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Best of Seattle - Help

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Hello everyone - I'm coming for a visit in a few weeks and have done a little research into restaurants I'd be interested in going to. I have a list of about 20. I'd like your help in narrowing it down. Please provide any info that would persuade me to go or dissuade me to go to any of these places. Feel free to add any places that should not be missed. By the way - I'm coming from NYC ----if that makes a difference. I'm not a picky eater - just looking for amazing food. Please help! THANKS!

Union
Crush
Tilth
Matt's on the Market
Maneki
Canlis
Cafe Juanita
Quinn's
Mistrel
May
Lark
Sitka & Spruce
Tavolata
Boat Street Cafe
Salumi
Monsoon
How to Cook a Wolf
Tom Douglas Restaurants?

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  1. Here are some of my opinions on your list (which I think is a great list btw):

    Crush - in my top 5 meals of the year (great 3 course tasting menu - dessert not included)
    Tilth - IMO they are losing their edge a bit; not as inspired/interesting as it was earlier
    Cafe Juanita - top 5 meal of the year (amazing risotto, excellent octopus, braised rabbit - yum; not wonderful ambiance, but i actually forgot once i started eating)
    Mistral - CLOSED
    May - i don't think it's worth visiting on a few day stay in seattle. good thai food, bad atmosphere IMO
    Salumi - you need to eat lunch, right? then this absolutely should be on your list
    Monsoon - haven't been in a year, but love it. best if you have a few ppl so you can do family style IMO. not only excellent food, but wonderful wine list
    Tom Douglas Restaurants? - if you're in a casual/fancy comfort food mood, i'd recommend Palace Kitchen. I always enjoy my experience every time I go.

    1. John, Each year the Seattle Chowhounds take a formal poll and for the last two years Harvest Vine has been the number one local Chowhound destination. I recommend it highly. From your list, I would not miss Salumi, Palace Kitchen (Tom Douglas), Quinns, Maneki and Matt's at the Market. Canlis would not be on the radar in NYC and shouldn't be here either. I have not experienced How to Cook a Wolf yet, but remember, you live in a city that has a Little Italy, Seattle not so much.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Leper

        Where/when is the formal poll?

        1. re: cscsman

          One of the local Chowounds asks each Seattle area Chowhound to list their 10 favorite restaurants. He then compiles the total number of restaurants selected. Last year they were:
          1. Harvest Vine
          2. Lark
          3. Union
          4. Salumi
          5. Volterra
          6. Boat Street
          7. Mistral (now closed)
          8. Tamarind Tree
          9. La Carta Oaxaca
          10. Paseo
          11. Sitka & Spruce
          12. Restaurant Zoe
          13. Cafe Press
          14. Crow
          15. Cfe Campagne
          16. Le Courmand
          17. Palace Kitchen
          18. Seven Stars Pepper
          19. Tilth
          20. Szechuan Chef
          21. Matt's at the Market
          22. Cafe Juanita

          Total number of votes equals the final position/tally.

          1. re: Glassman

            no! I was so excited to see his list. Finally, someone who didn't want to go to Harvest Vine. IMO, Harvest Vine should not be on a one time list. Service is extremely hit or miss if it's a good night, and the food is just ok. Matt's and How to Cook a Wolf would be my top choices for dinner on your list, johnsofats. Canlis for drinks/HH for the view, and (if i can add) 35th St. Bistro for lunch.

            1. re: Glassman

              Thanks for posting this Glassman. My husband and I visited Seattle from Los Angeles last week and truly enjoyed the city to the fullest. You guys are certainly blessed with some fine establishments that we don't have down here. Lark was pretty darn nice but our favorite had to be Harvest Vine. The staff was wonderful to us and the food was fantastic. We loved it so much that we ate there twice for dinner during our mini vacation. We can't wait to go back. Thanks again.

        2. i would agree with most of what Dylinw and Leper said, except that if you are short on time, i would skip Japanese and Italian food here, coming from NYC

          1 Reply
          1. re: barleywino

            I know some people like Maneki and I know it won the James Beard Classics Award, but you can do much better, especially in NYC.

          2. It's been quite some time since I have lived in Seattle, but I was back there September of last year. I have always enjoyed Wild Ginger. A former Chef I used to work for Alvin Binuya has an amazing restaurant on Bainbridge Island called Madoka. He really focuses on local and sustainable products in a Pan Asian style. It's just a ferrys ride away from the Seattle waterfront.

            1. It is a great time of year to visit with the abundance of great produce and summer flavors. Of your list I'd say the not to miss places are:

              Cafe Juanita-Best restaurant in the Seattle
              Sitka and Spruce or Corson Building if you like communal dining
              Salumi
              Lark
              Quinns

              I'll add the Harvest Vine, SanBar for bistro/cocktails, Txori for a snack, Besalu for croissants, and Momofuku for steamed buns, oh yeah thats NY.

              I think Crush is heavy handed and overrated.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rosesarefree

                Thanks for everyone's help so far! Keep it coming! I'd like as much input as possible to make an informed decision!

                Is there any way I could get a hold of the chowhound list that you all compiled?

              2. Lovely list. Union and Boat Street are two of my favorite restaurants in the city, so I'd place them high on my list. Salumi for lunch is a definite also. I agree with others that May should be stricken - and, as mentioned, Mistral is closed. Matt's in the Market is quintessential Seattle dining. The only Tom Douglas restaurant I would include would be Palace Kitchen.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Lauren

                  Has anyone been to Tavolata? I think I may have seen that one on Seattle Mag's best of Seattle '08. I may be mistaken? Any thoughts?

                  Update: It's italian - Avoid due to good italian in NYC?

                  Edit: Updated

                  1. re: johnsofats

                    yes you can avoid if from NYC (but please bring takeout from Babbo's pasta tasting menu when you come here ;) PS try the DUngeness crab ravioli at Juno (Arctic Hotel on 1st and Cherry) if you get a chance, the duck at Joule (chefs formerly Per Se etc), and the Douglas fir martini at Cascadia or one of the cocktails at Vessel bar

                2. Absolutely do NOT miss Salumi's. The wait (and there WILL be a wait) is totally worth it. I don't know if they have the caprese sammich as of right now, but if they do I am a big fan and reccomend it. It's even better if you carry it around for an hour or two before eating it. Canlis has good food but can be a bit stuffy...perhaps check out El Gaucho instead, if you're looking for a younger, designer casual crowd. I've been to Quinn's and didn't think the food was good, which made me very sad considering it is owned by the same person who owns Zoe, one of my favorite restaurants in all of Seattle. It has a very too cool for school Capitol Hill vibe, but it does have an impressive list of beers. I find Tilth to be quite lovely. I reccomend the duck burgers, though sometimes they have showed up overdone. Onion soup was also lovely, and a glass of apple cider is also nice if the night is cold and/or rainy. Scones at breakfast were a fresh take on an old favorite, but I found the meal at large to be hit or miss...perhaps they've learned their chops by now. If you like sushi, Umi Sake is good. Their squid was perfectly cooked when I went, and that is the only place I can say that about. Monkfish liver and fatty toro were superb. I like a lot of the squidgy bits that very few people want, and I felt as though they paid attention to what appetizers I ordered and reflected that in my omakase plate. Tentacles and roe and livers and fried fish bones nom nom! I also like Flying Fish. For breakfast and pastries, Macrina Bakery is your best friend. Get there early, order the fried egg sammich and some morning rolls. Get two.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: celtic_tiger

                    Unfortunately Tilth doesn't seem to be improving. When we first ate there about a year and a half ago, we thought it had some of the best food in Seattle. We went for one of their prix fixe Monday dinners last night and find we have to agree with the recent posts on Chowhound. The tuna burgers were unexciting, tasting mainly of the piece of bacon on them and for some reason the kitchen was having trouble getting them out. In fact it probably took 45 minutes to get the first course. The main course of seared tuna wasn't really seared - actually barely browned- and the entire dish was tasteless except perhaps for the finishing salt. We were sorely disappointed.

                    1. re: FoodDee

                      Oh no, that's so sad! Good concept for a place, and I am all over any dining establishment that tries to use organic, locally sourced items. It's so sad to hear that they're on the decline.

                      1. re: FoodDee

                        I ate there about a week ago, and have mixed feelings. We had 4 small dishes between two people. Of the four, one was superb... the duck burger. The pork loin was very good, but not exceptional in any way. The Sous-Vide Sablefish was ok, but I've had MUCH better sablefish elsewhere, and the Sous-Vide preparation didn't do much for it other than give it a somewhat novel texture. The Watermelon Carpaccio left me totally cold. Six pokerchip sized bits of watermelon, a pinch of greens, and a drizzle of olive oil. It didn't taste bad, but honestly, it was an amuse bouche served as an entree.

                    2. coming from NYC it's a tough call where to recommend. The Italian restaurants here really don't come close AT ALL to the quality you're used to...so I wouldn't waste my time with those here (sorry, but it's true)!
                      I would opt for a place that has what NYC doesn't have: a unique NW setting with very good, locally inspired food that would satisfy a NY'er so here's my suggestions:

                      CANLIS
                      67 (at the Edgewater Hotel)
                      Palace Kitchen (closest thing to a NY city experience in food & ambiance... but is there really a need for you to do that while you're out here??)
                      Ray's Boathouse CAFE bar: very good bar food, mostly seafood & GREAT views & outdoor deck.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: staffstuff

                        Based on the above - here is where I've decided to go while I'm visiting Seattle.

                        Salumi (for lunch?)
                        Palace Kitchen
                        Matt's at the Market
                        Cafe Juanita
                        Harvest Vine
                        Quinn's

                        Thoughts?

                        1. re: johnsofats

                          Great list. I'd also check out Green Leaf, Pho Bac, Pho Cyclo, and/or La Carta de Oaxaca for lunch. NYC is oddly deficient in Vietnamese and regional Mexican cuisines.

                          1. re: terrier

                            la Carta scores extra points as an excuse to go to Ballard.

                            1. re: Chief Seattle

                              And the wait is much shorter at lunch!

                            2. re: terrier

                              Next time you're in NYC and looking for good Vietnamese - check out Mai House in TriBeCa or Omai in Chelsea. The former is a "new" Vietnamese but damn tasty and the latter is more traditional fare. Both excellent.

                              1. re: terrier

                                YES, YES, YES (or si, si si) on La Carta. It'll blow your mind.

                              2. re: johnsofats

                                good short list but i would replace Palace Kitchen with Crush. Palace Kitchen is more comfort foodish (not at all what i think of when i think of NYC), Crush is more upscale/presentation-oriented. PS do Matt's for lunch, that will free up another dinner spot on your list.

                                1. re: barleywino

                                  I'm not necessarily looking for a NY experience in Seattle. I'm generally just looking for the best meals out there....regardless of the experience. I'm more about the food than the service too for those with service issues. Bad service is no fun - but if the food is good it can be forgiven. By the way - I got momofuku ko reservations for Tuesday here in NY - I'm so pumped!

                                  1. re: barleywino

                                    Crush isn't even in the same ballpark as Palace Kitchen.

                                    Every meal I've had at Crush has been better than the last. Impeccably balanced dishes, incredible staff, gorgeous atmosphere. Sit at the bar if you can, and ask Jared the bartender to concoct you a custom-made drink. I can't speak any more highly of the place, and if I had the money to do it I'd eat there weekly.

                                    1. re: young and hungry

                                      Another recommendation here for Crush. I was visiting Seattle earlier this week, and had to choose one place for Sunday dinner with three food-knowledgeable friends (our group lives in Chicago, New York, and Orlando). We went to Crush and it was an absolutely perfect choice. (Thanks, young and hungry, for your insightful post - it was helpful in making that decision!) The food was exquisite in every way. I had the foie gras (sublime, and a nice sized portion, too), the "chicken fried" sweetbreads (just okay, the only thing that didn't blow me away), the "short ribs sous vide 72 hours" (wonderful - they vacuum-pack short ribs and cook them for three days at low heat, which removes the stringiness from them - it was almost like a luscious prime rib), and the plum dessert (fabulous - included a moist plum cake, and plum sorbet). And there were many, many other dishes on the menu that sounded equally wonderful. The atmosphere was great - contemporary, hip decor, but minimalist, rather than over-the-top. The service was great too.

                                      I can't compare it to other restaurants in Seattle, as my visit was brief, but I'm familiar with restaurants in many cities across the country, including my home town of Chicago, and Crush was just wonderful.

                                      www.crushonmadison.com

                                2. re: staffstuff

                                  This is a great list. Personally, I might substitute Lark for Cafe Juanita to avoid having to go to the Eastside, but you can't go wrong with the rest of the list. Salumi is definitely a lunch spot. Get there around 11:30 if you can, otherwise you'll wind up waiting and risk them running out of food. The porcetta is to die for.

                                  1. re: Chief Seattle

                                    I think your list is great, but I would argue that you should absolutely leave Cafe Juanita on the list. It's only a 25 minute drive from downtown and it is 100% worth it.

                                    For clarification, Salumi is only open 11-4, so if you intend to go (which you should!), it must be for lunch. And I, too, LOVE the porchetta sandwich (with a little fresh mozzarella for good measure).

                                3. I haven't been to many places in Seattle, but on a recent trip we stayed at the Fairmont and had dinner in The Georgian and it was very good. The dinner was part of a package at the motel and was 6 course chef's tasting menu with wine pairing and I feel it reflected the local varieties and produce. One of the recommended wine pairings seemed a bit off to us, but perhaps we were miss-served. The atmosphere was great as well.

                                  For breakfast CJ's just up the hill from the Edgewater has the best biscuit and gravy I have ever tasted. My wife considers her self a connoisseur of B&G and it is her favorite and our "must go" spot for breakfast when in town.

                                  1. Looks like a great list. I agree to do Matt's for lunch. I like the Palace Kitchen but it is not on the same level as Sitka and Spruce or Lark which I highly recommend trying one of or both because I think the food is classic northwest seasonal and really showcases the great ingredients we have here, particularly this tine of year.

                                    Have fun at Ko!

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: rosesarefree

                                      I must call on you once again chowhounders! My gf is insisting that we go to Bainbridge Island to eat. She has pointed me to Cafe Nola and Madoka. Should I dissuade her? Or are these places worth a look?

                                      1. re: johnsofats

                                        Cafe Nola: very, very good food.

                                        1. re: johnsofats

                                          Trip to Bainbridge on the ferry is fun and especially scenic on a clear day; my last experience dining at Cafe Nola in early July was very disappointing, though, after having had two great meals there 5 and 9 years ago. The food was only so-so and the service was sloppy and inattentive. Our initial appetizer we requested to start the meal arrived quite late (after we finished our salads and we asked the waiter where it was, thus sort of defeating the purpose) and we waited over 45 minutes from the salads until we got our entrees. The waiter did not check on us and we finally had to flag down the hostess for help about where our entrees were, which seemed to make the waiter act a bit put out by us. After this poor service, they did not offer to comp us anything, even a glass of wine.

                                          1. re: johnsofats

                                            I would say take an early ferry, do cafe nola for brunch (great mimosa), walk around, get ice cream at mora (spelling?) hit up some of the wine tasting rooms, and then hop a ferry back. And skip Harvest Vine for dinner. just my two cents though..

                                        2. My husband and I were just in seattle last w/e visiting from SF....we had some very good meals, mostly within walking distance of our hotel (the W). When we checked in Thurs night at 11 it seemed that not much was open, but the manager at Purple directed us the Palace (by cab), and we were very greatful for the full menu. We had arugula salads and ravioli, it was good.
                                          Fri night we had dinner at Matt's at the Market, which was my favorite meal of the weekend. We had a 8PM reserv, and it wasn't crowded so we had no trouble getting a table with a great view. We had halibut and salmon, which were simply but perfectly prepared. There is a moratorium on salmon fishing in the waters down in SF, so fresh great salmon was a real treat.
                                          We took the ferry to Bainbridge Sat and had lunch at a quirky diner near the ferry...Maybe just lunch would be ok for your girlfriend. It was an absolutely beautiful ride.
                                          Dinner Sat was at Union...excellent service, lovely food, maybe a bit fussy for my taste. That restaurant also wasn't a bit crowded at 8:30. The menu didn't sem as regionally centered as I'd hoped.
                                          We had a nice brunch Sun at Cafe Campange.
                                          I, too, had so much help from chowhound planning the trip...it's so great.

                                          1. I don't see Flying Fish on this list, and I made a reservation. I also am going to Wild Ginger. We're leaving tomorrow for Seattle. Any additional suggestions? I'm coming from the wasteland of Central NJ, I go into NYC for fine dining, Babbo, Daniel, Cafe Boulud, Bouley...would like to experience restaurants uniquely Seattle. I guess I'm thinking Canli, Cafe Juanita...also need places family-friendly.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: bistro66

                                              Flying Fish and Wild Ginger two excellent choices, but I don't see many families in either place. Seattle landmarks where Seattlites go (with their families): Rays' Boathouse, Salty's at Alki and Anthony's Homeport at Shilshole Bay or Pier 57 all have fresh local seafood and a water view. Forget Canlis, very expensive and snotty cliquish Seattle. Ewe! Cafe Juanita good but lacks ambience. Most of the places on South Lake Union are good and you can watch boats go by and sea planes take off and land - Daniel's Broiler, Chandler's and Duke's. If you can get a reservation, go to the restaurant in the Space Needle for brunch. The kids will like it, too. It slowly rotates 360 degrees, one of the better views in Seattle. The local joke is it speeds up when you have to look at Ballard.

                                              1. re: feedbag

                                                Glad to hear about the Space Needle restaurant. My son is 10 and very good in restaurants, also has become a gourmand in the last year (did fine at Vama in London, Babbo birthday dinner Cafe Boulud) so I am not too worried. Great to hear about the restaurants with a view! My husband's friend recommended Senor Wolf. He has some connections in Seattle, grad school friends, colleagues, but I always like to ask Chowhound as you have all steered me well on many an occasion. I will make a reservation at the Space Needle restaurant and also probably Ray's Boathouse. Glad to go to such a gourmet area, it is a food wasteland here in central NJ (though we are close to NYC so I can't complain).

                                                Thanks for the recs!

                                                1. re: feedbag

                                                  The food, however, at the Space Needle restaurant (Sky City) is overpriced and not good. Not good at all.

                                              2. Just wanted to follow up on my trip to Momofuku Ko. It was silly good. About half of the ten or so dishes we got were mindblowing and the other half were really really good. Insanely hard to get a resy, ridiculously expensive, and worth every penny.

                                                1. Crush, Harvest Vine and Restaurant Zoe are, IMHO, the best restaurants in Seattle with Crush and Zoe doing mostly local fare. My friends who have been to the Corson Building says it is a do not miss experience. Avoid Wild Ginger....just read the King County Health Board's reports on them and you won't even want to stop there for a glass of water. Palace Kitchen is fun, delicious but is definitely not fine dining; however, it is totally Pacific Northwest dining. Don't bother with the long wait times at How to Cook a Wolf...go to one of Ethan Stowell's two other excellent restaurants, Tavolata or Union, for the same excellent and delicious dishes without the wait.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: WandaBWild

                                                    We enjoyed Flying Fish not too thrilled with Wild Ginger. Kind of dull, actually, and too large a restaurant, reminded me of one of those corporate-owned establishments. Will check out some of the others on the list. Probably go to Senor Moose for lunch today.

                                                  2. johnsofats - Have you made your trip to Seattle yet and if so, I'm anxious to hear what you hit and what you thought?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: hungryinaz

                                                      Hey everyone! Just got back from a beautiful trip to Seattle. We made a few sidetrips (Olympic National Park, Vancouver) so our meals were limited in Seattle. We did make it to Quinn's, Flying Fish, Union and Salumi.

                                                      Quinn's was excellent. The oxtail and the pork belly stand out. Wonderful.

                                                      Flying Fish was also very good. I was less impressed than with Quinn's. I had the albacore with the spicy miso sauce and the oysters. The oysters were great. The albacore was good, but not mindblowing.

                                                      Salumi. What can I say? I've never had anything like it. Simply delicious.

                                                      Union. We went to Union because Matt's had a private event the night we went and Harvest Vine was booked. That being said, I have a feeling it was a good replacement. We had the four course dinner and everything was great. The octopus, the gnocchi, the dourade and the chocolate pate. Delicious.

                                                      We wish we had more time to try other places out! It's a good excuse to come back.

                                                      Thanks for all your help, Seattle. Much obliged.

                                                    2. We went to Senor Moose in Ballard, it was quite good, the chipotle shrimp was excellent. I had forgotten that I wanted to try La Carta De Oaxaca. Next time....Senor Moose was rather crowded and slow and didn't know what to do with the child when we asked for a child-oriented meal, gave him a piece of boiled chicken obviously meant for the trash (probably used for a sauce or soup base). Probably should've asked for a cheese quesadilla. Mexican restaurants that are authentic can be tough for him.

                                                      Wanted to go to Crush but didn't make it. Seafood at most of the trendier restaurants seemed pricey. Went to Chinook's our last night and it was fine, rather old school fish house but pretty good nonetheless.

                                                      Thanks to everyone for their comments! You're lucky to live in such a fantastic city!

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: bistro66

                                                        a bit surprised you would come out here in search of uniquely Seattle, non corporate owned establishments with gourmet food and then go to a chain seafood restaurant like CHinooks...? but as long as you enjoyed it...maybe better luck next time

                                                        1. re: barleywino

                                                          I didn't know it was a chain...are we talking national? it seemed okay to me...better than we have here. I had a kid with me, so most of the fancy, pretentious establishments were out. It was also a matter of cost.

                                                          1. re: bistro66

                                                            It's a regional chain: http://www.anthonys.com/restaurants/l...

                                                            Seems like a fine place to go if you have little ones (though I don't, so what do I know).

                                                            1. re: dylinw

                                                              It was a standard fish house. I thought it was fine for what it was. We weren't in Seattle that long, and there wasn't anything on the menus my child would eat.

                                                              I have to say, many of the restaurants seem as expensive as NYC. But I'm sure they're worth it!

                                                      2. Chez Shez
                                                        Matts @ Market
                                                        Dahlia Lounge-my fav Tom Douglas joint, after all these years
                                                        The Pink Door (eat in the bar, more lively, great bar menu)---I always take out of towners here for post-sail dinner
                                                        Zigzag Cafe (drinks/light fare)
                                                        La Buono Tavola (aka the truffle cafe): @ the Market----Small cafe/wine bar, they have lively & intimate wine dinners routinely, you could checkout their website

                                                        Have fun! Im heading to NYC in 2 weeks myself (Have resv @ Babbo & still undetermined 2nd night locale for dinner- - -)

                                                        Ciao

                                                        1. I would rate Matt's, Cafe Juanita, and Salumi as MUSTS. Canlis is EXPENSIVE and a lot of what you are paying for is retro-Seattle ambiance, but I love the place if you don't mind the price. Of the Tom Douglas restaurants (I like them all), my choice would be a simple lunch at Dahia Lounge (I had lovely Penn Cove mussels for lunch there last week and the soups are always satisfying) or dinner at Palace Kitchen (get the trout). I think Tilth is way over-priced, I have only been once and have not been tempted to go back. It is a little precious for me. Boat Street Cafe is also good, especially for lunch. I have never been overly impressed with Monsoon. I have not eaten at the other places on your list but some of them are on my list so post a report afterwards, OK?

                                                          1. Well when will I learn to look at the dates before I post -- I see you have come and gone already -- thanks for the update