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Apr 15, 2007 08:41 AM

Quintessential Seattle dining experience?

Hi, I'm a native NYer visiting Seattle for the first time this August. Will eat/try anything but want to taste quintessential Seattle (4 days & nights), I'm writing this post months in advance in case I need to get reservations.

I specifically would like to try sushi/Japanese and is the Dahlia Lounge as good as I've heard?


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  1. Here is the link to the Ultimate Seattle Restaurant poll that was conducted in December.
    Some highlights on this list that you may not be able to get in NY are Harvest Vine, which produces some tapas that equal some of the top places in spain but it combines many northwest ingredients with the spanish techniques. Seattle has better Vietnamese than NY and I.M.O the best places are Green Leaf and Tamarind Tree. Although I have never been Union is supposed to be an amazing Northwest Culinary experience. Lark, another northwest style small plates eatery, produced one of my most memorable culinary experiences in recent memory. As for Japanese, Nishino's is my favorite you will find some very memorable dishes there.

    1. you may very well get lucky in finding all the stars in alignment the night you visit dahlia and find a beautiful room, attentive service and intriguing food - but the latter two are a crapshoot - better you should guarantee a fine time by going to union (1st/union) where the decor is a bit more restrained but the food and service are always superb. i also suggest that a meal at ray's boathouse (shilsole bay) fits your request for "quintessential seattle" in terms of both cuisine and view

      2 Replies
      1. re: howard 1st

        How is Ray's since their old chef left for New York? I went before he left and had a pretty good meal. But I am wondering how the kitchen is running now.

        1. re: dagrassroots

          the new fellow has kept several of the best dishes from the old menu and is slowly introducing his own style - there are more "daily specials" than there used to be (indicating greater effort being made) and the transition appears seamless.

      2. Taking your question literally -- quintessential Seattle places that could never exist in NY:

        - The Herbfarm (requires much time, money, and wheels)
        - Matt's in the Market (requires little time, money, or wheels)
        - Sky City atop the Space Needle (mostly for the view, though the overpriced food is OK)
        - FareStart (excellent meals prepared by homeless men and women who are being trained for cooking careers - especially great on Thursday eves)

        Excellent food showcasing NW ingredients:

        - Lark
        - Mistral
        - Union
        - Dahlia Lounge
        - Ponti Seafood Grill
        - Ray's Boathouse
        - Flying Fish

        Excellent places that you won't find the likes of in NY, though they aren't really tied to the Seattle environment:

        - Salumi
        - Harvest Vine

        Great food, very Seattle, yet you can find similar (better?) in NY:

        - Shiro's & Nishino (sushi)
        - Tamarind Tree & Green Leaf (Vietnamese)

        You can find much info on all of these by searching this board and the web, or ask specific questions here.

        14 Replies
        1. re: BruceB

          NYC has great Sushi but for Vietnamese cuisine (and especially Pho), Seattle is reliably better.

          Pho Bac (I like Pho Bac III on 7th Ave S better than the first location on Rainier and Jackson) is a must, in my opinion - Tamarind Tree a close second.

          1. re: BruceB

            Thanks everyone, you've given me so many options. My ultimate goal is to try "excellent food showcasing NW ingredients" as BruceB wrote and to drink tons of coffee.

            Lark, Union, Ray's, Harvest Vine, Nishino & Tamarind Tree seem to be the fan faves so that's 6 meals down.

            I would love to try Salumi as I've seen it featured in many Seattle travel shows but I heard the lines can be impossibly long...what is the best time to go & what to order??
            and are there any great spots for Sunday brunch? I saw Giada on the foodnetwork head to Bainbridge Island for Sunday brunch.

            1. re: moymoy

              The line is regularly out the door at Salumi but I've never waited more than about 30 minutes (and that long only a few times). It's only open for lunch, Tuesday-Friday. (Forget about their Friday dinners, unless you're the mayor, governor, or a friend of the family.)

              It used to be that one could go at 11:30 or 2 to avoid the lunch rush, until everyone started doing that. Now, perversely, you might as well go at 12:30 or 1. (I don't recommend going late because they do run out of things.)

              If one of them is on as a special, get the pork cheek or oxtail sandwich. Failing that, I recommend the porchetta sandwich - and in any case a plate of salumi. You won't be able to finish it all alone, so share. The atmosphere at the communal table is convivial.

              1. re: terrier

                wow, oxtail sandwich? how is that even possible, I've never had oxtail that hasn't been braised with bone on. thanks, terrier!

                1. re: terrier

                  This may be too much effort, but a person can go early (open at 1100) and look at the specials, then ask the staff to save you specials for your return at, say, 2:30, when you can enjoy the slow-food experience...

                2. re: moymoy


                  I would check out this review of Ray's (halfway down) before committing to it-it reflects what I've heard about the place recently. Though it still might be worth it for the view.

                  1. re: moymoy

                    For Sunday brunch, Cafe Campagne in the market is excellent. Etta's (another Tom Douglas restaurant) at the north end of the market would be a good option too. I'd be curious to know where Giada went to brunch on Bainbridge. The ferry ride there and back is a great way to experience the Seattle skyline from the water. Rather than brunch, I would be inclined to get off on the other side and walk or cab to Harbour Public House. It's casual pub fare but the setting on the marina looking back toward the city is very northwest indeed. And whether you try them there or around town, the local beers are a treat. NY doesn't really have anything that compares to the hoppy beers from Seattle.

                    1. re: savorlicious

                      Giada had french toast at Cafe Nola. It looked good!
                      I was debating whether to include Bainbridge Island on my itinerary and now I think I will. Thanks for the tip on beers, didn't know that about Seattle.

                      1. re: moymoy

                        Don't expect great things from Cafe Nola, if you end up dining there. I've eaten there on vary numerous occasions and have never been wowed, though never terribly disappointed either. In any case, it's probably your best bet, if you're looking for a semi-formal, sit-down meal.

                        Bainbridge doesn't excel in fine dining, but excellent casual eateries abound. One mustn't miss trying at least one of the three superb coffee shop/bakeries which we Islanders consider our second homes; these being: Blackbird Bakery, Bainbridge Bakers, Pegasus Coffee House. All three are not only quintessential Northwest (being the arch-typical Seattle-esqu coffee shops) but are quintessential Bainbridge Island as well.

                        Another good bet on the island might be Mora Iced Creamery, a rather new establishment lacking in some of the small town charm oozing out of the very pavement of Winslow Way (the main street of our minuscule downtown), has a slightly cold, pretentious air, of which it is not entirely undeserving. The locally made ice cream is enough of a treat to that I find myself able to wade through the counterfeit kindness and humorless efficiency of the staff to enjoy a cone, from time to time.

                        Enjoy Bainbridge, but not too much. I'll warn, you wouldn't be the first visitor to our exquisitely enticing island who, so enchanted by the natural beauty and amiable ambiance, decides to quit his dreary home in the city for this overpopulating utopia.

                    2. re: moymoy

                      I would second Herbfarm, if time and money are not an issue (check to be sure that the Beard-award winning head chef Jerry Traunfeld will be there that night; make your reservations well ahead of time). For more casual NW fare, Steelhead Diner.

                      1. re: barleywino

                        Talkin' brunch, I think Steelhead's is great. The Eggs Jereme - "truffled exotic mushroom omelette with Beecher's Flagship" - is not to be missed. Loved the chicken-fried steak as well, along with both their regular and wasabi bloody marys.

                      2. re: moymoy

                        The above sounds good, but for Vietnamese, I would recommend Green Leaf over Tamarind Tree. I find the quality and consistency of the food to be better at Green Leaf. Also, not sure if you have access to good banh mi, but there are numerous Vietnamese delis in the International District (ID), right around 12th and Jackson, which have wonderful sandwiches for around 2.50 each. My favorite is Saigon Deli and a close second is Seattle Deli.

                        1. re: SeaGal

                          Also right their is Malay Satay Hut, which is personally one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle.

                          1. re: dagrassroots

                            Malay Satay Hut is a good recommendation although you do have Penang in NYC (which has better roti canai imo, Malay Satay Hut's is more like a scallion pancake or paratha, and better char kway teow) so you might consider going instead to, say, Cascadia, for their Dungeness crab ravioli and Douglas fir martinis. Similarly, although i love NIshino, you do have Nobu, Gari, Yasuda etc (not to mention Masa!) in NYC, so if you have to choose between Nishino and another place, you might consider the "other" place (unless you are especially fond of o-toro or albacore). For those cask-conditioned hoppy ales mentioned earlier, check out Beveridge Place pub in W Seattle for their frequent (more than weekly) cask and keg events.

                    3. sit at the sushi bar at Shiro's for amazing sushi. just put yourself in the hands of the sushi chefs, they'll make sure you're well taken care of.
                      i can't beleive no one's mentioned Dick's: totally a quintessential seattle dining experience! several locations around the city for supercheap burgers, fries, and milkshakes. even if you don't want a full meal, stop and get some fries after drinking--they're open till 2 am every day.

                      1. Ray's Boathouse is quintessential Seattle - fantastic seafood (not expensive upstairs in the bar and more fun anyway!), great view of Elliott Bay (passing freighters as well as close-up views of pleasure craft and large processors coming into Lake Union), and fun ambiance (upstairs is really fun). If the sun is out they'll have dining on the deck upstairs too. Highly recommended. We live close by and go there every couple months or so - both lunch or dinner - winter and summer.

                        Sushi is also big in Seattle - if you've never had it, don't prejudge. Go in open minded and you will LOVE it.

                        Seattle is salmon, geoducks and blackberries. Have a great time here.