Road Trip: 10 Must-Try Seattle Eateries

Published in Gourmet Live 05.30.12
In our monthly collaboration with BlogHer, we’re off to the Pacific Northwest for an insider’s guide to Seattle’s best burger, meat-free meal, cup of coffee, and more

What’s your favorite place to eat at the famed Pike’s Place Market?

Piroshky Piroshky: This family-owned Russian bakery has been serving a variety of sweet and savory pastries to Seattle locals and tourists since 1992. Fillings range from the traditional potato-and-mushroom or marzipan to local Seattle flavors, including smoked salmon, apples, and rhubarb. The line frequently overflows the tiny storefront, but don’t let that deter you—the speedy service and fresh food make Piroshky Piroshky a must-visit!

What’s a great kid-friendly eatery?

Skylark Cafe & Pub in West Seattle is the perfect place to bring kids while you can still feel like an adult yourself. After hours, it’s a club, so Skylark has a rock-and-roll edge yet stays stroller-friendly. The staff is always willing to include an extra high chair at your table, and just as happy to hand adults a Mimosa. You’ll find rich and hearty foods like the famous handcut, crispy tater tots and a two-story Monte Cristo sandwich on egg-battered sourdough that will satisfy any palate—no matter what age.

Where can you find the best burger in Seattle?

Oprah herself decreed vintage-vibed Red Mill Burgers “one of the 20 hamburgers to eat before you die.” Bring cash (no credit cards accepted) to one of three Seattle locations, where you’re likely to find a line out the door—even in the rain. Once you make it inside, you’re greeted by a friendly face behind the counter and a colossal pile of neatly stacked bacon on the stove (a teaser for good things to come). My favorite dish is the blue cheese and bacon burger, which layers tangy crumbled cheese, thick slices of pepper bacon, crispy lettuce, a fresh slice of tomato, and "Mill Sauce" atop a kaiser roll. And don’t miss the burger’s best companion: Babe’s Onion Rings, which marry a crispy batter crust with melt-in-your-mouth onions.

Which restaurant serves the best vegetarian or vegan dishes?

Venture to the Wallingford neighborhood (just north of the city) and head to Jhanjay Vegetarian Thai. The food is full of flavor, the atmosphere is comfortable, and the friendly staff is exceptionally accommodating to all dietary needs and restrictions. Their must-have menu item is the “mushroom cake,” a tofu and seitan alternative with an amazing meaty texture and addictive taste: You can order the mushroom cake in almost any dish on the menu, but I recommend it with the Spicy Noodles, which I order with extra broccoli. Be warned about spiciness, though: Jhanjay cooks on a 1 to 5 spice scale that they don’t take lightly. If you want “mild,” go with a 1; “medium,” order a 2; and to make it spicy, go to 3.

Where’s a great place to grab a bite near the Space Needle?

New York Pizza and Bar is a family-friendly restaurant just three blocks north of the Space Needle with delicious food and great drinks, all in a stylish atmosphere. I really enjoy everything I’ve eaten there, especially the Kobe beef sliders, Hawaiian pizza, and countless outstanding soups. Best of all is the Rustic Pizza with marinara sauce, prosciutto, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, mozzarella cheese, fresh cracked pepper, and a baked egg. I love the welcoming, modern decor—black leather booths and original, colorful paintings on the walls. It feels like a very grown-up (and expensive) restaurant, but it’s actually budget- and kid-friendly, and hosts a daily happy hour from 2 to 6 p.m.

What is the number one can’t-miss dish in the entire city?

Wild Ginger’s Buddha roll or Thai noodles with prawns, squid, and mussels. From the seafood to the noodles to the knowledgeable sommeliers, Wild Ginger is the place that gets my mouth watering any time I’m heading into the Emerald City.

What’s the best day trip from Seattle for food lovers?

Bainbridge Island is just a 30-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle and is home to countless restaurants, including the Harbour Public House. With its large deck overlooking the boat marina in Eagle Harbor, “the Pub,” as locals know it, offers juicy burgers and delicious sweet potato fries, as well as an expansive selection of regional beers and cider. For food lovers interested in local Northwest ingredients with a French flair, head over to Hitchcock or the island’s newest addition, Restaurant Marché, both within walking distance of the ferry terminal. Wherever you go, save room for dessert, because Mora’s small-batch ice creams and sorbets are not to be missed.

Where would you go to celebrate a special occasion?

My favorite restaurant of all time is Canlis, and not just because I got married there, but also because it’s the one place my food-conservative husband and my adventurous self agree on for special-occasion dinners. The wine list is unreal and includes countless local wines as well as vintages from around the world. Canlis’ wine director has introduced my husband and me to some incredible bottles over the seven years we’ve been dining at the restaurant. The food is equally impressive, whether in familiar dishes like flash-seared teriyaki beef tenderloin and butter-poached lobster or more innovative options such as pulled-lamb croquettes and young beets with sheep’s-milk yogurt sherbet.

What is the city’s best bakery? And what pastry or bread can’t be missed?

Do not be alarmed by the lines that are likely to greet you on weekdays and weekends at Bakery Noveau. Instead, make your way to the counter and order a double-baked chocolate croissant. This flaky, sweet, buttery pastry packed with dark-chocolate decadence is worth every second of waiting and every penny spent. And don’t miss the jewel-colored macarons. My favorite flavor is cassis, with beautiful black-currant mousse between two wispy almond wafers. Pack your sweets in a brown bag and enjoy them on a stroll along Alki Beach with an unbeatable view of Seattle, rain or shine.

Seattle loves its wine and coffee. Where are the best places to enjoy them?

Seattle Coffee Works is coffee-nerd nirvana! You can get cups of single-origin beans and blends, or you can sample coffees the way one would sample wines— in their dedicated “Slow Bar”/tasting room. One of my favorites is the cold-press coffee, which is made via the less-acidic, slower-filtering cold-press process that allows you to really experience the flavor of the bean.

If wine’s your vice, head to the Tasting Room. It’s a fantastic place to try wines from several small winemakers in one space rather than driving out to the wineries themselves, which are located all over the state. Situated in a cozy spot along Post Alley, the Tasting Room is truly a tucked-away gem.

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