A while back I wrote a blog post on What It’s Really Like to Live in Seattle right before my husband and I left our corporate careers to travel abroad for half a year. We had a short stint living back on my home island Oahu, Hawaii, and two years later, here we are living back in the PNW (Pacific Northwest) yet again. There’s just something about this upper left-most corner of the U.S. that keeps pulling us back. I know, I know, I complain about the grey doom and gloom, but there’s something so charming about Seattle despite its endless attempts to annoy people with its nine months of grey skies, bad traffic, and not being able to walk anywhere without seeing someone in a 12th man jersey.
But then, just like you change your mind like a teenage girl changes clothes, it pulls the old bait-and-switch and dang it, it’s gorgeous. The air is crisp and fresh, vibrant flowers bloom, sweet juicy berries dot the bushes all over local neighborhoods, the mountain (Mt. Rainier) comes out, and people start to smile again. One of the greatest highlights of the PNW is the food. And this brings me to why I’m here, writing the ultimate food guide to Seattle, drooling as I reflect on counts of oysters on the Sound, Beecher’s cheese curds, savory piroshky and salted caramel chocolates from one of the best chocolatiers in the world (dare I say it even rivals the chocolate we had in Torino, Italy and Quito, Ecuador)…read on to find out which one I’m referring to. 😉
My most popular blog post to-date has been my Local’s Ultimate Oahu Foodie Guide, which I wrote after living on Oahu, Hawaii for 11 years, so I decided to write one for Seattle as well! If you’ll be visiting Washington State, be sure to check out my Ultimate Guide to Seattle – Things To Do and my Washington State Archives for all things Seattle and Washington State, including ideas for day trips and weekend getaways!
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I have lived in Seattle for over five years and every weekend my husband and I visit a new restaurant, try a new cocktail, or take a day trip to discover more of what this amazing region has to offer. This post will include my personal recommendations on the best places to eat in Seattle and surrounding areas. For more inspiration on where to visit in this beautiful state, check out my post on 20 Best Weekend Getaways in Washington State.
Are you ready? Alright, let’s dive right in…
Oh, PS: you may not want to read this on an empty stomach. You’ve been warned.
Similar to New York City, Seattle has its own boroughs, each with their own vibe and unique flare…and each with their own restaurant that they are very proud of. Some of our favorites are Ballard, Fremont, Green Lake/Ravenna, and Capitol Hill (better known as Seattle’s “gayborhood”.) I love the street art and rainbow sidewalks! Frolic away!
*Restaurants are listed in alphabetical order*
All photographs are my own.
Cafes, Coffee & Tea
Ada’s Technical Books & Cafe – Capitol Hill
Where you can sip coffee and nerd out on Sci-Fi or science books.
Ampersand Coffee – Alki Beach, West Seattle
The views are spectacular, and you can sit on adairondak chairs and people/dog watch whilst gazing at the water all morning long.
Café Besalu – Ballard
Chocolati – several locations
Artisan chocolate truffles and drinking chocolate.
Cloud City Coffee – Maple Leaf
This small café is a local neighborhood gem with a very friendly staff.
TIP: On Sundays only, they make special cinnamon rolls fresh in the morning – get ’em early because they sell out!
Herkimer Coffee – multiple locations
Milstead & Co – Fremont
Beautiful space and all drinks are made to order, even a “drip” coffee.
Miro Tea – Ballard
Interesting loose leaf organic teas and an excellent location to work remotely if you’re a digital nomad.
Preserve & Gather – Greenwood
Rosellini’s Fine Cakes & Baked Goods – Phinney
Starbucks Reserve & Roastery – Capitol Hill
Wow, what a foodie experience! I must include a caveat here that I actually dislike the normal Starbucks chain. For being a Seattle-grown company, they are not as progressive as they need to be regarding environmental sustainability and how much plastic they use. Many of their drinks contain high fructose corn syrup and are way too sweet, contributing to the worldwide obesity pandemic. However, the Reserve is completely different; everything in their specialty beverages is made in-house, including the delicious pastries, flatbreads, salads and baked goods. I recommend sitting at one of the bars where the professional and knowledgeable baristas will contribute to your experience by explaining the processes of whichever beverage you selected.
Storyville – Queen Anne
TIP: On most days the staff will come around with a free slice of chocolate cake, hot from the oven.
Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Company – multiple locations
Here are some of the best places to eat in Seattle!
Araya’s Place – University (vegan Thai)
Ballard Annex Oyster House – Ballard (seafood, oyster bar, cocktail bar)
Beecher’s – Pike Place Market
Grilled paninis and homemade cheese, made fresh on location
Campfire – Lower Queen Anne (Korean-American fusion / brunch)
Casa Oaxaca Mexican Bar & Restaurant – Edmonds
Chaco Canyon Café (many locations) – organic, vegan
Cocina Oaxaca – Green Lake
Collections Café – inside Chihuly Garden and Glass (you don’t need a ticket to the Exhibition to dine here)
I recommend going for lunch; order the strawberry lavender lemonade
Dacha Diner – Capitol Hill (Georgian, Russian, Israeli, Eastern European)
I am married to a Russian and have spent the last four years eating my in-laws amazing home cooked meals, as well as enjoyed authentic Russian and Georgian cuisine in Russia, so I can attest that Dacha Diner is the real deal. Their pork and beef pelmeni and cabbage-wrapped beef and rice are outstanding. Even their plates look like they would in a Russian household. By the way, Dacha is a summer home in Russia and typically where Russians go during summer to escape city life and get into nature. For more information on Russian food, check out my 12 Must-Try Foods When Visiting Russia post.
Don Luchos – Peruvian (Maple Leaf)
Dough Zone Dumpling House – Multiple locations
*Tip: Yelp will list current wait times so you can plan your visit accordingly.
El Taco Loco – Ballard
This local hidden gem is literally inside of a liquor store. My husband and I run by it all the time and had no idea that delicious tacos awaited us inside until I had a taco craving one night and found this five-star-rated place on Yelp. By the way, Sasha and I Lived In Mexico for three months and have very high standards when it comes to authentic tacos, and I can assure you that this is the real deal. The owners are from Mexico.
Epulo Bistro – Edmonds (25-minute drive North of Seattle near the waterfront)
Gorgeous Gorges – Greenwood
Israeli food, run by a sweet married couple who will make you feel like family from the moment you walk in the door. Great prices and excellent food.
Gracia – Ballard (Mexican, cocktail bar)
Jack’s BBQ – SoDo
Joule – Fremont (Korean fusion)
Joule is my #1 favorite restaurant in all of Seattle if that says anything. I love the innovative dishes and complex flavors of this Korean fusion hot spot. Their cocktails are also the best I’ve had in the Seattle area. This is always my husband and my go-to for special celebrations or when guests are in town.
TIP: Sit at the Chef’s bar to watch them cook for a more fun experience. Sit outside at the fire pit for dessert.
Kabul – Wallingford (Afghan)
Little Lago – Portage Bay (Italian grocer & cafe)
This adorable corner specialty market carries some authentic Italian groceries and spices, but they also have an excellent food menu with some of the most authentic Italian flat crust pizzas in Seattle. (Their Salsiccia is my favorite). This grocer is right on a bike trail, so it’s a great place to stop off during a nice ride to refuel.
Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet – Ballard (cocktail bar)
Miss Cafe – 1st Ave near Pike Place (Turkish)
Outstanding flavors, owned and operated by a kind young Turkish woman who is behind the counter making everything from scratch as you order it. The Turkish dumplings with sumac yogurt butter sauce and Donner meat pide (pronounced “pita”) were scrumptious! Seating is fairly limited, but the space is cozy and quaint – a hidden gem just off of Pike Place Market!
Mkt. – Tangletown (isn’t that the cutest name for a town?)
Farm-to-table cuisine in an adorable small, quaint environment. During summer when the outdoor seating is open, sit at communal tables and chat with your neighbor!
Momiji – Capitol Hill (sushi)
TIP: Go for happy hour (4 – 6 PM daily) for a more affordable and less crowded experience.
Morsel – University District
Biscuit sammies, brekkie & coffee
TIP: Order first, find a seat second. Don’t do this the other way around or you will get the side eye from local Seattlites.
Percy’s & Co, Apothecary Bar & Restaurant – Ballard
Bar with inventive cocktails and near all the live music on the weekends.
Pestle Rock – Ballard (Isan Thai)
You can almost always expect a queue here. Portions are small and prices are high, but they use all natural ingredients, locally sourced when possible. Not your average pad Thai, you’ll see authentic dishes specific to the Isan region.
Pike Place Chowder – Pike Place Market
TIP: go early and be prepared for very long queues. Is it worth it? Definitely. Read on to the next sentence.
Hall of Fame Chowder Cafes Voted Pike Place Chowder #1 chowder in America (sorry East Coasters, apparently we won this one.)
Piroshky Piroshky – Pike Place Market
Russian sweet and savory pastries heavier than a hockey puck.
Porkchop & Co – Ballard (brunch)
Portage Bay Café – Many locations
Farm-to-table brekkie & brunch.
Rachel’s Ginger Beer– Pike Place Market (Post Alley) & University Village locations.
All-natural, seasonal herb-infused flavored ginger beer (non-alcoholic). For the drinkers, don’t you worry, they’ve got plenty of adult ginger beers too!
Rock Creek Seafood and Spirits – Fremont
Excellent fish; menu changes weekly based on what is most fresh. A bit pricey but worth it for a nice night out/date night
Rupee Bar – Ballard (Sri Lankan, cocktails)
Saffron Grill – Northgate (Indian)
San Fermo – Ballard (Italian)
Sawyer – Ballard (American), located in an old saw mill
Shiku Sushi – Ballard
The Back Door – Fremont (speakeasy, cocktail bar)
The Gerald – Ballard (gastropub, cocktail bar)
The Monkey Bridge – Ballard (Vietnamese)
The Noble Fir – Ballard (tapas, wine & beer bar)
The Other Coast Cafe – Ballard, Capitol Hill & Queen Anne locations
Order the Rajun’ Cajun for a delicious toasted cheesy sandwich with a spicy kick!
The Pink Door – Pike Place
Great for date night – check their website for performance schedules and make reservations.
Toulouse Petit – Lower Queen Anne (Cajun/Creole)
Valhalla Sandwiches – Phinney Ridge
The Shrimp Po Boy is outstanding!
Von’s 1000 Spirits – Downtown Seattle
Good for happy hour – famous for their sourdough noodles
Xi’ian Noodles – University District (Authentic hand-pulled homemade noodles)
Order the shredded pork noodles (dry) and create your own sauce at the sauce bar.
TIP: You get a discount if you pay with cash
RESTAURANTS WITH A VIEW
Ivar’s Salmon House – Wallingford
Marination Ma Kai – West Seattle, Alki Beach (Hawaiian fusion, tacos)
Views of the Space Needle and downtown from across the water – take the water taxi
Matt’s in the Market – Pike Place
BAKERIES & DESSERTS (my favorite and most well-versed category) 😉
Bakery Nouveau – Capitol Hill and West Seattle locations
BEST PASTRIES EVER – seriously, right on par with a true French bakery in Marseille, great for breakfast and tea/coffee.
Cupcake Royale (many locations)
Salted caramel is my favorite
Fran’s Chocolates (many locations)
Seattle-made local chocolates & drinking chocolate – this is the “best chocolate” I was referring to in my opening paragraph.
Hot Cakes – several locations
The best chocolate molten lava cake you’ll ever have in your whole life. Yes, I realize that’s a big statement and yes, I still stand by it.
Macrina Bakery – Belltown
Voted one of the best bakeries in the world(!!)
Mighty-O Donuts (many locations)
Molly Moon’s (many locations)
Homemade ice cream with innovative flavors sourcing local, organic ingredients
Salt & Straw – Ballard
This ice cream shop originated in Portland, Oregon, and they opened up the first ever location in Washington State in Ballard in 2017! They partner with local chefs to provide the most inventive and unique ice cream flavors you’ll ever taste! Order the flight and try four flavors! Free samples!
Theo Chocolate – Fremont
TIP: Sign up for a chocolate tour, but don’t go on an empty stomach, otherwise you’ll be buzzing on a total chocolate high when you’re finished!
Top Pot Donuts (many locations)
A very common weekend scene is seeing singles, couples, families and dogs walking or biking to their local market, reusable bags in hand (yes, even the dogs carry their own bags in Seattle.) You might even see a well-known chef doing their daily shopping for the restaurant at a neighborhood market. This is what I love about the food community in Seattle; everyone is so connected, sharing a deep love for food and the honest roots of where it comes from. Support your local farmers!
U District Saturday Market (9AM – 2PM every Saturday, all year long)
Ballard Sunday Market (10AM – 3PM every Sunday, all year long)
Fremont Sunday Market (10AM – 4PM every Sunday, all year long)
This market is more arts and crafts than fruits and vegetables, and even has an indoor antiques section. Fremont Market is a great place to find locally-made jewelry, resin-filled wooden carvings, cute t-shirts, and tasty food trucks (the Nepalese MoMochas are our favorite.)
Pike Place Market (hours vary depending on the season, open every day, all year long)
FUN FACT: Pike Place Market opened in 1907 and is one of the oldest continuously operated public markets in the U.S. Can you imagine visiting back in the day with a horse and buggy?
Have you visited Seattle or are a local? What are some of your favorites that you didn’t see listed here? Sharing is caring! 🙂
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