In three short days, on October 15th, Seattle Restaurant Week kicks off!
Or should I say… Restaurant weeks!
Expanded to three weeks this time around thanks to its continued popularity, it’s the perfect time to go and explore some of the best places in Seattle – at a fraction of the cost.
If you’ve never done Restaurant Week before, here’s the deal.
From Sunday through Thursday, you can visit any of the participating restaurants and have a full three-course dinner for just $33. (Some also offer a two-course lunch for $18.) You order off a special menu with fewer selections than normal – but usually the selections include some of the restaurants specialties. It’s the full experience.
The trick, of course, is knowing where to go. Some places aren’t that good, and others aren’t really much of a savings. How is one to know where to dine?
That’s where GavinEats comes in.
As a Restaurant Week Veteran, I’ve been to many of these places during restaurant week and know what to expect – and what to order. And I want to share that with all of you!
So fire up OpenTable and get your reservation engines ready (you’re going to want to get reservations in advance, after all!) – here are my top 5 dinner picks for Seattle Fall Restaurant Week 2017.
5. Staple and Fancy Mercantile – Italian, Ballard
Staple and Fancy pulls out the stops for Restaurant Week.
This Ethan Stowell eatery has a variety of Italian grub, from perfectly prepared pastas to succulently spiced steaks. But what is most iconic about them in my mind is their Chef’s Menu. You pay them a set price, and they just bring your table an onslaught of food, tweaking future dishes based on your preferences and reactions.
And that’s reflected in the restaurant week experience.
Normally, you choose one appetizer, one main, and one dessert for Restaurant Week. But at Staple and Fancy? They just give your table all the appetizers.
The value, my friends! The value!
This is with the caveat that it’s what they’ve done in past restaurant weeks, so I can’t guarantee it’ll be the case again this time.
But provided they continue it – which I imagine they will do – if you go here you’ll end up with an Italian feast on your hand. Just make sure to save room for the luscious main course and dessert!
Recommended order: All the appetizers (as mentioned above), rigatoni as your entrée, and the peanut butter terrine for dessert.
4. Aqua by El Gaucho – Seafood, Downtown
(Photo: Me. That’s right. My camera. Bam! This was from last restaurant week.)
I remember the first time I walked through the door to Aqua.
The lit wooden chandeliers glistened off the sunlight reflecting in through the windows overlooking the water. The curvature of the walls and wooden architecture made it feel like you were on the bow of a cruise ship. There was a man playing the piano, a slow classy rendition of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face – just right for the older crowd to think it was classy, and the younger crowd to think it was hip.
Aqua is a high end restaurant. It’s apparent from the moment you walk in the door that this is truly something exquisite. And, of course, it carries a price tag to match.
And that’s exactly why you should hit it up during Restaurant Week!
But it’s not all just all show. This gorgeous seafood spectacular dishes up some of the best I’ve tasted in the Northwest!
An excellent place to take anyone from a date to a group of friends, this should be on your hit list for the next few weeks!
Recommended order: Butternut squash soup as the appetizer, seafood linguine as the entrée, and then the cranberry orange sorbet for dessert
3. Andaluca – Mediterranean, Belltown
I have only ever visited Andaluca during restaurant week. I have yet to be disappointed.
Tucked away inside the Mayflower Hotel, this upscale establishment fuses tastes of the Mediterranean with a bit of a northwest twist. And after over 20 years, they’ve mastered both the craft of food and impeccable service.
The fusion of tastes is wonderful. Take their Za’atar rubbed pork, for example. It has all the texture of the best American pork tenderloin you’ve ever chomped into, and with the spices that trick your brain into thinking it was prepared in Morocco.
And if that doesn’t do it for you, well, I have three words: liquid. Chocolate. Cake.
Need I say more?
Recommended order: Cheese and potato croquettes as the appetizer, Za’atar rubbed pork tenderloin as the entrée, and then the liquid chocolate cake for dessert.
2. Heartwood Provisions – Northwest, Downtown
There’s a reason that Heartwood Provisions is my favorite dinner restaurant in Seattle right now.
It exudes an elegance, while still feeling homely. An open window into the kitchen can let your eye be entertained while sitting at the bar, and the tables feel casual – yet, the staff still folds your napkin for you when you leave to use the bathroom. The servers don’t wear anything too fancy, but they are immaculately on point, refilling glasses and swooping in to collect dishes with just the appropriate timing.
And that says nothing of the food. Oh, the food!
They do everything so well. Their seafood, like the yellowtail collar on the Restaurant Week menu, is meticulously prepared and flavored. Their meats come out tasting just as amazing as they are gorgeously plated, with swirls of sauce decorating the platter. Even their salads blow my mind: their Kale Salad (sadly, not on the Restaurant Week menu) is the best salad I have had in Seattle, period. (Sorry Il Corvo – but it’s true.)
Their desserts? Perfection. My eyes rolled back into my head the first time I had the smoked caramel panna cotta. “How do you even get those flavors?” my brain attempted to consider, before relenting and floating into pure apple bliss.
And if you like drinking, but don’t want to drink too much (or at least want to tell yourself you won’t drink too much and then do it anyway), they do this awesome optional add-on where they offer tiny drink pairings with each item. Just enough to bring out the taste and enhance the flavor.
Go during restaurant week. And for that matter, go now and go afterward! It’s a delightful experience.
Recommended order: Yellowtail collar as the appetizer, pork belly the entrée, and then the smoked caramel panna cotta for dessert.
1. El Gaucho – Steak, Belltown
When it comes to Restaurant Week value, there isn’t any deal better than El Gaucho.
I’ve hit it up 4 out of the last 5 restaurant weeks – and not going that fifth time was certainly a mis-steak.
You walk in. The lighting is low, exuding a sense of intimacy. The staff is dressed in black and white attire. You’re led to your table by a charming man or lady. You sit down, are handed menus, realize it’s hard to read because of the aforementioned lighting… and then discover a flashlight on your table to read them.
They’ve thought of everything.
They have flashlights. They valet your car for free if you eat there. They have steaks on swords that they set on fire tableside and serve to you. (Sadly, not a restaurant week option – but considering the most important part is watching said fire, you may just get the show anyway depending on where you’re sitting.)
And they have some of the best service you’ve ever experienced.
When I go to El Gaucho, I feel like me and my party are royalty. I’ve been there for dates. I’ve been there with large groups. And it’s always the same: perfect service, to the tiniest detail.
(Oh, speaking of date nights, here’s a tip: in the same building as El Gaucho is Big Picture Cinemas, an intimate, speakeasy-esque theater that I like a lot. Set up a reservation here, then head on down afterward for a movie. It’s a perfect pairing!)
Now, here’s the (wonderful spiced and seasoned) rub: El Gaucho is pricy. It’s known for its price. A meal setting you back well over $100 here is pretty common.
And Restaurant Week serves you up three cool courses, for an insane $33 value.
Saddle up, my friend. The glory of El Gaucho awaits you.
So, what do you think? Agree or disagree with my picks? Sound off in the comments below!
And if you want to go check these or any other Restaurant Week options out – well, let me know. I’m always up for some Restaurant Week adventures!