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Apr 13, 2012 12:29 PM

What to eat for a first-timer to Seattle?

Hi everyone,
I'm planning a trip to Seattle with my wife and it'll be our first time there. We eat pretty much any and everything. No dietary restrictions at all. We just want to eat the best things Seattle has to offer (minus stuffy white table cloth places, unless it's really amazing)

So far my research has popped up these restaurants either through things like websites, magazines, or james beard award nominations... What should I add or delete from this list? And keep in mind, we're probably not going to eat at all of these places, but I like to always create a big list in case certain places are outta the way or scheduling conflicts...

In no particular order:

Dahlia Lounge
Matt's in the Market
Spring Hill
How to Cook a Wolf
Anchovies & Olives
Sitka and Spruce
Spur Gastropub
Walrus & The Carpenter
Skillet Diner
Ray's Boathouse

Am I missing something that really showcases Seattle? I honestly haven't looked at all the menu's of all these places, I've just been gathering restaurant names... Also looking for places for snacks like bakeries or ice cream shops. Any input or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Spinasse for restaurants. Bakeries include Cafe Besalu and Honore, both in Ballard, and Fuji in the International District. Molly Moon for ice cream. Spring Hill no longer exists as Spring Hill. The owner turned it into a fried chicken restaurant, I believe, or something like that.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PAO

      Thanks for the bakery recommendations! All three of those look great. I just added them to my list. Would you say those are good for breakfast?

    2. Joule is closing their current location the end of April - reopening sometime this summer in Fremont.

      1 Reply
      1. re: FoodDee

        Ah, cool. Thanks for the heads up on that!

      2. Foodinmouth,

        Please see my responses below and they are only my opinions.

        Joule: Love the Korean-French fusion. Excellent, love, love, love the spicy beef soup. But sometimes some dishes were an odd fusion. For a more casual atmosphere and riff on Korean comfort food, you might want to try their other restaurant Revel in the neighboring neighborhood of Fremont. Be prepared to wait as there are no reservations.
        Dahlia Lounge: Consistent, good, but for me not the first place that comes to mind when going out.
        Matt's in the Market was better when Matt owned it but still good. You might want to try Matt's new place Lecosho on the Harbor Steps. Everything pig and more. Just down the ways from Pike Place Market.
        Salumi: great for lunch. Porchetta sandwich is a favorite. Open only on weekdays.
        Spring Hill: have not tried. They also have changed their format now too.
        How to Cook a Wolf: Excellent Italian. Pasta sublime. But be prepared to wait, no reservations.
        Anchovies & Olives: Again excellent small plates, fish and antipasti but be prepared to possibly wait, no reservations.
        Tavolata: Excellent Italian, some of the best handmade pasta and the best grilled octopus I've had but every time I go there, the food takes so long to come out that I'm ready to curl up on the communal table out of sheer hunger.
        Sitka and Spruce Very good, seasonal, regional and fresh but have had some off nights there with the food.
        Canlis: Despite having lived here for over 20 years and living really close by, I have never gone. Friends tell me though it's excellent for drinks and the view.
        Crush: Been there a couple of times, really good but not exactly memorable to me.
        Tilth: Love, love Tilth, fresh, seasonal, organic, and inventive. I've always had excellent meals here. Also, is in my neighborhood so it's an easy walk.
        Spur Gastropub: Have not tried, but have tried the Coterie room next door. Too noisy and food was underwhelming.
        Paseo: Good Cuban sandwiches, and grilled chicken. Can only go every few of months though, kind of heavy. You should also try Dot's Deli across the street catacorner from them. Excellent sandwiches and house made sausages, pate, duck confit, bacon, etc. The best BLT in the city or ever when heirloom tomatoes are in season.
        Walrus & The Carpenter: Be prepared to wait, get your name on the list and just wait till they call you. A party of 4 usually is a 1 hour and 45 minute wait. Actually, I am going there this Thursday. If you love oysters then this is the place, the menu is a bit limited to small plate/ bar food type of things. You might also want to consider Staple & Fancy next door for dinner one night. It's one of my favorite restaurants, especially the family style $45/person menu where you let the chef(s) make whatever is seasonal and fresh that day. You can also tell them your dietary preferences and they will accommodate. There are usually 4 to 5 courses and every time I order this option, it's been excellent. There was one time there was a tagliatelle with mussels and salsa verde that was so sublime.
        Skillet Diner: very good better than diner food.
        Ray's Boathouse: just skip it. Other than the view outside which is great (go to Canlis for the view or even the Pink Door on the patio if the weather is good at Pike Place Market) , food is bland and tasteless. A kind of geriatric crowd as well.
        Lola: OK, but there are better restaurants around.

        P.S. Other options to consider:
        Cantinetta: A great alternative to the other Italian places on your list. A lovely neighborhood restaurant, with a great atmosphere and food.
        Molly Moon: Ice cream in Wallingford or on Queen Anne.
        Taylor Shellfish: in the same building as Sitka and Spruce and great oyster bar.
        The Dahlia Bakery next to the Dahlia Lounge has wonderful baked goods, soups, sandwiches.
        Macrina Bakery Cafe also has wonderful baked goods, soups, sandwiches.

        8 Replies
        1. re: mchutch

          Both Anchovies and Olives and How to Cook a Wolf do now take reservations.

          1. re: mchutch

            EPIC response! thank you so much for that. I've taken many things you've said into consideration like Lecosho and removing Ray's Boathouse.

            1. re: mchutch

              >> Ray's Boathouse: just skip it. ... food is bland and tasteless.
              >> A kind of geriatric crowd as well.

              Whoa. Isn't this a bit harsh? We had lunch at Ray's in January. The food was nicely prepared, fresh, and tasty. Lots of variety in the preparations. Very comfortable place, great service.
              The dining crowd was diverse. I was the only geriatric in the place.

              I do agree that the OP should probably skip Ray's in favor of the other more happening places. But if you're looking to relax by the water and enjoy some good food, Ray's is perfect.

              1. re: val ann c

                Ray's Cafe for Happy Hour and sports t.v late Sunday afternoon is fun. Tasty, well priced apps and toddies for 3 hours, Not bad and definitely NOT a geriatric crowd upstairs.

              2. re: mchutch

                +1 Dot's Deli. Housemade mortadella. Everything there is good. I love the soups.

                1. re: val ann c

                  This is a happy second to DOT's.
                  The Reuben is among the meatiest the city.
                  Coq au van, Cassoulet, Merguez sausage - the hits just keep on coming.
                  Golden Beetle is another star, especially at Happy Hour, and Quinn's.

                2. re: mchutch

                  any thoughts on Madison Square Conservatory and Book Bindery?

                  1. re: foodinmouth

                    I agree with BuffaloBandit, Madison Park Conservatory is very good at times but sometimes inconsistent. Cormac Mahoney has been getting a lot of press lately, partly because of being named one of the Best New Chefs 2012 by F&W. I second trying the Corson Building. I've done the Sunday Family Style Dinner, it was excellent and I like the funky location under an overpass in Georgetown and the atmosphere in the space. The night we were there a train passed by (slowly) as were having pre-dinner drinks outside on the patio/lawn/chicken coop area. Kind of cool.

                    Book Bindery is excellent, very clean flavors, wonderful execution of dishes. Atmosphere is a little more stiffer than Madison Park Conservatory or Corson Building but very pleasant. It's across the canal from Revel in Fremont.

                3. Personally, I'd skip:
                  Dahlia Lounge
                  Matt's in the Market
                  Spring Hill
                  Anchovies & Olives
                  Spur Gastropub
                  Skillet Diner
                  Ray's Boathouse

                  And I'd consider adding some of these:
                  Corson Building (Also by Matt Dillion of Sitka and Spruce)
                  Cascina Spinasse (Best Italian IMHO)
                  Bar del Corso (Great Pizza)
                  Ba Bar (Vietnamese Street Food)
                  Cafe Presse
                  Golden Beetle (Also by Maria Hines of Tilth)
                  Quinn's (My favorite Gastropub)
                  Trophy Cupcakes
                  Bakery Nouveau
                  Chez Shea
                  Serious Biscuit
                  Mistral Kitchen
                  Via Tribunali

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: BuffaloBandit

                    That's another ding against Lola. We'll try to skip that one. Spinasse seems to be a favorite with another response so that's going on the list. I gotta look up rest of your other recs! Thank you!

                    1. re: foodinmouth

                      if you want a good brunch/breakfast - i highly recommend lola's. tom's big breakfast, eggs benedict, sausage, doughnuts, and bloody marys are amazing!

                      1. re: rudyhux

                        I think Lola does breakfast well, too, rudyhux, but I find their lunch and dinner executions to be horrible. I would stay far, far away during those mealtimes.

                    2. re: BuffaloBandit

                      I added Mistral Kitchen and Trophy Cupcakes to my list, thanks!

                      any thoughts on Madison Square Conservatory and Book Bindery?

                      1. re: foodinmouth

                        Just ate at the Book Bindery for the first time this weekend. I was very pleased. I would definitely consider adding it to your list. As for Madison Park Conservatory, I think you can do better. I want to like that place and have had some great meals there, but I've also had some really disappointing ones. The chef there used to work under Matt Dillion (Sitka & Spruce and Corson Building), so I'd suggest going to one of those instead.

                      2. re: BuffaloBandit

                        I highly recOmmend Quinn's. It was pretty much our favorite place when we went for vacation last year. It is open late so we went after spending the evening watching a sunset at the apace needle (not the plan but some frat was having a prom type event and so we waited a good bit for a down elevator.)

                      3. Molly Moon is the common answer for ice cream, but my vote goes to Full Tilt (I've only tried the one in Columbia City but I assume they're all good). Their salted caramel is far and away better than Molly Moon's.

                        Thumbs up for Walrus & Carpenter, Paseo and Skillet. Have only had Salumi once (meatball sandwich) and thought it good but not rave-worthy. Sooner or later would like to explore their offerings further. Haven't tried most of the others, alas. I'm too broke for a lot of them...

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Bax

                          +1 Full Tilt for ice cream. For ice cream quality and interesting flavors, I prefer Full Tilt. In addition the dairy ice cream, they have wonderful coconut-based vegan ice cream.
                          Molly Moon is good, and they have some interesting sundae combinations. Bluebird Creamery is worth a stop.
                          But for ice cream fabulousity, go to Full Tilt.

                          1. re: val ann c

                            @Bax, @val ann c
                            thank you both for the Full Tilt suggestion!

                          2. re: Bax

                            +2 for Full Tilt. Much better than Moonies.

                            1. re: firecracker

                              Another plus 1 for full tilt, and also a +1 for visiting West Seattle for bakery Nouveau, and the view back to Seattle is a great one to gaze at with your pastry and espresso in hand!

                            2. re: Bax

                              I do not like Molly Moon. All of these are way better:

                              Peaks Frozen Custard

                              Old School Frozen Custard

                              Mora (Winslow on Bainbridge Island)

                              Full Tilt

                              D'Ambrosia gelato


                              Bottega Italiana

                              31 Flavors

                              Bluebird (which isn't as good as 31 Flavors)

                              1. re: not the bad Steve

                                I agree. Molly Moon is not good and I would add Fainting Goat to ntbS's list.