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The 38 Essential Restaurants, January 2013

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It's time to update the Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" This group covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs. Every couple of months, we'll be adding pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible, or have stepped up their game.

Is your favorite restaurant not on the list? Feel free to nominate it for inclusion in the comments or hit up the tipline.


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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Art of the Table

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Chef Dustin Ronspies quietly runs his weekly supper club that offers a special occasion dining experience at terrific prices. They've quietly instituted a full bar and more casual, no reservation nights. A coveted seat at the open kitchen is the best seat in the house.

Bakery Nouveau

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The lines haven't let up much since nationally acclaimed baker William Leaman opened shop in December 2007. The homemade breads, pastries and candies are unparalleled in Seattle and totally worth the wait. April saw the opening of a second location on Capitol Hill.

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Bar Del Corso

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Bar del Corso's Jerry Corso built a reputation for himself in kitchens around Seattle and now has a place, and a pizza oven, to call his own. Crowds descend upon his Beacon Hill storefront for wood-fired Neapolitan-style pies and "cucina" with a Northwest seasonal flare.

Bar Sajor

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Matt Dillon's first Pioneer Square project, credited for helping to revitalize the neighborhood, is a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant that is big, bright, airy and downright gorgeous. Plates are just as pretty: chilled Dungeness crab with garlic mayo, king salmon cured in honey & camomile, and lamb leg cooked on the rotisserie are just some of the menu minglers. Don't leave without ordering the homemade sourdough bread.

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Blind Pig Bistro

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Charles Walpole is having fun cooking at his own place, and you can tell with the elegantly plated, beautifully crafted food. Befitting someone who was formerly a chef at Anchovies & Olvies, he is particularly talented with seafood.

Cafe Campagne

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A longtime favorite respite for locals who like to duck into Seattle's answer to Paris for a carafe of wine and some frites, this quaint Pike Place Market bistro is a little slice of baguette heaven complete with cobblestone patio for those rare sun-soaked extended lunches.

A full-on dinner here is definitely a blow-your-paycheck event. Thank goodness for the bar menu, which offers some moderately priced bites. You can also order a plate or two from the main menu and experience the talents of chef Jason Franey without the triple-digit tab. Though the food and service has no peers in Seattle, the cocktails from bar manager James MacWilliams are worth a trip alone.

Crush has been integral in defining that area between Capitol Hill and Madison Valley since opening Valentines Day 2005. Fitting, since diners tend to have a love affair with this place, crushing on chef/owner Jason Wilson's knack to modernize Northwest cuisine. Truffles, pork belly and foie gras are pretty standard menu items here.

Delancey

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Brandon Pettit's perfectly fired seasonal pizzas and cunningly simple sides make this a Seattle institution. Don't miss the desserts, either. Some come for the salted chocolate chip cookies alone.

Fonda La Catrina

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One of the most common complaints heard is that Seattle lacks authentic Mexican food. This Georgetown semi-newcomer is where you should bring the complainers who can watch as their tortillas are made fresh right in front of them. The pozole and pork tamales are clear winners.

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Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant

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There are a lot of hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurants in Seattle, but this is the spot discerning diners keep coming back to. There's something very comforting and satisfying about the food. The fresh salads, noodle dishes and spring rolls have a cult following. The portion sizes here are plentiful and cheap, so come hungry.

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How To Cook A Wolf

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It's not Ethan Stowell's newest restaurant, but How to Cook a Wolf encapsulates the chef's unfussy, Italian-via-Northwest style. The wood-wrapped, copper-punctuated space also stands out as one of the most unique dining rooms in Seattle.

Il Corvo

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Mike Easton's hand made pasta and charcuterie has become a regular habit for lunch goers, who now have more than twice as much space to nosh in with Il Corvo's recent move to Pioneer Square.

It may no longer be the buzziest restaurant in town (although its popularity saw a spike when it relocated from Wallingford to Fremont last October), but the French/Korean fusion restaurant continues to inspire. The 'new' Joule is a celebration of beef and Korean-style steakhouses. Weekend brunch is also notable: an urban barbecue format that features a communal table filled with all sorts of goodies.

La Bête

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Chef/owner Aleks Dimitrijevic impresses with hearty steaks, Merguez sausage and pork rinds, but exhibits that same talent with a more delicate crudo or, say, a sesaonal tomato tart. The menu feels a little French, the dining room feels a little like a fairy tale.

La Carta De Oaxaca

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The only thing better than the mole, the salsa bar and the damn delicious casual Oaxacan food--how little it costs to eat yourself silly. Brace yourself for a crowd, but the end result is well worth it.

La Medusa

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Columbia City and its environs are rather short on dining destinations, but, La Medusa offers a frequently changing market-driven menu of Sicilian fare that would be a gem in any neighborhood.

Considered required eating by many a food type around town, Lark is elegant, intimate and special without being pretentious. The small plate style of dining takes the stress out of ordering, as it's protocol here to order a bunch of things and share, family-style. The menu is heavy on vegetables, grains, meat and fish: all innovative, classic, familiar and delicious.

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Le Pichet

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This French bistro possesses both a legendary roast chicken and an informal charm that makes you want to linger all afternoon with some charcuterie and cheese.

Little Uncle

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Perhaps no other restaurant represents Seattle's love affair with pop-ups more than one of the original success stories. Little Uncle was founded by chefs PK and Wiley Frank (former sous chef at Lark), who started their Thai mecca as a pop-up called Shophouse. Now, Little Uncle is the go-to for some of the best Thai food in the city. And as of June 11, the little shack on Madison now has a much larger subterranean sibling in Pioneer Square.

Madison Park Conservatory

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Cormac Mahoney has developed a cult-like following with his elegant Madison Park restaurant. The full menu is available at the bar upstairs, which has a cozier vibe than the formal dining room.

Getting seats at this 107-year-old Japanese restaurant can be an utter puzzlement, but should you crack the code, the mind-boggling list of specials are where it's at.

Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky

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Every night, by reservation only, patrons who plan ahead are rewarded with Ma'ono's immensely popular fried chicken dinner. As one of the four flavor options, the Korean-style doles up crispy chicken in a tangy gochujang sauce. Aside from their chicken, the kalbi short ribs are also a tempting option.

Matt's in the Market

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The quality of food hasn't flagged since founder Matt Janke sold the restaurant to Dan Bugge, who recently promoted Shane Ryan to exec chef. The location overlooking Pike Place Market's famous sign is also about as Seattle as it gets.

Mistral Kitchen

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Chef William Belickis's white-linen Mistral has been reborn as a many-nooked restaurant that offers a bar scene, plain old dinner, or a restaurant-within-a-restaurant fine dining experience. The food hasn't faltered since he opened three years ago.

Monsoon

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A fixture on Capitol Hill since 1999, Monsoon blends traditional Vietnamese cuisine with the bounty of local products from the Pacific Northwest. Here, they can say they were doing "northwest inspired" dishes before it was assumed. The menu has been solid since the get-go and the food hasn't faltered. What to order: anything slow-cooked in a clay pot (fish, chicken), the banana cake, and their dim sum brunch. If you haven't been in years, now's the time.

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Paseo Caribbean Restaurant

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The messy Cuban-style sandwiches have developed an epic fan base, and a reliable line of people waiting for their fix.

The continued hype surrounding Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi's Fremont spot is well-deserved. This follow-up to the popular Joule is casual, largely Asian street food inspired and a fantastic (reasonably priced) experience for brunch, lunch or dinner. Grab a cocktail at adjacent bar Quoin after dinner.

Saigon Deli

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There's no lack of banh mi in Seattle, but Saigon Deli in the International District has a long-standing reputation as the best. Even The New York Times consideres it one of the best 13 Vietnamese baguettes in the country. And they're less than $3.

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Braving the lines for cured meat sandwiches and hot fare like porchetta is a Seattle rite of passage. Salumi is open just a handful of days and only for lunch, so come prepared for crowds. And yes, it's worth it. At least once. And probably more.

Shiro's

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Sushi joints are a dime a dozen in this city, but Shiro's will always be at the top of the heap. Both Shiro Kashiba and his right hand man, Daisuke Nakazawa, trained under Jiro Ono (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi).

Sitka and Spruce

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This is about as Seattle as it gets: Chef Matt Dillon; Northwest ingredients; and dishes that seem disarmingly simple, until you realize you could never recreate them yourself. Sitka's location inside the Melrose Market is also absurdly quaint.

Spinasse

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Jason Stratton has made this trattoria inexorably his own with memorable pastas and Piedmont-influenced fare. Plus its recent expansion makes it (slightly) easier to get a table. Make sure to stop by the adjoining Artusi bar for a cocktail before you say, 'Ciao.'

Spur Gastropub

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This Belltown destination has major cocktail credibility, but chefs Brian McCracken and Dana Tough produce food with a modernist flair that feels memorable, not gimmicky.

Terra Plata

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One of the anchors of the Melrose Triangle, Terra Plata is about a commitment to local producers. In chef/owner Tamara Murphy's words: "We’re not Spanish. We’re not Italian. It’s about what’s fresh and what we feel like cooking that day. The menu will always be changing, always evolving". Don't miss the rooftop garden, where Murphy is often found grilling during the warmer months.

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Tsukushinbo

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A tiny, unmarked hole in the wall, Tsukushinbo is the go-to for authentic Japanese food in the International District. There's a sushi bar and handful of tables that fill-up within moments of the doors swinging open. If you don't have a reservation, your wait might be a long one (and there's no waiting room). Needing your GPS to find the place is part of its charm, because you won't want people knowing where it is.

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The Walrus and the Carpenter

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Yes, the oysters are delicious (just ask Frank Bruni). But Renee Erickson's oyster bar also offers seemingly simple small plates of seafood and beautiful in-season fare that keep the tucked-away dining room reliably packed. Show up the minute doors open or settle in for waits of an hour or more.

The Whale Wins

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Erickson's Walrus follow-up made a big splash when it opened in the Fremont Collective in October, 2012. Recently, Bon Appetit named it one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in America 2013. Here, in this charming, cheery place, expect an abundance of delicious seasonal vegetables, wood oven-fired meats and fish, pickled treats and fresh baked desserts — favorites from Erickson's childhood and European travels.

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Art of the Table

Chef Dustin Ronspies quietly runs his weekly supper club that offers a special occasion dining experience at terrific prices. They've quietly instituted a full bar and more casual, no reservation nights. A coveted seat at the open kitchen is the best seat in the house.

Bakery Nouveau

The lines haven't let up much since nationally acclaimed baker William Leaman opened shop in December 2007. The homemade breads, pastries and candies are unparalleled in Seattle and totally worth the wait. April saw the opening of a second location on Capitol Hill.

[Photo Credit]

Bar Del Corso

Bar del Corso's Jerry Corso built a reputation for himself in kitchens around Seattle and now has a place, and a pizza oven, to call his own. Crowds descend upon his Beacon Hill storefront for wood-fired Neapolitan-style pies and "cucina" with a Northwest seasonal flare.

Bar Sajor