Best of Seattle 2013: Food and Drink

Best Chef: Charles Walpole

In an age that’s all about the celebrity chef, Charles Walpole is a chef all about the food. And the food served at his Blind Pig Bistro is all about satisfying your hunger. I hunger for inspiration and for security. Walpole’s menu serves both. Take for instance the steak and charred-eggplant purée; the urfa biber-dusted chocolate ... more

Best Bartender: Tyler Kingdon

There are a growing number of great bartenders in Seattle. Some of them ply their trade in dedicated cocktail shrines, with hundreds of bottles at their disposal and a cornucopia of bitters, tinctures, and infusions. That’s not exactly the model at LloydMartin, where Tyler Kingdon has built a diverse, compelling, and challenging cocktail... more

Best Barbecue: RoRo BBQ & Grill

It’s astounding that RoRo BBQ & Grill rarely registers on lists of Seattle’s best barbecue. RoRo’s fresh smoked pulled pork tastes closest to the delectable piles of soft, slow-smoked shoulder I ate when I lived in Alabama. And eating at the outside picnic tables or inside the shack of a restaurant perfectly completes the ... more

Best Brunch: Oddfellows

Stumbling into the bright, high-ceilinged interior of Oddfellows and plunking down at one of the rustic tables is a favorite Seattle brunch experiences. Whether your day starts at 9 a.m. or 3 p.m., Oddfellows helps with a wake-up mimosa, bloody mary, or rotating brunch punch and endless refills of freshly brewed coffee, which help ... more

Best Meal for a Hangover: Glo’s

You might face an hour (or longer) wait for a weekend brunch, but closet-sized Glo’s has the antidote to a long night of drinking on Capitol Hill. It helps to plan ahead; call to get your name on the list before you take the walk of shame. Once you get the chance to order, sop up some of that booze with hefty servings of favorites like ... more

Best Chinese Restaurant: Bamboo Garden

Chinese food in Seattle is primarily Cantonese, which I find a bit boring generally and lacking in quality locally. (And don’t get me started on the dismal state of dim sum.) So I send you to the Eastside, where you can find spicy Szechuan fare. Bamboo Garden is the best of the bunch. There’s a regular menu for the timid, but I ... more

Best Deli: Pannonia Smokehouse

OK, so, you have to drive to Shoreline, then once you get to Pannonia Smokehouse the guy behind the counter is kinda gruff—but man, oh man, I’ve tasted cured meats from the far corners of the earth, and most of them are not nearly this good. This place sells itself as an Old World smokehouse using Old World recipes, which ... more

Best Diner: Skillet

Skillet’s elevated diner fare makes me sigh a big “duh” for this category. The diner opened on Capitol Hill in 2011 after a successful start as a food truck. A highbrow approach to comfort food makes the dishes here accessible yet refined, so as you scarf down a burger with Skillet’s famous bacon jam and blue cheese and a big pile ... more

Best Place for a Date: The Whale Wins

At The Whale Wins, you don’t need a dreamy view or candlelight to bring a romantic vibe. After all, you’re likely looking at Stone Way, which, let’s face it, isn’t that pretty. Regardless, I’ve recommended The Whale for date nights to everyone who asks. In the whitewashed interior, warmed by the glow of the wood-fired oven, I feel ... more

Best Food Truck: Off the Rez

Off the Rez combines two perfect food-truck foods: tacos and fry bread. For some reason I just can’t see myself going to a sit-down restaurant and ordering fry bread. But I do love it. Who doesn’t? Topped with cinnamon and sugar? Nutella? Made into a smoky pork taco (topped with coleslaw)? This is where Off the Rez ... more

Best French Fries: Le Pichet

Let’s be honest. Nothing’s better than a good french fry. Well, actually, yes, there is: a good french fry (or a whole plate of them) next to a perfectly cooked steak or a juicy, crisp, roasted chicken. Le Pichet’s french fries—or pommes frites—are everything good fries should be: salty, crispy, and golden-brown. Forget the hamburger, ... more

Best Hot Dog: The hot-dog stand by Chop Suey

The somewhat legendary 2 a.m. must-have, the Seattle Dog, got its start in Pioneer Square, but it has been perfected on Capitol Hill. It comprises a grilled bun slathered with cream cheese and topped with grilled onions. In 1988, bagel man Hadley Longe tried selling bagels to club patrons in Pioneer Square. But who wants a bagel at 2 ... more

Best Vietnamese Restaurant: Huong Binh

There may be more glamorous spots in Seattle for Vietnamese food, but my favorite is Huong Binh. Located in a restaurant-filled strip mall in the Little Saigon section of Seattle’s International District, it offers a wide variety of noodle soups, rice plates, rice-flour crepes, ... more

Best Indian Restaurant: Chili’s

Chili’s is not fancy. It used to be a restaurant-cum-mini-mart, and it retains a very practical vibe, but it’s comfortable and the food is really, really good. Most Indian restaurants in America serve Northern Indian or Punjabi food; Chili’s is Southern Indian, and because of this the menu is completely different—lighter, with many ... more

Best Decor: La Bête

La Bête should be the quintessential Capitol Hill restaurant. Tucked into an odd little corner off Olive Way, it breathes life into its space in a way that more restaurants should emulate. It starts with the beautiful and massive kitchen counter: hewn from a single tree, its crenulated edge seems to create many inviting pockets to cozy up to ... more

Best Food Trend: Oyster happy hours

Oyster happy hours are all the rage, with new oyster bars like The Walrus and the Carpenter, Coastal Kitchen, Ballard Annex Oyster House, and soon-to-open Little Gull Grocery mixing with mainstays like Elliott’s Oyster House and Taylor Shellfish Farms. Belly up to a bar for happy hour and slurp down these briny bivalves ... more

Best Oyster Bar: Taylor’s Shellfish

Housed in the foodie dream world that is Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market is Taylor Shellfish’s so-called “Shellfish Deli.” The spot is half retail store, half oyster bar, where you can duck in to buy fresh clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, and geoducks from the purveyor’s Washington farms ... more

Best Pizza: Delancey

I’m fully aware that as a former New Yorker, I’m something of a pizza snob. I like a thin, crispy crust, grease, and a tomato sauce that sings without blaring. I like a pizza place that can do a pepperoni pizza as well as they do their more gourmet offerings. So if it seems clichéd that the place I ... more

Best Italian Contemporary: Spinasse

From the outside, it’s easy to overlook Spinasse. Its minuscule signage and the lace curtains blocking any view into the interior of the Capitol Hill restaurant mean many would-be diners unwittingly pass it up. But oh, are they missing out. Inside, dine on Northern Italian cuisine perfected: unfussy dishes with very few ingredients ... more

Best After-Bar Dining: Ba Bar

Ba Bar serves real food in the wee hours, with a special late-night menu starting at 11:30 p.m. From frog legs to fries, grilled-chicken vermicelli to oxtail pho, you can still get food that is filling, nourishing, and satisfying even as the rest of the city is already asleep. And if you want more than something to eat, Ba Bar has a reasonably ... more

Best Mexican Restaurant: Fonda La Catrina

I came so close to cutting this category this year. Seattleites seem to be fairly united in their declaration that our city doesn’t exactly kill it when it comes to Mexican food. Fonda La Catrina doesn’t dazzle me, but it gets enough right oftener than its competitors to keep me coming back. Take the mole, for instance: It really is spot-on... more

Best Outdoor Dining: Marination Ma Kai

Ma kai in Hawaiian means “along, near, or beside the sea,” which makes it the perfect moniker for Marination Ma Kai, the latest addition to the Marination family, located on the West Seattle Water Taxi dock on Alki. The eatery’s ample outdoor patio and large windows mean that almost every seat in the house overlooks ... more

Best Restaurant if Someone Else Is Paying: Altura

Altura is worth saving up for even if you don’t have someone to treat you, but it is especially well suited if you do. Here’s my logic: Altura specializes in being attentive. From its inventive yet classic Italian food timed to the seasons to its well-curated and executed cocktail list and intimate atmosphere, the whole experience is elegant ... more

Best Sushi: Tsukushinbo

Go to Tsukushinbo. Although I can’t believe I’m saying that, because really I want it all to myself. I’ve regularly sat at the sushi counter since I moved to Seattle seven years ago, and it’s no overstatement to say that the sushi is better every time (and it was great to start with). Here’s the thing: Tsukushinbo is a family business. Mom ... more

Best Vegetarian Restaurant: Sutra

I am not a vegetarian or a vegan—far from it. So if being an omnivore means I am not a fit judge, object now. I think it makes me better suited. I know what the veggies are up against. To me, the best vegetarian and vegan dishes don’t try to imitate meat, but instead focus on veggies themselves and their incredible range of ... more

Best Lunch Counter: Mamnoon

Confession: I like the Syrian-Lebanese inspired Mamnoon’s lunch counter better than I do its full sit-down dinner—the best parts of their menu are distilled to a less expensive, more approachable, quick, delicious, and casual experience ... more

Best Pop-Up Restaurant: Kraken Congee

Pop-ups are tricky business. Poorly executed ones just feel like bad restaurants with ill-conceived themes and untrained staff. Food comes at unpredictable intervals, servers may be largely ignorant as to what’s in a dish, and in general the experience is underwhelming. Well-executed, a pop-up can offer talented young cooks a chance to ... more

Best Geeky Eats: Cheese Wizards

If the name doesn’t entice you, the truck will. You can’t help but stare as a giant yellow food truck rolls by, revealing a giant yellow chandelier hanging from the pop-up roof and a distinct wizard logo on the side. The Cheese Wizards, the brainchild of brothers Bo and Tom Saxbe, offers gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches with ... more

Best Southern-Italian Restaurant: Agrodolce

Full disclaimer: I had to go to bat for my choice against the Food & Drink Editor, who would have chosen La Medusa for this category. But my Sicilian background trumped her love of the Columbia City restaurant (which admittedly I haven’t been to, but will now visit tout suite!). Growing up as I did among a bunch of ... more

Best Dog-Friendly Bar: Norm’s

For dog owners, dining out can be fraught with tension: Do we leave the pup at home, where they might do who-knows-what to the carpet; try to find a dog-sitter; or just bring them along and hope the restaurant doesn’t mind? That’s why apprehensive owners like Norm’s so much—it makes no bones (sorry) about its dog-centricity ... more

Best Gay Bar: Pony

Let’s be blatantly clear: Pony is not a bar for those who only dabble in gay culture. While other Capitol Hill bars try to appeal to both a gay and straight clientele, Pony is unabashedly aimed at gay males. If you were unsure of this upon entering, the gay pornography plastered on almost every inch of the space will reassure you very .... more

Best Happy Hour: List

Most happy-hour joints give you a choice: cheap drinks or cheap food. It’s seemingly the only way a restaurant can offer one without killing its profit margin. Somehow List (along with its sister restaurant Barolo) does both. Eminently drinkable bottles of wine are available for $14 (or $3.75 a glass), draft beers are $2.95, and... more

Best Neighborhood Bar: Solo Bar

The first thing to realize about a neighborhood bar is that it will have its own internal hierarchy. Regulars (and there will be plenty of them) will get served first, and they may get charged less. The bartenders might not have all that much to say on your first or second visit, but if you act respectfully and tip well, they’ll remember ... more

Best Cocktail Bar: Roy Rob

Seattle’s cocktail renaissance has led to something of a Golden Age for those of us who appreciate a well-crafted drink; virtually every neighborhood boasts at least one or two bars that can make a claim to being one of the city’s best cocktail bars. But Belltown’s Rob Roy excels in many ways. ... more

Best Place to Drown Your Sorrows: Ballard Smoke Shop

Whether it’s the devastating break-up, the loss of a family member, or getting fired, there are times in life when solace is found in a glass. When those occasions occur, a certain kind of bar recommends itself. It requires cheap, stiff drinks, cozy corners to hide in, and most of all a sense that you’re probably not the only one with a ... .more

Best Soccer Bar: Kangaroo & Kiwi

Despite the apartment-dominating flat-screen my plus-one insists on having, it’s still more fun to watch the Sounders’ away games among a group, the more raucous the better, than at home. The best we’ve discovered is Kangaroo & Kiwi, an antipodean-themed bar rather incongruously housed in an old Carnegie Library building in.... more

Best Bloody Mary: Poppy

You know that old saying: You are only as strong as your weakest link. Well, think about the bloody mary. I think the weakest link is too-sweet, too-salty, too-pulpy tomato juice from a can. Or even worse, a bloody mary mix. Ugh! At Poppy, Capitol Hill’s Indian-inspired tapas restaurant, this is not what you will find. The bloody ... more

Best Margarita: Agua Verde

Here’s the truth: A good margarita isn’t very hard to make. I’ll just quote one of the world’s great experts on drinking, Sterling Archer: “Five ingredients. Tequila. Cointreau. Lime juice. Ice. Kosher salt.” While plenty of restaurants and bars in Seattle offer a well-made ’rita, few have the added perks of a beautiful view of the ... more

Best Cocktail Name: The Restraining Order

I’m a bartender, and the hardest part of my job is to name cocktails. First, most of the best names are taken. Second, a good cocktail name should give the prospective drinker a sense of what the drink is going to be like, but all I can ever think of are obscure science-fiction characters. That’s what makes The Restraining Order such a great...more

Best Brewery: Epic Ales

After 30 years of microbrews, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Seattle’s brewing scene was a bit predictable. Enter Cody Morris and Epic Ales. From the umami powerhouse of his Terra-saurus to the Szechuan peppercorn- and cinnamon-laced Beatrice, he challenges conventional notions of what flavors you should expect... more

Best Beer Selection: Uber Tavern

When it comes to beer bars, “selection” is a bit of a tricky word. A few establishments offer a veritable avalanche of beers, intimidating all but the savviest drinker. Others might offer plenty of local beers at the expense of some of the great ones being made worldwide. Uber Tavern manages to find the sweet spot. With a solid but not ... more

Best Bar Music: The Triple Door

In the age of Pandora, Spotify, and other on-demand music stations, crafting a perfect music mix for a restaurant or bar is becoming a lost art. Given some of the music I’ve heard in such establishments, this is probably for the better. Live-music venues, on the other hand, remain relatively inviolate. While Seattle boasts a ... more

Best Coffeehouse: Espresso Vivace

Picking the best coffeehouse in a city of coffee maniacs is dangerous work. At Espresso Vivace, carefully sourced, shade-grown beans lead to some damn fine coffee. At the South Lake Union location in particular, the baristas take their time, pulling shots topped with thick, caramely crema—the richest I’ve tasted yet. Every cup is ... more

Best Barista: Mary Michaud

Mary Michaud makes making coffee look good. Part of this is due to the fact that Michaud always looks so nice herself. You might say that barista dresses don’t matter, but I disagree. Unlike many baristas, she resembles an elegant office worker or a model from a vintage ... more

Best Bakery: Crumble & Flake Patisserie

Lines went out the door from day one last spring at Capitol Hill’s Crumble & Flake Patisserie. The crowds have only recently begun to let up, at least a little—not surprising given that pastry chef Neil Robertson’s background includes a stint at Canlis. Crumble & Flake is a jewel box of a place, with no counters or tables and ... more

Best Ice-Cream Joint: Bluebird

I have to admit I was skeptical when Bluebird opened, thinking the brand was reaching too far in trying to incorporate ice cream, beer, coffee, tea, and board games. Now, three locations and a legitimate microbrewing addition later, it’s clear Bluebird is the real deal. The ice cream is made in-house from scratch, meaning they don’t ... more

Best Pancakes: St. Clouds

I feel a little odd talking about the pancakes at St. Clouds when their Grandma Hazel’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake that comes with all brunch entrées is pretty much to die for. But their buttermilk pancakes truly do impress, managing to be dense and fluffy at the same time: a seemingly impossible task, evidenced by so many crappy ... more

Best Farmers Market: Queen Anne Farmers Market

There are bigger farmers markets in Seattle, but none do a better job of balancing produce, prepared food, community, and downright fun than the Queen Anne Farmers Market. With its expected breadth of fruits and veggies as well as plenty of breads, meats, eggs, and cheeses, it fulfills one basic market requirement: You can get ... more

Best Grocery Store: Pacific Food Importers

PFI, or Pacific Food Importers, is a warehouse, with cement floors and old-style shelves. I get giddy when I go in there. It is not DeLaurenti, but it carries many of the same things for a fraction of the price. PFI has the absolute best cheese counter in the city, nearly 25 feet long; olives in bulk; Essential Bakery Bread at a fraction of ... more

Best Fresh Seafood Counter: Mutual Fish

Mutual Fish just feels right: white tile, men in rubber boots, and a hint of brine in the air. Ocean-fresh, clear-eyed whole fish are nestled, gleaming, in ice. Whenever I walk in the door, all my fears are allayed: Crabs—check. Salmon—check. Black cod—check. Spot prawns—check. Whole albacore, Pacific sardines, and... more

Best Wine Store: McCarthy & Schiering

In this era of wine saturation, it’s all the more essential to find a guide through the clutter—one that starts with the staggering amount of experience offered by Dan McCarthy and Jay Schiering, who have each spent most of their lives tasting, buying, and selling wine. The staff at each of their two McCarthy & Schiering locations do an ... more


Best Dispensary: West Coast Wellness

After more than two years since my previous visit to West Coast Wellness, I found big improvements when I checked them out again in May. One of the very best changes is the almost complete $10 cap on flower prices (when I visited in 2011, 18 top-shelf strains were priced at $15 a gram, and 12 more strains were $12). West Coast ... more

Best Local Strain: Ghost

There are a lot of good medical-marijuana strains in Seattle dispensaries. Fewer are the strains that are actually bred in the Puget Sound area, though there are a number of contenders. Among the best produced by local breeders is the hybrid Ghost (Afpak x White Widow) from local weed wizards Secret Seeds Collective ... more

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