Where do our Food Writers Really Dine?

Our food critics' choices offer a tasty peek into their eating habits

By Seattle magazine staff April 6, 2016

A person holding up a pink cake with sprinkles on it.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Seattle magazine.

Sure, it’s their job to chase down and road-test the latest trends and hot spots, but where do our food writers really dine? What do they recommend to friends and visitors looking for a restaurant? Our food critics’ choices offer a tasty peek into their eating habits.

Jessica Yadegaran
Seattle magazine food editor

Jessica Yadegaran grew up in Southern California feasting on saffron-tinged basmati rice and koresht, the savory stews of her Persian heritage. Armed with a journalism degree, Yadegaran worked as a food writer and wine critic in the San Francisco Bay Area for 12 years before moving to Seattle. She lives in Ballard with her husband and 4-year-old son, who accompany her on many food adventures.

Very best restaurant: Salare (Ravenna, 2404 NE 65th St.; 206.556.2192; salarerestaurant.com). It’s the whole package: incredible cuisine, superior service, balanced cocktails.

Top three dishes of the year: The fermented tea leaf salad with chickpea tofu and papaya, laphet thoke, at Hotel Albatross (Ballard, 2319 NW Market St.; 206.566.6181; hotelalbatross.com); duck fat hush puppies at The Carlile Room (downtown, 820 Pine St.; 206.946.9720; thecarlile.com); corn brûlée at Salare (Ravenna, 2404 NE 65th St.; 206.556.2192; salarerestaurant.com).

Go-to restaurant: Pestle Rock (Ballard, 2305 NW Market St.; 206.466.6671; pestlerock.com). Kao soi, a Northern Thai curry noodle soup, is off the hook. And, the restaurant delivers through Amazon Prime Now.

Restaurant most recommended to others: Joule (Fremont, 3506 Stone Way N; 206.632.5685; joulerestaurant.com). Like Salare, this upscale French-Korean fusion restaurant is the whole package.

Local seasonal food you’re most excited about eating: Morels. They’re my special treat.

Chelsea Lin
Seattle magazine regular contributor, baker

Short rib rice bowl from Revel; Jackie Donnelly
A lifelong lover of food, Chelsea Lin moved to Seattle from San Francisco in 2008 and only misses the dim sum. When she’s not writing or eating or writing about eating—something she’s been doing professionally for the past eight years—she’s baking layer cakes (Tin Box Bakeshop, tinboxbakeshop.com) and trying to keep her kids’ fingers out of the buttercream.

Very Best Restaurant:
Revel (Fremont, 403 N 36th St.; 206.547.2040; revelseattle.com). The dumplings, the salads, that short-rib rice bowl, even the brunch is phenomenal. If you like your food with bold flavors—or have an undying love for condiments and pickles, as I do—this humble French-meets-Korean place can’t be beat.

Top Three Dishes of the Year: The kao nam tod at Thai Savon (Beacon Hill, 6711 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S; 206.556.2949; thaisavon.com): A crispy rice dish peppered with sour pork and eaten in lettuce leaves with bountiful herbs, it is perhaps the best Thai dish I’ve eaten this side of Bangkok. After balking at the fact that this burger costs nearly $20 and took 30 minutes to arrive, I experienced the most perfectly charred, exquisitely harmonious burger at Essex (Ballard, 1421 NW 70th St.; 206.724.0471; essexbarseattle.com). Damn if it’s not worth it—and more. I planned to use this space to wax poetic about Met Market’s transcendent chocolate chip cookie, but my sweet tooth recently met another love: the lowbrow/highbrow Lick the Bowl dessert of foie gras cake batter, salted pound cake and a generous smattering of rainbow sprinkles at Eden Hill (Queen Anne, 2209 Queen Anne Ave. N; 206.724.0471; edenhillrestaurant.com).

Go-to restaurant: Kona Kitchen (Maple Leaf, 8501 Fifth Ave. NE; 206.517.5662; konakitchen.com). This wacky Hawaiian joint is so close, I can see it from my house, so for lunches when the fridge is bare—I work from home, and this happens more than I should admit—we eat Spam musubi and macaroni salad.

Restaurant most recommended to others: RockCreek (4300 Fremont Ave. N; 206.557.7532; rockcreekseattle.com). It’s a seafood restaurant for locals rather than tourists, which means I can’t help but share with out-of-town guests who would otherwise be heading to the waterfront.

Local seasonal food you’re most excited about eating: As an obsessive baker, there’s nothing I love more than the tart Montmorency cherries I pick up from Tonnemakers’ stands at farmers markets during the fruit’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it season in midsummer.

Allison Scheff
Food writer, kitchen designer and former Seattle magazine food editor

Le Pichet in Belltown; Easton Richmond
Allison Scheff was born and grew up near Tacoma. While attending the University of Washington, Scheff got her start working in local restaurant and catering kitchens before shifting to food criticism 17 years ago, reviewing in New York City and then in Seattle, as this magazine’s food editor for six years. She recently launched a kitchen design company, Distinctive Kitchens Seattle (Facebook: “Distinctive Kitchens”). Home cooking, live-fire cooking and gardening are passions, and she’s often heading out on outdoor adventures with her husband and two kids.

Very Best Restaurant: Le Pichet (Belltown, 1933 First Ave.; 206.256.1499; lepichetseattle.com). Brilliant, carefully composed salads and starters, a dapper air, inexpensive rustic wine and, recently, the finest, crispiest-crusted, creamiest-centered falafel—with local melon and cucumbers, no less—that one might luck upon on any given Monday afternoon. Le Pichet is dependably delicious and chic all of the time.  

Top Three Dishes of the Year: Sitka and Spruce’s charcuterie plate (Capitol Hill, 1531 Melrose Ave.; 206.324.0662; sitkaandspruce.com) was a revelation, the platter heavy with duck fat, and the spreadable salmon ’nduja and slices of lamb morcilla (blood sausage) satisfying a primal craving. Floral notes of Sichuan peppercorn and subtle hints of star anise waft from the broad bowl of Swimming Fire Fish at Bellevue’s La Bu La (Bellevue, 288 106th Ave. NE, Suite 200; 425.688.7991; labula-dining.com). It’s an enchanting dish, spicy and transporting, with fish so supple, it tastes as if it cooked in the hot broth on its short journey to the table. There are several memorable bites from my most recent dinner at Shiro’s (Belltown, 2401 Second Ave.; 206.443.9844; shiros.com), but the seared tuna belly nigiri—the fish so fatty and luscious and savory from its caramelized crust that it tasted like the marbled edge of a piece of roast beef—well, it was unforgettable.

Go-to Restaurant: At least once a week I drop into Georgetown’s neighborhood Japanese market, Maruta (1024 S Bailey St.; 206.767.5002; marutashoten.com), for lunch, usually for inarizushi, seasoned rice balls wrapped in tofu skin. For weeknight dinner, I find myself at New Leaf Bistro (West Seattle, 2342 California Ave. SW; 206.938.3681) with my family for the pho. The fragrant beef broth is outstanding.

Restaurant most recommended to others: The pleasant hum of conversation at Matt’s in the Market (Pike Place Market, 94 Pike St. No. 32; 206.467.7909; mattsinthemarket.com) combined with an iconic view over the Market sign to Elliott Bay make it my go-to recommendation for visitors. I tell them to seek out spot-on versions of fish stew, with smart local wines by the glass, or any of the incredible sandwiches midday. I point locals toward Mamnoon (Capitol Hill, 1508 Melrose Ave.; 206.906.9606; mamnoonrestaurant.com), where warm Middle Eastern spices linger in the air, orange flower water perfumes ice cream, smoky whipped baba ghanoush floats on just-baked flatbread, and the tony clientele makes dinner feel like an event.

Local seasonal food you’re most excited to eat: When the first sweet, hand-shucked garden peas arrive on the plate—often sautéed with another springtime affirmation, morel mushrooms and their own sautéed vines—it feels like the dark months of winter are fully behind us.


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