Seattle has a lot of good things going for it, like excessively sunny summers, coffee that doesn’t suck, and raincoat couture. That means people will constantly be making excuses to come visit you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but entertaining out-of-towners can get pricey, and if you’re not careful, you won’t have enough money to buy a home escalator. So here’s where you can affordably eat with your tourist friends or family members.
When people land at SeaTac, they’re interested in two things: fresh seafood and Pike Place Market. You could take them somewhere to eat King Salmon, but that’s a great way to spend all your money. Except if you know about Market Grill - it’s smack in the middle of Pike Place, and you can get a tasty blackened salmon sandwich with rosemary mayo for a cool $15. After lunch, take a lap around the same jars of artisanal jam and screen-printed t-shirts you pretend to get excited about every time visitors fly in.
100 Pound Clam is another affordable place to get quality seafood and it’s especially nice because it’s outdoors on Lake Union. Slurp oysters, get clam chowder-topped poutine or fish and chips with a beer or cider on the side. If it’s chilly out and the patio’s closed, head inside to their sister spot, The White Swan Public House, for nearly the same menu, only enclosed within four walls.
Because lining up to eat before the restaurant opens is a Seattle rite of passage, you should also take your visitors to Tsukushinbo, a totally unmarked Japanese restaurant in the International District that serves a delicious Friday-only lunchtime ramen. If the cranky people in the group can’t handle the 45-minute wait, send someone to Oasis Tea Room around the block to hold them over. Once you reach the front of the line, you’ll be rewarded with a giant bowl of shoyu ramen for $11.50 that comes with rice and pan-fried gyoza. Add some tempura and sushi rolls, too.
Un Bien doesn’t look like much from the outside, but we don’t need to tell you that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And on the inside you’ll find a Caribbean roast pork sandwich that will set you back $11.50 for a magnificent charred baguette full of meat. Be sure to brush up on your stain removal skills, though, because you’re going to get mayo and rogue grilled onions all over yourself.
Normally, we send everyone to Spinasse, where you can experience Italy without ever having to get awkward passport photos taken at CVS. The only drawback: dinner might be more expensive than your utility bill. Luckily, Artusi - their sister bar right next door - has a special on Sundays and Mondays where you can order two bowls of incredible pasta and a bottle of wine for $35.
Seattle isn’t exactly known for its Mexican food, and yet here we are, bringing nearly everyone that shows up to La Cocina Oaxaquena. This might have something to do with the feel-good space, pint-sized margaritas, chips fried-to-order, and delicious menu across the board. We usually go for the fish tacos, mole tamales, or braised steak - none of which will cost you more than a jar of organic pistachio butter from Whole Foods.
For every grass-fed burger with onion jam and aioli in this city, there is a simple one with American cheese and special sauce that costs a lot less and tastes just as great. The tavern burger at Loretta’s Northwesterner is one of our favorites. The grungy dive bar in South Park is the perfect place to grab a meal if your visitors want you to take them “where Seattle people go.”
To keep the locals-only mood going, head to Left Bank for a glass of wine. It’s like hanging out in your buddy’s tricked-out basement, where on Tuesdays you can bring your own vinyl for them to play while you try out wines that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. They don’t serve food, so you can also bring your own snacks. After a few $5 glasses of red, your friends will probably start thinking about moving to Seattle.
So, your visitors watched a YouTube video of someone at a Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle trying to eat the world’s largest bowl of pho and now they want in. Have a normal-sized noodle soup at Pho Bac Sup Shop instead - no need to slurp down gallons of liquid in one sitting like a dehydrated racehorse. We especially like the chicken pho with crispy shallots and lime, but the short rib soup is also delicious. Don’t forget a couple orders of sausage sliders, iced coffee cocktails, and a memento from the photo booth - which they have for some reason we can’t quite figure out.
Westman’s is a great place to pull out of your back pocket when in need of a quick breakfast - as long as your visitors are not coming from New York or Montreal or anywhere else that has superior bagels. The ones here are the very best in Seattle, and the tasty cream cheeses (get the lox spread) come from Willapa Hills Creamery in Washington state.
The locally-sourced ingredients make the pizza at The Independent very “Seattle.” Neapolitan pies here range from classic pepperoni and New Haven-style clam to one topped with olives, gorgonzola, and speck - and they go just as well with a bottle of wine as they do with a few cider tallboys. Just remember to email ahead and make a reservation.
We can’t talk about sandwiches that are equally as affordable as they are glorious without mentioning Mean. The sandwiches here have a nice balance of old-school comfort and luxe ingredients - like the mint and maple syrup on the corned beef sandwich or steak tartare in the bacon club. Sit inside with the group or get everything to-go and bring it next door to Peddler Brewing Company. No matter what, you’re going to want a few orders of the potato skins.