Almost every restaurant you enter in Seattle has an open kitchen. Diners across the city patiently watch as chefs prepare their meal each night over good conversation and creative cocktails. Grill tops are nestled behind massive center islands akin to those found in a home, flanked by rustic pillars or fresh microgreens, and sometimes there’s even a “chefs counter” for the most intimate of dining views. It’s the ultimate in dinner theater.
The list of restaurants to choose from is growing year by year. With the boom in tech hiring at Amazon, Tableau, F5 Networks and Google, cranes cover the landscape and many houses are being remodeled into multi-unit apartments. Seattle has more customers than ever – and with more than enough money to support any industry. This translates to a growth in superior quality restaurants that satisfy the many tastes of natives and transplants alike.
We took a trip to Seattle to create a list of our top picks so you can enjoy the finest restaurants this sleepless city has to offer. Every restaurant we chose is owned by locals with a penchant for sourcing high quality and sustainable ingredients. From dry-aged steaks to smoked ham and porchetta, here is our meat lover’s guide to eating in Seattle.
Aqua by El Gaucho
Over the last 21 years, Pier 70 has been a disco night club, home to the cast of The Real World and a popular seafood restaurant. When the Waterfront Seafood Grill merged with El Gaucho in 2011, Aqua by El Gaucho was born to the benefit of Seattle’s avid surf and turf lovers. Spectacular views of Elliott Bay brighten the open yet comfortable dining room by day and offer a front row seat to ferryboats crossing the Sound by night. You’ll often find a skilled pianist playing tunes that fill the enormous space with an atmosphere like that on a luxury cruise ship. It’s quite serene.
Although options change depending on what’s fresh, you will always find at least one of El Gaucho’s world famous dry aged steaks on the menu. The Frenched Rib Steak is not to be missed. It comes ala carte, medium-rare and seared from the wood-fired grill. A single crimini mushroom becomes one with the steak while microgreens add a touch of brightness. We suggest ordering any one of their seasonal side dishes to share family-style at the table. It’s the perfect option for those looking to dine intimately with friends or family.
Meat & Bread
Meat & Bread hails from Vancouver, Canada, where the flagship restaurant runs a line out the door. In response to its wild popularity, they now have five locations with two in Seattle – one in Capital Hill and one in South Lake Union. At both counter service restaurants you’ll find tall, open ceilings with a simple decor that mimics the simple menu.
However straightforward the menu may be, it delivers exactly what you need in flavor and serving size. They master specialty braised meats piled on ciabatta bread that’s made in-house daily. Rotating specials sit alongside their one mainstay sandwich, which is offered at all five locations.
The Porchetta is slow cooked with their Italian-style salsa verde, consisting mainly of salt, lemon, fennel, basil and parsley. The crackling that forms on the Porchetta while cooking is reserved to add a touch of crunch and a whole-lot of flavor to the sandwich. It comes without your usual lettuce tomato and onion – only their original recipe mustard with caraway. You don’t need anything else.
If you’re looking to enjoy high quality, flavor rich food in an intimate yet relaxed setting, look no further. Chef Jason Wilson opened Miller’s Guild downtown as a vehicle to enter the more casual world of upscale dining, following his very successful run with Crush on Madison Street. The tight street side patio is great for post-work dining with friends while the interior boasts a welcoming, open space defined by the wood fired grill at its center.
Chef Jason built the menu to exemplify his desire to connect with his guests and share their experience. Order any one of their seasonally inspired sides for the table to share (the Brussels sprouts are a must) alongside one of the many protein options they have laid out from land to sea.
If you pass on the Chef’s Counter tasting experience, we suggest you turn to their dry-aged prime chalk board for your main course. The cuts change based upon what’s been perfected in the dry age room, so you may not have the chance to experience the same cut twice. We were lucky enough to enjoy their 60 day dry-aged prime T-Bone, which serves one to two people – maybe even three. A slice of petrified wood features your steak, garnished with herbs and blue cheese then surrounded by colorful, flavor-packed sauces made from scratch. It’s a gorgeous presentation that will satisfy even the most bold of appetites.
RockCreek Seafood & Spirits
If you find yourself in the Fremont neighborhood, check out the seafood-centric RockCreek Seafood and Spirits. You have three choices upon entering: head upstairs to the somewhat quieter mezzanine loft, enjoy the main area with a great view of the kitchen, or head out the garage door onto the patio and sit near the fire pit. There’s also a private dining room tucked behind a sliding barn door through the loft for those who like to plan their evenings with friends in advance. Each area has a rustic, farmhouse touch, giving it the air of a modern lodge that isn’t too sporty but maintains a feeling of authenticity.
We stopped in for brunch and were not disappointed. The Tar Pit is literally everything a hungry person could ask for at the beginning of the day, and for a really reasonable price. Shaved Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked ham is served atop buttermilk biscuits with a nice smothering of poached eggs, lemon-dijon hollandaise and country gravy. It pairs really well with an orange juice and coffee. For those who like to share, order one of their homemade cinnamon rolls on the side and you’ll never see breakfast the same way again!
In 2007, Skillet Street Food got its beginnings as a food truck serving lunch around Seattle. Since then, the mobile venture has opened four permanent Skillets, the first in Capitol Hill. All their locations strive to create a comfortable environment that makes customers feel connected to the restaurant in a personal way. While each Skillet Diner is a more developed version of the traditional diner, you still get that down home feeling when you walk through the door.
The dishes are simple and play to our more basic senses with a staff that is just as inviting. Executive Chef Nick Novello is driven to create innovative twists on American favorites using quality, sustainable ingredients. This is evident in every dish on the menu, from the burger topped with bacon jam and arugula to the pork belly and cornmeal waffles.
Our personal favorite was The Chub. This breakfast sandwich is topped with bacon jam, American and brie cheese, one egg, our Applewood Smoked Bacon, jalapeno aioli, greens and tomato all stacked high on a brioche bun. We opted in for the addition of a fried chicken thigh. It was nothing short of amazing!
Stoneburner is a warm, lively restaurant located at the heart of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, where the streets are lined with vintage shops and regionally inspired restaurants that lend to the area’s hip and chic reputation. The wine list is extensive with friendly and knowledgeable staff available to help you choose the perfect pairing. The interior emanates a European vibe while keeping true to its Pacific Northwest origins. We loved seeing patrons seated at the chefs counter while friends and families dined along the outer walls that opened to Ballard Avenue. This is the ideal location for any occasion.
Chef Jason Stoneburner’s venue focuses on stone hearth cooking with brick pressed meats, Mediterranean fare and uniquely topped crusty-yet-thin pizzas. Try a selection from the Cold Cuts & Cheese section on the menu, which rotates frequently. He uses Niman Ranch pork to experiment with his very own charcuterie. We enjoyed the Mortadella and Coppa, garnished with breads, pickled veggies, mustard and chutney – all made in-house.
The grand finale to our Seattle dining guide is Chef Jason’s Grilled Bavette Steak. This cut is a bit harder to find than others but boasts a flavor so rich and intense it’s worth choosing every time. A spattering of salsa verde brightens your palette, putting the essence of summer directly on your tongue. Mushrooms are a true complement, with the addition of grain mustard jus only intensifying the presence of the meat. This dish is superb in every way.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Seattle? Let us know in the comments and we’ll consider adding it to our list next time we visit this beautiful city!