of ouzo.

Saigon Vietnam Deli

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Saigon Vietnam Deli has a longstanding reputation for quick, inexpensive eats. Banh mi options include pork, chicken, fish, tofu, and more, all around $4.50. The deli serves other grab-and-go items like fresh spring rolls and sesame balls. Though there’s no seating area, this busy deli is the definition of a hidden gem.

Gan Bei 21 and up

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This international-district restaurant (open until 2 a.m. most days) is a favorite among Seattle restaurant industry folks for its comforting rice claypots filled with sausage, chicken, bok choy, and other ingredients, and for its fried chicken — served with rice and gravy. The XO-sauce-covered green beans are also not to be missed. The intimate bar at the restaurant is the perfect spot for a shot, a beer, and conversations with strangers after a long shift. Despite being one of Shota Nakajima’s favorite restaurants in Seattle, Gan Bei is not well-known outside of those who work in the restaurant industry.

Lily's Salvadorean Restaurant

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Lillian Anaya Quintanilla has been selling her golden-brown, crispy pupusas and banana-leaf-wrapped tamales at farmers markets around the Seattle area for more than 10 years, drawing customers willing to wait up to an hour for her food and Salvadoran-style horchata. On March 9, she finally opened her first restaurant, Lily’s Salvadorean Restaurant, in a large space in West Seattle, which now has a full bar serving beer, wine, micheladas, palomas, and margaritas. The chile rellenos on the menu, unlike the Mexican version which are filled just with cheese, are stuffed with pork or chicken with green beans, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms. The Salvadoran carne asada plate has thicker cuts than those at most Mexican restaurants and is served with chorizo sausage, fresh cheese, rice, beans, and avocado. But Quintanilla’s specialty is still her pupusas and the horchata de Morro, made with ground peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and rice.

A white plate with a griddle-marked sausage, a couple thin steaks, avocado, a pile of rice, and pico de gallo
The Salvadoran carne asada plate has thicker cuts than those at most Mexican restaurants and will be served with a chorizo sausage, fresh cheese, rice, beans, and avocado
Luis M. Flores

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. Menus change daily and are posted on a dedicated Instagram, and dishes are served until they run out. Leichtling 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. Perhaps because of the restaurant’s unique service style, or because it started during the height of the pandemic, Off Alley still flies criminally under the radar in Seattle’s food scene.

Amy's Merkato Eritrean & Ethiopian Restaurant and Deli

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Amy’s Merkato in Hillman City offers an impressive selection of Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Mediterranean dishes, as well as a coffee bar and market. Standouts include the veggie combo, beef or lamb tibs, foul, and falafel plate.

El Cabrito

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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. Sanchez 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

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.

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Samburna Indian Restaurant

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.

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

Thaiku

This Thai restaurant, which started off as Fremont Noodle House in 1995, consistently offers some of the best Thai classics in town, served with carefully crafted cocktails in a restaurant space with a large outdoor patio. The yum tua fahk yow is a nicely balanced dish of prawns, ground pork and toasted coconut in a tangy-sweet coconut milk sauce, the papaya salad is funky with small dried shrimp, and the khao soi’s turmeric-heavy broth is restorative.

Bongos

Despite doing brisk business, it seems this Caribbean-themed restaurant is on the radar of only those in the neighborhood; otherwise, it's not nearly as celebrated as similar shops like Un Bien and Paseo. But the sandwich and plate selection here is much broader, and the flavors just as indulgent, with ingredients like braised pork, jerk chicken, yucca fries, and fried plantains.

Sen Noodle Bar

This small Thai noodle spot, a sister restaurant to Pestle Rock next door, serves some of the best pad see ew in the city and a huge selection of excellent noodle soups and stir fries made with locally sourced meat, a rarity in Seattle’s Thai food scene. Diners can build their own noodle bowls (the clear broth soup with a pork patty and thin rice noodles is a restorative option), or choose dishes like guay jab, rolled rice noodles with pork spare ribs, tofu, and a hard boiled egg in a five-spice broth fragrant with star anise. 

Little Duck

This pint-sized restaurant (with just a few tables inside) next to a laundromat in the University District serves some of the best Chinese food in the city. The focus here is on Northeastern Chinese dishes, like the braised pork ribs potatoes and green beans, but the menu also includes dishes from other parts of China, and the fried rice dishes here are consistently satisfying. It also serves particularly refreshing jellyfish salad with cucumber matchsticks. Open for indoor dining and takeout.

Union Saloon

Wallingford’s Union Saloon is flying criminally under the radar. The restaurant maintains a convivial combination of neighborhood watering hole and high-brow comfort food. The kitchen composes dishes that range from thoughtful seasonal vegetable small plates to downright delicious twists on comfort food like barbecue brisket and fried chicken. The attention to detail here makes it clear this is a labor of love.

Dan Gui Sichuan Cuisine

This restaurant in a strip mall in Bellevue’s Bel-Red neighborhood serves some of the best Sichuan food in the Seattle area, at much lower prices than most of its competitors. The mapo tofu (made with fermented black beans and chili fava bean paste) has unparalleled depth. The cold dishes, like cucumber salad and wood-ear salad, are refreshing and satisfying. And the restaurant also serves excellent renditions of American Chinese dishes like sweet and sour chicken — something that some of the other Sichuan restaurants in the area don’t offer.

Sal Y Limón

This Lower Queen Anne (Uptown) Mexican restaurant receives shockingly little recognition considering the breadth and consistent quality of its menu. The red pozole here is deeply satisfying with big, juicy, tender pieces of pork, and the green ceviche is balanced and generously portioned. Go on a weekday lunch, and you’ll have the restaurant almost all to yourself.

Omega Ouzeri

Omega Ouzeri's bright white and blue space on Capitol Hill transports diners to the Greek isles, where fresh seafood lands on the plate with an array of fresh ingredients from a deeply flavorful playbook. Meals can be assembled family-style, from multiple shared plates, and it all goes down smoothly with sips of ouzo.

Saigon Vietnam Deli

Saigon Vietnam Deli has a longstanding reputation for quick, inexpensive eats. Banh mi options include pork, chicken, fish, tofu, and more, all around $4.50. The deli serves other grab-and-go items like fresh spring rolls and sesame balls. Though there’s no seating area, this busy deli is the definition of a hidden gem.

Gan Bei 21 and up

This international-district restaurant (open until 2 a.m. most days) is a favorite among Seattle restaurant industry folks for its comforting rice claypots filled with sausage, chicken, bok choy, and other ingredients, and for its fried chicken — served with rice and gravy. The XO-sauce-covered green beans are also not to be missed. The intimate bar at the restaurant is the perfect spot for a shot, a beer, and conversations with strangers after a long shift. Despite being one of Shota Nakajima’s favorite restaurants in Seattle, Gan Bei is not well-known outside of those who work in the restaurant industry.

Lily's Salvadorean Restaurant

A white plate with a griddle-marked sausage, a couple thin steaks, avocado, a pile of rice, and pico de gallo
The Salvadoran carne asada plate has thicker cuts than those at most Mexican restaurants and will be served with a chorizo sausage, fresh cheese, rice, beans, and avocado
Luis M. Flores

Lillian Anaya Quintanilla has been selling her golden-brown, crispy pupusas and banana-leaf-wrapped tamales at farmers markets around the Seattle area for more than 10 years, drawing customers willing to wait up to an hour for her food and Salvadoran-style horchata. On March 9, she finally opened her first restaurant, Lily’s Salvadorean Restaurant, in a large space in West Seattle, which now has a full bar serving beer, wine, micheladas, palomas, and margaritas. The chile rellenos on the menu, unlike the Mexican version which are filled just with cheese, are stuffed with pork or chicken with green beans, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms. The Salvadoran carne asada plate has thicker cuts than those at most Mexican restaurants and is served with chorizo sausage, fresh cheese, rice, beans, and avocado. But Quintanilla’s specialty is still her pupusas and the horchata de Morro, made with ground peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and rice.

A white plate with a griddle-marked sausage, a couple thin steaks, avocado, a pile of rice, and pico de gallo
The Salvadoran carne asada plate has thicker cuts than those at most Mexican restaurants and will be served with a chorizo sausage, fresh cheese, rice, beans, and avocado
Luis M. Flores

Off Alley

Chef Evan Leichtling and partner Meghna Prakash’s 14-seat brick-walled restaurant on Rainier Avenue doesn’t play by the rules. Inside, industry insiders chat with staff about the newest bottles in their hand-written list of natural wine, while punk rock blasts through the speakers and Leichling brings out plates of whatever he decided to cook that night. Menus change daily and are posted on a dedicated Instagram, and dishes are served until they run out. Leichtling 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. Perhaps because of the restaurant’s unique service style, or because it started during the height of the pandemic, Off Alley still flies criminally under the radar in Seattle’s food scene.

Amy's Merkato Eritrean & Ethiopian Restaurant and Deli

Amy’s Merkato in Hillman City offers an impressive selection of Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Mediterranean dishes, as well as a coffee bar and market. Standouts include the veggie combo, beef or lamb tibs, foul, and falafel plate.

El Cabrito

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

After five years as a food truck, El Cabrito became a brick-and mortar-restaurant 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. Sanchez 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

Related Maps

Antigua Guatemala Restaurant

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.

Related Maps