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Sep 1, 2009 11:04 AM

Seattle October 22 – 26

Hi, Friends! I am so excited for my first visit to Seattle! I have been following the Board for several months and have talked to friends and family who have been there. I love everything Food – when I’m not dining I’ll be checking out Pike’s Market and the Saturday and Sunday farmer markets. For my dining choices, I’d prefer PNW locally sourced options. MPLS has plenty of good Thai/Vietnamese places, so won’t be trying any of those. I might consider Italian, especially if the weather is damp and rainy (being from Minnesota, I have super strong hibernation instincts, and Italian cuisine is my go to comfort food…). If so, I would probably try Café Juanita - yes? I usually only have two meals – early lunch and late dinner – and I am not fond of brunch. Oh, and I am traveling solo – don’t mind eating alone at table except at romantic restaurants…. Lastly, no car. Staying at Hotel 1000 – it seems like there are plenty of choices nearby, and if worthwhile I have no problem using public transportation or a cab.

I hope you will share your thoughts and add alternatives to what I am considering. Thanks!

Thursday – arrive at 9:30: - Palace Kitchen, or Quinns if I’m feeling more casual?
Friday: Elliotts or Matt’s for lunch; The Lounge for cocktail and hopefully sunset; The Union for dinner
Saturday: U District Market, Bainbridge Island for the day – lunch somewhere - ???; Dinner at Crush
Sunday: Cap Hill Market, Ballard neighborhood, Nordic Heritage Museum, lunch???; Dinner at Dahlia or Lola?
Monday: Leave am… 

Others I have given thought to and not yet ruled out: Spring Hill (kind of a distance…), Rovers, Restaurant Zoe, Harvest Vine. I have ruled out Canlis, The Waterfront, The Herb Farm – overhyped??? Poppy sounds interesting but just didn’t make the cut.

Looking forward!

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  1. While Cafe Juanita is great, it isn't what I would call Italian comfort food. It also is a distance from downtown - not something I would want to do in a cab or with public transportation (not even sure if a bus would work).

    1. This is sort of a “set speech” for me, but I wouldn’t miss the oyster bar at Elliott’s. If you are interested in Pacific Northwest specialties, our oysters are among the best in the world. I would also add Etta’s, another of Tom Douglas’s restaurants, as an option. It is at the north end of the Pike Place Market, and the food is reliably good.

      Cocktails is a whole subject to itself. There is a group of Seattle bartenders that are among the best in the United States, led by the much revered Murray Stenson at the Zig Zag Café on the Pike Street Hill Climb (1501 Western Ave.).. Ask him to prepare The Last Word for you, a prohibition-era cocktail he discovered in an old cocktail manual of the Detroit Athletic Club. (For an interesting Seattle Times article on The Last Work, see, Another star bartender is Duncan Chase at Taste, the restaurant in the Seattle Art Museum, between Union and University on the north side of 1st Ave. If you go to Union for dinner (an excellent choice), go first for a cocktail at Taste, and have Duncan prepare a Manhattan for you with his fig-infused Maker’s Mark bourbon.

      For lunch on Bainbridge Island, Café Nola is your best bet. In Ballard, have an espresso drink and a croissant at Café Besalu. The croissants there are the best you can get outside of Paris – stunningly wonderful. For Sunday dinner, I’d pass on Lola, and probably Dahlia also, at least if you have already eaten at either the Palace Kitchen or Etta’s, since you will already have had your “Tom Douglas experience.” Instead, I’d suggest either Lark, Harvest Vine, or Spring Hill. Spring Hill is in West Seattle and, like Café Juanita in Kirkland, is not easy to get to from downtown Seattle without a car, but the food there is excellent (as is the food at Café Juanita, which is my personal favorite restaurant in the Seattle area).

      That’s my two-cents worth. Have fun...

      3 Replies
      1. re: Tom Armitage

        ohhh, Tommy, what a great wealth of information! I love a good cocktail before dinner - thanks for your guidance! Am currently shuffling dining choices - why didn't I plan a 5 day trip!!!!!

        1. re: Tom Armitage

          Hi, Tom. I have a bit more time to do some more pre-work. Your post has been so helpful!

          I have replaced Lola with Etta's, but still debating Dahlia and Etta's... They both seem to be right up my alley.

          A cocktail at Taste is a done deal. I honed my taste for bourbon on a recent trip to Cincinnati/Kentucky - nice suggestion!

          I thought Crush would be nice for its tasting menu and the open kitchen bar. Will keep Spring Hill on list as option.

          Off now to refinish my adirondack chairs with a barnyard red stain. Absolutely perfect weather here in the Twin Cities - sorry to see its not too great there.

          1. re: rp1760

            Tom Douglas’s restaurant empire includes five restaurants (Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s, Palace Kitchen, Lola, and Serious Pie) and a bakery (Dahlia Bakery). Douglas is probably the best known and most iconic of all the Seattle chefs, a result not only of his culinary inventiveness, but his marketing acumen and his skill as a bon vivant. Like other celebrity chefs, he doesn’t spend much time in the kitchens of his restaurants these days, devoting his time instead to his cookbooks, his radio show, his celebrity appearances, his line of spice rubs and sauces, his line of kitchen and dining products, and the administrative and managerial work of running his business empire.. Many will tell you that there is better food to be had in Seattle than at any of Tom Douglas’s restaurants, and I don’t disagree with that, but the food at either Dahlia Lounge or Etta’s is perfectly fine and Tom Douglas does occupy a unique place in the history of Seattle’s restaurant scene. Now to your question – should you go to Dahlia Lounge or Etta’s for Sunday dinner? Both restaurants are informal in the Pacific Northwest tradition, but Etta’s has the more casual ambience. Dahlia Lounge has a more interesting décor and ambience. Etta’s is located on Western Ave. at the north end of the Pike Place Market, and Dahlia Lounge is located about four blocks east in the downtown area on Fourth Ave. between Lenora and Virginia. The food at both places clearly has Tom Douglas’s stamp on it. Etta’s is more seafood oriented, although there is plenty of seafood on the menu at Dahlia Lounge. I’ve eaten at Etta’s more recently than Dahlia Lounge, and had a marvelous lunch there (one of the standouts was the Dungeness crab cocktail with green papaya, cucumber, and mint), But you won’t go wrong regardless of which place you choose. You can get Douglas’s famous crabcakes at either place, although the presentation and garnish/sauce varies. His most famous version is the lemon-scallion crabcakes at Dahlia Lounge, but the basic crabcake itself uses the same recipe at both places. And you can also get Douglas’s signature dessert, his triple coconut cream pie, at both places. I suppose that the food at Dahlia Lounge is more the all-over-the-map fusion stuff that people associate with Tom Douglas, and has things like venison tartare, kalua pig with young coconut, and rotisserie roasted five-spice Peking duck. Dahlia Lounge was Douglas’s first Seattle restaurant, and so remains probably his signature restaurant. When Dahlia Lounge first opened in 1989, the “fusion thing” was new to Seattle, which was evolving from what Sir Thomas Beecham described as a “cultural dustbin.” I remember, way back then, eating things like Asian duck tacos at the original Dahlia Lounge (which was then in a different location) In some sense, however, Etta’s is really Douglas’s first restaurant. That is because Douglas’s culinary career in Seattle started when he became the chef at Café Sport, which is in the same location that is now home to Etta’s. After Douglas opened Dahlia Lounge in 1989, he opened Etta’s in 1995 in Café Sports’ vacated property. Etta’s has a similar ambience and a similar menu to the original Café Sport. So here is what I suggest. Go to the Tom Douglas website (, put your cursor over “restaurants,” go to both Dahlia Lounge and Etta’s, and look at their sample dinner menus. If you can’t decide, flip a coin. As I said, no matter which one you choose, you won’t be making a mistake.

            When you go to Taste for a cocktail, tell the head bartender, Duncan Chase, that Tom Armitage sent you and recommended that he fix you one of his fig-infused Makers’ Mark manhattans.

            I think you are going to have a great time, Mary.

        2. For Italian comfort food in the downtown area, I recommend Tulio or Assaggio.

          Your Friday plan is sound by concentrating your effort in the Market area. You can't go wrong with any of your choices.

          Since you will be on Bainbridge Island on Saturday, I recommend lunch at Lola. Dahlia would work better for Sunday dinner. Be advised that the University District, while easily accessible by bus from downtown, is in the opposite direction of the ferry terminal to Bainbridge. If you end up going to Crush for dinner (located east of downtown in the Madison Valley), this could make for a long day,

          On Sunday, since you will be in the Ballard neighborhood, I recommend you check out the Ballard Sunday Market instead of the Capitol Hill market. You will find, however, many of the same vendors you encountered at the University District market on Saturday.

          Finally, "Pike's Peak" is in Colorado, "Pike Place Market" aka "The Market" is in Seattle. (Just so you don't stick out too much as an out-of-towner!).

          2 Replies
          1. re: Roo

            Thanks for the correction on "Pike Place Market!"

            Also, thanks for the tip on the Farmers Market. I wonder if you can answer another question... When I go to the market, I like to have a small meal a food vendor. What on-site edibles are offered by the Seattle Markets?

            1. re: rp1760

              At Pike Place I recommend I Love New York Deli for an authentic east coast style sandwich. But, truth be told, I'm equally as happy eating mini-donuts from the stall next door, The Daily Dozen (I like mine plain; they don't need anything else on them, IMO).

              At Ballard Sunday Market I like Anita's Crepes or Veraci Pizza.

              It's been awhile since I've been to the U District Saturday Market. Perhaps someone else can weigh in on that one.

          2. Welcome to our beautiful Pacific Northwest, Mary! Friday's lunch should also consider Chez Shea (right down the hall from Matt's) or Steelhead Diner. Steelhead especially features local fare (right down at The Market. BTW, call it Pike Place Market or The Market but locals don't want it called Pike's!)

            Bainbridge will be a fun day and I agree with the poster who suggests Cafe Nola. I personally prefer Rover's to Crush, but many on this board give highest ratings to Crush so it's all about preferences. Skip Lola - kebabs are always dry. I work 2 blocks from Lola and avoid it at all costs. There are better places including Dahlia Lounge and Palace Kitchen. The Brooklyn, El Gaucho, Zoe and Tulio's all beat Lola hands down. Have a terrific time while you're here and let us know what you try. You can always keep asking for more informaton here since most of us are just getting started with our recommendations, doncha know?

            4 Replies
            1. re: firecracker

              Actually, Firecracker, I too am not a fan of Crush and, despite all the hype and accolades, would steer Mary away from going there. See the new post, "Most Overrated Restaurant in Seattle, at

              1. re: firecracker

                Thanks for your post, Firecracker! I have replaced Lola with Etta's - it will be either Etta's or Dahlia on Sunday night. I am reconsidering Crush based on postings here and elsewhere on the Board. It does make me a little sad, though, to miss the open kitchen bar. L'Atelier in Las Vegas was one of my most fun dining experiences ever! I think I'll reconsider Rovers, Lark and Spring Hill.

                1. re: rp1760

                  there are many restaurants w. an 'open kitchen bar' in Seattle!

                  1. re: rp1760

                    Dahlia is oriented a bit more refined and upscale; still with local focus and nice fish.
                    Rover's reputation is finest French.

                2. Thursday evening: Palace Kitchen and Quinn's have a similar feel as far as I'm concerned. If I were to pick one over the other, Quinn's has the slight edge.
                  Friday: Matt's for lunch, hands down. I'm not familiar with The Lounge (Shea's Lounge at Chez Shea perhaps?) but I second Tom's recommendation of Zig Zag for cocktails. Dinner at Union will be perfect.
                  Saturday: I agree with Roo, the triangle route of the U District, Bainbridge and Madison Valley might make for a loooong day.
                  Sunday: Ballard has a lovely comfort Italian food restaurant called Volterra.

                  I had dinner at both Spring Hill and Harvest Vine in the past week. I'd keep Spring Hill on your list but remove Harvest Vine. At least until they get some issues in the kitchen worked out.