It wasn't all that long ago that Esquire magazine tagged Seattle as having one of the best cocktail bars in the world. There was Arnaud's French 75 in New Orleans, Tiki Ti in L.A., Charlie B's in Missoula, the Pegu Club in New York and Nye's Polonaise in Minneapolis, followed by Harry's in Paris, the Merchant hotel in Belfast, Bar High Five in Tokyo...
...and the Zig Zag Cafe right here in Seattle.
Well now, Esquire food guy John Mariani has handed down his list of 2010's best restaurant cities, and guess what? Seattle made the list again.
"A decade ago it was easy enough to contend that if you wanted the best French food you'd go to France," Mariani writes. "[For] the best Italian food you'd go to Italy, and the best Japanese food you'd go to Japan. But if the last ten years have shown gastronomes anything, it's that food the equal of any in the world is now to be found in the USA. And not just in New York or San Francisco. Cities like Chicago, Houston, Washington, and Boston have enormous breadth and depth in many ethnic categories.
The fact is, you won't find better French haute cuisine than you will at Le Bernardin in New York or better Italian food than at Spiaggia in Chicago or better sushi than at Urasawa in Beverly Hills. For seafood, Seattle is paradise; for vegetarian, head for Berkeley; and for the grandest deluxe, Las Vegas is an international contender.
So, what are America's best restaurant cities -- in order of excellence?"
New York tops the list, obviously and properly, followed by Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans and Los Angeles, in that order. But after that, we've got Las Vegas (because if you spend enough money, excellence will follow), Houston for its solidity, Washington D.C. where "money, lobbyists, and lawyers fuel the Capital's dining scene," Boston (because it is "an East Coast version of San Francisco," apparently), and then Seattle.
"Were it not for Pike Place Market," Mariani says, "I'm not sure Seattle would be a great restaurant town, but its importance cannot be underestimated in a city so perfectly situated to take advantage of the bounty of the Northwest and the Pacific -- not to mention access to terrific wines from local vineyards. The quality of the food at Pike Place Market challenges local chefs to do their best with the best, and to treat those ingredients with respect, not gimmickry."
To read Mariani's full spread, check out the full Esquire article right here.