With a record 10.1% inflation in Seattle, restaurants couldn’t have opened at a worse time. The Seattle Times reported last week that meat, poultry, seafood and eggs have increased 13.7%, fruits and veggies 14.7%, and dairy and related products 21.3%, over a 12-month span.
But restaurant prices aren’t as bad as you might expect given the dire bulletin from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I’ve combed through most of the menus from the restaurants listed below, and they don’t reflect that record inflation. In our state-of-the-industry report earlier this summer, The Seattle Times found many restaurant owners are not passing the increases on to customers out of fear of getting a bad Yelp review or public backlash. Many also run modest menus with fewer meat options and avoid pricey items such as Dungeness crab.
Discerning diners can still score good deals at the restaurants below. One of the best dishes I had was a $13 fresh pasta entree in Frelard. One of the best values was an $11 deep-dish pizza on Capitol Hill that could feed at least two. Details below.
The wait for a table can be an hour long at MariPili Tapas Bar, the big opening on Capitol Hill. Go early or sit at the bar to avoid the long line. Management also started taking reservations for parties of four or more. Chef and owner Grayson Corrales, former pastry chef at JuneBaby, makes a promising solo debut after completing her three-month internship at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Culler de Pau in Spain before setting up her Galician-inspired menu here. Menu ranges from a dozen small plates (mushroom croquettes and lamb-and-pork meatballs) to a handful of dinner-size portions of pastas and meat including roasted game hen and lamb.
Oxbow, from the stellar Sea Wolf Bakers, is the latest big name to jump into Seattle’s burgeoning bagel scene. Bagel snobs will be pleased that this Montlake bakery does pumpernickel, which some readers have complained that local bagel shops don’t offer enough of. But can we talk about their sticky bun? Bakers Jesse and Kit Schumann bring this classic back into balance — a spongy, sour tang bun with a carapace of caramel and topped with a boulder field of pecans. I can’t recall eating a better sticky bun in Seattle.
For soup dumplings in Belltown, Chiho Bistro serves four xiao long bao variations from truffle pork to an onion-chicken version, though its best — at least during its opening week — were the spicy, tingling mala soup dumplings. It’s great drunk food.
Also, along this Second Avenue barhopping stretch sits the happy hour hot spot Hatch Cantina, a New Mexican restaurant that’s a big hit for bar revelers who come early and late for the queso dip with hatch chilies.
Kitty-corner to Lake Union, a great people-watching spot, Maria Sabina Mexican Restaurant & Bar runs Taco Tuesday with good $2 asada, chorizo and brisket options. But check out its eclectic dinner menu with Oaxacan, Yucatecan and other regional dishes, including fried grasshoppers, an enmoladas de mole with brisket and a cochinita pibil with pork marinated in orange juice. This bar made a bold choice by focusing on mezcal drinks and not listing the popular margarita on the menu, though the bartender can make you one.
Just east of the Olympic Sculpture Park sits Seattle Pizza & Bar with its tandoori chicken and paneer tikka pies. Indian fusion pizzas have been a takeout hit in the South End and in pockets of the Eastside.
Spicy Style of Sichuan, located in the Family Asian Market in North Seattle, has been doing brisk takeout for its Hunan and Sichuan dishes.
West Seattleites, you’ll have to wait another month or so when your two big openings debut: Driftwood, the Alki restaurant with the Elliott Bay view, will launch in late August while West of Chicago Pizza Company has delayed its opening due to water-heater issues. In the meantime, three other spots are up and running: Dough Joy, the vegan doughnut shop on Capitol Hill, expands to the Junction and according to its social media post, shares space with a disco-themed plant shop with disco ball planters, neon lights and glitter floors. Alki Phở & Bar and Fire Tacos open by the beach, the latter has been a hit in Kent before expanding north. Fire Tacos hawks those trendy birria tacos with lamb, goat and beef stew.
The investors who hit a home run with the popular banh mi franchise Sizzle & Crunch have launched the fried chicken chain Call A Chicken with branches in the University District and in the Chinatown International District. Call A Chicken takes its inspiration from the Kentucky Fried Chicken in China, which offers a more eclectic menu than the chicken buckets served at KFC in the United States. Call A chicken also sells gizzards, fried whole chicken and New Orleans-style wings.
Pipa Mountain Hot Pot in the Chinatown International District caters to the big-ticket crowd with its offerings of marbled beef and other high-end slabs.
Good news for fans of the pop-up Mixtape Pasta: talented cook Megan Barone has found a permanent kitchen now that she’s the executive chef at Ronette’s Psychedelic Sock Hop in Frelard. Her greatest pop-up hits are served here, including her seven-layer lasagna, miso Caesar salad and, arguably her best dish, the fresh pasta creste di galla with arugula lemon pesto. It’s the best vegetarian dish I’ve had this season, and at $13, one of the best values in town. Ronette’s is one of the few restaurants that is open on Mondays, even offering late-night dining till midnight. You might also catch her on stage at the bar. The chef is also a talented saxophonist. On a recent evening, she prepped in the kitchen, then rushed out to do a set before scrambling back to the burners to cook pasta.
In Phinney Ridge, Arc bar restaurant melds Latin American and Korean flavors with meatless plates such as kimchi fries with “jackfruit carnitas” and “stinging nettle rice” with bulgogi seasoned tofu. Arc boasts a spacious bar lounge with a creative agave-centric lineup of tequila and mezcal cocktails with smoked Curacao, pineapple juice and sage bitters.
Secret Congee, which gained a huge fan base when it sold bowls out of a commissary kitchen, finds a home in Ballard. The congee comes with eight topping options from garlic blue crab to meatballs.
Boca Argentine Bakery & Pizzeria on Broadway East serves 20 pastries including dulce-de leche-filled churros, along with sandwiches, empanadas and its signature Buenos Aires-inspired pizzas with toppings such as blood sausage. The best value: its $11 fugazzetta mozzarella deep dish that can feed two to three and is loaded with caramelized onions and globs of stretchy cheese. You’ll be chewing for a while.
Two doors down sits the Chinese takeout Broadway Wok, which runs lunch and dinner specials ($13.99 to $15.99).
Korn Dog serves Korean-style corn dogs near Seattle Central College.
Pagliacci Pizza expands to the Shilshole neighborhood with a patio near the Ballard Locks.
Gyro SABABA opens in the Northgate area.
Umami Kushi runs a counter space inside the Métier Brewing Co. taproom in the Central District, hawking Japanese okazu pans or deep-fried buns stuffed with various fillings from chicken mole to beef curry.
Amazon workers scored another dining option now that Astra Hotel in South Lake Union runs lunch service at Otium Grill & Greens with salads and sandwiches for $14 and cheaper. The hotel’s big announcement will come in August when it unveils its rooftop bar.
From the investors behind the waterfront restaurant Elliott’s Oyster House comes the Italian restaurant Salt District on Pier 55 near the ferry dock. The standbys, meatballs and burrata, are offered if you don’t want to delve into the heavier lamb ossobuco and porchetta entrees.
On the coffee and boba front: Our international coffee scene expands with the Ethiopian Café Avole in the Central District, the Vietnamese coffeehouse Voi Cà Phê in Georgetown and the Brazilian cafe chain Kitanda in the McKenzie building downtown. Other morning pitstops: Cafe Canuc sits in the University District while Caffe Ladro adds another outpost in the Astra Hotel. And Tiger Sugar, a popular boba chain, opens in downtown.