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Five Seattle Dining Experiences Not to Be Missed?

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Mrs. Touring Eater and I will be paying a weeklong visit to Seattle in early April, and we're looking for a handful of restaurants (five or so) that you believe are essential for experiencing what the city has to offer. My hope is that a few distinctly "Seattle" restaurants would be mixed into that group -- in other words, places that reflect the region and its eating habits better than others. But whether the restaurants serve Dungenness crab and salmon or not, in the end, we're looking for the five best. We go on eating vacations often and never have trouble finding some of the essential dining spots for our destinations (previous recent trips were to NYC, LA and New Orleans), but thus far, I'm finding conflicting reports on most of the places I've identified in Seattle. Talk to me, 'Hounds.

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  1. I consulted with a friend who was a former restaurant critic, and here are our suggestions:
    Elliott's Oyster House - it's on the piers (Alaskan Way), and normally I'd avoid restaurants in touristy locations like the plague, but this one is good, just straight up seafood and great views of Elliott Bay.

    Matt's in the Market - haven't tried it, but have heard good reviews. And it's in the Pike Place Market, which is quintessentially Seattle. I've heard it's tiny, so maybe check for reservations.

    Flying Fish - one of the most popular seafood restaurants in the city.

    Etta's - ditto.

    Palace Kitchen - same owner as Etta's, and has a great atmosphere, a dark, large room that reminds me of Manhattan.

    Canlis - older CEO-type crowd, very upscale, beautiful building, classy Northwest type place with a fabulous wine list.

    I also very much like Le Pichet. It's a French bistro and though I wouldn't say it's representative of the region and its culinary tastes, it has great atmosphere, good food and an impressive, ever-changing selection of reasonably-priced wines. Sitting at the bar on a winter afternoon for appetizers and port is splendid.

    Enjoy!!

    2 Replies
    1. re: SnackCakes

      I would second the Flying Fish. The Dahlia Lounge was also very good. The third of the Tom Douglas restaurants. (Palace Kitchen and Etta's were previously mentioned.)

      We also enjoyed Salty's on Alki Beach very much. A limo took us to the restaurant from our hotel, The Edgewater. Very fun evening! ***kim***

      1. re: SnackCakes

        I'd skip eating a full meal at Elliotts and just go for drinks and oysters if you like them. The first time I ate at Elliotts I had to send back a salad because it was so overdressed (I'd requested dressing on the side anyway) that it was inedible. The second time I dined there it took three tries for them to get my salmon edible - first time I ordered a special and was surprised that it had a candy coating (not mentioned in the description). They changed it to a simple planked salmon which was then served RAW. The third time out it was a bit overcooked, but I was so tired of the whole thing I just ate what I could stomach with a lot of water to wash it down. Extremely disappointing. Also, both times the ladies room resembled a public bathroom at a beach park - wet sand and toilet paper all over the ground. It's very strange.

        I'd also skip Ettas (often extremely busy and none of the food I've had there has been worth the hassle) and possibly Flying Fish - have had disappointing experiences at both.

        The Edgewater is hit or miss. I've had more than my share of overcooked salmon there. I'd go to the Waterfront Seafood Grill. Great, consistent food, nice view and great service.

        Le Pichet is nice, but they have serious attitude. If you want to dine there, make a reservation - I've been there for drinks before without a reservation where they refuse to seat us because all of the tables are reserved (even though no one was there yet and the reservation times were all at least an hour away!).

      2. Salumi
        Matt's in the Market
        Harvest Vine
        Kingfish
        Agua Verde

        1. this is more than five but you can pick and choose.
          Canlis-very quintessential seattle-splurge!
          Nishino-in my opinion best sushi/japanese in town
          Salumi-be ready to wait and be very impressed
          El Gaucho-great seattle tradition with great steaks
          either Matt's or Chez Shea in the Pike Place Market-
          and takee time to explore the market!!!
          walk the International District and pick a spot!
          for seafood avoid the touristy waterfront and visit
          Ray's Boathouse(or Salty's at Alki)
          for THE seattle "experience" go up in the Space Needle
          and eat in the revolving restaraunt-food is only ok
          hope you have fun and please report after trip

          1 Reply
          1. re: bighound

            I had a business dinner in the Space Needle a few months ago -- I did not pick the location. It was one of the few beautiful nights we've had all year and the views were spectacular. But the food --UGH! Not even OK. And it is expensive! I just enjoyed the scenery, drank a lot, and felt very happy that someone else was picking up the tab.

          2. In no particular order...

            Matt's in the Market
            Kingfish Cafe
            Flying Fish (Etta's also good)
            Cafe Juanita (Kirkland about 30 min drive from Seattle)
            Mistral (pricey, but well worth the price)

            Have a great trip!

            1. As a recent visitor/chowhound to Seattle, I would definitely agree with Matt's and the Flying Fish. I'm sure the others the board is recommending are good, too. We had dinner at Matt's and Chez Shea and liked Matt's more. We had a wonderful breakfast at Le Pichet on our last day and wished we had discovered it earlier for lunch or dinner (the menu looked intriguing) - see the recent post. We also enjoyed Cafe Campagne (the less formal one) for a wonderful lunch. We had a fabulous time in Seattle and hope you do, too!