Seattle’s on your mind. Maybe because of the millionth cup of bad coffee you had this morning. Maybe because you just graduated with a computer science degree and quickly realized the only way to afford a home in Silicon Valley is to become an actor and star on the show Silicon Valley. Or maybe just because you want a big-city weekend that still involves things like nature and a lack of air pollution.
Whatever the reason, you’re visiting Seattle, and there are plenty of great restaurants and bars you should prioritize in your 72 hours here (most of which are not, in fact, in Pike Place Market). Put on some comfortable sneakers to prep for the hills, pack about seven layers of clothing for the unpredictable weather patterns, and don’t let anyone tell you that carrying an umbrella in the rain will make you look like a stupid tourist. Would you rather look like you rolled around in a street puddle?
BREAKFAST, BRUNCH, & LUNCH
Seattle is the land of coffee, so it follows that the pastries here are good, too. Ignore every other bake shop’s warm bread smells and head straight to Bakery Nouveau for their incredible double-baked almond croissant, which will result in you getting crumbs and powdered sugar and slivered nuts and euphoria all over yourself. Get one to-stay with a hot latte, or take it with you on a walk to Volunteer Park. If sweets aren’t your thing, we fully endorse gnawing on a baguette here as an acceptable breakfast.
Biscuit Bitch is a counter-service breakfast institution, and it’s your duty to eat here while you’re on Seattle soil. The homemade biscuits are great on their own, but if you don’t get the Bitchwich with fried eggs, cheddar, spicy aioli, sausage, and country gravy, you’ve made a mistake. This is the perfect breakfast if you plan to do a day’s worth of hiking.
Porkchop & Co. has some of the best breakfast food in the city, but it’s weirdly devoid of tourists. Get the porchetta benedict with slow-poached eggs and let the happy neighborhood feelings soak in before heading out to the Ballard Locks. Or, skip the anti-climactic sightseeing and have a second round here.
If you’ve lost all control of your free will and must have an $8 Madagascar vanilla cold brew that tastes like farm dirt at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, we can’t stop you. But afterwards, a Spanish mimosa brunch on the rooftop garden at Terra Plata across the street is one of the best ways to redeem your dignity. Always start with the homemade lattice potato chips with truffle salt and pecorino creme fraîche, and end with some aloe vera. The roof is a UV inferno during the summer.
While dinner and weekend breakfast at Stateside are equally outstanding, if you have to pick just one, go with brunch. The tropical-inspired space here is aesthetically pleasing, and so is the homemade coconut yogurt bowl (it tastes good, too). Not to mention that the other dishes like lime leaf sausage banh mi, fried bao eggs benedict, and braised beef pho potstickers are some of the best breakfast things you’ll eat in this city. Don’t forget Vietnamese iced coffee popsicles in place of your morning cup. Or in addition to it. This is Seattle, after all, where coffee runs through our veins.
Il Corvo’s pasta is one of the greatest things to ever come from semolina flour, and eating here should be a ceremonial moment during anyone’s time in Seattle. Arrive at 10:30am to be first in line, and a half-hour later, f*cking incredible bowls of $9.95 weekday lunch pasta await. Yes, this place is only open Monday through Friday from 11am to 3pm, so come here directly from the airport if you must (we have). And if your tour guide is too busy at work to meet you, we still suggest ordering one of each of the three rotating options, plus a plate of housemade focaccia and the shortbread sandwich cookies. Then, we suggest a nap.
This is a Seattle institution, and from its vantage point on the second floor of one of the market buildings, it overlooks the entire chaotic scene that happens at Pike Place from morning until 4pm. Come for lunch (make a reservation), start with homemade potato chips with hot bacon dip, and then transition to the really good fried catfish sandwich that’s been on the menu for over 20 years. And because following all that with an apple slice from the guy downstairs who cuts fruit and hands it out would be pathetic, get the candy bar square - which tastes like a pinkies-up Snickers - for dessert.
Salumi is where to go for cold Italian sandwiches filled with homemade mozzarella, cured meats, and a truly amazing garlic/olive oil/caper spread. They also have a pasta and hot sandwich special daily. It’s a good spot for a quick lunch, but also convenient for grabbing picnic provisions you can eat in the park.
Getting your eyeballs on a great Pacific Northwest view is a very important part of your trip. Marination Ma Kai at Alki Beach is the best place to look at the waterfront skyline and tear through Korean/Hawaiian/Mexican fusion street food like kimchi fried rice and kalbi beef tacos. This place is an ideal spot to drink some lychee margaritas in the summer, but it stays open through the winter, too.
If someone tells you to go to Paseo, immediately cancel your plans with them for the rest of the trip. Anyone who doesn’t know by now that Un Bien is where you should be getting your Caribbean roast pork baguettes is a bad influence. And even though the sandwiches here are massive, always get the fire-roasted corn as a side. Also, plan on not wearing a white shirt. You will get pork and aioli and grilled onions all over yourself, and it’s going to be amazing.
Every city has a good casual burger, and Li’l Woody’s is Seattle’s best. The burgers have that crust that comes from a perfect sear, there’s always a monthly special from a different local chef, and you can order a side of milkshake actually called “Crack” to dip your fries in. This is an excellent place for a post-sightseeing lunch, but even better for a post-Capitol Hill bar crawl at 2am (skip Dick’s).
If this is your first time in Seattle (which we assume it is, since you’re reading this guide), you may be thinking that Pike Place Market seems like a sh*tshow. To your left, there’s a person who just shoved a sample of chocolate-infused pasta at you. To your right, an artisanal lotion-maker is yelling, “Hey, you never have to speak to me again if you just take a sniff of this hand cream!” If the thought of all this human interaction is giving you hives, take a deep breath and just head straight to Market Grill, where you should sit on a barstool and order the amazing blackened salmon sandwich. Enjoy this moment with a Seattle treasure while the chaos swirls around you.
Anchored Ship has the best almond milk latte in the city, a balcony with a full living room furniture set and string lights, and an eco-friendly nail salon through a hallway in the back, just in case you need a fresh coat of polish before Instagram-ing your hand clutching a mug full of foam art. Not to mention there are delicious specials that pop up, like lavender lemon cold brew. There are no reasons for you not to have a cup of coffee here.
Vivace has the artisanal espresso experience that Dr. Frasier Crane would approve of if he were a real person and Cafe Nervosa went out of business. Vivace’s shots are less bitter than a lot of others you’ll find in the city, and on a hot day, their iced mochas are like melted Fudgesicles.
Next to the disgusting brick wall with strangers’ used chewing gum stuck to it is an amazing cafe called Ghost Alley Espresso. Head into this literal hole-in-the-wall for lattes with nut milks like macadamia and flavors like blueberry cheesecake (which sounds awful but actually tastes good). Then, snap your obligatory selfie with several hundred wads of regurgitated Trident.
There are a couple of donut spots the city is famous for, but the only one you need to know about is General Porpoise. They have a hot pink espresso machine, delicious homemade filled donuts (get the vanilla custard), and actual iced coffee instead of cold brews and iced Americanos.
Rachel's Ginger Beer
Rachel’s Ginger Beer, in Pike Place Market, is a good option if you’re not a coffee person, or you’ve reached your monthly caffeine limit since arriving here. All of the insanely good soda flavors on tap - from caramelized pineapple to cucumber tarragon - are housemade. Have one straight up, add soft-serve custard as a float, or make the most of your trip to Pike Place and drink it as a spiked mule.
DINNER & DESSERT
If you come to Seattle and don’t seek out fresh shellfish, get out. The Walrus And The Carpenter is the whimsical holy grail of oysters, and whether you eat them at a table or at the big marble bar, raw or cornmeal crusted, they will be excellent. Get some sparkling rosé and seasonal small plates on the table, too. There will definitely be a long wait, but hopping next door to their sister bar, Barnacle, for a craft cocktail is part of the experience.
Spinasse serves the best Italian food in Seattle. Don’t fight us on this. At least, not until you’ve had forkfuls of fresh cavatelli with perfect braised beef and roasted cherry tomatoes, fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with ricotta and lemon, and the tajarin with butter and sage that both a toddler and a grown adult would find amazing. The dining room is gorgeous, with a marble bar, rustic tables, and ambient noodle sheets hanging from the open kitchen, and the service is phenomenal, too.
If you didn’t read about Junebaby in the seat back pocket magazine on your airplane, or book a trip here solely because of it, you should know that other people will have done those things. And this place is famous for a reason - the simple, modern Southern food is really good. There’s perfect pimento cheese with homemade saltines and pickles, a Friday smoked brisket dinner with mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and a slab of fresh white bread, and fried chicken that you pretty much have to show up at 3pm on a Sunday for. Somebody’s going to be mad at you if you’re in Seattle and don’t have a meal here, so get on that.
Whether or not you previously realized that this city was known for Vietnamese food, you’re going to want some. Ba Bar is where to go to for pho and good times under one roof. Enhance your rice noodle party with some amazing appetizers like grilled lemongrass beef skewers, reasonably-priced Happy Hour cocktails, and a seriously good pastry to-go on your way out.
Vegan restaurants in Seattle are pretty common, and they’ve gotten really good at making plant-based stuff not taste like soil mixed with nutritional yeast. Plum Bistro is to thank/blame for that. It’s a candlelit cocktail spot that has an upscale cafe kind of menu, only sans meat and dairy. Eating here is like having a meal at an urban yoga studio, except with good smells coming from fake reuben sandwiches and General Tso’s cauliflower. The “mac and yease,” which looks like cottage cheese and sadness but tastes like a beautiful magic trick, is worth the trip alone. After dinner, head around the corner to Frankie & Jo’s, their sister bakery on 15th Ave., for a very good nut-milk ice cream cone.
Manolin has a lot of things going for it. The U-shaped bar is gargantuan, there’s a disco ball, and the food is as beautifully plated as it is delicious and reasonably priced. Come for cocktails and the salt and pepper plantain chips, or make a whole meal out of the shareable plates and watch them being cooked on the medieval-looking grill device. The black rice with chorizo and squid will be one of the best things you eat in Seattle.
If you’re in Seattle anytime between October and April, you know the name of this bar makes perfect sense. Damn The Weather is the Pioneer Square bar that’s actually fun to be in when it’s gross outside. If it rains during your trip (and it will), take shelter here with exposed brick, strong drinks, and great bar food - especially the chicken fat fries.
After the one lap around, Pike Place isn’t somewhere we’d suggest you linger. Unless you’re getting dinner at The Pink Door. Behind an unmarked rose gold door is this place that’s part burlesque circus, part Italian trattoria. There’s live acrobatic entertainment, the city’s best lasagna, and a patio with views of Elliott Bay. Just be sure to make a reservation a couple weeks in advance.
Sure, you can also get Salt & Straw in Portland, Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco, but if you are in this city and you don’t wait 25 minutes for a scoop of ice cream infused with Beecher’s cheese and peppercorn toffee, we’re not honestly going to believe you really spent time here. Flavors include simple classics (that are still mindblowingly good), like sea salt with caramel ribbons, but also local collaborations like Ellenos yogurt with matcha and Elm Street coffee with Westland whiskey. You’ll never get those 25 minutes you spent in line back, but that’s nothing compared to a lifetime of regret for not stopping in at all.
Canon is the Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of cocktail spots. The encyclopedic menu has pages and pages of classic mixed drinks and original ones with smokes and rinses in vessels like light bulbs and glass skulls. Once you decide what you want, watch the bartenders gather the ingredients from the bookshelves of liquors so massive they need their own Dewey Decimal System. Then, after one sip of what’s been mixed, you’ll sign a lease to live in Seattle immediately because of the fact that this place exists.
There are a ton of local breweries in Seattle, and you should try to check a few of them off your list. But to come here and not drink a beer at No Anchor would be a mistake, even though a good number of the interesting beers on tap aren’t local. If you can’t decide what you want to sip on, the menu conveniently maps everything on a coordinate plane (with “approachable,” “traditional,” “modern,” and “esoteric” quadrants). And even if you’re not a beer fan, you’ll find something to enjoy here. The eclectic seafood-heavy menu is also outstanding.
You’ll probably stand at the entrance to this spot confused for a second before realizing that you’re in the right place. Swing the nondescript door open, slink past the chain curtain, and suddenly you’ll feel like an extra in a secret agent movie. The inside is very dark, with psychedelic wallpaper, golden tchotchkes, and a disco ball. The cocktails range from an excellent sparkling Expat punch with rooibos vodka and passionfruit to more experimental drinks like the Osaka #1, which contains vermouth, yuzu, and anise smoke. Even if you’re not hungry, you need to get the cheeseburger bao - a glorious bar snack you should experience at least once.
Bait Shop is the chill bar where the locals drink in Capitol Hill. It looks like a roadside tackle store with a ton of nautical memorabilia, and the menu has a daily-rotating frozen cocktail and some of the best french fries and fish sandwiches in the city. If you’re here visiting friends, this is a nice place to share a round booth while playing board games and ordering fruity painkiller slushies all night.
It’s kind of a thing in this city to have food and drink establishments located in retrofitted homes, and Bottlehouse is a perfect example. Eating here feels like having wine and cheese at your fancy friend’s colonial house, and it’s far away from most of the big tourist spots. Note: this is not the place to pound bottles of moscato with your girls in record time before karaoke. This is where a cheesemonger will select food pairings as you swirl your glass around pretending to know about terroir.
Seattle has a deep-rooted history in grunge, which is probably why we’re all OK with drinking in a renovated mortuary. The Pine Box has a great selection of draft beers, and you can drink them while hanging out on the pews of a old funeral home. Be sure to get the chocolate chip cookie while you’re here.
If we had to choose only one spot to day-drink in Seattle, it would be Fremont Brewing Company without question. There’s a huge patio, interesting herb and fruit-infused beers, the good brand of mini pretzels in unlimited quantities, and a fun crowd. The only wrong way to do Fremont Brewing is to not show up at all.