Ah, the hill. Everyone’s clutching iced Americanos, stale smells of Dick’s fryer oil can be sniffed out from just about anywhere on Broadway, and if you shot a lemon drop for every cotton candy-colored hairstyle, French bulldog, and brand-new apartment complex you passed, you’d be blitzed. Sure, it doesn’t have the same charm as some other areas in Seatown (or particularly affordable rent), but we still find ourselves constantly lured to the neighborhood directly east of I-5. Capitol Hill is a local’s playground. And as for the arsenal of A+ places to eat? Those are our kind of monkey bars. Here’s where to play.
A fun space complete with a replica tree, cheesy garlic-butter shrimp tacos, and margaritas served in clay bowls. This Mexican spot is owned by one big family, and you can expect to consume copious amounts of delicious things like cochinita pibil and carne asada while you’re here. There are nine different kinds of steak on the menu, ranging from thin-sliced wagyu to a 44 oz. tomahawk (eat the whole thing if you need a win). Come with a group, split a molcajete of guacamole, and do not miss the aforementioned garlic butter shrimp tacos.
Single Shot is one of our favorite Capitol Hill date night spots - not just because it’s far removed from the noise and hot dog cart smells of Pike/Pine, but also because the dining room is attractive, there’s a big marble bar, and everything on the menu, from the cold potato and crab salad to the seared steak to the margherita flatbread with prosciutto, is excellent. Pull up a seat at the bar, order a bottle of sparkling wine, and there’s no possible way to screw this up.
Joining the ranks of awesome restaurants in quiet pockets of the neighborhood is Harry’s Fine Foods, a little corner spot that reminds us of a fancy parlor and a general store combined. This place just has the Feel Good Factor™, and it also happens to have very good negronis. Food ranges from lasagna to braised short ribs to crudo to one of our favorite cheeseburgers in the city. You would do well to get that burger, plus crispy herbed french fries with green “601” sauce.
So your boss invited you to dinner, but asked you to pick the spot. No pressure. Cascina Spinasse is what you pull out of your hat (as long as you also make a reservation). Inside, the surroundings at this Italian place feel somewhere between upscale and homey, with reclaimed wood and a marble bar. While there are only three handmade pastas on rotation, ricotta cavatelli typically makes an appearance, and it’s always stellar. When the weather warms up, sip something cold from the long wine list and snack on fried zucchini blossoms with a date.
Cook Weaver is a little spot that’s so discreet you might walk right past it without realizing it’s a restaurant. Don’t do that. The menu combines flavors from Europe and Asia, with delicious results. You can expect things like Vietnamese crepes, or green pea spaetzle with fermented black beans, parmesan, and beurre blanc. The decorations in the small space - including some stained glass windows and floor-to-ceiling murals - are pretty striking. It’s best to visit with a few friends and order a bunch of plates to share.
There’s ice cream, and then there’s Salt & Straw. It comes from Los Angeles, Portland, and San Francisco, it’s on a whole other playing field, and it’s by far the best frozen thing you can get in this city. Flavors range from gooey chocolate brownie to pear and blue cheese, Ellenos matcha frozen yogurt, and Beecher’s with peppercorn toffee. It’s all amazing, but you’d better clear your schedule - the line is no joke.
One of the best fast-casual meals in Capitol Hill comes from Katsu Burger, and it consists of a deep-fried cheeseburger and fries covered in roasted seaweed. It sounds like an afternoon nap waiting to happen, but it’s actually not that heavy unless you order the triple-stacked Mt. Fuji (which has a fried egg, bacon, and three cheeses). Grab a low-key dinner with a few friends in the brightly colored space, and whatever you do, always add a green tea milkshake.
If we had a dollar for every Thai restaurant in Seattle, we’d have a lot of dollars. There are so many good Thai options in this city, and this laidback spot is one of our favorites. Get yourself a mason jar of Thai iced tea and a platter of crunchy, creamy lime zest chicken, gather some humans you don’t hate, and you’ve got a summer al fresco lunch perfect for people-watching on Pine Street.
VPC is like IHOP. It’s packed like sardines at breakfast, but it always proves calmer at night. It feels like a cross between a bistro and a farmhouse, and serves excellent brunch baguette sandwiches. But it’s even better for dinner - and not too many locals know that, which means you can easily get a reservation. Also important: they have good cake. After a twilight walk around Volunteer Park, take someone special and order the mini chicken pot pie with two forks. Is that a ring in your pocket? Propose. She will say yes.
Quinn’s is a classy pub that’s perfect for most situations. Kick it here for dinner with parents, or a date, or even a birthday - with craft beers on tap and snacks that put average pub food to shame. Did you want fries? How about frites with fontina and veal demiglace? Oh, a pretzel? Cute. Have some welsh rarebit (fancy liquid cheese) on the side. What about a Sloppy Joe? Sure, but it’ll be made with boar and topped with a duck egg. Plus, they now take reservations.
Here’s how our routine at La Cocina Oaxaceña goes: we order the camarones al mojo (shrimp marinated in a lime and garlic sauce that contains enough chile to burn your entire face off). It makes us cry and sweat and chug margaritas and spew profanities. We tell everyone we’re with that we will never do it again. And then we come back and get those devil prawns again. And again. La Cocina is a casual Mexican restaurant that’s perfect for a last-minute group dinner, marathon tequila drinking, or just a serious taco session.
Bateau is not the steakhouse where you’ll find power suits, leather booths, and darkness. It’s actually fairly dainty, with the exception of the glass display of raw cow torsos, the burger that gets a standing ovation followed by a slow-clap followed by us mouthing the words “proud of you, kid,” and the price tag. It’s light and bright and pretty much the opposite of every other steakhouse you’ve ever eaten in. Just don’t bring your vegetarian friends - even the fries are made with beef (tallow).
“That’s odd… Did I just stumble into a taqueria that looks like a suburban KFC?” Yes, you did, but at Rancho Bravo you’ll find kickass tacos for less than a fiver, and nothing weird in the bathroom. Authenticity is the name of the game here, and takeout is always fast. But if you want to eat in, the back patio covered in twinkling string lights keeps the mood festive, and the monsoon of spicy pork, chipotle crema, and cotija cheese keeps the taco salad counterproductive.
Twice-baked almond croissant. That’s all you need to know about this place. Sit down and get it and don’t you dare share any with your friend. Slivers of toasted nuts and powdered sugar will end up everywhere, but there’s nothing more satisfying than braving the long morning line to stake out a table and having some quality time with your pastry and a hot latte. Oh yeah, and your friend.
If you had to choose between your significant other and a grass-fed burger with a basket of queso fries from Lil’ Woody’s, let’s just say you would need to blast some really, really sad music and start packing your things. Lil’ Woody’s is perfect for a lunch meetup or to refuel before a Friday night out (only to return at 2am for second dinner). The menu has a solid lineup of classics, plus more creative choices in case you want housemade pickled figs on your burger. You can get a side of milkshake for your handcut fries (do that), and no burger here is a wrong choice, including the vegan Impossible burger, which we think is actually kind of convincing.
Annapurna Café is one of the better things to ever happen to a basement. What the dining room lacks in sunlight it makes up for in friendly service and some of the tastiest Indian food in the city. Wait times are typically short, but if you encounter a crowd you can head upstairs to the Yeti Bar and order a saffron-lychee cocktail. And if your table suddenly materializes? You’re allowed to bring your drinks downstairs with you, because there’s no time to be wasted when piles of garlic naan, momo dumplings, and lamb curry are at stake.
When you must have f*cking incredible chicken and waffles, no matter the time of day, Witness is there for you. Then there are honey butter hush puppies, poutine made with pimento cheese, and cocktails that make us want to roll around under a willow tree in Georgia. Those are all there for you, too.
Yes, this is Washington, not California. But you still deserve to destroy a pile of tacos and a cold Tecate in one breath. Tacos Chukis used to be “that secret taqueria in that building on Broadway with the tattoo parlor and hair salon,” but now the entire universe is in on it. And for good reason - fast, cheap, and messy, this place does you right every single time. Hop in for lunch or a pre-bar-hop dinner with some friends, wait in line and skulk around for a table, order a massive plate of the house tacos (seasoned grilled pork, guacamole, onion, cilantro, and a square of grilled pineapple), and carry on with your day knowing you’ve made one excellent decision.