Where To Eat In Seattle

January 8, 2008 | By | COMMENTS

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Seattle is a city I never expected to know well. Geographically, it’s pretty much as far away as you can get in the continental U.S. from where I grew up in Boca Raton, Florida. My impressions of Seattle were entirely limited to that which I saw in movies (“Sleepless in Seattle,” “Singles”) and TV shows (“Frasier” being the obvious choice; though, interestingly, Craig says the view from Frasier’s apartment window is an impossible view.) If it weren’t for Craig, in fact, I’m not sure I’d have made my way to Seattle as early or as often as I have. Since knowing him, however, I’ve been to Seattle three times: once as a newbie (one year ago exactly), once as a drifter (Craig was shooting his movie this summer and I drifted my way around town while he did his work) and finally as a tag-along (this most recent trip was Craig’s annual Christmas visit). In the process, I’ve made some pretty wonderful food discoveries and though I’ve covered much ground in previous Seattle posts (see this search) here’s a guide to what I’d recommend to anyone visiting the city for the first time.

The best meal we had on this most recent trip was at The Boat Street Cafe with (surprise, surprise) Molly & Brandon who were so passionate in recommending it they ended up joining us for our dinner there:

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What I loved about this place was its scale and its charm. It’s a tiny restaurant–I counted twelve tables–and the feel is very much that of a stylish friend’s giant living room as opposed to a restaurant proper. The service was peppy and friendly (which makes sense since Brandon worked in the kitchen there) and, at times, truly fascinating. For example, our server was–believe it or not–a family lawyer turned public defender who continues to work at Boat Street because she loves it so much. How’s that for dedication?

I won’t go into every dish, otherwise this post will be massive, but you mustn’t miss the pickle plate:

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There’s a normal selection of pickled vegetables (onions and carrots, for example) and then odd fruit, like pear, that’s pretty compelling when pickled.

The pate is not to be ignored:

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And this pork belly is the best I’ve ever had in my life:

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You should’ve heard Craig “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” over it. It had all of the best qualities of bacon–crisp and packed with flavor–but much more depth and substance. Brandon, a vegetarian, considered switching teams after hearing our reaction. But he held his own and figured he’d start with something simpler before jumping to pork belly.

The desserts were also delightful:

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But the clear winner was the Meyer lemon tart, so creamy it practically oozed out of its shell when we cut into it. (Ooze is not a very sexy food word, but I like it. So ooze off!)

(Those other two desserts are vanilla bean rice pudding and chocolate pot de crem.)

So Boat Street gets the full Adam Roberts seal of approval: 4-stars in my book, if I ever write a book about restaurants in Seattle which doesn’t seem very likely.

Another pleasant surprise this trip was The Steelhead Diner which we visited because I recalled Mario Batali writing about it on Serious Eats (see here).

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We visited Steelhead, which is adjacent to the Pike Place Market, after seeing “I’m Not There” at the AMC downtown. Craig wasn’t in the mood for a fancy meal but I convinced him it wouldn’t be too fancy and it wasn’t. It’s an upscale diner and the prices are certainly greater than an average diner (though not necessarily an average diner in New York) the atmosphere is diner-like in its low-key joviality and clinky-clanky noise level.

Actually, I didn’t love the atmosphere, but maybe that’s because I was facing out a window into an alleyway. I did, however, love the crabcake. So did Craig. In fact Craig, who is the ultimate crabcake snob having smashed and boiled fresh crabs at Eliza Island for the large bulk of his adolescence, declared it to be the best crabcake he ever had. You, the reader, must be tired of hearing about “the best this” and “the best that” so I won’t hammer the point, but please look at this crabcake and consider that it was 99% crab and 1% filling:

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Our entree, on the other hand, was nice but not terribly memorable. It was sole with bacon and all this crap but it didn’t add up to much for me. I won’t even show the picture because I don’t recommend it. I do recommend the broccoli side:

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What made the broccoli remarkable was the texture–still quite firm, but caramelized in parts–and the flavor, amplified by capers and, I’d imagine, anchovies. I wish I knew how to make this at home.

The dessert was also stellar: a Guinness pound cake with a poached pear on top.

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So Steelhead is a winner, except for the entree, and if you’re searching for a place to grab an impressive bite near Pike Place Market, I say head there.

We also hit Etta’s, the Tom Douglas joint, with Craig’s parents and family friends the Bussingers. I loved the meal Craig and I had at the Dahlia Lounge last time we were in Seattle (see here) and I think Dahlia remains my favorite Tom Douglas restaurant.

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Etta’s was fun, though. See how much fun we’re having?

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The highlight was Tom Douglas’s signature coconut cream pie, the bes… ok, I won’t say the best because you’re sick of me calling things the best. But, no, damn it, it IS the best coconut cream pie you’ll ever have. Just take a look:

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Coconut cream pie doesn’t get better than that. It simply doesn’t.

Ok, I won’t exhaust you with detailed accounts of all the other meals. Here are some other places you should hit if you go to Seattle:

(1) Cafe Campagne for brunch. Also near Pike Place market, this is a Seattle staple and the prices, at brunch, are very reasonable. I had eggs poached in red wine and served on garlic toast and Kristin, who I dined with there solo, had a Croque Monsieur which she models here:

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(2) To continue the Francophilia (for Cafe Campagne is a French bistro), Molly and Brandon (are you sick of them yet?) took me to Cafe Press for lunch. It’s a casual but impressive lunch time spot where one might feel comfortable sipping a latte or a glass of wine while reading a newspaper, for example. For my dish I ordered half of a cold roasted-chicken with mayo and celery root slaw:

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I know that sounds very strange, but what it ultimately tastes like is the midnight snack you make of a chicken carcass after everyone’s gone to bed and you treat yourself. You have to use your fingers and get dirty, which I was willing to do, and with a cold glass of white wine nothing’s better on a gray Seattle Day.

Otherwise, the following places are places I’ve been to already and advise any Seattle newcomer to hit because they’re pretty great. For example:

(3) Glo’s, which Craig adores, serves the Platonic ideal of eggs benedict.

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Several factors knock it out of the ballpark: (i) fresh ham; (ii) homemade hollandaise; (iii) grilled tomato on the English muffin.

I’ve written about Glo’s before here and even made a video you can watch here, but your best bet is to visit Glo’s yourself to experience the divine.

Be warned, though, the wait can be intense, even on weekdays. They give you coffee while you wait, though, and that’s mighty considerate.

(4) The Baguette Box is a real charmer on Capitol Hill for a quick, tasty lunch. Their signature sandwich is one I’d never tried before–drunken chicken–and though it’s elegantly presented:

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It basically amounts to General Tso’s chicken on a bun, albeit expertly prepared. It’s super heavy and not something you’d want to eat unless you were running a marathon the next day. Instead, I recommend the house cured gravlox sandwich. Light and bright and just the thing to make you want to go tackle your day.

(5) And, finally, there’s Dick’s where Craig and I ate New Year’s Day:

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Well, we ate in his car. And though I was charmed by Dick’s the first time I was there, I’m starting to think it must be a Seattle thing. There was gristle in my burger I’d rather not talk about. But you go there not for the food but for the Seattle street cred.

And after my third visit, I think I might have Seattle street cred. Hope this inspires you to get some Seattle street cred of your own.

Tags: , ,

Categories: Washington State

  • http://citygaycountrygay.blogspot.com Brandon

    You hit three of my personal faves: Cafe Presse, Glo’s, and Dick’s (though there is a sort of “Dick’s Sickness” that comes from eating there). I always think of Glo’s as the perfect brunch place when I’m in Seattle.

  • http://sparklytospouse.blogspot.com Laura

    I was down in Seattle (from my hometown of Vancouver, BC) visiting with my mom and sister just before New Year’s, and we went to a very popular Seattle restaurant called Wild Ginger. I don’t know what Seattleites (Seattleans? What do you call people from Seattle?!) think of this restaurant but we LOVED it… had a great meal. Everything was delicious and the service was excellent.

  • Jordan

    No stop to see Batali’s pop at Salumi?

    I hear the line to get a lunch sandwich can wrap around the block.

  • Jordan

    Ok, spank me. I see a post from ages ago that you have been to Salumi.

  • Mr. Poe

    I’ve always thought Dick’s is overrated. They do a lot for the community, though. So I don’t express that much.

    I love Seattle.

  • http://hp.vox.com Heidi A.

    Great restaurant choices–particularly the Boat Street. I think it’s my favorite place in Seattle and we are lucky to live just a few blocks away from it. The other stellar Seattle choice is Tavolata…sitting upstairs over the kitchen is particularly fun because you get a birds-eye view of all the plates going out.

  • Tina

    Ooohhh. I was just in Seattle between Christmas and New Year and have a few place to add.

    Le Pichet: Fabulous fare at all hours of the day, including chocolate croissants, a wonderful roast chicken, beautiful bread, almonds with sea salt…

    Serious Pie: Four pizzas — all spectacular (may even rival the legendary Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix

    Belle Epicurean: Possibly the single-most amazing pastry on the planet — the potato-rosemary brioche is the stuff dreams are made of

    Paseo: a Cuban sandwich that’s out of this world

  • http://www.shelbsandcheese.com Shelby

    I have such a love affair with the pacific northwest – I’ve never been there though and this entry is really just adding fuel to the fire! Everything looks amazing!

  • elarael

    I loved Macrina for special occasion brunches when I lived there, and the Longshoreman’s Daughter, but I lived a half a block from Glo’s so that’s where I usually went.

  • Felix

    Ohh… how I would love a trip to Seattle! That food looks simply awesome! And Adam; how good is the coffee there? I hear they drink a lot of it.

  • xk

    Yum yum yum. Do you happen to know what that green berry pod thing sitting at the top of the pickle plate at Boat Street is called? It reminds me of some pickles I had on the other side of the world, and I’d love to know if there’s a name for them in English. They were like small watermelons in appearance but full of small seeds and no fleshy part.

  • Marly

    I read your blog all the time and after reading today’s post I realize I went to highschool with Craig… I recognize the picture of his sister Kristen. there are a few of us Bham SHS alums who live in new york city! I just discovered another. Thanks for the great article on Seattle. As a Northwester living in New York it is fun to read about restaurants in Seattle and here some nice words about the city that the east coast tends to ignore!

  • http://themodernapron.blogspot.com TD

    Laura–Wild Ginger has an awesome reputation with locals.

    I have to agree that Dahlia is superior to Etta’s, although Etta’s is more accessible to my office. I haven’t tried Boat Street yet, but since it’s a mile and a half from my office, it could be a great after work destination!

  • delilah

    oh, yay! I am heading to a conference in Seattle in March so I will have to check back again for all your restaurant recs. Also, I recently made coconut cream pie and am dying to eat a professionally-made one to compare. I wasn’t that thrilled with the pie, but my mom and her friends loved it. go figure.

  • delilah

    oh, yay! I am heading to a conference in Seattle in March so I will have to check back again for all your restaurant recs. Also, I recently made coconut cream pie and am dying to eat a professionally-made one to compare. I wasn’t that thrilled with the pie, but my mom and her friends loved it. go figure.

  • Camille

    I really appreciate your Seattle posts. I’m new-ish here and still scoping all the good eats. Tried one or two of these places already and concur with your reviews. I’m SO gonna visit some of the others, like Boatstreet, when I have friends in town this summer. THANKS!

  • Emily

    Seattle has tons of great Vietnamese food. You should check out Green Leaf or Tamarind Tree. Check out my DELICIOUS 7 courses of beef:

    (Unfortunately I had already plowed in before I realized I should take a picture ^_^)

  • chefbunny

    Way to go SEATTLE!! Nice showing, says the hometown girl! Etta’s makes the best cornbread pudding. You can make it yourself if you’re not going to be visiting Seattle soon(http://www.seattlewinesociety.org/FoodAndWine/Articles/Etta%27sCornbreadRecipe.htm) but it’s definitely worth the trip.

  • Emily

    Picture didn’t work… Oh well, you’ll have to take my word for it ^_^

  • http://chewonthatblog.com Hillary

    This might sound creepy, but everyday I feel like I find more and more in common with you! I never thought I would know Seattle well at all either until my brother just moved there two months ago. Now I’ve already visited and plan to return many times (hopefully I can go to one of Molly’s classes!).

    Thanks for all of these great recommendations and photos, they are ever helpful to a newbie Seattle visitor like myself!

  • http://gillyoung.blogspot.com Gillian

    I was just in Seattle as well! I hit up my favourite spots: Le Panier (around the corner from cafe campagne) for real French croissants and baguette sandwhiches and Mama’s for amazing Mexican food, crazy decor, and cheap prices!

  • http://www.averagebetty.com averagebetty

    Perfect! I am headed to Seattle at the end of February (I’ve already started to think about the good eats there… Yikes!) and your run-down is just what I needed. I have been to Etta’s before – but couldn’t remember the name. Thanks for the pictures and wonderful post.

  • Katie

    I love it when you talk about Seattle! Such a delicious city. I wasn’t familiar with Boat Street, I think that’s a must on my next visit. Already drooling over that pickle plate. Next time, though, you need to make it down to Portland for some good eats. It’s well worth the drive. And didn’t you see us in this month’s Bon Apetit, ever so close to Molly’s column?

  • http://www.myspace.com/nobodyactuallylikestom Mr. Poe

    You guys are missing out on our awesome weather. Don’t come out in March. Come out NOW!

  • Laura

    I agree with Emily, Tamarind Tree is amazing.

    But Adam you still have a lot of ground to cover, like Tilth. A little restaurant in a house in Wallingford that is some of the best food I have ever had. ever. Or Macrina Bakery, except you will have to wait forever…

    But, you did do pretty well. I’m glad you enjoyed Seattle.

  • Katelyn

    Cafe Presse’s a reliable lunch spot for me, although I usually skip the chicken in favor of soup (right now they’re doing mushroom and pear soup…?!! delicious). To the reader who recommended Le Pichet, Cafe Presse is owned by the same people and has a very similar menu.

    Co-sign on Paseo, in Fremont, for the Cuban sandwiches: unbelievably messy and delicious.

    That said, I’m going to Boat Street. Too many people have now recommended that pickle plate, and since I’ve made Molly’s version of the pickled red onions a couple times now, I think I should try the professional version. (Pickled grapes were a pleasantly awesome experiment, too!)

    Anyway Adam, it’s fun to read about your time in Seattle — one of my favorite food bloggers plus one of my favorite cities = a happy mid-winter read.

  • Kathryn

    Oh Adam, PLEASE stop by the Globe next time you are here. It is on 13th and Pine, and it’s a southern inspired vegan breakfast joint… and it’s amazing. Massive, cheap, delicious, gut bomb breakfasts made by the same three guys every day. Unfortunately the owner is looking to sell it, so we don’t know how long it is going to be around. Do it while you can!

    Also, ditto ditto on Tamarind Tree. I’ve been going there for three years and I’m still shocked how cheap they are, given it’s pretty much the most amazing Vietnamese food I’ve ever had (well, except for the pho).

    But Seattle is a haven for hole in the wall, amazing cheap eats, too! Don’t just stick to downtown fancies!

  • sam

    I went to cafe campagne about four years ago and I am still lusting after their Oeufs Meurette in my memory. I think that is the same thing you had except you clearly forgot their fancy name. I think I have spelled it wrong so I am no better. You didn’t say anything rave worthy about them so I hope they are still as good as I recall.

  • Stu Shiffman

    As a resident Seattlite (albeit an artificial one — I’m from NYC originally), I’m glad that you found some good eating here. It’s great on all financial levels.

  • Julia Williams Green

    Dinette is great — hearty, full-of-taste, food, thoughtfully prepared. Also we had a great meal at Medusa, perhaps it is called La Medusa — fresh, fresh, fresh.

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