I was born and raised in Seattle, and I've tried to develop a good sense of taste, so I think I'm a good source of recommendations in Seattle.
Because I am a relatively price-inelastic consumer, I will employ the following dollar score:
$ => This is notably inexpensive and good value. $$ => Not extravagant but not notable good value. $$$ => Pay-to-win tier. Your utility function discards cost.
Thai Tom, Thai
$ University District NOTE: Cash-only.
Thai Tom is a mainstay of the University District, with notably good prices, fast service, and typically long lines. Being owned and operated wholly by Thai helps keep the authenticity.
What you get here in food, you pay for in comfort. This place is cramped, decidedly hole-in-the-wall, and uncompromising. Go here if you want the best Thai food for the best price, and care exactly zero about being comfortable while you're scarfing it down.
$$ Madison Park
Excellent value during happy hour, but the nice dinners can cross into
territory. A terrific kitchen with a deep bench of talent, and high-class
service to go with it. Excellent ambience. The whole package.
Try the beef bourguignon.
Altura, American Fine Dining
$$$ North Capitol Hill
You absolutely hate your money and you love high-end, multi-course culinary experiences. That's Altura. Get the wine pairing.
When you get the bill, just pay without looking at the numbers. And don't look at the credit card bill that month, either. And only go here once every year or two. That's my formula.
Probably the best pure restaurant dining experience in Seattle.
Tuta Bella, Pizza
$$ Multiple locations, but I know Wallingford best.
Excellent pizzeria. Italian style. Hard to go wrong here. Good place for families and dates alike.
Mean Sandwich, Sandwiches
The best chicken sandwich I've ever had. The potato skin sides are unique, clever, and amazing. I'm sure the rest of the menu is just as amazing, but I still haven't managed to order anything else.
Sweet Alchemy, Ice Creamery
$$ Ballard, University District, Capitol Hill
The best ice creamery I've ever been to. Korean-American owned, with some fun culturally-influenced flavors. Try the makgeolli. It's my favorite. Very simple. Persian Rose is also incredible, more complex. I buy my pints here, but they're perfect for stopping by and grabbing a scoop/waffle cone too.
Gordito's Healthy Mexican Restaurant, Mexican
This isn't a fancy hipster culinary place. This is a family owned and operated, Seattle mainstay for simple, good burritos, with fresh ingredients. Open kitchen. Killer value for what you get. Order the Grande Burrito. You'll get three epic meals out of it. The soup is dang good too. Don't forget to hit the salsa bar.
Ramen Danbo, Japanese Ramen
$$ Capitol Hill
Authentic Fukuoka-style ramen. Very flavorful. My personal favoirte ramen in Seattle, although between Betsutenjin and Danbo, it comes down to preference of style.
Betsutenjin, Japanese Ramen
$$ Capitol Hill
A pure ramen shop. Wonderfully pure broth and noodles. Nothing too highly opinionated; a pursuit of simple perfection. Fairly authentic atmosphere. My second choice in seattle, mostly due to a matter of preference.
Yoroshiku, Japanese Izakaya
Excellent izakaya with rare offerings, opinionated takes, and a wonderfully diverse selection. The unique karaage is worth a try.
$$ Phinney Ridge, Ballard, Interbay locations.
A local favorite. Massive juicy burgers, killer shakes, and good sides. Pretty darn good value. If you try only one burger place in Seattle, I think Redmill gets the nod.
Sunset Hill Park
Free Ballard / Sunset Hill
Locals call this "the Bluff". Come here at sunset on a clear day. Witness the splendor of the Olympic Mountains. Don't leave at sunset. Stay for the next hour. That's when it gets the prettiest. Bring some wine or tea or cheese and a friend.
Washington Park Arboretum
Free North Capitol Hill
Great walking and biking trails here. See all of the pretty trees and gardens.
Free Queen Anne
The canonical view of the Seattle skyline. Usually busy, but worth a stop during off-hours for the view on a clear sunny day. Gorgeous on the right day.
// TODO: Add Port Townsend // TODO: Add Leavenworth // TODO: Add Mount Rainier // TODO: Add Lake Quinault
// TODO: Add favorite pool hall // TODO: Add favorite theaters // TODO: Add favorite farmer's markets