June 24, 2011

Seattle Restaurants #1-4

So, I want to preface my 20 reviews with a description of what they represent: NOT necessarily the best restaurants in Seattle. There are many, many excellent places to eat and I cannot capture every genre here – I have had amazing Ethiopian food in Rainer Valley, been treated to dinner at Canlis, and enjoyed many places that are now gone. I haven’t been to all restaurants in Seattle, so I cannot judge them all against each other. However, I have a few favorites that I go to again and again and would recommend any one of you become a regular customer. My criteria are fairly simple and span every category no matter the type of food or price:

1. Service must be excellent
2. Food must have consistent quality and originality

Good service is sometimes hard to come by, but can be found at any restaurant at any given time. It takes management that supports, encourages, and expects their employees to give good service and it also takes a server with personality, who can multi-task, and who cares about their job and your experience. I have had some of my best service experiences in unexpected places and I don’t believe that any one genre of restaurant can guarantee you will have exceptional service over another. One more thing…a good server is only as good as their customer. If you heckle them, are demanding or rude, condescending or not willing to be open minded about an experience, menu, or ambiance then you may not deserve good service and will have a hard time finding it. In order to get good service, you need to be a good customer: forgiving, friendly, and polite. If you combine these traits with an excellent server, you will be guaranteed a good time, develop relationships in the community, and have a “place” you go to again and again.

There are many restaurants with good food and I believe that when you are dining out, you can tell by the presentation and the quality whether the establishment values the food they are serving you. I have had nothing but excellent experiences with quality ingredients and presentation at all of the places I plan to recommend.

I will start with a couple of my all-time favorites in Seattle for date night:

1. Boat Street Café (French)
3131 Western Avenue # 301

The first time we went to Boat Street (hidden at the base of Queen Anne), it was a late summer night and the lanterns, colorful umbrellas, sparkling garden lights, and black-and-white prints of golden labs on the wall immediately caught our attention. We went on to have an amazing dinner with the cutest server in the world – I don’t know her name, but she is a petite Japanese American woman with a huge smile. That experience was 5 years ago now and when we were there a few months ago, she was still there. Please start with a cheese plate, drink sparkling rosé, and you MUST get dessert (bread pudding if it’s offered). This is an excellent place for a special night out. Most of the people there are couples and the only thing that could distract you from its magical ambiance is if you are sat at a table next to loud talkers because the ceiling is high and the tables are close together so it may not be the most intimate experience you’ve ever had in a restaurant. However, I tell people to go there all the time – Go there! You will love it.

2.Chez shay (French)
94 Pike St # 34

Hidden above the Pike Place Market, this French Vietnamese restaurant is where we went the night we got engaged. It is excellent for a special dinner out, but we also stop by and sit at the bar often if we’re not in the mood to be dressed up. You can sample their delicious cocktails or their extensive wine menu and grab some bar food “Shay style”: a little fancier than you’re used to. The owners have been there helping serve food and fill water and are an elegant and kind presence that really exemplifies the experience you will have here. We love this restaurant because it combines fine dining and food with a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. I would choose it over the Met or Goucho any day….

3.Macrina Bakery Brunch
2408 1st Avenue

If I’m having brunch, there’s really only one place in Seattle that I truly love. (If it’s not a weekend, I will go to the 5 Spot in Queen Anne – get the oatmeal!). When I talk about Macrina, the only one I am recommending is the one on First Ave in Belltown. They serve brunch on the weekends and it is in your best interest to get there the second they open the dining room at 9 am because within 20 minutes, there will be an hour wait. There is usually a huge crowd in the entrance trying to buy fresh-baked goods and get a latte, but there will be a list hanging on a clipboard to your left – grab it and put your name down and you will be SO happy as you are having an omelet with fresh herbs, bread baked that morning and salad (I don’t know why more people don’t serve green salad with breakfast – it is so refreshing!). But, if you are feeling like splurging like I always do, you really need to get to get the Waffle with Bing cherries, Amaretto whipped cream and toasted almonds. It’s totally worth it in every way. Now that I’m thinking about it, I MUST go to brunch here one last time before I leave Seattle….

4. Seraphina/Ciccetti (Italian)
2043 Eastlake Ave E
Seattle WA, 98102

121 E Boston St
Seattle WA, 98102

I have to group these two together not because they are very similar, but because they are right next to each other and both excellent. I have been going to Seraphina for years and I love how it encompasses any experience you are in the mood for: a big 20 person birthday party in the garden, a romantic dinner for two with live music in the dining room, or sitting at the bar for a martini or two, jammed next to a stranger you end up talking to for an hour. The plates are fairly small so you can enjoy courses and lots of delicious wine. Ciccetti is newer and very fun for a date (sit upstairs in a corner by a window), or for a big group because they have long tables you can push together upstairs and a long bar table downstairs. The service is always excellent and accommodating, the menu is fresh with lots of interesting small plates, and the atmosphere is open and beautiful. You should definitely hit it up for Happy Hour (Tues-Sat 5-6:30 pm) for $5 house cocktails or glass of prosecco. If you need a suggestion, just ask your server what they recommend – that’s what we always do.

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