Welcome to The Greats, a series on the restaurants around the country that define their cities. Here now, a guide to the Seattle Greats.
There’s great seafood to be consumed in Seattle, but it’s only the beginning of what the Emerald City has to offer. Boasting one of the country’s most creative and diverse dining scenes, Seattle is dedicated to sourcing locally—from land to sea. Storied restaurants, from Canlis, the pinnacle of Pacific Northwestern fine-dining, to chic modern hangouts like the Walrus and the Carpenter, prove Seattle’s range and prowess. And even as the city’s changed over the last decade, growing and evolving under a massive tech boom, its soul remains as vibrant and bold as ever.
Elliott’s Oyster House (Waterfront / Belltown)
A Seattle waterfront landmark since 1975, this seafood spot on Pier 56 has long held its reputation for some of the best fish in the city. From excellent crab cakes to salmon, the menu is classic without feeling dated. In a town with plenty of oyster bars, Elliott’s holds its own, offering more than a dozen local varieties on the half-shell as well as pan-fried and baked renditions that showcase the region’s freshest bivalves. Though it’s a tourist magnet, it’s also a local favorite for dining alongside stunning views of the Puget Sound. Elliott’s takes care to only source sustainable seafood, priding itself on protecting the sound it overlooks.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is open for indoor dining as well as outdoor dining on its heated and covered patio.
Takeout: The restaurant offers curbside pick-up.
Communion (Central District)
Helmed by James Beard Award semifinalist chef Kristi Brown and her son Damon Bomar, this restaurant marries the cuisines and flavors from neighborhoods across the city. The result is what Brown, who uses her kitchen as a platform for culinary storytelling, calls “Seattle soul food.” Pacific Northwestern ingredients mingle with pan-Asian flavors and time-honored soul food techniques; highlights include the neck bone stew, black-eyed pea hummus, and the catfish po’mi, a brilliant hybrid of a New Orleans po’boy and a Vietnamese banh mi. The layered menu is also an ode to the food icons of the historically Black Central District it is located in, with nods to Ms. Helen, a local soul food legend, and Thompson’s Point of View, a now-shuttered but famous fried chicken restaurant from the area.
Dining at the restaurant: Communion is open for indoor dining.
Takeout: The menu is available for takeout and delivery through the restaurant’s website.
The Walrus and the Carpenter (Ballard)
Oysters are a Seattle staple, and lauded chef and owner Renee Erickson’s chic spot is a French-meets-Pacific Northwest take on the quintessential raw bar. Despite earning plenty of local and national attention, in addition to becoming one of 2022’s finalists for a James Beard for Outstanding Restaurant, The Walrus and the Carpenter remains a local neighborhood spot with down-to-earth vibes. Aside from plump ice-cold oysters, the menu is filled with sumptuous small plates such as steak tartare and chicken liver mousse—plus delicious local Sea Wolf sourdough to sop it all up. The bar serves cocktails such as the aptly named Sea Level, a mix of gin, manzanilla sherry, cap corse blanc, and shiso, and an excellent wine list featuring Washingtonian and international selections. It’s no wonder this Old Ballard spot is a great place to grab an after-dinner drink.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is open for indoor dining.
Takeout: The restaurant offers delivery through its website.
Chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi fell in love while working in a New York City kitchen run by French chef Alain Ducasse, but eventually settled across the country in Seattle where they opened Revel, a Korean street food-inspired restaurant. Kimchi pancakes, short rib wontons, and spicy miso cakes with pork belly are all served inside a dining room decorated with pop art, perfect for a casual night out. While the duo run their own restaurant group, both chefs can still be found on the line at any of their restaurants, which also includes the Korean-fusion steakhouse Joule, for which they have earned numerous James Beard Award nominations.
Dining at the restaurant: Revel is open for indoor, bar, and outdoor patio dining.
Takeout: The restaurant’s menu is available for takeout and delivery through its website.
Spinasse (Capitol Hill)
Opened in 2008, this Northern Italian-style trattoria is hyper-focused on handmade pasta, a tradition chef Stuart Lane has continued since he took the reins in 2015. Don’t let the simplicity of the dishes fool you—the popular tajarin hand-cut pasta with butter and sage may contain few ingredients but shows off delicate artisanship at its finest. Artusi, the celebrated aperitivo bar and sibling to Spinasse next door, focuses on small plates, but also dishes out its neighbor’s signature pastas for a perfect post-work happy hour.
Dining at the restaurant: Spinasse restaurant is open for indoor, bar, and outdoor patio dining.
Takeout: Order takeout by calling the restaurant directly.
Terra Plata (Capitol Hill)
Chef Tamara Murphy let local produce take center stage on her menus before farmers’ markets cropped up all over the city; Murphy began cultivating relationships with farmers and serving their bounty when she opened her Mediterranean restaurant Brasa in 1999. After it closed, she opened Terra Plata, complete with an edible rooftop garden. The James Beard Award-winning menu here is composed of mostly Spanish-inspired small plates, featuring patatas bravas, blistered shishito peppers, and a delectable roasted pig with clams and chorizo. The chef is also a vocal community supporter, championing a range of causes such as advocacy for low-income women, breast cancer awareness, and local issues that affect small businesses and the restaurant industry.
Dining at the restaurant: Terra Plata is open for indoor and outdoor dining on its heated and covered rooftop. Visit on Mondays to try Murphy’s famous paella.
Takeout: The menu is available for takeout through the restaurant’s website.
Cafe Juanita (Kirkland)
Chef Holly Smith celebrates Northern Italian cuisine from this sleek suburban spot. Nominated for Outstanding Service and Outstanding Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation, this tasting menu-only restaurant offers four seasonal menus to choose from: omnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan, all of which include excellent pasta, a delicious chocolate torta, and the beautiful use of local produce. Explore stellar wine pairings with Cafe Juanita’s award-winning wine list, which prioritizes Italian producers but also includes outstanding Northwest wines.
Dining at the restaurant: Cafe Juanita is open for indoor dining only.
Takeout: The restaurant does not offer takeout.
Tai Tung (International District)
This spot is an International District icon and has served Chinese food since 1935, run by the third-generation owners. The mou shu pork, egg rolls, cashew chicken, and crispy duck are just some of the cross-regional dishes served daily, while specials hang from paper slips on the walls. Martial arts master Bruce Lee regularly frequented Tai Tung and is said to have always ordered the same thing—beef in oyster sauce—but truly anything you order from the extensive menu will be delicious.
Dining at the restaurant: Tai Tung is open for indoor dining.
Takeout: To-go orders can be placed by calling the restaurant directly.
Matt’s in the Market (Belltown / Pike Place Market)
Perched above Pike Place Market with giant arched windows for viewing the bustle below, this institution, which has been in business since 1996, is a must-visit. Executive chef Matt Fortner’s menu is a mix of dressed-up diner mainstays, from the cobb salad to the tuna sandwich with local Mama Lil’s pepper relish. It’s also open for dinner with a seafood-forward fine-dining menu, featuring king salmon over squid ink arancini and a seafood stew with fresh catch from the market. Both menus are inspired by what is currently in season from the market—Fortner regularly sources from iconic Pike Place purveyors such as Le Panier bakery and DeLaurenti’s Specialty Foods.
Dining at the restaurant: Matt’s in the Market is open for indoor dining only.
Takeout: The restaurant does not offer takeout.
Cafe Campagne (Belltown / Pike Place Market)
A Pike Place Market fixture since 1994, this spot is a Parisian cafe complete with streetside al fresco dining. It’s helmed by chef Daisley Gordon, who started fresh out of the Culinary Institute of America just one year after the cafe opened, working his way up from lead line cook to eventually become the executive chef and owner. Today the seasonal cassoulet—offered only for part of the year—drives locals to return often, as does the excellent happy hour, while savvy tourists venture here to savor the roast chicken and steak frites.
Dining at the restaurant: Cafe Campagne is open for indoor and outdoor dining.
Takeout: A limited menu is available for takeout through the restaurant’s website.
Sushi Kappo Tamura (Lake Union / Eastlake)
Owned by renowned sushi chef Taichi Kitamura, who trained under legendary sushi master Shiro Kashiba (a three-time James Beard Award nominee for Outstanding Chef), this lively and unpretentious restaurant is a titan among titans in sushi-centric Seattle. Seasonality drives the menu—highlights have previously included black cod nigiri and a rising salmon roll, topped with sliced jalapeño and golden tobiko—with chef Kitamura sourcing ingredients from local farms and fisheries such as Taylor Shellfish, Skagit River Ranch, and Wild West. He also partners with Seattle Urban Farm Company to plant and maintain a rooftop garden that provides hyper-local produce for some of the restaurant’s plant-based dishes such as shiso tempura and organic butter lettuce salad with Washington Fuji apples.
Dining at the restaurant: Sushi Kappo Tamura is open for indoor dining.
Takeout: The menu is available for takeout through Sushi Kappo Tamura’s website or by calling the restaurant directly; delivery is also available through third-party apps.
Canlis (Queen Anne)
No Seattle restaurant list would be complete without including Canlis. Since 1950, the family-owned establishment started by Peter Canlis has been a beacon of hospitality, celebrated by national magazines, the James Beard Foundation, and helmed by leaders with extensive culinary backgrounds, including current executive chef Aisha Ibrahim—the first female chef in the restaurant’s history. Her menu is a three-course journey celebrating local delicacies such as geoduck with a refined technique she honed at MICHELIN-starred restaurants like Azurmendi in Spain. Ibrahim’s menu is also informed by her background in Japanese kaiseki restaurants, with a focus on seasonality; the famed Canlis salad, known for its fresh herbs and coddled egg vinaigrette, and soufflé remain the only holdovers from past menus. The award-winning wine program and the renowned mid-century modern design round out the iconic dining experience.
Dining at the restaurant: Canlis is open for indoor dining only.
Takeout: The restaurant does not offer takeout.
Alana Al-Hatlani is a baker by morning and a food writer by night, based in Seattle.
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