Let’s establish this up front – Seattle NorthCountry will not go easy on you when it comes to choosing the “must-try” restaurants. Fine dining, fresh regional cuisine and wear-your-loose-pants destinations all represent the region admirably. Bon chance, fellow diners, and bon appetit.
Although Russell’s is just a few minutes away from Woodinville and downtown Bothell, it isn’t really on your way to anywhere. Housed in an elegantly remodeled former dairy barn, it’s in a business park not too far from I-405. So you go there intentionally, and it’s perfectly suited to special occasions – birthdays, graduations and the like – but on your average Friday, you’ll also find plenty of locals who make Russell’s their regular destination for happy hour. This mixed vibe – local hangout plus celebration destination – makes for a fine-dining experience without a hint of stuffiness. You’ll love what you dine on; if you don’t express absolute delight with your meal, your server will take it back to the kitchen without hesitation. Everything – salads dressings, sauces, desserts – is made onsite; Russell himself fillets the meats and fish. Fresh is a given, and attention to detail doesn’t sufficiently express the culture in the kitchen; if it’s not done exactly right, it will not be served. Go-to celebration order? Sea scallops starter, followed by filet mignon with mushroom risotto, every time.
190 Sunset, Edmonds
If you’ve been meaning to get to downtown Edmonds, happy hour at 190 Sunset is a solid reason to head that way. With talented, friendly Niles Peacock (recent winner of KING 5’s “Best of Western Washington”) behind the bar and copious food and drink options, it’s a destination with something for everyone, whether gluten-free, vegan or omnivore. Ahi poke tacos on crispy wonton chips are light and spicy; meatloaf balls with gravy are dainty in size but richly satisfying. And while you may see Brussels sprouts on plenty of menus these days, the salty-sweet bacon jam, pecorino and toasted hazelnuts set this rendition of crispy roasted sprouts apart. When the weather cooperates you might head to the deck, but check out the one-of-a-kind bar top before you head out–it was created from the trunk of a Whidbey Island tree.
Lombardi's Italian Restaurant, Everett Marina
Ah, Lombardi’s: we adore your gorgeous waterfront views, thoughtful wine list and difficult choices. It’s wise to ease in with a glass of something delicious and perhaps the Tuscan prawns or crab and shrimp cakes. Prepare to negotiate with your tablemates about who’s getting what for dinner (so you can share bites, of course). Decadent tortellini gorgonzola is a favorite, and chicken Marsala is a standout – yes, it’s served with buttered fettuccini but a gluten-free pasta is available, too. Someone should get the lasagna; it’s Roman style with béchamel, and hard to pass up… Whatever you decide, folks, it’s a can’t-lose scenario.
In downtown Monroe, chef Adam Hoffman has created something quite lovely, with an unassuming, small-town-friendly atmosphere. From your booth, you’ll probably overhear the kitchen music (it tends toward Lynyrd Skynyrd), while the well-rounded menu reflects his fine-dining background: Manilla clams with bacon, in a broth that must be soaked up with your grilled bread; duck breast with orange, honey and cider vinegar sauce. But you can also find fish and chips, burgers and a baked four-cheese pasta, and the garlic mashed potatoes will have you scraping the plate for every last bite. The bacon, salmon and brisket are smoked in-house, and the craft beers, of course, come from Adam’s Twin Rivers Brewing Company. If you’re an IPA drinker, give his a try; it’s fantastic paired with the bistro burger.
Red Cork Bistro, Mukilteo
As you pull into the shopping plaza and drive past the QFC grocery store, you might wonder what exactly awaits you at Red Cork. Rest assured, it won’t take long for you to understand what Mukilteo folks have been buzzing about. Diverse appetizer choices include three kinds of street tacos, pad thai chicken skewers and juicy tzatziki lamb sliders.. Craving comfort food? Go for the chicken parm. Owners Adrian and Soco offer up the variety you want from a neighborhood bistro, and follow through with attentive, friendly service. It’s wise to save room for dessert: the moist, dense apple streusel cake is made in-house, layered with cream cheese, and served warm along with vanilla ice cream and bourbon caramel sauce.
P.S.: King Tut Mediterranean Restaurant in Lynnwood
We tried to keep this listing to five restaurants – we really did – but King Tut Mediterranean deserves a spot here, particularly for our vegan friends, who will find a wealth of options. Start with the falafel, rolled in sesame seeds, with a crispy outer crunch and perfectly tender interior. We’ve never had better. The lightly dressed fattoush salad when paired with koshary (rice with lentils, onion, tomato and garlic sauce) are a deliciously filling combo. Yes, King Tut is located in a strip mall and that just makes us like it more. The colorful interior, lively music and attentive staff add to the fun; the prices encourage you to order a bit too much. Baklava in both walnut and pistachio, with Egyptian coffee, to finish? An enthusiastic yes, please.