Where To Have A Casual Meal Near UW
13 spots for something low-key and quick near campus.
The University Of Washington is so huge that it contains a whole neighborhood - The University District. If you don’t feel like crashing a student organization meeting to steal some free Pagliacci, there are a ton of restaurants to choose from. Whether you’re trying to find drunk food after a Huskies game, fueling up after shopping on The Ave, or showing your parents that you can survive without a meal plan, consult this guide for the best places near UW to grab a low-key lunch or dinner.
Little Duck looks like a quaint schoolhouse and smells like warm pork dumplings. After diving into the excellent double-cooked pork in sweet and sour sauce, dry-fried spicy chicken, and corn with pine nuts, you’ll probably be cured of any homesickness you currently have - even if you’re from Seattle.
If you spent all day shopping downtown, take the light rail back to the U-District, get off at the UW stop, and walk to nearby restaurant Agua Verde. The Mexican food at this spot on Lake Union ranges from massive burritos to coconut tempura-battered fish tacos, all of which will taste great after lugging your Nordstrom Rack purchases on the light rail. Even if you pop in for a round of prickly pear margaritas and some on guacamole and chips, hanging out here can turn a boring Tuesday into a fun night.
Chi Mac serves great Korean fried chicken, whether you’re craving it by yourself or want to bring a rowdy group of six with you. We prefer ordering the wings, which are flavorful, saucy, and have an ideal crunch, but you can’t go wrong getting one of their chicken sandwiches either. The best sauces are their spicy gochujang and the parmesan cheese and onion powder they call “snow.” They’re open until 1:30am Thursday-Sunday, too, so it’s a great choice if you need something to soak up the terrible AMF slushies you had at Earl’s - or if you want some food alongside one of Chi Mac’s frozen towers of soju and beer.
If you’re looking for a healthier lunch option, go to Broadfork Cafe. It’s an all-vegan spot that serves salads, coffee, juice, and sandwiches that would make a vegetarian happy, but also satisfy an omnivore who drinks bacon-flavored vodka on the weekends. We like meeting a friend here to catch up over pastries, peanut butter cup smoothies, and the very tasty artichoke melt.
Supreme has the best pies in the neighborhood, and come with creative topping combinations like coppa ham, ricotta, and ghost chili. It’s usually not difficult to grab a table - and it’s pretty easy to finish an order of scallion garlic knots (or two) while you wait for your pizza to bake.
At Sizzle & Crunch, you can order a banh mi, rice bowl, or salad on an assembly line with a wide variety of marinated meats, pickled vegetables, and sauces. There’s plenty of seating upstairs if you don’t feel like bringing your banh mis to somebody’s apartment to “study” (AKA play three hours of Mario Kart).
Mr. Lu's Seafood & Burgers
American in University District
- Perfect for
- Casual Weeknight Dinner
- Cheap Eats
- Late Night Eats
- Quick Eats
There are quite a few casual burger spots on The Ave, but the only one you need to know about is Mr. Lu’s. The cheeseburgers and loaded waffle fries are satisfying, inexpensive, and make for a quick meal. Come here after you drink multiple beers at a Huskies game and feel like chugging an Oreo milkshake.
Xi’an Noodles is a counter-service spot that serves reasonably-priced Szechuan noodles, stewed pork sandwiches, and wontons in chili oil. The spicy cumin lamb is the best dish here, and it’ll clear up whatever rain-induced sinus thing you have going on. Get a bunch of different plates with some friends and pass them around.
Resist the urge to go to Ku Sushi across the street even though they constantly have a huge banner outside advertising 50% off all of their rolls. Village Sushi is way better, and you won’t find 30 UW students crammed inside eating cheese corn either. The dining room at Village Sushi looks kind of looks like a slick basement recording studio after hours - it’s never too crowded and is filled with vinyl and different instruments. Order some tasty dynamite rolls, seared fluke and skipjack nigiri, and pretend like you’re a high-powered recording executive.
At first glance, Aladdin Gyro-Cery looks like a takeout-only place where you can get some delicious falafel. But there’s an entire dining room in the back complete with big tables, chairs, and even a couple of sofas if you’re confident enough to eat a pita sandwich on a couch without spilling tahini all over the place. Make sure you don’t mistake this spot for another, significantly worse gyro place on the same street, which also has Aladdin in its name.
Skip the busy line at Thai Tom and go to Amazing Thai. There’s always a table or space at the counter available if you want to pop in for a quick meal. The Thai food here is delicious, too, from sweet and sour pad Thai to the chicken-and-vegetable stir fry that we’d happily eat a few days in a row. This sometimes ends up happening anyway, because the portions are so hearty that you end up with a ton of leftovers.
Guanaco's Tacos Pupuseria
Mexican in University District
- Perfect for
- Gluten-Free Options
The pupusas at Guanaco’s are delicious - they’re stuffed with ingredients like cactus, pork, cheese, and vegetables, come out fast, and go great with the house hot sauce. While we’re big fans of these filled masa pockets, the menu here has a ton of variety - you could also order a burrito, tacos, tamales, or empanadas. It’s a great spot to hit on a weeknight evening for a quick meal if you have other plans, like seeing how many graduate classes you can sneak into without anyone noticing that you’re not actually a student.
Cedars In University District
Indian in University District
- Perfect for
- Casual Weeknight Dinner
- Outdoor/Patio Situation
- Serious Take-Out Operation
Located in a big house (with a porch and all), Cedars feels like you’re actually eating Indian food in somebody’s home. The portions of curries and appetizers are hearty - especially the naan, which is excellent, and practically the size of a hubcap. Use Cedars for a sit-down birthday dinner or lunch with the parents when you need somewhere “nice” that isn’t a counter-service spot.