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Jul 12, 2009 05:57 AM

What regional foods is Seattle known for?

We have 2 1/2 days in Seattle, one before the cruise and one after? Looking for diners, nice restaurants, or greasy spoons? I read that Matt's at the Market is good for a one time dinner but we are open to anything? Any regional specialites? Thanks, Rich

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  1. There are lots of threads about restaurants you should try, but I don't know if they qualify as 'regional food'. If you asked about Chicago, i'd say 'Italian beef, deep dish pizza, Chicago hotdog'. I can't think of anything similar for Seattle.

    We may eat more salmon than most other places, but it is hardly unique. There's a place on an island in the Sound that claims to recreate Native American ways of cooking salmon, but I haven't been there since I went as part of a computer conference tour. It's too early for the feral blackberries, though I have found a few thimble berries and salmon berries on walks in the woods. Geoduck is a regional specialty, though, at $15 each I've never bought or tried one. The Seattle coffee culture has spread far and wide.

    Compared to Chicago, Seattle does not have old established ethnic neighborhoods that can incubate specialty dishes.

    4 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      All true. Pacific NW cuisine relies more on the abundant natural ingredients, occasionally fused with Asian flavors. Salmon, Dungeness crabs, clams (geoduck and razor being particularly prized), berries, apples, and other fresh fruit, to name a few. There are many great artisanal bread bakers and cheese makers in addition to coffee and microbreweries.

      1. re: PAO

        Though some of these things can be found in any modern trendy city, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, etc - things like artisanal bread, cheese, beers.

        The east side of the Cascades is a big fruit growing area, especially apples and cherries. But these get shipped to the East coast just as readily as across the mountains. Some berries do better on the wet side of the mountains, but they also are quite seasonal. Dungeness seems to be as well known in San Francisco as in Seattle, though the spit of the same name is on the Washington coast.

        1. re: PAO

          PAO, that could easily describe Portland. How is that particular to SEA?

          1. re: Leonardo

            I didn't say it was. Note that I said Pacific Northwest.

      2. Dungeness Crab, for sure. They'll cook (fast) and crack one for you at Jack's Fish Spot, in the Pike Place Market. Just get one, bring some towels, and make a mess of yourselves, picking out the meat and dipping it into some mayonnaise, maybe a little lemon....
        Geoduck! (say "gooeyduck"). Morel and Chanterelle mushrooms, huckleberries, and much produce of Eastern Washington (Peaches - get "Oh My God" Peaches at Sosio's in the Pike Place Market). You timing is good for a piece of a record Bing Cherry harvest, and Pike Place is a good place to find these. Export quality Rainier cherries are there, too, an not to be missed.
        Olympia Oysters are native to the bays around our state capitol, and lovely presentation can be had at Elliott's Oyster House, on the waterfront, where Oyster Happy Hour begins at 3:00 at 50 cents each, rising by 20 cents each half-hour.

        The whole of Pike Place Market, by the way, qualifies as unique to Seattle, especially as it is a municipally preserved 100-year-old genuine farmer's market, with a fierce rejection of chain-stores (Starbuck's #1 is grandfathered-in, but even they can't sell anything they weren't selling when they opened on Pike Place.

        Local restaurant favorites near the harbor include Tom Douglas places, which you can find on the web.

        Ivar's is a local institution, though we'd recommend a trp to the Salmon House, north of the ship canal, for best local color. Also a great Happy Hour in the bar, overlooking Lake Union.

        14 Replies
        1. re: mrnelso

          Thanks all. I had planned on Pikes market. I have wanted to go there for 25 years! I'll be there next wednesday (7/23) noon!

          1. re: javaandjazz

            while in Pike Place market, I would add 3 places to your list that do nonregional items exceptionally well as well: the cornmeal catfish sandwich at Matts, the pastrami or reuben at NY Deli, and the fried smelts, gumbo and other items at Steelhead Diner (P.S. lamb burger at 94 Stewart). Also if you feel like a splurge, Crush for anything lobster or beef short rib (or Yukon or Copper River salmon if they have it) and Spur for great cocktails (here's a more complete list if you're a sushi fan, the torched o-toro at Nishino should not be missed)

            1. re: barleywino

              Come on, you can't tell me someone looking for a "Seattle" experience is going to love NY Deli.... It's nice for someone missing pastrami from a great East Coast place, but it's not something I'd look to do in Seattle with all the other local options.

              1. re: GreenYoshi

                if a place in Seattle does a particular nonregional food exceptionally well, why be parochial and exclude going there? Vietnamese (or Indian, or Korean) is not what first-time visitors might think of as a "seattle" experience, yet there is great Vietnamese (etc) to be found here, so it may legitimately be considered a regional specialty, even if not based on regionally grown product...

                1. re: barleywino

                  well, that's my point... NY Deli is pretty good for Seattle, but mediocre by East Coast standards. They shave their meat thin, which helps in seeming juicy, but it's not some amazing sandwich that you couldn't find elsewhere.

                  (whereas, the Vietnamese or Ethiopian here is as good/better than most places in the country)

                  1. re: GreenYoshi

                    true, it's all relative...but just thinking about the NY Deli pastrami/reuben makes my mouth water (I happen to like it better than what's available back here in Boston, although perhaps not CT or NY)

                    1. re: barleywino

                      I mean, even in Boston Sam Lagrassa's is better, no? :-)

                      1. re: GreenYoshi

                        matter of personal taste...i love Sam's but like the thin-cut fatty stuff at NY Deli (on a good day, anyway) even better...(here's one for you: next time you're in Philly, try the foie gras pastrami at Vetri :)

                        1. re: barleywino

                          See the thinness is part of what I don't like.
                          I feel like you can make any meat seem fantastic if you slice it thin.
                          I had this buddy who made impressively delicious sandwiches with just super thin sliced grocery store baloney.

                            1. re: barleywino

                              I honestly loved deli ham sliced as thin as you can get it. It tastes much better. I don't know why though.

                          1. re: barleywino

                            I love pastrami, and would almost pay for an airline ticket to Los Angeles just for the hot pastrami sandwich at Langer's Deli. But the NY Deli??? Come on. On the strength of some comments on this board, I tried the pastrami sandwich at NY Deli. Never again. I admittedly haven't exhausted all the alternatives, but so far I've yet to find a decent pastrami sandwich in Seattle.

            2. re: mrnelso

              If we are going to promote the produce (esp. fruit) from Eastern Washington, don't forget the lentils :) Despite Pullman's efforts, they aren't quite as glamorous as apples and geoducks. :(


              1. re: mrnelso

                mrnelso-thank you for a great post. I'm down in Portland and want to go to Seattle right now!!

              2. Everyone oysters!!!!!!!!!! If you can find it, steelhead, which is a salmon-trout. Razor clams, raspberries, huckleberrys, Ling Cod if you can find it. Octopus, the largest in the world, Dungenss crab, salmon berries-aka cloud berries, cherries bing or rainier, and salmon of course.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: jsaint

                    I suspect they mostly grow the common brown. According to the festival page
                    "Our area of eastern Washington and northern Idaho, the Palouse Region, grows a third of the lentils in the United States. ". Nearby Moscow ID is headquarter to the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council.

                    It is certainly possible that some growers there have tried their hand at the specialty lentils, but it is not obvious. If they have, they are more likely to be selling their product over the internet or upscale mega marts than local groceries.

                  2. re: wineman3

                    Do we really eat Pacific Octopus? I know Txori brings theirs from Spain.