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The Casual Weeknight Dinner Guide

Most weeknights are not about pulling out all the stops. You’re probably cooking dinner from the almost-expired ingredients in your fridge, or looking to plan something casual. In the latter case, you need a place where you won’t have to wait for a table, dress up, or pay a ton of money. Whether you’re solo, on a low-key date, or getting your friends together for some midweek group therapy, our guide will help you pick the perfect spot.

the spots

La Cocina Oaxaquena

Capitol Hill
1216 Pine St Ste 100
8.6
MAP

This Mexican place in Capitol Hill has a lot going for it. Whether you’re by yourself or out with your entire Dungeons & Dragons campaign, you should be able to get a table with no wait. The tortilla chips are fried fresh when you order them, and they’re also free and unlimited, as is the salsa bar. (But don’t fill up on chips, because the non-chip food is delicious, too.) Somehow, not everyone in Seattle has caught on to this place’s greatness yet, which only means more braised pork and spicy shrimp for us. And you.

Manao

Capitol Hill
1222 E Pine St
7.8
MAP

This is one of the best places in Seattle for some casual, counter-service Thai. The dishes (like creamy limey chicken with turmeric rice) equal parts interesting and delicious, and it’s hard to feel too sorry for yourself and your sh*tty Monday while sipping from a giant mason jar mug of Thai iced tea. Not only that, but the noodle dishes are massive enough that you’ll be set for lunch for the next couple of days. Maybe you’ll even inspire your coworker who’s always microwaving fish at noon to branch out. That would be a real win.

Bramling Cross

Ballard
5205 Ballard Ave NW
8.3
MAP

There are lots of menu options at this gastropub in Ballard, from lighter things (like seared fish) to a quality burger with dill-spiced fries and pickle aioli or a house-smoked pork shank with hush puppies. The drink list also covers everything from craft cocktails and local wine to great beers and ciders on tap. It feels a little like a library inside, so you can relive your college days while also being very glad you don’t have to go home and finish an Economics paper.

Windy City Pie

Interbay
1417 Elliott Ave W
8.1
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After spending approximately 50% of your day waiting for people to join conference calls, you probably don’t have much patience left. Come to Windy City Pie anyway. Your deep dish pizza will take around 40 minutes to bake, but it’s worth it - especially if you get candied bacon on top. Order some garlic brioche, salad, and cider to tide you over while you wait.

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Pinto Bistro does take reservations, but you shouldn’t ever need to make one. It’s a calm little spot with great Thai dishes and Japanese sushi rolls - perfect for when your brain is too fried to choose. Get some gyoza, satay, curry, and rainbow rolls all in the same sitting, and if you’re on a weeknight date, let the tea candles on the table do the romancing.

Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky

4437 California Ave SW
MAP

When all you really want is a bucket of fried chicken, but you need to do something more for your own personal morale than a drive-thru, try Ma’ono. You’ll get an amped-up version of a classic chicken dinner, served with chili dipping sauce, roasted corn with miso caramel and furikake, and mac and kimchi cheese on the side (the food here is a mix of Korean, Hawaiian, and American). Bring your friends, get a huge table, and don’t forget the cacao nib crust banana cream pie afterwards.

Ciudad

Georgetown
6118 12th Ave S
7.7
MAP

Ciudad is a place where you can hit that perfect level of sort-of-healthy (that will help you justify eating definitely-not-healthy all weekend). They do charcoal-grilled meats priced by weight, Middle Eastern mezze, flatbreads, and fresh vegetable dishes, all in an industrial space in Georgetown. Get some hummus, the hanger steak with chimichurri, and an order of charred snap peas, and don’t look at the creepy mural of demonic creatures if you get frightened easily.

B's Po Boy

West Seattle
2738 Alki Ave SW

We may be a full four-and-a-half-hour flight away from New Orleans, but at B’s Po Boy, you could probably manage to forget that for at least a few minutes. This low-key spot on the water at Alki Beach sells inexpensive sandwiches with market-fresh seafood. For the full Seattle-in-New Orleans experience, get crab cakes with lemon aioli or a fried shrimp po’ boy, close your eyes, plug in your headphones, and listen to a brass band.

Frēlard Pizza Company

4012 Leary Way NW
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While the wait for Frelard’s New York-style pizza is nuts on the weekends, on a random Tuesday, it’s pretty easy to find a big wooden table inside right away. If your baggy-eyed friend who has four kids and desperately needs to get out of the house shows up without a sitter, there’s even a play area where the kids can amuse themselves while you enjoy your charcuterie, pizza, and wine.

7.4
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Mexican spot Agua Verde is one of our top weeknight go-tos when it’s hot out, but even if the outdoor deck is closed for the season, you can still come and stare longingly at the gray wasteland of a marina while eating coconut-battered fish tacos. Drink enough frozen mango margaritas and you may even feel inspired to put on your sunglasses.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

2630 NE Village Ln
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If you just spent a few hours and way too much money on random kitchen supplies at the University Village, and the thought of waiting an hour for a table at Din Tai Fung makes you want to shove your head in a shopping bag and cry, Hokkaido Santouka Ramen is your post-errand weeknight dinner power play. Grab a booth, order the miso ramen with gyoza combo, and try desperately to forget that it’s only Monday.

Mean Sandwich

Ballard
1510 NW Leary Way
8.5
MAP

Mean Sandwich is like a classic deli with a slight twist. There’s a corned beef sandwich with mustard and cabbage, but also some fresh mint. And a chicken cutlet sandwich with provolone, but buffalo mayo instead of tomato sauce. There are chips, too, but they’re actually fried potato skins. Grab a booth with friends, and be sure to get a bread pudding (made with day-old sandwich buns) to take home for later.

Little Ting's Dumplings

Greenwood
14411 Greenwood Ave N.

Little Ting’s, in Greenwood, is one of the city’s most reliable spots for an inexpensive dim sum meal. It’s bit of a trek, but you’ll be rewarded with tasty pork and chive dumplings and bao buns. The best part: leaving with a stomach full of delicious dim sum and no regrets about the amount of money you just spent (most of the 15-count dumpling plates are around 10 bucks).

Trove

Capitol Hill
500 E. Pike
8.2
MAP

You were really looking forward to another friendship-ruining round of Risk, but for some reason, no one else wanted to play. Trove, a Korean BBQ spot in Capitol Hill, is a good alternative. You’ll feel like you’re partying in IKEA after-hours, and grilling your own dinner turns out to be even more fun than Risk. Order some soft serve parfaits for the table for dessert, and you may even be forgiven for whatever happened last time the game board came out.

7.9
MAP

This place has some of the best Indian and Nepalese food in the city. The entrees come out of the kitchen incredibly quickly, and you’ll definitely be able to hear yourself think (or your dinner companion talk), since it’s not usually busy. Split some chicken tikka masala and aloo gobi with basmati rice, box up the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and cap off the night with the mango soft serve.

New Luck Toy

West Seattle
5905 California Ave SW
8.4
MAP

Nothing says “I am spontaneous” like getting awesome Chinese food while playing skee-ball at a karaoke bar on a Tuesday night. New Luck Toy is a fantastic spot for partying with your friends on the weekend, but on weeknights, you’re more likely to get a table without a wait. The entire menu is excellent across the board, from the honey pecan prawns to the General Tso chicken thighs to the salt-and-pepper spare ribs, and is the perfect way to escape the reality that you actually need to be a functioning human tomorrow.

When it’s the middle of a garbage week, you get to eat whatever the f*ck you want for dinner. Katsu Burger is a counter-service space with a Godzilla mural, local beer and sake, and beef katsu sandwiches - or in other words, deep-fried cheeseburgers. They also have pork and chicken katsu, fries tossed in roasted seaweed flakes (dip them in the spicy mayo), and matcha green tea milkshakes to wash everything down. Promise to be healthy tomorrow, but for tonight, give in to Katsu.

Mojito

Maple Leaf
7545 Lake City Way NE
7.5
MAP

You’re not 21 anymore, but you can still party on a weeknight. For a good time and even better Cuban food, check out Mojito, a colorful spot in Maple Leaf. You’re here for arepas, braised pork, tostones, seafood, and obviously mint, lime, and rum cocktails. If the owner gives your group a round of tequila shots, don’t ask questions. Pretend you still get 21-year-old hangovers, and enjoy.

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