The Best Restaurants & Bars In South Lake UnionSLU is not just a neighborhood for tech employees—it's also a neighborhood of good things to eat and drink.
South Lake Union is a lot of things. Amazon HQ? Check. A rapidly gentrifying extension of Downtown? You bet. Geographically located south of Lake Union? Obviously. And while the dining options can seem like a grab bag of corporatized fast-casual lunch counters, there's so much more than that. Read on for the best restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, and yes—some of them do happen to be corporatized fast-casual lunch counters.
Sushi By Scratch is an omakase experience where the speakeasy-style dining room glows indigo, sushi chefs spew profanity, you’ll make friends with the chatty Magnolia Moms next to you, and nigiri is topped with funky spreads like corn pudding and sourdough breadcrumbs, red beet mustard and puffed quinoa, or paste made from shrimp brains and olive oil. If that sounds like an expensive gimmick, it is—but in such a serious sushi town, it’s nice to let go for a night of blowtorched debauchery. One where the otoro is just as buttery as the other guys, only loaded with caramelized pineapple and brown sugar.
We'd never endorse spending weekends in SLU—unless it's for Phở Bắc’s upstairs bar where you should head post-soup. PST serves phenomenal cocktails with Vietnamese twists at a small U-shaped counter. We love every last one of these drinks, from the Dua Dừa featuring rum, absinthe, coconut milk, lime, and basil seed to our current favorite cocktail in Seattle: the Cà Phê Tini, an iced coffee-inspired martini with Mr. Black cold brew liqueur, vodka, Vietnamese coffee, condensed milk, and pandan dust. While the cocktails are PST’s clear highlight, don't miss bar snacks like spicy tapioca dumplings or cheesy caramelized crab and prawn dip complete with oiled toasts and sesame saltines for dunking.
OK, we also encourage you to take a weekend visit to Le Caviste. Not only is this French spot one of the best wine bars in Seattle, but it's right next door to PST and makes for a pretty foolproof Denny Triangle one-two punch. Pop in with "wine people" or really anyone you want to impress by making it seem like you know your sh*t about terroir, tannins, and the most ideal climate for Sancerre to thrive in. That might make it sound stuffy, but it’s actually a laid-back hang, complete with unpacked wine cases and teeny candles everywhere. No matter what, make sure to get some cured meats and cheese.
G.H. Pasta Co. is a spot where you can get serious fresh pasta for under $20. At this casual lunch restaurant, your delicious plate of carbs will contain things like truffled cacio e pepe, pomodoro rigatoni with burrata, or a chicken bianco ragu with gemelli. And if for some reason you're in here and don't want pasta, there's randomly also a Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich that is very much worth ordering.
Sometimes, stopping somewhere for a quick sandwich in the neighborhood can feel like getting a bartender’s attention on a Saturday night. Market House Meats not only has the best sandwiches in SLU, but it’s also the quietest place to get one. They specialize in cured meats like pastrami and corned beef, and every sandwich here is a winner. They all come with a scoop of tangy potato salad and a knockoff store-brand Oreo, so it makes for a hearty lunch that's way better than a Chipotle burrito bowl, which is what your coworkers are likely feasting upon.
Ramen-Ya Teinei serves some of the city's finest ramen, let alone South Lake Union's, complete with spicy tonkotsu broth that lights up with fiery chili oil and salt content that shines when slurped by itself but also doesn't get in the way of chewy noodles and melty chasu. Grabbing a side of homemade gyoza is non-negotiable, too. Use Teinei for a solo meal, date at the bar while sipping pineapple whisky sours and watching anime on TV, or pile in with coworkers at lunch on a chilly day.
Deep Dive is a fantastic bar that looks like The Little Mermaid’s underwater grotto and serves sophisticated cocktails with ingredients like beets and aquavit—as well as an entire section of the menu devoted to intricate non-alcoholic drinks involving zero-proof spirits like Seedlip, Pathfinder, and Wilderton. There are no windows, a bunch of old books, expensive-looking glass trinkets, and ship replicas on the shelves, which makes drinking here feel like you’re on a cruise with all of the corny elements removed.
This Sichuan spot from the same team behind Plenty Of Clouds is an ideal place for dinner and cocktails that won't be packed (or closed) on a Monday, or somewhere to have a post-work date that's not as chaotic as Tapster. There are soupy bowls of wanza mian with ground pork, tender Chinese broccoli, and chickpeas if the weather is garbage, and when it’s one of those classic Seattle scorchers, go for some cold buckwheat noodles tossed with chicken and pickled vegetables in a chili-spiked soy sauce. Either way, you’ll want an order of outstanding dumplings, stuffed with pork and swimming in a tangy hot and sour broth that stains each wrapper bright orange.
The vegan options in South Lake Union are few and far between, which is where Kati comes in. It all makes for a tasty lunch, whether you're in the mood for a mix-and-match snack spread involving potstickers and garlic-fried jackfruit on sticky rice or just housing a pumpkin curry bowl with tofu. If you’re in charge of planning lunch and you want to do something kind-of-healthy without resorting to a pile of raw romaine, this is your spot.
The roof at Mbar is like the communal patio of an apartment complex that’s designed to lure prospective renters into signing a lease and passive-aggressively fighting over grill usage immediately. You can’t actually live inside this Lebanese spot, but you’ll certainly want to after taking the dramatically suspenseful elevator ride up top to sit among the string lights, fire pits, and Space Needle views. Sip espresso martinis and snack on green pea falafel, salmon kebabs, grilled corn slathered in za’atar mayo, and other stuff that hits just right underneath the sun with a complicated cocktail.
A lunch or dinner at White Swan Public House is very easy to plan. This is a seafood spot on the lake where you can spread out on a picnic table under string lights and be grateful that it’s not February. (Unless it's February.)The best part is how versatile White Swan is—you could keep things casual with fish and chips or a double smashburger alongside an IPA, or celebrate something (anything) with oysters on the half shell and a bottle of Chandon.
Sometimes, the only thing that will make you feel better after a long morning is to sit alone, stare into an empty void, and eat a waffle cone full of soft serve topped with an entire slice of cake. Nana’s is the matcha-themed bakery that’s there for you if you need lunch to be an ice cream parfait, and we love that the earthy green tea flavor is perfectly pronounced without making the whole thing taste like a fistful of lawn mower clippings.
The Butcher’s Table is a fancy steakhouse from the Beecher's team with antique leather barstools and statement piece light fixtures, which might inspire one to use the word “panache” while cutting a seared strip of wagyu. That said, it’s still relaxed enough to show up in jeans and eat a burger and tallow fries at the bar.
You might know Tacos Chukis from their first Capitol Hill location, and we're happy to report that the SLU location is great, too. Hop in for lunch or dinner with some friends, order a plate of the house tacos with adobada grilled pork, avocado salsa, onion, cilantro, and a caramelized square of grilled pineapple, and carry on with your day knowing you’ve made a good decision.
Sometimes there’s a bit of a line at Urban Gyro, but the operation behind the counter is so efficient that you’ll be handed a lamb pita covered in tzatziki in no time. They have a menu full of things like shawarma, falafel, hummus, and Greek salads (as well as chocolate baklava for dessert). While the space is just a small room with a few tables and a counter, so many people grab food to-go here that you’ll always find a place to sit.