The Casual Weeknight Dinner GuideWhere to go in Seattle when you want a low-key meal during the week.
Most weeknights are not about pulling out all the stops. You’re probably cooking dinner from the almost-expired ingredients in your fridge, or looking to plan something casual. In the latter case, you need a place where you won’t have to wait for a table, dress up, or pay a ton of money. Whether you’re solo, on a low-key date, or getting your friends together for some midweek group therapy, our guide will help you pick the perfect spot.
For casual French food, it really doesn’t get better than Cafe Presse. You shouldn’t have trouble grabbing a table here on a weeknight, and the classics like croque-madames, butter lettuce salads, and pommes frites with lemon mayo are all very good additions to your random Tuesday. Not only that, but the space is low-key and elegant at the same time, so you could either come for a date or bring your laptop and grab an espresso if you still have work to do.
Even if you don’t plan in advance and get a reservation, it’s usually easy to get a spot at the bar at Casco Antiguo, where you can eat some of Seattle’s best Mexican food in a space full of exposed brick, wood, and air plants. A big plate of fluffy fish tacos, plantain black bean empanadas, and braised pork enchiladas is perfect when a takeout burrito eaten on your couch just isn’t going to do the trick, and you could even do a coworker Happy Hour with chips and salsa before transitioning to a full dinner. Toast to your good decision with an on-tap margarita.
Eating a Hawaiian plate lunch and drinking creamy Thai iced tea with some friends at Buddha Bruddah makes a weeknight feel undeniably less like a weeknight. Plus, the staff is super friendly, there’s a DIY hot sauce bar, and you can order an entire coconut cream pie. The best thing to do, especially with a group, is to get a bunch of things - like charred huli huli ginger chicken, garlicky shrimp, spicy pork, pad thai, and, yes, pie - and split them.
This tiny Middle Eastern spot with colorful bar stools and decorative paintings of chickpeas on the walls is an excellent place for a weeknight dinner. The menu is full of fresh homemade hummus in different varieties, like one topped with tahini and crispy falafel balls, and a half-mashed version with lemon and garlic. Then there’s a good cucumber salad and some standout “cheeps” (delicious french fries with a tahini dip). Overall, a good stop for something quick in Capitol Hill.
Tapas Lab is a fast-casual, Asian-Spanish-fusion tapas spot and wine bar, and it’s the kind of place that will make you realize you’ve always needed bulgogi pinchos (topped with parmesan cheese and garlic aioli) in your life. The counter-service situation works perfectly for when you want to do a weeknight dinner with friends who might come and go (like Bill, who leaves early to walk the dog every time), but don’t want to sacrifice food quality just so you can eat somewhere easy. Even though a truffled steak is only $14 and the spicy chorizo-stuffed meatballs are only $6, these dishes are on the fancier side for the low price. Grab a glass of cava or a graduated cylinder full of beer (it is a “Lab,” after all) to pair with the excellent small plates.
You could unearth that old box of mac and cheese from the depths of your pantry, and make that for dinner. Or you could go eat some delicious pho in a colorful space with Chainsmokers saxophone covers playing in the background. Pho Viet Anh is a Vietnamese noodle soup institution, and one reason we like it so much is that you can choose between four different broths with any type of protein: beef, chicken, vegan, or spicy beef (you’re going to want the spicy beef if you can take it). Get an order of the fried pork and shrimp spring rolls, too.
One of the best places in Seattle for casual, counter-service Thai. It’s hard to feel too sorry for yourself and your sh*tty Monday when you’re sipping from a giant mason jar mug of Thai iced tea and eating some creamy lime chicken with turmeric rice. Not only that, but the noodle dishes here are also big enough that you’ll be set for lunch for the next day or two. Maybe you’ll even inspire your coworker who’s always microwaving fish at noon to branch out. That would be a real win.
This Mexican place in Capitol Hill has a lot going for it. Whether you’re by yourself or out with your entire Dungeons & Dragons campaign, you should be able to get a table with no wait. The tortilla chips are fried fresh when you order them, and they’re also free and unlimited, as is the salsa bar. (But don’t fill up on chips, because the non-chip food is delicious.) Somehow, not everyone in Seattle has caught on to this place’s greatness yet, which only means more braised pork and spicy shrimp for us. And you.
When all you really want is a bucket of fried chicken, but you need to do something more than a drive-thru for your own personal morale, try Ma’ono. You’ll get an amped-up version of a fried chicken dinner, served with chili dipping sauce, roasted corn with miso caramel and furikake, and mac and kimchi cheese on the side (the food here is a mix of Korean and Hawaiian). Bring your friends, get a huge table, and don’t forget the cacao nib crust banana cream pie afterwards.
Ciudad is a place where you can eat a sort-of-healthy dinner that’s still fun. They do charcoal-grilled meats priced by weight, plus Middle Eastern mezze, flatbreads, and fresh vegetable dishes, all in an industrial space in Georgetown. Get some hummus, the hanger steak with chimichurri, and an order of charred snap peas, and don’t look at the creepy mural of demonic creatures if you get frightened easily.
While the wait for Frelard’s New York-style pizza is nuts on the weekends, on a Tuesday night, it’s pretty easy to find a big wooden table inside right away. If your baggy-eyed friend who has four kids and desperately needs to get out of the house shows up without a sitter, there’s even a play area where the kids can amuse themselves while you enjoy your charcuterie, pizza, and wine.
Mexican spot Agua Verde is one of our top weeknight go-tos when it’s hot out, but even if the outdoor deck is closed for the season, you can still come and stare longingly at the gray wasteland of a marina while eating coconut-battered fish tacos. Drink enough frozen mango margaritas and you may even feel inspired to put your sunglasses on.
If you just spent a few hours and way too much money on random kitchen supplies at the University Village, and the thought of waiting an hour for a table at Din Tai Fung makes you want to sit down and have a good cry, Hokkaido Santouka Ramen is your post-errand weeknight dinner power play. Grab a booth, order the miso ramen with gyoza combo, and try desperately to forget that it’s only Monday.
Mean Sandwich is like a classic deli with a slight twist. There’s a corned beef sandwich with mustard and cabbage, but also some fresh mint. And a chicken cutlet sandwich with provolone, but buffalo mayo instead of tomato sauce. There are chips, too, but they’re actually fried potato skins. Grab a booth with friends, and be sure to get a bread pudding (made with day-old sandwich buns) to take home for later.
Little Ting’s, in Greenwood, is one of the city’s most reliable spots for an inexpensive dim sum meal. It’s bit of a trek, but you’ll be rewarded with tasty pork and chive dumplings and bao buns. The best part: leaving with a stomach full of delicious dim sum and no regrets about the amount of money you just spent (most of the 15-count dumpling plates are around 10 bucks).
This place has some of the best Indian and Nepalese food in the city. The entrees come out of the kitchen incredibly quickly, and you’ll definitely be able to hear yourself think (or your dinner companion talk), since it’s not usually busy. Split some chicken tikka masala and aloo gobi with basmati rice, box up the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and cap the night off with some mango soft serve.
Nothing says “I am spontaneous” like getting awesome Chinese food while playing skee-ball at a karaoke bar on a Tuesday night. New Luck Toy is a fantastic spot for partying with your friends on the weekend, but on weeknights, you’re more likely to get a table without a wait. The menu is very good across the board, from the honey pecan prawns to the salt-and-pepper spare ribs, and hanging out here is the perfect way to escape the reality that you actually need to be a functioning human tomorrow.
When it’s the middle of a garbage week, you get to eat whatever the f*ck you want for dinner. Katsu Burger is a counter-service space with a Godzilla mural, local beer and sake, and beef katsu sandwiches - in other words, deep-fried cheeseburgers. They also have pork and chicken katsu, fries tossed in roasted seaweed flakes (dip them in the spicy mayo), and matcha green tea milkshakes to wash everything down.
You’re not 21 anymore, but you can still party on a weeknight. For a good time and even better Cuban food, check out Mojito, a colorful spot in Maple Leaf. You’re here for arepas, braised pork, tostones, seafood, and obviously mint, lime, and rum cocktails. If the owner gives your group a round of tequila shots, don’t ask questions. Pretend you still get 21-year-old hangovers, and enjoy.