A Salute to Innovative Seattle Chefs, Restaurants

By Leslie Kelly  |  January 6, 2014

It's no surprise that clever chefs get a kick out of doing things differently, trying to stand out by coming up with something new. Even if that means doing a deep dive on ancient cooking techniques. Grilling over fire is so hot right now, as is fermenting veggies and milling grains to make flour, as Maria Hines does at Agrodolce, her tasty tribute to Sicily in Fremont. We salute the innovators, the restaurants and the in-house culinary whiz kids who keep diners engaged, well-fed and constantly wondering: what will they think of next? 

  • Credit: Mat Hayward Photography

    Jacky Lo at Wild Ginger

    Just when you think nobody could do anything more with bacon, here comes Jacky Lo, the chef from Wild Ginger. He collects pine needles from his backyard in Bellevue to put an intensely Northwest smoke on his cured pork belly. This unique bacon is showcased in an old classic, Angels on Horseback - cured pork wrapped around oysters - that appears on the menu only occasionally, but is back on beginning today.

    1401 Third Ave.; 206-623-4450

  • Westward

    When the creators of Westward were dreaming up this playful eatery on the shores of Lake Union, they kept a particular type of customer in mind. There's a 60-foot dock to accommodate boaters and in this spacious place, a store stocked with carefully-curated sundries meant to make a trip on the water a lot more fun. That includes a selection of wine, picnic essentials and refillable growlers. It's also a breeze to pick up a dozen or so oysters to go from the Little Gull raw bar or from the Mediterranean-inspired Westward menu. Casting off!

    2501 N Northlake Way; 206-552-8215

  • Credit: Leslie Kelly

    Meeru Dhalwala at Shanik

    Meeru Dhalwala takes great pride in creating her own blend of spices to make dishes pop at Shanik. She'll be using those spicing skills to create a wild new dish featuring crickets. Yes, this week, Shanik becomes the first restaurant to feature crispy critters because Dhalwala wanted to explore truly delicious ways to cook and eat this sustainable ingredient. And we can't wait to try those bugs.  

    500 Terry Ave N; 206-486-6884

  • Maria Hines at Agrodolce

    Eating globally, sourcing locally has been chef Maria Hines' mantra since she began cooking. She and her staff at the Sicilian-style Agrodolce take that mission to a new level by milling grains for flour used to make the restaurant's pasta. The latest version features emmer from Bluebird Farms in Eastern Washington. The ancient grain has a slightly nutty flavor that gives the rigatoni as much character as Tony Soprano, especially when it's tossed in the warming sugo made with Skagit River Ranch beef, making it a must-order dish for winter.

    709 N 35th St.; 206-547-9707

  • Credit: Leslie Kelly

    Tat's Delicatessen

    This perpetually packed place in Pioneer Square draws big crowds with its East Coast-style deli. Tat's menu features cheesesteaks and hoagies, though many swear by the must-try pastrami. For busy workers hoping to get in and out within a lunch "hour," checking in on the line cam is a must. While in line, waiting to place an order, don't forget to smile. Somebody might be watching. 

    159 Yesler Way; 206-264-8287

  • Bar Sajor

    Loads of kitchens play with fire, but Bar Sajor is the sole eatery in Seattle that uses it exclusively. If it's not seared over open flames, ingredients might be buried in the coals and slow roasted. You know, like the cave men did. The ever-changing menu is plumped up by the piquant presence of pickled and fermented veggies and salmon turned sublime when cured in a blanket of salt and local honey. Who needs a stovetop? When you go, the best plan is to graze among the fire-cooked and the cured.

    323 Occidental Ave. S., 206-682-1117

  • Altstadt

    What a crock! Those oversize ceramic containers are an integral part of the decor at Altstadt, the German-style beer hall in Pioneer Square. (Do we see a pattern here? There are more than a few innovators firmly planted in the oldest part of the city.) The dramatic crocks serve a purpose beyond their good looks. They're vessels for fermenting various veggies. Don't miss the crunchy kraut. It's unlike the typical cabbage gone limp under the influence of salt. It's just the thing to eat alongside the house sausages, a stein of ale to finish this savory scenario. 

    209 1st Ave S; 206-602-6442