It’s been a rough one at your Eastside office. You left your access badge at home, spilled hot coffee on your boss’ lap, mistakenly fed a few original copies of important stuff in the paper shredder, and when you emailed Todd in response to Jackie’s mass email with “what a stupid dummy she is, no wonder she can’t even operate Microsoft Word, let alone the toaster in the break room,” you accidentally clicked reply-all. To the entire company.
A good dinner sounds really f*cking fantastic right about now. So instead of spending an hour and a half in Seattle-bound 520 bridge traffic shrieking profanities out your window and then resorting to that melted Larabar you found in your glove compartment, stick around the Eastside for a meal. Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, and Woodinville have plenty of options that are convenient for avoiding traffic, and also for eating good food. Either way, think about bringing Jackie along. You both need a drink.
Aside from Costco, Deru Market is the greatest thing to ever come out of Kirkland. Smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood, it has a cool-but-not-fancy look and really good food. The menu’s made up of locally-sourced ingredients that go into their wood-fired pizza, sandwiches on housemade focaccia (get a loaf to bring home), and a few rotating seasonal entrees. It’s a fun spot for a casual outdoor summer dinner or a candlelit date, and the only way to do it wrong is by not getting a slice of Deru’s enormous layer cakes. They’re so good that you’ll want to press your face up to the glass display to whisper goodbye afterwards.
If you’re not exactly sure what you want for dinner but you want to eat it with your fork in one hand and a classy cocktail in the other, Bottle and Bull is calling your name. It’s a fancy gastropub that’s great for a solo dinner at the bar, group hang with colleagues, or even a date. The items on the menu rotate seasonally and range from small plates, to a serious Cuban sandwich, to fresh pasta, to a nice piece of seared fish. And if your Friday night happy hour at the office turns into going drink-for-drink with the interns, they also have a solid late-night snack menu.
Pizzaiolo is a casual Italian spot with a wood-fired oven, specials written on a chalkboard, and vintage posters. The pizza is delicious, they do a really good caesar salad, and the service is excellent. It’s more of a small-groups kind of place, but is also never too crowded. Get the margherita or pesto sausage pie.
Sometimes, you just need to tear through a burger, onion rings, and a cookies-and-cream shake without any disruptions, and Broiler Bay satisfies that primal human need. The charbroiled burger joint is in what looks like an otherwise abandoned strip mall, and “don’t judge a book by its cover” is probably what they’re going for with the outdated interior. Chances are you’ll get a wobbly table, but it will come with one of the best meals you can find on the Eastside (and no chance of running into Beth from accounting). Make sure everything is covered in their fry sauce.
There are a few taco trucks and Mexican dives in the Bellevue area, but Señor Taco is the hole-in-the-wall better than the rest. This no-frills spot is perfect for grabbing a cold bottle of beer with some killer tacos and burritos. Get the al pastor and spicy barbacoa, and don’t skip the baja fish, which comes with an entire filet of crispy cod drenched in chipotle crema.
If you can bear the personal hell that is finding a happy hour parking spot at the Bellevue Place Mall, Tavern Hall is the downtown after-work spot for you. They have a ton of great beers on tap, hand-shuffleboard, and skillets of braised brisket nachos when a salad isn’t going to cut it. And even if you bring the entire IT team for a round of ciders and soft pretzels, there shouldn’t be a crazy wait.
We forgive Mercato for falsely advertising their sort-of-flatbreads as pizzas because they’re really good and have toppings like coppa and braised fennel or fava bean and pecorino. The vibe here is also that ideal mix of casual and upscale, so if you have a first date lined up with someone who also works on the Eastside, Mercato Stellina is your move. Split a bottle of wine, the burrata with honeycomb and homemade crackers, and a flatbread pizza thing.
Garlic Crush is an Eastside Greatest Hit for many reasons. Their falafel is excellent, their lamb/beef gyros are excellent, their shawarma is excellent, their hummus is excellent, and their baklava is also excellent. Service is fast, and their takeout travels well in case you do decide to brave the 520 traffic. It’s not a place you’d hit up for the interior atmosphere, but bring your team and line up a few outdoor tables for a Mediterranean feast that’s amazing every time.
Sometimes, only a huge bowl of egg drop soup can cure all. Head toward I90 for the greatest Chinese food on the Eastside. The crunchy wonton noodles with duck sauce are perfect (and free), the portions of classic Chinese dishes like Mongolian Beef and General Tso’s chicken are pretty big (and also excellent the next day in the office microwave), and the owners will probably give you a complimentary jello with whipped cream. Important: get the chicken wings or get out.
Hokkaido is a ramen chain that started in Japan, and somehow made its way to Bellevue - with good reason. On a cold day (because of weather or air-conditioning) at work in your soul-crushing windowless office, a bowl of their miso ramen with tender pork and a side of pan-fried gyoza is exactly what you need. This is a great place for a solo meal or a round of chicken karaage in a booth with some friends.
Resonate is a great morale-boosting dinner spot, and not just because it’s a taproom filled with beer kegs. Keep this lively brewery in mind for when you want big picnic tables, excellent homemade beers on draught, and oval Roman-style pizzas. It’s not the best pizza in the Seattle area, but if you order yours with fresh mozzarella/any of the Zoe’s meats, it gets the job done. So does the spinach-artichoke dip.
You’re finishing up your workday with a phone call and your boss walks over to you, making fork-in-mouth motions. You’ve been waiting for this moment. Make moves to Seastar, which is the best place on the Eastside to ball out. It’s the kind of ritzy spot that has carpeting, sushi rolls on the otherwise-American seafood menu, and a vegetarian zoodle dish that costs $23. Put this one on the company card, and don’t wear flip flops.
Bellevue Brewing is a taproom with exposed beer tanks and a standard pub-style menu that’s great for casual drinking and eating. We like the giant wood-fired chicken wings and southwestern salad, but if things have really hit rock bottom, there’s also a salted caramel brownie sundae topped with ice cream infused with BBC’s oatmeal stout.
Tipsy Cow is the burgers/fries/shakes spot for people who are also really into beer. The massive bar has a huge lineup of taps to go with outrageous burgers like The Rockstar, which comes topped with beer-battered strips of maple-glazed bacon. if that gives you anxiety, they also have salmon sandwiches, turkey burgers, and decent salads. Another key detail: all of the milkshakes can be spiked.
If you’re jealous of coworker Colin for getting to go on the business trip to London without you, a dinner at The British Pantry isn’t a bad idea. On a rainy day, the slightly-musty pub might make you actually think you’re in England. They close at 6pm, so you’ll have to hurry up and get in to take full advantage of the authentic English dishes, like bangers and mash. On your way out, hit the market next door that sells English treats like Viennese tarts and digestive biscuits, which you’ll probably need after all of those sausages. Head home with a bag full of hot cross buns and an optimistic outlook on coworker Colin.
When it comes to dumplings, Dough Zone is where you should be going instead of Din Tai Fung. You won’t wait nearly as long for a table (or have to do it alongside screaming children in the middle of a mall), the service is great, the prices are insanely reasonable, and most importantly, the dumplings are better. Grab a big booth with your coworkers and share some potstickers, soup dumplings, and dandan noodles. And then get some pork jian buns for yourself.
Bai Tong’s the best Thai place on the Eastside (further evidence: there’s also now a location in Seattle proper). They’re typically pretty packed, so try getting a table at the Redmond spot on a weekday. The place has a sleek and modern feel, and they do great takes on Thai classics like pad se ew and garlic green bean and shrimp stir fry.
After work, sometimes something inside of you snaps. You need wine immediately. In that one strip mall in Woodinville with all of the tasting rooms (where the weekend version of you will return), you’ll find The Commons. They have a full menu of classy comfort food like pickle-brined fried chicken and caprese poutine, craft cocktails, an espresso bar, and a bakery. Use The Commons for a team outing/group therapy session with your friends who work in the area.