Last updated on January 13th, 2017
I’ve always lamented the subjective nature of restaurant rankings. I mean, who decides the definitive list of the best restaurants in Seattle? It can’t be reviewers on sites like Yelp and OpenTable, because we all know the majority of people who leave reviews are doing it out of spite. In my opinion, reviews are always skewed negative, because the number of complainers outweigh the proclaimers. I don’t trust them. That is why the only top Seattle restaurant list I fully trust and believe in is my own.
Over the past 6 years of living in Seattle, I’ve been to almost every high-end restaurant in Seattle. I have a dining club that meets at least once a month at whatever new Seattle restaurant has opened up recently. We estimate we’ve been to approximately 70 restaurants together. We’ve even been on a three massive food quests to find the best burger, best pizza, and best tacos in Seattle.
We have fairly well-developed and subjective palates. We try as much of the menu as possible and discuss what we love and don’t love. Unfortunately, not every Seattle restaurant makes the cut. Seattle is a fantastic food city, with a billion options and some really talented chefs, but oftentimes the experience leaves me ambivalent.
Anyway, we’ve done the research. We’ve eaten at tons of Seattle restaurants, many of which have come and gone, and I think we’re more than qualified to make a top 10 best restaurants in Seattle list.
Therefore, here is my dining club’s expert analysis of the top
10 12 best restaurants in Seattle (we couldn’t settle on only 10). These are presented in no particular order. I was going to rank them, but I think that going too far down the subjectiveness road. Also, the list is not based on what is currently popular or new. Some of these places have been around forever, and some of them are little neighborhood gems, rather than top chef empires. The list is just our honest opinion of the Seattle restaurants we want to frequent simply because they’re amazing.
⇒Wondering where to stay in Seattle if you’re coming for a visit? See our recommended hotels at the bottom of this post.
Located in the Fremont neighborhood, there is rarely a time when Revel isn’t packed full of hungry diners. Owned by husband and wife cooking team Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, who are rapidly building an empire in Seattle, Revel focuses on Korean dishes prepared with French technique in a modern industrial-designed space. The kitchen is completely open and diners can sit on one side of the prep table and watch the goings on. My favorite thing on the menu is the pancakes and the rice bowls, but they also have a BBQ meat plate that’s packed full of whatever meat they happen to be featuring that month.
Address: 403 N 36th St, Seattle, WA 98103
Art of the Table
Art of the Table is a neighborhood restaurant located in Wallingford. It’s a cozy little place, offering innovative, seasonal, locally-sourced food, all made entirely from scratch. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat at the 5-seat Chef’s Table overlooking the kitchen, you’ll be treated to a culinary show as the chef creates the stunning plates of food. The tasting menu is the way to go here. Every plate is more spectacular than the last. And it’s not just mouthwatering to look at, it’s also incredibly good food.
Address: 1054 N 39th St, Seattle, WA 98103
While the Seattle location is one of two RN74 Restaurants in the U.S., along with a dozen or so others by chef Michael Mina, it’s no where near a chain restaurant. Serving upscale French fare with a Northwest flair, RN74 beats out most of the competition in Seattle because of the consistently delicious food, the impeccable service and the trendy atmosphere. They even have a fantastic happy hour. The bar is always packed because the cocktails are superior. Where else can you get Maine Lobster Pot Pie and a big plate of Tempura Maitake Mushrooms? If you’re up for it, the tasting menu is awesome and it comes in two sizes.
Address: 1433 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
Staple & Fancy
It’s unfortunate that the photo I have isn’t very good, but it does give you an idea what you’re in for. I said I wasn’t ranking, but if I were, Staple & Fancy would be number one. I love this restaurant. It’s dark inside with the exposed brick and beams from the previous tenant proudly creating ambiance. It’s owned by one of Seattle’s top restaurateurs, Ethan Stowell. We bring all our out-of-town guests here because it offers the best “experience” overall. We always order the chef’s menu, which is only $55 and includes a parade of dishes delivered all at once to the table as appetizers, followed by a pasta, main dish and dessert. The food is always stellar and it’s exciting to see what will come out of the kitchen next.
Address: 4739 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107
I initially fell in love with Terra Plata for its brussels sprouts, but now I’m hard-pressed to find it on their menu, so now it’s all about the blistered shishito peppers. And their really awesome rooftop patio too! If it’s a nice day in Seattle, that patio is packed. Their menu isn’t huge, but everything on it is a winner, so you don’t have to worry about ordering the wrong thing, and that’s good because it isn’t cheap. The locally-sourced menu items change frequently, so there’s always something new to try.
Address: 1501 Melrose Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
People often ask where to get the best seafood in Seattle, and are then surprised when I don’t say the Waterfront. There are some okay seafood places on the waterfront, but if you want the best it’s in Fremont at Rock Creek Seafood & Spirits (lucky for you, the best burger in Seattle is right next door at Uneeda Burger). Rock Creek’s interior is really unique. It was built with mostly reclaimed wood and has a bi-level dining room. They serve eco-friendly seafood from worldwide sources, including of course, some of the Pacific Northwest’s best.
Address: 4300 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
Joule was the first restaurant from local food heroes, Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi. Like their other restaurant, Revel, Joule showcases Yang’s unique Korean cuisine. The restaurant serves things like short rib, a really good kalbi burger, grilled kimchi, spicy rice cakes and octopus, along with lesser-known cuts of beef like bavette and tri-tip. The space is very open and comfortable. They also serve brunch!
Address: 3506 Stone Way N, Seattle, WA 98103
I fell in love with Cantinetta because of its charming neighborhood feel. You know how sometimes you just want to go somewhere that feels warm and inviting, like home? Cantinetta is that place. They serve insanely good Italian food, alongside a glass of red wine and it feels somehow elegant and rustic at the same time. When we have good friends with us and we want to go somewhere to talk and enjoy a good, hearty meal together, we go to Cantinetta. Plus, homemade pasta. Need I say more?
Address: 3650 Wallingford Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
Chop Shop hasn’t been around long in Seattle. In fact, it opened in late summer 2015 in a brand new complex called Chophouse Row in Capitol Hill. We went there during opening week, which is usually not something we do, because we want them to work out the kinks first. There were no kinks at Chop Shop. We ordered five different plates of food and all of them were memorably good. They serve fairly large portions for sharing plates, in comparison to others in Seattle, which was great. They used seasonal and local vegetables alongside the protein to liven up the plate. It pays off. Chop Shop is definitely one to beat.
Address: 1424 11th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122
This place has been featured in many publications as being one of the top cocktail bars in the country. It became ultra popular about six years ago when Seattle’s best and most beloved bartender worked there. It’s fame never died down. You have to have a reservation to get in, with rarely any exceptions. It became one of my favorite places to eat when the chef from one of my other top restaurants (that’s now closed), took over as chef at Canon. Now you can get an impressive plate of food to go with your professionally crafted cocktail. Of special note is the plate of mini pork belly buns. If you go there and don’t order them, you’ve made a huge mistake.
Address: 928 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
Owned by another Seattle power-chef duo, Spur is a high-end gastropub that serves great cocktails alongside small plates. It’s a popular spot for happy hour and it generally stays pretty packed all the time. We go there occasionally for the burger and shoestring fries. But the real star of the show at Spur is the Sockeye Salmon Crostini. They are $4 each, but you won’t care, you’ll want an entire plate of them to yourself. I dream about those crostini! Oh yeah, the rest of the menu is also pretty amazing.
Address: 113 Blanchard St, Seattle, WA 98121
The Corson Building
An evening at the Corson Building isn’t like any other restaurant, it’s a special occasion where you come together with a bunch of your (unknown) friends for a shared, communal dinner. Yes, having dinner with strangers. If you’re not into sharing a table and passing a dish, family-style, to the other diners of the evening, you won’t like it here. There’s one large table, and everything is served family-style. However, it’s a really fun experience, you meet some cool people, and you eat a lot of really great food. The Corson Building owners also run a handful of other great restaurants in Seattle that *almost* made the list, like Sitka & Spruce and Bar Sajor.
Address: 5609 Corson Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108
Now when you come to Seattle, you’ll know which restaurants are worth your time. Sure, there are dozens of lists out there telling you which restaurants are the best in Seattle, but who are you going to believe, me or them? Come on. You can trust me. If you go to any of these 12 restaurants in Seattle, I promise you’ll have a great meal and want to thank me in person by inviting me along.
Where to Stay in Seattle
Seattle is the type of city where you need a car to get around if you’re planning to get out of the downtown area at all. If you’re just going to be exploring downtown, you can really easily take the light rail from the airport to anywhere in downtown, and you won’t need a car. We still highly recommend staying downtown, no matter how you choose to explore the city. Just beware that parking can cost as much as $30-40 a night at area hotels.
Here are our recommended Seattle hotels. You can use any of these links to read reviews or book hotels for your stay in Seattle.
- Grand Hyatt Seattle ⇒ Trip Advisor | Expedia | Booking.com
- The Paramount Hotel ⇒ Trip Advisor | Expedia | Booking.com
- Kimpton Hotel Monaco ⇒ Trip Advisor | Expedia | Booking.com
(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.)