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Must-visit Restaurants in Seattle

Seattle is great place – one of the coolest cities I know. The people are friendly and still say “hi” to you at the market. Drivers are courteous and know how to use the signal light. Okay, the weather is terrible most of the time; clouds, gloom and rain hover over the city.

Maybe that’s why coffee is the most popular beverage here. Think I’m lying? Starbucks isn’t king in this town when drive-through coffee places crowd every corner and unique and quirky coffee houses line neighborhood streets. When the sun does peek out, the city sparkles.

The best time to visit is during the summer; people are happy, the Pacific Ocean gleams against the city skyline, Lake Washington awakens to excited boaters and water skiers. It’s a magical place.

Of course, having grown up there, I took all of Seattle’s attributes for granted, and as a senior in high school I fervently counted the days until I could escape to the warmth of Los Angeles for college.

For a month last summer (and almost every summer or Christmas before then) when the kids and I visited my parents, I happily tripped down memory lane as I lost my mind and hit all the restaurants I’ve missed over the years living in Southern California and South Florida.

Seattlelites are obsessed foodies and demand great food. Fortunately, the city provides for this request passionately.

Seattle

A good burger is hard to find. A great burger is even rarer. Forget the fast food chains, I’ve sworn them off. Sure, they’re cheap and fast, but the quality is lacking and, often times, the taste is too. A good burger needs to be hearty and juicy.

You should be able to taste the distinct flavors of the beef and cheese and whatever else you put on your burger as it culminates into a savory concoction in your mouth. A great burger should leave you stunned, unable to grasp any adjectives that describe this sacred experience.

In the charming neighborhood of Seattle’s Phinney Ridge lies a singular restaurant that defies reason. At Red Mill Burgers, you’re sure to find a great burger. I’m convinced that the secret is in the Mill Sauce. I’m not quite sure what’s in it – definitely mayonnaise, but there’s something in there that, as Emeril says, “kicks it up a notch.”

Try a few notches and then some. My go-to pick every time is the Bacon Deluxe with American Cheese, hold the pickle. The bacon is peppery, the tomato is ripe and the lettuce has that just-right-green look. The beef patties are incredibly juicy and add spirited bulk to the burger.

Forget the napkins – just bring a container of baby wipes, because you’re going to need it. Don’t forget to order a side of crispy fries or onion rings. I also like a side of ranch and a side of tartar sauce (or Tub O’ Tartar sauce as indicated on their menu) – essential to eating the fries.

One bite of a Red Mill Burger and the rest of my day is perfect. I am left with no words. I am… speechless. Red Mill Burgers, 312 North 67th Street (Phinney Ridge), Seattle, #206.783.6362 and 1613 W. Dravus Street, Seattle, #206.284.6363 (Interbay). $

Red Mill Burgers

There are many, many, many seafood restaurants in the emerald city. High-end, elegant fare populate prime real estate around the water. Casual, smaller restaurants take their place anywhere they can. One of my favorite memories as a kid was going to Ivar’s and getting fish and chips (made with Pacific Cod) and fried clam strips and chips with so much tartar sauce that my dad always had to tell me I needed to stop getting so much – there wouldn’t be anything for left for everyone else.

I was also a sucker for malt vinegar. The best nights were the all-you-can-eat nights. I would get the combo with fish and clams and go back for more until I could barely sit up straight. The clam chowder there is so good; if they didn’t have anything else on the menu, Ivar’s would still be very popular just serving the chowder.

When I went back last year, everything was the same, perhaps even better than my own memories. The fish was white and crispy. The clam strips were fried to perfection. And there were bottles and bottles of malt vinegar. It’s just seafood heaven. Ivar’s Seafood Bars, multiple locations in the Seattle area. $

Having lived in South Florida for more than five years now, I have yet to go to a Chinese restaurant that I cannot live without. There is no Chinatown here, so Chinese restaurants are scattered. Often times, the menu is Chinese plus a mish-mash of popular foods from other Asian cultures. Chinese and Thai? No thanks.

If I wanted Thai food, I would have just gone to a Thai restaurant. My cravings for savory Dim Sum or chow mein Hong Kong-style remain cravings. I don’t have this dilemma when I’m in Seattle. I love going to Tai Tung for authentic Chinese food, and I’m not talking about the food from P.F. Chang’s or Panda Express. In the heart of Seattle’s International District since 1935, Tai Tung has built a solid reputation.

The restaurant is definitely not flashy, unlike it’s newer neighbors where roast duck, barbecue pork and tanks of fish fill the large windows. No, Tai Tung is the antithesis of flash. Huddled in a quiet space, the restaurant is dark and quiet – there’s no hustle and bustle here.

The dark wood panels and booths lend to an almost seedy nature. There’s always someone at the bar who looks like Father Time chatting it up with the bartender who could be his twin brother.

The clientele is definitely older, and so is the staff. But there’s definitely a lot of character here, and that’s why I keep coming back. Well, that and the food. The fried salt and pepper shrimp and squid has a dear place in my heart. The batter is always light and never greasy.

The shrimp is so crispy and mouth-watering you could eat the tail! The squid is outrageously good. I also would do cartwheels over the Peking duck. The skin is so crispy, glazed with a deep red/brown color. The meat is incredibly tender and I can’t get enough of it.

Sit closer to the regulars and your dinner will be more interesting. Tai Tung, 655 S. King Street, Seattle, #206.622.7372. Cheap to moderate – menu items between $-$$

Read:Must-visit Restaurants in Los Angeles

I rarely eat fast-food. Every time I drive by McDonald’s or Burger King, I cringe. Believe me, if my fortitude ever broke down, I would eat at McDonald’s often. There’s something about the Quarter Pounder with Cheese (hold the pickle) with Mickey D fries that is difficult to ignore.

IvarE28099sSeafoodBars

I choose to ignore it because I always feel sick whenever I eat there. I’m even more disgusted when I look at the nutritional value of each menu item. So as I stand on my soapbox against fast-food chains, I secretly have a soft spotfor Taco Time, a fast food chain. I guess it’s not a secret anymore.

A Northwest staple since 1960, Taco Time was my first introduction to Mexican food. Okay, so it’s quasi-Mexican food. They have these things called Mexi-fries, which sound a little exotic until you realize it’s actually tater tots fried to a crisp.

The menu item that puts me in a tailspin is the Crisp Meat Burrito. Stuffed with lean ground beef and cheese, then rolled in a flour tortilla and deep fried, the Crisp Meat Burrito is terribly… wonderful. It’s reminiscent of a flauta.

What makes this entire experience even better is the hot sauce. It’s spicy, but not too spicy. Yes, I’m a hypocrite when it comes to Taco Time, but it’s worth it. Taco Time, numerous Seattle locations. $

Home to a stable of award-winning restaurants and local mom and pop dives, Seattle is a city that thrives on food and restaurants. One visit will have you coming back for more.

$ – $10 or less (per person)

$$ – $11-25

$$$ – $26-50

$$$$ – $50-100

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