Pancakes, waffles, dutch babies (really!), french toast, biscuits and gravy (very odd sounding to us Brits), hash browns, huevos rancheros, scrambles (but very different to English scramble), tortas, mimosa (bucks fizz in the UK)…who doesn’t love brunch???
We can’t really do a ‘top places in Seattle to eat brunch’ post given we have hardly been here 5 minutes and have a long list of places to still try out. But whilst brunching at Vios in Third Place Books (a wonderful independent book store) last Monday, President’s Day and a public holiday, we started to list our favourite brunch experiences so far. It came to 10 places – and a list of 10 seems sharable. So we won’t claim they are the best, but feel assured that if you brunch at any one of them you should have a great time and eat well. We have pulled on our two trips to Seattle before moving here, but have eaten at all of them within the last year. Depending where you go the waitstaff can be a core part of the experience, giving a wonderful performance – from the trendy and the alternative to the down-right naughty! Brunch is a fun and fabulous weekend treat.
The UK doesn’t really ‘do brunch’. There is the traditional fry up, there are ‘ladies who lunch’, there is the Sunday roast lunch feast – often in a pub, and a number of other such traditions. Good in their own way, but not brunch. The bloke used to try to create brunch anyway. This was often by ordering a number of starters and asking for them to all come together. It confused the wait staff no-end, and we ended up with something more like tapas than brunch – but it was the best we could manage if out. So part of our getting to know Seattle just had to include exploring the brunch options – this moving country is hard work you know! And we were without kitchen equipment for sometime…excuses, excuses.
Of course brunch is supposed to cover breakfast and lunch appetites, our experience is that mostly it does you for the whole day. Seattle doesn’t do ‘Texan size’ servings, but still – even when you don’t finish all on your plate – it is hard to contemplate anything else passing your lips until you have had a good night’s sleep! Well maybe a bit of popcorn as you watch a movie…but really no more.
So – here is our list of 10 great places to have brunch in Seattle. The price range is wide, from special occasion to every weekend and the places are located across the city. The list is in alphabetical order as we’d hate to rank them against each other, each has their delights.
Gorgeous decor in the currently very trendy entertainment district of Ballard. We called in here after shopping at wonderful Ballard Farmers Market. It was lovely weather and everywhere on the street was busy, we were so pleased to find a table in such a great place. The waitress was a joy – bright, entertaining and a kind of performance art. Her description of hushpuppies – a completely new thing to me, I hadn’t even heard of them never mind eaten them, was “deep fried balls of happiness!” They were delicious, surprisingly – deep fried food is never top of my list but she encouraged me to trust her and I’m glad I did. Bitterroot only do brunch on a Sunday, but then Sunday is a really great day to be in Ballard.
Coastal Kitchen (Capitol Hill)
They have booths here. Those in the USA don’t understand just how exciting eating in a booth is to us English folk. It is like being in a movie! Whenever I post a photo on Facebook that has us in a booth the envious comments flow in. Thankfully the food here is great too. I am rather too prone to order pancakes for brunch – I’m trying to train myself to look beyond them, but you’ll see that they are a recurring theme. There are 3 pancake choices, the hazelnut-cinnamon ones were wonderful. I don’t think I have met anyone here who hasn’t eaten at Coastal Kitchen, so it is hardly a secret and queues can go out of the door. But queuing is all part of the brunch experience, and they tend to move at a good pace.
Elliot Bay Public House and Brewery (Lake City)
The extensive choice of made on the site organic beers may even challenge the natural brunch choice of mimosa here. Although the name makes it sound like a pub it isn’t a british style one – more a sports bar with a family feel. The malted banana blueberry pancakes (I did warn you) are really fantastic. You get three, eating two is more than enough – which was just as well as the husband demolished the third having already eaten his own meal. He said they were so good he couldn’t bare them to go to waste! The home smoked sumac salmon scramble needs a mention too – delicious.
Hi Spot Cafe (Madronna)
Hi Spot has apparently been there for 30 years, this is quite an achievement in the fast moving world of Seattle eateries, and the ever developing and re-developing neighbourhoods in the city. It can get very busy, but they sit you inside in a cafe type area and you can drink coffee whilst the diners above you progress with their meal and vacate their seats. The french toast is good, as are the pancakes and there is a wide choice of scrambles. Although scrambled egg is really well known in the UK, maybe with smoked salmon on, the diversity of scrambles offered in the USA is new to me and I’m enjoying coming across so many combinations and trying some at home.
Oddfellows (Capitol Hill)
Brilliant to go to at any time of day, one of the many things to recommend this lovely vibrant cafe is that they have the strongest mimosas yet served to us – with good quality fizz and in gorgeous vintage cocktail glasses. The husband wanted a second, but I feared nothing else would get done all day if we went down that route! Many of the waiters here are joyful, entertaining, beautiful, stylish and out and out gay – I’m sure all their wages must go on clothes, they are so well turned out. When the weather is good the large front windows open wide, and there are seats out the front and in a courtyard at the back. The food is beautifully plated and scrumptious, and there are usually specials as well as the regular menu. Post brunch shopping choices are rather tempting too – with Elliot Bay Books and NuBe Green just next door.
Brunch 500ft up with a 360 degree view of Seattle as the tables are on a revolving platform in the iconic Space Needle – how could you not want to be here? Well maybe the price, which is set and for a 3 course brunch which is more food than anyone needs – but it is a wonderful treat. We were so fortunate to be taken there by my husband’s parents when they visited. As a tourist trap there was concern that the food would be the low point, but it so wasn’t – as with many Seattle eateries there is great emphasis put on local and seasonal foods. We found the bread pudding is great reheated the next day, so if by that point you are needing a take home box I’d really recommend it. I’d also suggest you don’t get overexcited by the bread basket at the start – but you are stronger than me if you could follow such advice, totally delicious selection. The price includes a ‘free’ visit to the Space Needle observation desk so if you take the normal entry fee off the brunch cost you could convince yourself it is excellent value.
Skillet Diner (Capitol Hill)
Skillet started as a food cart, serving from a vintage Airstream trailer, which alerts to you both how trendy and how retro it is. The cart remains but they added this sit down diner in Capitol Hill and more recently venues at the Seattle Center and in Ballard. Drinks, from gorgeous frescas to delightful cocktails, are served in caning jars. I like sitting at the counter – another very american thing, on a par with booths. The maple braised pork belly on cornmeal waffle is hard to beat, and hard to finish – it comes with 2 eggs as well! The biscuits and sage gravy are wonderful. The menu runs 7am – 10pm every day (with additional dinner offerings available after 5pm) so whenever you get that brunch urge they are likely to be able to satisfy you.
St Clouds (Madronna)
One weekend a month St Clouds have their special huevos rancheros – that is the weekend the bloke wants us to go. He has anointed it with “the best he has ever had” accolade, which is saying a lot. The chef is from Oaxaca, and this dish more than matches those we have had in Mexico. The eggs benedict is my choice – it comes from their ‘not so standard’ list, which is well named. St Clouds has a strong community commitment and its programme which brings together local people to cook in the restaurant kitchens so as to feed over 450 people living in homeless hostels and tents every month is remarkable. This may make it sound like the worst style hippy-drippy, alternative vibe would fill the place – but no, it is a very beautiful, professional, slick restaurant with great service, amusing waiters and excellent food.
Tilikum Place Cafe (Belltown)
The home of the dutch baby – well I guess not the home, but we learnt about this place via a US food programme which visited Seattle and they suggested you must eat the dutch baby. I had never heard of eating a baby. It turns out it is sort of like yorkshire pudding but lighter and can be sweet or savoury – a batter mix that is baked. They are very good – that is the most important thing to know – they do take a while to make, but what is 20 minutes when there are excellent cocktails to drink. Another place with a great specials board, although be warned the specials do sell out so if you go later into the brunch period you may see that very thing you had spent a while selecting being wiped off the board – I speak from experience. You can reserve, which isn’t the norm in Seattle, and it is recommended – although we have walked in too. As with many places here the kitchens are fairly open to view, so sitting at the counter can be great fun – it also means you get to discuss local gins with the bartender…
Vios Cafe at Third Place (Ravenna)
The location where this blog post began. Vios is a Greek restaurant (really fantastic babaganoush) but is more american for brunch. I had my first ever ricotta cheese pancakes here, they come with a gorgeous lemon curd, so light and delicious. The sausage in the biscuits and gravy is pretty spicy, which pleased the bloke no end. As well as individual settings there are family style long tables where you may end up next to other really interesting people and get to swap brunch stories and tips. Vios has the catering role at Third Place bookstore – one area is a self service cafe/internet space, then there is the restaurant and downstairs is a pub which we haven’t been in but the photos make us feel we should – apparently people play bar games down there too. Brunch has a very family feel, plenty of children about and they run a colouring competition each month where they give out sheets to complete and display everyone’s work.
Well those are our current ten favourites, so we should have plenty of choice however long any visitors stay! We’d love ideas on other places to try, after all you can never have too long a list of brunch options, as long as they do pancakes of course…