December 21

Make Reservations

Dinner is the meal of the moment in South Lake Union.

While lunch in the neighborhood has long boasted a smorgasbord of diverse and phenomenal restaurant options, a recent spate of top-notch restaurateurs opening outlets has brought South Lake Union’s dinner game to the gold-medal match. Names that any Seattleite—or Top Chef viewer—will recognize have brought steak, pasta, Northwest cuisine, and rooftop Mediterranean small plates to the table. And that’s a crowded table—so make your reservations early.

At Vestal, the host stand is actually the stump of a 350-year-old Douglas fir tree, a symbolic representation of what chef Josh Henderson sends out from the kitchen of his latest place. After bringing rotisserie chicken to Poulet Galore and shaping a fast-food restaurant around local tastes at Great State Burger, the Huxley Wallace Collective’s chef comes home to his own hearth—literally. The restaurant, and the eight chef’s counter seats in particular, is designed around the coal-fired hearth. The dark décor—navy and polished concrete—further frames the warmth and light from which come local ingredients combined with global inspirations in dishes like a bouillabaisse with spot prawns, salmon collar, and smoked paprika.

Where Vestal embraces polished concrete, The Butcher’s Table embraces wood at what Sugar Mountain (parent company of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Pasta & Co, Maximus/Minimus, and Bennett’s) calls “Seattle’s next great luxury restaurant.” Upstairs, the garage-style doors open for a big, loud, fun space, while downstairs offers serious leather and classic steakhouse feel. The food takes its cues from Las Vegas or Beverly Hills–style steakhouses, offering big cuts of Wagyu beef from the attached butcher shop, beef-fat brioches, and oversize beef-fat fries that are like what would happen if a McDonald’s hashbrown met Honey, I Blew Up the Kids. But worry not, Seattle’s own menu aesthetic comes into play as well: the crudo bar upstairs weaves raw oysters and seafood into the menu.

An oyster bar makes a showing at the modern Italian Cinque Terre RISTORANTE as well. From the same people who brought Seattle Mamma Melina, List, and Barolo comes this culinary ode to the Italian Riviera. Chef John Neumark, who has previously tied together the Northwest and Italy at Café Juanita and Serafina, shows off his skills with an extensive menu of seafood such as Dungeness crab legs, pesto-steamed mussels and clams, and whole grilled branzino. Tomahawk steaks, pizza, and house-made pasta round out the menu, while the modern space brings in light from all around with big windows, blond-wood tables, and plenty of cool metal.

Taking up a different coastal inspiration, the restaurateurs behind Middle Eastern spots Mamnoon, Mamnoon Street, and Anar bring the neighborhood mbar in the 400 Fairview building. Helming the kitchen is former Top Chef contestant, Food & Wine best new chef, and five-time James Beard award semifinalist Jason Stratton. Already a haven of beautifully designed, patio-endowed, excellent restaurants (Bar Harbor, Standard Bakery, and Meat and Bread) mbar is the rooftop icing on the cake. The Mediterranean-influenced restaurant boasts a 270-degree view of the city, a 100-seat patio with glass railings to enhance the view, and a tantalizing menu to boot.

Story by Naomi Tomky, Vestal Photo by Stuart Mullenberg, The Butcher Table Photos by Alex Ellis, Cinque Terre Photo courtesy Cinque Terre, mBar Photo by Suzi Pratt

At The Center

SLU is the geographical center of Seattle