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Houston Chowhound coming to Seattle

Hi hounds!

I'll be making a trek to Seattle next week (Sun-Wed, Dec 3-6) and was looking for some recommendations. I've hit some of the high end stuff over the last decade or so, but feel a bit lost on where the really good food is located these days. I figure maybe two high end meals and three really good lunches, if possible.

Off the top of my head, I've been to Wild Ginger, Campagne, and Dahlia Lounge, all of which felt a tad dated even when I went a year or so back.

A side question is drinking: any bars that ya'll would rave about, consider world class, whatever? My favorites include Shorty's (I collect pinball machines) and I'm headed to the Zig Zag for cocktails. I'm sure I'll be going out every night, staying out late, so any recommendations would be appreciated...


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  1. since you ask about bars, you should try Vessel (5th betw. Union & University; try the Vessel 75 cocktail with maple syrup foam, and the Marmalade Sour with egg white) and Licorous (12th and Marion; try the Renaissance cocktail and the hazelnut brown butter financier dessert). Although Zigzag is great, both of these newer places are a step up in swankiness and creativity imo. If you're looking for a loungier vibe, Licorous; if you're more interested in mixology, Vessel. PS. Vessel might be closed on Sundays, don't know about Licorous.

    1. Mike, I am a Moonie for Harvest Vine. Their Spanish Tapas offer intense flavor options that you'll long remember. (Go early to get a seat at the bar; if you're traveling with companions, make reservations for wine cellar seating.) Lunch should include Matt's At The Market, Salumi and the mussels at Maximillien's at the Market. (The upstairs bar is more casual and has a great view.) The dungenous crab at Seven Stars Szechuan should be on every visitor's short list. (Wear an old shirt you're not fond of.) Nell's at Greenlake offers some exceptional dinner fare as well. Write back and let us know what you discovered and liked.

      1. In addition to Barleywino's bar suggestions, I'd add Sambar. It's my favorite place for amazing cocktails, and it has terrific French food (mostly appetizers, though they often have a dinner like Steak Frites as a special). I just had the most delicious cardoon soup there, and a romenesco gratin was very good too. The frites are the best, But you need a car, and it's VERY small and frequently full, so weekends it is hard to get a seat (you can call first and see how full they are).
        For high end search here (and egullet) for info on Mistral, Veil and Union.
        For the anti-high end I second the rec for crab at 7 Stars Pepper (see the many threads about it). Their lunch menu is limited so go for dinner.

        1. For lunch, Salumi is mandatory and I also strongly recommend you get some Vietnamese food while you're in town. Pho Bac on 7th and Jackson has the best pho, Tamarind Tree and Green Leaf for everything else. Houston's got pretty decent pho with their Viet community, but I think Seattle surpasses.

          Consider Dinette for dinner on Tuesday.

          1. I'd suggest for the high end that these places are still
            delivering the goods: Union, Lark and Harvest Vine. For lunch, try Pecos Bit BBQ, Mon-Fri on So. 1st near Starbucks HQ---dress warmly to eat outside or in your car. Order the pork sandwich--medium. The mesquite chili burn is tops. Also Boat Street Cafe has good ambience and style.

            4 Replies
            1. re: itsonlyfood

              To send a Texan to a BBQ joint in Seattle would be cruel and unusual punishment.

              1. re: terrier

                It would only be cruel of Pecos was crummy. It's not. It's run by Texans and is better than any bbq I've had in Texas. Geography is not destiny.

                1. re: itsonlyfood

                  I'm a native Texan. Pecos is not bad by Seattle standards. It is not on par with a decent 'cue shack in Houston, which means it's miles below the best BBQ in Texas (for which I maintain one must travel further inland towards the Hill Country.)

                2. re: terrier

                  Haha. So true. BBQ is terrible out here.

              2. Have you been to Dixie's BBQ, where you are served "The Man?" It's a VERY spicy sauce - you only get a drop - and the place itself is quite the experience. I believe the family that owns it is from New Orleans. You'd need a car to get there.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sheitoon

                  You go to Texas for steaks and BBQ. Seattle has salmon and crab. There is no BBQ in Puget Sound up to basic Texas standards--let alone Texas standouts....

                2. Lark in Seattle had REALLY good food. It was tapas style with really good food. It was a bit pricey.

                  1. Ditto on Salumi and Tamarind Tree for vietnamese: must try. Also consider La Carta de Oaxaca for good, real mexican, in Ballard (it also happens to be pretty cheap). Eat there early to avoid the line.

                    Oliver's Twist (new, on Phinney Ridge) is great for cocktails; try the Fagan on their house list.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: famouspotato

                      FYI, the line for Salumi is crazy. I was in line for an hour last month. You have to love salami, prosciutto, etc. for it to be worth it, I think.

                      1. re: sheitoon

                        The line starts to get heavy very early, but reliably dies away a little after 2:00.
                        I regularly eat lunch there, usually arriving between 2:00 and 2:30and rarely face much of a line, if any at all. When I know I am going to go to lunch there, I call and ask them to reserve my order for me. I almost always order the weekly specials and they are usually able to save my order for me. It is so crazy busy there, but they rarely forget and are always accomodating.
                        FYI the specials are real home-style Italian family dishes, where you will meet flavors and textures not at all like salami. In guess what I'm trying to say is the special-board is where they keep some great Chow, so stay alert and go late.

                        1. re: sheitoon

                          As much as i enjoy cured meats, i would have to agree with sheitoon on Salumi. During the week most people unfortunately cannot wait until 2-2:30pm for the line to die down to eat lunch. If they took reservations it would be another story, perhaps. Cured meat takeout from DeLaurentis market (1st and PIke) is an alternative.

                          1. re: barleywino

                            Another alternative, and just a few blocks away, is Big John's PFI, where a full-blown Mediterranean feast can be assembled from the cured-meat and cheese cases. Olives too.

                      2. Nishino, Saito, Tosoni, Cascadia, Earth & Ocean, Maximillien's, Barking Frog.

                        1. The following is an answer the generic question, "Where can I eat well in Seattle?" I’ve lived here for about six years, and really like good food. Here are my choices. Other than Canlis, which requests that men wear jackets and ties, they are all "business casual":


                          - Canlis – New American/Pacific Northwest. On the formal side.

                          - Campagne – French country.


                          - Szmania’s – Nouvelle German.

                          - Harvest Vine - Spanish, small plates. Business casual. Great Spanish wine list.

                          - Place Pigalle - New American bistro. Charming, intimate, modern

                          - Ray’s Boathouse - Seattle institution for seafood

                          - Hunt Club - Continental. Gracious, cozy, very good food.

                          - Chinook’s at Salmon Bay - Best seafood in town, great brunches.


                          - Rover’s – French. The reverse snobs of Seattle have forced this place to pull in its horns and dumb it all down

                          - Lampreia – New American. Much ado about nothing in particular.

                          - Mistral – New American. Great meal the first time around, but I was stunned to be served exactly the same thing a year later.


                          - Canlis. Elegant, romatic. A fair-weather favorite at sunset.

                          - Hunt Club. Cozy and romantic. A rainy night favorite.

                          - Ray’s Boathouse. A summer evening favorite.

                          Most misunderstood:

                          - Canlis. Seattle reverse snobs channel their considerable class envy at this place, accusing it of all manner of imaginary sins. Don’t listen!

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: Willy3000

                            I have a different take on some places mentioned above by Mr. Willy. I rate these places as excellent: Champagne, Harvest Vine, Rovers, Lampreia and Mistral. This isn't about being a snob in various iterations, it's about the food. I find Ray's and Chinooks best for out of town relatives who like the view---the food is barely OK at Rays and at times lousy at Chinooks. As for Canlis, I don't care for the upsell, the parking charge in their own lot and the really high prices. It is a great place for a big prom date, though. Well, Willy, I guess this means a duel at sunrise?

                            1. re: itsonlyfood

                              ISF, I'll be your "second" for the duel. I view Canlis as a very expensive version of Sizzler...

                              1. re: itsonlyfood

                                No duel, but you might as well get the spelling correct on Campagne. No "h" in the name. Chinook's is a lunch sort of place. Stay away from the crabcakes; the sauce is too heavy. But the oysters are great, and so is any fish on the menu. You might have a point about Ray's, although I'd caution you as to the considerable difference between the restaurant and the cafe in the same building.

                                As for Canlis, it's petty and irrelevant to mention a parking charge. Look, the place is expensive. A good dinner with all the trimmings is going to run a couple hundred bucks per person. If you can't afford the parking, there are plenty of other choices, for God's sake. But look on the bright side: At least you didn't harp on the restaurant's preference that men wear coats and ties. That one drives Seattle's reverse snobs around the bend, and you wind up in these bizarre and hilarious conversations about old money, red states and blue states and the Russian revolution. You'd think the place was bringing back the whipping post and the guillotine.

                                I ought to give Lampreia another chance. The time we went there the waiter was insufferable and the food was mediocre, but everyone can have an off night.

                                On second thought, maybe we should have a duel over sturgeon at Chinook's.

                              2. re: Willy3000

                                i heard the chef and maitre'd (Rene) at Mistral are going to open up their own place somewhere, should be interesting

                                1. re: barleywino

                                  I'm going to have to send them an e-mail and see what they're serving for the Mistral Experience. I mean, when they hadn't changed it in 15 months, I got this eerie feeling that maybe they had bought an uncommonly large lot of boil-in-a-bag Experiences. But that's probably unfair. I hope.

                                  1. re: Willy3000

                                    if you get bored with Mistral, there's always the tasting at Veil (call ahead if you want to customize the number of courses, price point etc).

                                    1. re: barleywino

                                      I'll give it a shot. It wasn't so much boredom with Mistral, it was seeing the exact same special menu more than a year later. It was like being in an episode of The Twilight Zone or something. I was shocked, I'll tell you! Shocked!

                                      1. re: Willy3000

                                        The day Mistral changes their menu is the day that it snows in downtown Seattle (doh)

                                2. re: Willy3000

                                  Re dress code at Canlis, they are pretty lax on enforcing the jackets and ties thing, i've been there more than once with nobody in our party wearing either jackets or ties (once a person in our party wore shorts), with no reprimands whatsoever, and perfectly friendly service

                                  1. re: barleywino

                                    Yeah, I've noticed that recently. But shorts? Holy cow.

                                    1. re: Willy3000

                                      I can top that-I saw someone in a one-sie there a couple months ago. Okay, it was a baby, but still.

                                      I wouldn't put Canlis at the top of the list for out of town foodies like the OP. I like Canlis for the service, view, and ambience. But I just had the tasting menu and was unimpressed. It was a good place to dine with picky eaters who aren't really "into" food and don't want trendy stuff like small plates.

                                      1. re: christy319

                                        Good God, a baby? See what happens when you let the standards slip?