I received an email this evening from a friend who’s visiting Seattle in a few weeks. She wanted to know what I recommended for restaurants in the area. I started to scribble a couple of names, but the effort soon ballooned into a full-blown list. I’m sharing it here for your digestion (pun intended). This way, if anybody else ever asks me for good “local” food, I can just point ’em here.
For seafood, I’d recommend Salty’s on Alki – great view of downtown seattle and the Sound at night. Great food, too. 🙂 I like their seared ahi, but (then again) that’s pretty much all I get there. Ponzi always seems to enjoy the salmon or white fish. The valet parking is nice.
For fondue, try The Melting Pot. If you’ve never been to a fondue restaurant before, it’s worth trying. Ponzi found out about this place while she was visiting Thailand (!) – so we went there last night and really enjoyed ourselves. Be prepared to stuff yourself silly. This is a “must” for any cheese lover. I’d recommend going as a couple, but not as a double-date – because everybody pretty much shares the same pot of everything.
For sushi, I’d recommend Chinoise on Madison. I personally love sitting at the sushi bar and ordering “Omakase,” which you should be able to do at any sushi bar. That’s when the chef makes whatever he things is good – and you get to experience great flavors that aren’t on the menu. We also like Toyoda, Ototo, I Love Sushi (Bellevue, NOT Seattle), Saitos, Maneki, Rain, and Kozue (Kozui?). I’ve heard “Wasabi” is great, but it sounds overpriced and too trendy.
For dim sum, it’s all about Top Gun. Let me put it to you this way: I’m usually the only gringo in the joint when we go. We’ve tried a few places in Chinatown, but they weren’t as nice. Sunday mornings at Top Gun are a madhouse. Worth doing, even if you’ve never had dim sum before (which is more of a breakfast/brunch meal).
For pho, it all depends on your taste. “What the Pho” in Bellevue is a pretty safe flavor. “Pho Bac” is also good in the International district, I hear. If you’ve never had Pho before, it’s pretty much soup with a lot of noodles and a meat of choice. There’s a lot of pho out there. Try the young coconut juice if you go.
For doughnuts, try Mighty-O Donuts. They make ’em without hydrogenated oils, so they’re “healhtier” for you. I can’t eat any other donuts in the city, so this is pretty much it for me. If you’re gonna be decadent in the morning, you might as well minimize the artery damage.
For coffee, Zoka beats the hell out of Starbucks. I don’t drink it anymore, but Ponzi would make me drive all the way across town just so she could have something from Zoka – passing a million Starbucks en route. The one in Tangletown (north of the Wallingford district) is across the street from Mighty-O.
For steak, I’ve always had an awesome filet at the Pampas Room (which I believe is downstairs from El Gaucho). I’d probably recommend a chain like Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris, too. The Keg also has a pretty good steak, if you’re into the “down home” atmosphere.
For online dinner reservations, by the way, I’ve been using OpenTable. You don’t need to sign up for an account, and it’s got a great range of tastes for you to choose from if you’re in the mood for something new or different. I found out about it when I was looking to make reservations for a place in Las Vegas. Wonderful free service here.
For slightly “trendy” dining with good flavor and good prices, try the Black Bottle in downtown Seattle. Their potato and cauliflower dish is awesome (and I hate cauliflower), as is their bread with sundried cherries… oh, and the hanger (?) steak is also amazing. I was quite suprised – and judging from the crowd, this is a real winner.
For Italian, Machiaveli’s. It also happens to be across the street from “The Chapel,” which used to be a funeral home – where Bruce Lee lived and (subsequently) had his funeral. How’s that for a little bit of history? There’s also a nice Italian place kitty-corner from the Seattle Public Library, but its name escapes me at the moment.
For Pizza, it really depends where you are. I’ve personally fallen in love with All-Purpose Pizza – “Ked’s Fave,” in particular. It may not be close to where you’re staying, though – and the concierge may be able to recommend something a bit closer that might be just as good. Just avoid Pizza Hut if you can at all help it – or any nationwide chain, for that matter.
For late night dining, try the reuben sandwich at 13 coins. We’ve been there a few times when we were feeling like having comfort food. Decor hasn’t been updated since the late ’50s (or so it seems). If you’re hungry at 3AM, this is pretty much the only game in town I’d recommend without reservation. We’ve been there a few times, but only once “after hours.”
For Ethiopian, get over to Queen Sheba. If you’ve never tried Ethiopian, it’s very spicy (and very tasty). I’d recommend getting the meat and veggie samplers, and you’ll be set for four people. For two, I’d likely choose one over the other.
For casual dining for lunch or dinner, try BluWater in Leschi (not the other one). It’s always filling. Even though we kinda live down the street from it, we don’t go there as often as we could – largely because there are so many other great restaurants in Seattle for us to try. We’ve been here for a year, and probably sampled 1/100th of what’s out there.
For burgers, it’s Dick’s Drive-in. They’re not gonna be gigantic burgers, but for fast food, this is excellent. Try one while you’re here, if you can. Kidd Valley is also pretty good (and Ponzi likes their garlic fries). For Hot Dogs, go to Diggity Dog Hot Dogs – which is near Zoka and Mighty-O.
For Russian, go with My Favorite Piroshki. They’re like sandwiches, with many of them comprised of ground beef and potatoes. If you’ve never had one, they might be worth trying – just to say you had one.
For Greek, you must go to the Mediterranean Kitchen. We found this place on accident and fell in love with it instantly. The baba ganoush is out of this world. Great prices, greasy spoon atmosphere. When we’re doing something in the neighborhood, we always stop by – if only for the baba ganoush. Did I mention that I love their baba ganoush?
For Mexican, we’re happy with any Taco Del Mar. 😉 I haven’t heard of many great Mexican restaurants up here in Seattle. Everybody seems to be disappointed. Then again, many of us have never had authentic Mexican – so we’re happy with whatever we find. Again, stay away from chains.
For Chinese, you must go to Bamboo Garden. It’s Chinese cuisine – with no meat. You’d be surprised at how realistic the sweet and sour chicken tastes. We don’t really eat a lot of Chinese, but when we do, this is typically where we go. I’ve also heard that Seven Stars is also unique.
For something unique, try Coastal Kitchen. Every few months, their menu changes to highlight a different culture! Right now, they’re serving Portugese. The Chow Foods restaurant family has always had great food, including the 5 Spot. This would be a great choice if you’re not sure what you want to eat.
For Thai, Thai Ginger or Wild Ginger are pretty good. If you want authentic Thai, I’d recommend Thai Heaven. Ponzi’s really picky when it comes to Thai – because she’s had the real deal. She doesn’t like Racha Thai at all, but I think it’s great.
For a general dining experience, we found McCormick & Schmick’s to be good (and they’re the ones who cater Gnomedex). Some might find it a bit stuffy, and some younger friends of ours said that it seemed to cater to the 60+ crowd, but I would certainly go back if given the opportunity. We had lunch there, but I’d imagine the dinner would be just as nice.
For fusion, try Seastar restaurant for lunch or dinner. Try the deviled eggs – topped with Tobiko! This is over in Bellevue again, but I get a kick out of the lamps – which remind me of the miracle of birth. You have to see it to really understand what I mean. Anyway, Seastar is a good choice for a good meal – alebeit a little overpriced, IMHO.