5. South Lake Union
Essential restaurants: Pam’s Kitchen, Butcher’s Table, Anar
Five years ago, we would have laughed you out of town for suggesting this even be on the list, not to mention top five. But times have changed: there’s hardly a big-name chef or restaurateur in town without a spot here -- Tom Douglas has a half-dozen alone, followed by Kurt Beecher Dammeier (standout: Butcher’s Table), Ethan Stowell, Josh Henderson, and Dan Bugge. But, miraculously enough, small shops have held their own: Row House Café, Pam’s Kitchen, and Berliner Doner Kebab keep affordable lunch within reach, along with a daily dose of food trucks and the lovely Anar.