Emerald City Eats: A Newcomer's Eating Tour of Seattle

Big on all things seasonal, local and straight out of Puget Sound, Seattle is inexplicably overlooked as a food lover’s destination — but it won't be for long. Find the best spots to eat and drink like an Emerald City local with these highlights of the city’s vibrant restaurant scene.
By: Guest Blogger
Patio: Westward

Patio: Westward

Seattle’s best view can be seen from the waterline: Lake Union in the foreground, that iconic skyline punctuated by a tiny Space Needle in the back. And set in the most-prime location, with a perfect patio, Westward has been steadily gaining accolades since it opened in 2013. While Chef Zoi Antonitsas’ inspired, award-winning Mediterranean cuisine is reason enough to go, the real draw is the outdoor space, complete with picnic tables, a fire pit ensconced in oyster shells and a dock to pull right up to from the lake.

Photo by: Sarah Flotard

Sarah Flotard

By Chelsea Lin

Seattle is a city best known by tech-heads, outdoor adventurers and grunge rock fans still pining for the ’90s. But below the plaid-clad stereotype lies a scene of passionate, inventive chefs — and the well-fed food fanatics who support them — who forage mushrooms from local forests, troll the sea for fresh Dungeness crabs and visit Pike Place Market for the freshest produce. Obviously, you’ll find the bounty of the Pacific Northwest on the menus of rock star chefs around town, but you’re just as likely to see these ingredients in the mom-and-pop ethnic restaurants, the plentiful pop-ups and the food trucks that feed the city’s growing work force.

Click here for the full gallery of top Seattle restaurants.

Iconic Spot: Matt’s in the Market

Iconic Spot: Matt’s in the Market

Blink as you’re walking past the corner flower stand at Pike Place Market and you may miss the sign for this hidden gem tucked above the market’s busy thoroughfare. But it’s worth tracking down: Matt’s in the Market is Seattle’s most-enchanting neighborhood bistro, made even more enjoyable by views of Pike Place’s iconic neon sign out the dining room window and the tiny ferry boats crossing Elliott Bay beyond. Chef Shane Ryan’s food is at once casual — you shouldn’t miss the half-dozen deviled eggs — and sophisticated. This is the sort of place that makes both lunch and dinner feel special. Make sure, too, that you check out the restaurant’s sibling bar, Radiator Whiskey, across the hall.

Photo by: Nick Jurich

Nick Jurich

Blink as you’re walking past the corner flower stand at Pike Place Market and you may miss the sign for this hidden gem tucked above the market’s busy thoroughfare. But it’s worth tracking down: Matt’s in the Market is Seattle’s most-enchanting neighborhood bistro, made even more enjoyable by views of Pike Place’s iconic neon sign out the dining room window and the tiny ferry boats crossing Elliott Bay beyond. Chef Shane Ryan’s food is at once casual — you shouldn’t miss the half-dozen deviled eggs — and sophisticated. This is the sort of place that makes both lunch and dinner feel special. Make sure, too, that you check out the restaurant’s sibling bar, Radiator Whiskey, across the hall.

In 1982, the same year Kurt Cobain was recording his first demo not far from here, a family opened Pho Bac, Seattle’s first Vietnamese noodle-soup restaurant. The rest, as they say, is history. Pho is now the city’s unofficial favorite dish — the ideal fast and cheap meal to cure both the winter cold and the summer sweats. Though these days pho spots are outnumbered only by the city's many coffee shops, Pho Bac is still the best option: steaming bowls of complexly flavorful broth with a generous serving of chewy rice noodles, your choice of meat (choose tai nam, with thin slices of round steak and melt-in-your-mouth brisket) and all the fixings.

Burger: Essex

Burger: Essex

To argue about Seattle’s best burger is a lesson in futility: Either you’re in the camp for Dick’s Drive-In, a local institution where the deluxe is still around $3, or you’re not. But the burger at Ballard cocktail bar Essex isn’t drive-in-quality fare — and that’s a good thing. Owner Brandon Pettit cooks the charred, juicy patties in the same wood-fired fashion as the pizzas at his first place, Delancey, next door, and then dresses them simply with two different aiolis and lettuce. Cheddar, bacon and Padrón peppers are available (and recommended). OK, so it’s $16 and occasionally takes upward of 30 minutes (more time than it takes to park, order and eat at Dick’s), but the cocktails are divine, the wallpapered space is gorgeous, and this is definitely a burger worth waiting for.

Photo by: Brandon Pettit

Brandon Pettit

To argue about Seattle’s best burger is a lesson in futility: Either you’re in the camp for Dick’s Drive-In, a local institution where the deluxe is still around $3, or you’re not. But the burger at Ballard cocktail bar Essex isn’t drive-in-quality fare — and that’s a good thing. Owner Brandon Pettit cooks the charred, juicy patties in the same wood-fired fashion as the pizzas at his first place, Delancey, next door, and then dresses them simply with two different aiolis and lettuce. Cheddar, bacon and Padrón peppers are available (and recommended). OK, so it’s $16 and occasionally takes upward of 30 minutes (more time than it takes to park, order and eat at Dick’s), but the cocktails are divine, the wallpapered space is gorgeous, and this is definitely a burger worth waiting for.

For more great Seattle restaurants, check out the full gallery. Then tell us: What's your favorite waterfront meal?

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