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Looking for the ultimate eating in Seattle

I'll be visiting Seattle next week for 5 days, two of them roaming around on my own, and I want to take full advantage of the food there. Coming from NYC I'm already exposed to plenty of great food so I want to eat what is truly Seattle, the PNW and not something I could get a short subway ride away from my home. I've been searching the boards, the blogs, the papers and pulled together this list, but would love some feedback from the hounders:

the "cheaper stuff":
Salumi - would like to take back some of the cured creations
Pike Place Fish Fry - heard it's the best in the area, and it's affordable, you agree?
Elliot's Oyster House - oyster happy hour of course
Zig Zag Cafe - heard great things about the cocktails from folks in the industry, and the happy hr
Thai Tom - always in the mood for some solid Thai
Green Leaf Vietnamese - have heard raves about the noodle dishes

Trucks: Maximus Minimus, Skillet Street Foods, Marination Truck,

For my "nice" meal:
Quinn's Pub - this is a definite, but would consider another as well
Poppy
Anchovies and Olives
How to Cook a Wolf
Joule
Spring Hill

What am I missing? What should I take off/add to the list? Any other happy hour, lunch time, weekend specials I should know about?

Quick note, I'll be staying in the University District, without a car, but will be hitching a ride downtown Thursday and Friday during the day. Budget, well I'd like to keep most meals in check, with 1-2 being the exception, likely for dinner.

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  1. I would remove Thai Tom from your list. The quality has gone way downhill in recent months, IMO.

    Everything else on your list is a winner. I would strongly recommend Poppy for a Pacific NW meets Indian Thali experience - and not very expensive. I would also add Paseo as one of your affordable meals for a unique take on the Cubano sandwich, among other delicious offerings, at either the Fremont or Shilshole location (Shilshole being more scenic: take your meal across the street and watch the sunset from the marina).

    3 Replies
    1. re: Simpatico

      thanks for the pointer on Thai Tom. Anything you would suggest I replace it with?

      I've also read about Paseo, but I am hesitant seeing as that I've had great Cubano's in NYC and Miami. Is it really worth the trip, potentially taking place of something else on my list?

      1. re: ginsbera

        Paseo is worth it, but not for their "cubano" - get either the Cuban roast sandwich or the smokin thighs (chicken thighs) plate. YUM. The Fremont location is easy to get to from the U District on the 44 bus, plus a short walk down the hill. With a bit longer walk or a transfer, you could get to the Shilshole location on the bus (44 as well, then transfer to the 46 in Ballard, I think or walk 1/2 mile). The Shilshole locatation is very scenic and you could visit the locks and golden gardens, as well...or hit Rays or Anthonys (across from Paseo) for a drink and watch the sunset. I'd replace Maximus/Minimus and/or Marination (neither one is very good). You might also consider checking out Baguette box (capitol hill and Fremont locations, both easy to get to on the bus from the U district) for the tofu or lemongrass beef sandwiches. Both outstanding.

        1. re: ginsbera

          Noodle Boat would get my vote; however, it's located about 30 minutes east of Seattle in Issaquah (in good traffic). May Thai in Wallingford is also a worthy destination. Here's a link to a recent discussion on the best Thai in Seattle:

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/541016

      2. Pike Place Fish Fry is surely "the best of its kind in the area," given that it's the only of its kind, and quite inexpensive, but that justifies a stop, It can be erratic, though. Sometimes they have great choices and present well, other times woefully not. Glad to see you plan a stop at Quinn's. Get yourself down to tejh Pike Place Market, too, with plenty of time allotted for wandering. The Market is treated extensively on this board.
        Green Leaf is great, but be aware Chinatown is packed with tasty foods. Cruise this board for tips or just go wandering.

        In the U District, Ivar's Salmon house a decent Happy Hour. Do get the Calamari and Halibut bites. Skip the vegetable spring rolls.

        1. In terms of another "nice" more expensive meal, I'm debating whether it is needed or not. A few chef friends and food writers have recommended Spring Hill, Joule, How to Cook a Wolf, but is that really food I can't find here in NY?

          thanks for all the input so far.

          12 Replies
          1. re: ginsbera

            Joule is a unique combination of flavors and cuisine styles. Can you find it in NY? Possibly. But it is excellent. They do use many local ingredients quite often.

            Spring Hill is very seasonal and local. So while I'm sure you could find equal quality in NY, you can be sure that your meal at Spring Hill will be very local and seasonal to the PNW.

            1. re: ginsbera

              Ditto on May thai for your "solid thai" meal. seems way less "americanized" than most places in town. and as a bonus, you are a few doors from Molly Moon's ice cream.

              in terms of what you can't find in NYC - your choices of nice restaurants are good ones, but perhaps not so unusual. Quinn's could be compared to Spotted Pig. joule is for sure a bit different, b/c of the korean influence. maybe consider something more like Corson Blg (or Sitka and Spuce) or Tilth. I would perhaps compare to Blue Hill, (a bit cheaper) but these chefs who are really changing the dining scene, as is HTCAW (and Ethan's other restaurants) and are uber-focused on local farms and sustainability, etc.

              1. re: bluedog67

                Thanks! Quinn's is definitely my kind of food, interesting ingredients like wild boar, bone marrow, pigs ears, sweetbreads and more offal so I'm really looking forward to it. I looked into the Corson Building, but wanted to look for something more reasonably priced. I'd say my nicer restaurant meal is limited to about $50-60/person.

                Here's a question, are there any restaurants that offer great tasting menu deals? The places I've looked at so far are about $75 and up, with the exception of Poppy, any others I should consider?

                1. re: ginsbera

                  Crush offers a tasting menu that is fantastic but I think it is in the $75 range. Last time I ate there though my Husband and I ordered 5 or six appetizers that the kitchen split and coursed for us kind of creating our own tasting menu. They were so gracious and we had a fantastic time, for a surprisingly small amount of money.

                  Tilth is a fairly Seattle only kind of experience, everything but the wild products (fish, mushrooms, foraged goods) are organic most of it locally grown. Maria just won the James Beard Award for whatever that is worth. Not sure if they have a tasting menu but the food is superb, again mostly small plates so fairly easy to taste around the menu.

                  Of course the real problem here is that NY is at the center and given enough time and money almost any experience can be had…

                  1. re: Charles

                    For a mix of Vietnamese & PNW, and a terrific wine list to boot, how about Monsoon?

                    1. re: Charles

                      It's true, with the time and money I can pretty much eat the best of anything in NYC, but I'm very excited for the Seattle institutions that offer something different, if only because they are smaller operations using PNW ingredients.

                      I'm leaning towards Joule for the interesting flavor pairings with PNW ingredients, plus the prices are reasonable. I'm not content paying near $30+ for an entree in NY so I doubt I'll be doing that in Seattle. The sweetbread stuffed zucchini blossoms are calling to me on that menu.

                      Poppy's menu also at $32 for all of the Thali seems like a steal and to split that with one other person and order a few other dishes seems like a sizable meal.

                      1. re: ginsbera

                        If you select Poppy, be sure to try their eggplant fries.

                        1. re: Simpatico

                          poppy really is unique and outstanding. do not miss the dessert thali - genious, and a bargain for how much you get.

                          still stand behind tilth as a choice, worth the bit extra. since corson was too much $$, sitka and spruce may be better option. great, local creative food, communal table shared plates, so you can set the spend.

                          1. re: bluedog67

                            sitka and spruce sounds like an interesting concept with great food. Could you give me an example of the menu? That's the one thing I'm having trouble finding, that and the price per dish.

                            1. re: ginsbera

                              to be honest, i don't recall anything being more than $20, but they are shared plates, ie smaller than an entree, bigger than a tapas. so you need more than one per person. no menu on the web b/c the food is very seasonal, changing daily, chalkboard style. very creative. lots of things like grilled tongue, pork belly, poussin, local seafood, and lots of vegetables per season. highlighting the flavor of ingredients. yum. i heard corson blg is doing a cheaper a la carte nite on wed...maybe an option.

                              haven't been to A&O yet. heard mixed reviews as w/ a new retarurant. love tavolata - italian w/ flair, and union, modern nw food. HTCAW is great, small plates. things like scrambeld eggs loaded w/ morels, fresh pastas, tuna crudo, spectacualr salads, beef carpacio, etc. a little more casual and great for sharing and tasting lots.

                  2. re: bluedog67

                    I've been looking at Ethan Stowell's restaurants and his food seems right up my alley. I know there has been much talk of Spring Hill, Crush, Tilth, Corson Building, etc. in terms of the higher end meal, but what about Ethan's spots? Are they worth a visit? They seem more appropriately priced for my budget (potentially $50/person or less), while also utilizing PNW ingredients in fresh, inventive ways. Has anyone been to Anchovies and Olives? It seems to be the most seafood focused of Ethan's bunch, but I know it just opened up.

                    1. re: ginsbera

                      I've been to all of Ethan's restaurants and I like them all. The only downside I'd give to them is that they are all quite similar. You'll find quite a few dishes that are the same or very similar at all of them. That being said, they are all great and you can probably eat pretty well at any of them for under $50 (depending on how much you drink). The main difference is that Anchovies and Olives and How to Cook a Wolf are both fairly casual, with no reservations taken. Travolta is slightly more upscale, and Union is the most upscale (though still fairly casual by other cities standards).

                2. for a "nice" meal, I'd recommend Tilth in wallingford as an example of the fresh / local PNW kind of place that's not common in NY. Just went there with an out of town guest and really enjoyed it. I have noticed that the simpler the dish sounds, the better it is. soups have been fantastic.
                  easy bus ride from U district.

                  As a beer and a snack, I second Ivar's: the service is often bad, and you may get someone else's food, but I don't think there's any experience in NY like having some calamari and a beer on the dock and watching the float planes and boats go by like in a Richard Scary book.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: black bean can

                    Also in Wallingford, offering talented preparation of seasonal meals, Art of the Table is worth a splurge, as is nearby Elemental Next Door.

                    1. re: mrnelso

                      I haven't eaten at Elemental, but a discerning foodie friend whose opinion I trust ate there a week ago and said the service was so bad she'd never go back. Tilth is wonderful and very Northwest. Don't miss Salumi, whatever you do!

                      If you're in the Market, I'd recommend having a drink at Zig Zag (nicer place) or for a more divey experience, head to the bar at the back of the Athenian Inn. It's in the Market building, I think right next door to Powell's. It's very authentic and will give you a taste of the old school Market flavor.

                      If it's a nice day and you want to grab takeout and sit outdoors, Michou, on Western Avenue across from the main Market building, is wonderful - it's takeout only and they have an amazing, very well-priced selection of inventive sandwiches (grilled if you want), all kinds of salads (from roasted veggie salads to pasta salads, green salads, etc.) to other dishes. I don't think anything is more than around $7. It's in the same block as the original Starbucks and is definitely worth a visit if you're looking to get quick takeout in the Market area.

                      I think one thing Seattle has that New York (I used to live there) definitely doesn't are wonderful happy hours with great food menus and excellent prices. If you're downtown, I'd try the happy hour at Brasa on 3rd Avenue (HH menu items such as paella, steak sandwich, mussels, etc; it's romantic and cozy), Umi Sake House on 1st Avenue (great sushi HH menu), Il Bistro (next to the market building; look for the sidewalk that slopes downward, to the left of the brass pig at the market entrance - the lounge there is beautiful, dark and cozy, with a terrific HH menu)...

                      Oh! I just thought of another one. Maximillien in the Market is a well-kept secret and has a terrific happy hour and probably the best deck with views of Elliott Bay anywhere in that area. It's a little hard to find - it's down a hallway to the left of the fish-throwing place. Look for Market Spice, the tea and spice place, and head down the hallway right in front of it. It's a great place.

                      If you're on a budget, you could eat at HH very reasonably (and well) for a few of the nights you're here and splurge somewhere nice the other nights.

                      Enjoy!

                      1. re: SnackCakes

                        Another idea I had was brunch at some of these higher-end, higher-priced restaurants like Spring Hill. Looking at their brunch menu it seems very interesting and most importantly reasonably priced. Doubt I would go to brunch both Saturday and Sunday, but any recommendation other than Spring Hill?

                        Thanks everyone, I'm very excited for this eating extravaganza.

                        1. re: ginsbera

                          sorry to throw another choice at you, but if you are considering brunch, i love it at Boat St Kitchen. Lovely, french inspired. Haven't tried breakfast at Spring Hill. If you are considering spring hill, check their website, I think they have some mid-week specials that are more affordable.

                          1. re: ginsbera

                            For brunch- Portage Bay Cafe is located in the University District and does local fresh ingredients- plus it is delicious. On a side note- I did brunch at Tilth once and it was not spectacular. FYI- One of my favorite brunches is at Lola ( a Tom Douglas restaurant).

                            If you do venture into Wallingford (a 20 minute walk from the U district) make sure to do dessert at either Trophy Cupcake or Molly Moon (or both!) to get the Seattle experience (super trendy- with merit- right now)- they are about a street apart and both an experience- plus the offerings are tasty*

                            Regarding your cheap list- I agree with all of them!! Thai Tom is a Seattle expereince and it is right in the nighborhood you will be in- do it. You might substitute Zig Zag for Spur (who does have happy hour noshes and an amazing cocktail menu). Skillet ( a must do!! trust me) and Tako Truk are great stops in Seattle.

                            Regarding your nice meal- I like Spring Hill- but I am not sure the trek to West Seattle is worth it for you. Also, I would recommend Crush, Art of the Table, or an Ethan restaurant (love! how to cook a wolf). Hint- Art of the Table (Wallingford) also offers a Monday only- first come at 5pm frist serve- happy hour with small plate- So good! I have wanted to try Quinn's myself and Joule but haven't gotten the chance.

                            Lastly- Whatever you do- Please wander the Pike Place Market for food- I recommend- the Swedish bakery- I love NY Deli- Daily Dozen Donuts- The Crumpet Shop- Cinnamon Works- Piroshky Piroshky- Market Grille- lunch at Matt's in the Market- brunch at Steelhead Diner- sandwich at Sister- chowder at Pike Place Chowder- Beechers- Bavarian Meats- etc. Bring a $20+ and grab tons of things as you explore!

                            1. re: natalie.warner

                              Thanks for the input. I actually just watched the PNW episode of No Reservations and now Piroshky Piroshky is on my list! I'll most certainly wander the market, snack along the way and chat with vendors as much as possible. Hope I can grab a fresh off the ice oyster too! Also, I realize that while I have tried many many foods, I've never had geoduck. Any place I have on my list that prepares a great geoduck?

                              Also, anyone know if I can bring back Salumi products in my carry-on luggage? I plan to stock up if possible.

                              1. re: ginsbera

                                Shiro has offered a nice sauteed geoduck at his sushi bar in Belltown. Speaking of which, he is somewhat of a local institution, having opened Seattle's first sushi bar {Nikko) something like 40 years ago.

                    2. What about The Barking Frog? The Herb Garden?

                      My fiance lives in Seattle and yesterday, we went for a 25 mile bike ride along the Sammamish River. On the way back we crossed the river and went past both those restaurants; very charming and I"m told are outstanding. The Herb Garden was a James Beard Winner.

                      Though we landed up going to the RedHook Brewery for amazing beer (try the Triple Belgian OMG!) with nachos, I want to go back to the fine restaurants. The brewery has an outdoor garden with picnic tables and umbrellas. It was idealic after a long bike ride. Saw a sign for summer movies outdoors that happen on Wed or Thursday nights. Fun classics like Jaws. Wish I"d be in here mid week; I'd go back for that...and more of that Belgian yummy beer.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Senzinina

                        Its the Herb Farm not Garden. They got the rave reviews when Jerry Traunfeld was chef (now owner of Poppy)- current reviews are only fair. The Barking Frog is pretty pricey for what you get. Cafe Juanita is considered the best restaurant on the Eastside.

                      2. I"ve never been to HOw to Cook at Wolf, but I"m currently reading Fisher's collection of books; she's amazing.

                        1. If it's not too late (!) ... Pam's Kitchen in U district is GOOOD! She is from Trinidad and the food is authentic. YUMM! (Just saw it on Food Network with Guy's DDD - love seeing places I have been)

                          1. And I'm headed out shortly to the airport, making it into Seattle later today. Thanks for all the suggestions, I'll be sure to report back and also write it up with more commentary on my blog, always-eating.blogspot.com.

                            Looking forward to it!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ginsbera

                              I am wondering about The Brooklyn. I see lots of references for oysters and drinks, but not much is said about the dinner end of their offerings. I am interested in the venison or boar end of the spectrum. Looking for opinions. (oh, yes, this is for a romantic anniversary meal--)

                              1. re: ginsbera

                                good luck. How to Cook a Wolf and Anchovies and Olives are very similar; don't go to both. I prefer Wolf. Re the Brooklyn, I have gone there for business lunches and it was just fine, nothing special. I think Poppy is a must do and you may not want to share a thali depending on how hungry you are. each portion is pretty small, and you can still get apps and desserts.