What to Eat in Seattle

I like food. When planning trips, I’ve been known to plan itineraries around what I want to eat, and then filling in the rest with perfunctory touristy activities.

A friend recently asked me for food recommendations for Seattle, given that I grew up in the area. Here’s a modified version of what I sent her.

Paseo ($): One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life. Two locations: one in Fremont, one in Ballard. Cash only. There can be long waits, but one secret is to call ahead to place your order. It’s entirely possible to call once you arrive, and you’ll get your food faster than if you had just waited in line. Stupid, right? But oh so worth it. Also, super messy; I’ve definitely had sandwich juices seep out of my sandwich and onto my pants, and I didn’t even care. Not open Sunday or Monday. Vegetarian friendly, vaguely vegan friendly.

Salumi ($)Another ridiculously tasty sandwich. Only open 11am-4pm on Tuesday-Friday, though. Not quite as good as Paseo, so if you only have time/appetite for one sandwich, go there. Located near Pioneer Square. Vegetarian friendly, but not vegan friendly.

Din Tai Fung ($$): This is in Bellevue, and it is TOTALLY worth the trip across the lake. Din Tai Fung is a chain of restaurants from Taiwan famous for their soup dumplings, and they serve the best soup dumplings I’ve had in the US. The only other US locations are in the Asian suburbs of LA. Go for the normal soup dumplings because they’re better than the crab and pork ones. Everything is well-excuted, though. Vegetarian friendly, vegan friendly (although the veggie dumplings aren’t nearly as good as the pork ones).

Serious Pie ($$): Tom Douglas is one of Seattle’s most prolific restauranteurs. He quite literally has a string of restaurants along several blocks in Belltown (e.g. Dahlia Lounge, Lola, Palace Kitchen, Etta’s), and all are varying shades of good to great. My go-to Tom Douglas restaurant is Serious Pie for happy hour, which is Monday-Friday 3-5pm. Half-pies are available for $6 each, which is a steal, and I like to go with a couple of people and order a half-pie of everything on their menu. Veggie friendly, but obviously not vegan friendly.

Shiro’s ($$$): Best sushi in Seattle. Have you seen “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”? Shiro trained with Jiro. And the chef you’re likely to see besides Shiro was actually in the movie. He was the guy making tamago. You’re going to want to eat at the sushi counter and order omakase, but they don’t take reservations for the sushi counter, so line up at 5pm along with everyone else. Located in Belltown. Obviously not veggie friendly (well, that’s not entirely true).

Willows Inn ($$$$): This place isn’t in Seattle; in fact, it’s a 2-hour drive + short ferry ride north of Seattle on a place called Lummi Island. But I think this restaurant is worthy of 2 Michelin stars, so I think it’s worthy of a mention. Blaine Wetzel used to be chef-de-partie at noma in Copenhagen (regularly rated as one of the best restaurants in the world), and his cuisine represents the essence of the Pacific Northwest. Most all of the ingredients are sourced from the island itself or the waters around it. The smoked salmon is one of the most perfect bites of food I’ve ever eaten. This restaurant has been named one of the 10 restaurants in the world worth a plane ride by the New York Times, and I’m salivating just thinking about the meals that I’ve had there. If you’re not staying at the inn, restaurant reservations open 2 weeks in advance, and dinner is only Thursday-Sunday. It’s possible to drive to the restaurant and back to Seattle after the meal, but you will be getting back pretty late. Vegetarian friendly, but if you can’t/don’t eat seafood, it’s probably not worth it.

Other places worth a mention: D’Ambrosio Gelato for the best frozen desserts in Seattle (better than Molly Moon’s or Full Tilt in my opinion); most any of the food stands in Pike Place Market (surprising for a touristy place, but most of the food is quite good); Cafe Campagne for a specific restaurant in Pike Place Market; Tilikum Place Cafe for brunch; Revel for interesting Korean fusion food; Cafe Flora for great vegetarian food; Mighty-O Donuts for delicious donuts that happen to be vegan (better than Top Pot); Theo Chocolate for a fun and informative tour and lots of samples (reserve in advance if you actually want to do the tour); and ChuMinh Tofu & Veggie Deli for crazy cheap, delicious Vietnamese food.

Have you been to Seattle? Have any favorite restaurants or food tips you’d like to share?

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