Must-Try

6 Must-Visit Seattle Chef's Counters

By Jackie Varriano  |  November 2, 2015
Credit: Dylan + Jeni

As anyone who has ever thrown a dinner party knows, no matter how inviting the rest of the house is, everyone seems to congregate in the kitchen. It’s like peeking behind the curtain to meet the Wizard of Oz, and it's the same for the chef’s counter at any restaurant. Grabbing a seat there offers a close-up glance at what makes the kitchen run, how dishes come together and the personalities behind the menu. It’s not about having a pricey tasting menu; it’s about being behind the scenes. Here are six Seattle spots to get that feeling.

Bar Sajor

For the ultimate dinner-party feel, head to Pioneer Square’s Bar Sajor. The bright, airy dining room has a standing-room-only counter overlooking all the action. The space, available for walk-ins, has a comfortable amount of room for six. Consider it an early evening stop perfect for having a cocktail or two with fresh oysters or having something to share from the wood-fire oven before a night out on the town.

323 Occidental Ave. S.; 206-682-1117


Chop Shop

Settling in at this cozy Capitol Hill chef’s counter means you might be seated right next to a towering platter of baked goods (resistance is futile). Being this close to the action lets you in on Chop Shop's approach to dining: serious food with no pretense. Chefs don’t mind answering questions or being their true goofy selves as they plate everything from roasted Romanesco to a bavette with marrow onion toast.  

1424 11th Ave.; 206-535-8541

Manolin

Getting a table at Wallingford's Manolin has only gotten tougher after the spot was named one of the 10 Hottest Restaurants in the U.S. by Bon Appetit. There are no reservations, so it’s first come, first serve at the U-shaped bar — and the experience is multilayered. Cocktails get shaken up close and cooks work the grills for an experience that's truly transparent. Go for the ever-changing menu (keep an eye out for anything sauced with mole) and the Caribbean-inspired cocktails.

3621 Stone Way N.; 206-294-3331

Revel  

The chef’s counter at this Fremont spot is like the wooden butcher block island at your grandmother’s house. There’s virtually zero separation between you and the cooks plating steaming bowls of lemongrass beef noodles, crave-worthy short-rib dumplings and savory smoked cod pancakes. Reservations are only taken for parties of six or more, and this 14-seat counter is in high demand, so get there early for a front-row seat. Better yet — go for lunch or weekend brunch.

403 N. 36th St.; 206-547-2040


Salare

The sleepy neighborhood of Ravenna scored big time when Salare opened this past summer. Helmed by chef Edouardo Jordan, the community-focused kitchen takes seasonal flavors from all over the globe and distills them into dishes like lemony smelt with brown butter grits, white tripe with fiery Scotch bonnets and chickpeas or toothsome buckwheat cavatelli with pork ragu. Watch Jordan and his team at work at the seven-seat chef’s counter in the back of the restaurant. Although they're often available for walk-ins, it’s best to grab a reservation for these seats, especially on weekends.

2404 NE 65th St.; 206-556-2192


How to Cook a Wolf

The bar at Ethan Stowell’s Queen Anne homage to M.F.K. Fisher is a small space that wraps bar and chef’s counter into one. Held for walk-ins only (and those who are 21-plus), the 11-seat counter is the place to see cocktails getting shaken on one end and Italian-inspired small plates being swiftly concocted on the other. Keep an eye out for the seasonal bruschetta board and the always interesting wine list.

2208 Queen Anne Ave. N.; 206-838-8090