The Thrillist Awards: Seattle's Best New Food & Drink of 2015
It was a record setting year in Seattle. We definitely set the record for the dumbest-play-call-that-led-to-a-Super-Bowl-loss. We scored the hottest summer ever, which was then followed by an extremely long stretch of heavy rain. We also managed the weirdest traffic jam in Seattle history -- it was caused by an over-turned salmon truck. Even with all that under our (now-tighter) belts, we also may have set a record for the most amazing additions to our city. Star chefs returned in top form (Sushi Kashiba, Un Bien), pop-ups went brick-and-mortar (Coyle's Bakeshop, Kraken Congee), and international stars opened local locations (Meat and Bread, CaliBurger). Here's the best of everything new that arrived in Seattle this year.
Best new brunch
With big, bright windows and pops of seafoam green, the dining room seems almost tailor made for mornings. Meanwhile, chef Edouardo Jordan's mix of fancy Northwest ingredients and down-home Southern cooking results in cornbread pudding and blueberry compote, duck hash with pepperonata, and a dozen other hangover-busting dishes to go with your bloody mary.
Best new upscale restaurant
The arrival of chef Maximillian Petty brought in a big gust of fresh Austin funkiness to the Seattle restaurant scene. From the wee digs of what was briefly Entre Amis, Petty puts out dishes with Texas-sized ambition -- the crispy pig head candy bar isn't even the strangest thing you'll see. While the food pushes the envelope, the presentations, service, and ambience make this place a celebration-worthy setting.
Best new bakery
After building a name through pop-ups at Book Larder, Rachael Coyle opened this temple to butter and flour. The flaky cretzel (a croissant and pretzel hybrid) started out as the star, but since then, savory scones, passion fruit tarts, and chocolate cake have all lured customers into the green seats.
Best new Chinese food
Sichuan specialties like five flavor pork stomach strips and dry cooked frog aren't easy to find in these parts, so lovers of what Bamboo Garden called "the Wild Side" were bummed when that restaurant shut. Thankfully, this year it reemerged bigger, more beautiful, and possibly even better.
Best new donuts
It seems Renee Erickson (The Whale Wins, Walrus and the Carpenter) can do no wrong these days, but nothing is more right than the giant, fluffy donuts at her new shop. Fist-sized and filled with creative jams, creams, curds, and custards, pastry chef Clare Gordon's creations are alone at the top of the local (probably national, possibly global) donut rankings.
Best new burger
Seattle might never get an In-N-Out, but now we have something better: the rare imitator that actually improves upon the original. While you'll find all of In-N-Out's classic menu items (no, you don't order animal-style, it's "Cali-style" here), you'll also find better French fries, local Stumptown coffee drinks, chicken sandwiches, and Rachel's ginger beer. Oh, and instead of bible verses on cups, you can get booze in your milkshake.
Best new sushi
Shiro's name is synonymous with great sushi in Seattle, so news that he would be coming out of retirement to open a new restaurant in Pike Place market was met with wide-eyed excitement. It's appropriate, now, that the legendary chef (along with many of his top lieutenants from his previous restaurant) is ensconced in an equally legendary location.
Best new sandwich
This famous Vancouver shop slid down I-5 as if it were greased with pig fat -- just like the kind that drips off their signature porchetta and mingles with salsa verde, leaving the cracklings crisp, and soaking into the bread.
Best new lunch
It took a few pop-ups and an appearance on a television show called Restaurant Startup, but the Filipino-inspired rice porridge shop finally found a permanent home in the former underground lair of Little Uncle. With longanisa (Filipino sausage) lumpia and fish sauce wings on the apps menu and ube (purple yam) cheesecake for dessert, the namesake porridge is just the beginning.
Best new brewpub
After years of brewing eclectic beers and serving all kinds of food out of a tiny pod of a place in SoDo, chef Travis Kukull and his brewer partner, Cody Morris, moved on up to this sprawling space. The extra physical room has given both men more room to expand: Morris is mixing in new kinds of beers, including finally getting to brew a much-demanded IPA, while Kukull is able to bring in more of the Asian flavors he added to his resume working at the late Mandalay.
Best new steakhouse
It was a good year to open a steakhouse, so this category came with stiff competition. But neither Seven Beef (from Ba Bar and Monsoon owner Eric Banh) nor Bateau could edge out the strong flavors of kimchi and gochujang that saturate Girin's Korean menu. In-house aged meat comes face to face with all kinds of funky and fermented sauces, adding excitement and spice to the traditional steakhouse meal.
Best new line worth waiting in
First, we waited in line at Paseo, then they closed. When Paseo re-opened, we, again, waited in line -- only to be reminded that this wasn't the original, it wasn't quite the same. So when the family behind the original Paseo opened Un Bien, you can bet we got in that line -- along with most of the rest of the city. Thankfully, at the end of that line, we found what we'd been looking for. Those onions. That aioli. That marinated pork.
Best new mobile shop turned brick-and-mortar
Anyone who'd tried these biscuits at farmers markets knew just how flaky good they were long before the shop opened up in the Economy building of the market. What they didn't know was how much better they'd be with gravy (vegan or sausage) -- not to mention alongside kale slaw, grits, or pimento cheese, all of which joined the permanent menu at the new space.
Best new Latin American
The namesake arepa is a griddled corn cake, split open and filled with an infinite combination of meat, cheese, beans, and more. It is the national food of Venezuela, and while easily made in a home kitchen, it hasn't before been easily found in Seattle. With a crisp exterior from the griddle, soft fillings like Venezuelan cheese and black beans or reina pepiada, a Venezuelan avocado and chicken salad are the way to go -- and the reason we're psyched to welcome this piece of Venezuela to Seattle.
Best new place to camp out with your laptop
Start your day with coffee, end it with beer, and take a shopping break in between. If this sounds like the perfect workday, Miir is the place to rest your weary keyboard. The socially conscious outdoors products company might seem like an odd place to type up the Great American Novel, but the bright big windows hold coffee by Kuma and Heart, 28 rotating beer taps, Mighty-O donuts, and soft pretzels.
Best new cocktail bar
The patio is sprawling, the wallpaper looks like it came from your grandma's house (and the ceiling from a French chateau), but really, you're here for the liquor. Specifically, the amari and the cocktails that employ it, selected from either the herb or the bitters section of the menu. Either way, it should include the bittersweet Italian herbal liqueur that is the specialty of the house.
Best new brewery
The real secret to decoding which of the breweries we already declared the best new breweries of the year is in outgoing editor Bradley Foster's bio at the bottom of that article. He points out that he hasn't actually made it to all of them, because he "has to drive by Holy Mountain to get to most of the other spots on this list." Nobody's passing by the saisons and farmhouse ales here to get to just another IPA.
Sign up here for our daily Seattle email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
Naomi Tomky eats at all the new restaurants to find the best and the worst, but nobody ever asks her about the latter. Follow her on Twitter @Gastrognome and Instagram @the_gastrognome and maybe you'll find out.