PAX WEST FOODIE GUIDE TO SEATTLE
Don’t be the person who comes to Seattle and just goes to The Cheesecake Factory and Starbucks. They’re both right outside the Convention Center and lure tourists in with promises of gigantic, overpriced menus full of mostly crappy food and definitely crappy coffee. This is Seattle, the city Anthony Bourdain called a “strange and beautiful place.” He also said Seattle "was one of the first cities in America to embrace chefs and new restaurant ideas, to loudly celebrate their local ingredients and local producers. It was a foodie town long before the word foodie existed and will be when that loathsome term is long dead and buried. Demographically speaking, it’s a town that likes talking about food, eating food, reading about food.” You can do better than The Cheesecake Factory.
I’ve been living and working as an executive chef and then baker in the Emerald City for the last 5 years, and the real trouble is there are so many good places to check out, and you’re only here for a weekend. When my parents visited recently for three days, I struggled to not just usher them from one food spot to another, and actually, you know, show them other stuff in Seattle. Below are all the places you should probably have on your list to check out; I’ll leave the difficult work of narrowing down the ones you really want to nom at to you.
Check out this interactive map to find places near where you are, and access their contact info, hours, and menus. You can also turn layers on and off, to find exactly the type of spot you're looking to visit.
What are you in the mood for?
Back in 2016 when someone counted, Seattle had a whopping 843 coffee shops -- 670 of them indie spots. We’re obsessed, and you can be, too, once you taste some actually good coffee.
Slate Coffee Roasters
Elm Coffee Roasters
Caffe Umbria | They serve their lattes with a little bite of dark chocolate.
Moore Coffee | Latte art takes on a whole new level with lions, cats, dogs, pandas, etc. gracing the foamy tops of coffees.
Storyville Coffee Company | Probably some of the best coffee in Seattle, and they pull double shots automatically. Alton Brown orders the cortado, but be warned: they are really strong. Get the caramel cookie, too.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery | This’ll be the one time I’ll tell you to go to Starbucks. The Reserve is cool. There are pneumatic tubes shooting coffee beans from the roasters to the baristas, an actual bar, three hidden rooms, a coffee library, etc. You can get a cold brew float, plus loads of other drinks not available at any other Starbucks, paired with food like baked eggs and authentic Italian pastries from Princi.
BREAKFAST & BRUNCH
While most coffee places definitely offer something to nibble on, these are the places that will blow you away with tasty morsels first thing in the morning.
The London Plane | Not cheap, and you’ll probably want reservations, but it’s worth it for this wine bar with stunning small plates.
Honest Biscuits | Gigantic biscuits piled high with eggs, bacon, sausage, pimento cheese, and more. Plus a pretty incredible waterfront view.
Biscuit Bitch | In case you were wondering, yes, the entire menu is made up of items called things like “Hot Mess Bitch,” “Straight-Up Bitch,” and “Smokin’ Hot Seattle Bitch.” It’s all variations on biscuits and gravy, with all kinds of mouthwatering toppings.
The Crumpet Shop | Fancy some tea and crumpets, guv'nor? Please don’t go in and say that to them. But do grab the freshly made (right before your eyes!) crumpets, none of which is over $5, for a quick and tasty breakfast if you’re by the Market.
LUNCH & DINNER
There are something like 3,600 restaurants in Seattle, so needless to say I can't list them all. These are some of my favorites.
Salumi (lunch only) | Started by Mario Batali’s parents, this Seattle institution cures their own meats the traditional Italian way, then opens for 4 brief hours every day to let the public feast on those meats piled high on local bread in enormous sandwiches. It used to be a mark of honor to wait an hour in line, but they now have a grab & go counter for cold sandwiches.
Li’l Woody’s | Probably the best burgers in Seattle, paired with Full Tilt Ice Cream. There’s even “crack,” an order of fries with a tiny milkshake to dip them in because Li’l Woody’s understands their market demographic.
Fado Irish Pub | It’s an Irish pub that’s a favorite for having a big selection of very sharable plates with inventive and delicious twists, like fried goat cheese with jalapeno-infused honey. When they say the soft pretzel is giant, they aren’t lying. Also burgers, Irish entrees, a Guinness Sundae, and a menu category called “Drinking Dessert.”
Dick’s Drive-In | This is where Seattle goes for cheap burgers and also just so we can say, “I got a bag of Dick’s.” They’ve been making the burgers the exact same way since 1954. FYI: no substitutions, no they will not hold the sauce, and it’s cash only. But they are open late.
Ivar’s Acres of Clams | As Seattle staple since 1938, with incredible waterfront views and local seafood. If you’re not in the mood or don’t have time for sit-down dining, there’s also the Fish Bar outside where you can grab fish, shrimp, oysters, clams, scallops, fries, and chowder to-go. You can also get a shot of clam nectar for some reason.
The 5 Point Cafe | “Cheating tourists and drunks since 1929.” Open 24 hours, this dive bar actually makes their diner food from scratch, and it’s pretty tasty. There’s a 6AM-9AM happy hour, too. There are bras on the walls, a periscope to view the nearby Space Needle in the men’s bathroom, and endless oddities stapled to the walls. It’s been called Washington’s “Most Iconic Bar” and “The World’s Greatest Dive Bar.”
Lola | Pricey but worth every penny, this Chef Tom Douglas institution serves up the best made-to-order doughnuts in the city and Greek dishes. They also have a great breakfast, with my favorite smashed garlic fried potatoes.
FUN & GAMES
Check out a couple of cool game-related spots that aren’t just GameWorks (although there's one of those, too). There’s also the Seattle Pinball Museum in the International District.
Raygun Lounge | Beer, bar food, pinball arcade, board games, card games, and D&D.
Jupiter | Local art, cocktails, pinball arcade, and pool tables.
Shorty’s | People love this place, which is a pinball arcade and bar with hot dogs that are both tasty and pretty cheap.
Flatsick Pub Pioneer Square | It’s a sports bar, but with an underground mini-golf course. Heads up: they only take credit or debit cards, no cash.
Highline | Vegan food with photo booths, arcade games, free foosball, live music, and a metal/punk scene.
Sometimes you just need alcohol. Some of these places do serve food, but that's not the best reason to go there.
Some Random Bar
If you have a real sweet tooth, these are the best spots in the city for you. Don’t tell your dentist I sent you.
General Porpoise Doughnuts | The softest, fluffiest filled doughnuts and really good coffee in a gorgeous setting, by local James Beard Award-winning chef Renee Erickson. Go early for the best selection, because once they're gone, they're gone for the day.
Lady Yum Macarons & Mischief | Macarons, mini cakes, and champagne.
Shug’s Soda Fountain & Ice Cream | Pretty self-explanatory.
Dahlia Bakery | President Obama was apparently really into the legendary Triple Coconut Cream Pie at this Tom Douglas spot.
See’s Candies | Chocolates and truffles.
Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream | Comes in flavors like coffee (of course), Earl Grey, honey lavender, melted chocolate, salted caramel, and Sasquatch.
Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts | They usually have a really wide range of flavors available, including seasonal selections.
Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery | Molten chocolate cakes with caramel, ice cream, nutella, candied nuts, and more. They also serve milkshakes -- including boozy milkshakes with Jameson -- warm butterbeer, drinking chocolate, and roasted s'more's with homemade marshmallows and smoked chocolate.
PIKE PLACE MARKET
I made this its own section because usually, people will spend hours if not days just visiting the Market. You can get everything under the sun, in restaurants hidden in tiny corners and tucked behind oddities shops. The Market is magical, and you should definitely at least meander down the main thoroughfare while you’re here. There are also some pretty stunning views of the Bay and even Mount Rainier on clear days.
Market Grill | Grilled wild salmon sandwiches.
Chukar Cherries | Air-dried local cherry and chocolate truffles.
Rachel’s Ginger Beer | In flavors like blood orange, white peach, pink guava, and spicy pineapple.
Mee Sum Pastry | Get the $3.75 BBQ Pork Hom Bow.
Piroshky Piroshky | Salmon is the local fave, but I prefer the ground beef.
Pike Place BBQ | Everything here is excellent, and the sauces definitely pack some heat.
The Pink Door | Sit-down restaurant with Italian food, burlesque shows, and trapeze artists. Yes, really.
Radiator Whiskey | Ask about the tot-chos, tater tots loaded up with nacho toppings; 21+
Matt’s in the Market | Pricey but incredible Pacific Northwest seasonal fare.
Wild Fish Poke | Salmon, tuna, and tofu poke bowls with all the trimmings for a good price.
Los Agaves | Award-winning Mexican street food, including $3 pork, chicken, and steak tacos.
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese | Cheese, grilled cheese, mac and cheese, cheese curds...
Old Stove Brewing | Delicious wood-oven gastropub food and a great selection of beers on tap, made in-house.
Daily Dozen Doughnut Company | Cash-only fresh mini doughnuts by the dozen and half-dozen.
Farvahar | Their Persian-style burger is one of my favorite burgers in town, plus other flavor-packed Persian specialties.