The Hit List: New Seattle Restaurants To Try Right Now

We checked out these new restaurants and loved them.
pork belly, steak with eggplant, and yellow curry with fried mackerel from Sophon

photo credit: Makena Yee

When new restaurants open, we check them out. This means that we subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. And every once in a while, a new spot makes us feel like a geography nerd at that Pike Place map store. When that happens, we add it here, to The Hit List. 

The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in Seattle. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a buzzy new omakase spot that slaps gold leaf on every piece of fish. Or it might be an under-the-radar lunch counter where a few dollars will get something wonderful and unexpected.

Keep tabs on the Hit List and you will always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now.

New to the Hit List (5/22): Situ Tacos, Ooshiba Yakitori & Sushi, Sophon


photo credit: Aimee Rizzo



$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerDrinks & A Light BiteBig GroupsOutdoor/Patio SituationGluten-Free OptionsVegetarians
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If you laugh in the face of soft tacos, Situ is your new personal Disneyland. The menu at this Mexican-Lebanese counter spot focuses on deep-fried stuff—and the result is not just a symphony of crunches, it’s an asset to Ballard Ave’s dinner scene. There are perfectly crispy chips with Seattle’s contender for best guacamole, nachos topped with beans that could stop time, and exceptional carnitas rolled up into taquitos. We also love the excellent fried tacos held together by toothpicks and stuffed with fillings like spicy roasted cauliflower with chickpea mash. Come and go as you please either at the front counter or by the disco ball-lit back bar, where gin-spiked frozen rosé flows like water. Just remember—and if you don’t, posted signs will remind you—“Don’t eat the f*cking toothpicks.”

Eating sushi at a brewery isn’t really a thing unless you bring your own takeout—or just post up at Figurehead Brewing in Fremont, where Ooshiba is an in-house vendor. This Japanese kitchen serves nigiri that could go toe-to-toe with the likes at some omakase spots, and it feels very fun to pair your buttery wasabi-smeared salmon belly with mellow Mexican lager. The kushiyaki are worth ordering in multiples, like chicken tsukune so moist and soft that you could eat it like an ice cream cone, or sizzled pork belly strips with a perfect ratio of melty fat to lean meat. The next time you’re feeling disillusioned by brewery food trucks that prioritize greasy sandwiches and fries, grab space on Figurehead’s secret garden patio to snack on otoro and grilled beef on a stick. 

photo credit: Makena Yee



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If we have learned anything from “The Matrix”, it’s that sometimes the first part of something is just better. That valuable life lesson applies to Sophon—a vibrant Khmer restaurant in Greenwood where filling the table with shareable starters is the best way to go. The glowing dining room with hanging plants and family photos feels like someone’s ornate living room—particularly when you find out the menu is filled with passed-down recipes. There is a buttery crudo with a strong citrus punch, crispy bite-sized pieces of juicy chicken thigh dredged in a fairy dusting of potato starch, and a refreshing rice noodle salad. This restaurant tells a story, as servers relate how each Cambodian dish reminds them of their own upbringing. It’s also great for a date night or special occasion filled with well-crafted tropical cocktails and stacks of small plates littered with khmeraage crumbs.

This popular Vancouver-based dim sum restaurant has a Bellevue location where people are lining up well before opening, even on weekdays. It’s not all hype—Sun Sui Wah serves some great dim sum dishes with flair. Inside the grand chandelier-filled dining room with a live fish tank, big groups gather around lazy susan-topped tables and ponder a picture menu that’s about the length of a car parts catalog. It’s easy to be overwhelmed, but you’re in good hands with dishes like the crispy shrimp-stuffed egg roll and the deep-fried taro dumpling with a rich ground pork center that's like breaking open a Lindor truffle. While Seattleites have a couple of superior dim sum options in Harbor City and Jade Garden, Sun Sui Wah fills a void on the Eastside admirably.  

We didn’t think empanadas in Seattle could make us feel like the protagonist in a romance novel, until we cracked open the ones at Maria Luisa in Ballard. These tender little pastries are filled with a wide variety of meats, cheeses, and/or vegetables, served with zesty chimichurri we’d like have handy at all times in packet form. Takeout is easy (even if you need to feed a big family) and their garage-like space has high-top tables that should work well for quick dine-in lunches. Don’t make us choose one single empanada, but if we had to give the edge to any, it’d be the one stuffed with steakhouse-quality creamed spinach. Or the one loaded with tangy chorizo. Or the nutmeg-y bechamel with rogue corn kernels. (We rest our case.) And make sure to try the chocolate alfajores sandwiching dulce de leche for dessert.

Maíz has opened another location in Ballard—Maíz Taquería. And it’s worth a visit if you’re in the mood for an easy lunch with some memorable Mexican food. Unlike the tiny Pike Place location, there is plenty of sit-down seating inside and outside on the papel picado-decorated patio. Even though Maíz has a full menu of tortas and tasty chilaquiles, the real reason you’ll be turning off 15th are the tacos. They’re made on those same soft and pliable nixtamalized tortillas Maiz has built a reputation for. Out of all the filling options, make sure the tacos with a hearty mash of chorizo and potatoes, ones with peppery sweet birria, and a few with shrimp under crema-dressed slaw hit your table.

Ginger & Scallion knows poultry and grains like Bruce Springsteen knows New Jersey. This bare-bones Phinney Ridge spot with a handful of tables has quickly become one of the best casual weeknight dinner options in town. That’s thanks to a short menu of poached Hainanese chicken, schmaltzy rice, and add-ons like tart cucumber salad or fried skins. Not one morsel of meat is dry—cold-on-purpose hunks of drunken chicken are plump and biting from a rice wine soak, while shreds of moist white meat sauced with tangy curry take a sizable slap of heat from chili crisp. Yeah, having a strong hankering for chicken and rice from the get-go is a prerequisite for enjoying a meal here, but if anything’s going to get us in the mood, it’s this place, which is perfect for a mellow midweek meal with a friend.

If you see a long line in the Seattle area, it’s probably filled with tourists (cough cough, original Starbucks location). But Daeho is one big exception—for good reason. This wildly popular San Francisco Korean chain opened a Bellevue outpost and has even locals waiting two hours for their kalbijjim at prime dinner hours. The giant $79 skillet (which could feed five people) is overflowing with tender short rib meat that falls apart like it just watched A Walk To Remember, chunky carrots, and softened potatoes in a rich gochugaru sauce. It’s hearty and comforting, and even better when ordered with rice cakes and a mountain of melty cheese on top that gets blowtorched tableside. It’s best to get here early (before they open for dinner at 4:30) to avoid those crowds. 

Any Italian wine bar can serve spritzes alongside appetizers that merely require assembly—like burrata and cured meats—but Renee Erickson’s (you know, that chef with the oyster empire) newest spot in Phinney Ridge makes aperitivo hour actually exciting. Spritzes are infused with buddha’s hand. Lemon-oiled burrata is served with ciabatta toast that absorbs stracciatella like a sponge. And prosciutto is shaved thinner than parchment paper. To have that in a galley-style space with a marble standing bar, date night chatter swirling around, and some of the best small plates in North Seattle? That’s a win.

To say that we love the New York-style pizza at Stevie’s Famous’ original location in Burien is as much an understatement as the Sound Transit expansion taking “a few years.” And now, Stevie’s has a second counter operation happening inside Clock-Out Lounge on Beacon Hill. You can order the same great pies and slices, like white-sauced ones topped with crisp Italian sausage and caramelized onions, or the Normie Macdonald—a masterpiece where coppa, hot honey, and pools of fresh burrata all come together. And unlike the Burien spot, this place is big. There’s a full-length bar, booth seating along the walls, and a stage where you can watch drag spelling bees with a mouthful of sourdough crust.

We’ve been telling everyone about this Guamanian restaurant on Beacon Hill—coworkers, friends, and even our postal carrier. And that’s because Familyfriend is great for everyone. It’s date night for the couple at the bar splitting a kewpie-slathered smashburger that trumps Loretta’s (yeah, we said it). It’s dinner for the family of four squeezed into a booth passing around tinatak bowls with tofu and smoky eggplant. And it’s an after-shift dinner for our aforementioned mailperson who we’ve spotted with a cup of coconutty corn soup. This place isn’t a secret—expect a bit of a wait at dinnertime—but once you’re in, you’re met with warm service, excellent food, and your own reasons to spread the word.

Sure, Atoma is technically a fine-dining restaurant, but where this Wallingford place shines is in its appetizers. Like the “KFM,” Kentucky fried mushrooms with a paprika-spiced dredge. Or bouncy crumpets smeared with koji butter and fermented garlic honey that have the power to stop the table’s conversation. The space is a repurposed craftsman-style house, and with dim lighting, forest green walls, and Aesop soap in the bathroom, it's both special and cozy. Even though the entrees play second fiddle to the snacks, you can feasibly use Atoma as a great first date spot—if only for miniature martinis and farmer’s cheese-filled rosette cookies before grabbing a Dick’s deluxe on the way home.

While there’s no shortage of casual lunch places in the International District, you should prioritize Kilig. This Filipino spot from the folks behind Musang specializes in pancit and bulalo, and it all happens in a space with seafoam-painted walls and bottles of Maggi displayed like knickknacks. Come here with a group ready to twist kare kare dan dan noodles swimming in a silky peanut and tahini sauce, or get a five-star facial from steaming bowls of beef shank bualo. But it’s their sour tamarind-dusted singang wings that we can't shut up about—dunk each crispy piece in the sweet mango dipping sauce at your discretion. And unlike Musang, which can require patience and pure luck to snag a reservation, Kilig is ideal for an impromptu meal. (And some seasoning-based home decor inspiration.) 

A night out on Capitol Hill usually has a full itinerary—there’s the pregame dinner, the dive bar where pint towers start to form, the inevitable karaoke place, and, of course, the hot dog stand finale. Next time, just go to Donna’s. This new Italian cocktail bar by the folks from Rose Temple has the whole-night-out package. With tasty under-$15 bowls of pasta like curly mafaldine in a creamy bolognese, music loud enough to ripple your tomato-basil martini, and a gold disco ball spinning at the center, there’s enough fun and great food to make Donna’s the one (and only) destination for a rowdy Capitol Hill evening. 

Capitol Hill has more than a few options in the fried chicken sandwich department, but Mt. Joy is the one to seek out. The juicy chicken and crispy fries from this bright green counter will help soak up whatever awful well drinks you choked down at Comet Tavern around the corner. Even without a brine, breast meat achieves moistness and the dried herb-flecked crust is well-salted. And while fries at a chicken joint can often be an afterthought, the ones here are crisp, hot, and taste even better swiped through one of Mt. Joy’s dipping sauces, like golden pickle mayo or chive-y ranch. The best (and worst) part about this place? Each time an order is ready, a speaker blasts an audibly accurate cock-a-doodle-do—making the weekend late-night rush sound like a barnyard hootenanny.

Beast & Cleaver is a Ballard butcher shop that becomes an upscale restaurant after-hours, and it’s one of the toughest tables in town to book. Now, they’ve taken over the kitchen at Fair Isle Brewing, and the result is a second B&C location that makes this brewery special occasion-worthy. And don’t let the relaxed atmosphere and barrel furniture fool you—this food is serious. To pair with Fair Isle’s farmhouse-style ales are decadent confit potatoes, panzanella with corn and heirloom tomatoes, or pork rillette smeared on olive bread. And Beast & Cleaver’s famous 100-day-dry-aged burger is here too. Aside from being 99 days older than the budding Hinge relationship at the next table over, it has a heavy hand of ketchup, American cheese, and thick homemade bacon. Use this place for an upcoming birthday celebration where you can share fancy charcuterie and hand out burger wedges like Costco sheet cake.

This quiet Greenwood spot makes for a serene weeknight dinner with some of the most comforting Indian food in town. The scent of sizzled garlic fills the moody black and red dining room where you can sop up gravy-drenched aloo gobi with naan that’s nearly half an inch thick. And the pakora haystacks made with precision leave a satisfying crunch. Best part is, even at prime dinner time, the small place isn’t crowded. Yes, it’s hard to believe this kind of calm plays out on a busy stretch of Aurora, but just order more sadheko chicken momo and don’t question it.

Gold Coast Ghal has made First Hill a destination outside of doctors appointments and, well, more doctors appointments. This pop-up-turned-restaurant serves excellent food from Liberia and Ghana, which can be hard to find in a city where East African food is more prevalent. Dishes like the handpies and nuggets of ripe caramelized plantains are pure comfort, particularly when followed by a smoky goat peanut soup that should always be ordered with fufu. With limited seating, we wouldn’t come here with a big group looking for a last-minute plan. But Gold Coast makes for a great impromptu date night where sharing the last bites of a handpie is your version of romance (like it is ours).

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