October 21, 2021

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Best Restaurants in Capitol Hill | 2021

16 min read

Plum Bistro’s macho burrito lives up to its name. Photograph by Amber Fouts.

Do you find this list overwhelming? It could have easily been twice the size, so deep is the talent in Seattle’s restaurant epicenter. Capitol Hill contains multiple restaurant microhoods, most of which radiate out from the parallel thoroughfares of East Pike and East Pine streets. Within them you’ll find walkup counters, special occasion meals—and copious amounts of pasta and ramen in between.


The Best Restaurants on Pike/Pine

No surprise. The neighborhood’s pivotal corridor teems with destination dining—both upscale and decidedly not.

Artusi

Though it began as an aperitivi bar spin-off, Spinasse’s adjacent sibling has its own persona, no question. One that centers on casual pasta, some memorable meatballs, and fun snacks meant to be consumed at the bar with a friend and some beautiful cocktails.

Bok a Bok

The 10th Avenue outpost of this four-location chainlet makes unstoppable Korean-style fried chicken—its delicate shattering crust akin to a Pringle, in the best possible way—then proceeds to have a lot of fun blending Korean and Southern influences across a menu of sandwiches, bowls, and sides. Chef Brian O’Connor is a veteran of Skillet Diner and Roux, as evidenced by Bok a Bok’s perfect biscuits. 




Cascina Spinasse

Few restaurants mature as gracefully as this temple of Piedmontese cuisine, somehow both rustic and special occasion–ready. Under chef Stuart Lane, Spinasse remains just as much a destination as when it opened in 2008; the kitchen’s delicate tajarin deserves every superlative bestowed upon it over the years.

Dacha Diner

This wedge of a building exudes a bus-it-yourself casual cheer. But the kitchen has serious perfectionist tendencies when it comes to khachapuri, the nation of Georgia’s signature boat-shaped crust filled with four molten cheeses, an egg yolk, and a formidable pat of butter. The menu dips into both Eastern European traditions and Jewish deli culture. Which makes it tough to choose from a lineup of those khachapuris, matzoh ball soup, the classic herring under a fur coat salad, and latkes capable of inducing tears.




Dingfelder’s Delicatessen

Vance Dingfelder grew his deli incrementally from a walkup window, but the pastrami and corned-beef sandwiches—hulking edifices swiped with chicken liver or piqued with Russian dressing slaw—have been enormous and decadent from day one. Dingfelder’s sandwiches grab all the attention, but soup and latkes and a full deli menu exhibit the same care he takes with those smoked meats.

HoneyHole

The classic sandwich bar on East Pike has newish owners, and an even more recent second location on First Hill. But it’s hard to argue with the charms of the original, not to mention the huge menu of sandwiches packed with roasted tri tip, pulled pork, or turkey breast on a bed of pesto.

Fogon Cocina Mexicana

It’s the family-run neighborhood restaurant of your dreams—expansive happy hour, futbol on in the lively bar, a tostada snack that greets you the moment you sit down. That neighborhood just happens to be Pike/Pine. A broad menu of tacos, enchiladas, soups, and so many margaritas combines comfort with care.

La Dive

Yes, technically this is a wine bar, a house of chambongs, pet-nat, and the occasional frozen drink. But chef David Gurewitz applies his restless creativity to toasts, dumplings, danish meatballs, lavash quesadillas, and all points in between. Bar snacks don’t get more fun than this.

Mamnoon

Racha and Wassef Haroun’s original restaurant translates the Syrian and Lebanese flavors of their upbringing into careful dishes served in an urbane, low-lit dining room. The menu of hummus, muhammara, and other mezze is reliably masterful; entrees also draw from seasonal Northwest ingredients. But Mamnoon deserves equal props for its lunch menu of man’oushe (also available as wraps). Seattle Met’s 2013 Restaurant of the Year.




 

Meet Korean BBQ

Korean barbecue meets Capitol Hill–level occasion dining at this massive spot where each table has its own ventilation system—and a server to cook your meat. Heong Soon Park (also the owner of Chan in Pike Place Market) embraces high-end cuts of beef and pork, plus banchan and sides (cheese corn, egg souffle) with just as much visual appeal as the fancy proteins.

Nue

How can a menu this wide-ranging be this good? It makes no sense. But overthinking dims the fun of a brunch, lunch, or dinner that spans Burmese tea leaf salad, Chengdu-spiced chicken and waffles, South African bunny chow, shakshuka, and curry. Here “global menu” isn’t just a dumb marketing term.

Oddfellows

Few restaurants combine utility and beauty like Linda Derschang’s all-day cafe, open for Tuesday morning brioche french toast, evening roast chicken and cocktails, and all points in between. No wonder the neighborhood considers Oddfellows its de facto living room and home office; patio seats go fast at brunch.




Omega Ouzeri

Thomas Soukakos translates flavors of his youth into a restrained space that reps the colors of the Greek flag in the heart of Pike/Pine. Salads bursting with ripe tomatoes and fresh herbs, smoked cod fritters, vivid tzatziki—a flurry of smaller plates share space with entrees of grilled octopus or spice-crusted kebabs of grilled lamb. The all-Greek wine list deserves way more attention.

 

Ooink

A machine at the front of this tiny shop above the Harvard Market QFC cranks out fresh noodles. Chef Chong Boon Ooi then transfers them into bowls of superlative ramen. He balances traditional styles with his own creations, inspired by flavors from Sichuan or Shanghai. Ooi originally hails from Malaysia, which explains both the presence of ayam goreng­ chicken—and the fact that it’s so damn good.

Plenty of Clouds

The dining room’s understated presence at 15th and Pine belies beautiful dishes inspired by China’s Sichuan and Yunnan regions. These might include dumplings in a particularly nuanced fiery chili oil, liang fen jelly noodles served cold, and savory-crispy mushroom rice cakes wokked with cured ham, tomato, and Chinese celery. Easy-going lagers, intriguing cocktails, or the pungent Chinese liquor called baijiu elevate Plenty of Clouds from a takeout superstar to a proper hangout.

Poquitos

Restaurant decor gods James Weimann and Deming Maclise tricked out their Mexican restaurant with the same maximalist glamor as its showy siblings (Stoneburner, Rhein Haus, et al.). But chef Manny Arce has an underheralded talent for accessible tacos, salads, and platos that don’t feel dumbed down.

Ramen Danbo

The Japanese chain’s first U.S. location stands out, even amid a surge of great ramen on the Hill. The tonkotsu broth is an achievement on its own but comes with a ton of ways you can customize. Danbo also serves one of the better vegan ramen broths in existence.

Stateside

This dining room doesn’t look like anything in Seattle—a balmy subtropical paradise of palm-fronded wallpaper and minty accents. Eric Johnson’s food is similarly singular, even in a town with superb Vietnamese food of all stripes. The chef’s background in the highest of high-end restaurants informs intelligent explorations of the flavor crossroads of Vietnam and China, from master stock crispy chicken to Vietnamese iced coffee creamsicles.




Taku

Seattle diners loved Shota Nakajima long before his fan-favorite turn on Top Chef. Which explains the crowds at his tiny karaage bar (21-and-up, with a busy all-ages walkup counter). Fried chicken comes with a variety of dry and wet seasonings, but spring for the fuck-it bucket and you can tote home three pounds of nuggets with furikake fries.

Tamari Bar

Makoto Kimoto used to cook in Vancouver’s rollicking izakaya scene. Which explains why his Pine Street bar serves pristine sushi next to poutine, dan dan ramen, furikake brussels sprouts, and a nine-compartment bento box of miniature bites. Tamari Bar suspends time in that convivially hazy hour just before last call, especially after a few Toki highballs—but this food’s too smart to be gimmicky.

Taurus Ox

The space is tiny and piled with implements for the open kitchen. The food is striking and Laotian. Co-owner Khampaeng Panyathong does right by his mom’s sausage recipe, all texture and lemongrass, not to mention khao soi, phad lao, and a punchy papaya salad. None of which prepares you for this: Taurus Ox makes, indisputably, one of the best burgers in town, a pair of proper smash patties, two versions of the condiment jeaw, house-cured pork jowl in place of bacon. It’s cross-culturally clever and drive-across-town good. 

Taylor Shellfish Farms

Is this even a restaurant? But where else can you select your exact combination of oysters plucked straight from bubbling tanks, wash them down with a well-chosen bottle of wine, then maybe chase it with a whole crab or some geoduck sashimi? Taylor’s Capitol Hill oyster bar is the only one that doubles as a market, which means it’s the default for impressing visitors and reveling in Northwest shellfish.

Terra Plata

Chef Tamara Murphy won a James Beard Award in 1995. Which means she’s been at the top of her game longer than just about any other chef in town. The proof now resides at her restaurant at Melrose Market, and in a Northwest-meets-European menu built from hearty proteins and longstanding connections with local farmers. The rooftop patio—triangular, strung with lights, surrounded by vintage Seattle—is one of the city’s best.

Via Tribunali

One of the town’s longstanding Neapolitan pizza purveyors has new owners but continues its understated combo of springy wood-fired pies (toppings: mostly classic) and low-lit rooms carved out of Capitol Hill’s Auto Row–era brick buildings. Another Aperol spritz, please.


The Best Restaurants on Broadway

One storied thoroughfare; one million places to eat.

Altura

At Nathan Lockwood’s North Broadway restaurant, the tasting menu presents Northwest ingredients—spot prawns, madrone bark, oysters—as elegant, Italian compositions. Meals begin with a flurry of precision bites known as stuzzichini, then move on to pasta and luxe proteins. While the tasting menu format and long chef’s counter (plus a few tables) place this firmly in fine-dining territory, service is conversational, not stuffy. Easily one of the city’s best meals for a special occasion. 

Annapurna Cafe

Down the stairs in a subterranean bar space, a food menu deftly hops from India’s Goa to Tibet’s Lhasa within a single curry section. Besides familiar tikka masalas and vindaloos, diners meet the rich goat meat of khasi ko masu and plump Tibetan momo dumplings.




Carrello

Altura’s sister restaurant has parked the dim sum–esque carts that used to present tables with an overwhelming display of Italian bites. But the traditional a la carte format encourages more focus on the family-size platters of slow-roasted meat (like that beautiful lamb neck). The pasta is supposedly simpler than what you’ll find across the street at Altura, but it’s every bit as stunning.

Cook Weaver

“Eurasian” seems an inadequate descriptor for this menu, but how better to classify plates that progress from miniature banh mi to pastrami-cured steelhead? Chef Zac Reynolds offers genuine adventure in seven-course menus served in one of the neighborhood’s landmark dining rooms inside the Loveless Building, its walls painted in murals of Russian fairy tales. Cocktails have a similar swashbuckling sense about them.

Due

The idea of fast-casual, healthy-ish pasta might summon a symphony of sad trombones. But a pair of Tuscany natives deliver legitimately great pasta in the shop on Broadway that’s since spawned two more locations around Seattle. Pick your pasta shape, which may include spaghetti, rigatoni, or big spirals of campanelle (and higher doses of protein and fiber thanks to the house flour combo). Then select a sauce like kale pesto, cacio e pepe, or lamb meatballs.

Rapport

Wine and beer each occupy their own section of Seattle’s first self-serve bar, where patrons swipe pre-paid cards to pour their own drinks. It’s a great forum for exploring new styles or producers, but chef Mike Law’s seasonal comfort menu is as memorable as the automated beverage setup. 

Rondo Kitchen

Technically “noodles and bowls” anchor the izakaya menu, but it has a lot of crossover with chef Makoto Kimoto’s elder restaurant, Tamari Bar. Namely the frenetic, festive energy fueled by Japanese highball cocktails.

Tacos Chukís

Roberto Salmerón’s taco shop upstairs in Broadway Alley may be invisible from the street, but those tacos built a following: two lightly griddled corn tortillas with such proteins as adobada—marinated pork sheared off a vertical spit and topped with a square of grilled pineapple—or other fillings like carne asada, pollo asado, and prickly pear cactus leaf. 




Taneda Sushi in Kaiseki

A nine-seat sushi restaurant hides behind a barber and a tobacco shop in Broadway Alley. Here, chef Hideaki Taneda inlays some ornate seasonal traditions of kaiseki within a high-end sushi omakase. This unusual alliance of two Japanese culinary traditions works, thanks to the meal’s measured tempo and some excellent sake pours.


The Best Restaurants on 12th Avenue

Pike/Pine may be its fulcrum, but great food extends south past Seattle U and north toward East John Street.

Katsu Burger

A brilliant concept, masterfully executed: A burger shop that fries its patties in a panko crust, a la Japan’s katsu preparation. The mural-packed Capitol Hill location serves up towering, personality-packed burgers, nori fries, and black sesame milkshakes.

Momiji

An expansive sushi menu meets a truly stunning dining room, hidden behind a relatively staid facade. What this means: elaborate rolls, raw small plates, fried bar snacks, and pristine sashimi, served in a series of dining rooms that surround a tranquil central courtyard. A late-night menu (and a ton of Japanese whiskey) fuels the after-dinner crowd.

Osteria la Spiga

Founded in 1998—the Mesozoic era in restaurant years—the Italian restaurant feels timeless thanks to a soaring dining room and, of course, Sabrina Tinsley’s handmade pasta. Her tagliatelle in white truffle butter celebrates the Emilia-Romagna region, yet belongs in the pantheon of great Seattle Italian fare.

Plum Bistro

Chef Makini Howell grew up on an earnest diet of tofu and seitan at her family’s vegan sandwich shop and diner. Then she graduated to convincing comfort food like her famous mac and yease, and finally the cultured, plant-based plates at her flagship restaurant—a destination for vegan and omnivores alike.




Violet

William Belickis—who first wowed Seattle at fine dining Mistral, then modernist Mistral Kitchen—channels all those experiences into an “American omakase” in his current restaurant, an under-the-radar gem. His five-course take on Japan’s traditional tasting menu actually draws heavily from Europe, and an a la carte menu channels that same delicate seasonality.


The Best Restaurants in the Union-Madison-Broadway Triangle

Once the neighborhood’s geographic fringe, the weird zone bounded by Madison, Broadway, and East Pike now harbors a critical mass of big-name chefs.

Bateau

Renee Erickson made a name for herself as a champion of oysters, then turned around and gave Seattle its smartest steak house yet. She ditched the traditional meat temple model for this lovely white-on-white dining room where customers choose their cuts off a wall-size blackboard, plus sides and your butter of choice. Chef Taylor Thornhill’s mandate to use every part of local cows yields beefy and beautiful creativity like a Reuben-inspired mille feuille alongside a signature tartare and those house-butchered, dry-aged steaks. The starter menu kicks Erickson’s playful way with seasonal produce up into fine-dining territory.




Lark and Slab

We won’t call him “elder” just yet, but John Sundstrom might be the closest thing Seattle has to a culinary statesman. The proof lies in his stunning restaurant, where starry lights twinkle above soft banquettes and the kitchen does elegant things with very local ingredients. Meanwhile, under the stairs to the mezzanine, his takeout counter, Slab, applies those same philosophies to sandwiches.


The Best Restaurants on North Capitol Hill

Some remarkable spots hide amid the thicket of vintage apartment buildings and midcentury condos.

B-Side

Zero filler inhabits the six-item menu at this breakfast nook that’s kin to Capitol Hill’s Analog Coffee: The egg sandwich is platonic perfection, the veggie toast layers bread with symphonic flavors. But even in this bowl-loving town, B-Side’s rice-based version stands out. Puffed grains add texture. Fermented, fresh, and roasted vegetables channel the crunchy best of each season. Between the runny egg and complex miso-based sauce, you could almost forget: This crave-inducing creation is actually pretty damn healthy.




Cornelly

The formula—pizza, pasta, vegetables—may not sound groundbreaking. But we’re talking beautiful, labor-intensive sourdough pies, pasta that goes all in on seasons and texture, and vegetal sides as carefully conceived as the carby part of the menu. This white and marine-blue dining room nurtures endless creative riffs and sees some long lines on Sundays when co-owners Brett Phillips and Sam Carroll sell a limited number of Detroit-style pizzas.

D’La Santa

A family-owned steak house presents Mexican cuts like zabuton and peinecillo—sizzling, perfectly seasoned, and sourced from the same ranches that supply the city’s top-tier beef temples. Antojitos, tortillas, and a memorable chile en nogada round out a pretty magical, meat-driven meal, served by the light of lanterns hung from the driftwood tree in the center of the room.

Harry’s Fine Food

The space feels like a friend’s effortlessly vintage apartment—fitting for a menu of deeply elegant grandma food. Roast chicken, chocolate cake, Bolognese over campanelli pasta, a brilliant burger—everything tastes better when you can score a table in the covered garden out back.




Single Shot

The marble bar, its dramatic accents dimmed by candlelight, conjures definite visions of bygone Manhattan. But the menu, filled with snap pea salad, salmon, and seasonal risotto, is unmistakably Northwest. Single Shot continues Seattle’s grand tradition of cocktail bars that also happen to serve destination-worthy food.


The Best Restaurants on Olive Way

Seriously great bars and walkup counters line the winding connection from downtown.

Carmelo’s Tacos

Carmelo Gaspar spent 25 years working prep at the Cactus in Madison Park before striking out with some showstopping tacos and his own family-run window inside Hillcrest Market. Fresh tortillas preview the quality levels of what goes inside: rich campechano, nopales with fresh grill marks, an al pastor that plays fiery pork against cool pineapple. A new nearby location just off the Hill at 12th and Cherry offers a larger menu and some seating.

Dino’s Tomato Pie

Brandon Pettit may make cerebrally beautiful thin-crust pies across town at Delancey, but at his Olive Way pizza bar, he leans hard into his Jersey roots: Sicilian thick-crusted squares with bright sauce, first-rate toppings (Zoe’s bacon, aged mozzarella, extraordinary Grana Padano), and a high quotient of char. His pizza scholarship still surfaces in those caramelized crusts, and in thinner round-crust pizzas that combine tavern vibes with really good quality cheese. No minors…but yes garlic knots. 




Glo’s Cafe

Capitol Hill has way cooler brunch spots, the kind with grain bowls and fusion doughnuts. And yet there’s a throng of people milling around on East Olive Way, probably craving one of the cafe’s five variations on eggs benedict. The 13-table diner’s been a morning mainstay since 1987, but soon those throngs will be milling a few blocks to the east; Glo’s will move into the nearby Capitol Hill Station development in 2022.

Jeepney

A walkup window, painted like its namesake mode of transport, doles out Filipino-American comfort food like lumpia, garlic fried rice bowls, and substantial sandwiches stuffed with pork adobo or marinated beef and melted Velveeta. Order it on Fridays and Saturdays only, either to-go or inside Jeepney’s elder sibling, the speakeasy-style cocktail bar Knee High Stocking Co. around the corner.

Kedai Makan

Kevin Burzell and Allyson Wilson translated a love for Malaysia’s rich and multifaceted food culture into this deep turquoise dining room on an otherwise quiet corner. Their tiny kitchen produces bright little masterpieces in the form of masala-dusted fried chicken, hypnotically delicate roti to dip in dhal, and the nation’s signature rice dish, nasi lemak. No wonder this place is always packed.

Yalla

Taylor Cheney’s walkup window channels her passionate study of Arab cuisine into wraps made with saj, the unleavened Palestinian flat bread. Fixed accents—olives, mint, cucumber, tomato, and arugula—meet a rotating array of fillings: za’atar, kishk (bulgur fermented with yogurt), or lahme khuruf, an ideally spiced mix of lamb and pine nuts. The result: profoundly great street food.


The Best Restaurants on 15th Avenue

The neighborhood’s quieter, theoretically more grown-up thoroughfare supports the kind of restaurants you could happily visit on the regular (especially once Rubinstein Bagels joins the mix this fall).

Aviv Hummus Bar

Hummus bars in Israel inspired this place, and you’d likely need to travel that far to find a better version of this familiar chickpea spread. Here, creamy swirls come topped with shakshuka or falafel or shawarma meat, and a side of warm pita.




Rione XIII

The vintage brick dining room feels classically Ethan Stowell, but his Roman-focused restaurant stands out among the restaurateur’s growing ranks. Fried artichokes, sturdy squares of pizza, and a pasta menu perennially headed by cacio e pepe translate Rome’s street food setting to a wine-list-and-happy-hour setting.

Smith

It’s very firmly a bar, though this winking tribute to taxidermy and moody lighting also welcomes kids, without being obnoxious about it. A menu of mac and cheese, seasonal salads, deviled eggs, and one excellent burger strikes that same tricky balance. Nightlife doyenne Linda Derschang first envisioned this place, and its appeal most definitely carried on after new owners took over in 2019. 

Spice Waala

Detail-oriented street food rules this casual counter, from the kathi rolls that built Spice Waala’s following back at the farmers market, to crackling servings of chaat and a take on nachos. Every item on the menu remains under $10, a nod to a classic street food experience in India, where customers from all socioeconomic strata converge for the same freshly made comfort food. A new softserve program presents these deep flavors in frozen form.


The Best Restaurants on 19th Avenue

A few classics join versatile newcomers to feed this quiet enclave.

Bounty Kitchen

Bowls, toasts, and meal-size salads populate that tricky middle ground of mindful eating that’s actually tasty. The chainlet’s newest location (formerly Tallulah’s and still extremely stylish) has both a come-hither patio and brunch menu served all day, every day.

Monsoon

Eric and Sophie Banh’s original Vietnamese restaurant still sparkles as it did when Monsoon first wowed the city in 1999. Consistency reigns—in the warm service, the grilled beef la lot, drunken chicken, clay pot catfish, and the allure of weekend dim sum brunch. Beverage director Jon Christiansen ensures cocktails are on point, and a secluded patio hides on the rooftop.  

Vios Cafe

Before he opened Omega Ouzeri, Thomas Soukakos endeared himself to legions of parents with this supremely kid-friendly lunch and dinner spot. Here’s the thing, though: The food is great. Some terrific soup might precede pita wraps, a mean lamb burger, or a souvlaki, kefte, or gyros plate. Yes, there is absolutely a kids menu. 

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