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Sep 27, 2010 08:37 AM

Seattle dinner - good food that won't break the bank?

Hi all,
I'd like to ask for some help on choosing a dinner place to meet up with an out of town friend later this week. I live in W WA, and go to Sea often enough, but I go with my 2 little kids and so am looking for a casual family place usually.

This time, I'd like the food and atmosphere to be a smidge more upscale. I read the boards, and was all set to recommend Tilth, Il Terrazo, Matt's, Chez Shea, Harvest Vine, Dahlia, Poppy, etc. but was frankly blown away by the prices on their websites.

Can anyone recommend an eatery with great food (I'd like to give my friend 3-4 choices), a nice atmosphere that isn't too loud to chat, where there will be a good number of entree choices below $20 (or a small plates place where we can get 2 each for about the same). My friend says American, PNW, or ethnic is fine (but didn't want Asian cuisines). The places above are the ones whose food and style are the type I am hoping to find, but in a lower price tier. I'd also prefer to avoid really difficult parking and sketchy neighborhoods. We are 2 girls, and I noticed for example that Il Terrazo was in Pioneer Sq - not an area I'm comfy walking around in after dark.


Harvest Vine
2701 E Madison St, Seattle, WA 98112

Chez Shea
94 Pike St. Suite 34, Seattle, WA 98101

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  1. Olivar, definitely. It's the best value in Seattle IMO (and my personal favorite). Nothing's over $20 and both the small and large plates are generously portioned. I'd make a reservation a week in advance at least for a Fri/Sat visit.

    If you are open to veg food, I'd also suggest Carmelita. I don't think anything is over $20 there either, it's super easy to park, quiet, etc. It's not hippie veg food ie tofu and hummus--you'll find nicely done and beautifully plated pastas, risottos, etc.

    806 E Roy St, Seattle, WA 98102

    3 Replies
    1. re: christy319

      Is Olivar stil open? The link is a dead link.

      806 E Roy St, Seattle, WA 98102

      1. re: Jane917

        Yes, Olivar is open for business. They are aware of the problem with their website, and are hoping it will be fixed over the weekend.

      2. re: christy319

        I concur with Christy319 about Olivar. The food is very interesting and the old frescos are great. It can, however be quite noisy on a busy night. My fallback for good food at a reasonable price with a competent and seasoned waitstaff is Bick's Broadway Grill in the north end of greenwood. It is a little informal and sometimes noisy but for a dinner with my closest friends that is where I have gone many times.

        806 E Roy St, Seattle, WA 98102

        Broadway Grill
        314 Broadway E, Seattle, WA 98102

      3. List in Belltown has reasonable prices. I've been for HH a couple times but have been happy with the food each time. The wild mushroom and roasted onion chicken was really good and the calamari was some of my favorite in Seattle. The gnocchi with black truffle cream was also one of our favorite dishes. Servings are pretty generous and the highest priced item is $14. It's one of the better bargains I have found for Italian.

        1. You could try Walrus and the Carpenter, a new oyster bar/ small plates restaurant in the newly restored Kolstrand building in Ballard. It is run by Renee Erickson of Boathouse Cafe. You could certainly spend much more there than you are budgeting for but your guidelines are doable. Check out The other night my wife and I split 12 oysters on the half shell @ $2/ each; an order of the sockeye salmon tartare ($12) and fried oysters ($8) along with porcini crudo with parmesan, pine nuts and lemon ($10) and an order of bread (Columbia City Bakery) and butte ($3). We also had desert and two cocktails apiece. However I am a fairly good sized guy with a big appetite. I think you could enjoy two or three small plates each and come in not too far off budget. It is also a gorgeous space.

          Also on Ballard Ave I would recommend Bastille. The food in my opinion has been consistently great. Shannon Galusha, the Executive Chef, has worked at French Laundry, Campagne and Veil. Chef de Cuisine Jason Stoneburner was at Campagne, Union, and How to Cook a Wolf. Bastille is not inexpensive as such but having a cafe/bistro menu there are some options, especially on the bar menu and especially for happy hour. Check out the menus at

          86 Pine, Seattle, WA 98101

          1. Cafe Presse in capitol hill is owned by the same people as Le Pichet in Belltown. Its relatively inexpensive with good French bistro food. They dont take reservations so waits can be long sometimes but options like toasted baguette with chocolate spread and good frites will keep kids happy at a reasonable cost

            Cafe Presse
            1117 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

            Le Pichet
            Seattle, WA, Seattle, WA

            1. Saltoro in Broadview would totally fit the bill. Parking is a cinch (free lot!) and the food is one of the best values in town, perhaps because of the less central location.

              14053 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98133