Seattle, one weekend, on a budget
I'm flying in from Texas, and my friend is driving up from Portland. We are staying Fri-Sun at the end of March. We're staying just outside of downtown (Best Western Executive Inn, I think) and will have a car. What are some can't-misses that won't break the bank?
vktp, I recently visited your great state and had some great BBQ and Tex-Mex. Seattle's International District should be your first destination. (Remember the West, including San Francisco and Seattle, was built by Chinese labor.) Seven Stars Szechuan Restaurant is an exceptional destination. Since you're a Chowhound, order something you are not familiar with--you won't be disappointed. Even though their combined decor lacks in every way, also recommended are Hing Loon (shrimp won ton soup and pepper pork ribs), Ho Ho Seafood Restaurant (crab) and Tai Tung--Seattle's oldest Chinese restaurant. Nearby is Tamarind Tree (Vietnamese) which is upscale but not spendy. Maximillien's At The Market (the upstairs bar) is a must for mussels. Visit Uwajimaya a huge Asian market. Wander the produce and meat sections and see if you can even ascertain what most things are. (You're not in Texas anymore when you're in Uwajimaya.) Salumi for lunch (Tues-Fri only). Serious Pie for Pizza as you would experience in Italy. Matt's at the Market may be open after their long remodel. If so, don't miss it. Try drinks and snacks at The Pink Door on the deck if weather permits. Finally, happy hour at The Palace Kitchen. You will be surrounded by people who are Chowhounds but don't know it. If you can splurge just one meal, Harvest Vine defines great food in Seattle, Spanish Tapas that never fail to surprise in originality and flavor. Write back and let us know what you enjoyed.
Funny coincidence. My cousin from Portland is driving up here to meet a friend who is from Texas today! They are staying at my crib in Tacoma and hitting up a concert in Seattle. Small world.
On a more foodie like note, Leper's recommendations are excellent. Uwajimaya is a great place to get your gastronome groove on. Some of the best Hanoi Pho is at Saigon Bistro there. My spouse and I always snag a bowl when we are up there. I second Salumi and Serious Pie too. If you can, head over to Capitol Hill for more cheap eats. Coastal Kitchen breakfast isn’t half bad and easy on the wallet. Another pretty rockin' place is Elemental at Gasworks Park. Gotta get there early, it gets filled up fast. They serve small plates which can be pretty reasonable. Also if you can hit Sitka and Spruce, they are a new favorite for out towners for me!
While I can't contend with Harvest Vine (the best Seattle has to offer in my opinion), if you want to experience a more musical vein, head over to the Triple Door. Tiered diner seating in the theatre, with incredible food. It can get pricey but very well worth it.
Whatever you do, puleeze do not go to Ivars to eat clam chowder, the space needle for dinner or any other tourist traps. That is commercial Seattle, not authentic.
seven stars can be very spicy but maybe you like it that way. famous non-spicy szechuan food would be smoked duck (don't know if they have it). imho, for asian food, vietnamese would be the safer bet. leper's recommendation Taramind Tree is good, as is Green Leaf (more homely).
Elemental is great too but some think that the owner/waiter/sommelier has an attitude (I personally like it) so research more. Frankly, the food isn't exceptional (some good dishes, some average) but I enjoyed the atmostphere and the sommelier's fussy, uptight sort of attitude.
If you are driving up to Snoqualamie Pass, stopping at Salish Lodge is an expensive breakfast or lunch, but a world class destination. If Snoqualamie has no weather issues, and as a Texan you'd don't see much winter mountain scenery, it's like driving through a postcard. Mount Ranier will still have a lot of snow cover, but likewise between the waterfalls and the spring hiking trails, it is a great destination. I like Dukes for casual sea food. They have a location N of downtown Seattle about 3 miles. Maybe the Greenlake location (?) My favorite chowder, and a scenic marina location. Have fun.
If you make it down to the Seattle Waterfront (which I recommend), you can stop at Ivar's clam shack. It's a walk-up counter that has tasty fried seafood and fries. They have an enclosed building right next door where you can sit and eat, but it's definitely no frills. Ivar's is a Seattle institution.
Hing Loon is one of our favorite's in the ID, but the interiors most closely relate to a cafeteria. You might grab dim sum at House of Hong, if you haven't tried dimsum before.
If you can catch happy hour, you'll find some great deals. Brasa on 3rd is one of my favorites--the curry mussels are divine.
Paseo's in Fremont has amazing sandwiches that are pretty cheap, but come early they often run out. I second Seven Star Pepper and the ID in general, Takohachi is another good spot.
I second bergeo's recommendation. I had my brother visiting with two of his friends and they were in heaven at Paseo with the Cuban sandwiches. I would recommend swinging by Paseo, picking up lunch and taking it down to Green Lake or the Sculpture Park. Very Seattle.