My partner Justin and I joked that I visited him in Seattle for the Renee Erickson restaurants—and that he just happened to be there, too.
This summer, as I worked in New York and he worked in the Emerald City, I flew out to stay with him. We didn’t so much plan an itinerary as we planned meals—breakfast, lunch, and dinner, snacks between breakfast, lunch, and dinner—many of which were Renee Erickson–related.
We’ve talked about her here before—back in 2014 when she wrote A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus and just a few weeks ago, when Genius Recipes told you all about her Peach Cobbler with Hot Sugar Crust. After cooking her recipes for years, one of my trip goals was to finally enjoy Erickson’s food in person.
And did we ever. But we also stumbled upon a lot of other wonderful eats. Here are our top 10, in no particular order.
Two brothers—Kit and Jesse Schumann—founded Sea Wolf in 2014. They started by baking in borrowed kitchens and, a couple years later, graduated to their own space. Lucky for us, it was a jog away from Justin’s apartment. The bakery’s kitchen is wide open, so when you walk in, you can see bakers loading dough into bins and pulling loaves from the oven. There’s sunshine everywhere, thanks to the four skylights, and even from the door it’s easy to spot the larger-than-life cinnamon rolls. They’re made from croissant dough scraps (!) and filled with butter, cinnamon, and raisins. “They’re an homage to the cinnamon rolls we ate as kids at Carol’s Coffee Cup in our hometown,” Kit told me. “When you are 9, they looked as if they were as big as your head. And they might have been.”
Ellenos says its yogurt “starts with the pure, pasteurized whole milk we source directly from local farms that creates our signature velvety texture and slightly sweet taste.” But that’s not what makes it special. Apparently, it’s the family’s own blend of probiotic cultures. (What? Your family doesn’t have one of those?) This is what makes their ultra-thick Greek yogurt stand out. Ellenos lives in a pint-sized stall at Pike Place Market. You’d almost miss it amid the craze if it weren’t for the long line or hoards of people wandering around with swooshy, swirly, get-me-some-of-that yogurt. While they have a slew of flavors—lemon curd! passion fruit! marionberry!—the nutty, fruity, oaty muesli was my favorite.
General Porpoise does doughnuts and caffeine—nothing more, nothing less—and they do it really, really well. The doughnuts are yeast-raised, sugar-rolled, and filled with—well, that’s the fun part. Classics include vanilla custard and lemon curd. Wildcards could be anything from chocolate marshmallow to peanut butter and jelly. When Justin and I were there, it was a sweet-tart rhubarb jam. But the vanilla custard was our favorite, especially with a giant mug of coffee that lived up to all the Seattle hype.
You’re at Pike Place. You’ve seen the fish-throwing (just what it sounds like) and the gum wall (also just what it sounds like) and survived the original Starbucks crowds. You want lunch—ASAP, please—and Country Dough is the place to be. This spot specializes in guo kui, crispy stuffed flatbreads, perfect if you want to wander and eat. We got ours with chicken, but you could get pork, beef, or mushrooms and young bamboo shoots. We also got the Chinese crepe and hand-shaven noodle soup. Justin said ordering dumplings, too, would be overkill, which I’m still low-key salty about.
The Walrus and the Carpenter shucks anywhere between 100 and 140 dozen oysters every night. That’s 1,200 to 1,600 oysters—every dang night. Opened in 2010, this homey, lively space has a completely open kitchen surrounded by a bar, like having courtside seats at a basketball game. The oysters are so cold, they might as well have just been plucked from the bottom of the sea. The menu lists them from mildest to briniest, and the selection rotates regularly, depending on local farmer availability. Each one is served with freshly-grated horseradish, shallot-champagne mignonette, and lemon. We split too many (is there such a thing?) and said “Cheers!” before each one, clinking together the shells.
What to do while you’re waiting in line at The Walrus and the Carpenter? Go to one of Erickson’s other spots—right next door. They’ll even tell you when your table is ready. Barnacle “celebrates the Italian aperitivo bar in a jewel box space with wines by the glass and all things canned, pickled, smoked, and cured.” Which means a mean Spritz and all the snacks to go with. Or, say, that giant jamòn serrano on the counter, hand-sliced to order, and silky chicken mousse with amaro-pickled cherries. Or, my pick, boquerones—buttery white anchovies—drowned in olive oil and topped with smashed green olives and crispy breadcrumbs.
We went to Bar Melusine for the buckwheat crêpes and double-fried frites. What we didn’t expect was a knockout burger—on the happy hour menu to boot. Like so much of Erickson’s food, it is as simple as it is purposeful. Just a bun, quarter-pounder beef patty, slab of tomato, and aioli. But the bun is brushed with honey and dusted in caraway, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds (and baked by those doughnut masterminds at General Porpoise). The beef is grass-fed, dry-aged, and all trim from the whole carcass. “We go back and forth from the chuck to the round to even out the fat. It’s coarse-ground around 20-percent fat, 80-percent lean,” director of operations Jeanie Chunn told me. “We use trim because it’s a great way to minimize waste and utilize more of the carcass.” The tomato comes by way of a lifelong farmer in northeastern Washington. And the aioli will turn you into a mayo-on-burgers believer.
Really, anything at JuneBaby—it’s not fair to make me pick. These tender peanuts were swimming in a deep, dark cajun spice and country ham broth. We slurped it up with the empty shells and splattered it all over our white clothes and didn’t care. We also loved the buttermilk biscuits with cane syrup, the pimiento cheese with paper-thin, house-made saltines, the crispy, crackly chicken-fried steak. Time called the restaurant “one of the world’s greatest places 2018.” Bon Appétit named it one of its top 50 new restaurants in 2018. And The New York Times gave it three stars. Which is all to say, you can’t go wrong.
Plan a trip to Seattle, ask around for recommendations, and inevitably someone will tell you that you have to go to Molly Moon’s. Its namesake and founder Molly Moon Neitzel opened her first scoop shop in 2008. Today, the brand has seven more. Expect classics like strawberries (made with local fruit), chocolate (made with melted chocolate versus cocoa powder), and salted caramel (“dares to be saltier than all the others!” according to the website). But I was holding up the line with sample after sample of flavors you can’t find everywhere: Earl Gray, honey lavender, and yeti (yep, yeti), made with granola, vanilla caramel, and chocolate bits.
Justin and I didn’t find Frankie & Jo’s. Frankie & Jo’s found us. We went to dinner one night, left the restaurant on the lookout for Molly Moon’s, and saw all these people wandering by with ice cream cones. Then, there was Frankie & Jo’s, a plant-based ice cream shop. Cherry Bombe recently called its co-owners Autumn Martin and Kari Brunson “the vegan ice cream world’s most influential duo.” And you only need one scoop to see why. I opted for Tahini Chocolate (salty tahini ice cream with chocolate ribbons and sesame fudge) and Gingered Golden Milk (turmeric and coconut milk ice cream with cinnamon, cardamom, and candied ginger). My sweet-pea got the beet, strawberry, and rose sorbet. I have a feeling there isn’t a bad flavor at this place, but the highlighter-neon Golden Milk totally swept me off my feet.
What are your favorite Seattle eats? Share ’em in the comments below!