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Looking for an "Only In Seattle" type place

Hello all. Long time reader, first time et cetera.

Anyhow, my girlfriend and I are driving from Minneapolis (where we live) to Seattle next week. We'll have 3-4 days in Seattle with a car and no major destinations, so clearly I've been doing a little research on food.

What I'm looking for is somewhere completely unique to Seattle. It doesn't have to be a 5-star joint, or award winning or anything like that (I'm thinking $9-14 an entree). But I want to find somewhere that's entirely unique to, and a product of, Seattle. And in all my reading on this site (and others), I haven't seen any good consensus yet.

For instance, if you're in Chicago (and you read this site), you go to Hot Doug's. If you're in Kansas City, you go to Arthur Bryant's. If you're in Denver, you just try to find yourself some good green chili. If you're in Minneapolis, you go to The Modern (as far as I'm concerned, at least), or Matt's.

I've already decided that Crush is going to be our "big night out" meal, but I want some other cheaper destinations aside from that. So far it seems that Baguette Box is a consensus favorite for a lot of people, and I'm intrigued by Spur and Monsoon. But I haven't quite found that perfect Seattle place yet.

So what say you, Seattle? I'll have a car, and will be willing to drive anywhere. I don't care if it's a dive. I don't care if it's pretentious. I don't care if it's in a suburb. Lunch, dinner, breakfast, Whatever. I just want it to be delicious, and I want to think about it when I'm back home a week later.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Try Paseo. They have Cuban sandwiches and their sandwiches have been nationally rated. Order the #2, don't unwrap the whole thing when you get it, just unwrap as you eat (it is that messy). Go to the Ballard location (on Shilshole) and get your sandwiches and go down to the beach. Just bring plenty of napkins.

    If you don't like or want pork, get the prawn sandwich. I recommend going for lunch or an early dinner as they usually under order on the bread and tend to run out on occasion, especially on weekends. But if you go for lunch or during the week you'll probably be fine even for a later dinner to watch the sunset. Their dinners are excellent too (basically the same meat as the sandwiches with rice and amazing beans. The onions are fantastic and the garlic bread is basically dipped in butter and garlic.

    This is the sandwich that will leave you wanting it for a year after you get home.

    Oh, and they are cash only. The Fremont location has a couple small tables, the Ballard location has a couple benches.

    2 Replies
    1. re: patriciajane

      Market Grill. Hands down. Get the grilled salmon sandwich.

      Also Matt's in the Market; if you go for lunch, you'll be able to eat within your price range, though some things will be more expensive.

      If it's a nice day, eat oysters at happy hour outside on the deck at Elliot's. It's on the waterfront.

      1. re: patriciajane

        Here, here! I went to Paseo on a recommendation from this sight, (I live in Vancouver BC) and was blown away. Super good, tasty and fresh.... not mention inexpensive. Perfect!

      2. I was going to recommend Paseo. And who could describe it any better than patriciajane. Skillet Street Food (an Airstream trailer that changes locations daily) is very Seattle-like, as well.

        Be sure to hit the Theo's chocolate tour, 1 and 3 pm daily, right on your way to or from Paseo. This posting includes some other hidden food gems:


        2 Replies
        1. re: zoogrrrl

          Paseo is officially on the list. I love Cubans more than just about anything, so it sounds perfect!

          1. re: stevemarth

            Be forewarned: Paseo's Cuban sandwich is NOT a Cuban Sandwich in the traditional sense.

            It's a pressed sandwich with roast pork and stuff, but not like you've seen before.
            It's good but it's different in style and taste.
            (I'm more of a fan of the chicken thigh sandwich)

        2. Really? I love Paseo, but I don't think of it as an "Only in Seattle" kind of place. It's a good sandwich, but what about it makes it uniquely Seattle?

          When I have friends in town and want to give them a "Seattle" experience, I've done a couple of things.

          For me, Tamarind Tree has always been a favorite from an ethnic bent. I think Vietnamese is one of best and most interesting cuisines we have around here and something that is more limited in other parts of our country. (it's a good one on a budget too)

          From a more American perspective, Matt's, Etta's and Dahlia are good choices with a nice local feel to them. All strike me as very Seattle-y, with a variety of seafood options and head chefs with strong local ties.

          And when I want to show off the water, I usually do Ray's up in Shilshole.

          But honestly, if you're looking for the experience that , the kind that ex-pat Seattlites will ask you about (ie, "Oh, you were in Seattle? Did you hit... ?"), it's probably Dick's and Ivar's. Not the best of food, but the definitely Seattle institutions.

          (You're choices of Spur and Monsoon are good ones too. I'd add Quinn's which is similar to Spur)

          2 Replies
          1. re: GreenYoshi

            Yeah, I've noticed a lot of Vietnamese places get mentioned in other threads. For whatever reason, here in the Twin Cities there are a TON of great Vietnamese spots, so I was leaning towards staying clear of them while in Seattle. But I've seen Tamarind Tree praised by a ton of people now, so I might just sneak in there. You really can't beat Vietnamese sometimes. Also, I read that Monsoon does Vietnamese with a bit of a Pacific Northwest twist (or so they claim), which is why I was intrigued. Their menu looked pretty good too.

            1. re: stevemarth

              monsoon in my opinion totally lives up to that promise (and you've got it right.) in a similar vein joule in wallingford, does interesting twists on asian flavors (with korea being the lodestar in this case) w/mediterranean flavors too. not some lame fusion place but genuinely interesting ideas well executed. that said i went there soon after they opened and not everything melded perfectly but it was definitely worth the trip and not something i'd expect to see in many other cities.

          2. I'd suggest the Lunchbox Lab - seems to be a love/hate relationship with posters on here, but, in my opinion, has the best burgers I've ever had. It recently made the foodnetwork best burger list (1 for each state). Interesting combinations and great shakes. I'd say it is unique to Seattle. Disclaimer: this is not your regular burger stand. The prices are high, but the quality of ingredients matches it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: BallardFoodie

              I read a little on that place, and definitely noticed the "love/hate" vibe. A couple reviews on Yelp, along with their website (yikes!) turned me off of it, but it's sounding better and better. I'll definitely keep it in mind.

              1. re: stevemarth

                They are clearly focusing their efforts on aspects that don't include the website. It has no bearing on the excellent food, though.

            2. Ivar's Salmon House has a Lake Union View and a pretty OK happy-hour menu (meaty squid so tender - plan to tear away the breading). There are lots of great Seattle history photos, but you might want to do your own search at historylink . org for the whole story of Ivar Haglund, much loved local restarateur, generous citizen, and a real card. We miss him.

              1. The Pike Place Farmer's Market is dozens of eating-places, and is the very definition of Seattle.

                1. I second Christy's recommendations:

                  Market Grill - a little lunch grill in Pike Place Market. It's in the main arcade across from Uli's Sausage. Most people assume it's a dive and walk right by not knowing they're passing up the opportunity to get a perfectly grilled salmon filet on an fresh baguette. It's so divine and has all the ambience of the market.

                  Matt's in the Market - this restaurant has a unique vibe as it's in an historic building overlooking the market with a fabulous view of Elliot Bay. It strikes the perfect balance between a nice meal and a casual dining experience. I prefer it for lunch rather than dinner because in the summer the setting sun can be blinding in the restaurant. Reservations are required.

                  I take all my out-of-town guests to these two spots and they talk about them both for years afterwards.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: frygirl

                    Yes, yes, yes. market Grill for a halibut/salmon sandwich. Nearby, too are Jack's Fish Spot for a nice cup of Cioppino, and Pike Place Chowder, for seared scallop chowder. Also, Uli's will grill you up your choice of lovely sausages (order fries with that), and across the street is BBQ pork baked Bao at Mee Sum and if I don't stop writing, the page and you will be too full. Basically, there is tasty food everywhere at Pike Place and you can hardly go wrong. Grazing for hours at the Pike Place Farmer's Market is a local tradition, and one you willl want to repeat another summmer (in Winter it raiins and grazing is more for locals...).

                    1. re: mrnelso

                      I am stunned. No one has mentioned SALUMI as a must.

                      Only in Seattle. 'nuff said.

                      1. re: bluedog67

                        Agreed, it's awesome. You have to go during the day, during the week... the last I heard at least.

                        1. re: schraminvan

                          Thanks everyone for the tips. I have quite a list made up now, and most importantly, my head is no longer spinning. Or is it?

                  2. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Wild Ginger - that's definitely a place ex-pat Seattleites would assume a tourist had visited. Most folks believe it's not all that, but it's very Seattle.

                    On the cheaper side of things - Coastal Kitchen on 15th (funky and food experiments either work or are a bit off), Dick's Drive-up for burgers (esp. in Wallingford on 45th), Palace Kitchen (creation of Tom Douglas - local chef).

                    1. 1. Happy Hour at Maximilien's rooftop at Pike Place Market or Pink Door Patio in the Market.
                      2. Emmett Watson's Oyster Bar, Pike Place Market
                      3. Canlis, Lake Union
                      4. 13 Coins, Seattle, not SeaTac
                      5. Brasa, Belltown
                      6. Sunset at Ray's Boathouse, Ballard/Golden Gardens
                      7. Ballard Sunday Farmer's Market, Ballard
                      8. Flying Fish, Belltown
                      9. Brunch at Salty's, West Seattle
                      10. Sushi at Shiro's, Belltown
                      11. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Oddfellow's Cafe, Capitol Hill
                      12. Joule in Wallingford
                      13. Trophy Cupcake, Wallingford and Capitol Hill
                      14. Veraci Pizza, Ballard
                      15. El Gauco, Belltown
                      16. Beecher's Handmade Cheese (mac n cheese/grill cheese sandwiches) Pike Place Market
                      17. Coffee. Anywhere but Starbucks/Tullys/Seattle's Best. Try Espresso Vivace (Capitol Hill) Caffe Vita (Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Fremont, Seward Park), Stumptown (Capitol Hill and Seattle U).
                      18. Hand-shaved noodles at Shanghai Garden, International District
                      19. Reserve a tatmi room at Maneki's, International District
                      20. Herbfarm, Woodinville

                      Not necessarily Seattle-ish but: Cafe Presse, Poppy, Olivar's, Fran's Chocolates, Uwajimaya, yes Baguette Box, Maylay Satay Hut, Rancho Bravo, Skillet . . . .

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: codysea

                        15. El Gaucho (not Gauco) Belltown

                        1. re: codysea

                          El Gaucho has locations in Bellevue, Tacoma and Portland so defiantly not an only in Seattle place, also very expensive (some people refer to it as El Gougeo)… And you know it’s a steak house, much like you can find in most cities.

                        2. Cafe Flora. You'll never think of vegetarian food the same way again.