Seattle Dining

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Seattle Dining
Local, sustainable, and seasonal are the trifecta of Pacific Northwest cuisine, which is all about finding the best ingredients and presenting them as simply as possible. This obsession with quality informs Seattle's approach to everything from small-batch coffee to fresh seafood and craft cocktails. Here's what to eat!
By Amanda Castleman, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Zack Bent/Lark
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    Pacific Northwest Cuisine
    Where else in the world can you sample local elk, salmon, Dungeness crab, and even edible flowers? Canlis may be the go-to stop for many Seattle visitors, but Lark, Sitka & Spruce, and the Butcher’s Table represent the region beautifully and in their own way. Not to mention community-supported agriculture and farm-to-table restaurants like Café Hitchcock or FareStart, a nonprofit that trains and employs people who have struggled with poverty, addiction, and incarceration.
    Photo courtesy of Zack Bent/Lark
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    Asian Influence
    A cosmopolitan Pacific Rim city, Seattle has a wide-ranging international palette. Try old-school Japanese comfort food at Adana, owned by chef Shota Nakajima, a 2017 Iron Chef Gauntlet contender. Ba Bar weighs in with Vietnamese vermicelli bowls, while Saigon Deli serves up one of the area's best banh mi's, and Pop Pop Thai Street Food steals the show with Red Sea noodle soup (fish balls and fried tofu floating in a fuchsia broth). Then go pan-Pacific with Hawaiian-Korean tacos from Marination Station, undoubtedly some of the city's best!
    Image of Pop Pop Thai Street Food by Amanda Castleman
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    Spin the Globe

    Start exploring the diverse food scene with Native American fry bread tacos at the Off the Rez food truck, then take a detour through la bella Italia with Windy City Pie's deep-dish pizza delights. Discover how the landmark Copine plays with French techniques and international flavors in hip Ballard. Finally, don't miss the slow-roasted pork Caribbean sandwiches of Paseo and the pupusas—stuffed corn or rice tortillas—of Tropicos Breeze, topped with hot sauce and a crunchy carrot-cabbage slaw rich in probiotics.

    Image of Tropicos Breeze by Amanda Castleman
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    Seafood Restaurants and Oyster Bars
    An abundance of fresh, superb seafood graces the Northwest thanks to its cold, clear waters. Seattle's the home port not just of the region, but also of the Alaskan fleet, where fishermen bring in the season’s best catch. Look for restaurants that have the Seafood Watch logo displayed—your pass to dine sustainably and sans guilt. Try Washington specialties like wild salmon and Dungeness crab at Lark, Westward, or Anchovies & Olives, captained by local celebrity chef Ethan Stowell. For oysters, traditionalists prefer Shuckers and Elliott's, while foodies line up for the White Swan, Taylor Shellfish, or the Walrus and the Carpenter.
    Photo courtesy of Zack Bent/Lark
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    Brunch: A Seattle Art Form
    Seattleites love going out for brunch, especially after an early hike, bike, or paddle. Forget about greasy spoons or all-you-can-eat buffets—the Emerald City serves up double-smoked bacon, gluten-free rum-roasted banana cake, and more gourmet grub to fuel busy weekends. Locals may squabble over the area's absolute No. 1 brunch, but most flock to the berry bar at Portage Bay Cafe for premium pancake and French toast toppings. Craving more protein? Hit the Dish, a humble, family-owned diner that has appeared on a Zagat's list of top breakfast spots in America...or go international with Taiwanese dumplings at Din Tai Fung or Salvadorean pupusas (stuffed tortillas) at Tropicos Breeze.
    Photo of The Dish by Amanda Castleman
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    The Emerald City's Ice Cream Craze
    Besieged by clouds 220 days a year, Seattle wisely self-medicates with delicious ice cream, sorbet, and gelato. The poster child for the city's boutique-sugar-boom remains Molly Moon’s, which uses hormone-free milk in organic creations such as vegan salted caramel and honey-lavender. The Kurt Farm Shop also proves less is more with its simple Jersey cream flavor, which locals swear is "the taste of pure Puget Sound, it's the grass the cows are eating." Set your love of frozen treats asail with the quirky, budget-friendly Sunday Ice Cream Cruise, or skip the brain freeze and check out the Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery.
    Photo courtesy of Kathryn Barnard/Molly Moon
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    Cocktail Bars
    Seattle has crafted a reputation as one of North America’s top cities for mixed drinks. The scene's all about house-made bitters and herbaceous simple syrups, with hand-carved ice that melts at the perfect dilution rate. Must-visit cocktail bars include Canon for mad-scientist beverages, apothecary-inspired Percy’s & Co., and the Walrus and the Carpenter oyster bar nearby. Downtown, try Can Can for absinthe with a superb side of burlesque in Pike Place Market.
    Photo courtesy of Percy’s & Co.
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    Quirky Bar Scene
    For giddy, goofy fun, pub crawl on the 16-seater Cycle Saloon bicycle, or mini-golf with craft beers and dog-friendly "yappy hours" at Flatstick Pub. Sip My Little Pony cocktails at Unicorn before checking out its Narwhal arcade, where Macklemore, Seattle's hip-hop king, shot his Thrift Shop music video. Then head to Georgetown for dips, flatbreads, and daring cocktails—like jalapeño shandies and roasted-beet margaritas—in Ciudad, an art-gallery bar.
    Photo by Stephanie Perry
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    Food Trucks
    North America’s fascination with food-truck culture continues to move beyond burgers and hot dogs into such gourmet delights as short rib banh mi, duck confit sandwiches, and oyster po’boys. Skillet can probably lay claim to kicking off the trend in Seattle, serving up divine poutine and chicken and waffles from its Airstream truck, as well as from several brick-and-mortar locations now. But other highlights include Indian fry bread at Off the Rez and Marination Station's Hawaiian-Korean tacos. Favorites come and go, so check for daily listings.
    Photo courtesy of Sean Flanigan/Skillet
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    Food and Drink Tours
    Seattle’s two-hour Pike Place walking excursion lets foodies savor the famous market's dozen-plus bites and sips along the way. Hop-heads can try the Cycle Saloon multistop microbrewery tour, which includes transportation (if you're willing to help pedal a 16-seater bike). Oenophiles can sniff, swirl, and sip their way through Woodinville wine country on a chauffeured, guided tour along the nearby Sammamish River Valley.
    Photo courtesy of Barbie Hull/Savor Seattle Food Tours