Like a food truck without wheels, there are several restaurants in Seattle where you can barely turn around without>"/>
Like a food truck without wheels, there are several restaurants in Seattle where you can barely turn around without knocking over a drink. These eateries cram customers into spaces like Tetris pieces with mouths. Elbows are frequently rubbed and the idea of asking for a restroom feels ridiculous.
By extremely small restaurants, I'm not referring to food trucks, stands, or places which are strictly to-go, like Piroshky-Piroshky at Pike Place Market. What I mean are tiny establishments that have seats, although you never expect to get one. This entire group of restaurants could fit inside an Olive Garden.
1. Hot Mama's -- 9 seats
No one living within a mile of Capitol Hill is unaware of Hot Mama's. Though late-night patrons often take their slice for a drunken walk, the scarce window seats affords some great people watching (remember, they can see you too). Eaten on a stool or shivering outside, this is some of the best pizza in the city. Sorry Big Mario's, you're just too big.
2. Cafe da Pino -- 12 seats
I've forgotten about 20 times that da Pino closes in the middle of the day for a few hours. It happened again when I took this picture, but Pino Rogano was willing to make my usual sausage sandwich to go. This adorable Italian delicatessen in Ravenna is the kind of old school spot uncommon in Seattle. The sausage is cured in-house, the sauces are fresh and simple, and there are about three or four tables in a space the size of an aPodment, though one of them always has a "reserved" sign on it.
3. Burger Hero -- 12 seats
If Burger Hero was someone's room, you'd be right to assume its owner had never been laid. Superhero figures in their original packaging adorn the walls and a giant Batman statue overlooks them all. The warm, cozy setting allows for a nice chat with the cook as he makes your burger, whether it's the Super Bad Boy Luthor or the Mr. Green Lantern Garden burger. They won't give you super powers, but they taste pretty good.
4. TNT Taqueria -- 19 seats
You occasionally see people standing outside TNT Taqueria in Wallingford uncertain of what to do. There appears to be an order window with a couple of tables outside, but then you notice a door on the right to a bright yellow inside area. Those who solve the puzzle win some fresh, respectable Mexican food, like tacos and burritos with chile braised beef and chorizo verde. Obviously, there are churros, but less obviously, there are "hamburguesas" and "hotdogueros." I like the cooking, but I really want to meet the architect.
5. Pike Street Fish Fry -- 14 seats
It often surprises people that a tiny fish joint next to Neumos in Capitol Hill happens to have some of best fried fish in Seattle. The cod and halibut are jewels, and there's plenty more on the little chalkboard menu (who knew chalkboards and restaurants would come together?). At night, when you take your fried fish past the adjacent hot dog stand, you'll feel, just for a delusional second, that you chose something healthy.
6. Ocho -- 23 seats (I think, it was dark)
When you see little Ocho standing next to a giant Azteca, you get the sense that Ocho is only small because Azteca moves their walls in a little bit every day. Or perhaps it started out that way. In any case, this cute, romantic tapas bar in Ballard features an array of creative dishes, like blue cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in pancetta with balsamic reduction, and fried potatoes in brava sauce with artichoke aioli. Everything's worth a try. This is the kind of place where a guy might propose to his girlfriend, only to find her staring blankly at him, because it gets pretty loud in there.
7. Paseo -- 11 seats
Who knew there were seats here? I don't think I've ever turned my head to the left. But apparently, people do crouch over savory Cuban roast sandwiches as countless impatient customers greedily eye their food. What further distinguishes Paseo is that for such a small restaurant, they actually have a visible, usable restroom. Amazing.
8. Piroshki on Madison -- 5 seats
Piroshki on Madison feels less like a restaurant than an extravagant hallway between the Swedish Medical Center and the street. Indeed, many people pass through this little cafe, though you can grab one of five seats at the thin bar along the wall, underneath an even thinner television often playing a cooking show. Sitting against the wall feels like punishment, but with a plate of pierogi or a giant piroshky in front of you, it's a little hard to care.
9. Mr. Gyros -- 9 seats
Mr. Gyros is unique for not only being small, but making you feel small, because every inch of the wall is filled with some award or achievement they've won in their short time in Greenwood. Will you stop bragging for one second Mr. Gyros? I'm just here to eat some of your ridiculously succulent lamb and then buy some space food at Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. Yes, that's how I spend my days. I'm not a go-getter like you, Mr. Gyros.
10. Thai Tom -- 20 seats
Thai Tom was built for this list (not literally). It's a wonder how they pack so many people into a space a little bigger than a parking spot for a midsized car. The tiny restaurant fills up quickly and all of the waiting for seats is done outside. Popular dishes include Pad Thai, Swimming Rama, and the wonderfully titled Pad See You Again, all of which are cooked in shimmering flames mere feet from the bar. I knew Thai Tom was perfect when I had to wait for the waitress to move before I could leave.