City Guide: Seattle, WA, USA

This post is years in the making, a labour of love and my love letter to the wonderful food and drink in my adopted hometown. It’s not as detailed as, say, my friend’s spreadsheet of eateries, but it is pretty extensive and constantly updated.

Downtown, Belltown, International District

Japonessa: Japanese and Mexican fusion. Large portions and reasonable prices if you hit it at happy hour. Flights of sake or Japanese whiskey.

Storyville Coffee: Best coffee downtown, period. Up on the 3rd floor of one of the buildings in Pike Place. A little hidden, but it’s great if you want to get away from people and sit in comfy chairs and people watch out the windows (we hid here after the Seahawks championship parade). Just opened up at the end of last year/beginning of this year.

Elysian Bar: Cocktail bar run by the people who own Elysian Brewery. Lots of fantastic beer and cocktails. Cocktails served up by the man, the myth, the legend: Murray Stinson, who’s actually known the world over. Dude needed money for heart surgery and he had it within days after people started a fundraiser for him. I’d recommend getting a Last Word from him.

Damn the Weather!:  Great food, great liquor selection. Down in Pioneer Square, so it’s a bit of a walk through Downtown or a couple of stops on the bus, but it’s worth it from what I hear.

Maneki: Good, relatively cheap izakaya that has a lot of options (read: more Japanese options) you won’t really find at other izakaya in town. Try any of the cod dishes, they’re fantastic.

Lunchbox Laboratory: Technically it’s in South Lake Union, but it’s not super far from everything else (it’s like right below Capitol Hill and far enough away from Amazon that you can avoid the Amazombies). Everything is science-themed, your drinks come in beakers, and they do ridiculous food experiments. Also, boozy shakes. Try the Astronaut’s Mimosa: champagne and tang.

Beecher’s Mac & Cheese: Life-changing mac and cheese awaits you here.

Biscuit Bitch: The best biscuits and gravy outside the South. There’s always a line (shoutout to the white people there the last time I went who somehow thought this was an aberration and not the norm and who insisted the food wasn’t worth it (it is; they’re trippin, don’t believe their lies)).

Piroshky Piroshky: If you can manage to get through the tourists, it’s worth grabbing a couple piroshkies.

Cloudburst Brewing: The guy who left Elysian when they sold out opened a new brewery in Belltown but the place is so small that honestly, you’re better off just going to Toronado in Roosevelt and getting one of their beers there. But it’s probably the best new brewery in town.

Fremont

Milstead Coffee: Our go-to coffee place, and the place where all the baristas in Seattle come to get coffee. A little pretentious but the coffee is worth it.

Blue Moon Burgers: One of the best burger places in Seattle.

Brouwer’s: Best beer bar in Seattle. Lots of great ciders, too. The food is unreal. Also, this is the place that does lambic floats.

Paseo: Amazing Cuban sandwiches. It’s in North Fremont (almost to Wallingford) but it’s really good. You can also hit the one in SoDo if you want to park and also have room to move and also a place to sit.

Fremont Brewery: Our biggest and best local brewery since Elysian sold out (*single tear*). Great place to come hang out, especially on a Friday. Or a Saturday. Or a Sunday.

Schilling Cider House: 32 ciders on tap (plus a ton more bottles to buy), comfy couches. IT gets super packed after 5 and on weekends but it’s still amazing. Try a flight of ciders.

Pel’meni Dumpling Tzar: This place has always had the best Russian dumplings in Seattle, and now it’s currently the only place to get dumplings now that Vostok has closed. Get yours with mac n cheese.

Revel: Fancy Korean street food. Lines are always super long, and they won’t seat you unless everyone is with you, but when you taste that pork belly, you’ll understand why people wait hours to get in.

Capitol Hill

Pine Box: Another great beer bar with really great food. Just up the hill from Downtown so it’s only sort of a schlep if you’re willing to hoof it from Westlake.

Witness: Southern church aesthetic with Southern food and Southern-themed cocktails. Everyone who works there looks super pretentious but it’s like Milstead in that everything there is so good you just kind of reconcile it with yourself. Try the chicken and waffles and the Dixie Poutine.

Canon: The world’s largest liquor selection and I’m not even exaggerating. So so SO SO SO sooOOOO many good drinks here. Murray Stinson used to work here. If you want a mystery drink, you can order a roulette and either give them a base liquor or some kind of theme. A friend’s friend ordered a drink that tasted like Scottish Freedom. I would also recommend the Cthulu tiki drink with all the rum (yet it’s so good you can’t even taste any of it).

Rock Box: Japanese-style karaoke! Super busy on the weekends, so make a reservation if you’re thinking of going.

Rancho Bravo Tacos: Best Mexican food in Capitol Hill. Was actually featured in 538’s burrito bracket! but sadly lost to some lame place in Texas 🙁

The hot dog stand outside the Comet: If you happen to be in Capitol Hill past 9 or 10PM, have $5 in cash on you, and want the best hot dog you’ll ever have, you need to stop here and get a Seattle dog. What makes a Seattle dog different? It has cream cheese and onions on it. I recommend adding a ton of sriracha to it, as well, but I’m a crazy person.

Bluebird: Not only is it one of the best ice cream places in Seattle, since 2012, they’ve been brewing their own beer.

Honey Hole: Best sandwiches in all of Seattle. Seriously, the chicken sandwich I had there last week made me seriously reconsider my decision to work outside of the country.

Liberty: Awesome, awesome cocktail bar, but super far away from everything else on Capitol Hill. They do great drinks with absinthe, though, and have an amazing whiskey selection (and Japanese whiskey, too!)

Kedai Makan: Wonderful Malaysian street food. Used to be a walk-up on Olive next to Montana (yes, it IS Montana-themed and yes, I love it) but now they have an actual brick-and-mortar. Wait times are always a nightmare. Make a reservation on NoWait, or at least check the times before you go.

Chuck’s Hop Shop: Technically in the CD but not super, super far from the Hill. Amazing place, HUGE tap selection, great vibe.

Rachel’s Ginger Beer: The Capitol Hill location of Rachel’s, which is also in Pike Place but that one’s kind of out of the way. They have a great selection of munchies for everyone, not to mention the amazing ginger beer and mixed drinks featuring the aforementioned amazing ginger beer.

Kukai: Newest location of our best ramen shop (apparently they have locations everywhere, including Narita and Yokohama???). Best ramen in Seattle, which is an endorsement, but also doesn’t say much for Seattle’s ramen scene. Definitely good stuff, but the kind that’s like, it’ll satisfy our cravings when we miss Japanese ramen but it’s just not the same as the stuff we got back there. Still, good gyoza, good takoyaki. Upgrade to the pork belly in your ramen and don’t you dare get the low-sodium option (unless it’s medically necessary). (There are also locations in Northgate and West Seattle and coming soon to Bellevue next to our Uniqlo because they know just how to get me.)

Rumba: They do nothing but rum-based drinks.

Tequila Salvation: They do nothing but tequila-based drinks.

John John’s Game Room: Two levels of arcade games and pinball to enjoy while you get drunk.

Sizzle Pie: Imported from Portland, our bizarro neighbour to the south. Best new pizza place of 2016.

8oz Burger Bar: Seattle is not bereft of burger joints but this is probably the best.

Wallingford

Musashi’s: Super busy, cash-only place but absolutely worth it for some really good sushi (the chirashizushi bowls are the best for the price).

Molly Moon’s: The original location of the other best ice cream place in Seattle. Always busy, though.

Issian: Really good izakaya. You can totally gorge yourself at happy hour for like, $15-20 on yakitori and shit.

Bottleworks: The place to go if you want to buy bottles of awesome beer from all over this great big world of ours. Super helpful and unpretentious. You can also pick out bottles and drink them there.

Satay: Quick and very good Malaysian street food. Not nearly as good as Kedai Makan, but good for when you want some munchies after a trip to Bottleworks. Also when you want to like, sit down and eat your food and not wait an hour.

The Burgundian: In Tangletown, so it’s a bit out of the way from everything else, but it’s super good. Run by the guy who owns Brouwer’s. More focus on the food than the beer, but only a slight shift over Brouwer’s.

Kisaku: Just down the street from Burgundian, a great, semi-affordable but delicious sushi place (for cheaper sushi, hit Blue C in the U Village or Sushi Tengu in Northgate. Live that kaitenzushi life).

Hiroki: Also in Tangletown, a great place for dessert. Japanese and French fusion? I don’t question; I just cry over their cheesecakes.

University District

Thai Tom: Best Thai food in Seattle. Unreasonably small place, cash-only, there’s never not a line. None of that matters when you actually eat the food because OH GOD.

Memo’s: If you happen to be down on this side of the Ave and want hole-in-the-wall Mexican food, this is the place. They have California burritos and carne asada fries here. I wept tears of joy when I found out this place existed. The owner is also from San Diego and this place makes it possible for me to live in Seattle and not go crazy craving San Diego food.

Pho Than Bros: Best pho on the Ave (Pho Tran is a good second). Amazing pho, quick service, gigantic portions. Everything pho should be. Also got a shoutout in Sabzi (of Blue Scholars)’s “Wassup Pham.”

Than Vi: Best (and cheapest!) banh mi on the Ave.

Big Time Brewery: The only place on the Ave you should be getting a beer. It’s where we’d always go to get a beer and commiserate about grad school, or get a beer and work on papers, or just get a beer because god dammit, they have great beer. This is my local place. Love you, Big Time

University Village, Ravenna

Din Tai Fung: BEST DIM SUM IN THE ENTIRE WORLD

Molly Moon’s: Their newest location. The lines aren’t as long here and you can at least move around inside.

Eureka: Go on Wednesdays and get a free beer glass when you order their special beer. Great selection from a lot of great craft breweries and a good option for if you’re at U Vill and want a good, quick meal with a good beer.

Pinkaew Thai: A little-known Thai place up the street from U Vill but the food is wonderful, the people are great, and it’s never super busy.

Ravenna Brewing: This place opened literally right after I moved out of Ravenna. Pretty decent beer but nothing to really go out of your way for. Still, if you’re in the neighbourhood, stop by.

Ballard

Slate Coffee: The world’s most unpretentious pretentious hipster coffee bar. Try the deconstructed espresso. It’s a total schlep to get out there but it’s good if you’re there. They also bought out Trabant in the U District if you don’t want to schlep all the way out to Ballard.

El Camion: As much as I love Memo’s and San Diego Mexican food that tastes like home, this is the best Mexican food in all of Seattle.

Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery: The best little cakes and ice cream you’ll ever have. They come baked in little ramekins and they’ll change your life. Try the butterbeer or a boozy shake or float. There’s another one in Capitol Hill that’s much bigger and easier to get to now, too.

Reuben’s: There’s like, 5 breweries within like, 5 blocks of each other in Ballard: Stoup, Reuben’s, Lucky Envelope, and I forget what else but you definitely need to explore them all. Burgerphenia shows up sometimes outside.

Full Tilt: Get some really great ice cream and play some pinball. Just try not to spill on the machines, that’s bad form.

Lil Woody’s: There’s two locations, here and on the Hill. Really, really good burgers.

Interbay

Holy Mountain Brewing: I have never anticipated a brewery opening until this place. They did a special beer for Brave Horse Tavern’s Valentine’s Day dinner a couple years ago and it was the greatest sour beer I ever had. Not a single bad beer on tap, everything is to die for. Not really near anything else (that’s Interbay for you) but worth it.

Batch 206: Get you some fancy booze. It’s right next to Holy Mountain.

Roosevelt

Rain City Burgers: Another great burger joint where everything is Seattle/Seattle sports-themed.

Die Bierstube: Wonderful German beers. Put down a $50 deposit and get a boot. It’s rounded on the bottom so you can’t set it down so you just have to keep passing it around until it’s all gone. It’s like, a liter of beer. Oh, the night we did like, 5 boots…

Toronado: Beer bar imported from the Bay Area with an always solid selection. Get some Alpine (CA) beers and thank me later.

Georgetown

Katsu Burger: It’s halfway to the airport but OH MY GOD IT’S THE MOST LIFE-CHANGING BURGER YOU WILL EVER HAVE. TONKATSU. ON A BURGER. NORI OR CURRY FRIES. I JUST. IT’S SO GOOD.

Sisters and Brothers: For months after this place opened, people would line up for literally hours just to get them some Nashville hot chicken. It’s calmed down some and you can actually get tables and also food but it was crazy at first. Well-deserved, tho. Go on the weekends for chicken and waffles.

West Seattle, White Center, South Park

Easy Street Records: Go get you some brunch on the weekend and wander around an awesome record shop while you wait to get you some James Browns and a Mama Cass Sandwich.

Buddha Ruksa: The other best Thai food in Seattle, especially if you don’t want to wait forever at Thai Tom and/or don’t want to leave West Seattle to go get food.

Elliott Bay Brewery and Pub: Proper pub in Alaska Junction with solid beer and great food.

Ma’ono: A little on the expensive side but worth it for some amazing Hawaiian fried chicken. Go early to make sure you can get a whole chicken. Or don’t, because there are still some great options, like the loco moco.

Marination: Down on Alki by the Water Taxi, so kind of out of the way from the Junction and also from Alki beach itself, but go here for some great, quick Hawaiian food. They have a smaller location with more limited options in Capitol Hill.

West Seattle Brewing: Low-key place right off the West Seattle bridge. Kinda small but the beers are great and there’s so much Sounders stuff so yes, I like it very much.

Bok-a-Bok Korean Fried Chicken: The best chimaek in Seattle and the chicken sandwiches are to die for.

Proletariat Pizza: Best pizza on the west side.

Phorale: Vietnamese and Mexican fusion. It’s my Southern California childhood in a restaurant. They sell out all the time, tho, so go early.

Getting Around, Getting Out

Now that the light rail goes to Capitol Hill and UW, you can pretty much get by just taking public transit. So buy an ORCA card and ride the goddamn train and bus.

If you want to get out of the city, you could hop the ferry and go to Bainbridge Island. There’s not a whole ton to do, but you can walk around and go to kitschy stores. There’s a really good candy shop that makes fantastic fudge there (Bon Bon). Harbour Pub House has quite a few varieties of poutine. Again, there’s not a ton to do, especially without a car, but it’s a really pretty ride back and forth and you really do feel like you’re totally out of Seattle.

If you have a car, you could try a day trip to the Olympic Peninsula. There’s some amazing hiking up there. You should really make it a weekend trip, but you can do it in a day if you really want. If it’s summer, go to Mt. Rainier National Park. Much easier to do in a day, though you should really get there early. Also bring your own lunch so you’re not driving around the parking lot in Paradise for half an hour like a chump trying to find parking. Not that I’ve ever done that. That ain’t me.

You could walk through Seattle along the Burke-Gilman trail. Extends all the way across Lake Washington to Woodinville; something like 26 miles the whole way. The walk from UW to Fremont is amazing.

If you want to get good shots of Seattle, go to Gasworks Park in Fremont or Kerry Park in Queen Anne. Gasworks used to be an industrial complex and then the city turned it into a park. Really great place to sit and relax. Amazing views of Downtown. And if you’ve ever seen pictures of Seattle where you see all of the city and Mt Rainier in the background, those are all from Kerry Park. Another good park is Greenlake, but watch out for the urban assault strollers.

UW’s campus is gorgeous, particularly when the cherry blossoms are blooming, but even when they’re not, it’s the most gorgeous campus in the US. Fight me.

Golden Gardens in Ballard and Discovery Park in Magnolia are the places to go if you want to go to the beach on this side of Lake Union and also feel like you’re out of the city without actually getting out of the city. Alki Beach in West Seattle is the place to go if you want the actual beach (it’s always packed). Oh, and if you do end up in West Seattle and want to splurge on sushi, try Mashiko. The guy who owns it’s side project is Katsu Burger, btw. Anyway, best sushi in all of Seattle. Everything is sustainable. Lots of seasonal specials.

Oh, and if you happen to be going around the city and want a cheap but good burger, fries, and shake or soda, stop by Dick’s. It used to be cash-only but they finally take cards as of September 2016 (TYBG) and you can get a decent meal for $5. Locations all over Seattle (Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Wallingford, Aurora, etc etc etc). Voted most life-changing burger joint by Esquire.

Last Updated: 2016.11.08

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