Seattle Restaurants that Stand the Test of Time
(1905, International District)
What it brought to the table: Seattle’s first sushi bar and tatami rooms, and good Japanese home cooking. Why we still love it: At Maneki we’re surrounded by reminders of our historic connection to the Pacific Rim, and we adore the good, no-frills cooking.
(1950, Queen Anne)
What it brought to the table: Pure Old Hollywood glam, with befurred ladies wearing a king’s ransom in jewels, and gents in suits clinking martini glasses. Roland Terry and Pete Wimberley collaborated on the iconic building’s original design, and the female servers glided around the dining room in kimonos. Why we still love it: New chef Jason Franey and pastry chef Neil Robertson both boast extraordinary pedigrees (Eleven Madison Park in New York and Guy Savoy in Vegas, respectively), and have introduced new classics, such as the hazelnut brown butter cake with thyme ice cream. But they’ve also kept signature dishes like the Peter Canlis prawns, which have been on the menu for more than 50 years. Today, Canlis is still the swankiest place in town, but its recent makeover has kept it fresh. This synergy between the old and the new makes Canlis a rare jewel in Seattle’s diningscape.
What it brought to the table: Fish ’n’ chips, fried to order, on Pier 54. And the enduring charms of Ivar Haglund, who coined the phrase “keep clam.” Why we still love it: Sitting at one of the wind-worn tables on Pier 54, tossing a fry to the hovering seagulls and noshing hot, tender fish ’n’ chips dipped in tartar sauce remains a wonderful summer tradition.
What it brought to the table: Delicious, affordable burgers, hand-whipped shakes and killer fries, all served up lickity-split to cool cats in Mom and Pop’s Studebaker. Why we still love it: Almost nothing at Dick’s has changed in 50 years. In this case, that’s a very good thing.
(1954, University District)
What it brought to the table: A checkered-tablecloth joint that’s a dream come true for the beer drinking pizza lover. Why we still love it: The unabashedly big-boned bar pizza. And we love that they brag about their pizzas’ heft (the large weighs a whopping 6 pounds).
What it brought to the table: A serious seafood restaurant with a serious wine list. Legions of diners got their first tastes of Olympia oysters, Copper River salmon and Oregon Pinot Noir here. Why we still love it: You can’t consider yourself a Seattleite if you haven’t lingered on the upstairs deck (wrapped in a blanket), and savored a plate of clams and a gorgeous sunset over the Puget Sound.
Sky City at the Needle
(1962, Queen Anne)
What it brought to the table: Fine dining in the sky, with a 360-degree revolving view of Seattle. Why we still love it: At the end of the elevator ride awaits Seattle’s best view and the longest-running continuously served dessert, the Lunar Orbiter—a campy extravaganza of chocolate ice cream made smoky with dry ice that will make your kids’ jaws drop (and yours too, when you see the price tag).
(1967, Eastlake/Lake Union)
What it brought to the table: 24-hour dining and a place to top off those coming-of-age benders. Why we still love it: The deeply dimpled high-back booths and swiveling captain’s chairs beg to be occupied, especially ’round midnight when the munchies hit and only a French dip will satisfy.
In the early ’80s, dining out was all about the experience: elaborate décor—murals, profuse bric-a-brac. We wanted a scene, a thrill—to escape into another life, at least for the duration of the meal.
The Pink Door
(1981, Pike Place Market)
What it brought to the table: Bawdy décor and hideaway appeal, with hearty pastas to boot. Why we still love it: Four words: Best deck in Seattle. On any given summery day, the Pink Door is packed with diners nestled high above the bustle of Pike Place Market taking in a peekaboo view of Elliott Bay.
The Metropolitan Grill
What it brought to the table: That old-time elegance that only a traditional steakhouse can deliver. Why we still love it: A thick porterhouse and an icy martini have timeless allure; just try snagging a stool at their happy hour—one of the most popular in town.
(1982, Capitol Hill)
What it brought to the table: The closest thing to a real N.Y. slice—hand-tossed dough, foldable crust, good, chewy, browned cheese—at a time when Pizza Hut and Shakey’s were the city’s pizza standbys. Why we still love it: The Pike-Pine triangle is rife with trendy new eateries, but the family-owned Piecora’s bears witness to the old, less polished Capitol Hill. And the pizza still rocks.
Il Terrazzo Carmine
(1984, Pioneer Square)
What it brought to the table: The de facto dining room of the city’s movers and shakers, who like to close a deal over the spicy shrimp Provencal. Why we still love it: Leave the frenetic pace of the world outside and enter an Old World enclave where the classics—saltimbocca, piccata, spumoni and cannoli—can always be savored, in hearty, soul-satisfying portions.
What it brought to the table: One of the first bona fide sushi chefs, Shito Kamioka, from Japan. Why we still love it: These days, sushi fanatics take for granted the practice of submitting to the chef’s whim (known as omakase). Shito-san offers an unforgettable omakase, gently tailored to your tastes.
(1983, Pike Place Market)
What it brought to the table: Locally focused, inventive dishes in a room that oozes romance. Why we still love it: The arched windows and candlelit tables still induce lingering glances, but the drop-in-friendly Shea’s Lounge, with its menu of market-fresh small plates, also catches our fancy.
A couple of decades ago, name-checking the farm that provided your restaurant’s eggs would’ve been met with utter confusion. But a few chefs planted the seeds of the locavore movement by showing off pristine ingredients, and flirting with the exotic flavors of Asia. Pan-Asian fusion was born, and Northwest dining would never be the same.
What it brought to the table: Exquisite local foods given classical French treatments. Why we still love it: The immaculate, recently redesigned dining room provides the perfect blank slate for eating locally, while its casual sister bar next door, Sambar, offers a social gathering place for neighborhood regulars.
What it brought to the table: Seasonal, herb-infused degustations at the area’s first farm-to-table restaurant (much of the locally grown menu was harvested from The Herbfarm’s own gardens). And, of course, Jerry Traunfeld, who would become the Northwest’s most celebrated chef. Why we still love it: We still get butterflies before our special-occasion meals here, and after an astounding eight courses, we always depart feeling pampered and content.
(1987, Madison Park)
What it brought to the table: Refined French cuisine with service to match. Why we still love it: Classical French fare still reigns sovereign here: Nowhere else in town can you find les grande sauces of Escoffier, Varenne and Careme executed with such devout flair.
What it brought to the table: The delights of mixing the culinary metaphors of just about every Asian country. Why we still love it: The satay bar remains the most convenient place to grab a quick bite of succulent lemongrass chicken before a concert at Benaroya. Oenophiles, take note: The wine list is studded with trophy bottles.
In the early ’90s, pockets were flush, Seattle’s music scene was making national headlines, and dining in downtown Seattle held a cutting-edge cache. Local chefs were finding their voices, too, boldly going in unexpected directions with Seattle’s iconic local bounty and beginning to define a true Northwest cuisine.
What it brought to the table: Pan-Asian–accented Northwest ingredients, interpreted with flair by local culinary icon Tom Douglas.
Why we still love it: There are many thrilling reasons to surf the constantly changing menu, but two stalwarts must be singled out: the legendary coconut cream pie and the fabulous five-spice Peking duck.
What it brought to the table: Ethereal lasagna, wood-fired pizza and the joy of hand-stretched pasta. Why we still love it: The crackle-thin crust on the pizza remains unmatched. Owners Carla Leonardi and Jordi Viladas keep the place welcoming for regulars, who flock here in droves.
El Puerco Lloron
(1990, Pike Place Market)
What it brought to the table: Authentic Mexican fare in a cheery, casual spot on the Pike Place Market Hill Climb. Why we still love it: Generous plates of the pull-apart tender carnitas and handmade corn tortillas show a reverence for authenticity.
What it brought to the table: Authentic Italian fare, a first for many Seattleites. Why we still love it: Chef Walter Pisano’s long stay at the helm ensures that regulars get what they come for: generous meats and richly sauced pasta. We still swoon over the sweet-potato gnocchi with sage.
What it brought to the table: Brilliance. Sophistication. Perfection. And chef Scott Carsberg, who would become as renowned for his exacting attitude as for his sublime cooking. Why we still love it: An evening at Lampreia still offers a subdued but delicious escape.
(1994, Pike Place Market)
What it brought to the table: A smoky, dim, sexy ambiance: the epitome of the chic French neighborhood bistro. Why we still love it: The pâté de Campagne and towering lamb burger, on the menu since 1994, prove that sometimes change is overrated.
Red Mill Burgers
(1994, Phinney Ridge/Interbay)
What it brought to the table: Big, beefy, pepper-bacon-and-cheese-dripping burgers, for cheap. Why we still love it: Those seriously boss burgers.
The tech boom of the late ’90s spurred a rebuilding of the formerly gritty Belltown neighborhood, and delicious restaurants followed. But the era also saw a shift toward destination-worthy dining in other Seattle neighborhoods, including off-the-beaten-path areas of Capitol Hill, a then-gentrifying Madison Valley and a little-known pocket ’hood called Columbia City.
(1999, Capitol Hill)
What it brought to the table: Vietnamese food that went way beyond pho. Why we still love it: The claypot catfish and signature drunken chicken remain among the most lauded plates in town, yet co-owner Eric Banh’s innovation hasn’t flagged: He was one of the first to put mangalitsa pork, bred for its higher fat content and unparalleled flavor, on the menu.
Boat Street Café
(1995, Lower Queen Anne)
What it brought to the table: The shabby chic charms of an off-the-beaten-path bistro and absolutely addictive brunches.
Why we still love it: We still swoon over the candlelit ambience of the café, as well as the everyday French country cooking.
What it brought to the table: The return of chef Shiro Kashiba and one of Seattle’s best sushi bars. Why we still love it: Kashiba’s enthusiasm is contagious, and he takes the intimidation out of sushi. Though he’s now semi-retired working the sushi bar only a few days a week, his restaurant is filled with his generous spirit.
What it brought to the table: Serious food and a serious scene, in white-hot Belltown. Why we still love it: Christine Keff’s shareable platters make for fun, delicious any-night dining, and the floor-to-ceiling windows still provide prime Belltown people watching.
What it brought to the table: A little ’tude and some serious style: downtown dining minus the formality. Why we still love it: The place flat rocks. You still can’t get a seat at the bar without a wait, and the food is righteous in a stick-to-your-ribs way.
Matt’s in the Market
(1996, Pike Place Market)
What it brought to the table: Our first cult restaurant. Matt Janke’s eight counter stools fast became a foodie’s rite of passage.
Why we still love it: Now triple its original size and owned by Janke’s longtime business partner Dan Bugge, the new Matt’s doesn’t have the elbow-to-elbow charm of the old Matt’s, but the place is still vibrant in spirit and on the plate.
(1997, Columbia City)
What it brought to the table: Sensational Sicilian home cooking in then undiscovered Columbia City. Why we still love it: Owner Julie Andres keeps our favorites on the menu—grandma’s greens, thin-crusted pizzas with decadent prosciutto—while inventing market-fresh dishes with Sicilian inspiration. And it’s all scrumptious.
What it brought to the table: Fine “green” dining when it wasn’t in vogue. Why we still love it: Owners Kathryn Neumann and Michael Hughes have kept the Phinney Ridge institution artful and cozy while making sure the seasonal, fresh fare—richly layered soups and Moroccan-style tagines—is as adventurous as ever.
(1997, Capitol Hill)
What it brought to the table: Soul food with a side of swank. Why we still love it: The glamorous Coaston sisters’ drawing room remains one of the best places to keep an eye out for local celebrities while hiding behind a gargantuan slice of red velvet cake.
What it brought to the table: A sexy showpiece for one of Seattle’s hottest and most innovative female chefs. Why we still love it: Tamara Murphy’s menu is a carnivore’s dream, with sweet-savory items such as pork belly with poached egg and truffle-honey syrup, and a happy hour that’s the talk of the town.
(1999, Pioneer Square)
What it brought to the table: Locally crafted charcuterie, when the craft was still largely a mystery outside of Italy. Why we still love it: Lamb prosciutto. Honkin’ porchetta sandwiches. Impeccable daily specials. We could go on.
Seattle chefs became obsessed with micro seasonality, changing menus daily to accommodate the farm-freshest local produce. But the zeitgeist also shifted toward a new type of restaurant: one that is both casual and convivial, yet still serves sensational food.
(2003, Capitol Hill)
What it brought to the table: Fanatically seasonal cooking and a reverence for local farmers. James Beard Award–winning chef John Sundstrom’s affinity for vividly fresh, locally sourced ingredients soon became the mantra among many Seattle chefs, whose support for the farmers’ markets brought them to the forefront of our dining culture. Why we still love it: The lively room, the ever-inventive food, the energy—it’s all so good. The unbelievably fresh taste of the yellowtail carpaccio with preserved lemons and olives shows that a light hand in the kitchen is an asset when the ingredients are this sublime.
(2000, Pike Place Market)
What it brought to the table: Our first real, everyday Parisian bistro. Why we still love it: All scruffed up and lived in, this bistro makes for a no-brainer spot to drop in for charcuterie, a perfect cheese plate or the best roasted chicken (cooked to order) we’ve ever tasted.
What it brought to the table: World-class northern Italian cooking in suburban Kirkland, the most unlikely of settings. Why we still love it: Every part of Café Juanita is gorgeously synchronized—the impeccable but easygoing service; the intriguing, primarily Italian wine list; the hallmark feathery handmade pasta and flawlessly roasted game—creating one of the most seamlessly high-caliber dining experiences in the Puget Sound region.
What it brought to the table: A grown-up carefully-crafted meal, and genuinely fun dinner in Belltown. Why we still love it:
The menu’s as smart and soul-satisfying as ever, the cocktails are still outrageously good, and when the place is packed (and that’s pretty much every night) there’s no better place to have a great time.
What it brought to the table: A reinvigoration of the tasting menu and our first taste from innovative chef, Ethan Stowell. Why we still love it: Stowell’s flagship (he’s also owner of Tavolàta, How to Cook a Wolf, and Anchovies and Olives) has lowered its price point, but remains a foodie destination for serious (and occasionally stunning) cooking.