Seattle’s downtown still looks like a ghost town, but perhaps the arrival of four new restaurants in that corridor is a promising sign of things to come. We get two hotel restaurants, a seafood cafe inside a museum and a steakhouse from a James Beard Award-winning chef. Our list of openings below.
Oaky’s Tex Mex is the latest from the guys who make some of the best Central Texas-style brisket in Western Washington at Wood Shop BBQ. Their encore is — big surprise — also on the carnivorous end: grilled and smoked meat, stuffed in tacos, enchiladas, burritos and quesadillas. Owners Matt Davis and James Barrington will prepare at least six meats daily, including grilled flank (carne asada), brined and smoked thighs (chicken verde) and smoked brisket barbacoa. Vegetarians can choose from crispy cauliflower and smoked mushroom. The 40-seat restaurant with an agave bar sits across the street from its sister spot Wood Shop BBQ in the Central District.
This restaurant row on South Jackson Street, off 25th Avenue South, has become a lively scene thanks to all the new town houses and apartment buildings, including a 532-apartment complex at the elbow of South Jackson Street and 23rd Avenue South. Wiley Frank of the critically acclaimed Little Uncle restaurant is the big-name chef on the block, doing stellar tacos and sandwiches at the bustling Standard Brewing. Nearby sits Temple Pastries, whose furikake, sweet potato croissant made our list of best pastries in the city. Across the street from them are two more restaurants expanding: Wood Shop BBQ spruced up its patio for winter dining and soon will knock down a wall to add more indoor seating. Next door, Reckless Noodle will add a second cocktail bar since it has been slammed with lines of customers waiting along the sidewalk. Wait, there’s more … a block west are newcomers Jackson’s Catfish Corner and an Amazon Fresh grocery store, and joining those tenants later will be a soul food cafe and a coffeehouse. This ’hood isn’t done. Rumors are that more restaurants are coming next spring.
The MAR•KET, arguably the most popular seafood spot in the North End, expands to downtown Seattle with a 60-seat restaurant inside the Seattle Art Museum. All of its greatest hits are here: lobster rolls, fried soft-shell crab, seafood chowder and fish and chips. And since the chef has a bigger kitchen and a pizza oven to play with here, expect new dishes, including grilled salmon banh mi, cioppino and fish pakora. The focus is on lunch and dinner, but owner Shubert Ho will add 9 a.m. breakfast once he finds more kitchen help. He has a 15-seat bar, but with so many office employees working remotely, Ho isn’t convinced there’s a market for happy hour yet. Ho owns seven restaurants in Edmonds, but his brand remains synonymous with The MAR•KET, an eatery that’s so popular that Ho took out all the indoor seating because his team needed every foot of that tiny space to keep up with all the lobster rolls and takeout orders. The booming business of The MAR•KET in Edmonds helped save his other restaurants during the pandemic, Ho said.
Former Canlis pastry chef Crystal Chiu now heads the kitchen at the revived Volunteer Park Café and Pantry. Joining her is another Canlis alum, Melissa Johnson, who manages the front of the house. Johnson, who used to own a bakery in New York City, also made bagels for Canlis’ pop-up. About a dozen baked goods from muffins to scones are offered here, but get there before noon. It’s slim pickings after the lunch rush. (The coconut hazelnut cake is to die for.) Other breakfast and lunch offerings include bodega-style egg sandwiches and tartine topped with whipped ricotta and roasted squash or topped with a pickled egg salad. This Capitol Hill hangout also hawks local and artisanal products such as honey, olive oil and tinned seafood on its shelves and boasts a well-curated lineup of natural wines and craft beers, including suds from the stellar Garden Path Fermentation brewery in Skagit Valley. Freehand Cellars owner James DeSarno purchased the cafe from Ericka Burke last year. The corner cafe, with picnic tables out front, has been a big hit in the neighborhood.
James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Mina from San Francisco will open Bourbon Steak on Oct. 1 in the downtown space that once housed his RN74 restaurant. His steakhouse features organic, hormone-free beef cuts “tempered with herb-infused butter and then grilled to order,” and will also have Mina’s signature lobster pot pie and black truffle mac and cheese on the menu, management said. The closed RN74 was an ambitious restaurant that, much to the frustration of the young talents who worked there, became known more for happy hour — its bar was often more packed than its dining room. RN74 fans will be glad to hear this: Bourbon Steak runs an extensive bar menu with a happy hour burger from Tuesdays to Fridays (4-6 p.m.), and Master Sommelier Jeremy Shanker has curated a menu of 450 wines.
On downtown hotels, the swanky W Seattle debuts TRACE Market, a casual breakfast-and-lunch setup with quiche, cinnamon rolls, croissants, sandwiches, salads and grab-and-go bowls. It’s a dramatic shift from the high-end meals the W hotel used to run. TIDAL+, a seafood bistro and raw bar, opens on the ground floor of the downtown Hyatt at Olive 8, with lobster mac and cheese, fried halibut and chips and some fresh shellfish and fish sourced from the Puget Sound. The bar restaurant can seat 85 inside with 12 more seats outside.
Kobuta and Ookami fancies up the Japanese comfort food katsu fried cutlets with high-end Iberico pork and organic chicken. This Capitol Hill eatery has been popular with the young crowd. Reservations only. No walk-ins.
Overcast Coffee Company expands with a second Capitol Hill branch near the corner of East Union Street and 11th Avenue, doing breakfast burritos and panini sandwiches.
Pizzeria La Rocca opens on the main drag of Greenwood, showcasing about two dozen different Neapolitan-inspired pies. The crust, crispier and cheesier than the classic style, seems to have picked up a lot of fans in the area. Also plenty of salads and shared plates such as meatballs. The neighborhood pizzeria also serves espressos and croissants in the morning.
SZN in Uptown does Korean-Mexican fusion, not just the popular Korean tacos but also burritos, quesadillas, rice bowls and bulgogi fries. Lots of kimchi and meats marinated with Korean spices to pair with black beans, Mexican cheese and guacamole. Also in Uptown sits Cashew Thai Cuisine, with its signature dishes massaman short ribs and salmon sake onions.
In Wedgwood, Sophie’s Tacos also offers torta sandwiches and wet burritos.
For those looking for the next bubble tea, check out the Australian chain Yomie’s Rice X Yogurt, which brings its signature purple rice yogurt drink to the Chinatown International District. A popular brand with the young Asian demographic, Yomie’s drinks are yogurt smoothies with chewy rice. The grains are more just for the texture. If you prefer old-school bubble Tea, Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea also opens in the ID.