The Best Places To Eat & Drink By The Water
Here’s where to hang out (and eat some good food) near the water—from Lake Washington to Alki Beach.
Seattle is on an isthmus, a geographical landform that you probably learned about in third grade. At the time, you may have been distracted by concepts like photosynthesis, multiplication tables, and books that don't have pictures in them. 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 and drink by the water.
Marination Ma Kai
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 exemplary Hawaiian food like miso ginger chicken tacos, spam sliders, and spicy kimchi fried rice. Grab some lychee margaritas and take a good, long glimpse at the skyline before heading back to your fiery dungeon.
photo credit: Westward
In case you missed it, Westward—a waterfront institution—was purchased by the team behind The Walrus And The Carpenter back in 2018. The result? A slick, coastal-inspired place to slurp briny oysters with a view that reminds you where oysters come from. Their small plates are marginally better than the entrees, so consider Westward an A+ spot for sipping sparkling wine while snacking on potato chips with spicy clam dip, grilled gem lettuces with tomatillo caesar dressing, and baked oysters with 'nduja butter and melty beef lardo (courtesy of Bateau). Bonus points if you do all of your snacking while sitting in a water-facing Adirondack chair.
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Spending time at a renovated boathouse is pretty fitting for a waterfront experience. That's exactly what you can do at Saint Bread, a bakery and cafe that truthfully doesn't have much of a view, but there's still some water you can look at. Mission accomplished, right? Whether you're here for breakfast enjoying a BEC on sugar-dusted melonpan or come for an early lunch to try their incredible smashburger topped with gooey yellow american cheese and hoisin-spiked special sauce, it's a perfect spot for the earlier hours of the day.
When summer hits us like a ton of (relatively painless) bricks, the waterfront balcony at Ray’s is the first place we'd like to be. It's one of those pricey seafood-laden tourist traps that we can't help but love. Stick to fish and chips, crab cakes, and drinks, plus the free bread basket that comes on the side, and it'll be a success. You’re really here to put on your sunglasses, drink some ice-cold Sauvignon Blanc, and take in the view of Shilshole Bay that we can only describe as "sweeping."
Old Stove Brewing Company
If you dried out a new Sharpie marking your calendar with all of the dates when you have out-of-town guests visiting, you probably plan to spend a decent amount of time parading them around Pike Place. When everyone’s had their fill of inspecting used-up wads of gum and sniffing out raw halibut, head to Old Stove Brewing. It’s a massive waterfront space with mash tuns on display, plenty of communal picnic tables, and a menu that has more than just fried snacks—like wood-fired flatbread pizzas, braised pork belly with kimchi, and soft pretzel bites dunked in Beecher’s dip.
Brileys BBQ & Grill
Brileys isn’t exactly on the water, but this BBQ spot still counts, because if you stand up by their patio's railing, you can kind of technically see Lake Washington. An outdoor picnic table here is a great place to spread out with slaw-topped brisket sandwiches, wedges of cornbread, and garlicky honey butter-sauteed vegetables that consistently steal the show.
The Caribbean sandwiches at Un Bien are phenomenal. You know this. We know this. The seagulls that hover around the restaurant scouting out fallen bites sure know it too. But what you need to do while the sun’s hot is order a marinated roast pork baguette and bring it to the beach at Golden Gardens. Summer is synonymous with eating this sandwich, getting the zesty aioli, grilled onions, braised meat bits, and Macrina breadcrumbs all over your clothing, and laughing like a fool without a care in the world.
If you'd like to feel like you're on an island, you could hop a ferry to the San Juans. But for an option that doesn't take three hours, just head to Bongos with your dog and some imagination. It's a colorful renovated gas station on Green Lake complete with a patio covered in sand. Walk, jog, or walk-jog a lap around the lake, and then have at the delicious Caribbean menu—from excellent spicy red shrimp with Cuban rice and beans to a fantastic fried chicken po'boy covered in spicy passionfruit sauce and mango slaw. Make sure the tostones hit the table.
The Independent Pizzeria
If you’re going to Madison Park Beach, The Independent Pizzeria is a convenient stop nearby. They have some of the best charred Neapolitan-style pies in the city, which is ideal whether you stick around on their patio or opt 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 prime duck-watching time.
Picture this: It's summer. You’re asked to choose “a nice seafood place” by someone who will be paying for your meal. You get those flashing cartoon dollar signs in your eyeballs, and know exactly where to go. Aqua is the power play. All of the dishes—from grilled halibut to Dungeness crab mac and cheese—taste like very good wedding catering, and the restaurant is on the waterfront, which means great bay views. If you’re trying to win over some potential clients or introduce your parents to the person you are planning to marry, and you need the venue to do most of the impressing, Aqua is a good choice.
West Seattle Brewing Co.
You’re at West Seattle Brewing Co.'s Tap Shack to gulp beer from a plastic cup, not eat mediocre pizza. Said beer on this beachside deck is a great bet if you're looking for anything from a basic IPA to a toasty amber ale, and there's always a rotating guest cider, too. We can attest that they scientifically taste even better when you’re sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs, staring out onto Alki Beach at the cotton candy sunset you’re inevitably going to take a million phone photos of.
The White Swan Public House
A lunch or dinner at White Swan Public House is very easy to plan. This is a seafood spot on Lake Union where you can spread out on a picnic table under string lights and be grateful that it’s not February. The best part is how versatile this place is—you could keep things casual with fish and chips or a double smashburger alongside local beer, or celebrate something (anything) with oysters on the half shell and a bottle of Chandon.
Agua Verde Cafe
There’s nothing that eases the embarrassment of wiping out on your stand-up paddleboard like eating baja fish tacos on the deck at Agua Verde. This taqueria on the University District side of Portage Bay doubles as a paddle club, so it’s a great option for a post-kayaking lunch. There's usually a long line here for a reason—that reason being the excellent frozen cocktails (even though the sleeper hit is the prickly pear margarita on the rocks), vibrant salsas, a great roasted yam taco with avocado cream, and tortillas made from corn ground in-house.
It almost feels illegal 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 fries while walking past all of the yachts you don’t own.
Fishermen's Green Market & Deli
But if you’d rather have a sandwich while spending time 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 would be a flawless lunch.
Everyone knows that some of the best soft serve comes from a commercially-made ice cream base. And one of the only places in Seattle that understands this is Little Coney. It’s a burger joint in Golden Gardens that has some forgettable burgers and fries but very excellent vanilla and chocolate swirl cones. Strolling along the beach while catching sweet rogue drips with your tongue is one of the best Golden Gardens activities up there with securing a grill before anyone else and not getting hit in the shin with a frisbee.
If you definitely want to look at a body of water while sipping a cocktail and are simultaneously OK with not being directly next to said water, reserve a sofa at The Nest. It’s an upscale rooftop bar with a stupendous view of the Downtown waterfront. Alongside the lineup of drinks are snacks like truffled popcorn, sliders, and skewered meats.
Magnuson Cafe & Brewery
If you’re rolling with a few children who just burned 800 calories playing tag and throwing pebbles around, you need the closest place where you can toss tater tots in their general direction, guzzle down beer, and eat a solid burger. The patio at Magnuson Cafe is huge and looks out onto the water, which is something the kids won’t care about between bites of grilled cheese, but it might be important to your adult friends.
photo credit: Harry's Beach House
Harry's Beach House
With a name like "Harry's Beach House," we're glad that it's on a beach—otherwise that'd just be misleading. This sister spot to Harry's Fine Foods is right on Alki, and has a menu that's pretty customizable to any type of mood. Maybe you got up early and roll through just in time for a pile of french toast. Maybe you're in head-to-toe Ivy Park after an afternoon workout and feel like knocking back oysters (or an entire cheeseburger) with some champagne. Or you might just want cocktails and a side of fries coated in grated pecorino and frizzled herbs. You can do all of that at Harry's, all while getting a good look at Elliott Bay.