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4 days in Seattle - need help prioritizing my list!

My husband and I will be visiting Seattle from L.A. for 4 nights at the end of the week. We've got 4 breakfasts, lunches and dinners to eat - hurray! I'd like a mix of delicious cheap, casual eats and a couple of nicer places. Based on Chowhound, Yelp, and the Seattle Weekly, I've developed a list but I need help in figuring out what's a don't-miss and what's all hype!

I especially need help prioritizing the non-cheap eats, since we do want to make our splurges count. If anyone is familiar with LA, we eat at a lot of hole in the wall ethnic joints, but we also like Grace, Lucques, and Father's Office, for example. Also, coming from Los Angeles, I decided to leave Mexican, sushi, and Vietnamese places off the list. But please do let me know if there is a can't miss place serving any of these cuisines.

I'm pretty sure we'll go to:
Matt's in the Market
Bavarian Meat Deli
Ballard Sunday farmers market

I'm less sure about:
Cafe Juanita
Harvest Vine
Spring Hill
How to Cook a Wolf

Any thoughts would be appreciated. We'll be staying downtown, but are willing to taxi elsewhere (still debating the rental car). Thanks so much!

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  1. I would take Cafe Juanita off the list. It's a long way from downtown and you've got Osteria Mozza at home. I haven't been to Dinette and Spring Hill - but of the remaining on your "less sure" list I would choose How to Cook a Wolf. Spur would be a fun place to go for cocktails and nibbles one night.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Lauren

      As a pair of counterpoints:

      1. I think Cafe Juanita is excellent

      2. On my last visit to CJ, I encountered the proprietor of Osteria Mozza, who indicated that he had enjoyed a very fine meal.

    2. In the week we were in Seattle, July 2007, the superb meal at Cascadia tops the list. Far from inexpensive & not on the beaten path, the cabby had to phone in to get directions. The ambience is elegant & the food unsurpassed. Highly recommended.

      2 Replies
      1. re: alxnrth

        A prior posting on this site stated that Cascadia is closed.

        1. re: FoodDee

          Confirm that Cascadia is closed. The chef, Kerry Sears, is now at the new Four Seasons on First near the Art Museum.
          Definite on Matt's and Salumi. I would also do either How to Cook a Wolf or Union - both are Ethan Stowell's restaurants. Union is spectacular and downtown if you want to save a cab ride. I have not been to Wolf but hear it is great. Txori is also a great idea if you don't make it to Harvest Vine (I love them both)

          My foodie friends have raved about Quinn's but I have not been.

      2. I don't know Bavarian meat deli, just fyi. I love strolling the farmers market, but you can also not do it as a meal, more a snack, if you need to juggle things. I am assuming you won't be cooking.

        as to your less sures, I would skip Juanita, and I don't know Spring Hill or Dinette. For the splurges, I would say: Crush--delicious, innovative, and a slightly more upscale ambiance. A must. Wolf--small plates and fabulous. Must. Harvest Vine is my favorite in Seattle. Sit at the food bar. My only caveat is that I haven't been there in a while and the owners opened a new place, so I don't know if the Vine has suffered at all. Their new place is called Txori--it's more of true tapas--very small plates. If you need a happy hour/snack or late night place, it would be a good choice, especially if you don't fit in the Vine. I am going to Spur for the first time tonight, but it may be you want to go to either Spur or Quinn's, but not both. sort of my impression. I wouldn't call any of these places cheap, but Crush is the only one to approach fine dining. Finally, for a real Seattle twist, I would consider Tilth or Sitka & Spruce, but you are trying to shorten your list, not add to it,

        4 Replies
        1. re: cocktailhour

          Yay! 2 votes to get Juanita off the list, and 2 votes for Wolf! These suggestions are very useful.

          Are Tilth and Sitka & Spruce similar to each other, or would either be a good replacement for anything else on the list? Harvest Vine...to be honest, tapas would not have been my first choice, but it seems to be a huge favorite so I added it to my list.

          Bavarian Meat Deli just sounded like fun...a place to pick up cured meats for later, but not for a meal. Same with Ballard market. My hubby saw something about pork belly sliders at Spur, so that was also put on the list (so perhaps Quinn's can get crossed off).

          1. re: mmmmangos

            I would give a extreme thumbs up for Wolf, Salumi, Quinn's and Matt's in the Market. Harvest Vine I fond just ok, nothing too spectacular (and hit or miss service). The two I would not miss would be How to Cook a Wolf and Matt's. Two of my top places in Seattle.

            1. re: mmmmangos

              Bavarian Meat's is a great place to do just what you are thinking - pick up snacks for the room. I love their liverwurst. And they make these pretzel rolls that look fabulous.

              Tilth and Sitka and Spruce are very different in feel. I've only had breakfast at Tilth so I can't speak to it's food but Sitka and Spruce pushes the envelope a little more. Tilth's claim to fame is all organic. Sitka and Spruce pushes the local/seasonal angle. If you're interested in Sitka and Spruce, you might want to check out The Corson Building, Matt Dillon's latest venture. I had a very interesting meal there.

              Re: Spur and Quinn's. Both are great. Spur is a more "refined" and Quinn's is more "rustic".

            2. re: cocktailhour

              Just returned from a weekend in LA preceded by extensive CH research so I feel I know your perspective now better than I otherwise might

              Excellent advice by cocktail hour, and others. I would add that Spring Hill is very good and arguably as "Northwest" as it gets. I am a huge fan of Spur, Crush and Quinn's; each executes its locally sourced and inspired dishes as well as remarkable restaurants in much larger cities. Steelhead Diner too, though perhaps not quite as consistently. I would definitely pass on Cafe Juanita; haven't been to Dinette or Wolf. I appreciate your having Vietnamese in spades in SoCal, but consider that Tamarind Tree and Green Leaf are quite remarkable, Monsoon for dim sum/brunch too. These are far from a pho spot or bahn mi deli (though we have good examples of those here too). I quite like the related Spaniards Harvest Vine and Txori, but I think for a short stay Tilth or Sitka and Spruce may be more represenative of the locavore scene, as cocktail hour suggests. I would advise generally not doing Italian either, but hear great things about Spinasse, the pasta specialist/N. Italian newbie.

              P.s. Park's BBQ, Jitlada and Lucques--all awesome.

            3. I'd really consider adding Monsoon for dim sum/brunch on Saturday. I'd pass on Dinette as it's a nice little neighborhood place but not remarkable. I would add Sitka & Spruce or Lark to this list.
              Didn't realize Bavarian Meats was more than a counter, anyone know do they make things?

              1. Matt's - go for lunch (catfish san + salad nearly qualifies as cheap eats at under $20)

                Bavarian Meat Deli - (just a door away from Starbuck's #1) yes, this is one of about a hundred unique and wonderful things at the Pike Place Public Market (go early and stay til closing). In a similar vein, see Uli's Famous Sausages (made fresh by Uli) just across Pike Place and a few stalls South. They have a huge and delectable selection, wonderfully flavorful spices and no preservatives.

                Paseo - A must - Call your local friend with a lot of dishes and get several "dinners" to take out and plate up at home (too huge and messy to eat all that on a tippy two-top). What a great picnic that is.

                Salumi - Definitely - Sit at the common table and try the specials. Ask Irma what's good today.

                Ballard Sunday farmers market - yes, but many vendors are on a circuit and all the markets are good. http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&amp...

                Cafe Juanita - you'd surely get good food, but Juanita's a schlep and pricey (see other splurge candidates below).

                Harvest Vine - This is memorable, though not cheap. Sub Txori to Save.

                Crush - A splurge, but worthy. Other Very Seattle splurges = Tilth, Lark, Elemental, Art of the Table, Sitka and Spruce.
                Spring Hill
                How to Cook a Wolf

                Transit is pretty good (get info at METRO desks - 2nd & Jackson, Under Macy's at 3rd/4th and Pike). You can see the town from a little higher perch than a car and don't have to drive.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mrnelso

                  Wow. This is such great info. I will def. add either Tilth, Sitka & Spruce, or Lark to the list. Thanks for the feedback on all the places, and the Monsoon brunch suggestion sounds good as well.. Will pass on Dinette. Something about Quinn's really appeals to me, so I may keep that as well.

                  Equinoise, glad you had some good food experiences in L.A.! Lucques and Jitlada are both great. Haven't been to Parks BBQ but I've heard good things.

                2. mmmmangos,

                  I see your decision has been made - and you would need a car, but it should be noted that Cafe Juanita offers the finest combination of exceptional food, understated refinement in decor and by far - the finest service in the Seattle area. If you are looking to enjoy a night with someone significant and simply enjoy a perfect evening - Cafe Juanita is your spot......it does sound like you prefer a taste of Seattle though - if you are staying downtown, Dinette is really a classic little spot with really great food and a nice story. So many "food folks" saying they have never been there spured my loggin in to this post - it is a great little spot. You are right on to keep the Ballard Sunday Market on your list. Cafe Presse is also a great value with style. I'll jump on the Sitka and Spruce bandwagon - great food but the "experience" may not fulfill as some other's would. It would be a shame to not stop by one of Tom's spots (the Palace Kitchen bar sets a nice standard if dinner doesn't interest you).

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: J_J_MFK

                    mmmmangos -- I've heard great things about the happy hour at the restaurant that is now in the former Cascadia space, Taverna del Alabardero. You might be able to catch some great tapas there, as it's right in Belltown. Txori is also wonderful. I think I would get my cured meats at Salumi rather than the Bavarian deli, but then, that's me!

                    1. re: zoogrrrl

                      Me, too, Zoogirl. You remind me to say those are 2 very different cured-meat shops. Bavarian deli gets you, um, Bavarian meats. From, like, Bavaria. A good flown-in selection, to be sure; you can almost imagine yourself in Leavenworth (the Northwest's own quaint little "Bavarian" village, with its cash registers pointing acutely up the road toward the ski lodges at Stevens pass - ka'ching). Salumi's cash registers are pointed more toward Italy, though the salamis are cured in that very shop and involve no airplanes - I love the place, and usually slide myself along the wall behind the long line awaiting excellant sandwiches and go straight to the big table in the back. You will see the specials on the sidewalk sandwich board and displayed on plates in the glass case in the entry. The kitchen staff will tell you which you should get, and you can pay on the way out. You can get a few chunks of salami on your way out, too (when traffic allows, they will often graciously slice, but best to plan ahead and call your sliced-meat order to them the day before your pickup).
                      Maybe go to the Pike Place Market in the morning, grab a pain chocolate at Le Panier, a Coffee at Starbuck's #1, just so you can see the where it all started, and wander in to Bavarian Meats for a look (all these are mere feet apart). Then more wandering around and see and eat and come back for a grilled sausage and fries at Uli's (deservedly) Famous Susages.

                      1. re: zoogrrrl

                        Taberna del Albardero was one of my favorite restaurants in DC when I lived there; inventive Spanish cuisine and classic, continental service. While I am glad it is here now, I think it would be a shame to opt for this Madrid-based chain over the unique locals Harvest Vine or Txori.

                    2. I love that most of us agree :) I concure with most recommendations. I would not add Tilth to your list though (though if you venture to Wallinford have a fun treat at Molly Moon's or Trophy Cupcake- check out thier websites- or maybe for after Paseo/checking out Fremont? If you are adventurous they are about a 15 minute walk apart on 45/46th)- I found it was hyped and I feel you would have a much better time at How to Cook a Wolf- one of my favorites. Also, by going to How to Cook a Wolf you will get to see a different part of Seattle- the Queen Anne neighborhood. The cab ride there should be less than $10 or you could take the bus. I would add Sitka&Spruce or Lark to you list though.

                      Matt's - I agree that you should go for lunch- I love the catfish sandwich + salad

                      Bavarian Meat Deli - One of my regular hidden stops in the market. Get some lanjager (sp?) to eat on your walks and chat with the German ladies.

                      Paseo - A must! I like the scallop sandwich more than the midnight cuban because I am more of a seafood fan- I rank it above the prawns as well.

                      Salumi - Long lines- but you know that :) Do it!

                      Ballard Sunday farmers market - This is a regular Sunday stop for me. Check out the Polish Bakery for a treat and maybe pick up some Tall Grass Bread to eat with your Salumi or Bavarian Meats items. Also- there is many tasty cheese vendors.

                      Harvest Vine - I would subsitute Txori- Centrally located downtown and a fun experience. Eat a light dinner and then see a show at Big Picute below El Gaucho and share a tub of truffled popcorn and cocktails why watching a movie in a lounge setting- very date night*

                      Crush - I have heard beyond good things about Crush- It is at the top of my to do list

                      Other Very Seattle places~
                      Elemental & Art of the Table (Both in Wallingford- AotT only serves Thurs, Fri, Sat with themed meals and a Monday App menu- AMAZING!)
                      Restaurant Zoe
                      Lola for Brunch or Lunch ( so delicious and big deal Seattle chef restaurant)

                      Hope you have fun!

                      1. Just a couple additional things. First, I just remembered that when we tried to go to the Paseo in Ballard, it was closed, I think at least for all of January, for winter vacation. It may be different at the other location of course, but you may want to check.

                        Second, I made it to Spur last night and really enjoyed it. I would still compare it to Quinn's in some ways. Quinn's feels more lively and pub like, Spur is smaller, quieter and seems to be emphasizing some more fine dining aspects to their dishes. All the food we had was great--including the pork belly sliders. It is spendy though--plates ranged from $9 to $24. I think we ate 6. They had what looks like a good happy hour, from 5-7. Quinn's also has more beer, if that is your interest.

                        I am not going to comment on anyone else's suggestions, just because I am sure we all have opinions and I know to me it gets overwhelming at some point!

                        1. Sounds like you have a plan! Not sure if pain de chocolate at Panier is better than those at Breadbar so I'd swap that for a mazariner from Svedala Bakery in the Pike Market and munch while you are walking around. Might even want to take some of those home, actually.
                          also don't make a special trip to MollyMoons for ice cream---not as good as Tai's stuff at Scoops and costs MUCH more.

                          Enjoy Salumi---you know you can buy stuff to go from there too.

                          1. You've received some pretty good advice already, but I want to post my dissent on a few of the responses. First, many people encourage you to drop Cafe Juanita from your list. This may be justifiable given your intelligent decision to eat at restaurants that will offer something different from the Los Angeles scene. (I lived in the Los Angeles area most of my life.) Certainly, L.A. has plenty of good Italian restaurants, like Angelini Osteria, Cappo, Via Veneto, Valentino, and Osteria Mozza. But Café Juanita is, in my opinion, the best restaurant in the Seattle area. Chef Holly Smith is absolutely at the top of her game, and received the 2008 James Beard Foundation Award at the best chef in the Northwest. Yes, it’s a schlep to get to Kirkland, but what Chowhound won’t suffer some degree of inconvenience for the sake of fabulous food. I just ate there last Saturday night, and absolutely swooned over almost all the dishes. The service and the wine list are on a par with the amazingly wonderful food. I agree with others who tout Ethan Stowell’s restaurants, both Union and How to Cook a Wolf. You are right to avoid Japanese and Mexican restaurants in Seattle. They pale by comparison to the resources available in the L.A. area. However, despite the large number of good Vietnamese restaurants in L.A. and Orange County, I agree that the food at the Tamarind Tree is very special, as are some of the wonderful and exotic non-alcoholic drinks there. I would definite go to either Harvest Vine or Txori. Los Angeles doesn’t have many exceptional Spanish or Basque restaurants. Chef Joseba Jimenez de Jimenez turns out some amazing Spanish and Basque dishes, and his wife, Carolin Messier de Jimenez, produces equally amazing deserts. Finally, for an experience that cannot be replicated in Los Angeles, I would go to Elliott’s Oyster Bar for a sampling of Pacific Northwest oysters, which are some of the best oysters in the world. If you don’t like raw oysters, you have my sympathy, and can ignore my recommendation. Otherwise, be sure to sit at the oyster bar, not a table. Hopefully, Dave Leck will be working at the oyster bar. He is amazingly knowledgeable about oysters, as well as being a champion oyster shucker. The last time I was at Elliott’s, they had between 25 and 30 types of oysters on hand, the best of which were from Snow Creek (Port Angeles) and Kusshi (Deep Bay, Vancouver Island). (See my post on Pacific Northwest oysters at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/577731). This is truly a unique Pacific Northwest experience.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Tom Armitage

                              A P.S. to my post above: The Saturday University District farmers' market is a larger, food only, alternative to the Ballard farmers' market. There are some very good vendors there.:

                              1. re: Tom Armitage

                                I can't tell you how much I appreciate all of these suggestions. I am writing all of these down. Though some are pulling ahead of the pack, I won't rule anything out...it sounds like it will be hard to go wrong, which is a nice dilemma to have.

                                I will also check in advance whether Paseo is open. Thanks for the warning! (And it's true; L.A. is lacking a really good tapas place).

                                One last question, if you'll indulge me. Of the Lark/Sitka & Spruce/Art of the Table type places, which would be the "easiest" to visit? It seems that there are a lot of tiny, no reservations places in Seattle and I'd prefer not to spend ALL my time waiting for tables! :)

                                1. re: mmmmangos

                                  I prefer waiting at Lark as opposed to S&S since you can have (very good) drinks at related bar Licorous next door. IIRC S&S is in a strip mall with nothing comparable nearby. I think the food at Lark is better than S&S too; I should have mentioned it and Union at first.

                                  1. re: mmmmangos

                                    I agree with the choice of Lark. Lark has more tables than Sitka & Spruce, which means a shorter wait time on average. The wait at Sitka & Spruce can be hideously and unconscionably long, and is chronically underestimated by the staff there. In addition, the chef at S&S, Matt Dillon, is now focused on his new restaurant, Corson Building, whereas Chef John Sundstrom is 100% at Lark.

                                    1. re: mmmmangos

                                      Art of the Table has Happy Mondays... you can sample what they are trying out for the upcoming dinners and not have to go by the set meal. however, they are closed unitl Feb 9th (I think) for their holiday break. Highly recommended though, more casual, fun, interactive "happy hour"

                                2. Harvest Vine is a must. They always have something new and interesting on the menu that will enlighten you. It can be quite hard to get a table though. I'm surprised more people haven't raved about crush on here. I've only been there once but it was absolutely amazing. I would definitely go to sitka and spruce. It doesn't look like much from the outside but the food is great. Sit at the community table, there are always interesting people so you'll get to have a great dinner while sharing some delightful conversation. Tilth has never really amazed me. I haven't gotten a chance to go to how to cook a wolf yet, but I've only heard great things.

                                  1. I love Cafe Juanita and consider it one of my favorite Seattle restaurants but have been underwhelmed as of late. For I good cross section of dinners I suggest:

                                    Harvest Vine: Firing on all cylinders, much more than tapas, sit upstairs ideally at the bar.
                                    Quinn's: More casual don't order too much rich stuff although they all sound and are good
                                    Lark: as good seasonal northwest as there is.

                                    Dinner Number Four: Toss up between Sitka and Spruce, Monsoo(upscale viet) , Boat Street Kitchen(NW Bistro and Le Pichet(french bistro). I guess it depends what you're up for after the three other meals.

                                    I could easily sub Quinn's out for any of these. The more I think of it Boat Street is the sleeper of the bunch, doesn't get as much attention, has better ambiance and comparable food.

                                    1. We just returned from a wonderful trip made all the better by your advice. Since you were kind enough to provide suggestions, I thought I'd better report back! We didn't make it to all the places we wanted, but almost every place we went was fantastic.

                                      Salumi - lived up to the hype. The salami stunk up our hotel room (in a good way) whenever we opened the fridge. Porchetta, meatballs, hot soprasetta, salumi - all great. They are only open Tuesday-Friday, in case any other tourists plan to visit!

                                      Matt's in the Market - really, really good. Went for a late lunch so specials were sold out. I had soup & salad (great); hubby had the fried catfish sandwich based on the recs here. He really liked it despite generally hating catfish, so that's high praise! I would have liked to go back.

                                      Txori - Great tapas and reasonably priced, I think. Better than any I've had in L.A. so far. I like how it really felt like a friendly, casual neighborhood cafe (as opposed to a lot of LA places that try to be sexy and smoldering). Braised pork, chorizo & chocolate, pa amb tomaquet, and the tortilla espanola sandwich were the faves.

                                      Crush - JUST. EAT. HERE. Really. This was the best dining experience I've had in so long. The food, service, and wine suggestions were all perfect, and it was a fun place to eat as well. I had a hamachi and asian pear appetizer (best hamachi ever) and a fantastic gnocchi main course...the lightest, fluffiest gnocchi I've ever had in a wonderful creamy herby sauce. The hubby had the foie gras "steak" appetizer and the sous vide short ribs, which has ruined him for all other short ribs. We also were able to try the soup - parsnip leek perhaps? - in any case, delicious. God I love this restaurant.

                                      Tamarind Tree - I'm really glad we went here but I suspect we ordered the wrong items, even though we asked the waiter for advice. I wish they had a more limited menu! We ordered the Tamarind Tree spring rolls, which were good, and I ordered a lemongrass/pepper tofu dish, which was pretty good but rather dry/oily, and my husband got the Hainan chicken rice, which he said was good but not the best he's had. It seemed like the thing to order was their enormous crepe to wrap up in greens...those looked great! The drinks were great (fresh lemon sodas), as was dessert.

                                      Boka - this was attached to our hotel, so we thought we'd try it late one night because they have a late-night happy hour. I was really underwhelmed by the food and would have found the space annoying for a proper dinner. I'd skip it and go pretty much anywhere else. Can't beat a $3 Guinness, though.

                                      Elliott's Oyster Bar - I almost forgot! We went at happy hour and sat at the bar. We are oyster novices and we couldn't have asked for a better education...three dozen oysters later, we know what we like. I think we tried 5 different kinds? That really was a blast, and delicious, and we would never have gone there if not for this board, so thanks again.

                                      We didn't make it to Lark or Quinn's, which is too bad, but the food we did have was so great that it's hard to complain. Crush seemed to use a lot of local, seasonal ingredients as well. Other things...we grabbed breakfast most days at Piroshky Piroshky, because it was convenient and tasty; I enjoyed Beecher's cheese; Bavarian Meat Deli was a worthy stop; everything I tried at Le Panier was yummy; we ate honeycrisp apples every day...life is good.

                                      Anyway, thanks again, Seattle Chowhounders! I never expected such a generous response to my questions. Your city is delicious.

                                      1. as restaurant owners ourselves we recently celebrated our 2 year restaurant anniversary @ Juanita....food and service excellent......have eaten @ Crush twice, once good once i had 2 dishes overcooked and Jason served them to me @ the "kitchen bar", but otherwise good...have eaten @ Lark at least 12 times ALWAYS GREAT even after CHef won the James Beard award....Salumi IS a MUST as well as Matt's (for lunch)..I know seattleites are gonna poo poo this but ive eaten @ The Flying Fish about a million times and always had very good food and service, its a great option for lunch and Chris Keff knows her way around some NW seafood....Union is a gem downtown that I think gets overlooked with Ethans other spots......sit @ the bar and get the lowdown from the bartender.....If you want a coupla spots for drinks and a nibble hit up Wild Ginger, they've gotten a bit too big for their britches but they DID start the whole thing here or cab it down to the Edgewater Hotel and have a sunset cocktail at 6& 7 lounge??i think its called??.......thats my 2 cents as a Chef and chowhound;)

                                        1 Reply