One special-occasion dinner with visitors from the Bay Area who happen to be intimidatingly well-versed in all matters gustatory... and also happen to be family. Where to really celebrate?!

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Sometimes readers write to me for restaurant recommendations, and I (try to!) always answer (eventually!). In this (high stakes!) case, Seattle Times restaurant reviewer Providence Cicero was kind enough to weigh in, too.

Dear Bethany,

I’m hoping you may be able to help me. My daughter and her husband live in the Bay Area. She was a chef for many years, and her husband, who has never spent time in Seattle, is truly a “foodie.” Together they prepare excellent, often unique, dishes, and love doing it for themselves and for friends.

To say I am intimidated by their experience is quite true. They are coming to visit in the new year. My husband and I want to celebrate their recent marriage and their first trip together to this area by taking them to dinner, and I want them to be impressed, of course. Seattle offers equally good food as the San Jose/San Fran area, don’t you think?

My question to you is, what is the most wonderful restaurant in Seattle or the Eastside? I sure would like them to leave talking about the beauty and good dining around here.



Hi S.,

My top recommendation for food fanatics (those who have the means!) is the Willows Inn. It’s a drive and a lovely little ferry ride from Seattle, and the Lummi Island setting also couldn’t be more Northwest picturesque. (Chef Blaine Wetzel’s cookbook/ode to Lummi “Sea and Smoke” would make an extremely nice keepsake, too.) Check the restaurant’s website for when it opens for the season.

Altura, a little oasis on Seattle’s busy Broadway, is pretty exquisite. Note that they’ve gone to a prix-fixe model these days.

Canlis is a Seattle classic, in an amazing midcentury building, with an incredible view and an extremely talented young chef. Here’s Providence Cicero’s “unquestionably 4 star” review of that one.

I’m including Providence on our correspondence because she’s been to a few newer, very high-end, well-regarded places that I haven’t (and I’m very curious to hear which, if any, she’d put in a class with these three!).

And I might get in trouble for saying this, but at the very high end, we’re not in the same league as the Bay Area… yet. Getting there! However, I’d say we’re now among the best in terms of upscale/midrange and cheap eats. If you want to explore the lower end with your daughter and new son-in-law, check out my treatise on how Seattle’s affordable options are getting better than ever and our top-10 new cheap eats list. If they really love food, they’ll love these places too.

Hope this helps. Be sure to let us know where you go, and how you all like it! (Hi, Provi!)




Hi S.,

I completely endorse all that Bethany has listed. I would only add Cafe Juanita in Kirkland. I love Holly Smith’s modern take on Northern Italian cuisine and the newly remodeled restaurant is lively and comfortable.

Best regards,