Where to Sit: Ask for a table on the terrace, where patrons can look out on all the bustling activity of Pike Place Market.
When to Go: Try happy hour, which occurs from 4–6 p.m. Monday–Friday.
While You’re Waiting: Grab a seat at the long, wooden bar. Bartenders mix cocktails and pour 30 wines by the glass.
Press and Praise
Croque-monsieur: originated in French cafés, this pressed sandwich is filled with ham, gruyère, and béchamel. (A fried egg turns it into a croque-madame.)
Confit: a French term used to describe food that has been cooked in oil, syrup, or—in the case of some meat—its own fat, and then preserved.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Buy a vintage poster at Old Seattle Paperworks (1514 Pike Place).
After: Catch a surprising, tongue-in-cheek production at Theater Schmeater (2125 3rd Avenue).
When to Go
What to Wear: Although Frommer’s calls The Georgian “the most traditional and formal restaurant in the city,” the dress code is “smart casual,” meaning no jackets are required.
Inside Tip: Splurge on the five-course prix-fixe meal with handpicked wine pairings; it usually features fresh seafood and seasonal specialties.
Celeriac: a root vegetable that tastes similar to celery. It’s also known as turnip-rooted celery or knob celery.
Foie gras: the fatty liver from a goose or duck that's been force-fed. The liver is then marinated in a mixture of alcohols and seasonings, and is typically baked.
While Virginia Inn started as a bar, it's now more of a bistro, serving specialty cocktails, local beers and wines, and dishes made with Pacific Northwest ingredients. Washington beef comprises burgers, Alaskan halibut fills sandwiches, and Oregon shrimp mingles with veggies. Even the ice cream is local, hailing from Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream.
Art has been an important part of Virginia Inn since opening under the current management in 1981. It claims to be one of the area's first "artbars," featuring more than 300 artists on its walls over the years. So beloved is its art tradition that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called it one of the two best places to show art in the city in the '80s.
The only reason Virginia Inn wasn’t considered an all-out dive bar was its historic status (it's been around in some form since 1903). That changed in 2008, however, when the space was renovated into what Seattle Met calls "a French-meets-Northwest bistro and bar that outclasses some of the best restaurants in the city." Frommer's also took notice of the menu, praising the spot for it’s “decent, inexpensive French food".
Where to Sit: When the weather is nice, try to snag a coveted outdoor table. When it's rainy, cozy up at one of the second-floor tables overlooking the rest of the café.
The Vibe: The small size of the shop makes it a popular place for quiet activities such as reading, studying, and folding leftover crepes into origami.
When to Go: Coffee and pastries such as muffins and cookies are served at all hours, but the kitchen stops making crepes and paninis earlier in the evening.
While You’re Waiting: Admire the café’s collection of artwork. It’s a result of the One-Eared Rabbit Collaborative, Joe Bar’s initiative to showcase the works of a different artist on the second Thursday of each month. Pieces can range from paintings to woodblock prints.
Diners can truly go the whole hog at Bastille Café & Bar—or the whole fish, fowl, or other creature. Bastille's Whole Beast Feasts use an entire animal to feed groups of up to 16. This may be the most dramatic manifestation of the restaurant's sustainable attitude, but the philosophy also spills onto the rest of the French-inspired menu. Organic and local food from farmers, fishermen, and foragers takes center stage. Dishes such as steamed mussels or grilled flat-iron steak complement a carefully curated wine list that includes chablis from up-and-coming vintners Patrick Piuze and Jean-Pierre Grossot. The results have been widely praised in outlets such as the Seattle Times, which lauded the restaurant's "terrific steak frites" and "authentic Parisian air," the latter piped in from the ventilation system at the Louvre. Bastille's menu isn't the only part of the restaurant filled with foraged ingredients. Pieces of the restaurant itself are, too, including a church buttress and street light scavenged from Paris and art-deco sconces created right in Washington. The eye candy often continues outside the windows: "At brunch, the fluffy omelets and the farmers' market people-watching are top-notch," wrote Seattle Magazine in naming Bastille an Editor's Pick.
The line often stretches out the door at Cafe Besalu—but the wait might not seem too long. That’s because the aromas wafting outside spark daydreams of savory and sweet croissants, quiche, and of course, coffee. Read on for more of the buzz surrounding this Seattle hotspot.
"Among Besalu's croissants, brioches, and danishes you'll find the humble ginger biscuit. If you're lucky enough to nab one (or two) hot out of the oven, it won't just warm your belly, but your entire being." — Seattle Weekly
“A slice of France here in Ballard, this small, casual bakery gets patrons from across the entire city, thanks to its I-swear-I'm-in-Paris croissants—they are buttery, flaky perfection.” — Fodor’s
"At Ballard’s Besalu, James Miller’s soft, somewhat stout croissants ($2.30) land on the pale side of the spectrum, which lends them a soft, subtle, pure butter flavor." — Seattle magazine
“At Besalu, ham-and-cheese and chocolate croissants, orange-glazed brioche, quiche, and more are all made with benevolent obsessiveness by pastry chef/co-owner James Miller.” — The Stranger