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Sure, Washington might be known for Mt. St. Helens, grunge, rainy days, and Amazon, but there are hundreds of culinary wonders behind the evergreen curtain. Washington produces more apples than any other state, is synonymous with coffee culture, and is especially famous for fish: multiple varieties of salmon, ling cod, steelhead trout, and one particular “flying” variety (that of the Pike Place Market). To celebrate all the great food and drink our country’s 42nd state has to offer, we’ve rounded up 31 of Washington’s claims to culinary fame as part of our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Throw out a few of these names and let the salivating begin: Rainier cherries, Walla Walla sweet onions, Dungeness crab, Dick’s deluxe burgers, huckleberries, Beecher’s cheese, Ezell’s Famous Chicken, and Theo’s chocolate. Washington is home to chef Tom Douglas’ empire of Northwest-centric restaurants (including Serious Pie and Etta’s Seafood), and also home to famed sushi chef Shiro Kashiba’s Sushi Kashiba in Pike Place Market, whose geoduck nigiri is legendary (PS: It’s pronounced “gooey-duck”). Sweet, crisp Hama Hama oysters grown in pristine ecosystems (like Hood Canal) are a popular choice at many of the state’s top restaurants, including Ballard’s The Walrus and the Carpenter, and Chef Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island utilizes the freshest ingredients that can be found near the island, including smoked sockeye salmon and toasted birch branches. Washington is also known for its wine regions, which include Columbia Valley, Lake Chelan, and Horse Heaven Hills, and Charles Smith is certainly the state’s most recognized winemaker. Razor clams at The Depot in Long Beach are not to be missed, and morel season is truly something to celebrate, no matter where you live. Hungry yet?
The Evergreen State is home to many iconic foods, and over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best steakhouse and grocery store to its best dive bar and Italian restaurant in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs.
Courtesy of Whidbey Pies
The crew at Whidbey Pies, located on 151 acres of publicly owned farm, produces over 1,000 pies a week, all of which are handmade. No two pies are the same, and each piemaker has a unique style of crimping which acts like a signature upon each pie they make. The salted caramel apple pie is a popular choice for visitors, and according to Yelp reviews it is “unbelievably delicious.”
Photo by Stephanie L. via Yelp
Seattle’s Canon lays claim to the largest collection of spirits in the Western Hemisphere, with 3,500 labels and counting. There’s so much whiskey here that there’s even some in the bathroom, which was dubbed one of the top three bathrooms in Seattle by Seattle Refined on account of its vintage radio and “spa-like experience.” The “whiskey and bitters emporium” is a small place, so they can only accommodate parties of four people or fewer, and we suggest you make a reservation to guarantee yourself a seat. We also recommend dressing up a bit for Canon’s exclusive, swanky atmosphere.
Courtesy of Fremont Brewing Company
Fremont Brewing Company’s The First Nail is already an epic oatmeal stout, but it takes on a whole new life when aged in bourbon barrels. Then, it’s christened as The Rusty Nail, Washington’s best beer. Spicy, full-bodied, and warming with notes of chocolate, licorice, and cinnamon, this beer is best savored slowly.
Facebook/ Sam's Tavern
Sam’s Tavern, founded in the 1940s on the corner of Furhman and Eastlake Avenues in Seattle, was the original birthplace of national chain Red Robin. Before adopting the name “Red Robin,” it was just “Sam’s Tavern,” and then “Sam’s Red Robin.” Seventy years later, the original Sam’s Tavern was resurrected, this time on the corner of East Pike Street and 11th Avenue, and they still serve awesome burgers. They have one in particular that’s perfect for all you bacon fans out there: Sammy’s 50/50 Burger. The patty is half Certified Angus beef and half hickory smoked bacon, topped with avocado, buttermilk bacon ranch dressing, Gouda cheese, and (you guessed it) more bacon. Might as well go whole hog and start with the wedge salad with bacon bits and see if they’ll load your side of fries up with it, too.
Yelp / Jun Z
In business since 1922, this small and low-key family-owned restaurant is nothing short of a Seattle institution. The chili here is rich, thick, beefy, and it tops everything from burgers to steak to fries to spaghetti. This all-beef chili starts with beef stock, to which onions, garlic, and a whole bunch of ground beef and a top-secret spice blend are added. This all cooks low and slow all day long, and while it tops just about everything on the menu for good reason, you might just want to order it straight, topped with some cheese and onions.
Photo by Sathana K. via Yelp
Handheld Taiwanese pork bao — featuring fatty porcine nuggets stuffed into tender buns — are well worth the trip to Facing East, but you’d be selling yourself short not to try the rest of the animal, available in dishes like pig diaphragm or a dumpling made with sweet potato flour and filled with porky goodness. For a fun race against time, try getting home before your order of shaved ice melts.
Elysian Brewing Company
Elysian Brewing Company operates four pubs in Seattle. Since opening their first location in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Elysian has brewed over 350 different blends. Their fans can't get enough of their year-round beers such as Space Dust IPA, a “totally nebular IPA” which features Chinook, Amarillo, and Citra hops. Known for their seasonal pumpkin brews, Elysian yearly hosts the Great Pumpkin Beer Festival.
Photo by Angel S. via Yelp
Seattle’s pioneer cupcakery and café really is like cupcake royalty. It proudly claims to be the first real cupcakery outside of New York City and has led the charge in creating subtle, perfected cupcakes that customers love. Being innovative but not too outlandish with its favorites has allowed it to be appreciated for its true baking talents. You can see the classic quality in cupcakes like the lemon cake with lemon buttercream, the red velvet with cream cheese buttercream, and the vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.
The 5 Point Café/Yelp
Photo by Andy N. via Yelp
Top Pot’s doughnuts are all handmade, and the love and care that goes into each one is definitely part of the reason they taste so good. More than 40 different doughnut flavors are available, and they range from the true classics to the popular cake varieties. Our favorite is undoubtedly the Feather Boa, a classic cake doughnut topped with chocolate icing and coconut shavings.
The Vancouver Farmers Market is a pet-friendly place where you can chat with people who have grown or created your purchase, grab a bite to eat, listen to music, stroll through the park, watch the kids play, and enjoy a wonderful, relaxing day. The market runs March through October on Saturdays and Sundays.
Yelp/ Jeff L
Since 2013, the Nosh food truck has been rolling through Seattle serving a unique menu of specialties including fried rabbit, roasted bone marrow, and cod chowder. Its fish and chips, however, are the best in Seattle, thanks to the endless experimentation of London-born chef-owner Harvey Wolff. A whole fillet of wild Alaskan cod is beer battered and fried to a shatteringly crisp and greaseless crust , and the fish remains tender and flaky within. It’s served with house-made tartar sauce, crispy English-style chips, and (as a very nice touch) minty mushy peas.
Where Ya At Matt has been bringing New Orleans-style po’boys, muffulettas, jambalaya, and more to Seattle since 2010. It has been called one of the best food trucks in the country by Thrillist (and No. 11 in America by us last year), and Eater named its fried oyster po’boy one of the city’s most iconic food truck dishes. But don’t stop at the savory — its beignets, as well as sweet potato and pecan pies, are just as excellent.
With six locations, Dick’s is a Seattle institution. Since 1954, it has served fries that are made with, as the website explains, “Real potatoes… That's what makes our fries irresistible!... Cut fresh daily by hand.” Diners can feel good about patronizing this family-owned business: It treats employees like family, offering full benefits, scholarships, childcare assistance, paid community service, and a starting hourly wage of $10.
Ma'ono Fried Chicken & Whisky
Twice fried and umami-spiced, the Hawaiian-style fried chicken at Seattle’s Ma’Ono is served with kimchee, rice, and chile sauce. You can order either a half or a whole bird, and a gluten-free option is available. If you have green sensibilities, you can rest assured that your chickens were raised naturally in Mount Vernon, Washington. Don’t forget to check out their extensive list of whiskeys to wash it all down.
Photo by PCC Natural Markets - Fremont via Yelp
Ati B. via Yelp
Shorty’s really has it all: a bar, a full pinball arcade, a bizarre circus atmosphere, and insanely delicious hot dogs. They start simply enough, with wieners from Vienna Beef — special sausages include a German-style sausage and a delicious veggie dog. Offerings include Chicago-style, with chili and cheese, and even a dog with tomatoes, cream cheese, and peppers. But you’d be hard-pressed to find something to wash down with your beer that’s better than their classic Shorty Dog, simply topped with onions, relish, and sauerkraut. One of these, a couple beers, and some pinball? That’s what we call a good time.
Located in a mid-century house near the Juanita Beach Park in Kirkland, chef-owner and 2008 Best Chef: Northwest James Beard Award winner Holly Smith’s neighborhood spot Cafe Juanita focuses on Northern Italian cuisine. The menu changes frequently “but always includes an eclectic mix of meats and seafood, illustrating the commitment to fresh, bold dishes that most often utilize organic products.” Sweetbread ravioli with Madeira, rabbit with pancetta and porcini, risotto al Barolo, and Ligurian silk handkerchief with sunchoke and egg yolk are just some of the delicious items you’ll find on menu at this 30-seat restaurant that, from the outside at least, more resembles someone’s home.
The original Beecher’s, located in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, is the place to experience the most delicious and legendary macaroni and cheese. It’s made with penne and two of the cheeses that the restaurant-cum-cheese producer make themselves: Beecher’s 15-month-aged Flagship Cheddar and Just Jack. Chipotle and garlic powder lend a little smoky spice, and the finished product lives up to every expectation you might have from a shop that dares to call its mac and cheese the “World’s Best.” This simple and elegant macaroni and cheese is flawless, and truly is the best in America. And, luckily for you, they’ve been generous enough to post the recipe online.
The Dominguez family runs two of Seattle’s best Mexican restaurants, La Carta de Oaxaca and Mezcaleria Oaxaca. At the latter, try the tortilla chips, which are fried to order and served with guacamole or refried pinto beans, banana-leaf-wrapped chicken, or pork tamales. But matriarch and head chef Gloria Perez has become most famous for her barbacoa de cabrito, chile-marinated and slow-roasted goat served with beans and corn masa.
This stunning destination restaurant is located a minute’s walk from the beach on a small island in the middle of nowhere near the Canadian border, but it’s a pilgrimage worth making for those who love food and have deep pockets. The only menu available is a tasting menu that utilizes the region’s stunning bounty and can stretch to nearly 20 courses. It costs $195 (plus $90 for wine pairings), plus a 20 percent service charge.
Ethan Stowell has a lock on the Seattle dining scene, and his Staple & Fancy Mercantile is arguably his best, especially if you like Italian food. You can stick with the staples or you can go fancy (get it?), but the four pastas on offer are a little bit of both. The best one is his pappardelle, made in-house, simply tossed with superb bolognese, and topped with a quenelle of fresh ricotta and a sprinkling of mint.
You’d expect no less than pizza greatness from Seattle star chef and James Beard Award winner Tom Douglas, and at his three Serious Pie spots in Seattle (Virginia, Westlake, Pike) that’s exactly what you get. These are thin-crust, oblong pizzas about a foot long and imbued with serious soul (there are also huge corniciones). Consider the pizza mission statement that greets you when visiting their website: “Serious Pie: a pizzeria with a bread baker's soul, serves up pies with blistered crusts, light textured but with just enough structure and bite. Our attentiveness to each pizza in the 600°F stone-encased applewood burning oven preserves the character of housemade charcuterie and artisan cheeses from around the world.”
The menu features seven pies with toppings like Yukon gold potato, soft-cooked free-range eggs, smoked prosciutto, truffle cheese, snap peas, StraCapra (a washed-rind semi-soft goat cheese), and clams, but you’ll want to try the sweet fennel sausage, roasted pepper, and provolone pie that was voted one of the top 50 pizzas in the country this year.
Canlis is a true Pacific Northwest landmark. It’s been open since 1950, serving fresh, seasonal dishes that are more polished than cutting-edge in a rustic-modern space whose use of native wood and stone evokes forests and streams. Canlis was revolutionary when it opened due to its stunning architecture (Roland Terry and Pete Wimberley collaborated on an original design meant to echo Frank Lloyd Wright) and trailblazing menu of upscale Northwest cuisine (which founder Peter Canlis essentially invented), and it’s still blazing new trails while keeping the classics, such as the famous Canlis salad (romaine, bacon, mint, oregano, and Romano with a dressing of lemon, olive oil, and coddled egg), on the menu. The restaurant's onetime chef Jason Franey, who left three years ago to take over the kitchen at Restaurant 1883 in Monterey, called his cooking at Canlis "Comfort Geek" cuisine, defining that as “pertaining to a style of cuisine, namely, that which uses modern technique without drawing too much attention to itself or alienating the diner." That idea seems to have remained in place with new chef Brady Williams at the helm (who came over from Roberta’s in Brooklyn), with a menu offering a tasting menu-only experience of both classic and contemporary dishes, among them wagyu steak tartare and sautéed spot prawns, both based on Peter Canlis recipes; Dungeness crab with turnip, miso, and egg yolk; lamb with cauliflower, pearl onion, and mint; and cod with pickled root vegetables and clam veloute. Note that current co-owners Brian and Mark Canlis try to maintain the restaurant’s reputation as Seattle’s dressiest restaurant by requesting that men wear a suit or a sport coat.
Photo by Bryan R. via Yelp
In Seattle, Paseo has been a household name for more than 20 years thanks to its Caribbean-inspired sandwiches. Just about everything on the menu is ridiculously delicious (seriously, repeated visits are necessary), but if it’s your first time, you need to order the Caribbean roast: pork shoulder that’s marinated and slow-roasted, pulled and tucked into a toasted baguette and topped (like all of their sandwiches) with aïoli, cilantro, pickled jalapeños, romaine lettuce, and caramelized onions.
Tides Tavern stretches out into Puget Sound and has become an iconic destination for locals and tourists alike. Famous for its clam chowder, award-winning halibut fish and chips, and extensive list of craft beers, the poetically named Tides Tavern offers great seafood and poetic views indeed.
Yelp/ Lianne S.
Rhein Haus is one of Seattle's most popular biergartens, with authentically German fare, libations, and gemütlichkeit. The one food item you'll see more than any other there is the pretzel, which is house-made using a traditional recipe and comes to your table hot in two sizes: small, which is a good-sized snack for one (it also adorns several entrees and brunch options); and giant, which is more than a foot across and is perfect for sharing. The small comes with your choice of spicy honey mustard, Emmental-beer fondue, obatzda (a spiced Bavarian cheese spread), or horseradish cream cheese; the giant one comes with all four.
Pike Place Chowder
Pike Place Market is a Seattle institution, and one of its most popular eateries is Pike Place Chowder, which was opened by Larry Mellum in 2003. Mellum sources all of his ingredients from the market itself, and the best showcase of the local bounty is in his seafood bisque, a creamy tomato-based broth that’s loaded with Pacific cod, Northwest salmon, Oregon bay shrimp, and a little fresh basil. It’s the Northwest in a bowl.
Metropolitan Grill / Facebook
Metropolitan Grill hails itself as home of “the best steak in town,” and you’d be hard-pressed to argue with that. Located inside a historic building dating to 1903, the place has all the trappings of a classic upscale steakhouse: large mahogany doors, a tuxedo-clad maître d’, cuts of beef on display, soaring ceilings, crown moldings, oversized booths, plus plenty of brass and even more mahogany. But don’t let the pretension fool you: The focus here is on the beef. Chef Eric Hellner sources the prime steak from Double R Ranch in Washington State, and it’s all custom dry-aged, seasoned with a proprietary spice mix, and seared over hot mesquite charcoal. The 60-foot black marble bar is a jewel (don’t miss the award-winning martinis), and the wine list has received Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence.”
Photo by John W. via Yelp
This quintessential neighborhood spot is run by talented chef Riyuchi Nakano, who’s made it his mission to source the freshest fish possible and only serve the highest grade. Start your meal with flame-broiled black cod marinated in sale lees or fresh local oysters with ponzu, and follow it up with nigiri of sweet shrimp, Japanese mackerel, flounder, a rotating selection of Japanese wild white fish, and yellowtail (if California red abalone is available, don’t miss that either). The Green Lake Roll with salmon, flying fish row, asparagus, avocado, and marinated seafood is also a must-order.
Photo by ros k. via Yelp
Taco & Tiki Tuesdays at Essex have Seattle residents all in a tizzy every week as they clamor to get their hands on chef Ricardo Valdes’ excellent tacos. The lamb and chicken versions get a lot of praise, but everyone agrees that the fish tacos are not to be missed. The flour tortillas are made by hand, and the fresh fish is cooked in Valdes’ wood-burning oven. The result? Winner winner fish taco dinner! For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.