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Top 10 Seattle Area Restaurants for Foodies

Image: RockCreek Seafood & Spirits

Our out-of-town guests who are foodies often ask us which restaurants they should experience while here. It’s a tough call, since there are so many noteworthy, highly acclaimed restaurants. Narrowing it down to just a handful is a challenging and, in reality, impossible task. Nonetheless, here are our top 10 (highly subjective, in alpha order) picks of restaurants where you can expect inventive dishes using high-quality local ingredients served in a convivial setting. Dining at any of these will give you a feel for Seattle’s red-hot culinary scene. Bon Appetit!

1. Cafe Juanita

This refined restaurant alongside Juanita Creek is one of Seattle’s most highly acclaimed special occasion dining establishments. Led by Chef Holly Smith, a James Beard Best Chef Northwest recipient, Café Juanita serves Northern Italian fare with a focus on organic, sustainable Northwest ingredients. Each dish is meticulously crafted and artfully plated, and the warm and knowledgeable staff makes every visit feel like a celebratory occasion. The menu might include duck breast with potato-horseradish tortino and Perigord black truffle and ravioli doppio with oxtail, ricotta and greens … or something entirely different in another season. Whenever you visit, you can count on a memorable experience. KIRKLAND

2. Cantinetta

Whenever we dine at Tuscan-inspired Cantinetta, we bliss out over inventive dishes of house-made pasta that keep us coming back for more. The expertly crafted fare here is absolutely dreamy and the menu is lengthy, making it hard to choose. Maybe a beet ricotta ravioli with brown butter or tagliatelle with guanciale and shallots? Black cod with celery root and apple, or braised short ribs with chanterelles and polenta? Whatever we order, we know it will be absolutely delicious. At night, the golden glow of chandeliers adds a romantic ambiance. BELLEVUE, MADISON VALLEY, WALLINGFORD

3. Copine

On a nondescript street corner, Copine is a hidden gem. Every nuance of the experience is carefully scripted at this French-inspired fine-dining restaurant, from the presentation of an amuse bouche and pillowy house-made rosemary rolls, still warm from the oven, to tiny details such as miniscule blossoms carefully arrayed atop a dish. Even providing flatware to each place setting is done with a flourish, selected from a padded box. The prix fixe dinner menu changes regularly. Current choices include crispy skin salmon with mushroom ravigote and sugar snap peas, and pan-roasted chicken with vanilla-scented parsnip puree. Be sure to order the chocolate pot de crème if it’s on the menu—it’s the best we’ve ever had. BALLARD

4. Goldfinch Tavern

This delightful restaurant (not a tavern at all) is situated in the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Seattle, overlooking Elliott Bay. Goldfinch Tavern is an Ethan Stowell restaurant (Stowell is head of a restaurant empire that includes some of the absolute best restaurants in the city) and, as you might expect from the cross-pollination of Stowell and Four Seasons, everything from the setting to the cuisine is peerless. The mood here is swanky and contemporary, which draws a fashionable clientele. Even the chowder comes dressed up with tasty tidbits of Dungeness crab. Try the smoky, cedar plank salmon, the rigatoni with duck ragu or the radiatore with shrimp and saffron pomodoro … or something as simple as the Goldfinch Burger, which takes burgers into an entirely different stratosphere. DOWNTOWN

5. The Pink Door

This exuberant Italian restaurant in the Pike Place Market (famously with no sign, just a pink door in an alley) has an operatic feel to it, with chandeliers, lavish décor and nightly entertainment—perhaps a trapeze act, a cabaret show or a jazz trio. In some restaurants this would be the main draw. Not at The Pink Door. The food is fresh, seasonal and made from scratch, and while menu items might sound like Italian classics found anywhere (salumi platter, rigatoni and meatballs, linguini ala vongole …), everything that comes out of the kitchen is elevated, and quite possibly the best such dish you’ve ever had. Add wine, maybe braised lamb shank or Northwest fish of the day, and finish with orange blossom panna cotta, and you, too, will be singing. DOWNTOWN

6. RockCreek Seafood & Spirits

RockCreek is our go-to restaurant for perfectly crafted cocktails and reliably top-notch seafood preparations, served in a lively contemporary setting. We always start with oysters. (The small, sweet Kushi oysters, from Deep Bay, B.C. are our faves.) The bright and lemony heirloom cauliflower salad with farro and pecorino, and the Hawaiian hamachi crudo with sweet onion vinaigrette are so delicious we order them on every visit. Beyond starters, the menu does a deep dive into flavors from a wide variety of cultures, with dishes ranging from Hawaiian tuna tartare to Carolina prawns with grits to Fijian swordfish with a jerk marinade. At meal’s end, do yourself a favor and order the key lime pie. You’re welcome! FREMONT

7. Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar

This ocean-focused showstopper is in a league of its own, both for spot-on preparations of seafood and for the sophistication you’ll experience, whether enjoying delicious cocktails and sashimi in the lively raw bar or taking a seat in the elegant dining room. Among current choices on Seastar‘s prix fixe menu: Fire-grilled silver salmon with grilled asparagus and Meyer lemon vinaigrette; Parmigiano Reggiano–crusted petrale sole with haricots verts; and fire-roasted chicken breast with artichoke-tomato relish and tzatziki sauce (yes, there are non-seafood options). If you’re a wine connoisseur, you’ll adore Seastar. They offer more than 750 wines and have received the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence for 15 years in a row. BELLEVUE

8. Spinasse

Spinasse is a shrine to pasta that has consistently starred on numerous national “best of” lists since its inception. It’s been written about by a legion of magazines (so many that they had to break the reviews down by year on their website). Helmed by executive chef Stuart Lane, who re-creates Piedmont cuisine, Spinasse owes some measure of its success to its acclaimed tajarin al ragù, a hand-cut egg pasta with a rich, complex beef and pork sauce. Among other dishes that add to the panache of this remarkable restaurant are agnolotti stuffed with braised rabbit with brodo and marjoram; and risotto with Alaskan spot prawns, chives and Calabrian chili oil. In a rustic space with exposed wood beams, Spinasse has a timeless appeal. CAPITOL HILL

9. Stoneburner

In atmospheric Old Ballard, Stoneburner is a restaurant we continue to be surprised by, in a very good way. The space itself is a rich mélange of ironwork, coffered ceilings and Old World lighting fixtures that will remind you of a restaurant in Rome or Paris. Every time we eat here, we have one of the best meals we’ve ever had. Dishes are layered with textures and flavors, and vegetables and grains have starring roles. We always order an assortment of small share plates, to experience as much as possible. The smoked albacore dip with crispy sweet potato chips is crave worthy, the gem and radicchio Caesar is bright and bold, and the grilled king trumpet mushroom with sunchoke puree is an umami bomb. All these extravagantly delicious tastes are merely the starters! BALLARD

10. The Walrus and the Carpenter

James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Renee Erickson created The Walrus and the Carpenter, a sleek, bright European-style restaurant where oysters and other ocean fare is treated with the respect it deserves. A host of critics took notice, including Bon Appetit magazine, which compared Erickson to M.F.K. Fisher and even Julia Child. Yet this long, narrow slice of a restaurant dressed in whites is the farthest thing from stuffy—it has a cheerful, neighborly feel. Among our favorite dishes: grilled sardines with walnut and parsley; beets with whipped ricotta and pistachios; and scallop crudo with shiso. Now go find your favorites! BALLARD

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