Capitol Hill has some of our favorite restaurants and bars in the entire city. But it can feel like one big party - and occasionally you don’t want the soundtrack of your dinner to be a sorority reunion pounding lime jello shots and scream-singing “Call Me Maybe.”
So when you want to eat good food but also hear at least 90% of the things your dinner companion(s) are saying, here are 11 places to try. They’re quiet in the best way possible.
Harry’s Fine Foods is a small neighborhood spot on a residential stretch of Bellevue Ave., and it’s kind of like a cross between a corner market and your aunt’s fancy parlor room where you weren’t allowed to touch anything. (There aren’t so many rules here.) Though the menu is short, there’s a good range of dishes - from sandwiches to crudo to lasagna to braised short ribs. The pastry chef might even come out of the kitchen to casually chat about the desserts he prepared that day. For a quiet solo meal, sit at the bar with a seasonal negroni, plus the cheeseburger and delicious french fries with crispy herbs, a tangy green “601 sauce,” and pecorino cheese.
When you want to escape the Pike/Pine noisiness but stay in Capitol Hill, head to 19th Avenue - it’s like a whole other very calm dimension. A particularly relaxing place to eat on this block is Monsoon, the sister restaurant of Ba Bar (our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the city). Monsoon has a great menu, too - but we’re particular fans of their Happy Hour, where you can get discounted snacks like tamarind chicken skewers, shrimp chips, imperial rolls, and sausage sliders with hoisin aioli.
Cook Weaver is in that stone-covered strip mall-type building on Roy that you always walk by and wonder about. It’s a small space with striking decorations, including some stained glass windows and murals painted in the 1930s. The dishes here combine flavors from Europe and Asia, so you can expect things like Vietnamese crepes, green pea spaetzle, and brisket bibimbap with hominy. Come with a few friends and order a bunch of plates to share, then enjoy eating, drinking cocktails, and not needing to repeat every third thing you say.
15th Avenue isn’t as flashy as 10th-12th, so it often gets overlooked. We’re here to say f*ck that noise. Literally. Smith earns a place in this guide because of its serene space that feels kind of like a fancy lumberjack’s cabin (not least because of the taxidermy on the walls). They happen to have a great burger, not to mention some of our favorite cocktails in the neighborhood, like a margarita with frozen watermelon cubes. You won’t find that in the woods, or on 12th Ave.
If Single Shot were in the Pike/Pine area, it would probably be packed all the time, but we’re glad it’s not. The whole spot is just one attractive little room with a marble bar, candles, and the perfect level of ambient noise. No sidewalk-shaking bass drops here. For a low-key date, get some cocktails and the delicious margherita flatbread. Or share some small plates and a nice piece of fish or steak.
In the mornings, it takes Olympic-level speed to grab a table here, and once you do, you’ll have to compete with a healthy level of noise from hungry toddlers (among other guests). But at dinnertime, it’s great for a quiet night out, especially if you’re coming with your parents and they want to hear all about those plans to move home you’re definitely not making. Simple dishes like kale caesar, chicken pot pie, and braised brisket with polenta are excellent across the board, and the space is nice enough for special occasions, parent-related or not.
Some of the taquerias in Cap Hill are so noisy that they could practically host marching band practice sessions without anyone noticing. Not D’ La Santa, a Mexican steakhouse in the northwestern corner of the neighborhood. The relative quiet here is a good thing - it means you can enjoy their margaritas, garlic butter shrimp tacos, tortas, and steak dishes while also paying very close attention to the detailed plan your friend is developing for her birthday party next month. You definitely want to memorize it now, before you get in trouble for not remembering it later.
So you’re in the market for someplace quiet to eat dinner with friends, but you also don’t want to feel like your friendly game of Uno is disturbing the peace. Bait Shop - part nautical fish fry spot, part tropical tiki bar - is the perfect place to go. Whether you’re hitting it as a pit stop before a bar crawl, or grabbing a booth to spend the night playing games, this place will be just the right level of lively. Get the painkiller slushie (rum, pineapple, coconut, orange, nutmeg, and cinnamon), and keep in mind that you can add pineapple or bacon to anything on the menu. We recommend them with the fish tacos, in particular.
You’re on a fourth date, and you want to impress this person with a classy night that’s not too over-the-top. Bar Ferdinand is a romantic spot in the middle of the Pike/Pine area where you can eat excellent food (like homemade bread, cured meats, and wood-fired pizzas) but also not feel like you need to keep saying “What?” There are candles and string lights, plus lots of great wine (which you can also buy from the bottle shop on your way out).
It’s a weeknight, but there’s a wait for a table at Annapurna Cafe. Plus, you know it’s going to be pretty noisy there. If you’re feeling flexible, just go upstairs and eat at Yeti Bar, their sister spot, where you’ll find alcoholic slushies and an impressive lineup of Indian, Tibetan, and Nepali snacks. Just don’t tell anyone else about this strategy - because then more people will come to Yeti Bar on purpose and infect it with noise. It’s perfect for a light meal with friends, or a low-key date night.
You overdid it on Crown Royal shots last night, and you need to be in a space with minimal levels of light and sound. For the ultimate “leave me alone, or else” dinner, Pinto is a winner. It’s quiet inside, the menu has a mix of great Japanese and Thai dishes, and the volume of the music won’t leave you wanting to bang your head on the table in hungover agony. If you do feel yourself starting to recover, though, the Happy Hour deals are also pretty good.