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LA Hound Coming on Short Notice -- Help!

Hi there,

So my wife and I will be coming in next weekend (Fr - Mo) and are looking for some of the more interesting and better food options Seattle has to offer. I know, I know ... this is where you chime in and ask if I've searched at all, and the answer is "yes!"

Here's what I've gleaned thus far, and in no real particular order:

Cascina Spinasse
Revel/Joule
Cafe Juanita
Nell's
Book Bindery
The Corson Building
Sitka and Spruce
Walrus & Carpenter
Quinn's
Canlis
Cafe Besalu
Top Pot
Serious Pie
Salumi
Fuji Bakery
Paseo
Staple & Fancy

CLEARLY that's far too broad for what will end up being 3 (possibly 4) dinners, 3 breakfasts, and 4 lunches ... and that is if we eat every meal!

So I am looking for some help/guidance in winnowing down the list, as well as potential suggestions on things I should possibly add. And to help you, here is a bit about us.

We live in LA, and thus are privy to all sorts of interesting and outstanding regional/ethnic dishes. We are from Louisiana, and visit annually. We've lived in NYC, and try to make it back once or twice a year for a couple months total (though we have not been back in over a year). Lastly, we've been in Vancouver for the past couple months.

I just want some really good food; we've had fun here in Vancouver, and have had some solid/good meals, but have yet really to be blown away. So please, just great food. We don't have a budget (though I don't feel I could handle numerous "stuffy" meals), we will have a car as we are driving down, and as it is our first time in your city I am sure we'll be getting around to a lot of the usual touristy things. Also, we are staying downtown, near the Seattle Art Museum.

"Any specifics", you ask? Why yes!

Coffee: We have found a couple places here in Vancouver that we love, but I mean, come on, it's freaking Seattle, right? Ground Zero for coffee in the US. I'm sure these recommendations are intensely personal, so I'm curious to see what shakes out of the CH tree.

Bakeries/Sweets: I have a sweet tooth; in fact, an entire mouth full. I already have Besalu down as a MUST, and Top Pot for doughnuts, but where else?

Mushrooms: My wife loves them, though I can take them or leave them. That being said, from what I've read I gather you are coming into wild mushroom season, so I would quite like for her to have the option of a mind-blowing dish. So if you've any thoughts, I am all ears.

A bit more about us. We've been around a time or two, eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world, street stands around the world blah blah blah blah blah.

Who gives a crap!

Not you. Not me.

I am not crazy hung up in whether something is authentic, and while I love refinement, technique, and poetry on a plate, sometimes I just want to bite into a great, juicy burger, you know? I don't like it when the staff have their noses up to the ceiling (or up other places), but I love when people are cool and passionate about what they are doing.

I guess the point is, like everyone else on CH, we just want good food. Thanks so much for your help.

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  1. I've only lived in Seattle for a couple of months, but I moved from the Bay Area, have high standards for food, and also have eaten in a lot of places around the world, including NYC. So far, I've had some good meals in Seattle, but I suspect that you won't find anything that will blow you away. In particular, I think you'll want to venture out of downtown. In fact, of the places you've listed, only Serious Pie is downtown, and it's the one I definitely skip. I was raised on NYC pizza and ate some excellent pizza in SF/Oakland/Berkeley--Serious Pie does not measure up in any way. I thought the crust was particularly mediocre, and the ambiance was very touristy.

    Here are my experiences with some of the other places you've listed:
    Spinasse: Excellent pasta and antipasto. Definitely one of the best I've been to so far.

    Quinn's: I haven't had the burger, but if you want something casual and fun where a burger could fit the bill, this is a good choice. Actually, the food exceeds what you would expect when you see the place--much more finesse--so you can go beyond a burger. the menu is defintely meaty,
    though.

    Walrus and the Carpenter: Fun, excellent oysters, some other interesting bites. Two things to note: Most of the menu consists of dishes to be eaten cold, and you'll probably have a long wait for a table (no reservations).

    Coffee: Go to Victrola. It's the best I've found so far for espresso drinks (I'm not fond of the drip coffee), and someone who worked for Blue Bottle Coffee in SF (still my measure of good coffee) had recommended it to me. She was right.

    Sitka and Spruce: Excellent ingredients, simple but enjoyable preparations. An interesting spot, although it won't blow you away.

    Revel/Joule: I've been to both and liked both. Revel is definitely more fun. A few dishes ended up sounding better on paper than on the plate.

    Salumi: I'd gone as a tourist several years ago, and I went back recently. Still good but not as much fun or unusual as I remembered. Expect a line, although they seem efficient.

    One place that I ate downtown and enjoyed was Lecosho. The atmosphere was generic, but the food exceeded my expectations. I also think Poppy, with its Northwest dishes/ingredients served thali style and creative drinks, would fit the category of a place passionate about what it's doing. Poppy isn't popular on this board, but that may be because some people seem to think they're doing Indian food (something really lacking in Seattle). The last time I was there, they had salmon with chanterelles, so that may fulfill your wife's desire for mushrooms.

    -----
    Spinasse
    Seattle, WA, Seattle, WA

    Serious Pie
    316 Virginia St, Seattle, WA 98101

    Salumi
    309 3rd Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104

    1 Reply
    1. re: amydeastbay

      I'd agree with most of these recommendations and observations, though I run a bit higher on Sitka and Spruce, and Corson Building (which is the prix fixe "family-style" relative of S&S. I also like Crush (sort of similar price point and arguably close in style to Book Bindery). My go-to for coffee is my local spot, Empire.

      -----
      Book Bindery
      198 Nickerson Street, Seattle, WA 98109

      The Corson Building
      5609 Corson Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108

    2. Just to prevent an unpleasant surprise...Salumi is only open for lunches and only Tuesday - Friday. If that's definitely going to be on your list, then there's your Friday lunch decided.

      Like a213b said, lines tend to be long, although not as long if you go late (say, 3 pm--they close at 3:30 or 4 pm). Opinions are divided here on that--some people say that's a bad idea because then tend to run out of things--but never having been there, you probably don't have a favorite must-have item, and I know I can ALWAYS find something good that's still available!

      1 Reply
      1. re: MsMaryMc

        On that note, Paseo is only open Tu-Sat, so if you plan on enjoying one of their big, delicious, messy sandwiches, you'll have to go on Saturday (if you go to Salumi, which if you do I love the oxtail if they have it, on Friday). I recommend the seared scallop sandwich, it's my favorite, but I'm not a huge pork fan, so their most popular sandwiches don't resonate with me as much.

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        Salumi
        309 3rd Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104

      2. I'd skip Top Pot. It's good, but good doughnuts are good doughnuts, and there must be good doughnuts somewhere in LA. Cafe Besalu is excellent as is Honore bakery, also in Ballard, but more in a residential area. Honore is at 1413 NW 70th St. I really like Fuji Bakery, but it will be different--worth a try, for you, I suspect. I especially like the part-Japanese, part French stuff, but that may be just me. Or go up to Tango for dessert and order the El Diablo (intense chocolate covered with chile powder sitting on meringue drizzled with caramel and toasted almonds).

        I second Spinasse. The pasta is superb. They may have a wild mushroom pasta, and if so, your wife will be in heaven--call ahead and find out, because their online menu may not be up to date. I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh morel pasta I had when were there. The rabbit meatballs were the best meatballs of any kind I have ever had. You can order a tasting menu of the appetizers and still have room left for the remainder of the meal.

        I'm also a big fan of Cafe Juanita, where excellent food meets excellent service.

        We just ate at Lecosho for the first time and had a fine meal. I think I reviewed it elsewhere on this board and it is walking distance from your hotel. I've eaten at Poppy 3 or 4 times, but am not as enthusiastic about it as others, even though I am definitely NOT under the illusion that they're serving Indian food. It's just that the small plates are of very variable quality.

        -----
        Cafe Juanita
        Kirkland, WA, Kirkland, WA

        Spinasse
        Seattle, WA, Seattle, WA

        Cafe Besalu
        5909 24th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107

        Fuji Bakery
        526 S King St, Seattle, WA 98104

        4 Replies
        1. re: PAO

          Yeah, I don't understand why people make such a big deal about Top Pot. They're just doughnuts. I guess they're a step up from supermarket doughnuts, maybe, but I have found nothing remarkable about them. Just sweet. Eh. On the other hand, the plain croissants from Besalu TOTALLY live up to the hype. They are indeed wonderful.

          The sweets I've had that I find worth touting are cupcakes from Yellow Leaf down in Belltown. Specifically the Pancakes'n'Bacon flavor. YUM. They do tend to be very sweet (I normally eat no more than 1/2 a cupcake at a time), but sounds like that might be to your liking.

          1. re: Bax

            In my opinion, Top Pot is the most over-rated eating establishment in Seattle. I paid $4.50 for a chocolate raised with coconut and a pumpkin old fashioned this past weekend. Both mediocre at best. I've tried others and none have impressed. Mighty O is much better IMO. Stan's in Westwod destroys Top Pot.

            1. re: tykapfh

              Thanks for that comparison; I feel like Stan's is a bit overrated myself, so if TP fails in that comparison I am completely willing to skip it.

          2. re: PAO

            We went to Tango just last night and ordered El Diablo for the first time. The menu description is: Bittersweet cube of sinfully rich dark chocolate graced with cayenne, spicy almonds, cocoa nibs and burnt meringue finished with a tequila caramel sauce.

            We were underwhelmed. The base was not burnt meringue. It was warm marshmallow goop.

            On the plus side, the chocolate cube was very large, a sort of ganache, and tasted good. We sat in the bar and got nice service.

          3. I know it won't make your list - especially if only one of you like mushrooms, but it's that time at the Herbfarm. October 7 - October 23 only. Mostly Friday thru Sunday (plus one Thursday). $195 per person, with wine, plus tax and service.
            http://twitpic.com/6tli90

            -----
            The Herbfarm
            14590 NE 145th St, Woodinville, WA 98072

            1. I've lived here for about 2 years now from NYC and in the restaurant business and would have to say not much of a wow factor here. Very dissapointing overall but I will say there are some solid selections on your list.
              I would suggest
              Spinasse
              Revel/Joule
              Book Bindery
              Paseo
              I would totally skip all Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell restaurants. Mediocrity with good press for some reason sums them up.
              Canlis is great
              Also check out Poppy, alittle different and solid preparations.

              -----
              Canlis Restaurant
              2576 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

              Spinasse
              Seattle, WA, Seattle, WA

              Book Bindery
              198 Nickerson Street, Seattle, WA 98109

              2 Replies
              1. re: NYPORK

                Somebody besides me is not a huge Tom Douglas fan!

                1. re: PAO

                  I would not recommend Tom Douglas to the OP, but I do recommend everytime my mom's friends pass through town for an Alaskan cruise. it is consistent, good food. not great, not new or inventive, but for a certain audience, perfect.