The circa-1990s grunge scene has undoubtedly left a permanent cultural imprint on Seattle, yet amid the flannel and clouds of weed smoke, an enviable food scene sprouted in the city. Between agricultural abundance and just-caught seafood from Northwest waters (gawking at the stalls of Pike Place Market is a far better way to play tourist here than riding to the top of the Space Needle), the food turned out at the city’s quirky, chef-owned restaurants is fresh and inventive. But when they’re off the clock, it’s not butter lettuce and satsumas Seattle chefs crave. We asked a 13 of the city’s finest where they like to unwind on a night off, revealing a laid-back city that loves its beer, burgers, and pinball.

Ethan Stowell

Chef/owner at Ethan Stowell Restaurants

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Dick’s Drive-In (111 NE 45th St; 206-632-5125, ddir.com)

Stowell says: “While Dick’s is not a traditional dive, it is maybe the ultimate Seattle tradition. I’ve been going and getting Dick’s Deluxe burgers (double grilled patties with melted cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise, and pickle relish) since I was a kid. On my son’s second birthday he had his very first Dick’s burger and fries—a very proud father moment for me.” (Photo: Weedist.com)

Jason Stoneburner

Chef at Bastille Café & Bar and chef/partner at Stoneburner

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Add-a-Ball (316 N 36th St, #2B; 206-696-1613, add-a-ball.com)

Stoneburner says: “The food is limited to a big ol’ help-yourself bag of double-stuffed Oreos. Really, it’s all about the vintage pinball games and the life-size mural of Patrick Swayze as Bodhi. For the brave of heart, there’s an array of MD 20/20—stay away from the kiwi-lemon, it tastes like a tanning salon—but if sweet hooch isn’t your thing, they do have great local microbrews and some whiskeys.” (Photo: Thrillist)


Jerry Corso

Chef and GM at Bar Del Corso

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Loretta’s Northwesterner (8617 14th Ave S; 206-327-9649, lorettasnorthwesterner.com)

Corso says: “Loretta’s is a great neighborhood spot that’s filled with old-school ’70s beer signs, paintings on pieces of wood, and photos of lumberjacks. The low ceilings, wood paneling, round barstools, and comfy booths make it warm and cozy. You go here for a Tavern Burger—it’s $3 and it’s awesome—with a cold beer, of course. In the summer the back patio is the place to be. There’s an Airstream trailer with seating inside, and when the ping-pong table is out, it’s always a good time.” (Photo: Yelp)

Jason Stratton

Chef/owner at Spinasse, Artusi, and Vespolina

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Kedai Makan (1510 East Olive Way, kedaimakanseattle.com)

Stratton says: “This tiny hole-in-the-wall serves full-flavored Malaysian food—I get the spicy pork rice or the Ramly burger, a beef patty wrapped in an egg—that is craveable and just the thing on your way home from the bar. Take your order next door to Montana to pair with a cocktail on tap or shot of Fernet-Branca, or do as I do and devour it on the street in a good two minutes, huddled under an awning nearby.” (Photo: kedaimakanseattle.com)


Zoi Antonitsas

Executive chef at Westward and Little Gull Grocery

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Shanghai Garden (524 6th Ave; 206-625-1688, theshanghaigarden.com)

Antonitsas says: “I’ve been going here since I was in high school. The spicy beef-tendon salad, hand-shaven barley green noodles, and sautéed pea vines with black mushroom and bean curd—it’s comfort food and a great hangover cure. My nephews love it, too.” (Photo: Urbanspoon)

Jason Wilson

Chef/owner at CRUSH

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: The Shanty Café (350 Elliott Ave W; 206-282-1400; theshantycafe.com)

Wilson says: “Shanty is an old-school, salty dog type of cafe that specializes in good food—I get the chicken fried steak and eggs with hash browns—with personal service and no fuss. It’s a tried and true tradition. The history of the place is fantastic and ties into the maritime and logging industry of the area.” (Photo: Yelp)


Wiley Frank

Chef/co-owner at Little Uncle

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Crawfish House (9826 16th Ave SW; 206-588-1613, crawfishhouse206.com)

Frank says: “I don’t know much about crawfish culture, but I love this place because I don’t know what to do when I sit down except order a bunch of shellfish in a plastic bag, dig in, get buttery, and drink copious amounts of beer. Service lacks any standard Seattle snobbery, which is something that I find refreshing.” (Photo: Crawfish House)

Poncharee Kounpungchart (PK)

Chef/co-owner at Little Uncle

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Quick Pack Food Mart (2616 South Jackson St, 206-328-2127)

PK says: “I go to this convenience store for the fried chicken wings that I can take up to Standard Brewing and consume with some hoppy beer.” (Photo: Yelp)


John Sundstrom

Chef/owner at Lark, Bitter/Raw, and Slab Sandwiches + Pie

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Bush Garden (614 Maynard Ave S; 206-682-6830, bushgarden.net)

Sundstrom says: “Bush Garden is a classic in the International District—it’s been around decades. They serve a grab-bag Japanese menu, but this place is not about the food: it’s all about the strong cocktails and the karaoke.” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

William Belickis

Chef/owner at Mistral Kitchen

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Bourbon & Bones (4350 Leary Way Northwest; 206-582-2241, bourbonandbones.com)

Belickis says: “The fried chicken is a classic at Bourbon & Bones, which I like with a side of hush puppies and collard greens. Their Kentucky Mule is also a must. Good food always comes first, but the friendly bartenders and cool atmosphere make it a great dive.” (Photo: Yelp)


Mike Whisenhunt

Chef/co-founder at Brimmer & Heeltap

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Katsu Burger (6538 4th Ave S; 206-762-0752, katsuburger.com)

Whisenhunt says: “Thank god Katsu Burger isn’t closer to my house because it is so good, but so bad. They nailed it when it comes to the fusion of American burger joint with Japanese flavors. I usually order the Ninja Deluxe (pork cutlet, cheddar, bacon, Japanese mayonnaise, tonkatsu sauce) with nori fries and a kinako and black sesame shake, or Calpico. Some day I’ll go for the Mt. Fuji mega burger.” (Photo: Katsu Burger)

Renee Erickson

Chef/owner at Boat Street Café, the Walrus and the Carpenter, the Whale Wins, Barnacle, Narwhal, and Boat Street Pickles

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Favorite under-the radar spot: Eagle Creek Saloon (31281 U.S. 101, Lilliwaup; 360-877-6729)

Erickson says: “It has really great hand-formed hamburgers, Rainier tall boys, and a classic dive-bar interior, not to mention a giant burger on the roof of the entrance. It’s a good stop on the 101 across the street from the beautiful Hood Canal.” (Photo: Jim Henkens, Yelp)


Eric Donnelly

Chef/owner at RockCreek Seafood & Spirits

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: El Chupacabra (6711 Greenwood Ave N; 206-706-4889, elchupacabraseattle.com)

Donnelly says: “When I find myself in a beat-down state, during a rough patch or after an especially tough dinner service, I head to this place. The margaritas are super strong and they go down real quick—two is typically my limit. The Chup has food, but they’re certainly not trying to win any awards with the menu. I stick with the nachos. With a margarita, they’re usually just right. And possibly my favorite thing about the place is the punk rock/metal jukebox filled with classics like the Misfits, Minor Threat, and Dead Kennedys. The whole combo of strong margs, legit nachos, and loud punk rock sometimes really hits the spot.” (Photo: Foodspotting)