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Five Seattle Dining Experiences Not to Be Missed?

t
Touring Eater Feb 20, 2004 03:41 PM

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.

  1. s
    SnackCakes Feb 20, 2004 05:24 PM

    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
      k
      Kim C Feb 20, 2004 05:52 PM

      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
        a
        akq Jun 13, 2008 11:42 AM

        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. r
        Robert Feb 21, 2004 12:26 AM

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

        1. b
          bighound Feb 21, 2004 10:54 AM

          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
            b
            bourbongal Jun 12, 2008 08:34 PM

            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. t
            twinbliss Feb 21, 2004 11:28 AM

            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. a
              adele Feb 22, 2004 06:07 PM

              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!

              1. n
                Naes Feb 23, 2004 01:48 PM

                I've tried to come up with a varied list, not just the places where you'd spend $80 a person.

                Mistral - best high-end dining in the city
                Ezell's - unbelievably good fried chicken
                Paseo's - delicious cuban-style food
                Harvest Vine - great tapas and an interesting wine list
                Nishino - one of the best sushi places in town

                Best of luck making your choices!

                Sean
                Eat Well.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Naes
                  l
                  lala Feb 23, 2004 02:44 PM

                  These places are all great, but I heartily recommend that you take one morning and lunch to explore and dine at the Market. Sample local hot-smoked salmon, eat a Piroshky or Humbow, have a latte, sniff the flowers, then have lunch at Jack's Fish Spot, where they take fresh fish off the display and cook it up fresh. Nothing fancy, but darn good, quickly fried fish,oysters, scallops,prawns, etc, along with mussels, clams, fresh dungeness crab (the only place in the market to cook their own live crabs), and a selection of oysters on the half shell. And the people watching is unmatched.

                  Talk to the vendors, explore the corners, listen to the buskers...there's NOTHING more Seattle than a morning in the Market!

                  1. re: lala
                    m
                    mr.nelso Mar 4, 2004 10:58 PM

                    Nice catch, lala.

                    The opportunities to eat memorable things just never stop at the Market. Egad. I am mortified that I did not see this immediately, and stuffed just thinking about it.
                    From The South: a bowl of red (Cincinatti chili better than Cinci can offer) at World Class Chili, in the Atrium behind Delaurenti's. Stop there too, though, for a bit of pizza with a warmly caramelized crust. Stop just outside the door for quick bite of deep-fried chicken livers (or maybe at the next chicken shack, around the corner). A doughnut hole or two before braving the flying fish and the famous pig, but not without a stop at Market Spice for a quick taster of Market Spice Tea (some to take-home is a good idea, too). Do not even think of going up the stairs across Pike street, or you risk an encounter with Matt's (or, dear God, if at the wrong time of day, Chez Shea), which will put you on the couch for the afternoon. On, then, to oyster's rockefeller or your choice of gritty, historic, waterfront grub (and view, and brew, and local color) at the Athenian. Then maybe across the street for Piroshky, maybe a few Vietnamese cha gia in the atrium next door. Can you resist the falefel there, too, or the oysters? At the North extent is Turkish Delight, where you might need to take home some homemade, wait, wait, can you guess? Turkish Delight! Excellent!
                    Across the street is Etta's and, omygod I have to STOP here, but refer you to: http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/shop/dining_guide/
                    for a very good time...
                    Thank you lala.
                    eric


                    Link: http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/shop/d...

                    1. re: lala
                      m
                      mr.nelso Mar 4, 2004 11:06 PM

                      Nice catch, lala.

                      The opportunities to eat memorable things just never stop at the Market. Egad. I am mortified that I did not see this immediately, and stuffed just thinking about it.
                      From The South: a bowl of red (Cincinatti chili better than Cinci can offer) at World Class Chili, in the Atrium behind Delaurenti's. Stop there too, though, for a bit of pizza with a warmly caramelized crust. Stop just outside the door for quick bite of deep-fried chicken livers (or maybe at the next chicken shack, around the corner). A doughnut hole or two before braving the flying fish and the famous pig, but not without a stop at Market Spice for a quick taster of Market Spice Tea (some to take-home is a good idea, too). Do not even think of going up the stairs across Pike street, or you risk an encounter with Matt's (or, dear God, if at the wrong time of day, Chez Shea), both of which will put you on the couch for the afternoon. On, then, to oyster's rockefeller or your choice of gritty, historic, waterfront grub (and view, and brew, and local color) at the Athenian. Then maybe across the street for Piroshky, maybe a few Vietnamese cha gia in the atrium next door. Can you resist the falefel there, too, or the oysters? At the North extent is Turkish Delight, where you might need to take home some homemade, wait, wait, can you guess? Turkish Delight! Excellent!
                      Across another street is Etta's and, omygod I have to STOP here, but refer you to: http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/shop/dining_guide/
                      for a very good time...
                      Thank you lala.
                      eric


                      Link: http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/shop/d...

                    2. re: Naes
                      k
                      kieran Feb 23, 2004 06:05 PM

                      if you do go to nishino, which recommendation i heartily second, i suggest calling ahead and reserving an omakase meal, where you pay a certain amount and leave your menu in the hands of the chef. we've done that twice and both times were superb -- one of the two times in a strong contender for the best meal i've ever had anywhere, period.

                      have fun!

                    3. s
                      SandraV Feb 23, 2004 07:40 PM

                      One that's not been mentioned: Cascadia.

                      The concept is a lot less precious than it originally was and even back then, the food was fabulous.

                      It's a beautiful room, has a nice bar and a very nice bar menu if you're looking for something less than a full meal. We had dessert there on Saturday night when nothing at Flying Fish appealed.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: SandraV
                        n
                        Naes Feb 24, 2004 11:50 AM

                        Everyone is entitled to their favorites, but I am not a fan of Cascadia. Granted, I've only been there once, so maybe I just had a bad experience. I had a steamed halibut that tasted a day or two past it's prime and was rather mushy. My partner had a herbed chicken that was flavorful, but dry. Mine was served with a mix of vegetables that were mostly either over or underdone. The sauce with my fish was rather pallid. Not a good experience.

                        Just my opinion.

                        1. re: Naes
                          s
                          SandraV Feb 24, 2004 07:35 PM

                          Your second sentence is why I try not to be too hard on Mistral. I've heard it simply raved about and while I'm fairly sure that I was there on an off night, I had the worst dining experience ever for a high end restaurant there about 2 or 3 years back and I can't seem to justify a return, no matter how much good I hear. Intellectually, I know that every place has bad nights once in a while. But, it's hard to get past that first impression, as you've discovered with Cascadia.

                          1. re: SandraV
                            s
                            Seattle Todd Feb 25, 2004 01:40 AM

                            I completely agree, Sandra.

                            At the higher end restaurants bad nights aren't very excusable. Although it's not fair to judge a restaurant on one visit it's an expensive proposition at the higher-end places such as Mistral, Rover's, Herbfarm, etc. to give them another chance.

                            Additionally for most of us this level of restaurant is normally a special occasion type of place. If we don't have a great experience for a birthday its tough to risk the next anniversary on the same place.

                            My 30th Birthday was celebrated at Waterfront and I was unimpressed enough with the food considering the price never to have gone back. But I might try them again.

                            My worst experience was at Lampreia a few years ago. Enough things weren't there; service, wine prices, overall taste of food and a pretentious phone call asking if we were still planning on dining there 3 minutes after our reservation time while we circled the block looking for parking to make me never want to try the place again.

                      2. t
                        tighe Feb 24, 2004 05:00 PM

                        I'm surprised they haven't been suggested already, but I think it would be a serious mistake not to try at least one of two new places: Lark and Union. They have quickly become two of the very best places in town and offer a distinctly Nortwest style.

                        I know some others have recommended it, but please don't go to Salty's....unless the spectacular view is sufficient to completely numb you taste buds... ;-)

                        1. s
                          Seattle Todd Feb 25, 2004 01:24 AM

                          If you're not averse, and have the ability, to travelling across the lake to the Eastside I can't recommend Cafe Juanita enough.

                          I think it's easily in the top 10 of Seattle and a fairly unique dining experience in regards to the ingredients and preparation compared to what most of us think is Italian food.

                          By the time you're here they should have their Spring menu going with morels, asparagus, etc.

                          Can't recommend it enough.

                          Link: http://www.cafejuanita.com

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Seattle Todd
                            b
                            bourbongal Jun 12, 2008 08:43 PM

                            Right on, Seattle Todd. I'm fairly certain that Cafe Juanita is the best restaurant between Vancouver and San Francisco -- I don't think anything else compares. The chef, Holly Smith, just won a top James Beard award in the last few weeks. Here's my list for the criteria:
                            1) Cafe Juanita
                            2) Matt's in the Market
                            3) Ray's Boathouse (I know not everyone would agree with this but I always have a great meal and a good time at Ray's)
                            4) Lampreia
                            5) (tie vote) Nishino or Place Pigalle in the Market
                            Wow, that's more than 5, but you cannot miss Salumi for lunch -- fit that in too, ok?

                            1. re: bourbongal
                              s
                              Simpatico Jun 13, 2008 09:53 AM

                              Do you really think this guy is interested in a response to a 4 year old posting?

                              1. re: Simpatico
                                g
                                GreenYoshi Jun 13, 2008 12:54 PM

                                Not very simpatico, Simpatico...

                          2. c
                            Clorenson Feb 27, 2004 02:52 PM

                            Here are my choices of 5 with a variety of low price to high price:
                            1-Larks (very Northwest)
                            2-Matt's at the Market (nice atmosphere, inexpensive)
                            3-Cafe Juanita (Italian with a northwest influence)
                            4- Flying FIsh (a seafood resturant that offers good fusion)
                            4- Lampreia (in my book the ony cutting edge restaurant in Seattle for food...noticed I mention food only not service, not atmosphere not....only place where the food can compete with NYC/Chicago)

                            1. e
                              estufarian Mar 5, 2004 09:55 AM

                              Sounds like you're doing what I tried to do last July. After much research I made my choices (some of which have been recommended already) - thought you might like to read a detailed review.

                              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                              1. i
                                Indulgences Jun 12, 2008 10:25 AM

                                Since others have offered the "distinctly Seattle" type restaurants, I'll leave that to the locals. I travel a lot on business and one of my favorite steakhouses inthe country is Metropolitan Grille in downtown Seattle. They have a wonderful Ribeye and the Kobe steak is phenomenal. However, for the difference in price, their normal aged ribeye is almost as good as the Kobe. My favorite food is steak so you won't find me indulging in a sushi and other delights from the Pacific NW, but when you want a good hearty steak with great service, a nice wine list, and phenomenal steak, try Metropolitan Grille. It's my first stop every time I'm in town.

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