A foodie’s guide to Seattle

Jenny Ma
Jenny Ma
Sep 25, 2019 · 9 min read

Now I wouldn’t consider myself a Seattle-lite by any means, but spending 8 months in the city as a rookie-foodie (roodie?), I’ve stumbled my way to some of the best food I’ve had. Here are some of those places, for each and every one of your food niche.

Photo by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash

Cheap Eats

What else would a broke college foodie start with?!

In an inconspicuous corner of U-District I have found one of my favourite Thai places, possibly ever — Thai Tom. This dimly-lit, literal hole-in-the-wall seems to seat about 10, with the waitress taking your order before you even step in the door. Expect to wait in line for a while. But don’t worry, the tease of Thai delirium wafting to your starved senses is just a part of the experience. Their pad thai is out of this world, packed with veggies, spices and some serious heat. Spice lovers be warned: I was in near tears from my level 4 (out of 5) spice, but partly from how good the food was. Good thing they have great Thai iced tea to sooth the burn, right? Best of all, our meal came out to just over $10 a person. Cheap, delicious, satisfying, this is where it’s at.

Affordable and quick, Salumi and Paseo’s Caribbean sandwiches are tied for the ultimate (delicious) fast food. Salumi serves hearty (read: gigantic) Italian sandwiches overflowing with pulled porchetta, cheese, sauteed veggies. Their cold cuts are stuffed with assortments of delicious cured meats. Its location in the heart of Pioneer Square also makes it super accessible for a quick bite before a Mariner’s game or a walking tour. Paseo is food for the soul. Their eccentric neon building in Fremont is super easy to miss, without even a restaurant sign. I love their Paseo Press, which is stuffed full with tender braised pork shoulder and veggies, smothered in their delicious juices. This is certainly not the meal to be a neat eater.

I can’t talk about cheap eats without mentioning the crowning glory of Seattle, the In-N-Out of Puget Sound, Dick’s (hamburgers). This retro diner/drive-through is allegedly frequented by Bill Gates, among its many loyal fans. Personally, I find while the price tag is great, the taste is a happy medium between McDonalds and cardboard (though improving exponentially with alcohol). Overall, meh.

Not exactly the most accessible, but in.gredients located at Microsoft HQ in Redmond might be the best deal there is in town. For $17, you get three decadent courses from a seasonally rotating menu by award-winning chef John Howie. While I’ve had the occasional miss (raw angus burger, I’m looking at you), most dishes are phenomenal. My favourites include the Dungeness crab salad appetizer, grilled pork chops, and crème brûlée. in.gredients is the epitome of ‘fine dining’ on a budget.

The Classics

There are a few places in every city where missing out on them would mean missing out on the city. Admittedly, a lot of them are overhyped, but these Seattle staples are certainly not.

Pike Place Market — tourist attraction and foodie heaven all-in-one, this is the one stop shop for all your Seattle classics. Doesn’t get much better than that. Start your quest at Pike Place Chowder, the national award-winning chowder. Creamy and packed with fresh seafood, it’s not hard to see why there’s so much hype. They’re also nailing their variants on the classic New England chowder, so I’d highly recommend a chowder sampler split between friends!

Pro tip! Do not wait in line! (No, don’t butt in line). Pike place chowder has a website where you can place orders online and pick up at the side counter when ready. The menu is slightly smaller (no lobster rolls or bread bowls), but well worth the 30–60 minutes you save to explore Pike’s Place!

Daily Dozen might be the most underrated donut place in the world, that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even like donuts. They have some mind blowing mini-donuts, fresh out of the deep frier and absolutely doused with cinnamon sugar, their classic flavour. The crispy exterior and silky smooth (and piping hot) interior just melts in your mouth, sweet and buttery. It’s a must-go for any friends visiting, or even locals who missed it. The stand is inconspicuous and easily overlooked next to the boisterous fish tossing and the golden pig.

Across the street, you have Ellenos Yogurt. Now I know what you’re thinking — how good could yogurt be? Me, thinking the same, put off trying Ellenos for a long time. Once I did, there was no going back. Somehow Ellenos has the creaminess and consistency of ice cream without the sickly sweetness hitting you after a couple spoonfuls. My unwavering favourite was their lemon curd — the sour curd cut the sweetness of the yogurt perfectly. Their passion fruit was a close second. Even if you’re not sure, stop by for a free sample of their flavours, although be warned, you might be hooked.

Piroshky Piroshky is a traditional Russian bakery next door to the original Starbucks. No need to search, you’ll smell the buttery goodness (and spot the line) from a block away. They offer pastries with fillings from beef and onions (delicious) to apple cinnamon. Overpriced? Yes. Worth the splurge? Absolutely.

Rachel’s Ginger Beer is also a popular spot for Seattle-lites and tourists alike. For me personally, I find it overpriced and, well, meh. While it’s really interesting to try, ginger beer just isn’t something I lean towards on the regular.

Seafood

Poke & Chirashi bowls @ Fremont Bowl

Fremont Bowl, Fremont Bowl, Fremont Bowl. Please, if you don’t even visit the Space Needle (in fact, don’t), you need to go to Fremont Bowl. Their poke/chirashi bowls are insanely fresh, and absolutely packed with goodies from the sea. Their salmon, my favorite, just melts in your mouth, leaving a sweet and buttery aftertaste. The seafood is also nicely complimented by their in-house sauces. For under $15, this is one of the best seafood deals there is. Living 10 minutes walking from Fremont Bowl, my love for their poke bowls became a borderline problem.

If you’re an oyster fan, The Walrus and the Carpenter is the place for you. The seafood spot in town, W&C offers a wide variety of fresh raw oysters from different locales. Their menu is a refreshing assortment of fusion seafood dishes inspired by French and Spanish cuisines. Here, I’ve had some of the most unique and unexpected flavour pairings. If you’re lucky, you can even catch their happy hour, when their oysters and drinks are heavily discounted. However, wait times for this popular spot are often a few hours. Good thing is, you can explore the charming neighbourhood of Ballard in the meantime!

Another popular spot for oysters is Elliot’s Oyster House, along with the assortment of seafood places lining the Pier. While I get their hype (especially with tourists) for their great location, these restaurants were not worth the money for me — grossly overpriced and mediocre food with overwhelmed staff, they are a pass for me.

Another Japanese cuisine on the list, Sushi Kashiba. Sushi Kashiba has become somewhat of a legend in the Seattle food scene, serving up some mind-blowing omakase for a very steep price tag. Dining at Kashiba is the complete experience, from the impeccable service to a knowledgeable introduction for every dish. I was half expecting our waiter to tell us the birth name of the fish on our plate. Their omakase menu is a fixed 5 courses featuring various exotic seafood, but also common ingredients such as steamed eggs and salmon, all cooked to absolute perfection. While my wallet’s in no rush to return for a second round, Sushi Kashiba is certainly a dining experience I would recommend to anyone.

Omakase Course 3 @ Sushi Kashiba

Rustic & Romantic

Admittedly, some spots I frequent not just for the food, but for the ambiance. If you’re looking for a place to visit with your special someone, these are a few of my top picks:

The Pink Door serves up some phenomenal hearty Italian food, straight outta grandma’s kitchen. Even better, it’s a short walk away from Pike Place with a great view of the market and pier, and on weekend nights they even feature trapeze artists twirling in the air, in synchronization with the tagliatelle on your fork. Their menu might even top their view. From Italian classics such as ragù bolognese and seafood linguine to their carne mains with a modern twist, you can basically order anything on the menu with your eyes closed and be blown away. Their hearty Italian portions is guaranteed to have you stuffed to the brim on exit. Did I mention this amazing food is also super affordable? Expectedly, the Pink Door is in very high demand, so make sure to snag a reservation well in advance!

Oddfellow’s Cafe might be my favorite coffee spot in town, and that’s saying a lot from the cafe junkie. The rustic decor and high beam ceilings is filled with sunlight and the smell of coffee during the day. I frequently made the trip to Capitol Hill with a good book just to spend an afternoon here. At night, it transforms into a cozy bar/restaurant with a delicious dinner menu — I especially love their creamy mushroom risotto! Even better, Oddfellow’s is just a few steps away from my favorite bookstore, the Elliott Bay Book Company. If you’re curious about the destination of all my disposable income, look no further than this duo.

The Six Seven Restaurant takes patio season to a whole new level. This classy restaurant is located right on the water, where you can enjoy their delicious menu to the view of Bainbridge island across the water and the sound of waves splashing underneath your feet. Their restaurant is also the recipient of various awards throughout the years, and it’s easy to see why. I loved their cod, with a crispy miso crust, and their perfectly seasoned braised short rib. Though slightly on the expensive side, Six Seven is a great place for a special occasion.

Sunday Mornings

Often overlooked, farmer’s markets around Seattle have some kick a** food. Ballard is the undisputed queen of Seattle farmer’s markets. From street food stalls to fresh meat vendors to the aforementioned Ellenos yogurt, Ballard’s farmer’s market has something for everyone. I love their salted taffy and toffee stands, and the very decent tacos at one of the food stands I forgot the name of. There’s also a spectacular Swiss raclette stand, where they sell all kinds of foods just drowned in a pool of cheese, scrapped fresh from an entire wheel. Personally I found it more entertaining to watch than appetizing. Just taking a stroll around the market is one of my favourite weekend rituals.

Benedict sampler & Dungeness crab omelette

What’s Sunday mornings without brunch? My go-to is the absolute eden of gluttony, Portage Bay Cafe. Their Benedict sampler is my long-time favourite, featuring three of their best sellers: dungeness crab, classic smoked ham, and the Florentine. For seafood lovers, they even have an omelette stuffed with actual quality crab meat. If you have a sweet tooth, their pancakes/waffles come with access to their toppings buffet, featuring small mountains of various berries, nuts, creams, and sweets. This is the place for your next brunch feast.


For more of my rambling on food, check out my reviews on Yelp!

Jenny Ma

Written by

Jenny Ma

Product manager, traveller, & hardcore eater.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade