Have you ever woken up and thought, “Gosh, I’d love to eat at a second-best restaurant today?” Of course you haven’t. Whether you’ve lived here your entire life or are visiting for the first time, it’s human nature to want to experience the best of the best. And that’s exactly why we wrote this guide.
These are the highest-rated restaurants in Seattle—the ones we’d sit through I5 traffic to get to, the ones we pine for when we hear love songs, the ones we seek out on days off. Food and experience are both taken into consideration, and any type of dining establishment is fair game. On this list, you’ll find fancy tasting menu spots, casual hangouts, and walk-up windows. Every city has its classics and its hot new places, but these are restaurants where greatness is guaranteed.
This Piedmontese pasta specialist is not just the best Italian restaurant in Seattle. It’s the best restaurant, full stop. Bold? Sure, but so is the mountain of silky sage butter tajarin or braised rabbit agnolotti you eat by candlelight after an early December sunset, or fried zucchini blossoms snacked between gulps of tangerine-tinted paper plane cocktails come summertime. Yes, your wallet will be three figures emptier at the end of it all, but in exchange, you’ll have a life-affirming meal in a dining room filled with lace curtains, fine art, and noodle sheets draped over the open kitchen.
This eight-seat wood grain counter in Hillman City is more than a 10-course dinner inspired by the owners’ Filipino heritage. It’s a billboard for the Pacific Northwest and a meal that should be required by law for every resident. Each dish represents a part of history that connects our city to Filipino culture, and Archipelago only uses ingredients exclusively sourced throughout the region. That means you'll get plates like tart vinegar-cured kinilaw with local ginger served on a sardine tin to shout out the cannery workers from Seattle, and the vibrant halo halo topped with “pineapple ice.” Pineapple doesn’t grow here, so it’s pine plus apple—which is just one example of how intentional the entire production is. After two hours, you’ll walk away from Archipelago with a belly full of outstanding lechon (crispy skin and all) and a newfound appreciation for both Filipino food and the surrounding PNW.
As Seattleites, we’re so proud of the seafood here that one of our most cherished tourist activities is watching burly fishermen toss around their fresh catches. And while there are plenty of crab cakes and deep-fried halibut to try, our highest nautical achievements can be found at Sushi Kashiba. A night at this institution, run by Shiro Kashiba who was trained by Jiro Ono (yeah, that Jiro) is going to be perfect, and the couple hundred dollars you’ll spend on raw fish will be worth it, whether you’re at a table or you showed up before they open to secure seats at the bar. It’s all a blur of sake, soy-brushed tuna, silky uni, fried prawn heads, seared flounder fin, Norwegian smoked mackerel, and a sweet egg finale that deserves its own extended tribute on our NPR affiliate. (Quick, someone send this to Bill Radke.)
You don’t have to be loud or boisterous to be a big deal—just ask a baby bat, Jake from State Farm, or Kamonegi. A meal inside this quiet soba-focused Japanese restaurant in Fremont can be reserved for a massively special night out that’s disguised as a tame one. There’s a relaxed mood in the dining room that’s most appropriate for knocking things back like fresh sea urchin and marinated ikura on a delicately battered shiso leaf, chewy buckwheat noodles swirled in potent curry broth streaked with melted mozzarella strands, and spicy habanero-infused plum sake. The fried kabocha “wings” tossed in sticky duck demi-glace and toasty sesame seeds alone are worth putting Kamonegi on this guide.
Eating at Musang is like being guests at a pal’s dreamy dinner party, and we’re not just saying that because this Filipino restaurant is located inside a renovated craftsman. Throughout our many visits here, we’ve joined in on dining room-wide toasts and “Happy Birthday” singalongs, which would be enough to make Musang an exciting place to have a meal. But we’d also sit in a dark coat closet just to eat their phenomenal takes on Filipino classics. From peppery pork lumpia with a crackly shell dunked in chivey sawsawan to a flame-seared, peanut butter bagoong-basted short rib kare kare, these are dishes that make us want to stop everything and sing about them as if life were a movie musical. Said musical would feature hits such as “Jollibee’s Jealous,” a jazzy little number about their rice-dredged buttermilk fried chicken, and “My Ginataan Devotion,” a ballad for their crisp vegetables in coconut sauce and vegan shrimp paste.
Bateau is not your typical steakhouse. You will not find blazer-clad snoots on business trips swilling bourbon over a deal in the making, or a stockroom lined with A1 sauce and blue cheese dressing. What you will find is a beautifully designed space that would be reminiscent of a springtime bridal shower, were it not for the display window showcasing raw beef torsos. You will also find a burger with caramelized onion jam and a grassy garlic aioli that's worth ignoring the steak for. The butchering is what makes Bateau special, though. While you can select a bavette or filet, it’s even better when your server/personal beef mentor helps you choose a unique cut, be it chuck chain or marbled skirt tournedo. Then, they will use a ceremonial chalk staff to cross off your selection, permanently denying someone else of the same exact cut. Come here for the schadenfreude, but also come here for the red wine, fries prepared in tallow, and little french onion croquettes that we could pop like M&Ms.
Much like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! and Weird Al Yankovic, The Pink Door has been around since the early eighties. And yet, every time we sneak through Post Alley, step inside, and take in the nightly energy of this Italian place, it feels like a grand opening celebration all over again. There’s the packed dining room, a candlelit glow, aerial performers dangling from the ceiling, and Italian food that’s been consistently stellar for over 30 years. Whether you’re with a big group toasting with glasses of prosecco and snacking on fontina-stuffed arancini, or having a solo meal at the bar headlined by a haystack of cream-spiked pappardelle bolognese, you’re in for a meal that’s just as thrilling on the first visit as it is the twentieth. Whatever you do, an order of fettunta and the spinach lasagna layered with pesto, velvety besciamella, and marinara must make their way to your table and mouth.
Tomo in White Center serves the kind of meal that makes us wish time travel were real. Not just to see a stegosaurus, but also to go back and replay our first dinner here. This monthly-rotating tasting menu spot coaxes intense flavor out of seemingly simple ingredients. A vegetarian barley porridge with eggplant and dill pollen could take on any meaty stew. A rich XO sauce underneath seared scallops is the best application of geoduck this city has ever seen (the bar was not high, but still). Hot, lunchtime-only arepas are immensely comforting and come stuffed with stracciatella and prosciutto as popcorn-scented steam floats around. To match these exciting bites is a space with brunette walls, dramatic lighting, and speakers that blast soothing whale noises in the bathroom.
Nobody wants to wait a long time for a table. You’d probably rather play a round of Chopped with the random findings in your fridge than stand around anywhere for one to two hours. When it comes to the excruciating wait at Kedai Makan, sticking it out in exchange for some of this outstanding Malaysian food on Capitol Hill is a very good deal. Your friends might not understand how tofu fried rice, roti jala with curry, and spiced fried chicken washed down with bittersweet jungle birds are worth this kind of inconvenience. But much like going camping, tattooing whatever you want onto your body, or smoking weed, it’s hard to understand the appeal until you do it—or in this case, complete the sambal and crispy shallot-filled journey yourself.
Whether you’re looking to slurp your first oyster or your 6,387th, the best place to shoot them back is at The Walrus And The Carpenter. If raw bivalves aren't your thing, we can also vouch for the delicate cornmeal-dredged ones dipped in an excellent cilantro aioli—as well as all of the other small plates like scallop crudo with yuzu kosho salsa verde, beef shank terrine with fermented hot sauce, and goat cheese with apricot jam. With a mollusk in one hand and a flute of sparkling wine in the other, it’s impossible to be grumpy while sitting at this big marble bar overlooking baskets of gray, jagged shells and a bowl of marshmallowy whipped butter to go with your Seawolf rye. You could come here early to avoid waiting for a table, but it’s just as crucial to stop by their sister bar, Barnacle, next door for an amaro spritz.
The Caribbean roast pork sandwich from this fuchsia and teal shack on the side of the road has the power to do two things: bestow upon you eternal joy and completely f*ck up your white t-shirt with meat drips. It’s worth it for this toasted Macrina baguette stuffed with tender braised pork clinging to tangy marinade, sweet onions stamped with char from the grill, tart pickled jalapeño, romaine, and a zesty aioli that laughs in the face of standard supermarket mayo. That, plus some of the best grilled chicken in town and fire-roasted corn slathered in limey aioli, paprika, and parmesan make for a perfect meal, especially if you’re picnicking at Golden Gardens. And especially if you have a Tide Pen handy.
A huge kudos to whoever invented fire during the stone age. Because without it, we wouldn’t have the blazing flame inside Bar Del Corso’s domed pizza oven creating phenomenal leopard spots on their crispy crust, melting globs of buffalo mozzarella, and sizzling craggy bits of homemade fennel sausage. The pies alone would solidify this Beacon Hill staple as one of the most iconic Seattle happy places—up there with UW during cherry blossom season and Reuben’s when there’s no line for the bathroom. But the small plates here seal the deal. From suppli al telefono stuffed with cheese that pulls like taffy to the best grilled octopus in town, it’s all worthy of sidling up to the bar or grabbing a backyard picnic table alongside something spiked with Aperol and/or a scoop of gelato.
Pike Place sometimes (read: constantly) feels like a chaotic vortex of free samples, long lines, and onlookers with faces pressed like putty to the Beecher’s windowpane. But there’s one place in particular where you can go to escape it all. That’s Oriental Mart. 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.
At Taneda Sushi In Kaiseki, an omakase restaurant with only nine chairs, you’re often left with no choice but to book a seat for one—if you can even find a reservation to begin with. Conveniently, it’s actually better that way. Because when you’re shooting the breeze with a chef who becomes your confidante after tossing you 25 courses of quality fish, it never feels lonely. While the $195 menu changes every month, you can expect amazing bites like otoro hand rolls with pickled daikon, torched A5 miyazaki wagyu nigiri topped with caviar, sweet shrimp wrapped around custardy uni, and grilled eel placed directly into your open hand like a love note. This is the best kaiseki experience in the city, and much like running a marathon or traveling the world, you can enjoy it all by yourself.
photo credit: Suzi Pratt
Communion is a restaurant that acts as a lipstick-stamped love letter to the American south while also taking inspiration from dishes and flavors you can find in the Central District and beyond. Earthy berbere grilled chicken with lemony lentils nods to the neighborhood’s Ethiopian population, while a po’boy/bánh mì hybrid honors the pâté-slathered baguettes of Little Saigon. A surplus of brittle cornmeal-dredged catfish, though, shows that this is a soul food spot through and through. The cocktails are refreshing yet balanced (hello perfect apple mint julep), the space is lively yet warm, and even though it’s only been around since December 2020, it’s hard to imagine Seattle without this restaurant.
Climate Pledge Arena, MoPop, and Chihuly are typically considered the best things about Lower Queen Anne (sorry, Uptown), but Paju is certainly the most delicious. This calm Korean restaurant doesn’t have flashy decorations or cocktails in ritzy glassware, but they do have food that makes us feel like we’re living in a country ballad. Suddenly, it’s easy to love again, everything pairs well with a cold beer, and we can’t help but get emotional over the small details. Things like bulgogi with a subtle drizzle of truffle oil and briny squid ink fried rice topped with bacon and a smoked quail egg that we daydream about whenever we hear Shania Twain’s, “You’re Still The One.” Seattle has quite a few classic Korean spots, but Paju (like the Kraken) proves that newer things in town deserve love, too.
Maneki has been around since 1904, making it older than the pogo stick, the Model-T, and any other Japanese spot in Seattle. Almost 12 decades later, this International District icon consistently serves some of the greatest Japanese food in the city, from multiple types of buttery salmon nigiri to excellent takoyaki, a.k.a. our favorite way to eat tentacles. The very best way to make the most of Maneki, however, is by reserving a private tatami room in the back. There’s this meditative zen that happens when it’s just you and some friends, sans shoes, interrupted only when someone periodically stops by to hand off raw fish and beer. This absolute all-star lineup of sushi, appetizers like frizzled pan-seared gyoza and nanban, and hot dishes like yakiudon and miso black cod collar is best split among friends while sipping Sapporo in socks, just like a similar group might have done in the early 20th century.
New York and Chicago are not the only noteworthy pizza towns in the United States of America. Exhibit A: Delancey. Even if you just popped in this Ballard pizzeria for a glass of Austrian natural bubbles and small plates like burrata in a pesto pool served with flatbread shards or the mountainous romaine-based Jersey Salad with shaved carrots and really good croutons, that’d be enough to have a satisfying meal. But you should prioritize the charred pies topped with things like hot salami, caramelized Walla Walla sweet onions, kalamata olives, and summer corn. The space is also an exciting, minimalist hangout perfect for anything from a date to a family dinner, powered by tea candles and good smells coming from the wood oven.
It’s a meal dilemma we’ve encountered often—khao soi or a cheeseburger? Cut to Taurus Ox, the Laotian counter spot on Capitol Hill that does both (and more) to the soundtrack of good tunes like old-school Outkast. Taurus Ox’s crown jewel is undoubtedly their smashburger, a double-pattied stunner topped with taro stem, cilantro, pickled onion, and cured pork jowl, along with the genius addition of spicy pork skin-laced jaew bong and nutty provolone that cuts through the herbs and rendered fat. It’s a drippy, tangy, beautiful mess, but that isn’t to say that the other dishes play second fiddle. Thom khem loaded with caramelized pork belly and a brussels sprout hash brown would be an ideal under-the-covers dinner, and garlicky lemongrass sausage would rule a summer barbecue. Whether you’re stumbling in on a weeknight or packing your friends in before bar-hopping, Taurus Ox is the most special meal you’ll receive from a casual counter.
The newest great pizzeria in town is, in fact, so great that we added it to this list without blinking. Blotto's pizza crust is a gorgeous cross between sourdough and New York-style, with a firm crackle throughout the bottom and puffed ends that resemble pool noodles (but taste a whole lot better). Between the small dining room on Capitol Hill that’s decorated with shelves of pantry items for sale, red and white-checkered pizzeria tablecloths, and refrigerators stocked with natural wine, Blotto already makes for a fun place to hang out with friends. Add phenomenal pies topped with things like spaghetti all’amatriciana ingredients or roasted kale with breadcrumbs and lemon (not to mention tasty slice dips like Calabrian chili vinaigrette and dill-flecked ranch), and you’ve got more than a casual neighborhood hang—you’ve got a dinner destination that’s worth braving potentially horrendous parking.
When it’s gray and drizzly in Seattle, our gut instinct is to hang our heads over a restorative bowl of hot phở and allow it to fix everything—or at least momentarily distract us. The best place to do that is at Phở Bắc Sup Shop. In this large room, there’s a constant cloud of broth steam following each server, crunches echoing from pork and shrimp egg rolls, and very happy-sounding slurps. And whether you’re just here for a beer and fries with lemongrass sauce or a gallon of aromatic soup with a gargantuan short rib bone submerged inside, Phở Bắc makes eating phở a party on the daily. And since good parties tend to have neon signs, photo booths, and shots of rye chased with phở broth backs, it’s only right that this place does too.
photo credit: Erin Lodi
Lil Red Takeout & Catering
Swing by Lil Red for the best barbecue in town, whether you eat inside while listening to gospel music or just take it all to go. Everything from the kitchen at this Jamaican soul food spot is pure comfort food royalty. Their brisket has an ideal blend of smoke and fat, the crimson-hued jerk chicken has a ton of delicious heat, and the sides here are not an afterthought. The mac and cheese, with ridged elbow noodles, is like liquid velvet, and the garlicky mash, filled with specks of herb and spice confetti, deserves a standing ovation at Benaroya Hall followed by a backyard birthday party.
One of our go-to group dinner spots, this big basement—filled with Himalayan food instead of random boxes of tacky holiday decorations—is consistently our first choice for anything that can be swept up with a surplus of garlic-brushed naan. Annapurna Cafe houses the best Indian, Tibetan, and Nepalese food in town, and they belong among the stars for their Tibetan momo alone, rich with spiced chicken and paired with tomato, mint, and peanut chutneys. Annapurna also excels at Indian classics like tikka masala and palak paneer, as well as hall of fame-worthy stewed lamb and fish korma. It’s all just as excellent whether you’re hanging out in the basement clinking bottles of Kingfisher or taking home multiple plastic tubs of greatness.
Like a parent recording their child as “Cowboy 3” in Oklahoma!, we watched proudly (but critically) as Dough Zone grew from one location to eight. But in this case, quantity still equals quality. These dumplings are not only as juicy and flavor-blasted as they were at the start—they’re still the best in town today. This well-chili-oiled machine of bao, lacy cornstarch-crisp potstickers, creamy sesame dan dan noodles, and wontons tossed in hot and sour sauce became a destined hit the day it was born, just like Rodgers & Hammerstein. In a city where everyone seems to be aggressively pro-Din Tai Fung or pro-Dough Zone, consider us Team DZ all the way.
photo credit: Stan Lee
La Cocina Oaxaqueña
When we think about Mexican food in Seattle, La Cocina Oaxaqueña is like the best friend in a romantic comedy that turns out to be the protagonist’s true love—they’ve been there for us all along. This is without question our favorite Mexican restaurant in the city. The food is consistently delicious, and the good energy flows as freely as tequila. Speaking of, we’ve never been let down by the strong margaritas, delicious unlimited salsa, and snappy fried-to-order chips that are so fresh they burn your fingertips. It’s the kind of place where you could plan a meal two weeks in advance, or bust in simply when everywhere else on Capitol Hill is too packed. The cherry on top is their excellent Southern Mexican food, be it sour and spicy camarones al mojo de ajo, enchiladas topped with velvety mole, or al pastor tacos on homemade tortillas filled with saucy-sweet braised pork.