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This rustic Capitol Hill restaurant has a glassed-in pasta-making station and chef’s counter for watching talented young chef Jason Stratton cook terrific renditions of hearty Piedmontese classics. His signature dish is a tangle of hand-cut tajarin—thin egg-rich noodles—dressed with either butter and sage or a meaty ragù. At Spinasse’s new spot next door, Artusi, the focus is on Italian-inspired cocktails, aperitivos and food rooted in history—the Apicius salsa is an homage to the Roman gastronome. spinasse.com
The second restaurant from married chef duo Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi is a supercasual spot that specializes in tweaking the Korean dishes that Yang grew up with. There are gingery dumplings, pork belly–and–kimchi pancakes and rice bowls topped with beef short ribs, spicy daikon and shredded mustard greens. The tiny adjoining bar, Quoin, serves creative cocktails and house-infused soju in seasonal flavor combinations like grapefruit and lavender. revelseattle.com
At this Belltown gastropub, chefs Brian McCracken and Dana Tough use molecular-gastronomy techniques (sous vide, spherification) and novel flavor combinations; the pork belly sliders come with seasonal dressings like cranberry onion, Scotch whiskey and smoked orange marmalade. spurseattle.com
Photo © Jackie Donnelly.
Chefs Seif Chirchi and Rachel Yang met while working at the haute French restaurant Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in New York City. But Joule, which they opened in 2007 in Wallingford and relocated to Fremont in 2012, is anything but fancy and formal. Joule (the name refers to a unit of energy) has no tablecloths and an outdoor patio and open kitchen where the duo specialize in Korean-inflected French-American dishes with a focus on beef. joulerestaurant.com
Maria Hines sets a high bar for her Pacific Northwestern menu at Tilth in Wallingford, making nearly everything from scratch with almost entirely organic ingredients, including her own butter, vinegar and cheeses. At the Golden Beetle, which opened in Ballard in 2011, Hines uses that same commitment to excellent sourcing for a menu inspired by the robust flavors of Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and Lebanon. Certain nights, Hines steps out of the kitchen to crafts cocktails. The shaken Kalymnos, with Hendricks Gin, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, thyme honey syrup and sumac tincture, recalls a drink she had while rock climbing in Greece. goldenbeetle.com
With his own farm on Vashon Island, chef Matt Dillon always has plenty of impeccable produce for his restaurant in Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market. That’s key, because Dillon’s ever-changing menu of Mediterranean-inspired food is fairly simple and relies heavily on vegetables in dishes like fava-bean falafel with an orange, radish and date salad. The wood-burning oven is used for heartier dishes, like a roasted black bass with stinging nettles and seabeans. sitkaandspruce.com
Named for the oyster poachers in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, this Ballard oyster bar outfitted with stools and high tables specializes in Washington State bivalves. The selection is constantly in flux, but often includes Samish sweet oysters from Samish Bay and Hama Hama oysters from Mid Hood Canal. A nice touch: The trays arrive with a cheat sheet identifying each oyster. There are other locally harvested seafood and fish dishes as well as a short list of French-inspired salads and starters. thewalrusbar.com
Photo © John Granen.
At The Herbfarm, star chef Jerry Traunfeld made his name with lavish dinners built around ingredients from the restaurant’s nearby farmstead. At Poppy, which opened in a colorful, casual Capitol Hill space in 2008, Traunfeld finds inspiration in Indian thali—several small dishes served on a large tray. His seven- and 10-item thalis du jour look as much to the Pacific Northwest dining scene as they do to India, with dishes like herbed ricotta dumplings with nettles and sunchoke and nigella-and-poppy-seed-studded naan. poppyseattle.com
Photo © Thomas Barwick.
At his intimate Queen Anne restaurant named after M.F.K. Fisher’s classic book, self-taught star chef Ethan Stowell creates delicious, earthy dishes with Pacific Northwest produce and an Italian sensibility. He also has a knack for turning simple ingredients into transcendent plates, best showcased in pastas like spaghetti with anchovy, garlic and chile. His expanding Italian-inspired empire also includes the pasta-heavy Tavolàta, the seafood-focused Anchovies & Olives, and the small-plates specialist Staple & Fancy Mercantile the Roman trattoria Rione XIII. ethanstowellrestaurants.com
Chef William Belickis’s Mistral Kitchen is a massive 5,000-square-foot space with a huge menu that includes crudo, Neapolitan pizzas, superelegant desserts and wood-and-clay-tandoor-fired meat dishes. Surprisingly, it works. The four separate cooking stations execute all the food at a high level, which means diners just have to choose what sort of night they want: a la carte in the dining room, tasting menus in the quiet, minimalist Jewel Box room, drinks at the bar or small plates in one of the lounges. mistral-kitchen.com
At this rustic newcomer to the polished Madison Park neighborhood, Best New Chef 2012 Cormac Mahoney (a Sitka & Spruce alum) and chef de cuisine Zoi Antonitsas (a Top Chef Season 4 contestant) turn out exquisite dishes that nod to French and Italian cuisine as well as showcase their own adventurous spirit. The result: plates packed with multiple layers of unexpected flavor, such as tagliarini strands topped with an octopus-based Bolognese and a foie gras torchon accompanied by pickled rhubarb and rhubarb jam. madisonparkconservatory.com
Photo © Bob Peterson.
After 31 years working at Boeing, Armandino Batali (father of superstar chef Mario) opened this humble salumi shop in 1999 in the Pioneer Square neighborhood. His daughter, Gina Batali, and her husband, Brian D’Amato, now run the operation, and the meats are as terrific as ever—from the spicy sopressata to an unique mole salami, flavored with chocolate, cinnamon, and ancho and chipotle peppers. There’s almost always a line out the door of customers looking to grab salumi by the pound or take one of the sandwiches or soups to-go. The best way to guarantee a spot is to reserve for the five-course private lunches served on Wednesdays and Thursdays, a bargain at $40. salumicuredmeats.com
In a glass-walled building by star Pacific Northwest architect Roland Terry, this restaurant overlooking Lake Union has been one of Seattle’s most popular special occasion destinations for over 60 years. Opening night dishes from 1950 still dot the menu, like the Canlis Salad (served with a lemon, olive oil and coddled egg dressing). But its current plaudits are for chef Jason Franey (formerly of New York’s Eleven Madison Park) and his subtle cooking with unusual flourishes, like honey-rubbed duck that he ages for 14 days before roasting. Wine director Nelson Daquip presides over an 18,000-bottle cellar. canlis.com
This Japantown icon has been in business for over a century. The old-school dining room sees a constant stream of regulars, including Seattle star chef Matthew Dillon, who loves the takoyaki—balls of crêpelike batter filled with octopus and deep-fried, then topped with bonito shavings—and miso-marinated black cod collar. Alongside Japanese comfort food, there’s also sashimi and sushi at a 10-seat bar, and a cocktail lounge presided over by septuagenarian bartender Fusae Yokoyama, a Maneki fixture since the 1960s. manekirestaurant.com
Chef James Drohman and Joanne Herron’s just-over-a-decade-old brasserie near Pike Place Market is miniscule (just 32 seats in a narrow space). It’s also very French, from the white tiles on the floor to the menu loaded with pâté, saucisson and other hearty classics. Plan on a long meal if you want to try the house specialty, a roast chicken for two that requires an hour to prepare and comes with seasonal accompaniments like English peas, mushrooms, blue cheese and lemon cream sauce. The restaurant is also one of the city’s best values; all of the main courses are $20 or less. lepichetseattle.com
Photo © Traca Savadogo.
Tucked in between two nightclubs in Capitol Hill, this pocket-sized spot specializes in superfresh fried fish and seafood, served either with French fries or tucked into sandwiches with house-made condiments like smoked chile mayo or lemon aioli. Cheap and open until 2:30 a.m. on the weekends, it attracts a bar-hopping crowd. There are only a few stools, so most diners eat while standing along a wooden counter. pikestreetfishfry.net
Located in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese has the air of a modern-day dairy farm (minus the cows), as visitors can watch as large open vats of growth-hormone-free milk are transformed into curds and whey. The shop sells both its own handmade cheeses, like its signature 15-month-aged Flagship, a smooth, slightly nutty blend of cheddar and Gruyère cultures, as well as American artisanal varieties. The adjacent café, which has limited counter seating, serves fresh curds, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and a creamy macaroni and cheese with an Anaheim chile bite. beechershandmadecheese.com
Opened in 2007, this narrow, timber-ceilinged pizza joint by chef Tom Douglas, one of Seattle’s biggest restaurateurs, is the city’s most popular spot for artisanal pies. Its fantastically good pizzas are oval-shaped and properly blistered, with an airy, yeasty crust, and come topped with ingredients like house-cured meats, imported mozzarella or Penn Cove clams. tomdouglas.com
Bakeries, Coffee Bars and Breakfast Spots
Victrola’s three cafés focus on handpicked organic, fair-trade blends and single-origin crops. The flagship, opened in 2007 in a bright and airy 1920s building on East Pike Street, features exposed brick, wooden beams and cushy bright red couches. Coffee geeks take note: This location offers free weekly public cuppings, held every Wednesday at 11 a.m. victrolacoffee.com
Photo © Mark Klebeck.
Brothers Mark and Michael Klebeck had little restaurant experience when they opened the first location of their doughnut chain in 2002. But they did have a 40-year-old fried-dough recipe passed down from their Polish grandmother, and that’s become the basis for their incredible yeast-raised donuts that come in simple flavors like maple and coconut. Besides doughnuts, Top Pot also offers a few other pastries like chocolate-covered bars and sugar-glazed apple fritters. They are now at 12 locations and still growing, with a stand at Century Link Field and a food truck. toppotdoughnuts.com
At Dani Cone’s three Fuel Coffee locations, her excellent pies are secondary to the La Marzocco–pulled espresso drinks. Then Cone opened this pie shop in Capitol Hill’s Trace Lofts. There’s good coffee, but the focus is on classic nine-inch pies as well as all kinds of ingenious pie iterations, including the Piejar (baked in mini mason jars), the Piepop (on a stick) and the Flipside (similar to a turnover) in daily-changing sweet and savory flavors like cherry almond, coconut cream and chicken pot pie. high5pie.com
The ice cubes are hand-sawed from a 300-pound block of ice at this 1970s-inspired Belltown cocktail den with plush sofas and leather walls. Mixologist Zane Harris makes an excellent version of the eponymous drink (Scotch whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters) and creates originals like the Death of a Ladies Man with Calvados, dry sherry, apricot brandy and Zucca, a complex rhubarb-based amaro. The menu sticks to bar snacks and comfort foods like pickled eggs and mac ‘n’ cheese. robroyseattle.com
From the duo behind the gastropub Spur, Tavern Law in Capitol Hill serves classic cocktails as well as those with barrel-aged whiskey and gin. There’s also fancy bar food like smoked fingerling potatoes with Serrano fondue. Behind a heavy vault door and upstairs is a speakeasy, Needle & Thread, where bartenders make bespoke drinks to suit each customer’s taste. tavernlaw.com