Where to Eat in Seattle Right Now
From Peruvian restaurants to Kosher bakeries, here are your must-hit new restaurants.
Restaurants always open—even in the depths of the pandemic—but Seattle's current food scene growth possesses an incredible dynamism, bringing new cuisines to new places and innovating in both substance and style, way beyond Italian staples served downtown or seafood towers with a view. Recent openings brought the city a Kosher bakery and restaurant inside a bookstore and a Peruvian restaurant with Nikkei (Japanese) specialties, while Mercer Island gained a destination-worthy restaurant. Combined with the city's best restaurants, which always stay one step ahead with new iterations of old favorites and ever-evolving pandemic pivots, they make up this quintessential list of where to eat in Seattle right now.
Señor Carbón Peruvian Cuisine
Four years after Joe Tuesta first hung a handwritten sign offering Peruvian food, his pop-up evolved into this smart spot, where he combines his training as a hotel chef with his favorite dishes from his home country. Classics like pollo a la brasa, Nikkei dishes from Peru's Japanese population—think South American sushi—and chifa dishes from the Chinese restaurants there all share the menu with bright ceviches. The drinks menu brings Peruvian classics like the pisco sour and updates like the maracuya sour (passionfruit), along with imported beers, including a Peruvian craft brew. To complete the dinner trip to the country, #MamayLama stands in the corner to pose for selfies with customers.
Muriel's All-Day Eats
Books, beer, and bagels don't leap to mind as an obvious combination, but Zylberschtein's Deli owner Josh Grunig saw an opportunity to take on a unique business and leapt at the chance, teaming up with Chuck's Hop Shop to take over the restaurant space in Seward Park's Third Place Books. Even though he doesn't keep Kosher himself, he knew what the neighborhood needed, and made sure to adhere to the dietary restrictions of many in the historically and somewhat contemporarily Jewish neighborhood. The basement bagel shop turns out American Jewish classics like bialys, lox, and whitefish anchor the restaurant, and a few vegetarian specials slip in, including a mezze plate with spicy chickpeas, and carrot fritters with dukkah dipping sauce. Israeli fruit drinks and Dr. Brown's sodas round out the non-alcoholic drinks menu.
This new all-day cafe specializes in—as the name implies—baked goods, but also has a mission to reduce waste as much as possible. The owners come from Hot Cakes and London Plane, so they have plenty of experience in the "adorable and delicious" restaurant category. The baked goods include Yukon gold potato cinnamon rolls, chocolate tahini cake, and an assortment of breads on which many menu items are based, including the mushroom toast and chickpea sandwich. In the non-carb category, they offer a few salads and a charcuterie board. Evenings bring pop-ups of all sorts, including pizzas and pasta, to extend the hours of the shop.
Thomson Zhao and chef Danna Hwang, who previously spruced up the tired China Harbor in Seattle, finally created a restaurant of their own from scratch. The white-tiled walls and black leather seating give it a spare but sharp feeling, leaving plenty of room for the food to bring all the color and flavor. Hwang's signature Modern Asian dishes steal the show—roast duck with caramelized onion and a braised beef rib the size of a baby—but the staples offer everyday options as well, including the honey walnut prawns, seafood fried rice, and shishito peppers with herbed aioli.
Jackson's Catfish Corner
This Central District stalwart returned to the heart of its original neighborhood, splashing a little hot fryer oil on the forces of gentrification. After a few attempts around the city and suburbs, Terrell Jackson, the grandson of the couple who started the restaurant in 1985, brought the famous tartar sauce back to where it belongs: right in the middle of everything. As the name implies, customers keep coming back for the catfish, though there are also a slew of other fried items here—snapper, prawns, chicken, and more—plus a slate of soul food staples like greens with smoked turkey and peach cobbler.
This sweet Lebanese restaurant embodies the charm of a neighborhood restaurant while serving some of the city's best Middle Eastern food and keeping a killer whiskey list. The sizzling lamb hummus catches eyes as it crosses the light-filled room and creates loyal regulars as they dip into the warm, buttery bowl with pita that arrives piled high on a plate. Seasonal mezzes incorporate local ingredients like kale, pears, and yogurt into traditional Lebanese dishes, while stars like chicken skewers stick around all year. Sundays bring chef's choice, an affordable prix fixe menu drawing from whatever is fresh and inspires the kitchen that day.
The only poke place among the city's many that will rival those in the dish's Hawaiian homeland, this small shop features fresh ahi flown in from Hawaii, Pacific Northwest salmon, and Japanese hamachi. The no-frills set up and simplicity of the menu lets them keep the focus squarely where it belongs—on the raw fish salads. Offered by the pound and as part of a poke bowl with rice or salad, and some of simple sides—seaweed salad, edamame, mac salad, or cucumber kimchi—the freshness of the fish shines through here. The only place they stray from the traditional poke shop slate comes in their vegan options, a nice addition to include everyone.
Sail away to seafood paradise from the shores of Lake Union: when Renee Erickson added this waterfront gem to her Sea Creatures restaurant group, she got rid of the Wes Anderson-esque boat behind the bar but kept the Mediterranean and seafood theme on the menu and the waterfront fire pits surrounded by Adirondack chairs. Go big with a seafood tower featuring pristine shellfish and a flight of house-made hot sauces or stick to simple snacks like the spicy clam dip and marinated mussels before moving onto mains, such as crispy duck leg with aioli, chickpea fritters, and saffron clams.
Congee, or rice porridge, goes from basic breakfast to canvas for creative cooking at this tiny takeout window. Using dishes from around Southeast Asia as inspiration, the congee bowls come packed with flavor and toppings. The small window on the side of a Wallingford juice shop doesn't look like much, but the parklet and sidewalk seating provide plenty of room to sit down and slurp up while the porridge is still pipping. Just don't stick to the basics here—grab the Thai-inspired tom yum shrimp for spicy seafood or the barramundi and chinese herbs for a curative concoction.
This food court features a rotating group of immigrant entrepreneurs from the non-profit Food Innovation Network, bringing an ever-changing international restaurant to diners while helping launch new small culinary businesses. The informal setting makes it easy to combine Cambodian stuffed chicken wings, Congolese grilled mackerel, and an Afghan lamb sandwich into a multi-cultural, multi-course feast. Each of the stands comes from one of the graduates of FIN's program to train immigrants and refugees to open their own culinary business, and in its first year, the food hall already launched one stand alone business—an Argentinian bakery—opening up room for more exciting food from around the world.
Long-time local caterer Kristi Brown's (That Brown Girl Cooks) edible ode to the Black community that built the neighborhood showcases her personal cooking achievements and offers a rebuttal to the area's ongoing gentrification and earned her national acclaim within months of opening. Brown serves what she calls "Seattle Soul," bringing together influences from around the city and her own background into her signature black eyed pea hummus, po'mi sandwich mash-up, and a pho-like soup with roasted rib tips. The drinks side is run by Brown's partner and son, Damon Bomar, who looks to the role restaurants played in the Harlem Renaissance as inspiration for the lively vibes he creates at Communion.
Mutsuko Soma's handmade buckwheat soba noodles, made fresh daily, come in a multitude of creative forms and remain the star they have always been at this tiny but mighty flavorful Fremont shop. Along with her traditional noodles and their classic menu-mate, tempura, Soma's supporting cast of sides and starters makes the restaurant even more enticing—anything with seafood is a sure bet. Soma's dedication to making Japanese traditional foods like ikura (cured salmon roe) and tsukemono (pickles) entirely from scratch adds intricate details to every dish. The drinks menu gets bolstered by the extensive selection next door at sibling sake bar Hannyatou.
From the inside of a bright purple converted house, Filipino cuisine gets interpreted through a personal, Northwest filter by chef Melissa Miranda, resulting in a creative and unique, but still comfortingly familiar menu. Sour sinigang soup with miso gets made with black cod; rich, peanut-buttery kare kare dresses tender short ribs, and the MusangJoy fried chicken plays on the Filipino favorite from Jollibee. In the two years since opening, the restaurant pivoted and evolved, but always kept a sharp focus on the community, from supporting and supplying free meal programs to teaching Filipino cooking classes for kids.
This cute cafe always leaned hard on its Georgian roots, until it eventually focused solely on its specialty: a select few varieties of the country's famous cheesy breads, served all day, including as one of the best and most interesting downtown breakfast options.The cheese and egg filled adjaruli khachapuri catch the most eyes, but the stroganoff and lobiani (bean) versions offer an even heartier meal. The light-filled downtown space makes for a pleasant place to linger over a coffee and take your time eating the large bread boats—even though they offer them for takeout, they're best eaten on the spot while still piping hot.
The gist: When Covid closed this Northwest-Filipino tasting menu spot, it reopened with a hybrid CSA and meal-kit balikbayan box. Now, a year on, they have reopened reservations for dining in with meals starting June 12.
The food: Chef Aaron Verzosa uses local ingredients to imitate the Filipino foods he grew up with, like sinigang made with green apples.
Lil Red Takeout
This slip of a place on the side of Rainier Avenue brings big heart and big flavors to Jamaican and soul food. "Big Red" Jackson pulls inspiration for his curry chicken, pork rib tips, oxtails, mac and cheese, plantains from everything around him—his family's soul food roots, his life in the Pacific Northwest, and his wife's Jamaican heritage, and cooks it all with deep care and skill. Years of honing his recipes got the tiny takeout spot named as one of the best Black-owned barbecue spots in the country by expert Adrian Miller, but even that doesn't quite capture the magic of a place that also serves one of the best burgers in the city.
Kin Len Thai Night Bites
Forget anything you might know about Thai food before stepping into the small lobby of Kin Len. Dishes like banana blossom fries, spicy octopus carpaccio, and sweet corn salad with coconut and salted egg bring the tastes and techniques of Thai cuisine into unique dishes, while Kin Len's fast-moving, tapas-bar-like atmosphere offers a unique experience among Seattle's crowded Thai restaurant scene. The ethos behind the restaurant's name—literally "eat and play"—hints at what diners are in for when they sit down. The big flavors of Thai street food serves as inspiration for the fun and innovative cocktails like tamarind sangria and the Far East Manhattan, with house-infused whiskey.