If you’re reading this guide, there’s a good chance you work at a certain very large tech company. Or a different very large tech company. Both of which have huge offices in South Lake Union. Or maybe you’re just entertaining visitors and have found yourself here starving after spending a little too much time at the Space Needle.
SLU is known for many things - like being home to the aforementioned major tech companies, and mind-bogglingly terrible traffic on Mercer. It’s also full of so many lunch spots catered to the working massses that it’s tough to figure out which ones are actually worthy of your time. We know you’re better than the Whole Foods hot buffet line (unless you’re really trying to earn brownie points with Bezos), so we put together this guide to all the best lunches in the area. It may not be a six page doc, but we think you’ll find it pretty comprehensive.
You’re not going to Shake Shack because it’s fast and convenient. It’s not. You’ll wait half an hour in a line that snakes down the street while rogue roof water drips all over you. But your reward for sticking it out will come in the form of outrageously delicious cheeseburgers, crinkle fries, frozen custard concretes, and crispy chicken sandwiches. Just don’t tell your boss that you’ll “be right back.” You won’t.
If you want to impress a client but also just eat some sausage pizza, Willmott’s Ghost is where to do it. It works well for any work-type lunch, particularly the kind where you’d partake in a spritz cocktail or a glass of prosecco. The thick square pizzas (with toppings like potato/ricotta and mortadella/caramelized onion) are tasty, but you could also get a panini. The only wrong move here is to not order the olive oil cake. It’s outrageous.
You might know the pasta stylings of Le Messe in Eastlake. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter. G.H. Pasta Co. is a fast-casual pasta spot from the same team, and what you can expect is a massive bowl of delicious homemade noodles with things like pesto, braised pork and root vegetables, cacio e pepe, and amatriciana sauce. It’s all excellent, won’t cost you more than $9 a plate, and pairs really well with the garlic bread topped with parmesan and chives.
Go to Eggs and Plants for breakfast, lunch, or if you’re thinking big, both - because this is our favorite option in Amazon territory. You can’t go wrong with anything here, unless you don’t get the fries. Then your order is very wrong.
If you want a steak for lunch, go to The Butcher’s Table. It’s a modern steakhouse that’s relaxed enough for you to show up in jeans to eat a burger and fries at the bar, but has enough class so that you could come with your manager to discuss your progress (or lack thereof).
Even if it means you have to crawl to your office elevator to avoid being seen, you should sneak away to do lunch at 100 Pound Clam when it’s nice out. Go to the waterfront patio and you’ll have counter-service access to ideal seaside lunches like cornmeal-crusted rockfish and dill fries with pickle mayo, or sesame-grilled beef banh mi (our two favorite things here). If you’re feeling wild on a summer Friday, throw in a half-dozen oysters and a glass of sparkling rosé. We won’t tell.
There are plenty of trucks and fast-casual spots in the neighborhood to grab some Mexican food before doing that thing that’s somewhere between a power walk and a jog back to your computer. But maybe you have some time to kill because you emailed everyone you know saying you’d “circle back” with them soon (which means next week). Hang out at El Grito and enjoy some fish tacos, enchiladas, and tasty homemade chips with salsa. If you partake in a frozen margarita (get the prickly pear), we won’t tell whoever you had to circle back with.
Great news: one our favorite Vietnamese places has a location in South Lake Union. Ba Bar is excellent for noodle soup, bun cha, and congee. Get some chicken pho, and the rice tamale if it’s one of the specials.
If you want a great banh mi, the pork ones at Vinason are excellent. You could also do a vermicelli bowl or some pho, but the lemongrass pork sandwich here with a squeeze of sriracha and hoisin is way better than a bowl of soup.
The square focaccia pizza slices at Princi are on the pricier side ($7.50-$8.50 per piece). But luckily, they’re pretty filling, are baked extremely quickly, and have tasty toppings that range from a basic margherita to speck, potato, and scamorza cheese. Since Princi doubles as a bakery, you could also technically eat a loaf of rustic bread or a chocolate ganache tart for lunch - which we can vouch for, too.
A classic sandwich/salad/soup spot, with a hearty dash of “everything is organic because Seattle.” Everything here is also generally $3 more than you’d expect, but it’s worth it, because it’s all good. If you’re going the salad route, make sure to add skillet sweet potatoes so you can temporarily trick your brain into thinking you’re getting fries.
Yellow Dot is similar to Homegrown, only a bit less pretentious. Maybe that’s why the lines here tend to be longer. In addition to sandwiches and salads, they serve burritos, hot paninis, and wraps. Also, breakfast goes until 11am if you like to take an early lunch.
The classic diner is not a thing you see very often in Seattle - Skillet is one of the only ones, and it’s awesome. Regrade, located deep in Amazon country, is a good option for a sit-down lunch that won’t take a ton of time. If you want pancakes or fried chicken or a burger or poutine made with root beer-braised pork for lunch, you can get all of those things at Skillet, and they’re all great.
If you have some time to sit and relax, head to Serious Pie within the magical window of 11am -3pm, when you have your choice of really solid pizzas or crazy biscuit sandwiches. For pizza, go with the sausage and peppers pie with provolone. As for biscuits, the fried chicken with Tabasco black pepper gravy is stupid good. Go ahead and add some time to your calendar for a nap later in the day.
Meat & Bread is a small sandwich chain that started in Vancouver, and now has a location in South Lake Union. It’s just a counter with a few outdoor tables, so it’s great if the weather’s nice, or if you want something to take back to your office. All of the sandwiches here are awesome, but their porchetta (with salsa verde and pork cracklins) is a must-order at least once.
The team behind our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in the city, Mamnoon, also has a casual offshoot called Mamnoon Street. Here they have the same fantastic mezze, like hummus and baba ghanoush, but also easily-transportable lunch options like chicken shawarma, falafel wraps on homemade pita, and spicy cilantro French fries. The line can be intimidating, but the food is completely worth it.
If you just finished a presentation during which you had a nervous blackout and said something you will regret for weeks, Portage Bay is a good option for comfort food. Most of the breakfast classics are available, plus a big lunch menu of diner-style options. Try to snag a counter seat if you’re short on time, but have a backup plan in place, because they fill up fast.
The South Lake Union location of Tacos Chukis is more modern than the original in Capitol Hill, but the tacos are the same. Making it a team lunch is never a bad idea - be sure the pork/grilled pineapple/avocado salsa house tacos hit the table.
The lines here can be obnoxiously long, so come at a slightly off-peak time if you don’t want to wait for your salad, which will be basic but good. Points for health.
Skip the horrific Great State Burger and head to Li’l Woody’s instead. They have the best fast-casual burger in the city, and you want to get the queso fries and a Full Tilt milkshake as well. The fact that it shares dining space with Evergreens Salad is something that will test you like the urgent email you received at 10pm last night as you were getting into bed. Stand strong and get a burger - we support you.
A taco truck that serves pretty good tacos and burritos. Go with whatever your personal favorite taco/burrito move is, and you won’t be disappointed. Unless you’re with your manager who you only have awkward non-work conversations with. The kind where you ask what they’re doing on the weekend… when it’s Tuesday. The lines are long here, is what we’re trying to say.
No, it doesn’t have the incredible beachfront view that the West Seattle location has, but Marination in South Lake Union still has the same Hawaiian/Korean/Mexican riffs on beach food that you know and love. On a nice day, nothing will quite hit the spot like their “sexy tofu” tacos and spam macaroni salad, and on a disgustingly rainy day, a giant takeout container of kimchi fried rice is what you need to power through your inbox. Hey, only 579 unread emails until you can go home.