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Seattle specialties

I'm coming to Seattle for the first time in April and I'd like to know if there are any local specialties or food traditions I shouldn't miss... preferably something I wouldn't find at home. I live in San Francisco so there may be a lot of similarities between the food traditions (west coast seafood, dim sum, coffee scene, etc). Is there anything that's unique to Seattle that I should seek out? Anything from full meals to snacks...

Sorry if this is a typical question, I couldn't find any other posts on it. I'll be staying downtown without a car if that makes a difference.

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    1. Here's a previous thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/801310

      I'd say being locally sourced is a local specialty, but a lot of what grows and swims around here can also thrive in the Bay Area, so there will probably be quite a bit of overlap. I don't remember seeing fiddlehead ferns in CA, and we have a greater variety of wild mushrooms off the top of my head...

      1. The infamous Seattle dog (cream cheese & sriricha)?

        5 Replies
        1. re: pusherman

          Still haven't tried one of these... curious though! Anybody here a fan?

          1. re: peppermint_sky

            The Unicorn's corn-doggy version is fantastic.

          2. re: pusherman

            Grilled onions, not sriracha!
            I like spicy mustard with mine too.

            1. re: pusherman

              Is this like a snipe hunt put on by the Chamber of Commerce?

              1. re: mrnelso

                It exists. It's a tad difficult to find. Your best bet is to go to one of the club districts (cap hill, pioneer square, ballard, belltwon) thur-sun), to one of the hot dog stands. Alternatively, they have it at Cafe Racer.

                There is a burger inspired by the Seattle dog at Sam's Tavern on cap hill.

                1. re: mrnelso

                  ...but since the OP is from San Francisco, he's already seen a bit of that.

                  1. re: MsMaryMc

                    Seattle specialty - Teriyaki (needs a thread here)

                    1. re: mrnelso

                      When the big event happens, the only survivors will be cockroaches and Seattle Teriyaki restaurants....

                      1. re: mrnelso

                        seems like seattle has a teriyaki joint on every block. but the trick is to find the reeally good ones. i was at oh chocolate in queen anne (very good) and needed lunch. they pointed me to a nearby place and the teriyaki was great. i would think they all would be similar but this was unusually good, i still remember it, though i forget the name of the place.

                2. What about salmon? Or is that more of an Alaska thing?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: thecreepingkid

                    Salmon is too common from Alaka to California to be considered a Seattle specialty.

                    1. re: GH1618

                      I have to respectfully disagree with this comment.
                      Seattle is known for it's remarkable seafood. Having been born and raised in Seattle and now residing in LA I have yet to find a restaurant that can duplicate the way restaurants in Seattle can prepare a simple piece of beautiful King Salmon.
                      Nevermind the fishmongers in Seattle...they're the best.
                      Thecreepingkid...you're staying in downtown Seattle. Visit DeLaurenti's in the Pike Place Market. You will find food items here you won't find anywhere else. It's a family run business that's been around for decades and you won't be disappointed.
                      Another wonderful addition to Seattle, in the same area, is Beecher's cheese. The owner is a Seattleite who learned the art of cheese making and the has , without a doubt, the best grilled cheese I've ever tasted to compliment his renowned tomato soup. Tremendous.
                      My all time favorite is The Metropolitan Grill downtown. The owner has his own lot of cattle and the ribeye is the best I've ever tasted... in my opinion. The vast selection of oysters offered at this restaurant is impressive. Nobody should visit Seattle without a night of local oysters on the half shell and a bottle of scotch.
                      I hope your visit to Seattle is a good one. The culinary diversity is awesome.

                    2. re: thecreepingkid

                      Salmon is very much a Seattle thing! And I think that April will land you towards the end of the Chinook fishing season.

                      1. re: thecreepingkid

                        If you want your salmon to say "Seattle!", find a place that grills it on an alder or cedar plank.

                        1. re: lavaca

                          I would hit Ivar's salmon house for this; they have an alder wood grill, and beats the whole tourist shmere of Tillicum Village. Not that Ivar's isn't a bit touristy-seeming too, but in winter I think it is more of a local's spot. Not a really CH-ey spot, but very 'Seattle/ NW indian vibe - nice tribal art on the walls and cedar panneling inside. If you get a window seat, it has a nice view of the Lake Union boat traffic too.
                          If you go early, you can do happy hour too, which is a pretty good deal. Check out thier website.

                      2. Wouldn't it be simpler to focus on particular restaurants? There's too much mobility, and too short of a history, to produce any real local traditions.

                        A place like Tilicum Village tries to recreate some pre-white traditions for the tourists, but the only I've been there was when I was a tourist - before moving to Seattle. A place like Pike Place should be enjoyed for its own mix of stores, not because it represents a local tradition.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: paulj

                          These are some great suggestions, thanks everyone! I think sometimes a "destination restaurant" is more about what a particular chef is doing rather than the overall sense of a city or region, so that's why I asked as I did. The cedar-plank salmon sounds great, I'll definitely look that up, and the local shellfish and mushroom harvest if I can...

                          1. re: thecreepingkid

                            Don't forget fiddlehead ferns, there are numerous Seattle restaurants that offer it

                        2. Well you should try Katsu Burger in Georgetown. It's a Japanese take on burgers and its tasty.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: duvelusa

                            great idea! having lived in the bay area and being a local, I would back the suggestions of fast food teriyaki, the cream cheese dog, and katsu burger.

                            i would also add to that list, Paseo's. In april, you'll find a nice line for their cuban inspired sandwich which is worth any line.

                            also would add Revel or Joule. I dont remember a restaurant or cuisine in The City that had a korean/french fusion theme.

                            1. re: shaolinLFE

                              Japanese Hot Dogs @ Pike Place Market. I do not remember the name of the stand, but it's next to DeLaurenti

                          2. There have been quite a few threads on where a first timer should eat if you search the board. Rather than thinking about specialties I too think it makes more sense to focus on restaurants. There are a lot of uniquely Seattle places to hit up--Matt's in the Market, Market Grill, Pike Place Chowder, tons of oyster bars (see the recent thread on this), Poppy, Chez Shea, Boat Street, Walrus and the Carpenter, maybe even a Market dive like Lowell's or the Athenian, for local color and the view. Here's one thread to get you started, and there are more...
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/777878

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: christy319

                              Lowell's was dissappointing. Wasn't in the plan but we were starving. Had planned to eat at Matt's in the Market but it was sweltering hot in there.

                              1. re: melpy

                                I have to disagree - Lowells is my favorite. It's not gourmet, but really a good market choice.

                            2. Mussels might not be unique to Puget Sound, but Penn Cove mussels are said to be some of the best in the world. Likewise, some folks swear by some of the local oyster varieties--Olympias, for example, are native to this are and not that common elsewhere. The Walrus and the Carpenter would be a good place to look for good, fresh local shellfish.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: MsMaryMc

                                A few places like Anchovies and Olives serve Geoduck crudo which I think is pretty amazing. A&O also is one of the few places I have seen sea urchin apart from sushi places.

                                There are a number of varieties of great oysters in the Pacific NW. I was reading that over 65 varieties of oysters are marketed from Pacific NW appellations. Most of the oysters are species Pacifica (Crassostrea gigas) but variations in growing/cultivation and environment, tide etc each inlet, cove or flat result in an exciting amount of variation. There are some Virginica oysters like Mystery Bay (Marrowstone Island) and Totten Virginica (Totten Inlet), European Flat oysters like Snow Creek Flats in Discovery Bay and then of course there is the Olympia (Totten and Little Skookum Inlets.

                                There are also some great foraged Pacific NW specialties like WA Black Truffles, Black Trumpets, Stinging Nettle, Fiddlhead ferns, morels, spring king Bolete, elderflower, huckleberries, chanterelles and matsutakes. A few places around town really showcase these kinds of ingredients seasonally like Matt Dillon (Sitka and Spruce, Corson Building) and Jon Sundstrom (Lark). One of my best NW food memories was an exquisite pasta with morels foraged (I think) by Jeremy Faber of Foraged and Found Edibles for Cafe Juanita. I believe at the time although Holly Smith was owner and chef, Justin Neidermeyer (who opened Spinasse before Jason Stratton took over) was making her pasta.

                                1. re: MsMaryMc

                                  I just read learned in "Twain's Feast" that a vast majority of the oysters eaten in San Francisco are actually Washington Olys. Mainly because the native oysters in SF are half the size.

                                  1. re: SeattleDiners

                                    Half the size of an Olympia oyster is pretty small. Do you know their name?

                                2. Almost forgot...
                                  Pike Place Chowder.
                                  I dream about this little gem.
                                  A long line out the door is a true testimony to the best chowder on the West Coast. A simple order of either red or white at the counter and you sit and experience nirvana :).

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: latindancer

                                    Seared scallop chowder is an addiction, too, at PP chowder.

                                    1. re: mrnelso

                                      i think seattle chocolate shops are a step up from sf ghiradellis.
                                      the international district, ie chinatown, i like but dim sum is not great. a lot of good vietnamese, though.
                                      i think downtown bus is free though i have not used it. good idea though, parking is terrible.
                                      there is a fat tuesday scene, isnt that around april?

                                      1. re: divadmas

                                        the free bus zone starts at about VIrginia (see the RIDE FREE logos on the bus stop signs) and extends down to about Jackson. Don't worry, bus-drivers announce clearly "this is the last stop in the ride-free zone."

                                        1. re: mrnelso

                                          Oh, and this: there is a BUS TUNNEL under third avenue, from Pike to Jackson streets.
                                          It's free in the RIDE FREE zone and a bargain ride to the airport.

                                          1. re: mrnelso

                                            Just a note: Only the buses in the bus tunnel are free; the light rail trains are not free. I'll miss the free ride zone when it ends later this year!

                                            1. re: akq

                                              Thank you akq. I guess I'm an inadvertent criminal,

                                              1. re: mrnelso

                                                So was I until my boss mentioned it as I was freeloading on the lightrail on the way to court. Oops!

                                                  1. re: mrnelso

                                                    My partner didn't believe me that it didn't apply to light rail (I signed up for Metro Transit mails because I ride the bus everywhere, don't even have a driver's license because I don't have a car and it's too hard to get to the DOL on the bus during working hours, and I feel like I have to read them carefully in case there's something in there about my busses being cut, but anyway...) and made me pay for his ticket the first time he took it with me to the stadium. I charged him double back when the fare checkers happened to be in our car :D. I invested my earnings in 1/4 of a beer at SafeCo.

                                    2. Any updates to this thread? I'll be landing tomorrow from Montreal!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: andyse7en

                                        Haven't heard of any new traditions. :)

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          Well, the ride free zone is gone.

                                          1. re: Brunhilde

                                            and a bunch of new product/restaurant placements from Top Chef.

                                      2. Well, if you are a lover of espresso drinks, please consider going to Vivace on Capital Hill or South Lake Union. David Schomer is world renown for his pursuit of perfection with espresso and has changed the way people think about and prepare espresso. A ristretto shot there will make you swoon. I consider it one of the things Seattleites should be extremely proud of.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: TheCarrieWatson

                                          Some high end places that haven't been mentioned are Canlis and Dahlia Lounge.

                                          As a fellow San Francisco food blogger traveling up there, should I hit these places or am I better off elsewhere? I want a taste of the Northwest, not something I can find back home.

                                          We don't have Foie anymore in CA.. We're on a crusade to have that for sure!

                                        2. This thread is perfect! My cousins and I are traveling up (from L.A.) in June for UW commencement. We're looking forward to trying anything that's the best of and quintessentially Seattle.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: attran99

                                            The Layover just ran a Seattle episode.