The fluffy pita here is simple but enchanting (much like the 50-seat restaurant itself), particularly when dragged through chef Logan Cox’s innovative Mediterranean-inspired dips, like lamb ragu over tahini ($13) or nettles with sunflower seeds and dried lime ($8). Sara Knowles, Cox’s wife and business partner, designed the space with deep blues and quirky ostrich wallpaper. The restaurant, which opened last September, centers around the wood-fired oven, giving it an atmosphere that welcomes diners without overwhelming them. Cox, formerly of Sitka & Spruce, brings the same level of comfort and delight to a menu of Middle East–meets–Northwest dishes, like morel mushroom stew ($20) and lamb ribs with Anjou pears ($19).
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Homer only takes reservations for parties of eight, and lines can be long, so eat dessert while you wait: Enjoy a swirl of soft serve, sold from a walk-up window, where you’ll find a rotation of fascinating flavors, such as a rhubarb-vanilla-black-pepper mix and winter pine ($7).
RAINBOW CONNECTION: Sawyer chef-owner Mitch Mayers has built a reputation for his refined carnival-esque fare, but his food is also fresh and incredibly colorful
Every dish on chef-owner Mitch Mayers’ menu at this charming Ballard spot (open since August, 2018) seems like something dreamed up by a culinary school student with the munchies, and then executed with skill, precision and artistry. The restaurant describes itself as “new American,” but a careful eye spots influences from all over the world in dishes like udon noodles with house-made pastrami ($19) and cheesy bread with ’nduja pimento cheese ($10). In less experienced hands than those of this former Lark chef de cuisine, it could be a mess, but Mayers runs a tight ship in the enormous former sawmill space, which has been gussied up with deep turquoise accents and elegant booths.
DON'T MISS: The dessert menu’s playful take on Dairy Queen’s classic Dilly Bar ($5) and ice-cream-truck classics like Choco Tacos ($9).
HIP TO BE SQUARE: Renowned restaurateur Renee Erickson added a number of new restaurants to her empire in the last year; most prominent is Willmott’s Ghost, best known for its Roman-style square pizzas cut with gold-handled shears
South Lake Union
Of all the city’s top-tier restaurateurs, Renee Erickson perhaps has had the most momentous year. In July 2018, her restaurant group Sea Creatures acquired some heavy hitters from Josh Henderson’s Huxley Wallace Collective restaurant group, including Westward, the Great State Burger chain and Saint Helens Cafe. And that was just the start. One month later, she opened Deep Dive, arguably the most dramatic, awe-inspiring bar in town, thanks to the Curtis Steiner–executed decor and Erickson’s menu. Its location is quite stunning, too, situated deep inside the similarly striking Amazon Spheres. Then, in October, also in the Spheres, she opened lunch and dinner destination Willmott’s Ghost, with its pastel palette and Roman pizza served with distinctive gold-handled shears. Springtime brought the transition of Saint Helens to Bistro Shirlee, a French-inspired café (in both menu style and classic decor) named after Erickson’s mother. The first two are more worthy of a destination dinner than the third, but all are assets to their neighborhoods.
WHILE YOU'RE THERE: If you’re the planning type, line up your visit to Willmott’s Ghost and Deep Dive with a self-guided tour of the Spheres, available by reservation on select Saturdays.
CHILDISH DELIGHT: New Ballard restaurant Watson’s Counter is a charming spot for Korean fusion food and Instagram bait like this photogenic (and delicious) plate of French toast crusted in Fruity Pebbles and served with whipped cream
Though much of its fame stems from the photogenic nature of its popular Fruity Pebbles–studded French toast ($7–$12), this light-filled, marble-countered daytime delight, open since February, hasn’t rested on the reputation of its eye-catching culinary mash-ups. The French toast makes for a great savory-sweet twist, much like the gochujang chicken wings on waffles ($15). Come for the wacky cuisine—which also includes Korean beef poutine ($18)—but stay for serious cooking chops.
DON'T MISS: Nearly everything on the menu goes with a side order of the house-made kimchi ($5).
Corte Fino Mexican Cuisine
Despite an awkward alley entrance, the inside of Seattle’s only halal-Mexican restaurant (open since last October) is Pinterest perfect, with succulents on floating shelves and a subway-tile-framed kitchen. It turns out Mexican cuisine without the pork lacks little (that omission and the absence of alcohol are the only discernible differences between the halal version and a more typical Mexican restaurant), with dreamily creamy lard-free beans ($2.99) and tender carne asada ($4.79). Chorizo made in-house with beef shines atop a queso fundido ($9.99) that combines the saucy Texas version and the classic melted Mexican cheese dip.
DON'T MISS: The freshly fried tortilla chips come dusted in a delightful house-made Cajun-style seasoning.
This dimly lit, intimate Sunset Hill beauty opened in a newly constructed building in February, giving the lucky residents nearby the kind of neighborhood spot we all wish would move in next door. Chef-owner Eric Anderson has a knack for cooking with fire; Samara’s menu reflects his use of both a wood-burning oven and an open hearth to add char and flavor to both veggies and proteins, from charred carrots ($13) to grilled Mangalitsa pork ($33). Pastry chef Andrew Meltzer, cofounder of Columbia City Bakery, is responsible for the excellent breads and desserts.
WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Before dinner, pop in at Baker’s, a new bar in the same block as Samara, and try one of the excellent aperitifs.
Wanna party like it’s 2009? Two renowned chefs make splashy returns
Just a couple of decades ago, Seattle was a different city. The average cost of a meal was about half of what it is today, and tasting menus weren’t widely offered. And at that time, chefs Scott Carsberg (of Lampreia, then Bisato) and William Belickis (of Mistral, then Mistral Kitchen) were on the cutting edge of something special: using the best of the region’s seasonal produce and quality proteins in tasting menus that changed frequently, sometimes from diner to diner.
This year, both chefs made dramatic comebacks. Carsberg reopened Bisato in a new location (Pioneer Square) after shuttering it seven years ago.
Belickis opened Violet (Capitol Hill) after a year spent working for an importing company. Both restaurants offer seasonal tasting menus ($150 at Bisato, $85 at Violet) full of beautifully plated dishes, some of them established favorites and some, newly inspired.
Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
WHAT'S OLD IS NEW: Archipelago owners Aaron Verzosa and Amber Manuguid (top) have created an inspired, unique dining experience that includes new takes on Filipino flavors
It was immediately evident when owners Amber Manuguid and chef Aaron Verzosa opened this petite Hillman City gem in December that they were breaking new ground. Rather than simply dishing out their grandparents’ recipes for adobo and kare-kare, the couple have translated Filipino flavors into a high-end tasting menu ($129) utilizing Pacific Northwest ingredients to tell a story, through food and in words during the intimate dining experience, of their experiences as Filipino-Americans here and now. It’s risky, but it works, partly because they believe in this so much that you can actually feel the love as you dine, and partly because Verzosa’s cooking—from pillowy pandesal to chewy handmade noodles to the tart, complex sinigang broth—is a joy from start to finish.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: There are only eight seats, all at a long counter, so reservations are required months in advance. Reservations for October and November will be available online the first week of September.
STREET EATS: Belltown’s Bangrak Market is as colorful as the menu is tasty, thanks to its Thai street-food-themed decor
Colorful and festive, this Belltown newcomer (open since April) is decked out like a Bangkok market, with the street-food fare to match. Co-owner SangDuen Auesiriwong says she was inspired by the food—and the fun—she missed from her home country. The menu is broad and best enjoyed when shared; don’t miss the dishes from the northern part of Thailand, such as the Lao-style papaya salad ($25), Chiang Mai sausage ($12) and a hot-and-sour soup called tom zapp ($12).
EXTRAS: At press time, Auesiriwong was readying the covered sidewalk patio, adjacent to the dining room, and also preparing a street-food cart that will sell food in front of the restaurant, just as it’s done in Thailand.
Seaplane Kitchen and Bar
Although the aviation-themed decor is a tad over the top, as one might expect from the restaurant’s name and proximity to Lake Washington, this Kenmore darling, which has been open since November, fills a culinary niche in a rapidly expanding suburb with a kid-friendly menu and adult-friendly drinks. The Seaplane team is the same one behind Stoneburner, Rhein Haus, Poquitos and other sister restaurants, but the menu most closely resembles Stoneburner’s with its blistered pizzas (try the Seaplane, with double pepperoni, pickled serrano peppers and honey; $23), plus tasty veggies and creative cocktails.
WHEN TO GO: Happy hour (daily, 3–5:30 p.m.) features $5 beers, $7 cocktails and discounted menu items, like smoked tuna dip ($13) and crispy cauliflower ($9), perfect for sharing.
Alcove Dining Room
Chef Emme Ribeiro Collins has spent the past year finding her footing at this warm communal, family-style Brazilian restaurant, which is located in the same space where her parents previously ran Tempero do Brasil for 18 years. When Alcove first opened in the summer of 2018, Collins offered ticketed, reservations-only thematic dinners, but the restaurant now welcomes walk-ins, offering an à la carte menu of traditional Brazilian favorites, like moqueca ($26), a Brazilian seafood stew, and feijoada ($38, enough for two), the country’s national dish of braised black beans and meat.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Plan your visit for a Saturday, when live music turns the dining room into an exuberant display of South American sounds and dancing.
TURING JAPANESE: Not your average sushi spot, Taneda Sushi in Kaiseki showcases fresh nigiri bites alongside traditional hot and cold dishes as part of the tasting menu
Taneda Sushi in Kaiseki
Despite the fact that it lies in a tucked away corner between a barber and a vape shop, this intimate nine-seat restaurant is a little slice of traditional Japan in the middle of Capitol Hill. With assistance from his wife and their two kids, who help serve food and wash dishes, chef Hideaki Taneda takes diners through a multicourse meal (starting at $118) that highlights the best of available seafood as sushi and sashimi. There are also some hot and cold bites, such as house-made tofu and expertly fried tempura.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Because Taneda is so small, reservations are a must, though they can be difficult to come by. But with the restaurant’s odd number of seats, diners who are willing to dine solo will be able to get that reservation sooner. Besides at Taneda, they’ll feel like family anyway.
Windy City Pie
Seattle’s best option for Chicago-style deep-dish pizza has shown up in our pages of best restaurants for years, ever since owner Dave Lichterman first launched Windy City Pie as a delivery- and pickup-only business in 2015. In April, he moved Windy City into its first dine-in, solo space: a family-friendly corner on Phinney Ridge with a dark, moody vibe and vintage Chicago tchotchkes. It also features a Midwest cocktail program heavy on malört, a bitter wormwood-based liquor that’s perfect for cutting through the richness of the meatball-topped Mamma Mia ($27).
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: These are not 90-second wood-fired pies. Each 12-inch deep-dish pizza takes upward of 35 minutes to bake, so sit tight, order a salad and a cocktail, and don’t rush perfection.
Aliberto's Mexican Food
Casual and colorful enough to compete with any Taco Bell, this Mountlake Terrace taqueria, open since September 2018, is a welcome addition to the local Mexican food scene. It is sure to be especially appreciated by those California transplants missing a particular style of San Diego–area Mexican cuisine defined largely by carne asada and french fries. Indeed, the best item on the menu to start with is the California burrito ($7.49), which features both carne asada and fries, plus pico de gallo and cheese, wrapped inside a baby-blanket-size, griddle-cooked tortilla.
WHILE YOU'RE THERE: The Snohomish Pie Company is right next door. Now, we’re not saying you should follow a massive meal like this with a slice of pie, but you’d be remiss not to at least take a piece home for later.
Not many places could pull off the concept behind this California-chic café, located north of Ballard and open since January. The menu features all the industry buzzwords, from “natural wine” to “superfoods” to “bone broth.” All of the dishes, such as sweet potato and cauliflower falafel ($15) and the lettuce-wrapped burger ($18), are entirely devoid of gluten, dairy, grains, legumes, soy, refined sugar and canola oil, but thankfully—and perhaps surprisingly—they’re not lacking in flavor. Chef Nikki DeGidio, who was diagnosed with celiac disease while working at Ballard pasta and pizza temple Stoneburner, has achieved the seemingly impossible: good-for-you food that’s equally enjoyed by those avoiding gluten and those who love it.
DON'T MISS: The grilled flat iron steak salad ($25) is a hearty, healthful bowl big enough for lunch or dinner. Bonus: It (and much of the menu) is compliant with the Whole30 diet.
TASTE OF HOME: In the old Alki Homestead, chef Mike Easton (above with chef de cuisine Katie Gallego) opened Il Nido in May, with a menu of seasonal Italian mains and desserts
Although the quick service and affordable prices are what have attracted the crowds to Mike Easton’s Il Corvo, it’s his handmade pastas that have carried the renowned Pioneer Square restaurant to stardom. Now, he gives those pastas a deservedly grander stage in the former home of the historic Alki Homestead, remodeled and open since May. The log cabin building, chicly renovated with a minimalist eye, somehow manages to work for Easton’s Italian-esque menu, from appetizers like grape-leaf-wrapped Taleggio cheese with honey and Mama Lil’s peppers ($12) to the grilled whole trout with fennel, oranges and oil-cured olives ($28). In between those courses, the menu’s stars remain his rotating seasonal pasta dishes, like giant squid ink rigatoni with octopus in spicy Sicilian sauce ($21).
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: If you plan to walk-in, expect to sit at the bar, where reservations aren’t accepted but you can still order the full menu.
Rooms with a View
Behold: Two restaurants offering jaw-dropping sights for your viewing (and dining) pleasure
This high-end steakhouse opened in June 2018, with a menu of steaks, like decadent marbled wagyu (above), and sides, plus innovative sushi. But the real draw is the view, from the 31st floor of Bellevue’s Lincoln South Tower
At this stunning eatery near Pike Place Market, open since December from Fire & Vine Hospitality (of El Gaucho, Miller’s Guild and more), the farm-to-table food is paired with viaduct-less views of Elliott Bay. Start with the bread course.