Seattle’s social media addiction makes it barely legal to eat a sandwich without Instagramming it. In the age of oversharing, sometimes the best thing about a restaurant is when you know something that all of Twitter doesn’t. Whether your dream under-the-radar destination is a taco shop in the back of a Mexican market, a suburban fish joint, or a sprawling Hawaiian patio joint, this list sheds a little light on the places toiling away without the recognition (and Insta-fame) they deserve.Read More
11 Under-the-Radar Restaurants and Bars to Try in Seattle
1. Jawhara Café
One of Redmond’s best lunches comes from inside a mosque. The Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) hosts this Moroccan and Indian café on their campus, and each weekday it serves up rotating specials like lamb curry, olive chicken, gyros, and even a cross-cultural gyro paratha roll. Particularly known for friendly service, the restaurant serves each meal with free mint tea.
2. La Conasupo
You’ll have to shove a few chile peppers out of the way as you walk through the narrow aisles of this Mexican market, but when you get to the back, it opens up into a taco shop, which — on weekends only — serves Hidalgo-style pit-cooked lamb. Barbacoa, as the dish is known, is a Sunday morning tradition in central Mexico, and, for those who know where to find it, Greenwood.
3. Needle and Thread
Drink one-of-a-kind Prohibition-era cocktails in the luxe overstuffed seating and low-light nooks and crannies at this trip back in time. Opened at the beginning of the speakeasy craze, this upstairs section of Tavern Law has survived the ups and downs of said trend and the sale of the business. Its secret — besides hiding behind an old bank vault door — is the menuless bar: Each order is a customized drink from a conversation between customer and bartender. (After entering, go to the right behind the bank vault door near the phone.)
4. PB Kitchen at the Polish Cultural Center
Friday nights are made for pickle soup, pierogi, and pork hocks. That’s the night that PB Kitchen sets up in the basement of the Polish Home and serves up their traditional food, like dumplings filled with mushrooms, meat, or cheese, crepes, stews, and giant hunks of pork. Open to all with a $1 temporary membership, there’s also a bar serving Polish beers and bison grass vodka. (Note that it’s only open on Friday nights, and closed in August.)
5. The Downstairs Bar at Meskel
Meskel, located in an old Central District craftsman, already tops the competitive field of Seattle’s best Ethiopian restaurants. But for nights when you’re looking for something a little more casual, head downstairs (or enter through the back) to the bar. A projector screen covers one wall, nearly always tuned to soccer, and off-duty cab drivers wave down the bartender for whiskey. You can order from the full dinner menu down here, the only difference is the crowd. (Turn right as you enter and go downstairs.)
6. Vientiane Asian Grocery
Seattle, WA 98118
In a South End strip mall, this mini-mart holds much more than its name implies: Come for your Lao traditional clothing, stay for the pork intestine soup. Dig into crispy rice, papaya salad, grilled fish wraps, sour pork sausages, and sticky rice in the aisles of this Lao general store, where orange chairs and a checkerboard of tables hold silverware, napkins, and a broad array of condiments to top the food straight from Southeast Asia.
7. Pono Ranch Restaurant & Bar
In a weird little corner of Ballard, this barebones, oversized patio keeps things cool under the sailcloth that provides shade. Decorated like somebody raided a junkyard and created a frat-house dream, rusty equipment provides an odd atmosphere to eat Hawaiian-style food in, but the cornhole, firepit, and live music somehow keep it all working — in a quirkily awesome fashion. Grab an Elysian Space Dust IPA and settle in for a laid-back night.
8. El Corazón
Seattle, WA 98109
The venues that once housed Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains have mostly closed, fleeing a changing Seattle. But this little sub-freeway holdout keeps the spirit of independent music alive. More recently, folks like Macklemore have graced the stage of El Corazon on their way to wider fame. Come, drink, listen, and then—in a few years—claim your hipster badge of having heard someone way back when.
9. Jupiter Bar
When people think of drinking at an art gallery, stuffy openings with white wine tend to come to mind—this spot is the polar opposite: murals and art works line the walls of the former jewelry warehouse, but so too do arcade games, pinball machines, and pool tables. The food and drinks also buck the reputation of galleries with their affordable prices and playful names. Order an Elysian brew with cheap eats and your weekend is made.
10. Owl N' Thistle
Irish pubs dot the entire planet, bringing little more than a bit of faux brogue and basic beer, but this little alley gem shows the incredible potential for places that do it well. The historic location in a 1930 building and the old-timey décor combine for a cool, laid back scene—but the fun live music gets people up and moving.
11. Wally's Chowder House Broiler
Some of the best seafood in Seattle is actually a short drive south in Des Moines, where this charming seafood house perches overlooking Puget Sound. It’s the type of place that is everything you want from a seaside shack: plenty of kitschy, nautically-themed décor, nearly two-dozen beers on tap (including the local Elysian Brewing Company), and the kind of sunset views over the water that seem surreal.