Think of food in Seattle and you’re probably thinking of coffee sipped while you watch the rain drizzle on outside, and possibly of salmon being flung around at Pike Place Market. Whilst coffee and flying fish may seem like perfectly good reasons to visit, there’s much more to the city’s culinary landscape than this. With the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean offering up the freshest produce from the ocean, and a farm to table culture permeating much of the city’s attitude towards food, it’s no wonder every meal here is guaranteed delicious. Where Pacific Northwestern cuisine meets a multi-cultural population, it’s little wonder that the way has been paved for one of the most diverse and innovative food scenes in America. You could spend your life eating your way around Pike Place Market alone, but if you’re just passing through here’s the 7 dishes you need to try in Seattle.
Before pho and bahn mi became flavours of the month, teriyaki was a Seattle staple. You might not know it, but the dish was actually developed and perfected here in the Emerald City. A cheap and delicious meal of chicken marinated in sugar and soy sauce, thrown on a flaming grill until the sugar caramelises and the soy blackens to create a crispy outside and served fanned out on a bed of snow-white rice, Seattle teriyaki is hard not to love. Although in recent years many of the small, family run businesses who have been making teriyaki for years have closed, you can still get a taste of this sweet and tangy dish from the guy who invented it, at Toshi’s Teriyaki in Mill Creek. But if you don't want to venture so far from the city, Mr & Mrs Wok serves a no-frills, delicous teriyaki.
Now to the subject of things that go perfectly with your morning coffee. You may as well go all out and try what is quite probably a gift from heaven, a pastry that fell out of the sky and into our hands via Bakery Nouveau. Their twice award winning baked almond croissants will have you floating on a cloud of buttery pastry, almond cream, slivers of toasted almonds and fairy dust (or maybe it’s icing sugar, whatever). Who knows if the secret is dipping the pastries in syrup before they’re baked or the fact that they’re baked twice, but locals will tell you they're the best in the business, and they’re not wrong.
If you’re in Seattle and you’re not trying to feast on local seafood at every opportunity, why are you here? But if you only try one shellfish, make it the Dungeness crab, the regional species of the Pacific Northwest. Coincidentally, Pacific Northwesteners will tell you it’s the most delicious variety of crab out there; not that they’re biased or anything. You’ll find it cooked up in hundreds of diverse ways here, from flaking its delicate meat into a chowder to Creole classics to Asian inspired fusion dishes. But as is often the case, there's nothing like keeping things simple. Try it unadulterated at Taylor Shellfish and Oyster Bar; just steamed, chilled and cracked (and the sides aren’t bad either).
Not exactly a shocking revelation to anyone whose either looked at a map of Seattle, has been to Seattle or has done a shred of research about the city - but the seafood here is good as anything you’ve ever tasted. Better, probably. For a city surrounded by water, it follows that the seafood forms a large part of its culinary identity. For freshly shucked oysters and a glass of something cold and sparkling, you can’t beat The Walrus and The Carpenter. It’s regarded as the best oyster bar in the country, and with a menu which changes as often as the tides - taking advantage of the very best of each day’s catch - you’re spoiled for choice with the varieties of oyster and the innovative twists they serve (or cook) them with. The only certainty is there will be oysters, and they will taste out of this world.
New England Clam Chowder
The name might say New England, but the clam chowder here is all Seattle. You can’t really argue with that when the clams come straight out of the Sound. There’s only one place to eat it (okay, there are a few but life’s too short to waste on mediocre chowder) and that’s at Pike Place Chowder. This tiny joint makes five varieties of chowder, but the New England Clam has won awards in New England (we’re not joking) so this is the one to try. Creamy, packed with flavour and with the freshest clams around, you’ll want to head straight back for another bowl and hunk of bread to dip as soon as you’ve finished it.
Ask any Seattleite about hom bow and they’ll promptly point you in the direction of Mee Sum Pastry in Pike Place Market. Inspired by the Chinese bao bun - a dim sum staple - Seattle’s version is a slightly sweeter dough stuffed with a juicy bbq pork filling. At Mee Sum they make both steamed and baked buns, but the baked version with its crispy outer she'll encasing lighter than air dough and a sweet, tangy, salty bbq filling is the one to try.
A uniquely Seattle quirk, the Seattle dog is the city’s version of the all-American food cart classic. Exactly as it sounds, it’s a hot dog whose toasted bun has been slathered in cream cheese, with some caramelised onions thrown in for good measure. You won’t find it anywhere else, so of course you need to try one while you’re in town. Tip: they make the perfect snack on the way home after a night of bopping your way around the bars of Capitol Hill.
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