In Seattle, variety is not simply the spice of life—it is the way to live.
Step into the Pacific Northwest city’s famed coffee shops, for instance, and you can say no to cow’s milk while choosing lactose-free alternatives such as rice, almond, coconut, soy, and hemp milk—which by the way, will not cause you to fail a drug test.
As an iconic US food writer once advised, “First we eat, then we do everything else.” While in Seattle, take the opportunity to taste your heart out in a culinary setting that promises to be as diverse as it is creative.
To help you tease your tastebuds, read our guide to planning a food adventure that will not only please your palate, but satisfy your soul.
Places to “Eat Around the World” in Seattle
Seattle is America’s fastest-growing big city for this decade, enjoying an 18.7 percent population growth (or 114,000 more residents) since 2010. Although it was not always considered one of the more ethnically diverse American cities, that too is changing, slowly but surely. This bodes well for the city’s food scene, where you can venture out to enjoy many well-loved foods from cultures all over the globe.
For a taster of everything the world has to offer, head to Nue Seattle, which is best described as an “eclectic restaurant.” Nue’s evolving dinner menu will spirit you away to far-flung destinations—sample and share street dishes hailing anywhere from Brazil (acarajé, fluffy fritters made from peeled black eyed peas and stuffed with prawns, cashews, and spice) to Puerto Rico (mofongo, garlic-flavoured mashed plantains).
“As avid travelers, and insatiable eaters, we set out to build the same kind of casual gathering, food, and drink place we consistently frequent while abroad, but for whatever reason, can never quite find back home,” explain the owners of Nue. “As seemingly diverse as they are, the divey tascas [taverns or bars] of the Iberian Peninsula, the explosively colourful markets that blanket Asia, the smoky outdoor grills found throughout the Balkans, and the vivid town squares of South America all share a lot in common: [they are] simple, unassuming, always unique, conspicuously approachable, oftentimes surprising and most importantly, insanely delicious. This is the food we like to eat.”
For Asian fine dining, visit Nishino, which has been in business since 1995 and is still earning rave reviews. It offers an omakase menu, where the chef dictates what is served. For those curious about kaiseki, a Kyoto culinary tradition involving small, intricate dishes, head to the new restaurant Wa’z, which opened in March this year.
If all you need is a casual and quick bite, look for the food truck Tabassum, which serves up “smiles and samsa,” a puff pastry comfort food in Uzbekistan. “Every Uzbek family has a favorite samsa recipe, and we do too,” says Tabassum founder Suriya Yunusov. “My parents were from Northwestern China. My mom taught me her recipe, which, in turn, was her mother’s. But I’ve made it my own, which may make my mom roll her eyes, but keeps things fun.”
To meet local immigrant communities, stop at the Kent East Hill Farmers Market on the last Friday of every month. The community market will run till October this year, so do hurry. Or visit Rainier Valley, which has been hailed as one of America’s most diverse neighbourhoods.
Have a Bowl of a Time
Last year, Seattleites reportedly could not get enough of bowl foods such as poke, a raw fish salad served as an appetiser in Hawaiian cuisine. A good place to try this is at Hawaiian celebrity chef Sam Choy’s Poke To The Max, where you can order your salad with ahi tuna or salmon. There, you can also try musubi, a popular Hawaiian snack that bears resemblance to the Japanese onigiri (rice ball), and loco moco, a Hawaiian meal of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and gravy. For more places to poke your palate, refer to Seattle Magazine’s list.
The bowl food trend is also dominated by restaurants catering to vegetarians and vegans. Beloved salad chain Evergreens serves wackily named bowls such as “Seedless in Seattle” and “Cobb Your Enthusiasm,” featuring seasonal, local, and all-natural ingredients. Equally earth-friendly is Sweetgrass, which “serves something for everyone, from sustainable hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and dairy, to vegan, gluten-free, and allergy-restriction options.”
If you are craving dessert that is hearty yet healthy, visit the organic superfoods cafe HeartBeet, where you can treat yourself to an Acai (pronounced ah-sah-EE) Celebration Bowl or a Cinnamon Chia Pudding Bowl. Seattle Met has more “best bowl” recommendations.
Wine and Dine at Seattle’s Emerging Neighbourhoods
If you have time for only one other neighbourhood apart from downtown Seattle, make it Capitol Hill, which is revered as the city’s hippest and most creative neighbourhood. To go on a full-day culinary trek, save Eater Seattle’s list of “20 best Capitol Hill restaurants and cafes,” which includes Nue (mentioned above).
And if you happen to be looking for things to do in Seattle at night, Capitol Hill is the place to be too. The Infatuation has a guide to the best bars in the neighbourhood, but we think the most promising pick is Canon, touted as “Willy Wonka’s… for anyone who cares about fancy craft cocktails.”
Another Seattle neighbourhood worth exploring is Columbia City, which blends vintage charm with urban appeal. A stop at Empire Espresso for coffee and waffles is a must, and if you are planning to spend more than a few hours there, you can keep yourself entertained with music and “live” acts at the Columbia City Theater—in particular, look out for Rise Up, a Hamilton tribute band. For more ideas on spending half a day in Columbia City, bookmark Seattle Mag’s eating, drinking, and shopping suggestions.
To find out which other areas are worth venturing into, consult this guide to the best neighbourhoods in Seattle.