Canlis, The Herbfarm, Wild Ginger, Dahlia Lounge, and more: We sent our restaurant critic back to Seattle and the Eastside’s most enduring dining spots to see if they still pass muster.
Restaurant critics are often at the mercy of the new, scrambling to keep up with current culinary hotspots — especially in a place like the Northwest, where restaurants open and close faster than a diner can say, “Check please!”
This year, The Seattle Times decided to buck the trend, dispatching critic Providence Cicero to find out if the city’s enduring classics — Canlis, Wild Ginger, Cafe Juanita and other stalwarts — remain prime dining destinations.
We call this ongoing series of reviews Second Helpings, and we’re still seeking nominations of restaurants to include. If there’s a place you’d like to see Cicero revisit, let us know in the comments thread.
Some notes: All star ratings are on a scale of one (adequate) to four (exceptional). The reviews appear in reverse chronological order, starting with the one published most recently. And finally: Menus, opening hours and even chefs change frequently; call ahead to confirm.
205 108th Ave. N.E., Bellevue; 425-456-0010, seastarrestaurant.com
SEAFOOD: Over the last 13 years, chef John Howie’s popular seafood spot has become a home away from home for many Eastside diners. Day or night, midweek or weekend, those 200 seats are full.
Read the full August 27, 2015, review here.
1919 Post Alley, Seattle; 206-443-3241, thepinkdoor.net
ITALIAN: After more than three decades, smart service and able Italian cuisine make this Seattle classic worth revisiting. And even better, you’ll be entertained by sequined aerialists, tarot-card readers and burlesque queens.
Read the full June 26, 2015, review here.
820 Second Ave., Seattle; 206-624-3287, themetropolitangrill.com
STEAKHOUSE: The downtown landmark steakhouse still pleases after more than 30 years. The cost of a steak dinner for two with the works at The Met easily exceeds the average monthly car payment. But those of us who aren’t moguls, tech movers-and-shakers or Seahawks can be regulars at lunch, when soups, sandwiches and entrees are more in line with what the hoi polloi can afford.
Read the full April 23, 2015, review here.
2001 Fourth Ave., Seattle; 206-682-4142, tomdouglas.com
ECLECTIC: The flagship of the Tom Douglas restaurant empire is still as good as it was when last reviewed in 2000. The service is fluent, the cooking sophisticated but approachable, and the exuberant atmosphere is retro with just a pinch of irony. They don’t make restaurants like this anymore.
Read the full Jan. 1, 2015, review here.
411 University St. (Fairmont Olympic Hotel), Seattle; 206-621-7889, fairmont.com/seattle/dining/thegeorgian/
FRENCH/NORTHWEST: Slip into an upholstered armchair at The Georgian in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, where uniformed staff valet parks your car (complimentary after 5 p.m.), takes your coat and fluffs your linen napkin (a black one if you are wearing dark attire). Yes, dinner’s a splurge, but the three- and five-course tasting menus at $72 and $99 with paired wines amount to a high-end value meal.
Read the full Nov. 27, 2014, review here.
2401 Second Ave., Seattle; 206-443-9844, shiros.com
JAPANESE/SUSHI: Twenty years after Shiro Kashiba opened his eponymous Belltown restaurant, people still wait for a seat at the sushi bar, even though Shiro-San is no longer there to welcome all comers with a hearty “Irasshimasen.” Without Shiro, however, Shiro’s turns out to be remarkably unchanged since The Seattle Times reviewed it last in 2007.
Read the full Oct. 30, 2014, review here.
411 First Ave. S., Seattle; 206-467-7797, www.ilterrazzocarmine.com
ITALIAN: Il Terrazzo Carmine, an Italian restaurant in Pioneer Square, was and still is unapologetically old school. Gracious waiters, male and female alike, wear black neckties, and their white jackets are as starched and pressed as the napkins they drape over their wrists to serve antipasto assortito, a daily-changing risotto, wine and more Italian favorites.
Read the full Aug. 29, 2014, review here.
6501 Railroad Ave. S.E., Snoqualmie; 800-2-SALISH (800-272-5474); www.salishlodge.com
CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN: The Dining Room at Salish Lodge alongside Snoqualmie Falls has the setting and the prices to match its fine-dining aspirations but needs to forgo the gimmicks and concentrate instead on delivering quality meals. Brunch still satisfies.
Read the full Aug. 22, 2014, review here.
1401 Third Ave., Seattle (206-623-4450, www.wildginger.net)
PAN-ASIAN: One of Seattle’s most famous restaurants, Wild Ginger has been serving delectable Pan-Asian meals to regulars and tourists alike for a quarter-century — and it’s as good as ever.
Read the full Aug. 15, 2014, review here.
9702 N.E. 120th Place, Kirkland (425-823-1505; www.cafejuanita.com)
NORTHERN ITALIAN: Serving fine Northern Italian fare with flavors borrowed from all over that country, Cafe Juanita in Kirkland maintains a high level of excellence established by chef Holly Smith. Well-trained staff bring fresh pasta, rich fish and meat dishes and dainty desserts to well-laid tables.
Read the full Aug. 8, 2014, review here.
14590 N.E. 145th St., Woodinville (425-485-5300; www.theherbfarm.com)
CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN: After 40 years, a succession of talented chefs, a devastating fire and a relocation to Woodinville, The Herbfarm is still a Northwest classic — just beware of the upsell.
Read the full Aug. 1, 2014, review here.
2576 Aurora Ave. N., Seattle; 206-283-3313, canlis.com
CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN: We should all age as gracefully as Canlis. The elegant, art-filled aerie feels timeless. Mark and Brian Canlis say, “It’s because Canlis keeps changing that people love it.” There is nowhere else like it in Seattle.
Read the full Oct. 25, 2013, review here.
Locations of featured restaurants:
Click on a dot for details.