When summer rolls into town with its promise of dry, 80-degree days, along with it come certain dining experiences that for me have become ritual—or at least are sure to become so soon. Here are 10 of my favorites.
Brimmer & Heeltap has expanded the property’s back patio to offer diners a quiet sliver of the outdoors with warm blankets available for when the sun goes down. Sitting outside sipping a cocktail and noshing on their bright-green English pea hummus with a dash of sesame oil is a lovely way to let a warm evening slip by.
Poppy’s herb garden in the back of the restaurant isn’t new, but it never goes out of style. Surrounded by blooming flowers, plants, and herbs, it’s a quiet oasis on bustling Broadway—and it pairs well with the herb-based cocktails that proliferate on the menu, like the Lovage Story, made with light rum, lovage ginger syrup, and lemon; or the Woody with gin, lemon, woodruff, and cava.
No summer top-10 list is complete without an ice-cream recommendation and, with the recent opening of Shug’s Soda Fountain and Ice Cream right outside Pike Place Market in the former Dragon Toy Box store, you can indulge in an old-fashioned ice-cream soda or vintage drinks like egg creams and lime rickeys. The ice cream is from Lopez Creamery, and there are dozens of choices of both ice cream and soda flavors. My favorite? Pineapple soda with coconut ice cream. Be sure to add phosphate for extra fizz.
The Queen Anne Farmers Market is the only independently run market in the city. It’s also superbly located on a grassy hillside behind Queen Anne Avenue that abuts a parking lot filled with food trucks and live music every Thursday night. Neighborhood families let their kids play along the hill as they picnic on Native American tacos from Off the Rez or light, seasonal Indian fare from Holy Cow. Afterward, head to the actual market aisle and grab flats of juicy berries, peaches, squash, summer greens, and more.
Leschi Market, serving its neighborhood since the 1940s, is one of the best places to find quality, affordable bottles of wine as well as imported cheeses, meats, and salads. Its location across from the docks on Lake Washington means you can pop in for a bottle of vino and some gourmet snacks before heading to the water for a private al fresco dinner date.
Westward is one of the most sought-after locations in town, smack on Lake Union. Trying to secure a spot outside on summer evenings is nearly impossible, but far easier for early weekend brunch. Grab a couple of seats on the Adirondack chairs beneath a striped umbrella, and you can still order from the full menu. My picks? A grapefruit mimosa with pork chorizo sausage and a Dutch oven pancake with seasonal fruit.
While so many places serve great local oysters, it’s nearly impossible to beat the quality and value of the $2 oyster happy hour from 3:30–6:30 p.m. at The Ballard Annex Oyster House. Sure, only one variety is available at that price, but it’s always been a good one in my experience. Add to that drink specials and maybe a $6 order of fish and chips and a $5 Caesar salad, and you’ve got dinner on a dime.
Bottlehouse in Madrona is one of the best places to sip wine, bubbly, aperitifs, and vermouth-based cocktails accompanied by small plates like house rillettes, seasonal toast, or mac ’n’ cheese loaded with Gruyére, cheddar, and goat gouda. Dessert includes housemade chocolate truffles and ice-cream floats spiked with prosecco or porter. Come summer, the outdoor seating area is serene and an optimal setting for a wine flight or just a glass or two of their rotating rosés.
You know summer has arrived when Bastille begins its annual summer rooftop dinner series, which surrounds diners with produce grown right on the roof and views of the Olympics. The dinners take place every Monday and Tuesday night through September 20, and while they’re not cheap at $165 per person, the experience does include dinner, wine, and a garden tour. A sample menu includes chilled leek soup, 12-hour cured King salmon, French green-bean salad, grilled short rib, and Bing cherry tarte tatin, each paired with a wine.
If the sun isn’t making you sweat enough, head to Georgetown for the spiciest fried chicken at Sisters and Brothers. Here, it’s all about the chicken and a few sides like mac ’n’ cheese and deviled eggs, and the space is purposefully divey. If you go on the early side, afterward, you can walk over to Jet City winery for a tasting of Charles Smith’s Walla Walla wines. The addictive fried chicken is good to go too, though—perfect for a picnic.