Food & Drink

Where to Dine Out Alone in Seattle

It may be the month of tables for two, but those of us looking for time to ourselves have options

By Amy Pennington February 2, 2015


This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Seattle magazine.


La Carta de Oaxaca
Amid the crowds of people who still (years after this place first opened) wait in line for seats at one of the large communal tables, solo diners have an advantage. They can grab a stool at the counter, which wraps around the open kitchen and allows for an unobstructed, action-packed view. The restaurant interior is decorated with an eye toward a clean, modern aesthetic (with a prominent gallery of photos from Oaxaca). Oaxacan cuisine is one of thick moles and spicy dishes, and La Carta produces some of the best in the city. Favorites include the mole negro ($12), a black mole over succulent, braised chicken and pork served with freshly pressed, handmade tortillas. For a lighter meal, opt for the caldo de pescado ($9), a very spicy soup made of coarsely chopped vegetables and a chunk of catfish, all floating in a deep bowl of tomato-based broth. 5431 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.782.8722;

The good news: Delancey, Ballard’s very popular pizza haven, has five barstools. That odd number increases the likelihood that a single person can claim a seat right away, a rare treat in this spot, which is prone to having a waiting list. The bad news: The seats are directly in front of the wood-fired pizza oven, so expectant diners must watch pie after pie go by until theirs arrives. The metal barstools induce a slouch and can be uncomfortable, but it’s worth the annoyance when a charred-crust pizza arrives, bubbling hot from the oven. Thin and salty, the crust is chewy and tastes faintly of smoke. Try the classic margherita ($12), topped with a bright house-made tomato sauce and mozzarella. Equally satisfying is the Jersey salad ($8), a simple bowl of thick romaine lettuce, ribbons of red cabbage and a generous grating of sharp grana cheese—the flavor defies its simple composition. 1415 NW 70th St.; 206.838.1960;

Percy’s & Co   
The best strategy at Percy’s & Co., one of Ballard’s newer apothecary-style bars, is to come for happy hour and stay for dinner. Serving medicinal drinks spiked with herbs and tinctures, Percy’s draws a generationally diverse crowd and has a convivial vibe. Thursday night offers free (bring cash to tip) tarot card readings until 6:30 p.m.—a great activity for solo diners, especially when paired with a happy hour cocktail ($2 off the full list). Pick from one of several infused spirits, many of which use herbs from the rooftop garden, and opt to add the “energy” (made from ginseng and turmeric root) or “libido” (made with catuaba bark) tincture for flavor or healing powers. The kitchen offers homey fare such as a large portion of creamy salt cod fritters with smoked aioli ($9), and a plate of Southern-style shrimp and grits ($16), which can be eaten at the bar, one of the communal high tables or in a booth, if you’re craving a greater degree of solitude. 5233 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.420.3750;


Bar del Corso     
While the wait at Bar del Corso can be intimidating, odds of finding one seat open at the bar are decent at this casual neighborhood pizza joint. Enter into a cozy room with a high ceiling, large wood-framed windows and a welcoming energy. The long bar offers tall stools with firm backs (typically occupied by regulars), which have the added benefit of providing some noise relief from the high decibel level of the dining room. You’ll also get a view of the active kitchen. The crust of the wood-fired pizza ($9.50–$12.50) is spot-on and comes with a thick tomato sauce and a variety of toppings—but don’t neglect the plated items on the menu. The burrata and rapini ($10) is a deeply satisfying dish of roasted broccoli rabe served with a creamy ball of oozy mozzarella, while the standout plate of “tonno del Chianti” ($10) is a heaping portion of sultry olive-oil-braised pork shoulder served over perline beans, frisée, radishes and radicchio. 3057 Beacon Ave. S; 206.395.2069;


In Old Bellevue, this Tuscan-inspired Italian restaurant offers a sexy night out on an otherwise quiet street. Muted lighting and dark wood decor ensure anonymity, allowing one to eat with gusto. Grab a table at the front of the restaurant and tuck into a banquette; table no. 3 is particularly small and cozy. Dig into a plate of rolled cannelloni stuffed with braised pork and sweet potato ($17) or indulge in a full plate of Bolognese, a shallow bowl of tomato and meat sauce served with thick, house-made pappardelle pasta ($17). A small selection of salads—try the Brussels sprouts with pancetta ($9)—and a short dessert list, created and baked by skilled pastry chef Karen Krol, promise a well-rounded meal. 10038 Main St.; 425.233.6040;


Bar Cotto   
A casual Ethan Stowell outpost, Bar Cotto is a pizza haven that also offers scrumptious small dishes (if you don’t want a whole pie for yourself). The bar seats nine, bartenders are friendly and the drink list focuses on bitter Italian liqueurs. In the dining area, most tables are for two, making it easy to grab a seat and read a book or relax against the banquette while people watching. Choose from a variety of salumi (three/$18, five/$25) on the chalkboard, such as a selection of prosciutto or one of the house-made specialties, including the bresaola, a lean slice of air-dried salted beef. Pair this with one of many bruschetta; the chickpea, rapini and anchovy ($9) is a knockout. A winter salad of escarole and hazelnuts ($8) is crisp and light, while the beet, pistachio and sultana raisin salad ($8) is more filling and highlights winter flavors at their best. 1546 15th Ave.; 206.838.8081;

Groovy hipsters and neighborhood families collide at this popular hillside spot, two doors down from Elliott Bay Book Company. Diners can partake in breakfast, lunch or dinner. Affordable comfort food reigns supreme at night, where dining at the bar is a social affair, which should include enjoying one of the many artisan cocktails, such as the amaro cooler ($9), made with bitter amaro and Fernet Branca, and topped off with Rachel’s ginger beer. Plates include a nod to vegetables, such as the thick slab of vegetable lasagna ($15) made from seasonal ingredients, or a creamy plate of mushroom and sage risotto ($15). For a lighter meal, choose from the selection of appetizers or salads, such as the roasted carrot and avocado salad ($8), dressed in orange-cumin yogurt and garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds. 1525 10th Ave.; 206.325.0807;

Ba Bar    
At this open restaurant, with its tall ceilings and large windows, soup is just what you need to warm up your bones in the cool room. Fresh, house-made Vietnamese food is served all hours of the day, including pho, a perfect meal for one. It comes out of the kitchen quickly and should be eaten in slurping spoonfuls. It’s an excellent choice when you don’t want to linger over a meal or bother with several courses. Try the pho ga ($11), a thin, flavorful broth served with roasted chicken pieces and a soft-boiled egg. Soups are served on platters with traditional pho accompaniments—fresh basil sprigs, lime quarters and sliced jalapeño—along with a squeeze of oyster sauce and Sriracha, a hot chile sauce that adds flavor to the bowl and helps create heat. 550 12th Ave.; 206.328.2030;


Miller’s Guild    
On the ground floor of Hotel Max, Miller’s Guild showcases nose-to-tail butchery, offering various cuts and types of meat cooked over the custom-made, wood-fired grill. Toward the rear, tall, modern, white stools at a chefs’ counter allow diners to monitor kitchen action while eating. Daily meat specials “from the infierno” are offered via a handwritten menu, while other courses can be ordered from the menu. Try the indulgent roasted bone marrow ($18), served with a rich mushroom–foie gras relish, or the crispy french fries, served with a side of house-made motoraioli ($9), a creamy mayo made from the grill’s meat drippings. Of course, if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen and park yourself at the bar, an equally active and comfortable spot for dining. 612 Stewart St.; 206.443.3663;

Mistral Kitchen (Closed as of January 2018)
While there is a slightly confusing cluster of seating spaces here, the food and cocktails offer a level of modern and elegant indulgences seldom seen in the city. Just off the entrance, tall chairs positioned at a kitchen counter are strategically placed in front of the wood-burning oven and deep tandoor pit. Just beyond this is a proper bar area, where bartenders extol the history and virtues of various cocktails for hours on end. Beyond the main room and up a small set of stairs are more dining and lounging options in various corners and nooks, some with plush chairs, and others with couches for larger groups. Here, one can disappear into a book or work project (Wi-Fi is available throughout the building) while nibbling on a plate of hamachi crudo ($16) or devouring a dinner of 48-hour sous vide short rib ($30) served alongside a velvety mélange of cipollini (wild onions), kale and lentils. 2020 Westlake Ave.; 206.623.1922;

In this multilevel dining room, chef and owner Thierry Rautureau designed a table for one—a very rare find in Seattle or anywhere, really. At the corner of the balcony, a small rectangular table with a single, plush, white chair is positioned to face over the main dining floor, promising a bird’s-eye view of the kitchen and fellow diners. Reserve this table in advance when possible. The menu has broad appeal and focuses on French bistro classics, although it occasionally gives a nod to Rautureau’s earlier days of fancy French food, as with the scrambled egg and white sturgeon caviar ($25), a deceptively simple appetizer served in a cracked eggshell with a dollop of lime crème fraîche. It’s a perfect choice for one. 600 Union St.; 206.402.4588;

This cavernous restaurant’s dining room feels big and cold, but not so up front in the bar, where tall windows look out onto Second Avenue and light spills in from streetlamps. Bartenders are expert at pairing wine and being attentive, while still making drinks for others. The menu is pasta-centric and includes house favorites, such as the rigatoni with spicy Italian sausage ($16), tossed in tomato sauce and generously sprinkled with fresh marjoram. Ordered alongside a bowl of greens ($8), tossed simply with herbs, lemon juice and olive oil, it makes a perfect, satisfying, flavorful meal for one. 2323 Second Ave.; 206.838.8008;


Mai Thaiku    
Stroll up a creaky wooden ramp, flanked by tall bamboo canes, to the entrance of this home-style Thai restaurant. Housed in a cozy bungalow at the center of Phinney Ridge, Mai Thaiku specializes in medicinal cocktails (some of which include the libido-amping herb yohimbe) and full-flavored, heavily spiced cuisine. Skip the tables in the brightly lit restaurant and head into the intimate, dimly lit bar instead. With only five seats, you may well find another solo diner interested in chatting. Don’t miss the small section of “som tahm” dishes, made from ingredients pounded in a mortar with a pestle. For a memorable standout, go for the som tahm thai ($12), a fresh salad of green beans, tomatoes and green papaya tossed in a dressing with chiles, peanuts and dried shrimp. 6705 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.706.7807;


Steelhead Diner  
Positioned just above Pike Place Market, this café is dedicated to cooking seafood dishes that highlight many of the fish from our northwest corner of the U.S. It offers a casual, friendly level of service. Lone diners can sit in the Puget Sound–facing bar or at a chef’s counter overlooking the kitchen, both of which are decorated with shadow boxes of fly-fishing flies and photographs of nature, and furnished with comfortable, swiveling stools. Steelhead accommodates every palate on its long menu. Fried fish and chips made from Alaskan ling cod and coated in Scotch-infused batter ($19) is a tasty spin on a classic dish, while kasu-marinated black cod ($37) from Oregon draws on Asian flavors and is served with an oversize portion of shiitake mushrooms and steamed bok choy. 95 Pine St.; 206.625.0129;


Red Cow  
This romantically lit neighborhood bistro features simple decor and concrete walls, and is flanked by painted gray banquettes and zinc-topped tables. Toward the back of the restaurant is a large bar area, where diners can choose between a seat at the counter or one at a handful of high tables. The French bistro–inspired menu offers six different cuts of steak ($24–$70), meant to be eaten with a heaping pile of perfectly crisp, golden fries ($6), an indulgent and worthy splurge for singles. Choose from one of several different, classic sauces for the steaks, such as béarnaise or horseradish cream. 1423 34th Ave.; 206.454.7932;


Chinook’s at Salmon Bay
This seafood diner is always hopping. Families queue up at the front and vie for waterfront tables, but solo diners can head straight to the bar, where the bartenders work efficiently to take and fill orders. The U-shaped bar is positioned at the heart of this large restaurant, facing the always active Fishermen’s Terminal, a prime spot for people watching. Comfortable, high-backed chairs that swivel make it easy to linger over a bowl of traditional creamy clam chowder ($6.95) or one of the many salmon dishes: served on an alder plank with smoky beurre blanc (market price), in a pot pie ($16.95) or oven-broiled (market price) for purists. 1900 W Nickerson St.; 206.283.4665;


This off-the-beaten-path haunt on the eastern edge of Lower Queen Anne may not always be top of mind, but the kitchen turns out tasty food at affordable prices, and the restaurant possesses a welcoming, neighborhood feel. The long bar or the chef’s counter make for great solitary dining without the social pressure; this is a perfect spot to lose yourself in a book without being pestered. The pan-roasted chicken comes wrapped in prosciutto ($18), a preparation that reads as dated, but tastes divine. A dinner full of nosh-y items is also easy to put together here; the menu offers a cured-meat plate served with herb-infused olives ($13), a cheese plate with rosemary crackers and a dollop of house preserves ($12), and a platter of antipasti ($13), for those who prefer to graze. 823 Fifth Ave. N; 206.283.8800;

A perfect night: a book, a glass of red wine and the house lasagna at Crow in Lower Queen Anne


Sand Point Grill  
Seasonal comfort food prevails in this neighborhood restaurant, which has been around long enough to be overlooked. A stone’s throw from University Village, the restaurant has a dark wooden bar that provides the best seat in the house. You’ll often run into a mature, friendly crowd of patrons who are happy to chat or leave you in peace. Dinner options range from casual (buttermilk fried chicken, $19) to creative (a cauliflower “steak” garnished with garlic-almond crumble, $14) to fancy (filet mignon with traditional sides and red wine reduction, $27), but the casual vibe means there is no need to dress up or put on your best shoes. 5412 Sand Point Way NE; 206.729.1303; Facebook: “Sand Point Grill”


Copper Coin   
From the same family that brought Red Mill Burgers to Seattle comes this friendly joint in the heart of West Seattle. Here, Northwest café food is served in a casual, pub-like setting, and it’s pretty easy for single diners to belly up to the bar on any given night. The spot is made all the more pleasurable by the 20-odd taps on display. Local brews fill most of the keg spaces, making this an excellent place for beer lovers, while wine, hard apple cider and even mixed cocktails fill out the poured offerings. Order from a menu that includes a wild sockeye burger oozing with chermoula sauce ($12.95) and served with fries or Red Mill’s famous fried onion rings ($4.50). Bonus points: On Monday nights, you can grab a burger and beer for $13. 2329 California Ave. SW; 206.420.3608;


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