This city by the Puget Sound has long been home to some of the best food on the West Coast. While Seattle has been through some tough times in the pandemic—like all the major cities on the Pacific Ocean—its diverse food offerings still amaze diners.
According to World Population Review.com data, people who speak Asian languages at home account for 10 percent of the population, followed by Spanish at 4.5 percent. What is more, the city’s foreign-born population has increased by 40 percent in ten years. This makes for a very dynamic food scene, dominated by Asian flavors, African influences and fabulous combinations of local Pacific Northwest ingredients.
It Always Starts with a Cab Driver
When I lived in Seattle, more than a decade ago, I was inspired by the cab drivers. I always chatted with them about where they ate in their time off. So, one day I ended on Martin Luther King Boulevard, in the Central neighborhood, which is home to a large Ethiopian community.
I couldn’t find the restaurant I had been to years ago so I picked the next, best-looking opportunity and was not disappointed. Café Selam resembles someone’s back yard with tables scattered under umbrellas. Several mamas in the back cut the meats and make the sauces to order, so it is slow but wow is it worth it.
The Doro Wat, a chicken dish stewed in tomato, butter and berbere sauce was stunning. The Alicha lamb came in big chunks paired with peppers, jalapenos and a turmeric spice blend.
Matt’s in the Market, with its central location; and Nell’s, a grand dame in the Greenlake neighborhood were both around when I started visiting Seattle more than two decades ago.
They are both, thankfully, as good as they ever were. Think fresh, local takes on seafood and greens reinvisioned at both places. The beet salad was wonderful at Matt’s: although once again note to chef hold the Burrata as it has landed on too many plates—across the country—at once.
The halibut sandwich was lightly fried and delicious as was the bowl full of clams and mussels: always better scooped up with a bit of bread. The restaurant has a nice selection of French wines by the glass.
Nell’s is off the beaten path and its dining room speaks of time gone by in Seattle: which is not such a bad thing. The food is still as good as it was twenty years ago. The Sockeye Salmon was the best I have had in years, the snap pea risotto with mint was divine and the venison was good, if undercooked.
Some Fun Nights
The first night we got to the Thompson, a beautiful modern hotel close to Pike Place Market with stunning water views, we were tired but up for some fun.
The hotel’s roof bar, the Nest is loud and festive with fun drinks. We did a duo of rum-drinks off a shotski as everyone watched and took pictures.
I guess drinks highjinks are still fun for all ages.
Afterwards we descended to Conversation, the restaurant in the lobby, for little salmon and charred broccolini. The wine list is pretty eclectic and we ended up with a fascinating Austrian red that was 13 years old and showing beautifully. The hotel also features swanky penthouse suites where the chef can serve private meals.
Another great evening was spent in the totally charming hamlet of Madrona at charming wine bar, Bottlehouse, that focuses primarily on natural wines (not always my favorite). However, their choices were fascinating and included the first Turkish sparkling wine I ever tasted: Pasaeli Sidalan Pet Nat.
From there it was short walk, around a beautiful neighborhood, to Vendemmia a classic Italian restaurant with loads of vegetable offerings.
The Bucatini with beef cheek sugo was dense and intense and a great way to get a little meat into the dietary lineup before more salmon!
Two Stops Before Heading Home
The Hotel 1000 is also beautifully located and has a buzzy bar and a restaurant. The All Water restaurant has local oysters and great tomato bisque, as well as a solid burger.
Bar Sur Mer is out in the Greenwood neighborhood and focuses on all small bites with an innovative cocktail program.
As a rum girl I really enjoyed their Mai Thai with coconut foam on top. Sesame-cured Hamachi was lovely but the tomato salad would have benefited from more vegetables.
Don’t even let me start about where else I would have liked to have eaten had I had more time. Let’s start with my beloved Vietnam House, off the main drag in the International District; and the amazing Harbor City for dim sum and anything with black bean sauce and clams.