Based on the way some Seattleites talk about the Eastside, it seems like an untouchable place where you settle down, buy a house with a yard, get a dog (or a roomba), and send your fleeting youth away in a puff of humidifier smoke. But let’s be real - you kicked yourself when you found out that Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber were randomly in Bellevue that one time.
Bellevue’s actually a pretty cool place to be. There are awesome hiking trails, a couple of grassy parks, and a ton of great companies to work for - plus a mall that’s way better than Southcenter. There are also some excellent restaurants and bars. So whether you’re grabbing lunch with coworkers or going on a dinner date, here’s where to eat and drink when you’re not navigating the parking situation at Lincoln Square or hiding in a bush with binoculars trying to anticipate Jelena’s next public appearance.
If you need to convince someone that you have your sh*t together, take them to a dinner at Seastar. It’s the kind of upscale seafood spot that would be the perfect setting for that token classy restaurant date scene in a rom-com. It’s also a solid place for a business dinner, particularly one covered by a corporate card. Always start with the crab bisque, and then you can’t go wrong with a fish entree (like king salmon or mahi mahi). Just try not to laugh hysterically when you see the bill.
For date-night Vietnamese, head to Monsoon on Old Main - it’s a little smaller than the Capitol Hill location, but serves the same menu, with dishes like claypot catfish, drunken chicken, and wokked lamb. Come for Happy Hour to take advantage of their quality cocktails and also try the 19 different food specials (think oysters, sausage sliders with hoisin aioli, and crispy rolls).
Pizza options are few and far between in Bellevue, where Pagliacci is the unfortunate default. But for a date or an elegant dinner with a small group, Mercato Stellina is your spot. This place serves artisanal pies with toppings that range from spicy salami and oregano to potato and rosemary. Round out your meal with some salads or charcuterie - and keep an eye out for the pasta specials, too.
Broiler Bay is not the kind of burger spot where you’ll find cloth napkins, gruyere, or anything containing a hint of fresh truffle. It’s the kind of burger spot where you show up, order a charbroiled double bacon cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun with onion rings and a large Oreo shake, eat it lovingly with copious amounts of fry sauce at a table with a very wobbly leg, and continue on your way. Don’t miss it.
In a burger boxing match between Broiler Bay and Wibbley’s, Broiler Bay would win, but Wibbley’s would probably deliver a game-changing sucker punch and still be respected by all. This is more of a sit-down spot, with delicious charbroiled burgers that range from American-cheese-topped classics to more involved creations with blue cheese and bacon or green chiles and pepper jack. Wash your meal down with a milkshake and an order of fries for good measure.
There are three main things you need to know about this biergarten. First, they have hand shuffleboard. Second, their ale-braised brisket nachos with spicy queso are the ideal bar snack. Third, you can do a shot ski with their homemade cinnamon-chili whiskey. Immediately gather your friends or coworkers together and put all three of these facts to good use.
You need this ramen. Whether you’re hanging out in a booth by yourself or here on a low-key date, order the miso ramen and a plate of chicken karaage or pork gyoza, and thank yourself for the genius dinner idea. Fair warning: on weekend nights, the wait can be a little long.
People who have never been to Taqueria El Rinconsito before always come out recommending it to all their friends. And with good reason - this place makes really, really good Mexican food. Whatever you order here (we’re big fans of the arroz con pollo) will taste great, and work well for a casual dinner or even a midnight meal on the weekend.
Señor Taco is our other favorite Mexican spot in Bellevue. Grab a cold bottle of beer along with some excellent tacos or a burrito for a pretty perfect lunch. Get the al pastor and/or spicy barbacoa with a scoop of guacamole on the side, and don’t skip the baja fish, which comes with practically an entire filet of crispy cod drenched in chipotle crema.
We like Dough Zone because you can walk in for dinner, get a seat immediately, and eat some consistently great dumplings and dandan noodles. (Always include the pork jian buns in your order, too.) It’s a little busier at lunch, but it’s a good, casual group spot any time of day.
If you’re celebrating a birthday in Bellevue and want to do drinks, Black Bottle is a good move. It’s slightly upscale, and feels a lot like its sister spot in Seattle - so your friends won’t even be too bitter about having to cross the bridge. Probably. Order some cocktails along with small plates like hot crab dip with flatbread, chipotle pork wontons, and cauliflower fritters, then toast to Bellevue not being “so boring” after all.
Garlic Crush is the Mediterranean restaurant version of that best friend you can count on no matter what your mood is. If you’re feeling takeout, the food from this place travels really well. If you want something vegetarian, get their excellent falafel. If you’re starving, the delicious lamb/beef gyro plate will fill you up. If you forgot snacks for your cocktail party, a large order of homemade hummus will have your back. Dessert? Two words: fresh baklava. It’s not fancy on the inside, but if the weather’s nice and you line up a few outdoor tables for you and some friends, you’ll have a very enjoyable Mediterranean feast.
We’ll admit that we were skeptical of a restaurant named after the aggravating toll highway that makes us bang our heads on the dashboard during rush hour. But 520 Bar & Grill is an ideal place to heal traffic-related stress with burgers, tacos, surprisingly great entree salads (get the Southwestern), and fish and chips. Their back patio is perfect for a lunch with the parents, and they make a mean breakfast burrito for weekend brunch.
Resonate doesn’t have the best pizza in town, but if you sub fresh mozzarella in on your pie and get a side of artichoke dip, you’ll have a good time. Sit at a picnic table in the lively dining room and do flights of excellent homemade beer, too.
Jujubeet is a solid place to eat cashew cheese, drink a kale smoothie, and fantasize about living in LA. We would make more jokes here, but everything at Jujubeet is actually good. Grab something with cacao and protein powder after a workout, or drink some delicious juice made with green things. You could also just do a latte and set up camp with your laptop. There are no wrong ways to do Jujubeet, unless you want a burger.
Some of the best Chinese food in Bellevue is across the street from that Walmart strip mall on 148th (if you’re guilty of ever getting Wing Dome for lunch, you know what we’re talking about). The owner is very friendly, and has been known to give out free Jell-O for dessert. Our favorite things on the menu here are the potstickers, Mongolian beef, General Tso’s chicken, and spicy salt-and-pepper wings worth driving from Seattle for.
Bellevue Brewing is a taproom that makes some of our favorite beer, period, and they have some great bar snacks, too - like the street tacos, housemade pretzels, and giant wood-fired chicken wings. There’s also a salted caramel brownie sundae topped with oatmeal stout-infused ice cream. Do with that information what you will.