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Sep 29, 2012 11:50 PM

30th Birthday Vacation

I'm heading to Vancouver and Seattle for my 30th. A few notes that might help illustrate where I'm coming from:

- Coming from LA, I love great artisanal cocktails. I've been to most of the good cocktail bars in LA, and love most of them. I'm looking for well-balanced, well-made cocktails, typically (though not exclusively) with dark spirits, like bourbon or whiskey.
- I'm a chef for a profession, so I tend to enjoy interesting food. That's not necessarily only the fancy food, but just really well made, delicious food. Obviously a couple "nice" meals would be great for my birthday, but that's far from all I'm looking for. I like "interesting food," so for example a delicious off-cut of meat prepared well would be more interesting to me (generally) than a well cooked braised short rib (though both could be great!)
- I'll be staying at the Westin Seattle on 5th Street, and won't have a car. I'm not sure what the cab situation is, but certainly being close to that location is preferable, but nowhere near mandatory.

So you all don't feel like I'm asking you to do everything, I've done extensive research, including on Chowhound, and many other places. I've heard about and am considering most of Tom Douglas' restaurants, Canlis, and quite a few others.

I'd love places that speak to Seattle's specific culinary perspective, but in general I'd love just great food. To put it in perspective, I really have only limited interest in truly "sight-seeing," since my favorite things are enjoying food and good cocktails (and wine). If there are must-see locations, I'm completely game for them as well.

My vacation is going to be the 2nd week of November (from the 8th to the 10th), and I can't wait to experience everything you guys have to offer. Any help making sure it's as special as possible would be helpful.

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  1. Hi Gavin ~ For craft cocktails, Spur Gastropub, Tavern Law and Canon are all good bets and none are more that a mile or two from the Westin.

    Many of the Tom Douglas' restos are close to the Westin, but I would avoid Lola for all but breakfast/brunch. RN74 (Michael Mina's Seattle venture) isn't far. If you decide to head to the Ballard area, Walrus and Carpenter and Staple and Fancy are both "hot" right now. Also look into the Book Bindery. For other insights go to for another visitor's opinions! Enjoy your trip!

    1. The best "experience" meal in all of Seattle us going to either be Rover's in Madison Park (run by James Beard winner and recent Top Chef Masters competitor Thierry Rauthierau) or Crush up on the hill (run by Jason Wilson).

      For a "feelgood" moment that is pure Seattle, walk 2 blocks East. There's a place you'll run smack dab into from your hotel called 'FareStart', which has one of the coolest missions ever (they take homeless people, battered wives, etc. and put them in a real life working kitchen on-site; they're trained by the area's top chefs and, upon graduation, placed in jobs at kitchens around Seattle). The entire operation is self-funded from diners at the restaurant. Some of our area's most famous chefs teach these people.

      The Tom Douglas establishments are usually a safe choice. Dahlia Lounge - what is probably the best of the bunch - is located a mere 2 blocks from your hotel (assuming you exit on the 6th Ave side). The Dahlia Bakery right next door has an incredible thing called a triple coconut creme pie. If you head to Pike Street and start walking up the hill, you'll eventually come to a place called Tango - which serves what is likely the best dessert in all of Seattle (the El Diablo).

      Best seafood is at Seastar. Best lunch spot is an oh-too-famous place in Pioneer Square called Salumi's (run by Mario Batali's grandfather). The Cuban at Paseo in Fremont is a thing of beauty.

      If you're able to drive all the way out to Ballard, there's a veritable throng of hotspots. Walrus & The Carpenter, as someone else mentioned. How to Cook a Wolf has what is likely the best shellfish in the city.

      If you're willing to spend a day of it, take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and stop at Cafe Nola for breakfast (best French Toast in the world. No, seriously), putz around for the day, and finish it off with dinner at Four Swallows (an insanely intimate little place that has some amazing eats).

      And, of course, the thing that is more Seattle than all else....just spend a day eating your way through Pike Place Market. I guarantee you won't be able to get it all. High points include Piroshky Piroshky, Michou, La Panier, The Crumpet Shoppe, and Pike Place Chowder (home of what has been voted the nation's best chowder like 6 years running now).

      3 Replies
      1. re: Quintious

        I agree with many of your comments, Q, but take absolute exception to your recommendation of Crush. Grossly overpriced, over hyped and over rated IMHO. Many better places in Seattle.

        1. re: firecracker

          I guess I should have prefaced it by saying "....on a night Jason is actually cooking". When he's there and going all mad scientist, it's amazing stuff.

          My only other points of reference there are Seattle Restaurant Week, as otherwise I don't even go to that part of town. And yeah, that was always lackluster, though I always attributed it to it being, you know, restaurant week.

          1. re: Quintious

            Ahhh, the truly good thing! No rights. No wrongs. Merely different ideas and opinions. I respect all even while disagreeing!