Seattle is on an isthmus, a concept you probably learned about back in third grade. At the time, you may have been distracted by things like photosynthesis, multiplication tables, and finding chapter books utterly exhausting. In any case, what it means is that there’s tons of water all around us. And there’s no better time to appreciate said water than during the summer.
So whether you’re snacking before a kayaking session at Lake Union, getting dinner after a Green Lake jog, or looking out over Alki Beach and remembering last summer’s unfortunately patterned suntan (next time, don’t fall asleep with a handful of Chex Mix on your stomach), here’s where to eat some good food (or grab some takeout) by the water.
You packed your car with beach essentials like sunscreen, a towel, and your iPad. But you forgot snacks. Luckily, once you get to Golden Gardens, you’ll have Miri’s Snack Shack at your disposal. It works perfectly for an afternoon on the shore, whether you want a fruit slushie after a beach jog, a kebab and flatbread for a sunset dinner, or some dessert poffertjes, a.k.a. mini Dutch pancakes that look like golf balls but taste way better.
It’s hot. You’re sitting in your apartment with a frozen bag of corn on your face, cursing yourself for not having invested in an AC unit for those five unbearably hot days of the year. The solution: Marination Ma Kai. You’ll be upgrading to breezy Alki Beach, plus you get to eat some delicious food like miso ginger chicken tacos and spam sliders. The main patio here is still closed, but you can snatch a picnic table in the front to eat your takeout and glimpse at the skyline from the adjoining pier before heading back to your fiery dungeon.
When it gets really hot out, the waterfront balcony at Ray’s is the first place we'd like to be. Ray’s doesn’t have the best seafood in Seattle - stick to fish and chips, crab cakes, and drinks (plus the free bread basket that comes on the side). You’re really here to put on your sunglasses, drink some ice-cold wine, and take in the view.
Brileys isn’t exactly on the water, but this BBQ spot still counts because if you stand up by their patio railing, you can kind of see Lake Washington. Their picnic table-lined patio is a great place to spread out with delicious slaw-topped brisket sandwiches and wedges of cornbread.
The Caribbean sandwiches at Un Bien are legendary. You know this. We know this. But what you need to do while the sun’s hot is order a roast pork baguette and bring it to the beach at Golden Gardens. Summer is eating this sandwich, getting the aioli, grilled onions, and breadcrumbs all over your clothing, and laughing like a fool without a care in the world.
Nobody’s taking a vacation right now, but you can still feel like you’re on an island - just head to Bongos, a colorful renovated gas station on Green Lake where the patio is covered in sand. Do a lap around the lake, then work your way through the delicious Caribbean menu, from excellent spicy shrimp with Cuban rice and beans to slow-cooked pork sandwiches that rival Un Bien’s. Make sure the tostones with cilantro sauce hit the table (or takeout bag).
If you’re going to Madison Park Beach, The Independent Pizzeria is a convenient takeout stop nearby. They have some of the best charred Neapolitan-style pies in the city, ideal for grabbing and going. Order a round of cider tallboys, a margherita, the clam pie, and the farmer pizza with speck and egg before seamlessly transitioning to some beach time.
First things first: you’re here for the drinks, not the pizza. Said drinks are pretty simple, ranging from a nice IPA to a toasty amber ale to a rotating guest cider. They taste even better when you’re sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs, looking out onto Alki Beach at the inevitable cotton-candy-colored sunset you’re going to take a million photos of.
A lunch or dinner at White Swan Public House is very easy to plan. This is a counter-service spot on Lake Union where you can spread out on a picnic table under string lights and be thankful it’s not February. The best part is how versatile this place is - you could keep things casual with fish and chips or a prawn po’boy alongside local beer, or celebrate with fresh oysters and a bottle of sparkling wine.
There’s nothing that eases the embarrassment of wiping out on your stand-up paddleboard quite like eating a handful of coconut tempura-battered fish tacos on the deck at Agua Verde. This place on Portage Bay doubles as a paddle club, so it’s a great option for a post-kayaking lunch. They have excellent frozen cocktails (but the sleeper hit is the prickly pear margarita on the rocks), and while you might have to wait for a table, the outdoor area is perfect for that.
It almost feels wrong to hang out by a dock full of boats and not eat fish and chips. Thankfully, Salmon Bay has Little Chinook’s - a seafood stand that serves all different kinds of fried fish and potatoes. From tempura-battered salmon to panko-breaded halibut, you’re in good hands here as you eat and walk past all the yachts you don’t own.
But if you’d rather have a sandwich while hanging out at Salmon Bay, we’re huge fans of “The Corleone” from Fishermen’s Deli. This beautiful thing is kind of like what would happen if an Italian sub watched the hit 1999 Mary Kate and Ashley film Passport To Paris - there’s ham, salami, capicola, chopped cherry peppers, smoked gouda, and dijonaise on a baguette. That and a big bag of potato chips on the dock sounds like a flawless lunch.
Pablo Y Pablo is great for three things: when you want tacos and margaritas before heading to Gas Works Park, when you want tacos and margaritas while you’re at Gas Works Park, or when you want tacos and margaritas after a visit to Gas Works Park. This Mexican spot’s sidewalk patio is open for dine-in service, but you can also bring takeout and to-go cocktails to the park if you’d rather have a picnic. With tacos and margaritas.
This Mexican spot in Eastlake has a fantastic view of Lake Union, which looks even better after you’ve had a few tequila drinks at their picnic table on the balcony. If watermelon margaritas are in season, you’re going to want some of those, too. Food-wise, go for the guacamole and queso with chorizo - anything that you can dip their homemade flour tortilla chips in.
Leschi is a good place to go for a stroll along Lake Washington - in part because you can grab something to eat at Meet The Moon. It’s a great neighborhood spot with some tasty breakfast options (including a cinnamon roll you need to hold with two hands), but it’s open all day in case you’d prefer dinner in the form of spicy fried chicken sandwiches or carnitas tacos. And if you’re not interested in cutting your walk short, take an ahi tuna poke bowl and a green chile pineapple mule to go.
Avoiding other humans in a city is hard, but for a nice waterfront area where you shouldn’t run into too many others, Portage Bay is a winner. Little Lago is really the only food establishment in the neighborhood, but it, too, is a winner. It’s an Italian grocery market and bakery that doubles as a pizzeria, so whether you’re looking to get charcuterie, crackers, and jam, or a wood-fired margherita pie, it’s a perfect place to grab some lunch to bring down to the water.
Everyone knows that the best soft serve comes from a commercially-made ice cream base. And one of the only places in Seattle that understand this is Little Coney. It’s a burger joint in Golden Gardens that has some excellent vanilla and chocolate swirl cones - grab one and walk along the beach.
If you’re OK with not being directly next to a body of water, but you definitely want to look at it while sipping a cocktail, you could get a reservation at The Nest. It’s an upscale rooftop bar with a pretty damn breathtaking view of the Downtown waterfront. Alongside the lineup of drinks are snacks like truffled popcorn, sliders, and skewered meats.
Elliott’s is a reliable place to sit outside, drink some white wine, and eat fresh oysters on the bay for a few hours. Add a side of fries or crab cakes or pesto salmon sliders, and repeat until you’re happy. Ideally it wouldn’t take all day, but at least if it did you’d have a lot of oysters and wine in your stomach.
The patio at Bent Burgers is temporarily closed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a mushroom swiss burger, fries, and an Oreo shake with you to Seward Park. They have a ton of options, from gluten-free buns and vegan patties to seafood and chicken wings. And if you feel particularly hungry, there’s a burger with a hot link, candied bacon, fried eggs, and two grilled cheese sandwiches for buns.