This year, Seattle ate all the poke, lined up for Nashville hot chicken, and saw all sorts of variations on the ice cream shop. But some of the best bites came from the old standards—simply done better this year. As your trusty food writer, I’ve spent the year eating my way through the city (and the world—but more on that tomorrow), and gathered here the seven best—and most remarkable—bites of food I ate in Seattle this year.
Chef Special Fried Flour Noodle – SilkRoad Noodle Bar
At the busy intersection of 45th and the Ave, the SilkRoad storefront barely takes up much space—the entryway opens to a slightly bigger dining room in the back—but that doesn’t mean nobody’s noticed. The often-packed noodle shop serves dishes from all over China—such as Sichuanese pickle and fish soup and Yunnanese rice noodles—but the sleeper hit is this chef special. Spaghetti-like noodles with ham, corn, carrots, and mushrooms. It’s mild and mixed up, but the wok hei imparts a favor that is undeniably, universally comforting.
Toshi’s Original Chicken – Toshi’s Teriyaki Grill
In researching a piece I wrote about Seattle-style teriyaki, I interviewed the man who invented the dish himself. And then sat down to taste what he’s up to right now. Despite being a lifelong teriyaki fanatic, I didn’t realize how much better his version was than the everyday version most places serve. The tender chicken took on far more flavor from the sauce, the caramelization of the skin was that much sweeter. The man, it became clear, was still the master.
Seafood Chowder – White Swan Public House
There’s plenty of good seafood chowder in Seattle (of which my mother-in-law often must avail herself of before she even leaves the airport), but this is a new level: it makes you rethink any chowder you’ve ever previously eaten. Flakes of soft, pink salmon luxuriate in the soup, potatoes sigh out their last vestiges of rigidity, and the broth manages to retain its creaminess without approaching heaviness.
Sushi Bar Omakase – Wataru
How it’s still possible to make a reservation at chef Kotaro Kumita’s counter, I’m not sure—especially since there are only 12 each night (a seating of six at 5:30 and 7:30)—but it should be the hottest ticket in town. The chef plays a symphony in fish, starting with light, refreshing bites to warm up your tastebuds, building as he passes each piece of nigiri over the counter—along with a tale of where it came from—until finally he hits the crescendo with fatty tuna and friends: a climax of expert slicing, barely-tweaked fish, and perfect rice. And that’s it. It’s over. There’s a slice of egg and you’re sent on your way, having eaten one of the best meals of your life.
Square Pie – Dino’s Tomato Pie
It seemed hard to believe Brandon Pettit would be able to improve upon Delancey’s pizza, but that was before we’d met Dino’s. The caramelized corners of the square pie rival the crispy edge of lasagna, the corner slices of a pan of brownies, or the crunchy top of mac n’ cheese for packing so much flavor into one tiny space. And the rest of the pie? It’s still better than 99% of the pizza in this town.
Sabich – Eggs and Plants
I was barely back from Israel and already missing the street food of Tel Aviv when I discovered this gem of a café in Belltown. Not only do they make delightfully sweet date smoothies and flaky flatbreads, they bring in a pita bread from New York that’s softer and fluffier than any you can find locally. For this Iraqi-Jewish sandwich, they stuff it with pickles, hummus, and fried eggplant. It’s messy and wonderful, and hidden in plain sight on 5th Ave.
Everything Croissant – Standard Bakery
400 Fairview—with Mbar, Bar Harbor, and Meat & Bread—is solidly one of the best eating buildings in the city, and Standard Bakery fits right in. Owner Josh Grunig does wonders with classic chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon rolls, but the unique, savory everything croissant cements his stellar reputation. The top of the croissant comes with everything bagel spices, while the inside gets a schmear of cream cheese. The result: all the flakiness of a pastry, all the flavor of Sunday morning with bubbe.