There’s nothing quite like Seattle in the sunshine.
It was the perfect destination for a recent weekend getaway from Los Angeles for my husband and me – and we set out to explore the city through its burgeoning food scene. With an abundance of incredible local produce and access to some of the finest seafood in the country, Seattle has become a foodie mecca, filled with inspired (and often affordable) eats.
Sitka & Spruce Kitchen, Fresh Asparagus & Iowa Smoked Ham
We started our adventure for lunch at Sitka and Spruce – a small but bright and beautiful restaurant inconspicuously located in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. The name of the game here is farm to table – literally. The wide-open kitchen gives the impression that you’re a guest in a friend’s home. The food was elegant and creative, sourcing local (and sometimes obscure) ingredients and pairing them in surprising yet simple ways. We shared several small plates, starting with an incredible chickpea puree with harrisa, lebeneh, coriander and pistachios. Their smoked sturgeon was perfectly topped with crème fraiche, sitting atop a bed of sea grass and sea beans (which we had never tasted). We rounded out our sampling with fresh asparagus and Iowa smoked ham under an egg with hazelnut puree and fresh flowers as garnish. Lunch was incredible – light, fresh and interesting – and the dinner menu looked fantastic.
Pikes Market Exterior, Enormous Crabs Sold at Pike’s Market
On our first full day in the city, sunny and 65 degrees, we wandered down to Pike’s Market for the obligatory tour through Seattle’s most famous farmer’s market. Arriving before the rush, we gawked at the enormous Alaskan crabs and scallops (photo) and tasted the dark chocolate and Washington cherries. When we spotted an enormous line outside Lowell’s, we figured it must be a good choice for breakfast. Lowell’s is a Seattle institution since 1957 and sources all its ingredients from its neighbors in Pike Market. We shared the special omelet: blackened wild Alaskan king salmon with asparagus, homemade avocado, tomato, onion salsa and cojita cheese. Definitely a portion (and price) worth sharing – it hit the spot, even if it wasn’t particularly memorable. And the Pike’s Market visit wasn’t complete without a visit to the very first Starbucks – certainly a tourist trap but worth a look.
The afternoon took us back into Capitol Hill, an interesting Bohemian community just a short walk from downtown. We had no plans for lunch, so we stopped in a small coffee shop and asked for local recommendations. Two different patrons told us we HAD to go to Skillet. It was a good walk away but the hot spot in town – and as we walked over, we overheard another Seattle resident telling a friend about it, so we knew we were onto something. It lived up to expectations. Skillet began as one of the first food trucks in America, operating out of a vintage Airstream trailer and offering “approachable yet focused” food prepared with classic technique and seasonal ingredients. About a year ago they opened their brick-and-mortar restaurant in Capitol Hill, although they still operate their street food truck, too.
We had to try their burger, made from locally raised beef and served with creamy bleu cheese and their famous bacon jam. That’s right – bacon jam! They make it by rendering down a bunch of good bacon, adding spices and onions and letting it simmer for several hours – then they puree it, blast chill it and end up with what they (rightfully) call “bacon heaven.” (You can buy a jar on their website if you don’t believe me.) We also tried the amazing “Fried Chicken Sammy” with a fennel seed crust, served with pickled and charred jalapeno aioli and kale on a toasted potato bread roll. I’m still dreaming of this meal – and probably still full from it too. With other menu items like “pork belly and cornmeal waffles” this isn’t for anyone on a diet, but in my opinion, worth every calorie. (By the way, their milkshakes looked amazing, as did their homemade daily fruit fresca drink.)
After walking off our meal for a few hours and with no plans for dinner, my husband did some research using our favorite (and free!) app – Chef’s Feed, which offers restaurant and dish recommendations from the best chefs across the country. (If you’re Yelp-ed out like us, download it now!) That led us to Le Pichet, a quaint, authentic French bistro downtown where we could share a small bite after our huge lunch. We ordered a French cheese plate and homemade rabbit sausage with a small salad – everything was very nice in a cozy, romantic atmosphere that transports you to Europe.
On our last full day we ventured beyond downtown to explore two Seattle neighborhoods, Fremont and Ballard, roughly 30 minutes by bus from downtown. Fremont is self-described as “quirky” and “eccentric,” and it certainly has a sense of humor. You can stand at the “Center of the Universe,” visit a troll who “turned to concrete before snacking on Fahrvegnugen” and check out a Soviet-era rocket protruding from the top of a storefront.
A friend had recommended we eat at Revel, described as “urban Korean comfort food.” The kitchen is operated by a husband and wife team who met while cooking at New York’s Alain Ducasse, and the food is a marriage of their unique styles: Rachel Yang’s Korean background and French technique with Seif Chirchi’s American flavor and training.
Revel’s Homemade Ramen
Looking at the menu, you just have to go for it – the choices are totally modern and literally unimaginable. For lunch we opted to try their monkey bread, which comes with BBQ pork, pickled jalapeno and spicy maple syrup – wow. (We also heard good things about their bacon, hazelnut and pickled Asian pear donuts. Maybe Seattle has a thing for bacon?) We also sampled the short rib and eggs, served in a bowl over sticky white rice with arugula and chimichurri sauce – (this was my favorite) and their homemade ramen with pork belly, kimchi and an egg on top. Certainly not for the diet-conscious or the picky palate, Revel is a perfect spot for the adventurous eater.
Before we left Fremont we wandered into Theo Chocolate, the first organic, fair trade certified bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the US. They call their chocolates “delicious and ethical,” using sustainably grown ingredients, free from conventional pesticides and fertilizers. Wander into their store and you’re invited to sample any of their myriad chocolate concoctions – infusing high quality chocolate with coconut, dark cherries, coffee, mint and more. They also offer factory tours seven days a week, a fun activity particularly with kids, and they have a great gift selection on their website as well.
After a walk along the water we hopped the bus to Ballard and walked through the main drag on Ballard Avenue. The vibe is a bit like Brooklyn, with lots of great small shops. At the end of Ballard Avenue you come upon two of the best restaurants in Seattle: The Walrus and the Carpenter and Staple and Fancy. I had made an early reservation (which are recommended) at the latter, an Ethan Stowell restaurant favoring simple Italian-style food inspired by local ingredients. The must-do here is the “Fancy” menu: a multi-course feast of seasonal dishes crafted for your table. (The other option is ordering a la carte, “Staples.”) Over six small appetizer plates arrived, one more miraculous than the next, ranging from a garbanzo bean and tomato salad to an Escolar sashimi with avocado puree and fresno chilis. Then came a pasta course with perfect homemade fig and ricotta ravioli. The main course was a seared pork chop and as a finale, warm rhubarb cobbler. Divine. We also loved the homemade lime ginger beer and appreciated the way they let us savor our dinner, not rushing us through the experience. I can’t say enough great things about this restaurant — and the other Ethan Stowell Seattle restaurants (Tavolata, How To Cook a Wolf, Anchovies and Olives) are equally popular.
It was the perfect ending to a delicious adventure. Now you’re inspired to skip the beach and go to Seattle for your summer getaway – perhaps you’ll enjoy eating your way through the city as much as we did.