With only a little over 24 hours to spend in Seattle with girlfriends this weekend, I knew that there would be very limited time but nearly unlimited eating opportunities. Luckily, I had done my homework, and we were able to hit the floor running.
And so after many visits over the last ten years, exhaustive research and this most recent shameless face-stuffing (and no small amount of belt-loosening), I present to you a list of Seattle must-do’s for foodies.
A few of these places were brand new to me, too, and I can’t imagine a better belated birthday celebration than discovering new food places with the greatest of pals.
Enough chatting — on to the road show.
Sure, Nosh appeared on many “Best Of” lists (for both food trucks and fish and chips), but you never know until you’ve tried it for yourself. We happened to be going to the Fremont Street Fair and knowing about its Sunday presence there, we made a bee-line for the bright green truck.
Could the fish and chips really be that good? Fingers, toes and scarves were crossed.
Believe the hype.
Here you’ll find a foot-long fillet of impossibly fresh-tasting cod that’s given a quick dunk in a beer batter and pulled out of the fryer with a crust that’s as crunchy as it’s feathery. The fries (called chips in English fashion) sport a similar crispness and are intensely-potatoey, and the homemade tartar sauce came off more like a garlicy aioli than bland tartar afterthought. It too was delicious.
Why can’t all fish and chips be this good? I’d even settle for something three-quarters this flawless. I couldn’t stop eating it. All of it.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the mushy peas alongside; the rendition here was impressively fresh tasting, a little oniony and singing with a minty goodness. They were epic — and a wonderful herby accompaniment to the stellar fried fish (I can’t wait to try to replicate this side dish in my kitchen).
On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give them a 20. This was the best rendition of fish and chips any of us have ever had — no small claim from three women who all originally hail from the Eastern Seaboard and hence dabbled many a time in the fried fish waters.
NOSH truck, don’t be surprised if you look in your rear-view window and see three rabid fans from Oregon clocking your every move. Not to worry — we’re hogs but we’re harmless.
2. RAIN SHADOW MEATS.
Behold the CLT at this butchery/sandwich shop. The menu describes it as such: “Chicken, Lettuce and Tesa: big bluff ranch chicken salad, our panchetta de tesa, havarti, dill cream, romaine, french bread”.
You should be. Every bite held so many interesting textures and flavors, none of which competed, and each got a moment in the sun. Every detail was considered and executed impeccably and then the sandwich was constructed masterfully. What an amazing sandwich.
There are two RSM outposts in the city; one in the super swanky Melrose Market on Capital Hill and the other in Pioneer Square. It was the latter storefront we checked out, and it was intriguing from the get-go.
In the front are tables for eating and a few butcher shelves with amazing looking meat, and in the back is a long marble counter with crimson stools that face the huge open kitchen. You can watch as your food is being made about eight feet away from where you sit.
It felt like being a guest at a caterer friend’s house, the mood intimate and yet the food professionally turned out.
So the kitchen was gorgeous, the counter help was effusive and helpful, but the food? Turns out the chicken sandwich wasn’t the only sheriff in town.
Why struggle for words when a photo or two can say it better?
No less wondrous than the chicken ‘wich was a flat-iron steak sandwich with caramelized red onions, arugula and a caper aioli. The bread was from Macrina Bakery (one of my favorites), the steak was cooked perfectly and the bread soaked up all those incredible juices from the warm meat. Doesn’t it look amazing?
For just a couple dollars more you could add a salad alongside, and we decided to go all in. First up was a lacinato kale dish with oil cured black olives, bread crumbs and a lemon vinaigrette. We ate it so fast I wasn’t able to take a pic.
Luckily the potato salad arrived just as we were coming up for air.
The fingerlings were fork-tender yet intact and were tossed with an assertive Dijon dressing. I though the addition of pancetta and capers was a particularly interesting touch, and I enjoyed the crunch of fresh celery. The end result was a side with as strong a personality as our sandwiches. No wallflowers here.
I can’t wait to go back, perhaps to the one in Melrose Market so I can check out that space.
We’re from Portland so we know amazing sandwiches when we see them. So hey, Rain Shadow Meats?
You have three new fans for life.
3. LONDON PLANE.
I had read about this restaurant/bakery/flower shop/deli/retail space in so many publications and blogs that it already felt familiar when we walked in.
With the soaring two story plate glass windows looking out on the street, it was light and airy and filled with so many beautiful things to look at.
It reminded me a little bit of the original Dean and DeLuca in Soho, but with better light, far more seating, and a minimum of New Yorkers.
One of my friends said it reminded her of innumerable places she’d visited in Japan. It made me think of that country in a very different way.
If there are lot of places there that look like this, I’m sure I too would fall in love with that country.
Next time I will be sure to time my visit with a greater appetite. This afternoon we were coming off the above lunch blow-out, and so we had room only for sweets.
Having sampled my fair share here, however, I can attest to their swoon-worthiness and believe that they point to a steady and soulful presence in the open kitchen. There must be some crazy cooking and baking talent here.
Take a gander at some of the treats we enjoyed walking about.
A chocolate meringue, perhaps the best I’ve ever had. A chocolate chip cookie with both crunch and chew, excellent bittersweet chocolate and topped generously with flaked sea salt. A coconut brown butter chew that I’m sure has its own Facebook page.
Everything looked similarly incredible here (the flowers! the composed plates! the Japanese housewares! the cookbooks! the enamel cups! the bakery counter!) and I can’t wait to just sit there for hours. And then on to Bar Sajor (its sister restaurant across the way) for the next meal?
These two lovelies have me counting the minutes until my return to Pioneer (it’s-hip-to-be) Square.
4. DELANCEY AND ESSEX
These two adjoining spots are brought to you by the exceedingly talented Molly Wizenberg of the Orangette blog and author of both A Homemade Life and the just-released Delancey. She and her husband Brandon have opened up this pizza place and bar next door on a relatively quiet street in Ballard, and it’s just as beautiful and charming as you’d expect it to be from such a creative force.
We spent some time in the latter, sipping cocktails, sharing burgers, and ogling the pizzas next door on our way out.
So many lovely details to enjoy.
I love everything about this place — the gorgeous bar atop the subway tiles, the exquisite little marble tables for eating, the generously sized flatware and vintage details like little vases holding flowers, chalkboards with beautifully rendered script, the seamless yet not stuffy service.
And the cocktails were delightful. Here are two of our amazing cocktails. The one on the left was named the East India Trading Mix and it featured vodka, fresh orange and lemon juice, Cocchi Rosa and Chai. Isn’t the star anise stunning floating on top?
The drink on the right was a Guava Daiquiri with two kinds of rum, lime, Licor 43 and cane sugar. I wanted to keep the unusual tiki glass.
Mine was called the Kentucky Road Soda. It featured both scotch and bourbon, lemon juice and a heady ginger syrup. I loved the ritual of pouring the chilled cocktail over the dried cherry into the cascade of waiting ice cubes.
It was incredibly refreshing and boozy with a pleasingly bracing ginger finish. Who knew that scotch and bourbon could play together so nicely? I guess when ginger is the chaperone, you’re more likely to get a harmonious pairing.
This is how a neighborhood restaurant and bar should look, feel and taste — and I envy the those who live within walking distance of this charmer.
Next time, I will linger longer, and I’ll have to try one of those perfectly blistered pies next door for myself. In the meantime, I will pick up her newest book and get the skinny on how her restaurant came to be.
5. KEDAI MAKAN.
This Malaysian take-out only place in lower Capital Hill can rest assured that they will never need to shell out money for advertising; the word is out about the food, and crowds are willing to wait a long time for food they either bring back home or to one of the nearby bars that will allow you to bring this food in.
Luckily I recalled that it was take-out only, and so I’d planned ahead. Something told me we would want to enjoy this feast late night in our pj’s back in hotel, and so I had brought bowls, flatware and a portable mini-bar from home. Who wants to eat something that good out of a paper carton? And wouldn’t a great glass of wine or bourbon drink make the meal even better?
This is how it looked just moments before we devoured it.
What you are looking at here are the sticky black pepper ribs (available weekend only), the Malaysian fried rice (Nasi Goreng) with egg, kecap manis and grilled tofu, and the Roti Canai, a flaky/buttery/crispy pancake that is killer on its own, but perfection when dipped into the dhal curry dipping sauce.
All of this food was about $30–including a $5 tip to the amazing gal at the counter.
Stuffed to the gills, we left a tiny bit of the rice and one last rib in the hotel fridge, and it wasn’t until we were 20 miles outside of Seattle that I remembered that we had left it behind. I actually considered driving back to retrieve this tiny bit of leftovers — it was that tasty.
I hope the hotel cleaning lady came across it, recognized the piece of good fortune suddenly thrown onto her path, and dug right in.
6. STORYVILLE COFFEE.
I googled best places for coffee and this name kept coming up.
I had never heard of Storyville Coffee before, but when I saw that they had one branch overlooking the Pike Place Market, I was intrigued. Turns out it’s right next to Matt’s in the Market (another amazing place), and I was bowled over by how beautiful the place was when we walked in.
This is a cafe? Really?
It looked like something on a movie set. Gorgeous lighting, leather couches, tiger-eye in-laid counters, a fireplace and exquisite little homemade pastries behind the counter, all made in-house just an hour or so before.
But let’s not get distracted here with so many sumptuous details.
Let’s start with the coffee, shall we?
The guys behind the counter couldn’t be more helpful; I appreciated how patient they were with all of my questions and there was not even a wee bit of snobbery or condescension. It’s so clear that they are passionate about everything they do.
It could quite possibly be the most beautiful coffee shop I have ever been to in the United States and it could quite possibly be the best latte I’ve ever had.
My girlfriends raved about their Americano and their hot chocolate, too — the latter was made with a homemade chocolate syrup and all the coffee drinks use organic local milk, poured out carefully from little glass bottles.
Prices? Amazingly, they were the same as in any coffee shop, with most drinks hovering comfortably in the three dollar range.
As if amazing beverages, gorgeous pastries, an informed and thoughtful staff, a fireplace and luxurious seating wasn’t enough to lure you there, this was part of the view.
You are right on top of the market and it was really fun to watch the Sunday crowds walk by, gawking and already laden down with so many treats.
When I saw all the herds of tourists lining up at the original Starbucks just two blocks away, I wanted to slap some sense into them. Luckily I stopped myself when I realized that it was best this way; leave something this magical to those who will discover it on their own and will appreciate how spectacular it truly is.
Storyville — would you consider opening up a branch in Portland?
7. DELAURENTI’S MARKET
Lastly, a market that will blow your mind.
I am shocked by how many of my friends have never heard of this outstanding market and deli at the end of the Pike Place Market, just next to the donut place and steps away from Rachel the Pig and the flying fish action.
DeLaurenti’s has foodstuffs and delicacies that you rarely see anywhere else in the United States.
There are all kinds of imported treasures here. I spent at least a half hour just looking at everything on the shelves.
Check out their massive oil and vinegar array, pastas, herbs, and Italian, French and Spanish delicacies of all kinds: jams, pastes, condiments, sauces, chocolates, crackers, and so on.
And then the deli? It’s almost enough to make me weep with joy.
My uber-tolerant pals waited patiently as I tasted my way through a good deal of the salami selection; all the best from Salumi (Mario Batali’s dad’s place that enjoys cult status) and other small makers from all over the country. Dozens and dozens of the very finest cured meats and charcuterie can be found here.
Prosciutto? At least four kinds, not to mention speck (a smoked variety) and a duck prosciutto. And then Jamon Serrano and Jamon Iberico, something I’ve never had the pleasure of trying before. Sure it was $80 a pound, but guess what? I’m worth it.
Here are some of the goodies I brought home in a cooler bag to enjoy back at home (clockwise from left): Jamon Iberico, Seattle’s own Mole Salumi, Speck, Spanish spicy Chorizo and Fennel Salumi Salami.
I’d like to think that I brought all these treasures home so that my family could enjoy just a taste of what I enjoyed over the weekend. Honestly though, I think I was just having such a good time that I didn’t want the party to end right then and there. I filled up my cooler and bag with edible souvenirs as a way to prolong the gratification and pleasure for yet another day. Seattle to go.
And so my dear pals, here’s to you and our eating adventure. Thanks for everything.
A new tradition has begun — and I am holding on to my barely touched list for the next time.
(Must we really wait for next Mother’s Day?)