restaurant at the top of Seattle's iconic Space Needle is
one of the suggested dining choices.
But if you don't have a
head for heights, choose from many other enjoyable
Part of a series about travel in the Pacific Northwest
region of the US and Canada - see links on the right for
If you're visiting Seattle, you
can look forward to some dining treats.
In an effort to steer
you away from generic food and ordinary tables and chairs in
plain dining rooms, here are some of the more distinctive
opportunities for you to enjoy eating in the Puget Sound area.
The Space Needle
This well-known tower, built
as part of the World Fair celebration in 1962, still looks
amazingly modern 45 years later. The main restaurant is just
under the observation deck on the top structure, and is 500 ft
above the ground. It revolves every 60 minutes, giving you a
glorious view of Puget Sound, the downtown area, nearby lakes,
and, on a clear day, all the way to Mt Rainier, rising
symmetrically and majestically ft in the distance.
I make a big thing of the
view, because, like many other similar restaurants elsewhere in
the world, the main reason for dining at the Space Needle is for
the view rather than for the gustatory experience. But, no
matter how often I enjoy a meal there (the food is not bad, but
neither is it remarkably great) I still find it a wonderful
experience, and if the conversation ever slows to a stop, there
is an ever changing tableau of sights out the window to study
and comment on!
restaurant serves lunches (brunches at the weekend) and
dinners seven days a week. Reservations recommended. Valet
parking on site. Expensive, and with a minimum food charge of
$30 per guest, if all your companion wants is a salad, you might
want to strategically allocate what you're both ordering
variously to each of you so as to avoid paying the $30 each
minimum. Close to downtown.
Metropolitan Bar & Grill
I'm by no means a brilliant
chef, but it annoys me to find that I can cook a steak at home
much better and more consistently than is the case in most
restaurants. So I seldom order steak when eating out, but
there are some exceptions to this rule.
In addition to the well
known chain of
Chris Steak Houses, which can be found in both Seattle and
Bellevue, Seattle boasts a wonderful steak
restaurant which regularly scores in lists of the top ten steak
restaurants in the US - the Metropolitan Bar & Grill.
There is a slightly dated
(or should I say 'timeless') feel to the
Metropolitan Bar and Grill, and service is unobtrusive
albeit occasionally slightly aloof, and the food is unabashedly
If you want to treat
yourself to one of the country's best steaks, this is the place
for you. Central downtown location, open lunches weekdays
and dinners seven nights a week. Expensive - entrée prices
range up to and over $50.
El Gaucho even better than the Metropolitan Bar and Grill?
Quite possibly so, and both food writers and readers seem to agree - several people
wrote in to protest its omission when this article was first
The restaurant is dimly lit,
with a glow from the wood fired grill adding to the ambience.
They have a piano bar , private dining rooms and also a cigar
lounge where you can rent your own private humidor.
Formally dressed waiters
treat their food with the seriousness it deserves. It is
very expensive - entrees range up to $79 (for a ridiculously
large 24oz New York steak) and you then have to pay more for a
potato and vegetables. Add the lobster mashed potatoes
($21) and some asparagus ($9) and you've just spent $109 on your
meal. And with appetizers ranging up to $26 (Crab and
Shrimp Louie) or $75 (a Seafood Tower) you could quickly find
yourself paying $200 for a dinner, without dessert, tax, or tip.
And do try and save room for
a dessert. The tableside flambéed desserts are a must, and
at a mere $9 per person, are almost the cheapest items on the
If you're seeking a bottle
of wine with your meal, you probably would prefer to order from
the regular Wine List than from their 'Captain's List'.
The regular wine list offers bottles of wine for as little as
$36 (white) or $46 (red). The Captain's List starts at $72
(bizarrely, the cheapest wine on this list is a bottle of
champagne) and climbs steeply up from there, with their most
expensive bottle being $2695 (a 2001 Burgundy).
They recently opened a small
18 room hotel above the restaurant. So if you over-indulge
and order/drink too many of their $2695 bottles of wine, you
don't have to worry about driving home.
Located on Seattle's
'Eastside' (ie everywhere east of the long narrow north-south
oriented Lake Washington that divides Seattle into two parts) is
the celebrated Herbfarm Restaurant. It is almost 20 miles drive
from downtown, but if you're able to get a table, then it is
worth the drive. However, the restaurant is often booked three
months in advance, so don't be surprised if you can't get a
The evolution of this
restaurant is an archetypal story of the American dream at its
finest - an ordinary person started selling extra herbs at their
farm gate in rural Washington. One thing lead to another, and a
flowering business in herb sales blossomed (okay, enough mixed
The owners then added a
small 24 cover restaurant, which became extraordinarily popular,
until a catastrophic fire closed it down completely. However,
this merely provided the impetus to rebuild the restaurant at a
new location, closer to Seattle, and in a lovely semi-rural
setting adjacent to a large micro-brewery (is that an oxymoron?)
and two wineries (Columbia and Chateau St Michele).
Should you be as lucky as to
have the opportunity to dine at
The Herbfarm, you can
look forward to a nine course fixed menu meal complete with
matched wines, lasting 4 - 5 hours and costing the wrong side of
$200 (after tax and service) per person, and sometimes reaching
up to $250. If you want to make a
complete night of it, onsite accommodation is available in the
same complex. Dinners are served Thurs-Sun each week.
Confession - I'm at heart a
rather conservative eater, and frequently get distressed when
confronted by menu items that are 'spoiled' by featuring unusual
combinations of food items.
I do enjoy eating
'different' things, but it is difficult to find a suitable
compromise between different = good and different = strange and
And so I find - and chances
are you will too -
to be an excellent compromise between ridiculously exotic and
boringly mundane. This popular downtown restaurant serves
an interesting mix of items strongly influenced by Asian cooking
traditions. The restaurant is clean and modern in styling,
and the food is wonderful.
Be sure to go there hungry
so you can enjoy several of their marvelous satay appetizers as
well as a main course.
Prices are moderate.
The restaurant is open for lunch Monday to Saturday and for
dinner seven days a week. Valet parking is adjacent in the
evenings, and there are plenty of local car parks.
Spirit of Washington Dinner
We have become so accustomed
to atrocious airline food that it comes as a great surprise to
find food prepared in a similar situation - for consumption on a
local tourist train - can be served decently and even well.
The SoWDT provides dinners
six nights a week (no Monday service) and lunches on the
weekend, and takes its guests on a 3 1/4 hour roundtrip ride
from a depot in Renton to its terminus at a winery next to the
Herbfarm and back. Renton is about 12 miles from downtown
Seattle, on Seattle's Eastside.
You have 45 minutes for a
wine tasting at the winery before returning to the depot.
There are two main seating
choices on the train - either in a parlor car or a dome
observation car. The train of vintage carriages is hauled by a
diesel locomotive. Diners are asked to specify their entree
choice when reserving (typically a meat, fish, and at least one
other choice are offered). Lunch/brunch meals are $54 or
$69 in the dome seating area, and dinners are $64 or $79 (plus
tax and tip).
The food is okay but not
marvelous, and the experience is the main reason for choosing
this dining option. The
Spirit of Washington Dinner Train also has occasional
'Murder Mystery' theme dinners.
Update : If the SoWDT
appeals to you, hurry to enjoy it. Their track rights
expire in 2007, and the track the train runs on may be closed
and converted to a recreational trail.
Update : Alas, the train
is no more.
Seattle is very much a city
on the water, not only Puget Sound but also its various lakes
and waterways as well. If, like me, you're irresistibly drawn to
the water, then dining in a waterfront restaurant is sure to
One of my favorites, and
with many memories of long enjoyable lunches, is the
Restaurant, located around the harbor several miles from the
downtown center. The dining area is reached after walking over a
50 ft bridge that crosses a massive indoor pool, and the dining
area offers beautiful views out over the water.
For a while they
discontinued lunch service, but it has been happily restored, so
you have a choice of weekday lunches, Sunday brunches (no midday
meal service on Saturdays), and dinners seven nights a week. Moderate price. Plenty of parking available.
There are other distinctive
waterfront restaurants, of course.
Ray's Boathouse is
another favorite of mine. This is located at Shilshole
Bay, right on the water, and close to the entrance to the locks,
Lake Union, etc, so there are always boats moving past. It
is often a convenient way to complete a pleasant day out by
visiting the locks then going the couple of miles further to
Ray's for a meal.
Ray's current building dates
back to 1988 - a major fire destroyed the earlier building, and
there is a formal restaurant downstairs (only open for dinners,
seven nights a week) and a cafe upstairs (only open weekends,
for lunch and dinner). A definite plus for the upstairs
cafe is being able to dine on an outside deck in the summer.
The menu is predominantly
focused on fish and seafood and moderately priced. Expect
to pay somewhere in the $30s for an entree in the restaurant,
and in the teens in the cafe. Parking is directly in front
of the restaurant.
Broiler (various locations), the
Leschi Lakecafe (now
Bluwater Leschi), and
Anthony's (various locations) would all be good and safe
Salty's on Alki
Beach is located opposite Seattle on the far side of the
harbor, and diners can enjoy stunning views back to the Seattle
skyline. They provide lunch (brunch on weekends) and dinner seven days a week, and
offer complimentary limo pickup from many downtown hotels, and
has water taxi service from downtown during the summers.
If you're looking for a part
of Seattle's cultural history, you should head to Ivar's Salmon
House, with wonderful views out over Lake Union. The restaurant
is named after its founder, Ivar Hagland, a long time Seattle
'personality'. Designed in the style of a traditional Indian
longhouse, and with an open pit barbeque in the kitchen, it
serves a variety of primarily fish/sea food related entrees.
Food quality is a bit uneven, but usually good. There is also a
takeaway shop facing out onto the street, serving a very
disappointing range of so called 'fish and chips'.
Ivar's Salmon House is open daily for lunch and dinner. On
Sundays they serve an excellent buffet style brunch (update - no
longer offered, alas), at which
I'm often to be found! Prices are moderate, and there is
plentiful parking immediately opposite.
Royal Argosy Cruises
Perhaps you'd rather dine on
the water rather than alongside. In such a case, a lunch or
dinner cruise on one of the boats operated by Argosy Cruises
would be a great choice.
The day tour cruiseline
operator has partnered with the company that operates the
Metropolitan Grill (and other excellent restaurants in the
region) to provide a very high quality three course dining
experience. Dinners have live music, making it a 'dine and
dance' type cruise.
In addition to regular
Royal Argosy Cruises occasionally offer themed dinners.
Lunches and dinners are not served every day (occasionally the
boat is chartered) and you should reserve ahead of time.
Note that they offer 'web
specials' on their dinner cruises (currently, Nov 06, they are
selling dinner cruises for $60 online as compared to $69-89 if
you call or visit). And, ridiculously, they're also adding
a 50¢ per person fuel surcharge. How petty is that?
Icon Grill rip
This is a stylish restaurant
with a quirky decor, and very popular with lunchtime diners. It
is a good choice to take a business associate to, and due to
popularity, it is often advisable to make a reservation.
They are open for lunch
and dinner seven days a week.
Food at the
Grill is good, and service is friendly. Moderate pricing. No
parking provided for this central city restaurant, but street
parking lots are nearby.
Maybe you're alone in your
hotel room and don't feel like eating in the hotel's over-priced
and disappointing dining room. Why not order out for a
Pagliacci Pizza. Definitely Seattle's best pizza, and
with fifteen different delivery kitchens (you can also phone in
an order then go pick it up yourself - something I always do so
as to get the pizza at its freshest), the chances are there's
one not too far from wherever you are.
Whether you're in Seattle
for business or a vacation, and for a day or a week, you're sure
to find something to enjoy from the wide range of distinctive
dining choices available in this area.
More information on Seattle
dining can be found on the
Visitor's Bureau website.
Bon Appetit! Or, as my
favorite ribs joint (Armadillo in Woodinville - no website,
alas, and - double alas, now it just does special event catering
rather than have a public restaurant too) says, bone appetite.
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8 August 2003, major rewrite 3 Nov 2006, last update
20 Jul 2020
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