Seattle's Foodie Bucket List

By Leslie Kelly  |  October 30, 2013
Credit: Leslie Kelly

This isn't your typical countdown ticking off the "best of" or the red hottest new spots, but instead a lineup of the 19 places every foodie really should try to get a rich portrait of the wildly eclectic culinary landscape of this deliciously evolving city, listed in no particular order. It's sure to stir up some controversy. So, tell us: What's on your foodie bucket list?

  • Credit: Leslie Kelly

    Maria Hines' cozy Tilth deftly straddles the wonderful territory between familiar and exotic, the ever-changing dishes showcasing stellar certified organic ingredients. Creations such as the striking gnocchi are made with obvious care and skill and taste as memorable as they look.

    1411 N. 45th St., 206-633-0801

  • So unapologetically old-fashioned, the beloved-by-many Wedgewood Broiler is like traveling back to the two-martini lunch era. It's still possible to find throwbacks like cottage cheese and canned fruit served alongside a hamburger patty, but we'll skip that and instead dive into a rare slab of prime rib, baked potato on the side. Or, maybe a French dip made from the same roast.  

    8230 35th Ave. N.E., 206-523-1115

  • The thoughtful caddy of sauces is often neglected at Revel, but it's only because the kitchen goes full-throttle on the flavors of each dish, starting with the mung bean pancakes in which all sorts of meats and veggies are embedded and moving through the clever combos in the rice bowls and including the deeply satisfying ramen. The menu's not long, even hardcore regulars never get bored because it changes so often.

    403 N. 36th St., 206-547-2040

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    Teeny-tiny Glo's on Capitol Hill is often packed-to-overflowing, wannabe customers sipping coffee on the sidewalk, knowing the wait will be worth it. The diner fare is spot on, especially the variations of eggs benedict, crispy hash browns on the side. The only thing that makes breakfast even better is the fabulous people watching. Quite the cast of characters around the room wear happy, well-fed grins.  

    1621 E. Olive Way, 206-324-2577

  • Matt Dillon started something big in a small space in a strip mall. Sitka and Spruce has since moved into larger quarters in the charming Melrose Market, and that adventurous spirit continues firing on all cylinders. Classic preparations like pate soar alongside the terrific house bread and pickles. And Mondays, the kitchen turns into a taqueria, guided by staffer Alvaro Candela-Najera. It was one of the first pop-ups to pop up in Seattle, one's that's built a huge following.

    1531 Melrose Ave., 206-324-0662 

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    Jerry Corso's king of Beacon Hill, launching in a neighborhood starved for a place like Bar del Corso, a self-described pizzeria con cucina. It's become kind of a community hangout, where families with kids come early and the grownups linger at the bar later on. The seasonally driven "from the garden" section of the menu threaten to outshine the stellar pies. Better yet, we'll have one of everything.

    3057 Beacon Ave. S., 206-395-2069

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    Rarely has a restaurant been so anticipated, and when Shanik stumbled a bit out of the gate, it was likely because the bar was set impossibly high. Comparisons to its sib, legendary Vij's in Vancouver B.C., were inevitable, but this outpost in South Lake Union has its own vibrant personality. It starts in Meeru Dhalwala's kitchen, where the chef takes great care in crafting curry blends yielding complex flavors.

    500 Terry Ave. N., 206-486-6884

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    One of Seattle's most recent success stories, Rock Creek is a stone's throw from other fab Fremont food spots including Dot's Deli, Uneeda Burger and Paseo. Chef Eric Donnelly did much of the build-out of this former warehouse space, along with his significant other and front of the house manager, Christy Given. The two-tier room's lively vibe matches the interesting seafood-focused menu that sources from around the globe: black grouper from Baja, Carolina skate wing, mussels from Totten Inlet down Olympia way. Once you've had a belly full of fish, say hello to the ricotta-apple beignets. Those are some mighty fine fritters. 

    4300 Fremont Ave. N., 206-557-7532

  • James Beard Foundation award-winning chef Holly Smith's destination dining spot in Kirkland is a lot cheaper than a ticket to Italy, and the fantastic food at Cafe Juanita lives up to the lofty expectations. The seared octopus and stuffed rabbit and delicate pasta dishes have become rightly famous. Pair the exceptional dishes with a warm, inviting dining room and a polished service staff and it's easy to understand why this has become a go-to special occasion spot for so many.

    9702 N.E. 120th Place, Kirkland, 425-823-1505

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    This comfortable neighborhood venue is a favorite of the pre-theater crowd going to performances at Seattle Center, well-dressed crowds craving Crow's rustic Italian fare, craft cocktails and clever desserts. While the menus shifts with the seasons, there are some mainstays that are like dear old friends. The kitchen makes some of the best lasagna in the city and a pan-roasted chicken that's spectacular in its simplicity and utter juicy-ness.

    823 Fifth Ave N., 206-283-8800 

  • Yes, Tom Douglas has a whole mess of restaurants, but Etta's is the place where his Seattle cooking career got started, back in the day when the space was Cafe Sport. At this venerable spot, salmon's king, on the top of the must-try list of hordes of hungry visitors to the nearby Pike Place Market. The crackerjack kitchen crew does right by it, as well as all sorts of other seafood dishes. A refreshing Dungeness crab salad is a study in elegant minimalism, the fish sauce-based vinaigrette tossed with tender butter lettuce showcasing the sweet shellfish. The famous coconut pie is always available, while ice cream fans appreciate the rotating flavors. 

    2020 Western Ave., 206-443-6000 

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    Gina Batali and her longtime staff treat regulars like family and warmly welcome newcomers, too, at the lunch-only landmark Salumi. The lines might be long, but they move steadily, and while you wait, you might make a friend or two, folks willing to share their favorite orders. The sandwiches are a handful, a wonderfully messy meal on Macrina Bakery bread. Beyond the famous charcuterie, consider the weekly specials: soup, veggies and pasta made with love.

    309 Third Ave. S., 206-621-8772  

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    A beautiful room bathed in the glow of the iconic Pike Place Market sign, Matt's skillfully showcases carefully sourced ingredients in ways that are both imaginative and comfortingly familiar. Take the gloriously addictive house made potato chips and caramelized onion-bacon dip or the "porkstrami" Reuben, deeply delicious updates of classics. Chef Shane Ryan does right by the pristine seafood and rightly raised meat and purveyors are given a shout out on the menu.

    94 Pike St., suite 32, 206-467-7909

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    Most first-timers come for the view at the iconic Space Needle and come away impressed by chef Jeff Maxfield's sophisticated take on Northwest cuisine. Skycity's mission is accomplished on dishes such as the Dungeness crab cakes accompanied by delicata squash slaw and smoked apple butter or the Alaskan halibut with razor clam hash. It's almost enough to distract a diner from that knockout scenery just outside. The award-winning wine list features well-chosen selections from Washington state and Oregon.  

    400 Broad St., 206-905-2100

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    Pure bliss for pasta fans, il Corvo's short midday menu is long on flavor and creativity. Tajarin in elk brodo, anyone? This Mom-and-Pop run by chef Mike Easton and his wife, Victoria, and the love for the process of putting terrific handmade noodles on the plate comes shining through. 

    217 James St., 206-538-0999

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    A special occasion venue that focuses on ever-changing chef's menus, Altura lives up to its considerable hype. CIA-trained chef Nathan Lockwood was chef de cuisine at San Francisco's Michelin-starred Acquerello before heading north to Seattle, opening Altura on Capitol Hill in 2011. The chef focuses on "hyper-local", Italian-influenced dishes with an emphasis on beautiful presentation. Grab a seat at the counter and watch the cuiinary artists at work. The prix-fixe options start at $63 for three courses and top out at $93 for the chef's tasting menu, making this just the kind of place to go when someone with deep pockets is picking up the tab.

    617 Broadway E., 206-402-6749

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    Ethan Stowell's now got half a dozen restaurants and a pizza joint in his growing edible empire, but Rione XIII is a standout for a couple of reasons. This lovely tribute to the food of the 13th district of Roma filled a huge void in a neighborhood craving just this kind of comforting fare. The warmly lit dining room is often bursting with families, hipsters and all sorts of other folks who arrive on foot, enjoying the perfectly prepared pastas - especially the cacio e pepe, wonderful street-style pizza and a chicken cacciatore that soars. 

    401 15th Ave. E., 206-838-2878

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    An institution in the University District, Thai Tom is little more than a counter that faces a constantly rocking wok. All the standbys are on offer: pad Thai, curries of every hue, salads that pop. There are tons of Thai restaurants around the city, but this place has got a whole lot of personality and a lot of that has to do with the customers with whom you who share this small space.

    4543 University Way NE, 206-548-9548

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    Canlis is THE landmark restaurant in the city, the third-generation, family-run force that's firmly planted in the hearts and full tummies of many residents. It's where people come to mark grand occasions or to have a cocktail in the bar and listen to the grand pianist. It's a place that deserves huge kudos for trying to honor its past and build on its legacy. Plus, it's got the snazziest ladies room in Seattle and they warm your coats by the fire before the valet brings your car around.

    2576 Aurora Avenue N., 206-283-3313