12 of Seattle’s outstanding spots for celebrating special occasions

Seattle’s signature rain clouds never dampen the celebrations here. Emerald City’s vibrant restaurant scene, filled with spots worthy of anniversaries, birthday gatherings, and achievements of all sizes, is constantly growing.

Mark a promotion at an old-school Capitol Hill steakhouse that prioritizes sustainable cuts. Impress a date with Venezuelan Japanese fare at an under-the-radar spot in White Center. And when the sun does shine, head straight to a West Seattle stunner that serves stellar seafood and delicious water views.

At these 12 sought-after Seattle restaurants, the food, service, and ambiance were made for festivities, so book a table now.

Art of the Table (Wallingford)

Scallop crudo at Art of the Table. | Credit: Art of the Table

Chef Dustin Ronspies has been creating culinary masterpieces since opening Art of the Table in 2007. His original location was a cramped 24-seater; the current spot has triple the seats while maintaining an intimate, family-like feeling. It’s a stylish space to toast any occasion, with lots of windows bringing light to the dining room. But the best seats in the house are at the chef’s counter that semicircles the open kitchen, where you can watch the artists preparing dishes. Five-course tasting menus are offered Wednesday through Saturday starting at $135 per person, with wine pairings available. Courses might move from scallop crudo to duck tortellini to honey-lacquered duck breast to red beet panna cotta; Ronspies uses seasonal ingredients in ways that are sure to make any celebration sing.

Bateau (Capitol Hill/First Hill)

The chalkboard at Bateau. | Credit: David Dosset

If your idea of a celebration is eating an A1-drizzled T-bone while sipping a martini in a dimly lit dining room, this is the restaurant to book. Bateau is part of James Beard Award-winning chef Renee Erickson’s Sea Creatures family of restaurants. But you’re here for land-dwellers, namely cows. The walnut-floored dining room features a massive chalkboard that lists various butcher cuts of the day, ranging from underblade to bavette. They’re sold a la carte by weight and served with a selection of butter types (hello, bone marrow). Choose what you’d like, then your server immediately updates availability on the big board. Don’t overlook the rest of the menu, in which chef Taylor Thornhill executes a mission of whole animal usage with dishes such as luscious steak tartare with umeboshi and ikura and beef liver mousse with fruit paste. Round out your meal with seasonal vegetable dishes crafted with creative flair.

Café Juanita (Kirkland)

Café Juanita’s branzino. | Credit: Tom Barwick

Holly Smith opened Café Juanita in 2000 to showcase her passion for northern Italian cuisine. Both Smith and the restaurant are James Beard Award nominees. Situated alongside Juanita Creek in Kirkland, this is the spot to book when your celebration calls for a mini escape from the city center. Grab a seat at one of the many dining spaces, which includes a 10-seat chef’s table with open kitchen views. There are four tasting menus available: The omnivore features dishes such as duck breast with potato horseradish tortino, Perigord black truffle, and red currant jus; the vegan menu offers polenta taragna with chanterelles, salad onions, morel crema, Bing cherries, and a lemony Italian sauce. Pastas are homemade, as are gelati and sorbetti in unusual but celebration-worthy flavors such as fennel seed and honeycomb.

Canlis (Queen Anne)

Sea bream with pickled chanterelles at Canlis. | Credit: Canlis

Canlis is the restaurant where you: (a) propose, (b) celebrate making partner, or (c) spend the first of your lottery winnings. It is renowned for the best service in Seattle, nominated for a James Beard Award in that category as well as Hospitality—and that’s not where the accolades end. Canlis has won Beard awards in recent years for Outstanding Wine Program, Best Chef Northwest, and Design Icon. From the moment you drop your car key with the valet, Canlis staff will make you feel special. Service is thoughtful, anticipatory, and attentive without being overbearing. Since the 1950s, the Canlis family has provided an experience that many Seattleites long to experience at least once in their lifetimes. Built on a cliff and practically floating on Lake Union, this place delights. Executive chef Aisha Ibrahim brings extensive international experience to stunning Pacific Northwest-inspired multi-course menus; choose three items and let the kitchen surprise you with several others. Oh, and yes, the pianist segues from Sinatra to Radiohead.

The George (Downtown)

The George’s recently refreshed interiors. | Credit: Brandon Barre

There’s a good reason why luminaries such as John Wayne and Elvis Presley dined at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. Originally opened in 1924, the hotel’s restaurant has offered elegance and excellent service alongside fine dining. Following a multi-million dollar overhaul this spring, The George, as the dining room is now known, is opulent, with an updated classic vibe that soars from its granite tile floors to its breathtaking vaulted ceilings. In stark contrast to the typical “Seattle casual” (think fleece jacket and jeans) wardrobe, this is a celebratory downtown destination where you should dress to the nines. Brasserie-inspired food showcases locally sourced dairy, produce, and meats from the state’s farms as well as seafood from nearby waters. You can also enjoy cocktails from award-winning bartender Jesse Cyr, particularly if you’re celebrating with a vacation—or staycation—and retiring to a room in the hotel.

Joule (Wallingford)

A spread at Joule. | Credit: Amber Fouts

As their story goes, perennial James Beard Award nominees Rachel Yang and partner Seif Chirchi fell in love while working in a New York City kitchen run by French chef Alain Ducasse. They came cross-country to settle in Seattle and have served innovative cuisine at Joule, an anniversary-worthy destination, since 2007. She’s Korean, he’s Tunisian; Joule represents the best kind of fusion cooking. It cleverly combines French and Korean staples and techniques, though the menu has all sorts of international influences from elsewhere in Asia and beyond. Chinese scallion pancakes are served with smoked salmon roe and crème fraîche. Rice cakes come with chorizo and pickled mustard greens—plus plenty of spice. Don’t miss the mackerel with fish caramel, which ups the ante on any celebration.

Mamnoon (Capitol Hill/First Hill)

Manmoon’s menu is filled with shareable Levantine plates. | Credit: Reva Keller

Mamnoon fulfills your need for fun on any festive occasion, be it a first date or a gathering of longtime friends. Wassef and Racha Haroun opened the restaurant in 2012 to showcase Levantine cuisine, introducing Seattleites to new spices and skewered meats. The low-lit dining room is a contrast to the colorful plates of food that arrive on your table. Order the mezze (appetizers), for which you’ll want to have plenty of fresh pita for dipping. The moushakal is a favorite, as it comes with four different spreads: baba ghanoush with charred eggplant, creamy hummus, mint-kissed labneh, and nutty muhammara with pomegranate molasses. Grilled meats, such as shish taouk, grilled chicken marinated in yogurt and glazed in tamarind, are suitable for sharing. Lamb is also a specialty, making appearances on the menu in kefta, kebab, and awarma (confit) form. Creative cocktails such as the fountain of youth, made with sparkling rosé, grapefruit, pomegranate, and bianco vermouth, round out an unforgettable evening.

Meet Korean BBQ (Capitol Hill)

A celebratory meal at Meet Korean BBQ. | Credit: Meet Korean BBQ

Bond with family, friends, or colleagues over an open flame at this spirited special occasion spot. Start your dinner at Meet Korean BBQ by clinking glasses of soju, Korean, and local beer while exclaiming, “geonbae” (Korean for “cheers”). Seafood pancakes and kimchi fried rice will get your taste buds going as you wait for platters of various cuts of wagyu beef and kurobuta pork. While most Korean BBQ restaurants are CIY (cook-it-yourself), at Meet, a grill specialist—maybe even chef/owner Heong Soon Park, who also runs Pike Place Market’s Bacco Café—will cook your order to perfection. Park and team can coach you on how to assemble your lettuce wrap, or ssam, with the custom sauces, kimchi, and perilla leaves. It’s a let-your-hair-down type of meal, perfect for a boisterous gathering.

Salty’s on Alki Beach (West Seattle/Alki)

Toast-worthy Puget Sound views accompany the meals at Salty’s on Alki Beach | Credit: Salty’s on Alki Beach

Situated on a breathtaking spot with a look-back-at-Seattle vista, Salty’s on Alki Beach is an idyllic place to bring your out-of-town guests—or a reason to get out of town yourself. It’s a multi-level restaurant with a wraparound deck; outdoor dining is offered year-round. While the location is a big draw here, the friendly staff are engaging, seeking to make your meal an extra-special one. Not surprisingly, the menu skews towards seafood. The signature chowder is an intense and briny stew of surf clams, bay shrimp, and scallops. Salmon fans will enjoy the grilled king salmon with charred tomato, asparagus, and sweet onion in red pepper almond aioli, accompanied by harissa roasted fingerlings. Then there’s the Louie Louie: a crab and bay shrimp salad with olives, egg, tomato, cucumber, asparagus, croutons, and Louis dressing. Dungeness crab rules here when it’s in season, and shellfish samplers are also popular.

Shaker + Spear (Belltown/Pike Place Market)

Shaker + Spear’s halibut. | Credit: Adela Lee

Shaker + Spear is the answer to one of the hardest questions visitors and newbies to Seattle ask: What’s a great seafood place downtown? While there are tourist spots that value water views over quality seafood, Shaker + Spear is a downtown destination with a killer menu. Inside the Kimpton Palladian Hotel, the restaurant was designed by renowned Seattle architects Graham Baba and has an edgy yet welcoming atmosphere, featuring cast glass and weathered wood. Executive Chef Jay Donahue is at the helm, preparing market-fresh, innovative, and sustainably harvested fare. Charred octopus with nduja and rapini, pulpo croquettes (Donahue’s on Japanese takoyaki), and Hood Canal manila clams with linguica are all great choices. To make it a truly celebratory evening, enjoy cocktails next door at Pennyroyal before or after your meal.

Sushi Kappo Tamura (Eastlake & Allison)

The upscale and yet casual Sushi Kappo Tamura in Eastlake is one of Seattle’s finest sushi restaurants, and a great spot for bringing in a more intimate occasion. Don’t overlook the ippins, or small plates, served both hot and cold. Typically eaten before sushi, the selection here includes sophisticated seafood preparations such as kinki no yakimono (grilled rockfish) and kinmedai no nitsuke (simmered golden-eye snapper). Sit at the polished wood counter to chat with chef and owner Taichi Kitamura, an avid fly-fisher, to get a crash course on seafood. The best way to enjoy is to relinquish control and order omakase, letting Kitamura and co. choose your food. The saké list is impressive, and there are plenty of Japanese whisky and shochu options. Don’t skip dessert: yuzu panna cotta and chestnut crème brûlée make for extra special endings.

Tomo (White Center)

A cocktail lineup at Tomo. | Credit: Kyle Johnson

At Tomo, chef Brady Williams took his show from a Seattle institution (he was the sixth chef to lead Canlis’s celebrated kitchen) to a new spot in White Center. With no sign on the street, its clandestine vibes will add a bit of intrigue to any celebration. The seemingly simple menu—fresh cheese with peas and horseradish, sablefish katsu with spring onions and egg—belies the complexity of the dishes. Not surprisingly, Williams won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest in 2019. Dinner features two options for five-course tasting menus (one vegetarian) at $68 per person. The menu is micro-seasonal, the ingredients are ethically sourced, and the dishes are inspired by the heritages of the culinary team—specifically Venezuelan and Japanese. The name Tomo pays homage to Williams’s grandmother, Tomoko Ishiwata Bristol, but also means “friend” in Japanese. It’s clear the chef wants his space to be a familiar, community-oriented place to gather. Tomo may draw people in for special occasions, but it’s a restaurant worth revisiting often.

Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer whose work has been featured in USA Today, Lucky Peach (RIP), Eater, and Serious Eats, to name a few. He’s been hailed as “Seattle’s authoritative voice on Asian cuisine,” and his Gastrolust website aggregates some of his writing about Asian restaurants (and more) from Seattle to Chengdu.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.

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