We live in a city where the term “nice restaurant” means relatively nothing. Whether you’re at the corner pizzeria or a fancy steakhouse, you’ll probably be surrounded by people in beanies, plaid flannels, and Birkenstocks with no regard to their setting. Even upscale restaurants are full of people who look like they just spent the day picking out gnomes at the gardening store. We’re not judging any casual lifestyle decisions, but when you’re celebrating a special occasion and want to look nice, it’d be ideal to show up without looking stupid. The restaurants on this guide aren’t stuffy or old-fashioned, but they’re cool spots where your nicest pair of pants won’t clash with the Athleta leggings at the table over.
If you’re going to wait more than an hour for a table at an underwater-themed cocktail bar, you deserve to dress like you have your own styling team. Deep Dive is a dark speakeasy in South Lake Union that’s full of date night potential and maritime props. It’s an ideal setting for drinking truly outstanding cocktails and eating things that they call snacks but are really full meals - like gnocchi, salmon rillettes, and an $18 homemade hot dog topped with caviar. It’s worth it, we promise.
This tiny restaurant in Queen Anne that only seats 24 people is where you should wear that pair of expensive shoes that makes your calves look really toned - even though you’ll be sitting down and nobody will even see your legs. Eden Hill is a great spot where you can choose between the chef’s tasting menu and a bunch of a la carte options like cauliflower chilaquiles, homemade ricotta, and a fried “candy bar” that’s made from pig’s head meat. Make sure that your shirt doesn’t clash with the pretty floral wallpaper, though.
Copine isn’t just a place where you could dress up - it’s a place where you probably should. The space looks like that AirBNB in Vancouver you found online that’s way too pricey to justify staying at just because you won’t be paying tax on M&Ms at the Duty Free. The service is excellent and the food is French-ish, so you’ll probably eat nice steak or some truffle risotto.
If someone blindfolded you, led you to Capitol Hill without tripping over an empty bottle, and sat you down at Spinasse, you might think you teleported to a rustic Piedmont home at the foot of the Alps. This is the best Italian food in Seattle, so if you’re celebrating something serious like a milestone birthday or an engagement, book a table here and get dressed up. Fair warning, no matter how hard you work on your outfit, the bowl of tajarin with butter and sage is going to look better than you do.
If you’ve ever fantasized about dressing to the nines and eating an elegant dinner in a Crate & Barrel after-hours, we’ll point you in the direction of Shaker & Spear. They have really nice furniture, excellent cocktails, fried scotch olives, and nice pieces of fish. Follow it up with a nightcap at Pennyroyal next door.
Barrio is one of those places where you could eat dinner in sweatpants on a Wednesday, but also come back all dressed up to celebrate your 30th birthday. With the right attitude and statement jacket, Barrio is the perfect place for a special dinner involving several rounds of tacos, enchiladas, and frozen rosé sangria before hitting the Pike/Pine bars. The interior is dark enough that you won’t notice the group in the corner wearing workout clothes, but the floor-to-ceiling candles make it bright enough to highlight the fact that some people at your table are wearing full faces of makeup for the first time since their senior prom.
The Butcher’s Table works best for a business meal, but a big birthday dinner wouldn’t be out of the question either. It’s a classy place that’s one more antique leather chair away from being advertised as a renovated bank vault. While you can’t go wrong with a steak (they’re all great), you want to make sure that the fries hit the table because they’re actually rectangular-shaped tater tots that taste amazing dunked in the accompanying homemade sriracha.
Here’s a potential Belltown scenario: You and your coworkers just got off work at your downtown high-rise office and want to go somewhere for Happy Hour, and together you look like a tableau from an imaginary musical about administrative assistants set in 1998. Black Bottle is a gastropub filled with other people who just got off work and need one more use of their business casual wear before retiring to their sofas at home. Grab some cocktails and small plates and call it a night.
Single Shot is a versatile spot that works well for a third or fourth date. You can wear nice clothes and gaze into each other’s eyes over a candle and ignore the fact that the couple next to you is decked out in clothes from REI. We especially like sitting at the bar here, where you might get a glass of sparkling rose on the house. What you can definitely count on is an excellent dinner involving flatbreads, salads, and seared meats.
Westward is a Mediterranean waterfront restaurant where it would be acceptable to make a Burke-Gilman pitstop in cycling shorts, but it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see a group of women walk in wearing cocktail dresses and heels. Order some gigante beans and braised lamb and hope that the sun is sparkling on Lake Union (and that necklace that you forgot you had until 45 minutes ago).
Dinner at The Corson Building is a subtle kind of sophisticated, like your friend Chelsea who decided to have her wedding ceremony on the top of a mountain and wear a headpiece made out of ivy twine. It’s a small house in Georgetown inside of a peaceful garden, and it’s a really special spot. The menu changes pretty often, but you’ll see things like rabbit rillettes on grilled bread, braised squid, and quail. It’s worth wearing something nice here - unlike Chelsea’s nuptials when you had to hike up a cliff in kitten heels.
Finally, that couple in your friend group that’s always booping each other’s noses got engaged, and now there’s a reason to have a special occasion brunch. Tarsan i Jane is there for you with a sleek space that feels like a desert spa and a garden that feels like a sanctuary. On Sundays, book a table for the brunch tasting menu, which will start with something like cherry gazpacho, include the best paella in Seattle, and finish with olive oil gummy bears served to you on a rock. Yeah, maybe put on one of those shirts that you have to dry clean.
If you wanted to ironically eat pizza while wearing that blazer you just had tailored, Stoneburner is your place. It’s a good option for a small group that’s up for sharing a bunch of pies. A lot of the food here is good-not-great, but you’re very safe with the pizzas - especially the one topped with pepperoni, serranos, and honey.
It’s your parents’ anniversary, and you definitely didn’t forget until after 3pm. Do dinner at Seastar, an upscale seafood restaurant in downtown Bellevue that’s one of our favorite spots to get a by-the-book seafood meal (always start with the corn chowder). It’s the kind of place where there’s no need to go overboard with a full suit, but it wouldn’t kill you to wear a sport coat.