Food & Drink

10 Seattle Restaurant Chains That Should Go National

Naomi Tomky/Thrillist

Hey Seattle, we’ve got a problem. Our food and our summers are so great that if we don’t do something, everyone (we’re looking at you Californians) is gonna want to move here. And since we can’t export our surprisingly sweet weather, these 10 local eats operations can follow the lead of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Caffé Vita, and Via Tribunali and bring Seattle food to the nation, instead of the other way around...

Katsu Burger

Established 2011
Number of locations: 2
What it does: Replaces the usual burger patty with a breaded, deep-fried version
Why it might blow up: Did we mention it is deep frying burgers? Besides that, it's incorporating Japanese pop culture (Godzilla! Ninjas! Samurai!) into the menu, fun Japanese ingredients such as wasabi into the coleslaw, nori (seaweed) on the fries, and kinako (roasted soy flour) in milkshakes. Then sticking to what it does best: putting meat into boiling oil until it’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

Naomi Tomky/Thrillist

D’Ambrosio Gelato

Established 2010
Number of locations: 5
What it does: Authentic Italian gelato using fresh, local dairy and the highest-quality of ingredients
Why it might blow up: Softer and denser than ice cream, gelato is ready for its moment in the sun. D’Ambrosio’s version -- bursting with rich, natural taste and made without corn syrup, preservatives, or artificial colors or flavors -- is just the one that could melt ice cream’s cool grip on the country.

Naomi Tomky/Thrillist

Chuck’s Hop Shop

Established 2010
Number of locations: 2
What it does: Offers absurd numbers of the best local beers from hard-to-find and teeny-tiny breweries on tap for drinking there and growler fills, as well as in bottles
Why it might blow up: It sounds a bit like a zoo -- with food trucks parked outside, kids and dogs allowed everywhere, and events many nights -- but Chuck’s converted-convenience-store ambience makes for the perfect level of controlled chaos. And did we mention the beer?

Sichuanese Cuisine

Established 1992
Number of locations: 4
What it does: Fiery dishes from the Sichuan region of China  
Why it might blow up: Technically, with two stores in Plano, Texas, along with the two Seattle area locations, Sichuanese Cuisine has already gone national. We’ll let it slide, though, because the rest of the country deserves the chance to try the spicy, chewy noodles in the special hot beef chow mein and the opportunity to pick the bobbing bits of fish from a sea of peppery oil in the Sichuanese boiled fish.

Seattle/Ballard Coffee Works

Established 2006
Number of locations: 2
What it does: Single-origin, hand-poured coffee
Why it might blow up: Seattle’s coffee rep has been tied to a single chain churning out over-roasted beans for folks in a hurry for too long. Seattle Coffee Works shows off the slower, more nuanced, high-quality side of Seattle’s coffee culture at its slow bars. Its patient tastings of various beans and pour methods help both noobs and know-it-alls alike find their own personal best brew.

Naomi Tomky/Thrillist

Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt

Established 2013
Number of locations: Lots!
What it does: The best yogurt you’ve ever had
Why it might blow up: Light, fluffy, and full of flavor, the yogurt is closer to ice cream than what you’ll find at most grocery stores, and the eye-catching displays of fruit-topped bins at its yogurt bars seem shipped direct from a Paris storefront. This Australian-style Greek yogurt stand has gone the real-life version of viral, spreading yogurt bars to farmers markets in the area, and to a constantly growing list of supermarkets -- and that’s not even counting its pre-pack distribution.

Eltana Wood-Fired Bagel Cafe

Established 2010
Number of locations: 3
What it does: Montreal-style bagels and Middle Eastern specialties  
Why it might blow up: Smaller, smokier, and denser than the common New York style, Eltana’s wood-fired bagels are reasonably sized for breakfast and its assortment of Mediterranean salads, dips, and dishes (don’t miss the shakshuka) make it an amazing lunch spot.

Naomi Tomky/Thrillist

Heaven Sent Fried Chicken

Established 2011
Number of locations: 3
What it does: The fried chicken that made Ezell famous
Why it might blow up: There are still a few restaurants around town that carry Ezell Stephens’ name on them, but the man, the recipe, and the fry expertise that caused Oprah to fly that chicken across the country are at Heaven Sent. The crisp chicken and special spices -- and that golden-flaky roll -- will quickly have the rest of the country asking why it ever thought Kentucky was where great fried chicken came from.

Li’l Woody’s Burgers & Shakes

Li’l Woody’s Burgers & Shakes

Established 2011
Number of locations: 2
What it does: Signature burgers made with good local meat and creative toppings
Why it might blow up: The solid focus on quality tips it over a certain orange-colored local chain when it comes to burgers that might go national. Its simplest burgers rely on Northwest meat and local treasure Tillamook cheese for the flavor, but it's equally good when it gets creative (as in the Pig and the Fig with bacon, blue cheese, and Boat Street pickled figs).

Naomi Tomky/Thrillist

Nasai Teriyaki

Established 1990
Number of locations: 5
What it does: Seattle’s unique brand of quick-serve teriyaki  
Why it might blow up: The world is in desperate need of a chain of Seattle-style teriyaki restaurants. Dirt cheap, giant portions, and incredibly satisfying, the plates full of sticky-sweet, tender chicken, hot rice, and crisp salad here are some of the best in town. Plenty of people have tried to take an upscale version of this to a national level, but Nasai, one of the originals, would be the one that could show the country how teriyaki is really done here.

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