The Over-Hyped List: Seattle Restaurant Edition

Posted on
Feb 1, 2010

Originally an east-coaster, my husband maintains that Seattle is a pretty easy town in which to make a good impression. We tell each other snobbish little jokes on the topic all the time …

Me: If you want to be the best-dressed person in a Seattle bar, what should you wear?

Rand: What?

Me: Your clean jeans!

or …

Rand: How do you get a standing ovation from a Seattle audience?

Me: How?

Rand: Finish the show.


The fact is, for how snobbish and elitist us Northwesterners supposedly are, we can be very, very easily impressed. Plays, music shows, and, most importantly, restaurants, are often over-hyped. That’s not to say that we have a shortage of awesome places to eat in Seattle – quite the contrary. We have plenty of great spots to grab a bite. But often, they’re not the places that get the most attention. In an effort to balance out the playing field, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most over-hyped restaurants/eateries in all of Seattle, along with a few alternatives that will hopefully spare you some time, money, and grief.

  1. Paseo

    People literally line up out the door for this place. I still dont understand why (Photo via

    People literally line up out the door for this place. I still don't understand why (Photo via

    Having spent my fair share of time in Southern Florida, I know good Cuban food. And I’m sorry to say, Paseo is not it. People line up out the door and around the block for a morsel from this way-too-crowded sandwich shop, but it’s not worth the wait. While the prices are reasonable, sandwiches are messy and hastily thrown together. Toppings and seasonings aren’t uniform, and bread isn’t nearly as fresh as it could be. Paired with a mealy, overcooked piece of corn, even the most lowly of food stands in South Beach could put this place to shame.

  2. Molly Moon’s Ice Cream

    What is it with Seattlites and waiting outside for food? It’s not like we live in a warm part of the country. And why one earth would we wait outside, in the cold, for -gasp- ice cream? It’s pure insanity, and yet I see folks rounding the block outside both the Capitol Hill and Wallingford locations of this sweet shop. Usually the clientele is a bunch of cranky jerks (forgivable, considering they’ve been waiting for 40 minutes in 40 degree weather), and by the time you get a scoop you’ll find it’s good … but that’s it. What’s worse is that Molly Moon’s claims to be homemade, which is only partially true. The shops don’t make their own ice cream – instead, they use Snoqualmie base and add their own flavors. Which, if you ask me, is like grabbing a store-bought cheese pizza, sprinkling some toppings on it, and saying you made it yourself. For shame.Also, this is Molly Moon’s logo. It is of a Boston Terrier licking ice cream. I suppose some people find that image appetizing.

    Alternatively, I suggest Tolstoi, my cousin’s dog, should be their mascot. Tolstoi often scratches his ass on the floor or, if opportunity presents itself, an unsuspecting visitor’s foot.

    Give me some ice cream or your foot gets it.

    "Give me some ice cream or your foot gets it."

  3. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Pike Place Market

    Mmm ... nothing says yummy like two ladies in hair nets. (Photo courtesy of amanderson2, via

    Mmm ... nothing says yummy like ladies in hair nets. (Photo courtesy of amanderson2, via

    As much as I appreciate a good grilled cheese, I don’t think anyone can justify a $6 price tag – not even the folks at Beecher’s, who can be seen making their own cheese right inside a sanitary, window-lined room right inside the shop itself. It’s not that the cheese is bad – it’s mostly raw curds (the kind that feel a bit squeaky and rubbery against your teeth), but it’s simple and dull compared to the creations that come out of the Rogue River or Cowgirl Creameries. And the mac n’ cheese, while beloved by all, is greasy and overcooked. For a better cheesy bite in the market, try the mac n’ cheese at Frontier Room or Michou.

  4. Via Tribunali

    This is a photo of the bar. It is where you will have to sit if the servers deem you unworthy of a table. (Photo via

    This is a photo of the bar. It is where you will have to sit if the servers deem you unworthy of a table. (Photo via

    Allow me to be frank (you can continue to be you): the staff here are a bunch of douchebags. No, seriously. Some of them are Italian, and freely talk shit about their clientele. Including those that speak Italian, and understand every word they say. They also will bully you into sitting at the bar, even though a table is free, by giving you some lame excuse that you can’t sit there (thus keeping the table open for a bigger party). Pizzas are nothing special – at nearly $20 a pie, it’s pretty decent, but nothing to write home about. Looking for a great slice without the attitude? Try Tutta Bella (the Wallingford location is perfect to bring the kids) or La Vita e Bella (which is also run by Italians, but they don’t talk crap).

  5. Kisaku

    This was totally worth the 4 hour wait, Im sure. (Photo courtesy of jwalsh, via

    This was totally worth the 4 hour wait, I'm sure. (Photo courtesy of jwalsh, via

    Don’t get me wrong – I love Kisaku. Or rather, I love one dish in particular – the raw oysters with ponzu sauce and shredded diakon radish. That dish alone is amazing, but the rest of the menu? It’s just sushi. Solid sushi, definitely, but sushi nonetheless. It doesn’t merit the crazy waiting for a table (even if you have a reservation, don’t be surprised if they make you wait 30 minutes to an hour), the hours spent waiting for your food at the table (again, an hour isn’t unreasonable) or the fact that they’ll be trying to rush you out the second your food arrives. All in all, not a great dining experience.

  6. Cantinetta

    This gives you some idea of the crowds and noise level in this place (photo courtesy of

    This gives you some idea of the crowds and noise level in this place (photo via

    After some stellar reviews in the newspaper, several of our friends wanted to try this little Italian restaurant in Wallingford. We managed to get a highly-sought-after reservation, and were seated fairly promptly. But the crowd is overwhelming, extending far into the dining room and a plethora of butts will bump into your table, should you manage to get one. The noise is deafening – not sure what’s going on with the acoustics in this place, but you literally aren’t able to hear people sitting next to you, while the drunk girl at the bar is audible from even the bathroom. As for the food? My porchetta was woefully underdone (hello, trichinosis!) and my pasta was so overcooked it congealed into a doughy lump in my plate. The final kicker: this place isn’t even cheap.

  7. Thai Tom’s

    Not pictured: Numerous health violations (Photo courtesy of closari, via

    Not pictured: Numerous health violations (Photo courtesy of closari, via

    College kids are morons. That’s the only reason I can see why they’d line up around the block to get a meal from this tiny, cramped hole-in-the-wall near the University of Washington. What’s worse is that it’s not even that good. I can only assume that because these kids are stuck in their dorm rooms eating cafeteria food and ramen, that Thai Tom’s is, by relative comparison, a culinary godsend. But it’s not. Believe me. Besides the food being mediocre, at best, their health violations are through the roof. Hop in the car and head over to Ballard – ThaiKu not only tastes better, but – bonus – there’s less of a chance of catching cholera.

  8. Skillet

    Okay, Ill admit: this actually looks pretty damn good. If it didnt make me sick, Id think I was crazy (photo courtesy of jwalsh, via

    Okay, I'll admit: this actually looks pretty damn good. If it didn't make me sick, I'd think I was crazy (photo courtesy of jwalsh, via

    This is a risky one to add to the list – seriously, the Seattle foodistas are going to be outside my home wielding torches and sporks and calling for my head over this. But the thing is, for all the hype and the crazy lines, Skillet isn’t that great. It’s yummy and all, and the bacon jam is a revelation, but the one time I ate there, I was viciously sick. They’ve racked up some serious health violations and have been shut down a couple of times as well. If I’m going to wait in line for something that’s going to make me nauseous, shouldn’t it be the most recent Hugh Grant romantic comedy?

  9. Sutra

    This is the guy who made us pray to the whales and mother ocean, or whatever. (Photo via

    This is the guy who made us pray to the mother ocean, or whatever. (Photo via

    We’d heard lots of raves about this vegetarian/vegan restaurant, but the raves were from, well, vegetarians and vegans. Since I’m convinced a lack of protein and an excess of kale can cloud your judgment, it wasn’t until some old-fashioned meat-lovers recommended this place that we decided to go.

    Ewwww … First off, the waiter asked us to give thanks to, like, the whales, or some such nonsense, and I’m 99% certain he rang a bell and chanted “Oooommmm”. And the food was not great. As in, “not great even if it came with a side of cow”. After three un-filling courses of overcooked veggies, we were ready to make a break for the nearest burger joint. I suspect vegan cuisine can be good. But this place just isn’t.

  10. Cedars Indian Restaurant

    Looks good, right? And it will only cost you YOUR SOUL. (Photo via

    Looks good, right? And it will only cost you YOUR SOUL. (Photo via

    Cedars continually ranks in the top 100 restaurants in Seattle, and is often high on the list of top Indian restaurants in town. The food is consistently pretty good, but nothing to write home about. I’ve had equally good and often better Indian food at India Bistro and Annapurna for less money and less waiting. But what really sets Cedars (and its sister restaurant, Taste of India) apart is the appallingly terrible owners. According to some friends of mine who worked there in college, the owner of the restaurant will take your order and your bill – college-aged servers will do everything else – so he can collect the entire tip and not share it. They said the staff was regularly abused and yelled at, and most of them didn’t last longer than a week. Spend your money elsewhere.

Phew. Okay, folks – that’s it for my list. But I’m sure you have opinions of your own. What’s the most over-hyped restaurant you’ve been to? Have you been nonplussed over mediocre marinara sauce or sub-par sushi that everyone else raved about? Share your thoughts below.

Leave a Comment

  • You wound me, sir! Okay, maybe it isn’t that serious but we loves us the Kisaku. Granted we always make a reservation for 3 minutes after they open so getting a table has never been an issue for us. But it’s the best sushi in Seattle, in our half-Japanese estimation. Nakano-san knows what he’s doing.

    Is Musashi still open? People used to be nuts for that place so we went and it was the worst.

    Agree on Tutta Bella, though. And on Sunday nights you can catch Casey McGill and his Blue 4 Trio who are awesome even if you don’t think you like jazz played on a ukulele.

    Though I might not be the best one to weigh in on quality restaurants. I’m still bummed that they closed the Hot Dog on a Stick in Westlake Center.

  • Geraldine

    Philip – I do love Kisaku, it’s mostly the wait that gets me. I hadn’t considered making a reservation for, say, 5:15. That’s sort of brilliant. I say we do that next time and meet you, the lovely missus, and the kiddoo for dinner.

    Oh, and my sypathies for losing your Hot Dog stick stand. Apparently everyone is talking about Po’ Dog in Capitol Hill, but Rand says it’s just a Hebrew National dog with some “fancy” toppings, for $10.

  • Ooooh I want to comment on all of them. Individually!

    Once, at a bar with friends and friends of friends, I said something about not really liking Via Trib much and a guy informed me “oh, you must not get out very much”. I sat in stunned silence, unable to even think of a way to respond.

    On Cantinetta: A-freaken-men. Was mortifyingly underwhelmed. Ate again that night at Moon Temple. And it was an improvement. That’s saying a lot. I wholeheartedly agree with Molly Moon’s, Beecher’s and especially Skillet.

    I’m pretty indifferent towards Paseo, Kisaku, Thai Tom and though I’ve never been to Cedar’s, their sister restaurant.

    But really I want to comment on Sutra. Recently I spent a large chunk of change on a certain Michelin starred vegetarian restaurant in a certain famous wine country in California. Because meat lovers told me “I wouldn’t even miss the meat”. Yeah, we stopped at In-and-Out Burger on the way back. It was one of the best burgers I’d ever had, mostly due to circumstances.

  • Geraldine

    Gastronome: Yeah – as for Cedar’s and Thai Tom’s, I was kind of running out of contenders. 🙂 But as for the guy who said you “Must not get out much” because you don’t like Via Trib, how does that make sense? If you didn’t get out much, wouldn’t you LOVE it (because you’d have a crappy frame of reference)? I would have punched him in the throat.

    Tell me you punched him in the throat.

  • Oh, punching in the throat! I knew there was an appropriate course of action there, I just couldn’t remember what it was. Good thing you remembered. I think that will be my new motto: When all else fails, punch him in the throat.

  • Different Washington, but if you’re ever in DC and someone recommends Rosa Mexicana because “they make guacamole right at the table!” do not go. The guacamole doesn’t taste any different than the $1.50 side cups at Chipotle, and you’ll pay upwards of $15 for a serving for two just to see a put-upon waiter butchering an avocado. Overrated!

  • I want to note that I have substantive disagreement on several of these. Thai Tom is, in my opinion, pretty darn good (and college kids can stand a few health violations or they shouldn’t be out on the Ave). It’s just not “good enough to warrant a wait” when Thaiger Room, right down the street, has badass-good dishes for the same money and no wait.

    I liked Paseo – didn’t love it, but liked it. I agree the corn sucked.

    Huge fan of Kisaku – that place has better than “solid” sushi. Philip and I will take you back and you’ll remember 🙂 It is really annoying to have the wait, though – agreed. And when you make a reservation for 8pm and can’t get seated until 9pm, that makes even really good sushi taste remorseful.

    Great post, BTW – instantly inspires emotions and feedback. If I had time, I’d write my own!

  • Late to the party, but I totally agree about Cantinetta. I don’t know if it was because the reviews had me expecting Christ himself to rise up out of my plate of pasta or what, but what I did eat caused me to look around repeatedly, wondering if perhaps there was ANOTHER Cantinetta? One that was not listed on the internet?

    As an east coast food snob myself, I also have to admit the “street food” phenomenon escapes me. If I have to stand in line to order it, it better come fast, and not cost me more than $10, drink and chips included.

    And finally, in a super top secret whisper… I, errr, wasn’t all that impressed with… Tilth. THERE. I said it.

    So I don’t come off as a total negative nancy, I’ll say the sushi at Ototo on Queen Anne is consistently delicious and I rarely have to wait, and EVERYTHING on the menu at Branzino pretty much rocks.

  • Geraldine

    I enjoyed Tilth – but honestly, it was one of those awesome nights with just the right company, so it might have had nothing to do with the restaurant and more to do with our awesome vegetarian friend (yes, they do exist). I don’t think I’ve been to Branzino, but might need to add it to our list of places to try.

  • BadTaste

    Who died and made you the altruistic foodie for Seattle cuisine?

    What this list seems to describe is food that’s good but environments and people that YOU don’t like. Even if a place has just one great dish, a line out the door means that people enjoy it. These business owners work hard to make their dreams and concepts come to life. That’s more than can be said for you (at least from what I’ve gathered from your website). I give every one of these restaurants credit for going out in the most challenging economy and making it happen. You seem to have enjoyed something about the food in all your reviews, so to tell people not to go is a shame. It’s people like you who so easily write negative things about small businesses, thus making more room for the big corporations to come in and take over.

    Forgive me for my rant as I do not know you, but I do know many of the restaurant owners you had so easily shit on and these places do have great food that deserve mention. Someday you should google and check out some of the awards they’ve won and maybe you will re-evaluate whether or not your taste pallete is qualified to write such reviews.

  • Geraldine

    Dear Bad Taste –

    First off, appropriate name.

    Secondly, hell no I won’t forgive you for your rant. You made personal attacks even though you just stated that you don’t know me. So why the fuck would I forgive you? You kinda suck.

    Thirdly, yeah, I like small businesses, too. I just think they should be good in order to succeed. So I hold them to high standards. I see no correlation between demanding quality and the rise of chain restaurants. What on earth are you talking about?

    Fourthly (is “fourthly” even a word?), the whole point is that these are restaurants which are OVER-HYPED. So why the hell would I do an internet search to see all the awards they’ve won? Wouldn’t that just prove my point that they are over-hyped?

    Also, please don’t use “Google” as a verb. And the word is “palate.”

    And lastly, no, I don’t really like the food at a lot of these places. I think I made that quite clear in the post. But I also do not like the ambiance in several of these locations as well, which, in my opinion, contributes to the overall enjoyment of a restaurant.

    Now, please calm the fuck down. If you want to contribute to the discussion, that’s fine. If you want to be an insulting asshole, we already have one in residence (me) and I’m way better at it than you.

    The Everywhereist

    P.S. – In answer to your question of who died, maybe it was your sense of humor.

    • Also….if I may add…it’s her blog. If you don’t like it you don’t have to read it BadTaste. I know I’m waaaayyyy late because I am stalking all your old posts but I don’t like bullies 🙂 I love your recommendations even though I may never visit the places you talk about.
      Thanks for writing yet another stellar post!!

  • Can you do a list of under-rated Seattle restaurants next? People who are going to visit Seattle always ask me where they should eat and I can usually only think of Wild Ginger which is probably so 90s at this point.

  • Geraldine

    Laura – seriously considering it – though, of course, I don’t really want to give away all my best spots, for you (and the 3 other readers of my blog), I’d do it.

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