Is poké, like this from GoPoké, a fad or a new fixture. Only time will tell. Photo by Suzi Pratt

Is poké, like this from GoPoké, a fad or a new fixture. Only time will tell. Photo by Suzi Pratt

A Year of Fads and New Fixtures in Seattle Dining

Neither money nor reputation guaranteed success in this frenzied year of dining evolution.

This may have been one of the most interesting years yet for Seattle’s dining scene, as restaurants tried to keep pace with the city’s ever-expanding population and infrastructure—to mixed results. Perhaps most notable, and a kind of microcosm for the culinary world, was the frenetic nature of openings and closings in South Lake Union. As Amazon continued to build, from towering headquarters to futuristic spheres, restaurateurs tried to gauge what works, with fast-casual spots like Mamnoon Street and Great State Burger seemingly hitting the bulls eye, while high-end places like Vestal, from Josh Henderson, tanked (along with its neighboring bar Cantine and chicken counter Poulet Galore). Fussy dining, indeed, seems to be an uncertain bet, with Circadia closing after just six months and Iconiq in Mount Baker shuttering quickly too. If we learned anything this year, it’s that a well-known name and a lot of money doesn’t promise anything. Seattleites are pickier than ever, and suffer no fools. Here’s what I’ll remember most about the year in food.

Poke. It started years ago with Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max food truck but exploded into full-on fetish as the Hawaiian raw fish salad began swarming neighborhoods from Wallingford to Capitol Hill.

The rise of Edouardo Jordan. With Salare firmly under his belt, the former Bar Sajor chef opened his siren song to the South in Ravenna, JuneBaby, and it quickly became one of the toughest tables in town to get. Solidifying his reputation after a 2016 Best New Chef award from Food & Wine magazine came his 2017 “Restaurant of the Year” award from Seattle Eater.

Pizza. Seattle continues to try and shed its bad pizza juju. To that end came a spate of new joints offering everything from Chicago deep-dish to New Jersey Sicilian slices. Southpaw, Windy City, Bruciato, Supreme—the list goes on. Chances are you don’t have to stray far from your neighborhood anymore to get a good pie.

The return of the steakhouse, redux. From more unusual cuts of meat (Flint Creek Cattle Co.) to Mexican platter-style steaks and sides (Asadero Sinaloa), Seattleites seem to still crave the comfort of the steakhouse, but with more twists and modern decor.

Noodles. Ramen, soba, biang biang, udon, QQ … there was no shortage of places to get your slurp on—including, among many, a second location of Dough Zone, high-end soba spot Kamonegi, and ramen cult favorite Betsutenjin.

Amazon enters the food sphere in a big way. They already had Fresh, but in 2017 the tech giant announced the opening of its first checkout-free grocery chain (still only open to Amazon employees), their purchase of Whole Foods, and the rollout of their own meal kits on Amazon Fresh.

The end of old-school institutions. The Spaghetti Factory, Bakeman’s, The People’s Pub. … Nostalgia is not enough to keep you in business, for better or worse.

Beer. If last year was the year of the craft cocktail, this one was all about the brewski. With new breweries like Obec in Ballard and Californian-import Lagunitas, high-end brewpubs with beer-pairing menus like No Anchor, and restaurants with beer cocktails and increasingly sophisticated and varied offerings, we couldn’t be hoppier about the resurgence of this humble beverage.

Starbucks finally gets good food. With the rollout of its “Mercato” line, people stopping in for frappuccinos can now get tasty salads and sandwiches (try their Cubano or the Almond Butter, Strawberries & Jam) instead of bland paninis and stale-tasting baked goods.

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