Downtown is packed with things like tourists, artisanal craft stands, and sad chain restaurants. But there’s a lunch out there for all of us, and many of the options here are really, really good. Whether you work in the neighborhood and need new inspiration for your middle-of-the-day break, or you’re hosting out-of-towners dying to visit Pike Place Market, your best lunch options are in this guide.
Matt’s is the grand champion of sit-down lunches in all of Seattle, let alone downtown. This semi-upscale spot is on the third floor of a Pike Place building, so you can eat with a view of the market. Pull up to the bar, start with a glass of wine, get the same (amazing) crispy catfish sandwich that’s been on the menu for over 20 years, and finish with the “candy bar square” that tastes like a deconstructed Snickers bar - only so much better. This place has the Feel Good Factor™, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself offering some homemade chips and hot bacon dip to the guy next to you, or getting into a friendly conversation with everyone sitting at the bar.
Pane Pane is a tiny little sandwich shop with a teriyaki meatball banh mi so great, it nearly made us cry. But we didn’t, because we were too busy eating. There are plenty of other baguette creations, too, with things like Italian cold cuts or turkey, avocado, and chipotle aioli.
Pasta Casalinga is a casual Tuesday-Sunday spot in Pike Place Market serving Italy-level bowls of handmade pasta for under $10. Their menu rotates based on which fresh ingredients they have from the “ocean,” “garden,” and “farm,” and features things like rigatoni with lamb and juniper berry ragu, or spaghettoni with kale pesto. Everything comes out piping hot with a sprinkling of parmesan (as it should), and the ricotta chocolate crostata is incredible for dessert.
This is an all-day cafe from the same people behind Hitchcock Deli, so you know it’s going to serve some serious sandwiches. We’re pretty obsessed with the Puerco (braised pork, ham, cabbage, pickled fresno chili, and cilantro aioli on a long potato roll), but you can’t go wrong with an Italian sandwich with homemade cold cuts. Even the quinoa kale salad tastes good. An excellent spot to sit with your meal - or stop by for a latte to fend off the afternoon slump you’re going to have regardless.
The Indian buffet at Kastoori Grill is a great thing to do for yourself at lunchtime. Get fresh garlic naan for the table and then have at the tikka masala, gobi aloo, pakoras, and saag paneer. Finish with as much of the excellent mango soft serve as you want. Which could be the most dangerous instruction we ever give, because that ice cream is delicious.
If you’re the kind of person who still feels hungry after a sandwich, you’re overdue for a visit to Delicatus. The sandwiches here are exactly the kind of messy creations you might want to use a fork and knife to eat (especially if your office has a corporate dress code). The Mud Honey (with smoked turkey, roast beef, white cheddar, bacon, horseradish aioli, and homemade barbecue sauce) is our favorite, and we highly recommend finishing with a chocolate chip cornflake cookie if you want something sweet.
Maybe you skipped breakfast, or maybe you just aren’t feeling a sandwich or salad for lunch. You’re in luck. Sweet Iron’s Belgian-style waffles go just as well with prosciutto and creme fraiche as they do with Nutella and cookie butter, so you won’t have trouble finding something you like here. It’s a speedy, counter-service operation, and feels like the kind of cafe you might find in a museum: clean and a little corporate, but not in a bad way. And just to let you know, a waffle ice cream sundae with salted caramel and whipped cream is something you can get here.
You made a pact with yourself to eat healthier lunches during the week, but the thought of eating more vegetables also kind of makes you want to stab a pinata filled with baby carrots. (Then not eat any of the carrots.) Evergreens is not your only option for leafy greens, but it’s one of the best. It’s a small, cramped assembly-line situation where people line up for made-to-order chopped salads, and you can choose from one of their house options (like a Spicy Kale Caesar) or build your own. It’ll set you back less than $15, and your insides will be pretty happy.
A fun spot with excellent sushi and an acceptable tourists-to-locals ratio. This place does good takeout, but it would also work well for catch-up with colleagues over some Bad Boy rolls (like spicy tuna rolls, but battered and fried) and brie tempura.
Market Grill has a dining situation that sounds unbearable - but actually, this place does one of the best lunches downtown. First, you have to walk through a good portion of Pike Place’s human traffic jam (which usually starts because one person is blocking the way trying to dip a popsicle stick in some wild honey sample). Eventually, you’ll find what you’re looking for - a diner-style counter smack in the middle of the market, where two guys are there to fire up your blackened salmon sandwich with rosemary mayo (which is what you should get). If you’re alone, it’s not too hard to grab a seat, but if you’re with a few people, take it to-go. And don’t miss the herby clam chowder, either.
If this is a special occasion kind of lunch, book a table at The Pink Door. You’ll get an atmosphere that looks like a burlesque circus/trattoria hybrid, a gorgeous patio overlooking the water, and Italian food so good you’ll want to take the rest of the day off after eating it. Or at least block off some time on your calendar for that “meeting” you definitely don’t have and just made up. Get the lasagna.
Keep in mind that coming to Beecher’s for lunch requires standing in a line full of tourists sampling curds and talking very loudly about the woman at the market who dresses up like a stone statue. But at the end of that line is glorious mac and cheese penne that Oprah once named one of her favorite things. You’ll want a cup of that. Just save some room, because nothing’s better here than the grilled smoked turkey and flagship cheddar cheese sandwich. It’s perfectly toasted, with those crispy cheese bits that stick to the bread when it gets caught in the panini press, and you need to eat it at least once.