The Unofficial Foodie’s Guide to Seattle, WA
It’s a well-known fact that I live to eat, especially when I travel. Luckily for me, that passion for experiencing new places through exploring the local cuisine runs in the family! I have two younger siblings in the restaurant industry in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and thanks to them, I always wind up trying at least one new restaurant whenever I visit home. Usually it’s a quick stop at a fun bar, or a casual lunch with the family, but on my most recent trip up to Washington, I had the chance to spend an entire day eating, drinking, and soaking up the early December sunshine on a foodie’s tour of Seattle.
My local guide and Seattle dining expert for this little adventure was none other than my younger brother Jared, who works at one of the most influential restaurants in the downtown Seattle area. Over the past two years of working in Seattle, Jared’s built up an impressive knowledge of the area — the best place to grab post-work drinks, the lounges with the prettiest views, and of course, the best spots for me to indulge my love for classic Northwestern flavors and cooking styles. For anyone looking to indulge while visiting Seattle, there’s only one name you need to know: Tom Douglas.
An award-winning chef and true Seattle icon, Tom opened his first restaurant, the Dahlia Lounge, in the late 1980’s. With a focus on local market flavors, farm-fresh ingredients, and dishes with a distinctly Pacific Northwestern flair, Dahlia Lounge was and remains to this day a staple on the Seattle dining scene. Since opening the Dahlia, Tom has expanded his empire to include a cooking school, an event space, and a further twelve restaurants under his name in the downtown Seattle area. His famous “Rub with Love” spice blends are sold in stores across the region, his cookbooks are best-sellers, and he even owns and operates his own farm just outside the Seattle area, which supplies many of the ingredients used in his restaurants. I’ve been to a handful of Tom Douglas restaurants over the years, and for this food tour of Seattle, Jared decided to introduce me to a few more of his trusted favorites!
I’ve attached a map of our route at the bottom of this post, if you’d like to follow along, and also marked every single Tom Douglas restaurant for your convenience.
Our first stop was at Dahlia Lounge for Sunday brunch and a couple of cocktails to kick things off in style. With two of my siblings working at this restaurant at some point in their lives, I’d been to Dahlia a few times before, and was super excited to visit for brunch this time around! The clientele here is a healthy mix of locals and visitors, thanks to its superb local flavors and its prime location on 4th Avenue, just over a quarter mile away from Pike Place and the famous Seattle waterfront.
We settled into our table by the window and ordered a couple of mimosas to tide us over while we looked over the brunch menu. Dahlia may serve traditional favorites like eggs benedict and French toast, but their menu is anything but standard fare. How about orange-maple French toast with cranberry syrup, marscapone, and roasted pistachios? Or five spice hash served with a sunny side up duck egg and Parmesan potatoes?
As tempting as the French toast sounded, we couldn’t resist ordering from the lunch half of the menu. I ordered a delicious Dungeness crab cake sandwich served on an English muffin and topped with avocado, lettuce and a nice aioli.
Jared, meanwhile, opted for Deyki’s Tibetan plate, a sampler platter loaded with flavor and named after former Tom Douglas chef Deyki Thonden. (Thonden has since been featured on Iron Chef, and owns her own restaurant in Santa Rosa, CA, called Zazu Kitchen + Farm.)
We ordered a second round of drinks when our food arrived, and settled in to enjoy the warm, inviting atmosphere and of course, the fantastic local fare. The brunch cocktail menu had a slight holiday twist to it, with items like the Cranberry Kringle (spiced cranberry vodka, triple sec, fresh lime, and candied ginger) and Switches and Coal (scotch, cherry heering, allspice dram, lemon, “and a touch of naughtiness”) to warm the body on a cold December morning.
Feeling toasty as we downed our drinks and set out into the chill December air, Jared and I took a short walk to Pike Place, where I wanted to sample eclairs from specialty patisserie Choukette. I’d read about the shop, which just opened for business in June 2016, over at An Emerald City Life ,and was dying to get my hands on some of their beautiful pastries. Choukette specializes in creating beautiful eclairs in a variety of fun flavors, from traditional chocolate to the more unusual flavors of pineapple or huckleberry.
Unfortunately, Choukette was closed when we reached the lower market, so rather than stuff our faces with sweets, Jared and I took a little stroll along the Seattle waterfront. After all, we needed to burn off some calories and make room for more tasty Seattle eats still to come!
Just a mile or so down the road from Pike Place is Myrtle Edwards Park, where we enjoyed the views over Elliot Bay and spent some time relaxing on a small pebble-covered beach. To get there from Pike Place, just take the stairs or elevator to the lower level of the market, turn right on Alaskan Way, and keep walking along the waterfront until you reach the park.
Maybe it was the brunch cocktails in action, or maybe it was just because we’d traded the windy city avenues for wide open sunny spaces, but I found I actually did not need my coat anymore. After we’d soaked up our share of sunshine, we walked through the Olympic Sculpture Park, a free outdoor extension of the Seattle Art Museum.
Since we were close to the Space Needle (and since Jared knows I will forever be a tourist in my own home state), we decided to pay the Needle a visit and admire some of the free sculptures in the area.
Then it was off to our second Tom Douglas restaurant of the day, TanakaSan, for boozy sake slushies and a cool, industrial chic vibe. The slushies come in a handful of fun flavors, like Ruby Red (aperol and pamplemousse) and Pineapple Crush (pineapple and Midori), but we opted for the original sake slush, which packed a surprisingly powerful punch.
The menu at TanakaSan is Asian-American, heavily influenced by Chef Eric Tanaka’s early days in Los Angeles. With a couple more restaurants still to visit, we did not eat here, but inventive brunch offerings like salty caramel chicken wings and Osaka pancakes with shrimp, bacon and bonito have me curious enough to make a return visit in the future.
Next we strolled back down to the Pike Place Market area for crab legs and rose at Seatown Sea Bar. Ohhhh my goodness. I honestly don’t know if any crab legs I eat in the future could ever compare to the buttery, ultra-fresh flavor of Alaskan King Crab legs eaten in the glow of the setting Seattle sun.
Throw in some great company, a cheery, slightly buzzed vibe, and a sweet glass of rosé, and it was definitely an experience to remember. I would literally book a trip to Seattle just to go to Seatown with Jared one more time.
The crab legs were fantastic; a total must-have, in my opinion, but the rest of the menu looked delicious as well, and was surprisingly well-priced considering the restaurant’s prime location just steps away from the market. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
We reluctantly left Seatown and spent some time relaxing and taking in the views at Victor Steinbrueck Park, the waterfront park just across the street. I think normally this little patch of greenery would feel a bit crowded and make me clutch my purse a little bit closer, but it does offer up some incredible views of the waterfront, with the Seattle Great Wheel and CenturyLink Field (the Seahawks football stadium) in the distance.
As the sun disappeared into the horizon, we strolled up to Lola, our final Tom Douglas destination of the day. Located just across the street from Dahlia Lounge (and our parking spot!), Lola was a convenient stopping point that literally brought our journey full circle. While I’d describe Lola as primarily Greek in its flavor influences (think salads of feta, olives and onion, and lots and lots of ouzo), the official description is a bit more involved than that.
From the Lola website: Renowned chef and author Tom Douglas’ Lola restaurant is a staple of Seattle’s dining scene. Lola features the classic produce of the Pacific Northwest mingled with cooking styles of Greece; the menu offers modern Mediterranean and North African riffs on local ingredients such as Anderson Valley lamb, Penn Cove shellfish and wild King salmon.
I’ve only ever visited the bar before, so I can’t speak to the full extent of the lunch and dinner menus, but I will say that Lola’s small plates were the perfect size to try a bit of everything without going overboard.
Full or not, I’ll take any chance I can get to eat fresh Pacific Northwest seafood, and my little bowl of clams with white beans and toast served as a fantastic final taste of Seattle.
For anyone looking to get a taste of the city, I highly recommend checking out any Tom Douglas restaurant as a starting point. If you’d like to follow in our footsteps and visit some of the places I mentioned here, be sure to check out this map of our walking tour of Seattle. I’ve also marked every single Tom Douglas restaurant so you can customize the route to your preferences. Happy eating!