After years of, among other things, enduring that campus a cappella group’s rendition of “Come Sail Away” more times than you could count, it’s time to graduate. While you were busy studying for finals, completing your PhD thesis on whether hot dogs are sandwiches, and/or ordering your wizard robes, we made this list of the best places to have a celebratory dinner (all of which take reservations). Cue that song by Vitamin C.
This is the most upscale option on the list, and also our top choice for a graduation dinner. The Italian food at Cascina Spinasse is incredible, from simple homemade tajarin pasta with butter, sage, and parmesan to the braised veal and beef capunet (chard leaves with meat stuffed inside). The service is also excellent. If you’re moving out of town after you graduate, this is the bucket list meal you want to have.
Bateau’s aesthetic is dainty and elegant on the surface... but then there’s a display window of raw cow carcasses hiding in plain sight. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. Anyway, if you care about steak at all, you should come here, because the beef at Bateau is excellent - whether seared to medium rare and paired with some bone marrow butter and kale gratin or ground up for an amazing off-menu burger that will probably make your cousin say his first curse word. Always add the fries cooked in tallow.
If your parents are the type of people who iron their jeans, they’re going to love Copine, an upscale spot in Ballard where each dish looks worlds more impressive than anything that’s ever been served in a college dining hall. You can expect incredible service, plus delicious things like roast chicken with Parisian gnocchi, seared halibut, and fresh tagliatelle with crispy speck and a soft egg.
Volunteer Park Cafe is smack in the middle of a residential pocket of Capitol Hill, and has a casual farmhouse bistro feel going on, so it’s great if you don’t want the evening to be overly stuffy. The American menu ranges from things like pot pie, braised brisket, and mac and cheese to artisanal pizzas and sandwiches, and they’ll take online reservations for up to 10 people, so bring your two roommates who also have their families in town.
Your sister just watched Jiro Dreams Of Sushi on Netflix and has expressed interest in seeing one of Jiro’s disciples at work. Cool, but you have a better chance of getting fired from your entry-level job for spilling hot coffee on someone’s pants than rolling in with your whole family and getting space at Sushi Kashiba’s sushi bar. Call ahead and book a table instead. When you get there, you can choose from a couple of outstanding tasting menus or go a la carte. In addition to whatever type of sushi you go for (it will all be excellent), get an order of chicken karaage for the table.
Matt’s is closed on Sundays, so if you’re going to book a table here, make it your Friday or Saturday night spot. Like Spinasse, it’s a Seattle bucket list place - with a great view of Pike Place Market to boot. The menu has things like burrata, steak, and a chocolate peanut butter mousse dessert that you’ll want to order for yourself, not share. You are the guest of honor, after all.
Very important life milestones such as graduation call for very important lasagna. The one at this elegant, burlesque-circus-themed spot (which is the best in the city, by the way) has layers of spinach pasta, bechamel, pesto, sauce, and the sweet, sweet taste of freedom after 17 years of having to do homework. Start with the fettunta (grilled garlic bread), and drown out the sounds of your aunt interrogating you about your future with your chewing.
Even though the economy probably isn’t in your favor as a diploma-wielding young adult, the weather might be. Take that information and run with it by booking a table at Westward - a nautical-themed spot where you can drink cocktails in Adirondack chairs overlooking Lake Union. The Mediterranean plates like wood-fired gigante beans with tomato and feta and braised lamb with tzatziki and flatbread are special occasion-worthy without being too fancy, and the lakeside setting is perfect whether your family is dressed to the nines or all in jeans. You’ll be glad you took a break from burning all your old sociology notes for this.
A great waterfront option for a meal when someone else is picking up the check. (When you have to give all of your money to Navient every month for the foreseeable future, at least you’ll think back fondly on your delicious graduation meal here.) There’s a balcony patio overlooking the Puget Sound that your grandma will gasp at the sight of, and tasty seafood dishes like crab cakes and grilled seabass.
Yes, it’s a hotel restaurant, but Shaker and Spear is also an ideal graduation option (and if your visitors are staying in the hotel, so much the better). There space is really attractive, the seafood is great, and the staff is super friendly. Reserve the large round table for eight if you can, and when you’re done with your meal, keep things going with cocktails at Pennyroyal next door, or Mr. Darcy’s two blocks down. Or both, because you managed to finish with a strong GPA despite that B- in the class you never showed up for. That deserves some celebration.
Maybe you’re vegan and you’d rather not have to choose between a salad and a side of plain potatoes as your graduation meal. Or maybe you just want to try something different as a final bonding experience with all your college friends. Harvest Beat serves a five-course vegan tasting menu for $58 a head, and there’s only one 7pm seating per night (Wednesday through Sunday). At the beginning of dinner, the chef rings a ceremonial gong and gives a monologue about the menu and the purveyors and foragers who helped supply the ingredients. Then you’re off on your fancy vegetable journey. Despite all this hoopla, the food is excellent and holds up against what you’ll eat at other special occasion spots that serve meat.
There are options for everyone at this upscale Middle Eastern spot - from mezze like hummus and baba ghanoush to delicious grilled chicken or beef/lamb kefta (and much more). Even if you wanted to just do two orders of the crispy cauliflower head covered in tahini, we wouldn’t stop you. You have a degree and you can make your own decisions now.