Seattle: Eating and Travel in the Time of COVID
Updated: Sep 15, 2022
Flying into Seattle was... strange. It was the first time I had left New Hampshire in 6 months, and definitely my first time traveling since COVID. Masks are now mandatory on planes and in airports, hand sanitizer is being consumed in the gallons, and yup... you guessed it. No more beverage service on airplanes. Yikes! But that didn't stop me from having an awesome trip while getting to eat some of Seattle's best food (with all social distancing and ubiquitous use of hand sanitizer in place). Seattle was the first stop on my trip down the Pacific Coast to Monterey, CA, and surprisingly, the city was nearly completely open as part of their Phase 2 plan... restaurants, bars, and breweries were all open for indoor seating; ferries to islands in Pugent Sound were operating; and Pike Place Market was full of people. As you'll see, this was very different from other cities I ventured into on this trip (cue Portland and San Francisco), but we'll get to those in a future post.
For this post, I want to highlight some of the food and drink from Seattle that I thought was absolutely awesome and really highlights this city as a gastronomic heavyweight. Our first stop for dinner the night we arrived was at Revel, Rachel Yang's glorious Korean-fusion restaurant in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. Like most places in Seattle, Revel was open for both outdoor and indoor seating, although we chose to sit outside just given the fact that their patio is a perfect place to eat overlooking the street and also for social-distancing purposes.
Yang has put together a powerhouse menu of Korean classic ingredients that changes frequently, often with an interesting twist, such as her seaweed noodles with Dungness crab (classic PNW ingredient -- you find it everywhere out there), pan-roasted bok choy, red curry, cilantro, and crème fraiche. The fresh, local crab played incredibly well against the curry and classic Korean cooking of the seaweed noodles.
Wonderful Dungeness crab with seaweed noodles and crème fraiche
Our second course was easily our favorite of the night. Yang's miso rice cake with incredibly tender braised pork belly and kale was LEGIT one of the best meals I had in my 2.5 weeks between Washington, Oregon, and California. Powerful flavors of braised pork in a spicy, tangy sauce played nicely with Revel's take on rice cakes. Generally a tasteless filler, these rice cakes took on the flavor of this dish entirely, adding a nice umami flavor as well as varied texture between the pork, kale, and rice cakes. Overall just an awesome dish.
Spicy miso rice cakes with braised pork belly and kale was OUTSTANDING
I can't say enough great things about Revel! They also have a beer list focusing on local brews from around the region. Try not to miss this gem on your next trip to Seattle.
Address: 401 N 36th St, Seattle, WA 98103
Taylor Shell Fish Farms
The Taylor family has been raising oysters in the Pugent Sound since the 1890s, so, yea, they know a thing or two about fresh shellfish. They have two locations in Seattle, and we sat down at their Capital Hill location on Melrose. We had a smattering of whatever looked good that day, as their availability changes on any given day based upon what they catch/grow. Oysters, Dungeness crab (which they serve with their homemade louie sauce in the crab shell), and geoduck clams were superb. Fresh, clean with hint of ocean flavor. Is there anything better? NO.
Amazing Dungeness Crab
Address: 1521 Melrose Ave, Seattle, WA, 98122
It should come as no surprise, fellow reader, that coming from New England, I am somewhat biased towards IPAs. Not just IPAs, though... hazy IPAs. The type of IPA that obligates placing your hand behind the glass and saying to yourself "Yup... definitely can't see through it". They hold a special place in my heart, and living on the border of Vermont has been a beacon to my soul. But West Coast IPAs are something different entirely... Both varieties may be IPAs, but they could not be more different.
Seattle does not have a paucity of breweries. This is a beer drinking and beer brewing city for sure. But I really wanted to try a couple local breweries and their West Coast IPAs to get a feel for what beer culture is truly like in Seattle.
Optimism Brewing was our first stop. Founded in Capital Hill by a husband and wife team as recently as 2013, Optimism boasts an impressive selection of brews on tap for all palates. It's also ginormous inside. Their beer is outstanding, easily the best I had in Seattle. You will not find food here -- it is strictly dedicated to brewing... it is a brewery only. And that dedication to brewing really comes out in the quality of their beers. They are currently open for indoor seating.
Address: 1158 Broadway Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
I couldn't help myself
Our next stop was Fremont Brewing, in the Fremont neighborhood. Fremont is kind of gem when it comes to Seattle neighborhoods. It still retains a lot of pre-gentrification charm, but there are a ton of restaurants, breweries, and bars in the area. Fremont Brewing is located on Lake Union with clear views of Mt. Rainier in the distance, assuming it's not raining. They have a beer garden out front, which was jam packed while we were there. I don't honestly have too much to say about this place, other than they have a huge beer selection, the ambiance is absolutely lovely being able to sit outside with views of the lake and mountains, and it's just a super fun spot to park for a few hours and grab some brews. Oh and the beer is really good.
Address: 1050 N 34th St., Seattle, WA 98103
Our third and final stop on this make-shift brewery tour was Aslan Brewing. Located directly next door to Revel (!!), we spent the late afternoon on their small, quaint outdoor patio overlooking N. 36th St drinking hazy IPAs and people watching. Like most places in Seattle, they are open for both indoor and outdoor seating, masks required at all times other than when imbibing. I would say this was our top brewery in Seattle -- primarily because they do have a great selection of hazy IPAs, to which we are quite fond, but also the ambiance and location. It's a super small place in a nice neighborhood, and my suggestion to anyone visiting Seattle would be dinner at Revel, drinks at Aslan immediately next door... boom! Perfect night in Seattle.
Address: 401 N 36th St, Seattle, WA 98103
Pike Place Market
I know what you're going to say. Pike Place, really?? There's SO much great food in Seattle, and Pike Place is so touristy. But I'll be honest, I loved Pike Place Market. There's an incredible selection of food there, even during COVID, as most places were surprisingly open for business. Seattle has some of the freshest seafood you can find in the United States, and Pike Place Market is one of the places to find great seafood in Seattle. In addition to wholesale seafood and produce, there are a number of bars, restaurants, and take-out places spattered throughout the market. It's enormous, encompassing multiple levels. Additionally, just across the street you'll find tons of bakeries, cheese shops, and diners. Go to Pike Place hungry, that's all I say.
Final Resting Place for Seattle's Freshest Fish
Although there was no fish-throwing going down while we were there, there was an amazing Chinese take-out bakery just across the street -- Mee Sum Pastry. Chive and shrimp pie, shumai, and these outrageously good curry beef-stuffed pastries are some of the gems you'll find on the menu here. Grab a bunch and sit outside across the street for some people watching.
Best Breakfast in Seattle
There are few places in this country that can boast a coffee culture as deep as Seattles. Forget Starbucks... there are seemingly thousands of really high-quality coffee joints scattered throughout the city producing some seriously high-quality stuff. Ghost Alley Espresso is one such example. Located literally just beneath Pike Place, it's a super small take-out only jawn that serves some really good java. On the far end of Pike Place, there is a concrete stairwell filled with old music posters and graffiti that leads down to Post Alley... you'll find Ghost Alley there. If they have it, go for the turmeric mocha... doesn't sound good? You'd be wrong, friends, you'd be wrong.
Another go-to spot is Stone Way Cafe, located in the Fremont neighborhood. It's a dope spot because in addition to serving awesome coffee, they also do excellent breakfast and sandwiches. And they serve beer! I mean, what else do you need to know?? We went with the fried eggs over enchiladas, which did not disappoint.
Yup, you want this
This is a very abbreviated list of what Seattle has to offer for food/drink, and I hope it gives you some sense of its gastronomic capabilities. But don't just take my word for it, go! Most restaurants, bars, take-out joints, etc are, surprisingly, open right now. And, I mean really, who doesn't love eating fresh oysters in between wearing a mask? 🦀 🍻