HEY! YOU FOUND MY SEATTLE RESTAURANT GUIDE! I do not in any way consider myself a food critic, nor am I particularly adventurous when it comes to seeking out exceptional restaurants. And since I am a vegetarian who doesn't even live in Seattle in the first place, I'm clearly not the best source for restaurant reviews there. But so many people have asked me about what restaurants to eat at when visiting Seattle that I finally created this "secret" guide that I can pass along without having to type up a lengthy email or take up space in my blog.
That being said, Seattle has no shortage of fantastic restaurants that will make eating in the city a gastronomical delight. Seafood, in particular, is a great choice due to an abundance of local favorites (such as Dungeness Crab and a variety of Washington State wild salmon) and not-so-local classics (Alaskan salmon is flown in fresh every day). I've included those places which my carnivore friends drag me to when they want great food, so non-vegetarians can get their meat on.
Click on the restaurant name to go direct to their website for menus and directions...
- Cafe Flora — Vegetarian — Madison Park
As about as perfect as it gets, and can easily compete with the finest restaurants you'll find anywhere. Cafe Flora features exceptional vegetarian cuisine that will thrill vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Always interesting, always fresh, always delicious. If I lived in Seattle, this would be my most frequented spot.
- Ray's Boathouse — Seafood — Ballard
If you can afford it, Ray's is probably the most destination-worthy restaurant in Seattle because it manages to combine good food, great service, and breathtaking views all in one spot. I've never had a bad experience at Ray's and, though vegetarian items on the menu are scarce, they are always happy to create a vegetarian entrée without hesitation. While most anything you get at Ray's is probably fresh and delicious, everybody tells me that the Dungeness crab cakes are to die for.
- Ray's Cafe — Seafood — Ballard
The main restaurant at Ray's Boathouse is a pretty classy and pricey affair, which is why I usually head upstairs to the cafe where the menu is not quite as expensive and you can sit out on the deck and enjoy the incredible scenery (weather permitting). The times I've eaten here there have been vegetarian items on the menu, and they've all been creative and delicious.
- Wild Ginger — Asian — Downtown
A favorite "classy" restaurant in Seattle. They have a fantastic vegetarian menu (with vegan alternatives, if you're so inclined) and everything I've ever ordered has been inventive, flavorful, fresh, and delicious. Non-vegetarians need not worry, as they're well taken care of with a wide variety of Asian-influenced meat preparations (including selections from their satay bar, which come highly recommended). If they have their blackened asparagus on the menu, order it. I could eat the stuff as my appetizer, entrée, and dessert and still want it for breakfast.
- Icon Grill — American — Belltown
Another favorite, the Icon Grill is home to "Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese" which will kill you because it's so good (and the fat content is probably ridiculously high). They've also got a mashed potato side-dish that has corn mixed in that I love. And great Fettuccine Alfredo. And incredible soups. And appetizing salads. And mind-blowing desserts. There's simply too many great reasons to eat here... not the least of which is when they fry their Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese into nuggets of orgasmic death and serve it as an appetizer.
- The Dahlia Lounge — Asian — Belltown
The flagship of the Tom Douglas restaurant empire, it's hard to go wrong at The Dahlia. The crab cakes here are famous, and I know people who won't order anything else. Vegetarians have a limited selection, but it's always something interesting. I usually go for a salad, they're excellent. You will absolutely want to save room for dessert, The Dahlia has some of the best in Seattle.
- Salty's on Alki Beach — Seafood — Alki
This restaurant regularly gets voted high honors in the Seattle restaurant scene, and provides the absolute best view of the Seattle skyline. I have friends who eat here for every special occasion and love the place, but I eat here only when outvoted by a group. If you're a vegetarian, I hope you like potatoes, because that's about all you'll find to eat.
- Brasa — Mediterranean — Belltown
UPDATE: WAH! BRASA HAS CLOSED!!! A pricey restaurant with incredible food that should not be missed. To save money, I prefer to eat in the bar, where the menu is a relative bargain (especially during happy hour). There are notable vegetarian options on the menu, and I've had no problem asking that the meat be left out of other dishes I like. Desserts are exceptional.
- Il Fornaio — Italian — Downtown
Part of the classy "Il Fornaio" chain of restaurants, the Seattle location at Pacific Place is a great place to eat Italian. I'm particularly fond of their Cappellacci di Zucca (butternut squash ravioli) which you can only get in the Restaurant... the selections are different in the Risotteria and the Bakery Cafe, so be sure to look at the menus before taking a table so you can be sure to get what you want. Prices are a bit on the high-end for Italian (my squash ravioli is $17 for a relatively small portion) but I can't help eating here from time to time.
- The Metropolitan Grill — Steaks — Downtown
I've been told that this is where you can get the best steak in town. As a vegetarian, I can't really attest to that because I'm always having to order side-dishes as my entrée, but I've heard it enough times to believe it. In any event, I'd hope that the steaks are good because you pay through your ass to eat here. My salad, two side-dishes, dessert, and a couple drinks ended up costing me around $70 with tax and tip. I can't imagine how pricey it would be to eat a steak, as the prices start at $50 a pop. If you love steak and can't spend your money fast enough, this is your restaurant.
- Bamboo Garden — Vegetarian — Queen Anne
If you're visiting the Space Needle and Seattle Center, you can't go wrong by crossing the street to eat at Bamboo Garden. They have a wide variety of meat-free selections, and everything is flavorful and delicious. I'm particularly fond of their fried rice and faux chicken sizzling plates. Not really a good place for desserts, but you can always wander back to The Center House over at Seattle Center for that.
- Ivar's Acres of Clams — Seafood — Waterfront
A Seattle institution, Ivar's is practically a tourist attraction on the Seattle waterfront. Famous for their clam chowder, the restaurant isn't a very good option for vegetarians so I rarely eat here, and include it just because people expect to see it. From what I hear, the seafood is above average but not earth-shattering. Prices are above average as well, but I include "Acres of Clams" in my mid-range list because they have happy hour running from 3:30 all the way until closing every day! If you stick to the happy hour menu, the prices are great, and you can get a good meal for your money. Ivar's has other restaurants and clam chowder bars scattered around, but it's the original waterfront location that made them famous.
- The Saint — Mexican — Capitol Hill
Come for the tequila, stay for the awesome food! Not exactly the cheapest of Mexican restaurant options, but the happy hour bargain prices make The Saint worth a stop at off-hours. I love their Enchiladas con Queso, which you can get in a "mini" edition of the happy hour menu.
- Lowell's Restaurant and Bar — American — Downtown
There are plenty of places to eat near Pike Place Market, but Lowell's is the classic eatery in The Market. Great views of Elliot Bay with darn good food and friendly service. A great place for breakfast in the city.
- Bakery Nouveau — Bakery — West Seattle
Granted, most visitors will never make it over to West Seattle but, if you're in the neighborhood, Bakery Nouveau is definitely worth a stop. Everything is good here, but the cheese pizza is fantastic, and the fruit tarts are especially tasty.
- Johnny Rockets — Burgers — Downtown
Yes, this is in no way a "Seattle" restaurant since it's a big chain, but they serve my favorite burger here (Streamliner Burger with no grilled onions) and so I'm obligated to put it on the list. Located in the food court of Pacific Place (along with some other good restaurant options), I eat here far more often than I'd like to admit. There's only one problem, and it's a biggie... they regularly run out of veggie burger patties, making eating here hit-and-miss.
Less Expensive Restaurants
- Cyber-Dogs — Vegetarian — Capitol Hill
Here's a treat... an internet cafe with 100% vegetarian gourmet hotdogs! There are so many great choices here, that it would be impossible for me to recommend a favorite, and every dog I've tried has been fantastic. Even my meat-loving friends are happy to eat at Cyber-Dogs, which is about the best compliment I can give the place.
- Dick's Drive-In — Burgers — Capitol Hill
I rarely eat here because it's vegetarian-hostile, but I'm including it because this is where most of Seattle would say you can get the city's best burger. Obviously, I know nothing about that, but I can tell you that they have great hand-made milkshakes and tasty hand-cut fries. Dick's has a few restaurants around Seattle (including the original in Wallingford) but it's the Capitol Hill location that people think of when you mention "Dick's" (and not just because this was once Seattle's "gay district"). Food is dirt-cheap and cash-only.
- Pizza Pagliacci — Pizza — Various Locations
Pagliacci wins awards for being Seattle's best pizza, and probably lives up to the title. I just like the place because I can grab a slice to-go when I want something quick, easy, and cheap to eat.
- The HoneyHole — Sandwiches — Capitol Hill
About as eclectic as it gets with both decor and service, The HoneyHole a fun place to eat with good-tasting, basic food in jumbo sizes. The only problem is that it's nearly impossible to eat here at peak times due to the long wait and lack of seating. Still, if you want to try a local joint over going to yet another crappy Subway's, here's a good bet.
- Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream — Ice Cream — Wallingford & Capitol Hill
This is a bit out of the way, even if you're up visiting the Woodland Park Zoo, but worth a stop if you want to sample some interesting organic ice cream (my favorite is the Salted Caramel in a hand-made waffle-cone). The only issue here is the slow service, which causes long lines and frustration if you just want to get your frickin' ice cream and eat it. UPDATE: I've just been told that there's also a Molly Moon's in Capitol Hill... a much better location for Seattle visitors!