We ate here travel edition, Northwest restaurant guide

September 17, 2012 |  Category:   cooking dining out life Seattle & the NW travels

We ate out a lot on our NW trip this year which is not always the case; we usually do a lot more cooking. Don’t know why it was different this time around, but since I’ve received emails from readers in the past asking about places to go in Seattle, I thought I would put together a list of places we ate. I’m not listing all the places we grabbed food at Pike Place Market or any of the other food trucks and farmer’s markets because I just can’t remember them all, but the joy in that is really just walking around and discovering what grabs you anyway.


Oh, and coffee. Yes, lots and lots of coffee. Not surprisingly being from the NW, Mark is really particular about his coffee and we horde bags of coffee beans to bring back home with us in our suitcases. We don’t ever really buy coffee when we’re out back home, but we were constantly running in to get coffee everywhere we were. Hey, it’s vacation.

Mashiko – 4725 California Ave SW., West Seattle
I’ve mentioned this sushi restaurant in a prior post. Worth dealing with the traffic to West Seattle. Seriously.
Lighthouse Coffee Roasters – 400 North 43rd St., Phinney Ridge
We’d walk over here in the mornings from Mark’s sister’s apartment and get a cup. Without the kids. How civilized (excellent coffee btw. But man, they need a new website. Call me!)
Top Pot Doughnuts – various locations around Seattle
I’ll admit it, I’m not much of a doughnut fan, but Mark is, so of course he had to try the doughnuts at Top Pot. It was good, but really, the only doughnuts I ever got excited about was Dynamo in San Francisco. Sure, it’s owned by a friend of ours, but it really is the best in my humble doughnut opinion.
Local 360 – 1st Ave and Bell St., Belltown
Food was really great, but my dinner company was better. Just don’t buy into the hype of these PB&J Bon Bons. If you don’t believe me, just ask Uncle Beefy.
Thai Tom – 4543 University Way NE., U District
If there are 2 cuisines that are just better in the NW than in NY, it just might be Thai and Vietnamese (although SriPraPhai in Queens and Long Island is truly outstanding and might very well be the best Thai I’ve ever had). Thai Tom is a tiny, hole in the wall restaurant in the U District. We got there super early before they opened so we can get a seat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mia enjoy Thai food so much (Miss C, on the other hand as you can see, was not interested in the food one bit and read her book all through lunch).
Oddfellows Cafe – 1525 10th Ave., Capitol Hill
Oddfellows was already mentioned in a post about Capitol Hill – I just love the interior of this place so much.

Jules Mae Tavern – 5919 Airport Way S., Georgetown
Georgetown is one of those neighborhoods that seemed to just suddenly appear one day, but has really been around forever. It’s kind of out of the way and still really industrial looking, being surrounded by Boeing and Rainier Brewing Company. I guess back in the turn of the century it was a saloon town and Jules Mae is kind of like stepping back in time to that era. Perfect place to hang out with old high school friends and catch up. Also, I have never been to Georgetown except late at night so I imagine that it’s always this dark, gritty, industrial night time place.

Caffe Vita – various locations in Seattle, Portland, Olympia and even one on the Lower East Side, Manhattan.
Some of the best coffee in Seattle, I think. But I’m not a picky coffee drinker like Mark so what do I know.
Theo Chocolate – 3400 Phinney Ave., N Seattle.
Theo Chocolate is right by the Fremont Sunday Market, where we grabbed lunch one Sunday from booths and food trucks. Even if we don’t intend to buy any chocolate (you can now find Theo at many retail locations around the country) we always go in because um, free “almost all you can eat” chocolate samples! So uh, yeah.
* A few places worth noting from prior visits, but not this year are Delancey for really good pizza in Ballard and Cafe Besalu for really good pastries, also in Ballard. And ok, if you’re from Seattle you’ll probably laugh, but I can’t help but love 13 Coins. Other than the fact that there aren’t that many 24 hour restaurants in Seattle let alone any restaurant kitchen open past 10pm (this is true of most anywhere outside of NY I guess), I love the cocktail lounge cheesiness, the dark interior, all the leather and brass, and the super high leather back booths that make you feel like you’re in your own private room. The food is meh but there’s dancing! People actually dancing.



Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen – 835 SW 2nd Ave.
When my friend Jen started tweeting about the food at Luc Lac, I knew that this was at the top of our list of places to go in Portland. The pho is huge. I think we spent less than $30 total for our family of 4 and we still had leftovers.

Smallwares – 4605 NE Fremont St.
Smallwares is a new place up in NE Fremont which I think still has yet to catch its groove. They serve small plates of “inauthentic Asian” (their words, haha) that are meant to be shared. For the most part, our dinner was really good (I think my favorite of everything was the fried kale), but it can quickly get pricey (ok, it didn’t help that we kept adding dishes as the meal went on). The kids’ dinner, however, only ended up being a few dollars which is just crazy cheap these days. The thing that I’ll remember about this place other than the fact that we had a nice meal with our old roommate, is that the Pee Wee Herman movie was playing on a wall (we sat in the back bar room area) and we didn’t hear a peep out of the kids for 2 hours. Eventually they wandered over to the couch in front of the movie after they finished eating, where they plopped themselves for the rest of the evening.
Screen Door – 2337 East Burnside St.
Another place where we had to line up half an hour early just to make sure we got seated for dinner. It’s Southern cuisine in Portland. HUGE portions! Good old comfort food in the way of Mac and Cheese, fried chicken, excellent salads and hushpuppies (which I still don’t really know what they are).
Woodsman Tavern – 4537 SE Division St.
We didn’t eat dinner here, but I did go out for a ladies night at this place. I don’t usually drink, but the cocktails sounded too good to pass up and my friends and I shared a dessert. The restaurant has a big bar/ tavern scene, though loud, and the interior is dark walls, tea lights, rustic hipster blah blah with many of the waitstaff in long, full beards a la Mast Brothers Chocolate. Oh, Brooklyn Portland.
Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery – 1800 NE Alberta St.
What is up with the lines out the door for ice cream on the West Coast? Well, after a late night ice cream run where we decided to skip the ridiculous line down the block at 10pm, we opted for pies instead at Random Order. I got the Oregon Cherry. This was good pie.
Stumptown at Ace Hotel – 1022 SW Stark Ave.
Mark’s not a huge Stumptown fan (I told you, the guy is picky!). Stumptown is all over NYC now, but we made our way over to the Ace Hotel while we were briefly in downtown Portland only because we had never been.
Petite Provence – 1824 NE Alberta St.
We hit Petite Provence on the way out to our drive back up to Washington on our last day in Portland. As soon as we walked in, the girls went nuts. The pastries were so pretty and baked in flower and pinwheel shapes I had never seen before.

The Bread Peddler – 222 N. Capitol Way.
Ok, so most of you will probably never find yourselves in Olympia, Wa., but if you do (for example, as a pit stop on your drive between Portland and Seattle), make sure you stop by the Bread Peddler for breakfast and fantastic pastries. Also, do the Farmer’s Market. And for being a small town, Olympia always had it’s decent share of good restaurants, even way back when I first moved there in ’91.
Olympia Coffee Roasters – 108 Cherry St.
So what coffee does a discerning coffee drinker like Mark drink? Our favorite roasters are these guys. We bring back bags when we leave the NW and we have family bring bags too when they come visit. They’re small and we like to support them any chance we can.
Ramirez Mexican Store & Tortilla Factory – 5105 Capitol Boulevard Southeast.
Ok, so this is technically in nearby Tumwater and not Olympia, and this combination grocery store/restaurant really does make you feel like you’re eating in a grocery store so it’s seriously no frills, but geez, the food is really good. I got the “wet burrito” and it’s the single most biggest (or as Claudine likes to call things that are big “hughnormous”) burrito I have ever laid eyes on in my life, like seriously twice the normal size burrito you’d get at any other place and I ATE THE WHOLE FREAKING THING.

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  • Peter N. September 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm


  • katie//salt+pine September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks for including the Olympia picks! I never know where to eat when I’m down there. I *have* gotten coffee at Olympia Coffee Roasters and although I am a “what the hell do I know?” coffee drinker, I will say that for what it’s worth, I concur. It is damn good.

  • lara September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    i’ve been following your great seattle posts! our family vacations there every summer, too, and it’s been fun to see the overlapping taste we have, plus some new discoveries for next summer. i LOVE mashiko. we had delicious anniversary oysters and the walrus and the carpenter (ballard) and lovely brunch at the golden beetle (ballard, again!)

    love your blog!

  • Tina. C September 17, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    We live close to the Top Pot in Wedgwood though my 3 yr old simply refers to it as ‘the doughnut store’ … You pictured her favorite kind, pink rainbow, or as she likes to call it, pink sparkle. For a non coffee snob next time try the Ovaltine Latte … Made with (you guessed it) old-school Ovaltine!!

  • Karin September 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    It’s fun to see what you pick for Seattle eats, Jenna! Oddfellows is a favorite (had my birthday there this year) and I also love The Volunteer Park Cafe, if you’ve ever been. Same owners.

  • Jenna September 17, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    @Karin I haven’t been to Volunteer Park Cafe. The owner is good friends with my friend Jen who I stayed with in Portland. I will put that on our list for next year, thanks.

  • Mrs. Jones September 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I’ve never been to the NW and now your list of good eats makes me want to go just for the food tour alone! I really need to make it out to Seattle.

  • Brenda September 17, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    I love your photos, especially the one of your daughter holding up the menu (or is it a coloring book?) with the rice dishes in the foreground. Not only do you have a way with words, but you also have a way with light and beauty in your photography.

  • Jenna September 18, 2012 at 12:06 am

    @Brenda thanks so much! Claudine is looking at a book and trying to look as uninterested in the food as she can. She’s so picky and there’s nothing at a thai restaurant that appeals to her so she was trying really hard not to be annoyed at the fact that we were all eating and she was not. We went and found her pizza a few doors down when we were done…

  • Grace September 18, 2012 at 1:48 am

    I love your blog, and I especially love this post! I’m in graduate school getting my master’s in social work and just moved back after spending this past summer home in California. This will be my second and last year in Seattle (next summer after I graduate, I’m moving home to CA and getting married 🙂 so I’m determined to go out and explore more good food and fun places – I was too much of a homebody last year. PLUS make it down to Portland for a weekend trip!

    Thanks for always sharing your trips with wonderful photos and great descriptions – I’m going to have to make it to several of these restaurants soon!

    PS. For those interested in policy/politics, there’s a Lobby Day in Olympia every year that’s worth a trip. Plus, you can sit in and see the House/Senate votes when they’re open – an interesting experience to do at least once, if not just to go see what the Capitol building looks like!

  • Grace September 18, 2012 at 1:49 am

    ALSO – Musashi’s in Wallingford is a great, small sushi place that has amazingly fresh (and very affordable) sushi. Just in case you want to try another sushi place in Seattle on your next trip. Get their chirashi bowl!

  • Helle (Helen) September 18, 2012 at 4:16 am

    The place with the dragons and umbrella decor looks worth going to just for that. I wonder why it is that here in Europe one can hardly get good Asian food anywhere, unless you pay through your nose. Just good honest food with an authentic taste can hardly be found. Strange that nobody has seen this business opportunity.

  • Alexandra September 18, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Hi Jenna!
    I am one of your readers. Like your photos, a lot! What camera and lenses you use? Curious, I’m also into phtography, have a Nikon D200

  • susan September 18, 2012 at 8:55 am

    oh my … Jenna, your photos are always just stunning. Such an amazing record you’re keeping of & for your girls of your family’s life. Beautiful images always (& words too). Thank you your blog is a long time favourite of mine.

  • Brenda September 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    ha ha ha, jenna…that happens with my 9 year old son ALL THE TIME !!!! too funny. he also goes for a slice when the dinner is not to his liking 😉

  • jasmine September 19, 2012 at 12:15 am

    That flowered wallpaper! I am in love! I want it everywhere.

    I hope to make it to that part of the country in the near future, but we’ll see. New York keeps us busy.

  • Caddy September 19, 2012 at 8:57 am

    I now want to try every single one of these places! I love your brief and thoughtful descriptions of the food and ambiance.

  • Stephanie September 19, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I LOVE Thai Tom! I’ve only ever been able to eat there once but in my mind it is still the best Thai food I’ve ever had.

  • Sora September 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I love the shot of Mia in front of the glass storefront looking left. There are so many different dimensions to this photo. The reflections are very interesting too. Great photo!

  • Jenna September 19, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    @Alexandra hi! These photos were taken with the canon 5D mark ii and my iphone.

  • sierra September 20, 2012 at 4:06 am

    OH MY GOODNESS! Thai Tom is the BEST!!! I’m in love with the swimming Rama there, and gobbled it up with a smile on my face when I was visiting Seattle this summer. I;ve been living in Hawaii for the past five years, and while we have amazing asian cuisine of all kinds out here, nothing, I mean nothing comes close to this place! I lived in the PNW my whole life before moving out here, and all the wonderful foods are something I miss the most about it. I really loved this post, it brought me right back to some of my favorites! Thanks 🙂

  • Gillian September 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

    This is amazing! I’m headed to portland for the first time ever in a couple weeks and i so needed this list!!

  • Jill September 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    HUGHNORMOUS! It is too late for me to be salivating over the sounds of that burrito. NOMZ

  • Alexandra September 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    thanks Jenna! : )

  • alexis February 25, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    i’m planning a pac nw trip for later this year and am using this as a starting point for researching stuff to do – can’t wait! i love seeing your comparisons to bk as this is where i’ve lived for the past 10 years. so it’s nice to have that perspective.
    can you recommend any fun outdoorsy things to do in seattle/portland? i’m also visiting vancouver but will be with family so my time up there isn’t really my time.