Affordable Places To Impress An Out-Of-Towner
The best restaurants where you can impress out-of-towners without spending too much money.
Seattle has a lot of good things going for it, like excessively sunny summers, coffee that doesn’t suck, and raincoat couture. That means people will constantly be making excuses to come visit you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but entertaining out-of-towners can get pricey, and if you’re not careful, you won’t have enough money to buy a home escalator. So here’s where you can affordably eat with your tourist friends or family members.
Marination Ma Kai
If there's only one spot you must make happen while your guest is in town, it's Marination Ma Kai in West Seattle. With views of the Downtown skyline, lychee margaritas, and Hawaiian food featuring excellent tacos filled with everything from kalbi beef to miso ginger chicken, it's the best way to not spend a lot of money but also impress someone. Especially if that someone loves Spam.
Maneki is the oldest Japanese restaurant in Seattle, and for the lower price point, the phenomenal sushi here is one of the best values in town. Text ahead to book a private tatami room, where you can kick your shoes off and snack on nigiri, takoyaki, homemade gyoza, and spicy tuna rolls all night long.
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When people land at SeaTac, they’re typically interested in two things: fresh seafood and Pike Place Market. You could take them somewhere to eat king salmon, but that’s a great way to spend all of your money. Except if you know about Market Grill—it’s smack in the middle of Pike Place, and you can get a tasty blackened salmon sandwich slathered in rosemary mayo for a cool $15. After lunch, take a lap around the same jars of artisanal jam and screen-printed t-shirts you pretend to get excited about every time visitors fly in.
Located in a quiet corner of Pike Place Market, this Filipino counter serves the best lunch Downtown, let alone some of the best Filipino food in the city. Everything here is prepared by a woman who is quite kind despite some brash signage (such as, “IF U DON’T KNOW HOW TO EAT OUR SALMON SINIGANG DON’T ORDER IT”) and the food is so good that it's worth braving the yogurt-gulping Ellenos fanatics around the bend. Oriental Mart serves excellent tart pork adobo over rice seeped in braising liquid, a perpetually-sold-out king salmon sinigang, and shiny red longanisa sausage that deserves its own long-form documentary. Even if you decide to eat somewhere else for lunch, just swing by afterward and grab a couple of crunchy pork lumpia wands dipped in sweet chili for dessert.
But let's say that you'd rather get a cavity filled than go to Pike Place. Fremont's the next best neighborhood to bring an out-of-town guest—there's a lovely canal to walk past, a bridge troll made of concrete, and Local Tide. This place is the gold standard for reasonably-priced seafood, and whether you get yours in the form of pork fat-spiked shrimp toast or a salmon BLT, it all makes for an ideal spot to avoid crowds and eat fresh fish at the same time.
The White Swan Public House
The White Swan Public House is a great place to get quality seafood on the water, and it’s especially nice because it’s outdoors overlooking Lake Union. Slurp oysters, get clam chowder-topped poutine, or liberally dunk fish and chips in tartar with a beer on the side.
Un Bien doesn’t look like much from the outside, but we don’t need to tell you that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And on the inside, you’ll find a Caribbean roast pork sandwich that will set you back $12.50 for a magnificent charred baguette full of meat and zesty aioli. Be sure to brush up on your stain removal skills, though, because you’re going to get sauce and rogue grilled onions all over yourself.
Normally, we send everyone to Spinasse, where you can experience Italy without ever having to get awkward passport photos taken at CVS. The only drawback: dinner might be more expensive than your utility bill. Luckily, Artusi—their sister bar right next door—has a Sunday and Monday special where you can order two bowls of incredible pasta and a bottle of wine for $45 total.
Seattle isn’t exactly known for its Mexican food, and yet here we are, bringing everyone that shows up to Maiz. This might have something to do with its Pike Place location, masa ground in-house, thick chips with sonic boom crunches, and pillowy sopes covered in braised meats, tangy crema, and pickled onion. Don't forget to grab a horchata and eat your lunch across the street by the water.
For every chunky steakhouse burger that exists in this city, there is a simple one with American cheese and special sauce that costs a lot less and tastes just as great. The tavern burger at Loretta’s Northwesterner is one of the absolute best in town. The grungy dive bar in South Park is the perfect place to grab a meal if your visitors want you to take them “where the locals go.”
To keep the locals-only mood going, head to Left Bank for a glass of natural wine. It’s like hanging out in your buddy’s tricked-out basement, where on Tuesdays you can bring your own vinyl for them to play while you try out wines that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. They don’t serve food, so you can also bring your own snacks. After a few inexpensive glasses of Slovenian red, your friends will probably start thinking about moving to Seattle.
Phở Bắc Sup Shop
So, your visitors watched a Youtube video of someone at a Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle trying to eat the world’s largest bowl of phở and now they want in. Have a normal-sized noodle soup at Phở Bắc Sup Shop instead—no need to slurp down gallons of liquid in one sitting. We especially like the chicken phở with crispy shallots and lime, but the short rib soup is also delicious. Don’t forget a couple orders of fries with cilantro dipping sauce, iced coffee cocktails, and a memento from the photo booth.
Sea Wolf Bakers
Sea Wolf is a great place to pull out of your back pocket when in need of a lazy breakfast at your place before launching into tourist activities, like looking at water. Their crusty breads and pastries are the very best in Seattle, so be a hero by getting up early to bring back some croissants, lye rolls, sourdough, and salt-speckled oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
The Independent Pizzeria
The locally-sourced ingredients make the pizza at The Independent very “Seattle.” Neapolitan pies here range from classic pepperoni and New Haven-style clam to one topped with olives, gorgonzola, and speck—and they go just as well with a bottle of wine as they do with a few cider tallboys. Just remember to email ahead and make a reservation.
Yeh Yeh's Sandwiches
Sure, Yeh Yeh's is outside of Seattle, but if your visitors are serious about finding good food, they'll be down to take the trip for what's the best bánh mì in the area.. While we’d jump over a series of fences Hot Fuzz-style for their grilled pork sandwich (where charred meat bits and salty marinade melt into the mayo-soaked bread) or the tender braised pork with pate, you also shouldn’t miss the flash-fried tofu bánh mì that’s topped with a sweet and creamy dressing, crisp lettuce, and cracked black pepper. Really, you’re in good shape with any rubber-banded-baguette they place in your hands here.