Ah, the hill. Everyone’s clutching iced Americanos, stale smells of Dick’s fryer oil can be sniffed out from just about anywhere on Broadway, and if you shot a lemon drop for every cotton candy-colored hairstyle, French bulldog, and brand-new apartment complex you passed, you’d be blitzed. Sure, it doesn’t have the same charm as some other neighborhoods in Seatown (or particularly affordable rent), but we still find ourselves constantly lured to the not-yet-totally-gentrified neighborhood directly east of I-5. Capitol Hill is a local’s playground. And as for the arsenal of A+ places to eat? That’s our kind of monkey bars. Here’s where to play.
The author of this guide grew up in Long Island, and does not mess around with pizza. Ethan Stowell is the guy behind some of Seattle’s best Italian restaurants, and Bar Cotto is his dimly-lit pizza spot/temple of cured meats. It’s also the crispy-crusted answer to any East-Coaster’s homesickness. BC is perfect for a first date or relaxed dinner with parents or a monthly outing with a select few from your crew (It’s small, so make a reservation). Don’t pass up a Lambrusco cocktail and the housemade porchetta, always get torta fritta with your salumi, and while the Bufala pie sounds basic on paper, you want it. This is the best pizza in Seattle.
Tallulah’s is what happens when a West Elm projectile vomits haphazardly inside a café, and it’s actually rad. A couple rounds of blackberry mules (like Moscow Mules, but better) and avocado toast later and Sunday suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. Plus, Tallulah’s menu is made up of mostly vegetables, so your vegan friends get more options than a side of breakfast potatoes seasoned with their own tears. They also do a sweet happy hour, and dinner on the spacious patio is never a bad idea - but brunch is what Tallulah’s does best.
So, your boss invited you to dinner but asked you to pick the spot. No pressure. Cascina Spinasse is what you pull out of your hat (as long as you make a reservation). Inside, the vibe at this Italian place is somewhere between upscale and homey, with reclaimed wood and a marble bar. While there are only three handmade pastas on rotation, ricotta cavatelli typically makes an appearance, and it’s always stellar. When the weather warms up, sip something cold from the long wine list and snack on fried zucchini blossoms with a date.
If we had a dollar for every Thai restaurant in Seattle, we’d have enough money to have a meal at every Thai restaurant in Seattle. Our first stop on the road to hypertension would be Manao. With a colorful look and laidback feel, this fun spot for twists on Thai favorites is both modern and authentic. Get yourself a mason jar of Thai iced tea and a platter of crunchy, creamy lime zest chicken, gather some humans you don’t hate, and you’ve got a summer al fresco lunch perfect for people-watching on Pine Street.
VPC is like IHOP. It’s packed like sardines at breakfast, but the joint always proves calmer at night. It feels like a cross between a bistro and a farmhouse, and serves crazy good brunch baguette sandwiches. But it’s even better for dinner—and not too many locals know that, which means you can easily get a reservation. Also important: they have good cake. After a twilight walk around Volunteer Park, take someone special and order the mini chicken pot pie with two forks. Is that a ring in your pocket? Propose. She will say yes.
Quinn’s is the classy pub that’s perfect for most situations. Kick it here for dinner with parents, or a date, or even a birthday - with craft on draught and snacks that put average pub food to shame. Did you want fries? How about frites with fontina and veal demiglace? Oh, a pretzel? Cute. Have some welsh rarebit (fancy liquid cheese) on the side. What about a sloppy Joe? Sure, but it’ll be made with boar and topped with a duck egg. Though they technically don’t accept reservations for fewer than six people or during “peak” times, just call them. Chances are they’ll put something on the books for you.
In this small bar/wine shop with exposed pipes and a wine list scribbled on a chalkboard, you’ll find all things butter, pork, and joy. Bar Ferdinand is great for wine and food pairings, and whether you order a glass with housemade bread and dry-cured sausage, or commit to to one of the two complex entrees typically offered, just try not to dive across the open prep station and hug the chef. Service is excellent, you can score a table for two without a fuss, the menu is different every day, and when the waitress tells you that the smoked beets will blow your mind, she’s actually right.
Here’s how our routine at La Cocina Oaxaceña goes: we order the camarones al mojo (shrimp marinated in a lime and garlic sauce that contains enough chile to burn your entire face off). It makes us cry and sweat and chug margaritas and spew profanities. We tell everyone we’re with that we will never do it again. And then we come back and get those devil prawns again. And again. La Cocina is a casual Mexican restaurant that’s perfect for a last-minute group dinner, marathon tequila drinking, or just a serious taco session.
Bateau is not the steakhouse where you’ll find bourbon-swilling old guys creeping in the darkness. With the exception of the glass display of raw cow torsos showcasing what’s about to be butchered for your dinner, the burger that gets a standing ovation followed by a slow-clap followed by us mouthing the words “proud of you, kid,” and the price tag, Bateau is an excellently dainty situation. It’s light and bright and pretty much the opposite of every other steakhouse you’ve ever eaten in. Just don’t bring your vegetarian friends - even the fries have beef in them.
Sometimes, you want a dessert that doesn’t taste like a pile of sugar cubes. In these situations, Kurt Farm Shop, a tiny little ice cream spot tucked away in Chophouse Row, is the answer. They do oddball flavors like bay leaf and salted plum, but if you’re more of a purist, they also serve minimalist stuff like fresh mint, berry, and Jersey cream (literally just sweetened cream, but still insanely good). Skip the dessert menu wherever you’re having dinner and come get yourself a double scoop here instead.
“That’s odd…Did I just stumble into a taqueria that looks like a KFC in rural Arkansas?” Yes, you did, but at Rancho Bravo you’ll find kickass tacos for less than a fiver, and nothing weird in the bathroom. Authenticity is the name of the game here, and takeout is always fast. But if you want to eat here, the back patio covered in twinkling string lights keeps the good vibes rolling, and the monsoon of spicy pork, chipotle crema, and cotija cheese keeps the taco salad counterproductive.
Turns out, you don’t need to go to Japan to have sushi while overlooking a Kyoto-style garden. Just come to Momiji, where the atmosphere is calm enough for a low-key happy hour at 4, but lively enough for a birthday dinner and sake at 8. The whole menu is great, but you’ll want to go heavy on the specialty rolls—that is, if you can choose from nearly 50 of them. Make a reservation if you don’t want to wait.
Twice-baked almond croissant. That’s all you need to know about this place. Sit down and get it and don’t you dare share any with your friend. Slivers of toasted nuts and powdered sugar will end up everywhere, but there’s nothing more satisfying than braving the long morning line to stake out a table and having some quality time with your pastry and a hot latte. Oh yeah, and your friend.
If you had to choose between your significant other and a grass-fed burger with a basket of queso fries from Lil’ Woody’s, let’s just say you would need to blast some really, really sad music and start packing your things. Lil’ Woody’s is perfect for a lunch meetup or to refuel before a Friday night out (only to return at 2am for second dinner). The menu has a solid lineup of classics, plus more creative choices in case you want housemade pickled figs on your burger. You can get a side of milkshake for your handcut fries (they call it “crack” on the streets), and no burger here is a wrong choice.
Annapurna Café is one of the better things to ever happen to a basement. What the dining room lacks in sunlight it makes up for in friendly service and some of the tastiest Indian food in the city. Wait times are typically short, but if you encounter a crowd you can head upstairs to the Yeti Bar and order a saffron-lychee cocktail. And if your table suddenly materializes? You’re allowed to bring your drinks downstairs with you, because there’s no time to be wasted when piles of garlic naan and samosas are at stake.
When you must have f*cking incredible chicken and waffles at any time of the day, Witness is there for you. Then there are hush puppies, poutine made with pimento cheese, and cocktails that make us want to roll around under a willow tree in Georgia. Those are all there for you too.
Yes, this is Washington, not California. But you still deserve to destroy a pile of authentic tacos and a cold Tecate in one breath. Tacos Chukis used to be “that secret taqueria in that building on Broadway with the tattoo parlor and hair salon,” but now the entire universe is in on it. And for good reason - fast, cheap, and messy, this place does you right every single time. Hop in for lunch or a pre-bar-hop dinner with the crew, wait in line and skulk around for a table, order a massive plate of the house tacos (seasoned grilled pork, guacamole, onion, cilantro, and a square of grilled pineapple) and carry on with your day knowing you’ve made one good decision.