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The 12 Best Places to Eat and Drink in Seattle in 2023

Seattle repeatedly ranks among the top culinary cities in the U.S. Known for its fresh seafood harvested from the cold Pacific Northwest waters, its coffee, and the world-famous Pike Place market, it's no wonder foodies flock from around the globe to drink and dine at its thousands of restaurants and bars.

Originally published on The Daily Meal


Tucked into its many unique neighborhoods, from Ballard to Capitol Hill to West Seattle, you'll find options ranging from five-star fine dining to food trucks. 


Unlike the sweeping vistas from the Space Needle, Seattle's culinary landscape is always changing. Old favorites stay steadfast, and new establishments come and go. Whether your taste is classic or contemporary, traditional or trendy, you'll find what you're looking for in Seattle. To get your taste buds tickling and your thirst brewing, here are some of the top spots in 2023 to eat and drink on your next trip to the PNW.


Driftwood

Located right on the Alki Beach waterfront in West Seattle, Driftwood is the creation of local-food-loving husband and wife team Dan and Jackie Mallahan. Taking inspiration from the surrounding region, the menu brings together the freshest seafood, meats, and vegetables produced by local farmers in the nearby Snohomish, Green, and Deschutes River valleys, Vashon Island, and the San Juan Islands.


A concise menu features raw bar selections, "bites," salads and veggies, and meat and seafood mains. Start with local sweet oysters topped with an apple, leek, and persimmon mignonette or local rockfish crudo with pickled saskatoons, shaved turnips, and daikon radish. Sample the housemade gnocchi with roasted, raw, and fermented carrots or beet tartare with white truffles and za'atar. Move on to a main dish of local pork chops with black garlic, aji pepper, caramelized parsnip, and squash puree, or a filet of Makah Nation halibut accompanied by stinging nettle, roasted mushrooms, and puffed halibut skin. 


All of this local deliciousness is served up with style in a cozy interior awash with pastel blues, natural wood, and a relaxing upscale beachfront vibe.


Mama Sambusa Kitchen

Go to Mama Sambusa Kitchen for the famous sambusa — "the only love triangle you'd want to be a part of," per the restaurant's website – but stay for the story. In 1996, Marian Ahmed left Somalia behind in hopes of providing her two daughters with a better life in America. She started Mama Sambusa Kitchen in 2002 as a food truck and established the brick-and-mortar Seattle location in 2009. For 14 years, Ahmed and her team have been serving up their handcrafted and made-fresh-daily crispy stuffed triangles of love to hungry Seattleites who keep coming back for more. 


Choose from beef, chicken, salmon, or veggie sambusas (or try them all — they're only $4 each). Savor the crispy crust and savory filling flavored with onions, garlic, and a special blend of East African spices. But don't stop there. Mama Sambusa Kitchen features a full menu of salads, sandwiches, pasta, and sweets. Pair your sambusa with Shakira's Spicy Chicken Salad, Shadia's Crispy Shrimp Tacos, or Fuad's Fettucine Alfredo. Finish with a slice of Deqa's housemade Date Cheesecake. Wash it all down with a glass of housemade lemonade in a variety of flavors. 


All the menu items are named for family members, and Mama Sambusa Kitchen prides itself on being a woman-owned, Black, Muslim business. 


The Nook

Just as cozy as it sounds, West Seattle's The Nook features a small downstairs bar (handmade by the owners) and a moody lamp-lit lounge upstairs with comfy couches, dark walls, and antique touches. It also has a heated patio tucked out back. Whether you choose to hang outside or in, you'll want to come and stay a while (bring your BFF — it's dog-friendly) to sample all of The Nook's delicious craft cocktails, which continue to catapult it up the lists of West Seattle's best bars. Among its newest seasonally inspired offerings is Poseidon's Punch, a delightfully ocean-hued concoction of the Greek spirit Mastiha (made from mastic tree resin), apricot, lemon, Greek yogurt, blue spirulina, and a touch of butterfly blossom gin. 


If tequila and cigars are more your speed, try The Britain's Cartel with cigar-infused mezcal (it's a thing), vanilla demerara sugar, amaro, umami bitters, and a vanilla bruleed lemon. Per The Nook's Instagram, the flavor is "leathery, smooth and citrusy, with sweet and smoky aromatics." It also comes with a warning: "Contains nicotine!"


And while you're sipping your lovingly made cocktail, why not take part in Trivia Night or catch some live music? Although The Nook doesn't have a kitchen (they choose to stay focused on their craft — cocktails, that is), it offers eats from local cafes and weekly pop-ups with chefs. Don't have the time to hang out? No problem, because The Nook offers its cocktails to go.


ʔálʔal Cafe

You may not be able to remember its name, but you're definitely going to want to get to know ʔálʔal Cafe in Seattle's downtown-adjacent historic Pioneer Square neighborhood. Pronounced "all-all" (not so hard), the cafe is part of the non-profit Chief Seattle Club, a multi-purpose building featuring an urban housing complex for Native peoples. Located on the ground floor, the cafe's menu features an array of pre-colonial, traditional foods all sourced from local Indigenous communities. 


Eat in or take away sweet and savory items such as smoked salmon, rabbit stew, blue corn mush, and "indigi pies" packed with local huckleberries, Saskatoon berries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Sip on an array of your favorite espresso drinks, or relax with a cup of Indigenous herbal tea  Check out the cafe market, where you can pick up Indigenous-sourced products like nasturtium-smoked sea salt, tribal honey, and anishinaabe-zhiiwaagamizigan (that's maple syrup in the Ojibwe language spoken by the largest tribe in North America).


ʔálʔal Cafe serves foods unlike any other cafe in Seattle. It also has a singular mission: to showcase traditional Indigenous foods from the region and invest in the communities that produce them. It's a must-visit for the socially conscious foodie, or for anyone who likes good food in a friendly setting. 


Canlis

Fine dining is synonymous with Canlis in Seattle, as it has been for over 70 years. Founder Peter Canlis, the son of immigrants and restauranteurs, already had a successful restaurant in Waikiki when he came to Seattle in 1950 with "an idea so crazy that Seattle would never go for it." He combined his mother's recipes, Polynesian cuisine, and Japanese-inspired hospitality "in the most beautiful restaurant in the world." Canlis made his dream a reality, and it remains in the family three generations later — a steadfast staple of the Seattle fine-dining scene. 


An evening at Canlis isn't just a meal; it's an experience. Get ready for a multi-course menu that's part your choice and part surprises from the chef. Choose from plates of sea bream with leeks, geoduck, and dashi; sablefish with sunchoke, hazelnut, and nori; squash with alliums, miso, and caviar; and striploin with coulotte, kosho, and carrots. Finish with a slightly sweet treat of dried persimmon with Devonshire cream, vermouth, and yuzu. And, Canlis claims to have "one of the best wine lists in the world." With the 2017 James Beard Award for outstanding wine program and four master sommeliers on staff, be ready to sniff and swirl your way through your meal. 


Forgot to make a reservation? You can still walk in to enjoy Canlis' lounge with live piano, a gorgeous view, and a limited menu featuring craft cocktails and small plates to share.


Dark Room

Iconic Seattle publication The Stranger calls the new craft cocktail bar Dark Room "the most innovative thing happening in Greenwood," a diverse neighborhood in North Seattle. Debuting earlier this year, the idea for Dark Room — "an elevated experience where everyone is welcome," per the bar's website – was cooked up by two bartenders and a chef. The menu showcases an array of inventive drinks and a limited number of Korean-inspired small plates. 


The cocktail menu is indeed inventive and features many imported liqueurs you probably haven't heard of, much less tried. For example, the Night Caper has genever, a botanic malted spirit from Holland; Cocchi Americano, a quinine-flavored Italian wine; and Nonino, a type of Italian grappa. It's punctuated with flavors of caper and jalapeno brine and celery and orange bitters. 


If you're the type who chooses a cocktail for its name, you're going to want to try the "Figgy Swizzit." It's Dark Room's take on the classic fruity swizzle drink, but its ingredients are anything but classic. A mix of fig-infused Tsipouro (a grape-distilled spirit from Greece), the Italian liqueur Centerba, and falernum (a Caribbean spirit), this swizzle has less fruit and much more depth — almost a little darkness to it.  


Speaking of darkness — true to its name, Dark Room is very dark. Cozy up in the dim light with your craft cocktail and dish of Anju — an assortment of sesame-marinated olives, fried Marcona almonds, edamame, and, of all things, potato chips.


Archipelago

These days, people like to have meaning behind their food. They want a story to savor, not just a plate put in front of them. That's exactly what Archipelago aims to provide. A small minority, family, and woman-owned "social purpose corporation" in South Seattle, the communal dining room has only 12 seats. The experience is an interactive one, exploring the contributions made to the Pacific Northwest by Filipino Americans. According to the restaurant's website, dining at Archipelago is a "venture to discover a place not held solely by where it sits in the world, nor the season you've found yourself in — but as it has always been, by the landscape of its people." 


n interpretation of Pacific Northwest cuisine "through progressive Filipino American flavors," the menu focuses on fresh, seasonal, and local foods. Artfully inspired plates are served omakase-style at a bar in front of an open kitchen by James Beard-nominated chef Aaron Versoza. The set tasting menu always surprises, with inventive dishes like Anak Ni Bet. This is Archipelago's version of the Indigenous Filipino dish pinakbet, containing spot prawn, wild mushrooms, bitters, squash, and in-house fermented bagoong (Filipino condiments are typically made from shrimp or fish paste — Archipelago also uses local radishes).


Each dish is served with a story and masterfully paired with wines, ciders, and beers or fresh juices (which are both optional). Be sure to make your reservations early, as Archipelago often books out 6+ months in advance. 


Spinasse

Be transported straight from Seattle to the Piedmont region of Italy via Spinasse, continually rated one of the city's top spots for authentic Italian food. Handmade pasta is the star of the show here, as well as other seasonal dishes featuring local farm fresh and artisanal products from the region.


You'll find a traditional Italian menu with antipasti (starters), primi (pasta), and secondi (mains). Don't skip a course (sharing is OK), or you'll chance missing out on Prosciutto di Parma, made with apples, black currant vinegar, and toasted mustard seeds; Prochetta Tonata — poached pork loin with salsa tonnata and caper berries; risotto with lamb, rosemary, and marinated olives; goat cheese gnocchi with nettle ragù bianca, heirloom potatoes, and toasted pine nuts; and braised duck leg with sautéed maitake mushrooms and creamy polenta. 


You can also opt for the Menu Degustazione, which allows parties of two or more with an appetite to sample every antipasto, primo, and secondo on the menu. Served family style, you can also choose a wine pairing, or select your own glasses from the Northern Italian wine list. Save room for dessert — there's a chocolate cake filled with gianduja mousse, chocolate buttercream, brutti ma buoni, and luxardo cherries. We'll take two, please.


Métier Brewing Company

In French, the word "métier" means "job." No doubt, the team at Métier Brewing Company (MBC) is doing a great one based on its plentiful Washington Beer Awards. Its recent expansion to a new taproom in Seattle's Central District is also clear evidence that the BIPOC-owned business is achieving its mission of brewing "damn good beer" and building community at the same time. One of a handful of Black-owned breweries in the nation, it aims to boost minority representation in the industry.


MBC makes more than 30 beers. The Tequila Barrel Aged Smoked Porter is aged for one year. Up front, you'll smell vanilla, agave, and a little smoke, and the flavor has notes of chocolate and mesquite BBQ. MBC's Junk Culture Hazy IPA is crafted with Mosaic, Cashmere, and Sultana hops, leading to a combination of "fruity and danky" aromas and a "pillowy soft mouthfeel." On the lighter side, the Riesling Saison features fresh juice from Riesling grapes produced by a nearby winery in Woodinville. The result yields fruit and floral scents up front, balanced with the bite of Belgian yeast. 


If you feel peckish on a visit to any one of MBC's taprooms (a third is a partnership with the Seattle Mariners, located just across the street from the stadium), you'll find food offerings, too. Notably, Umami Kushi brings Japanese street food to the Central District and Woodinville taprooms, and you'll also find some of Seattle's best food trucks parked outside the Woodinville location.


Un Bien

With two locations in Ballard and Shillshole, you'll never be too far from getting a fix of critically acclaimed Un Bien's famous Caribbean sandwiches. Crowds gather at both spots to savor sammies like The Press, with its bits of roasted pork, slices of smoked ham, banana peppers, and Swiss cheese melted together in a hot press; and the Caribbean Roast, with slow-roasted pork shoulder that's covered in marinade. All are served on freshly baked baguettes with aioli, cilantro, and caramelized onions. 


Other offerings include Caribbean sautés with choices of prawns, scallops, fish of the day, or tofu sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and housemade garlic tapenade; a Caribbean Roast Dinner of succulent roasted pork shoulder in marinade; the Smokin' Thighs Dinner with tenderized, marinated, and grilled chicken thighs; or a Caribbean Roll packed with jasmine rice, black beans, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, sour cream, cilantro, jalapeños, pickled cabbage, and roast pork or a chicken thigh.


Un Bien is more of a shack than a sit-down restaurant, so don't expect anything fancy. You get a lot of food for the price, but you may have to take it to go if the limited outdoor seating is occupied. Just something to keep in mind during Seattle's interminable drizzly season.  


Phởcific Standard Time (PST)

What the Phở? Cocktails in a Phở shop? And good ones? Yes, you heard that right. A speak-easy style cocktail bar tucked upstairs of Vietnamese noodle house Phở Bắc's downtown location in the Met Tower sounds too good to be true, but it isn't. Phởcific Standard Time (PST) is a Việt-style cocktail nook founded by sisters Quynh and Yenvy Pham. Also called The Tree House, it's on the hush-hush, but very much on the up and up if you're in the know. 


Sip on PST's boozy adaptation of Che — a broad term for a variety of sweet Vietnamese drinks, puddings, or soups — with a base of kicky Korean soju balanced by coconut and basil seeds. Or, try the espresso martini featuring Vietnamese robusta that got PST a mention in Travel & Leisure as an espresso martini worth traveling for. There's also a "pretty and floral" option, combining song cai floral gin and sakura apéritif that has "a bittermelon bite towards the end that lingers into your soul much like a Vietnamese woman." (PST's Insta-caption game is strong, like its cocktails). 


While you're sipping, you can nibble on some authentic Vietnamese eats, including a late-night Vietnamese staple featuring maggi phở fat pate, laughing cow cheese, phở fat anatto oil, and picklings. Also, follow PST's Instagram (there's no website) for occasional pop-ups combining cocktails with bites from local restaurants. 


The Walrus and the Carpenter

It's not clear why this much-loved Ballard neighborhood oyster bar is named after a poem in Lewis Caroll's "Alice and Wonderland." But hey, it's catchy. And you definitely won't forget it. You won't forget the oysters, the vibe, or that giant coral-like chandelier hanging from the restaurant's ceiling either. Forget the reservations though — they don't take them. This James Beard Award finalist for outstanding restaurant in 2022 is walk-in only. 


Many oyster bars have a pretentious atmosphere, but not this one. The goal was to meld restaurant and fishing pub, serving "tallboys, muscadet, piles of chubby oysters and smart plates" in a "lively, approachable space in Old Ballard." Mission achieved.


The menu changes daily, but you'll always find a curated selection of the freshest oysters, many of them local to Washington State. After slurping down the region's finest bivalves, cleanse your pallet with the pea vine salad topped with blue cheese dressing, hazelnuts, sultanas, and bacon, or the charred asparagus with harissa hollandaise, soft egg, fried shallot. From the Fish & Shellfish menu, sample scallop crudo with saffron aioli, mint, rice cracker, and black lime; grilled sardines with walnut, parsley, and shallot; or hama hama clams with vadouvan curry, grilled onion, yoghurt, and cilantro. Meat eaters won't be disappointed with the steak tartare, chicken liver mousse, or grilled lamb with pea purée and ramps. There's also a fine selection of cheeses and sweets to round out your meal.

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