Seattle’s on your mind. Maybe because of the millionth cup of bad coffee you had this morning. Maybe you just graduated with a computer science degree and you realize the only way to afford a home in the Silicon Valley is to become an actor and star on the show Silicon Valley. Or, maybe you’re just overdue for some big-city feels, but also enjoy 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 for your first 72 hours here (and you might be surprised to find that they’re not all 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
Since Seattle is the land of coffee, it’s also inevitably the land of pastries. Ignore every other bake shop’s warm bread smells and make moves 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 B * tch 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 B * tchwich 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.
Classic East Coast-style diners don’t really exist in Seattle, which is part of the reason Glo’s is a standout breakfast joint. Prepare yourself for a huge wait at peak brunch times. But at the end of the line are excellent pancakes, waffles, eggs benedict, and perfectly crisp shredded hash browns.
Porkchop & Co. has some of the best breakfast food in the city, but it’s weirdly devoid of any 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 a $7 Madagascar vanilla cold brew at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery that tastes like farm dirt, 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.
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 weekday lunch pasta await. Yes, they’re 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, a plate of housemade focaccia, and the shortbread sandwich cookies. Then, we suggest a nap.
Here’s a fun fact: Mario Batali is from Seattle, and his parents have a weekday lunch-only Italian sandwich shop in Seattle. Salumi is where to go for paninis 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 equally as useful as a spot for a quick lunch as it is for grabbing half a pound of sopressata to-go for a picnic in the park.
The London Plane is a lot of things. It’s an espresso cafe, wine bar, bakery, market, flower shop, and if that wasn’t enough, it’s also a restaurant. Use it if you want to spend a couple of hours somewhere extremely lovely and charming, but also are in the mood for a lighter lunch that’s not just mixed greens with radishes - take chickpea-feta grain salad and rice-crusted halibut in harissa curry for example. Afterwards, have a homemade sea salt chocolate chip cookie.
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 ideal with some lychee margaritas in the summer, but it stays open through the winter too.
You didn’t come to Seattle for tacos, but these ones might be the reason you come back. Tacos Chukis used to be “that secret Mexican hole-in-the-wall in that building upstairs next to that hair salon” and now everyone’s in on it. Get the house tacos (spiced pork, avocado salsa, and grilled pineapple) and a cold bottle of Tecate for a quick, authentic, and cheap taco quickie while exploring Capitol Hill.
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 Lil’ 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).
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. 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 in this literal hole-in-the-wall for lattes with nut milks like macadamia and flavors like Nutella and 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 doughnut 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 doughnuts (get the vanilla custard), and actual iced coffee instead of cold brews and iced americanos.
Rachel's Ginger Beer1530 Post Aly
There are only so many times you can walk up and down the same aisle of Pike Place Market looking at paper clip jewelry and dodging people trying to sell you sticks of hippie wildflower honey before needing a pitstop. Rachel’s Ginger Beer is in the middle of this anarchic tourist chaos, but is also a refreshing break from it. It’s also 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 are housemade, and they come in flavors like caramelized pineapple to pink guava to cucumber tarragon. 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 rose and the seasonal small plates on the table, too. There will definitely be a long wait, but hopping next door at their sister bar, Barnacle, for a craft cocktail is part of the experience.
If you go to Westward two days in a row, you’re doing something right. A glass of champagne while sitting on the Adirondack chairs overlooking Lake Union is a mandatory Seattle rite of passage. The interior is nautical, the outdoor patio reminds us of a wedding cocktail hour, and the Mediterranean/American food is great for any occasion. You’ll see people in suits ordering wine by the bottle and talking about venture capital firms, but also people in flannels and workout pants drinking beers with homemade potato chips. It’s the perfect place to make yourself feel bad you don’t live here, especially if you get the wood-fired gigante beans.
Whether or not you knew 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 candlelight 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, take a walk to Sugar Plum, their sister bakery on 15th ave., for nut-milk soft serve cones to keep the vegan vibes rolling.
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 as it is 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 so Seattle and actually fun to be in when it’s gross outside. If it rains during your trip, 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 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.
Upper Bar Ferdinand is one of those places that just has the Feel Good Factor. There are string lights everywhere, interesting glass wine pours scribbled on a chalkboard, a bottle shop, and the right amount of mood lighting at night. Go in on some housemade cured meats and bread, or make a meal with some small plates and one of the two rotating entrees.
You can’t leave Seattle until you’ve had a large quantity of local ice cream from Molly Moon’s. Everything inside is baby blue and smells like hot waffle cones, and no one will be mad at you for sampling every flavor and then going for the first one you tried. Even the clothes for sale are cute. The best flavor we’ve ever seen rotate through has been salted toffee, but the nutmeg-scented cookie dough ice cream is always around and always really good.
We have a special place in our hearts for Molly Moon’s, but Kurt Farm Shop is by far the best ice cream spot in the city. It’s located inside a tiny woodsy storefront that also sells homemade cheese, their flavors are simple and pure like Jersey cream (literally cream and sugar), and in the summer, a fresh mint and chocolate double-scoop will erase that smug little Boston terrier’s face from your memory.
Canon is the Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of cocktails. 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.
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. Stop in with some friends and a plan to share a round booth playing board games and ordering fruity painkiller slushies all night.
It’s kind of a motif 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 around your glass pretending to tell the difference between chenin blanc and pinot blanc.
You were so excited about the wine scene in Seattle you forgot to look up how far away Walla Walla wine country actually is: about five hours. Oops. You could try Woodinville, but that’s still 20 minutes from the city and you didn’t come here to twiddle your thumbs in a suburb. Jet City is a Georgetown tasting room exclusively pouring Charles Smith wines, one of our favorite local labels. Come here with an hour to kill and get drunk on a million little sips while watching planes take off at the nearby airfield.
Seattle has a deep-rooted history in grunge, which is probably why we’re all okay with drinking a renovated mortuary. The Pine Box has a great selection of taps, 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.