Seattle is on an isthmus, a concept you probably learned about back in third grade. At the time, you may have been distracted by things like a snack pack of Dunkaroos, tying your hoodie drawstrings into as many knots as possible, and/or the person in front of you busily carving things into her desk. In any case, what it means is that there’s tons of water all around us. And there’s no better time to appreciate said water than during the summer.
So whether you’re snacking before a kayaking session at Lake Union, getting dinner after a Green Lake jog, or looking out over Alki Beach and remembering last summer’s unfortunately patterned suntan (next time, don’t fall asleep with a bag of Chex Mix on your stomach), here’s where to hang out by the water and eat some good food.
You packed your car with beach essentials like sunscreen, towels, and a volleyball no one will use. But you forgot snacks. Luckily, once you get to Golden Gardens, you’ll have Miri’s Snack Shack at your disposal. It works perfectly for a day on the shore, whether you want an acai slushie after a beach jog, a kebab and flatbread for a sunset dinner, or some dessert poffertjes, a.k.a. mini Dutch pancakes that look like golf balls but taste way better.
It’s hot. You’re sitting in your apartment with a frozen bag of lima beans on your face, cursing yourself for not having invested in an AC unit for those five days of unbearably hot Seattle weather. The solution: tell everyone to meet you at Marination Ma Kai. You’ll be upgrading to a breezy Alki Beach patio that overlooks the downtown skyline, plus delicious Korean/Hawaiian/Mexican fusion food like miso ginger chicken tacos and spam sliders. Stall for as long as you can before returning to your overheated living room (this may involve offering to buy the next round of lychee margaritas).
So, you just brought your fifth round of out-of-town friends to the Ballard Locks to watch maybe one boat pass by, and a bunch of salmon do literally nothing. Make up for how boring that was by heading across the street to Red Mill Totem House and eating some cheeseburgers, homemade onion rings, and milkshakes in flavors like s’mores and mint truffle.
When it gets really, really hot out (so like 75 degrees), the waterfront balcony at Ray’s is the first place we want to be. Ray’s doesn’t have the best seafood in Seattle - stick to fish and chips, crab cakes, and drinks (plus the free bread basket that comes on the side). You’re really here to put on your sunglasses, drink some ice-cold wine, and take in the view.
The Caribbean sandwiches at Un Bien are legendary. You know this. We know this. It’s not new information. But what you need to do while the sun’s hot is order a roast pork baguette and bring it to the beach at Golden Gardens. Summer is eating this sandwich, getting the aioli, grilled onions, and breadcrumbs all over your clothing, and laughing like a fool without a care in the world. Don’t pay any attention to the family of five staring on in concern.
You were hoping to take a tropical vacation this summer, but you accidentally spent all your money on chia seeds. It’s OK - just head to Bongos, a colorful renovated gas station on Green Lake where the not-completely-unconvincing beach patio is covered in sand. Do a lap around the lake with your friends and their dogs, then work your way through the delicious Caribbean menu, from excellent spicy shrimp with Cuban rice and beans to slow-cooked pork sandwiches that rival Un Bien’s. Make sure the tostones with cilantro sauce hit the table.
If you’re going to Madison Park Beach, The Independent Pizzeria is a convenient stop nearby. It has a very nice summer patio set-up, plus some of the best charred Neapolitan-style pies in the city. Sit with friends and a round of cider tallboys, and order a margherita, the clam pie, and the farmer pizza with speck and egg before seamlessly transitioning to some beach frisbee.
First things first: you’re here for the drinks, not the pizza. Said drinks are pretty simple, ranging from a nice IPA to a toasty amber ale to a rotating guest cider. They taste even better when you’re sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs, looking out onto Alki Beach and the inevitable cotton-candy-colored sunset you’re about to take a million photos of.
A lunch or dinner at The 100 Pound Clam is very easy to plan. This is a counter-service spot on Lake Union where you can spread out on a picnic table under string lights and be thankful it’s not February. The best part is how versatile this place is - you could keep things casual with fish and chips or a sesame beef banh mi alongside local beer, or celebrate with fresh oysters and a bottle of sparkling wine.
If you’re not at Westward in an Adirondack chair with a cocktail in your hand, staring at the water and forgetting about the fact that you left your closet door open and your dog is definitely fang-first into your loafers right now, is it even summer? Well, technically, yes, but you should really hurry up check this place off your to-do list. Come with a date or your parents and do Mediterranean plates like wood-fired gigante beans with feta and tomato, or braised lamb with flatbread and tzatziki. We’ll meet you there.
There’s nothing that eases the embarrassment of wiping out on your stand-up paddleboard quite like eating a handful of coconut tempura-battered fish tacos on the deck at Agua Verde. This place on Lake Union doubles as a paddle club, so it’s a great option for a post-kayaking lunch. They have excellent frozen cocktails (but the sleeper hit is the prickly pear margarita on the rocks), and while you might have to wait for a table, the outdoor area is perfect for that.
This one is a solid eight-minute walk to/from Green Lake - but we say it still counts, especially if you’re entertaining parents or want to do a nice dinner with a date. Mkt is a Tangletown spot for Italian dishes ranging from small plates to homemade pastas and steak. They don’t have a patio per se, but the front window opens up to create a two-sided counter, and you can sit on the street facing in. So it’s perfect if your hobbies include making passersby jealous of your charcuterie.
There’s always a wait for the patio at this popular Mexican spot in Eastlake with a great view of Lake Union. But we say you should stick it out - at the end of the road is access to that aforementioned view and some excellent palomas. (If watermelon margaritas are in season, you’re going to want some of those, too.) Food-wise, stick with the guacamole and queso with chorizo - skip the tacos.
Leschi is a good place to go for a stroll along Lake Washington - in part because you can grab something to eat at Meet The Moon. It’s a great little neighborhood spot with some tasty breakfast options, but it’s open all day in case you’d prefer dinner in the form of crab rolls with lemon-cayenne aioli or steak frites. Or just four pretzels with beer cheese.
Eating fresh oysters by the water is your right as a Seattleite. Elliott’s doesn’t have the best food in the world, but it’s a reliable place to sit outside on Elliott Bay for a few hours, swirl some white wine in your recently-emptied oyster shell, knock it back, maybe do a side of fries or crab cakes or salmon pesto sliders, and repeat until everyone at the table is happy. Ideally it wouldn’t take all day, but at least if it did you’d have a lot of oysters and wine in your stomach.