Seattle/Portland - Itinerary Critique
Hi - My boyfriend and I are going to be in Seattle (4 days) and Portland (2 days), starting this weekend. I've been doing some research on food options, with the goal of trying as many of the great places as possible while still having a fairly relaxed trip. We live in NYC and love the dining options here, but are both born southerners and are happiest with a mix of chill and adventurous dining experiences. Definitely trying to focus a bit on seafood/PNW-style food. Any thoughts/recommendations on the itinerary below will be much appreciated! It's our first time in the PNW, so we're psyched!
Saturday -- we get in really late Friday night and are staying out near the airport that night, with the plan of heading out to Snoqualmie to check out the falls during the day on Saturday. (the rest of the time we're staying in Belltown)
Breakfast - Geraldine's on the way out of town.
Lunch - any recommendations for picnic food that we could grab, either on the way out of town or on the way out to Snoqualmie?
Dinner - we're heading back into the city and have a reservation at Cafe Juanita, but I am thinking of canceling it in favor of something else. (We have lots of great Italian in NYC). Suggestions?
Sunday - Brunch - Spring Hill, then check out West Seattle
Lunch - At the Mariners/Rangers game
Afternoon snack - check out Capitol Hill, Vivace for an afternoon coffee
Dinner - Sitka & Spruce
Breakfast - grab a croissant in Pike Place
Lunch - Either Matt's in the Market or fish n chips (Jack's or Anthony's?)
Happy Hour - Elliot's
Late Light Dinner - Spur or Elemental Next Door
Breakfast - Dahlia Bakery maybe. Anything else good for bfast in Belltown area?
Lunch - grab Salumi and take it to the ferry across to Bainbridge
Snack - the Bainbridge ice cream place
Dinner - with family, and they are picking the place
Wednesday - head to Portland in the morning (we are staying at the Ace Hotel)
Breakfast on the road - thoughts?
Lunch - Pok Pok (no one on the board seems to eat this for lunch, but it seems to work unless someone tells me otherwise)
Dinner - Navarre
Breakfast - Ken's Artisan Bakery or Gravy (which to choose?)
Lunch - Clarklewis
Dinner - Clyde Common (close to the hotel and we're leaving early Friday morning to drive down to Mendocino that night)...
I keep hearing that Toro Bravo is a must-do for Portland, but the boyfriend doesn't love tapas, and I feel like maybe that's something we could get just as good in other cities. Thoughts?
Anything we're totally missing out on in either city? Any feedback is much appreciated!
Well, we're back from the Pacific NW, so I wanted to report back on our food adventures in Seattle and Portland! We were able to hit a lot of the places we had planned, with a few deviations.
I'll start with Seattle and post separately on Portland. I've done my best to rank the experiences from most amazing to least exciting (from top to bottom).
Sitka & Spruce -- by far our favorite meal in Seattle... and it almost didn't happen. We showed up for dinner on a Sunday night, and much to our sadness they were closed. Kicking myself for the failure of planning on my part, we headed over to Lark instead (more on that below). However, a family dinner happened to be planned for Bastille Day at Le Pichet, and when that turned out to be a madhouse, I was able to step in and point folks in the direction of S&S. Everyone ended up being thrilled. We were able to get in after about a half hour wait at a nearby bar, and the service and setting were exactly what we were hoping for. Totally relaxed, with knowledgeable service and delicious food. The favorites at our table were the beef tongue with beets (completely tender and a wonderful first "beef tongue experience" for all of us), a delicious green salad, braised lamb (not usually a favorite of mine, but this was delicious), and the simple desserts -- olive oil ice cream and a cheese plate with blueberry compote. We also had delicious heirloom tomatoes, but these were mildly overshadowed by the World's Most Amazing Tomatoes that we'd had at Lark a few nights before (see below). The weak link, if I had to name one, was the salmon crudo. Nothing really spectacular about that dish, but we ate it all, nonetheless.
Cafe Juanita -- This was a great spot, and perfect for a nice meal after spending a beautiful day out at Snoqualmie falls. The food was fresh, well-crafted and delicious -- certainly on par with great New York Italian spots -- but also uniquely Northwestern/local. We started with the foie gras bite (fine), smoked salmon (very good, although "not as good as Russ & Daughters" - per my bf) and english pea salad (this was our first good meal in the Seattle area and our first exposure to the amazing produce in the area). We then split the crab risotto and the tagliatelle bolognese. Both were great dishes - the bolognese in particular was lighter than I would typically see in NY, and the flavor was spot on. For dessert, we got gelato to go, which was fine, but not spectacular.
Elliott's for happy hour -- 1 hour and 3 dozen oysters later, we were happy happy campers. The happy hour is a steal, especially if you can get there at 3:00 (like we did).
Bakery Nouveau -- We had intended to check out Spring Hill, but decided to opt for something lighter while out in West Seattle one morning. A turkey/swiss croissant, a piece of pizza and an almond croissant later, we were happy we had overdone it, yet again. This place was totally charming, and the food is just as delicious as it is beautiful. This is the kind of place you wish was in your hometown.
Lark -- This wasn't originally on our agenda, but was a nice pinch hitter for S&S when we got rejected on our first try. We were there on a Sunday night, so it was very serene. I love the simple but elegant (without trying too hard) look of the place. Our meal was just as relaxed, and there were some high and low points. The high: the most delicious burrata and cherry tomato dish we have ever had. My bf and I are burrata fiends, so this was destined to be a winner. But the details in this dish made it the best of the breed -- the World's Most Amazing Tomatoes were just bursting with intense flavor and will forever serve as fodder for "Remember those tomatoes...?" stories. The dish was rounded out by the perfect amount of salt. Unfortunately, I felt like some of the other dishes were a bit over-salted. Other things we got: scallops (fine), yellowtail carpaccio with fennel and olive (a bit muddled flavor-wise, and too salty, but very fresh), duck leg confit with pickled currants (quite good), summer pudding with berries (wow). I think we liked this place more because we didn't have any expectations for it -- and I have a feeling I would have liked it less on a busy Saturday night.
Dahlia Bakery -- We ended up getting breakfast sandwiches here two mornings in a row. The egg sandwich with tomato and bacon was perfect. I also tried the coconut cream pie bit, which made me happy.
Pho Cyclo -- we stopped in for lunch when we were in the neighborhood, and both the pho and the banh mi were good.
The Market was lots of fun -- we had a decent (though not spectacular) fish and chips experience at Jack's, and we followed up our Elliott's happy hour with the Maximilien happy hour. Food there was a total disappointment (not that our expectations were that high), but the view from the patio was nice. The place we missed that I would have liked to try was Matt's.
Salumi -- I really wanted to love this place. I am such a fan of meat, of cured meat, of Batalis, etc. I didn't mind the wait, and I loved the gruffness of the counter service. However, the real problem I had was that Salumi skimped on the salumi. We ordered the muffaletta (which happens to be my favorite sandwich of all time) and the prosciutto/fig sandwich. Both tasted more like bread (or bread and fig) than anything else. Why serve artisanal, lovingly crafted meat in a way that doesn't allow it to shine? As I watched our tiny layers of meat being sandwiched between two halves of lovely ciabatta, I felt a definite pang of "we should have ordered the porchetta". So sad.
Coffee -- We were a bit disappointed by Vivace, but Victrola hit the spot. I ordered lattes, bf ordered iced coffees.
I will post separately on Portland... To preview - the spots we hit there were Pok Pok, Navarre, Toro Bravo, Ken's Artisan Bakery and Pine State Biscuits. I was bummed not to be able to fit Tanuki into the plan.
Thank you for the excellent and conscientious report.
From your itinerary, it appears you really did some good research (great fortune, smiles, too, as evidenced by your lucky strike at S&S).
For your next trip, I offer contributions:
We had a "French Bakery taste-off," with friends, one fine day. We brought croissants and pastries to Fremont, from Cafe Besalu, in Ballard, and Bakery Nouveau, in West Seattle, and the results were so tight it was clear that, where there might have been intrinsic differences in quality, these were overwhelmed by the differences created by the transportation from West Seattle and Ballard to Fremont. These have just got to be insignificant, but we concluded that if you live in the North end, you must go to Beasalu, and, if South, Nouveau - you win, no matter what. Our lament, in the end, was that we might have missed some other worthy bakeries.
Lark, as you saw, has a thing for salt, but also a nice style - in service, cookery, and ambiance.
I'm glad you liked the famous Tom Duglas coconut-pie, though the thrill of that piece still evades me .
Next trip, visit Pho Bac, on 7th, for pho comparison. I love the forwardness of the Star-Anise in Cyclo's broth, but the depth of Pho Bac's is also worth a taste. Vietnamese is high, here, and you might like Tamarind Tree, Green leaf, and Lemongrass (in decrea$ing order).
Jack's F&C totally sucks, though even they can get lucky on a good day. The best bet there (though nothing is certain) is Cioppino. A few yards up Post Alley is a good Seared Scallop Chowder at Pike Place Chowder.
Elliott's Oyster Happy Hour is a trip, and I'm glad you got to do it right. You seem like just the patron who would sit at the bar and engage the shucker. This pays dividends.
Matt left Matt's some time ago, and some say it shows. Dinners have always been a little dear for what they are, but I expect he catfish sandwich is still one of Seattle's best lunches. Next time, for dinner, go next door to Chez Shea, especially if romance is appropriate.
Though never super-consistent (part of its charm), Salumi seems to be getting stodgy as it ages. Under new management (still family), the bread ratio seems to have risen, and the meat, fallen. The kitchen specials remain the most interesting offerings (I think they make stock for the - fantastic - daily soups with the salami remainders from the sandwich line).
Thanks again for your lovely report, and please come again.
Thanks everyone for the feedback so far.
As far as Seattle goes, the Snoqualmie day is clearly the weak link. I'll need to rethink that a bit. (And maybe try to squeeze in Paseo in the meantime.) I'll keep Cafe Juanita on the agenda for the time being though.
As for Portland, looks like we'll do Ken's for breakfast and replace Clarklewis with a late lunch at Tanuki. SusanC - thanks for the tip on the Pok Pok menu change. The wings sound like a must, so we'll definitely get there early for lunch. The PDX leg of the trip is definitely too short -- we'll grab Pine State Biscuits on our way out of town to try and make it last a little longer.
I gave it some thought and I have some suggestions for your first day: I think you could have breakfast in Issaquah - I think Front St Cafe is a fairly generic but solid place. Then spend some time at the falls. I've been several times and usually don't spend more than 45 minutes there. I prefer smaller waterfalls that are the reward after a long hike. Then, drive north on the 203 for a scenic drive through the Snoqualmie Valley. You could stop at any of the farms to pick up some great fresh produce. Then head over to Woodinville for lunch and spend the day wine tasting or there are also breweries in Woodinville and Redmond (Redhook, Mac and Jacks, Black Raven). This is also an ideal location in that it is very close to Cafe Juanita. Some of the better lunch spots in Woodinville would be Teddy's Burgers, Purple Cafe, Ooba's mexican, Ezell's fried chicken. So that would be my suggestion. Look forward to your recap.
just 2 quick thoughts: if at paseo follow peoples' recomendations to get the pork or the shrimp sandwiches. i first tried the beef (just because i love beef) and it didn't come off as well as the pork or shrimp. it was like a pot roast sandwich and the other flavors didn't come through like they should have. it taught me a lesson: play to the place's strengths. secondly, in portland bunk for sandwiches is fantastic, totally worth it if you have a lunch (or breakfast) slot to fill. have fun. enjoy both cities, they are both world class.
This looks like a nice itinerary, and well researched. I think you won't go wrong with any of your selections, so please take my suggestions not as a criticism but just as, well, suggestions.
SATURDAY- as has been pointed out, Gerladine's isn't particularly close to Seatac or on the way to Snoqualmie (it is great, though). Snoqualmie isn't far out of town and there isn't a ton to do there, so you could easily use this as an opportunity to go anywhere in Seattle -- or, you might try a more ambitious itinerary (there's some great day hikes in the Cascades not much further than Snoqualmie). I've never been to Juanita, but people seem to really like it.
SUNDAY- You might try lunch at Skillet Street Food, which sets up in the vacant lot across the street from the stadium, for upscale food truck food. I think you can bring it into the stadium. Also, for dinner -- may I suggest staying in Capitol Hill? All respect to S&S, but there are many, many good places in Capitol Hill to try as well (I'm a Quinn's partisan myself, but you also can't go wrong with Lark).
BELLTOWN- if you're staying in Belltown, there are some pretty good restaurants if they can be crammed into your itinerary somewhere -- Txori and Kushi Bar do small plates (Spanish & Japanese, respectively), and would be a good combo with Spur (also mostly small plates). For "Northwestern" I also really like Palace Kitchen.
Have a great trip!
Personally I can't imagine staying at the Ace and not hitting up Kenny and Zukes for at least
one meal. And we do Pok Pok for lunch frequently. It's great. Just get there before they change to the limited menu (2 o clock I think) so you can have the mandatory Ike's Wings.
You will eat well in PDX! (Seattle too)
For your Saturday dinner, I only hear good things about Cafe Juanita, but it is not in Seattle proper. In Seattle itself, you could Tilth--I think of it as very Seattle. Restaurant Zoe is also a good substitute I think.
For your Pike Place day, you could be different and try a humbow. I also love the doughnut holes at the doughnut place. You can geta croissant at Le Panier. For lunch, Matt's is good for sit down and a glass of wine. I like to go to Steamers on the waterfront for fish and chips. Jacks is very good in the market, I just like sitting by the water. THe waterfront is totally touristy, but I still like it for people watching.
Belltown breakfast: Lola, Le Pichet, Cafe Campagne for sit down. Dahlia if you want pastry. Depending on where you are staying, Uptown is a good choice for coffee.
If he doesn't like tapas, don't worry, Toro Bravo doesn't have tapas. I'm one of the lone dissenters, but I just don't see what all the fuss is about, I had a perfectly mediocre meal there, and none of the food was like anything I've had in Spain, or at home. They use/misuse some Spanish ingredients, but the flavors are just not there, not balanced. Boil-in-a-bag pork is boil-in-a-bag pork, no matter how trendy the sous vide thing has become. But the nightly crowds clearly evidence better food than I experienced...oh, wait, using that logic, Outback and McDonald's serve better food than I've experienced at either! I'm gonna go back one day to check it out again, so we'll see...maybe I hit an off night. Next time, the boil-in-bag food might just be fantastic! (Whenever I hear about sous vide, I can't help but think of that funny cookbook from 20+ years ago which proposed cooking food in ziplock bags in the dishwasher to save energy!!!!) Ok, ready for stoning.
Hi from PDX. Too bad you're here for such a short time. Your list looks good though.
I'd go with Ken's Artisan Bakery.
If your bf doesn't love tapas, don't see why I should try to talk him into it. Sounds like a losing proposition. Too bad, as it's one of our best places.
Pok Pok will be great for lunch. I've been there many times for it.
If you like adventurous, squeeze in Tanuki.
Navarre is really outstanding. I go there all the time. Ditto for Clyde.
I'm not so crazy about ClarkLewis. Really slow inattentive service and noisy.
Have fun. Please report!
Looks pretty good. I can offer a few pieces of info:
1. SeaTac airport is not really in Seattle so heading to Geraldines is not the most convenient on your way to Snoqualmie. I would probably research some breakfast places in Issaquah or Snoqualmie. I've had some good breakfast in Issaquah in the Gilman Village but don't recall the name of the restaurant. There isn't really an ideal picnic area by the falls if I recall and I can't think of a place to grab picnic food along the way. Sorry. I love Cafe Juanita and I think it is thoroughly different enough from the Italian I have had in NYC to recommend that you keep the reservation.
You can bring in food to the mariners games you just can't bring in drinks. So you don't have to eat the stadium food (although it is good by stadium food standards). So you could grab some food from somewhere else and bring it in. You could grab whatever looks good at Uwajimaya and take it in, along with some fresh Beard Papa cream puffs.
There aren't any super amazing croissants at Pike Place so I may steer you toward a crumpet or crepe or pierosky.
Dahlia Bakery is good or breakfast at Lola's is very good. Keep in mind the wait time at Salumi if you have a specific ferry time you need to make. Even if you show up right at 11 when the doors open you might have to wait 30 minutes.
And at some point you gotta squeeze in a Paseo sandwich right? Other from that, I wish I could join you!
Kind of moot now, but how is Geraldine's out of the way to Snoqualmie if you staying near Seatac?
Just jump off I-5 at Swift Albro, and head over to Rainier for Geraldine's.
Then you can continue on Rainier to get to 90.
I don't think of Geraldine's as amazing stuff (and I'm not sure it'd be what I pick), but it's definitely not that far out of the way if you're heading to Snoqualmie from the south.
(Bit of a pet peeve of mine when people think of stuff in the south end of Seattle as so far away and are unwilling to go to places down there...)