Starving In Seattle? We’ve Got You

Okay, so there’s no hard data on this but it’s quite possible that the most-used Seattle hashtag is #UpperLeft. It’s placed on images of oceanside cliffs and mountain hikes, and on plates of fennel-seared albacore with sweet corn pudding and tangles of flower-like purslane and sea beans. Hell, we use it to tag pictures of fat artisan cheeseburgers, blackberry bacon jam, salmon crudo, and jewel-like oysters. Getting hungry?
We love the civic nickname/social media shorthand because it complements the creative license and outsider status our relative remoteness affords, and we’re insanely obsessed with the bounty of rich and varied ingredients that comes from this lush, saltwater-lined Northwest pocket of the world.
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Seattle's reputation may be that of shades of gray and loads of rain, but the summer sun encourages miles and miles of delicious green things to grow like, well, weeds — and yeah, don’t forget that stuff is legal, too. With all these natural resources at its disposal, our kitchens are as influential and innovative as our music and technology sectors so whether you’re in for the weekend or for life, here’s the download on the most Seattle-y of our Upper Left culinary spots.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of Bar Sajor.
Bar Sajor
If Seattle needed a face and a name to represent its unique brand of farm-to-table cuisine, Matt Dillon would certainly be nominated — but would most likely decline the honor. The award-winning chef and restauranteur is a sort of bad ass modern-day hippie punk — an oxymoronic but no less omnipresent Northwest archetype — who prefers letting his rustically pretty lunch and dinner plates speak for themselves.

Roasted vegetables, delicate sablefish, foraged fungi, housemade yogurts, and vinegar-cured everything are issued from a white-on-white open kitchen with blue accent tiles and a few eccentric, Rococo-feeling touches. The sole cooking devices? A wood-fired oven and wood-fired grill, both of which coax distinctly Spanish and Portuguese moods from Dillon’s highly curated local ingredients.

Bar Sajor, 323 South Occidental Avenue (between Main and Jackson streets); 206-682-1117.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of Delancey.
Delancey
Famous food bloggers — that’s a thing, right? Right, and Seattle’s is Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. The writer, photographer, and accidental lifestyle guru opened this wood-fired pizzeria with her husband, New York native Brandon Pettit (the name refers to the Manhattan subway stop) in the summer of 2009, adding restauranteur to her C.V. and a more or less constant line of diners to an otherwise unassuming neighborhood block.

The sourdough-esque pies are topped with homemade (or otherwise local) sausages, garden-grown hearty greens, and everything in between — and they are perfectly, picturesquely oven-blistered. Salads and sides are equal parts retro and thoughtful; just don’t overindulge. Raspberry pavlova and salted chocolate chip cookies are very necessary final courses straight from Wizenberg’s archived recipe pages.

Delancey, 1415 NW 70th Street (between North Alozo Avenue and North 14 Street); 206-838-1960.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of Oddfellows.
Westward and Little Gull
Should you arrive in Seattle on some seafaring vessel, simply steer it to the dock adjacent to this well-humored and highly styled all-day small plates spot, and then proceed through a small but focused always-changing menu of creme fraiche-dolloped sweet peas, richly spiked mussel broth, wood-fired trout, braised Northwest lamb, and similarly simple dishes. Oh, and glasses—no, bottles—of wine. Or classic and nouveau cocktails, poured by barmen who might be mistaken for salty seamen. No boat, no problem. Take over a couple of the view-hoarding Adirondack chairs and embrace the life aquatic—perhaps by visiting Little Gull, the adjacent oyster bar.
Westward and Little Gull, 2501 N Northlake Way (at 36th Street); 206-552-8215.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of Mamnoon.
Mamnoon
Seattle has many examples of ex-Microsoft employees cashing out of software land and rolling the dice on some new and totally unrelated venture, but Wassef and Racha Haroun’s Lebanese, Syrian, and Persian-angled restaurant (and take-out window!) is the most beautifully realized and elegantly modern. And, it yields the most decadent fare.

From the first bite of za’atar with Arabic flatbread and traditional dips to the rich lentil soup and grilled flatbread sandwiches at lunch (go minced lamb!) or shareable fried cauliflower and meatball-like kibbeh preparations for dinner, the bright, fragrant, herb-studded flavors just plain sing. Surrounded by mosaic tiles and candy-colored lighting accents, you might sing, too. The restaurant’s name means thankful. See if you can’t work that into the chorus.

Mamnoon, 1508 Melrose Avenue (between Pike Street and Minor Avenue); 206-906-9606.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of Marination and Marination Ma Kai.
Marination and Marination Ma Kai
Asian fusion cuisine was basically invented in Seattle, but don’t worry: we’re aware that it isn’t always something to be proud of. That said, we’re definitely going to brag on the breakfast, lunch, and dinner Hawaiian/Korean tacos, sandwiches, and snacks supplied by the waterside eatery Marination Ma Kai as well as Marination Mobile, the food truck that started it all.

Go for gloriously messy kalbi short rib or spicy pork from the tortilla-wrapped category, or indulge in sausage sliders stacked with Marination’s signature slaw on sweet Hawaiian buns, but don’t sleep on the kimchi quesadilla and sushi-like Spam and rice bites. A water taxi runs between the West Seattle location and the heart of downtown, and is highly recommended.

Marination and Marination Ma Kai, 1660 Harbor Avenue SW (between South Fairmont Avenue and South Carolina Way); 206-328-8226.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of Matt's In The Market.
Matt’s In The Market
Seattle’s sprawling, multi-level Pike Place Market contains one of the nation’s longest running fresh markets, but most tourists and travelers aren’t set up to to grab a just-pulled head of cabbage and a just-caught crab and get dinner going back at the hotel. Consider this your proxy kitchen on the way through town.

Overlooking the local produce and protein in the stalls below, and facing the iconic market clock front-and-center with Elliott Bay and the Olympic mountains spread out beyond, the eatery passes out saucy catfish fillet sandwiches and housemade chips-and-dips at lunch, and homey plates of seafood stew and roasted half chickens at dinner. When the salt air blows in through arched windows and circles your glass of Washington wine on a warm evening, you’ll know exactly why Matt’s has been a market mainstay for 20 years.

Matt’s in the Market, 94 Pike Street (between Post Alley and 1st Ave); 206)-467-7909.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of Cascina Spinasse.
Cascina Spinasse
If you need a place to fall in love while you’re in town, this would be it. You can fall in love with your date, with the wine list, with the Piedmontese-country furnishings, or even the exceptional attention to detail — but save room to fall in love with hand-cut pasta because your heart will positively brim as you unwind fine egg pasta under buttery sage and tagliatella with tomatoes, basil, and salty hard cheese. Antipasti and meat courses, like chard wrapped king salmon, evoke similar passion.

At once appropriate for family-style meals and intimate encounters, the cafe is connected to Artusi, what the owners call a “modern aperitivo bar” next door, so celebrations including grapa, amaro, Italian bubbles, and new world cocktails are happy add-ons.

Cascina Spinasse, 1531 14th Avenue (between Pike and Pine streets); 206-251-7673.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of The London Plane.
The London Plane
Harvard-trained landscape architect Katherine Anderson is, at heart, a flower grower — a fact that’s wonderfully present the second you step in her door. A wild and vaguely French-feeling assortment of botanicals is the preface to an open kitchen, a bakery counter and deli/salad case, a micro-boutique of artisan findings from pottery to pantry, and the prettiest, most delicately delicious example of the recent reclamation of a long-ignored historical neighborhood called Pioneer Square.

There are about 20 tables nestled into two dining areas amid stately white columns under a white-painted tin ceiling; the cafe offers take-away but most people choose to stay right there and enjoy the inventive, honest cuisine cooked up with partner Matt Dillon (see: Bar Sajor) and their collective crew. Croissants and crusty loaves of sourdough bread are calling cards; to go with, order up olive oil poached tuna, harissa-spiced roots-and-greens salads, and each and every dip or spread on offer the day you’re there.

The London Plane, South 300 Occidental Avenue (between Main and Jackson streets); 206-624-1374.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of The Whale Wins/Joule.
The Whale Wins/Joule
Let’s hear it for female chefs! With three restaurants, a mobile raw bar, and a smattering of products under her name, Renee Erickson is Seattle’s leading lady and the inventive vegetable-based Whale Wins is her latest small plates project. (Don’t worry; vegetable-based doesn’t mean French ham preparations and divine lamb tartar are absent from the menu.)

The spare, white-washed, cabin-like lunch and dinner spot splits a foundation with Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi’s Joule, a sort of feminine, elegant, Asian-flavored steakhouse. You must pick one or other and while the restaurants share a physical location, they are distinctively distinct. But, with each, just reading the menu and observing the scene is its own kind of nourishment and there’s a subtle two-for-one vibe at play if you stay open to it.

The Whale Wins/Joule, North 3506 Stone Way (between 35th and 36th street); 206-632-9425.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of Tsukushinbo.
Tsukushinbo
Before we go any further: an apology. You may be told it’ll be an hour before a table is ready — even if you’ve come at lunchtime instead of dinner. If you can weather the wait, it may also seem like hours pass before your food arrives. It’ll be loud and a little chaotic inside, and after you finally get a translation of the Japanese specials listed on the blackboard, you will likely be told that they are no longer available.

But, when the specialty sushi and even more special homestyle kitchen dishes — ramen, katsudon, curry — are placed in front of you, none of it will matter. Sushi is to Seattle what pizza is to New York. It’s our civic cuisine, and you can find purveyors with more efficient service, spiffier atmosphere, and more attentive service, but this International District favor is the real, and really delicious, deal.

Tsukushinbo, 515 South Main Street; 206-632-9425.
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Laura Cassidy; Photo: Courtesy of Mamnoon.
Oddfellows
Linda Derschang should be famous. In what other city does one chic and gracious woman own just about all the rad night spots and watering holes and a few of the best cafes to boot? Though it isn’t it her first or her last, Oddfellows is the biggest and the best; a veritable all-day public dining hall with sky-high ceilings, large scale vintage portraits, mix-matched farm benches, ticking-striped linens, and earthy comfort food plates from baked eggs to meatballs and polenta, each ready for a Kinfolk magazine close-up.

Derschang is a master conductor who calls in just the right decor teams, casts the perfect crew, and secures just-so locations. This one is hipster central and rubs bricks and elbows with rock clubs, artisan ice cream, a really awesome and expansive bookstore, and the cult-favorite fashion boutique Totokaelo.

Oddfellows, 1525 10th Avenue (between Pike and Pine streets); 206- 325-0807.
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