Despite economic challenges, restaurant openings currently outpace closures in the Seattle area. The exciting new crop mirrors the Emerald City’s own diversity, and includes a swanky, American brasserie at the city’s revamped Fairmont Olympic Hotel, a Moroccan restaurant in the heart of Pike Place Market, and a family-run Vietnamese joint in Haller Lake. Here are six hot spots to book in Seattle right now.
The George (Downtown)
Originally opened in 1924, the dining room at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, which has hosted luminaries such as John Wayne, Joan Crawford, and Elvis Presley, emerged from a highly anticipated, multi-million dollar overhaul this spring. The George, as it’s now known, is opulent, with an updated classic vibe that soars from its granite tile floors to its breathtaking vaulted ceilings—this is a downtown destination where you can dress to the nines. Brasserie-inspired food showcases locally sourced dairy, produce, and meats from the state’s farms as well as seafood from nearby waters. Try the rich ricotta pancakes and a bloody Mary for breakfast or brunch, the citrusy seafood en escabeche for lunch, or the succulent seared duck breast with foie gras dirty rice, cherries, and duck jus for dinner.
Lotus Pond Vietnamese Cuisine (Haller Lake)
This laid-back, family-owned Haller Lake spot, steered by first-time restaurateur Anh Le, opened in April. At Lotus Pond, bánh mì sandwiches, arguably one of Vietnamese cuisine’s most loved ambassadors, are stuffed with traditional grilled pork, but also come crammed with fillings such as spam and fried egg. But the menu isn’t all subs. The restaurant specializes in dishes from northern Vietnam, which typically means more noodles than rice; standouts include Hai Phong crab red noodle soup and vermicelli noodles paired with lemongrass beef and shrimp cakes. Le, whose resume includes a stint in the kitchen at Tamarind Tree in Little Saigon, takes a soulful, home-cooking inspired approach to her debut venture. To reserve, book a table through Lotus Pond’s own website.
The Hatch Cantina (Seattle Center/Lower Queen Anne)
Southwestern food comes to Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood at The Hatch Cantina, which opened doors in May. As the name suggests, dishes feature earthy chiles from Hatch, New Mexico. But there’s no need to reach for one of the vibrant dried chile pepper arrangements that adorn the walls to fulfill your heat craving—chile is all over the menu. Blue corn tortilla tacos are filled with your choice of beef, carnitas, chicken, or mushrooms; burritos are smothered in red chile or green chile sauce—or a colorful combo known as Christmas-style. Round out a spicy meal with an ancho chile sangria. For your convenience, takeout service is also available.
Salt District (Seattle Center/Lower Queen Anne)
Salt District sits on historic Pier 55 in the shadow of the Seattle Great Wheel and offers scenic views of Puget Sound, whether you choose indoor or patio dining. It’s an idyllic place to enjoy spectacular evening sunsets with an appetizer and aperitivo or a full-fledged Italian dinner. You might start with cured salmon bruschetta, served with mascarpone, blood orange, and basil. But how will you choose between the Dungeness crab pasta with citrus cream, ricotta, basil, and pine nuts and the short rib pappardelle with cippolini onions, Calabrian chili, sherry vinegar, and brodo? Easy. Bring a companion, so you can also compare beer and wine selections from the Pacific Northwest and Italy.
Sparrow – Kirkland (Kirkland)
With living moss walls, inventive cocktails, and a crowd-pleasing New American menu, Sparrow landed in Seattle’s eastside suburb, Kirkland, in July. If you’re here for romance, book a booth in the intimate dining room, or dine al fresco on the pup-friendly back patio, complete with a dog run. Outside, you’ll also find a massive angel wings mural for obligatory Instagram shots. Shareable starters include birria lamb tacos (with lamb au jus), burrata avocado with crostini, sausage mussels, and spicy tuna tartare with taro chips. For larger appetites, there are chicken sandwiches, beef or mushroom burgers, and entrees, such as roasted scallops and pork belly with red peppers and fig sauce, served with polenta. Be sure to leave room for the house-made bread pudding, a luscious end to your meal.
Shama (Seattle Center/Lower Queen Anne)
To introduce Seattle to the flavors of his home country, owner and sommelier Hamid Majdi welcomes people to Shama, a modern Moroccan restaurant, a March opening in the heart of Pike Place Market. Chic but cozy, the main dining room has bold, blue walls while the glass-encased atrium offers dining under string lights. The house specialty is a book-ahead family-style meal that includes méchoui—slow-roasted local lamb shoulder with Moroccan saffron rub—and a variety of side dishes such as saffron rice and market veggies. You can’t go wrong with any of the entrees, including Moroccan couscous with vegetables, sharmoula-baked fish of the day, and lamb shank with ras-al-hanout, prunes, sesame seeds, and roasted almonds.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.
Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer whose work has been featured in publications like USA Today, Lucky Peach (RIP), Eater, and Serious Eats, to name a few. He’s been hailed as “Seattle’s authoritative voice on Asian cuisine,” and his Gastrolust website aggregates some of his writing about Asian restaurants (and more) from Seattle to Chengdu.