The Downtown Lunch Guide
Downtown has a ton of lunch options. Here are the ones we like best.
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.
Located in a quiet corner of the 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 we’d gladly brave the yogurt-gulping Ellenos fanatics around the bend. Oriental Mart serves excellent tart pork adobo over rice seeped in braising liquid, lumpia wands whose crunch reminds us of a Butterfinger bar, and shiny red longanisa sausage that deserves its own long-form documentary. There’s a reason why this place has been going strong since 1987, and it’s in part thanks to that link of meat.
The Pink Door
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 “conference call” you definitely don’t have and just made up. Get the lasagna.
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Matt's In The Market
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 person next to you at the bar.
Dough Zone Dumpling House
When you need to impress someone with excellent dumplings, take them to Dough Zone. It’s a small Seattle-based chain that’s serious about xiao long bao, buns, and noodles, and they also plate their pickled cucumbers to look like a slinky. You can’t go wrong with any of the dumplings here, but the best are the Q bao pork buns. Five come with an order, so it’s inevitable that there’ll be a fight over the last one.
Pane Pane Sandwiches
Pane Pane is located in a nook of Downtown occupied mostly by construction workers, the corporate crowd, and tourists who got lost looking for Fran’s Chocolates. But not only does Pane Pane serve incredible sandwiches for the immediate area: they also serve some of the greatest in Seattle, period. From salami and pesto to prosciutto and mascarpone, we appreciate the variety of sandwich filling options that this great spot offers. And yet, we always order the same thing, every time: the teriyaki meatball bánh mì, a.k.a their finest contribution to the planet.
This colorful counter serves a bunch of stupendous Mexican dishes with their freshly-ground corn masa at the forefront, from cheesy tamales and quesadillas to phenomenal sopes topped with things like stewed chicken, pickled onion, cotija, and crema. They even make delicious tortilla chips, and they’re so crunchy that you could probably use them to communicate with The International Space Station. If you’ve been coerced into a trip to “be a tourist in your own city” by out-of-town guests, and you don’t want your lunch to have come from the ocean, Maíz makes for a perfect stop. Even if you're just moseying on down during your midday break, it's a very quick operation.
Post Alley Pizza
Despite the name, Post Alley Pizza is not located in the market, so don’t go looking for it along the wall of other people’s gently-used chewing gum. This spot works really well if you’re in need of a quick lunch slice you can trust, with crust that's equal parts charred and chewy and dips for your pizza like homemade ranch and calabrian chili buffalo sauce. What’s even more exciting is that this place offers granulated garlic to shake on your slice—a necessity that we haven’t been able to find at any other slice shop in town. They also serve fantastic hoagie sandwiches loaded with Italian cold cuts and dressed chicories.
Mr. West Cafe Bar
This cafe owned by the folks behind Bottlehouse is a very attractive space with a lot of plants, marble, gold accents, and monochrome wall art. It's a great spot for all-day "remote" work if you don't have an office but something has compelled you to commute Downtown anyway. There are many options, from matcha lattes alongside curried avocado toast and breakfast sandwiches if you're in a brunch mood, or salads like brussels sprout caesars, coffee-rubbed tri-tip steak with greens, and niçoise. And if you're holding a client meeting where it might be acceptable to buy a bottle of wine with lunch, Mr. West's selection is diverse and exciting.
Market Fresh is a buffet-style hot bar that also serves a few to-order lunch options, one of which is a very important fried chicken sandwich. Double-coated in a nori pepper dredge and topped with pineapple gochujang, fresh cabbage, pickles, and garlicky aioli on brioche, eating this drippy, salty, crunchy thing is one of the best uses of your lunch hour.
Pasta Casalinga is a casual Tuesday-Sunday spot in Pike Place Market serving Italy-level bowls of handmade pasta for under $20. 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.
Seattle has no shortage of all-day cafes with salads, sandwiches, and grain bowls, and Cafe Hitchcock is no exception. This place serves some great things between sliced bread—you can’t go wrong with a club or BLT. But if you wanted to go in a grain bowl direction, you won't be disappointed with toppings like green goddess dressing and pickled leeks. It's an excellent spot to sit with your meal or somewhere you should stop by for a latte to fend off an afternoon slump.
photo credit: Nate Watters
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 some mango soft serve for a sweet-tart dessert before descending into emails again.
Delicatus Benaroya Hall
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, but let it be known that we're not held liable if your crisp white shirt gets absolutely destroyed.
photo credit: Nate Watters
Sugo Hand Roll Bar
Sometimes, you don't want lunch to feel like lunch—you want it to feel like a small break from reality as you enjoy excellent food and soak up some limited free time. Sugo is the place to do that. This four-sided sushi counter specializes in handrolls, and it's incredibly exciting to sit here among the soundtrack of Alesso tunes and the blast of a flame as it blowtorches wagyu on a pink Himalayan salt block. Expect a whirlwind of delicious fillings like sesame-forward ahi poke, marinated ikura, and melty chopped otoro that won't set you back too much money or take too much time out of your afternoon. And vegetarians, there are great options for you too—like truffled mashed avocado with tempura crunchies, fried green beans, and crispy battered tofu with sweet onion and pea shoots.
photo credit: Erin Lodi
Michou Deli has a display case of premade deli sandwiches waiting to be pressed into paninis, as well as ready-made salads and baked goods. All of it is excellent—they serve some of the best fast-casual lunches in the city. The paninis here are delicious, especially any that involve their roasted chicken. End things with some sweet and tangy banana cake or a cornflake bar.
Market Grill has a dining situation that sounds unbearable, but if you stick it out, you get 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 staff is there to fire up your blackened salmon sandwich with rosemary mayo. 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 a side of herby clam chowder, either.
Beecher's Handmade Cheese
Keep in mind that coming to Beecher’s for lunch requires standing in a line full of tourists sampling curds, pressing their faces to the glass window where workers are stirring curds, and talking very loudly about curds. 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 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.