Seattle is a long way from the streets of Paris, but Cafe Presse manages to re-create the effortless, elegant charm of those famed French coffee shops in its small space. For starters, the cappuccinos and lattes are on point, though the flavorful, locally roasted Caffe Vita house blend holds up on its own. The menu excels at light simplicity, from housemade yogurt with honey and walnuts to the fresh, flaky croissants to the gooey ham-egg-and-cheese delight of the croque madame. And with the breakfast options available all day, there’s no rush to be the early bird.
BTW: On Tuesdays, there’s a special prix-fixe menu.
Cafe Presse, 1117 12th Ave. Seattle, Wash. 98122
This restaurant’s design is nothing to write home about (there’s an industrial storage rack in view), but Morsel’s substance has no time for your criticism of style. The biscuits at Morsel don’t mess around; we’re talking hefty, not flaky. Whether you’re filling up on a breakfast sammie or grabbing a biscuit to go with butter or jam, it’s hard to go wrong, despite the limited menu. This is a spot to get the sort of tasty carb fuel that sticks to the walls of your belly as you take on another Seattle day.
BTW: Because ambiance isn’t Morsel’s forte, take your meal to the park across the street for some open-air dining.
Morsel, 5000 University Way NE, Seattle, Wash. 98105
When Seattle’s Cuban-sandwich mecca suddenly shuttered in 2014, it was a heartbreaking trauma for foodies. While Paseo eventually reopened under new ownership (and is still excellent), the sons of the original owner split off to found Un Bien with the family’s recipes. Today, which is the superior supplier of Cuban sandwiches remains a contested debate, but more Seattleites tend toward Un Bien. The pork shoulder in the signature Caribbean roast is slow-cooked and marinated to perfection. The caramelized onions are sauteed so perfectly the toppings have earned a sandwich of their own (the Onion Obsession).
BTW: While you should absolutely do the Caribbean roast on a first visit, the seared-scallops sandwich offers a wonderful seafaring alternative with the same great fixings.
Un Bien, 7302.5 15th Ave. NW Seattle, Wash. 98117
Pho is a staple of the Seattle diet, and although there are plenty of spots specializing in the Vietnamese noodle soup, Ba Bar offers the most variety. The lunch menu’s array of flavors includes rotisserie duck and spicy pork belly, dumplings, pork rice tamales and vermicelli noodles. That said, on a rainy day it’s hard to top a bowl of that standard, soul-warming brothy goodness. While this location is temporarily closed, the Capitol Hill and University Village restaurants are still open.
BTW: Don’t blow by the bakery display. The macarons and other pastries can satisfy most sugar cravings.
Ba Bar, 500 Terry Ave. N. Seattle, Wash. 98109
RockCreek Seafood & Spirits
Forget the glitzy waterfront spots. The best seafood in Seattle is tucked away in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it locale across from the Fremont Abbey. The restaurant is modeled to resemble an urban fishing lodge, and its fresh-daily seafood selections make for a never-a-wrong-choice menu. Be it with char, bass, cod or any other gilled catch, the chefs have a knack for cooking each fish to melt-in-your-mouth perfection, with expertly paired garnishes that make each dish sing. Who needs a view when your taste buds are blissed out?
BTW: RockCreek’s happy hour is not one to be slept on, with choices like bacon-covered oysters “Brock-a-Fella” and the delectable crispy fried-oyster po’ boy.
RockCreek Seafood & Spirits, 4300 Fremont Ave. N. Seattle, Wash. 98103
While chef-owner Edouardo Jordan’s James Beard-winning Southern restaurant, JuneBaby, has rightfully earned a ton of praise, Salare, his vision of a neighborhood restaurant, flies somewhat under the radar despite being two blocks away (and a million times easier to get into). The vibe is earthy-hangout, and the salads, pastas and meat dishes — which skillfully play on Jordan’s aptitude at mixing Southern, African, Caribbean and European styles — have a spring flair to them without feeling “lite.” So grab a few of Jordan’s A+ biscuits and enjoy fine dining with a carefree attitude.
BTW: Salare isn’t too refined for little ones. There’s always an affordable kids option on the menu.
Salare, 2404 NE 65th St. Seattle, Wash. 98115
Damn the Weather
You can’t force cool; it’s only effective when it’s effortless. And that’s the type that Damn the Weather achieves. Here, brick facades, low-hanging industrial lights, chandeliers and funky Christmas lights don’t even seem hodgepodge. It helps that the stellar drink menu is rich with elite cocktails, and the food (from oysters to spaghetti to chicken-fat fries) is gastropub cuisine worthy of soaking up any booze imbibed. Lit with the perfect warm glow, it pulls off chic and homey in a way few bars do.
BTW: It may seem weird that the chicken-fat fries come with a slice of lemon, but squeezing that citrus over the crispy snacks ratchets up the flavor.
Damn the Weather, 116 First Ave. S. Seattle, Wash. 98104
Frankie & Jo’s
It’s a testament to Frankie & Jo’s that despite being 100 percent plant-based (i.e. dairy free) and totally gluten-free (even the waffle cones!), those facts aren’t the most intriguing hooks to this ice cream hot spot. The true draw is the variety of one-of-a-kind flavors and ingredients that make other ice cream shops look lazy. There’s salty caramel ash with charcoal; California Cabin, with apple-wood-smoked vanilla and oat-flour shortbread; gingered “golden milk,” with turmeric, cardamom and black pepper; and classic flavors like chocolate mint brownie.
BTW: If you want more Frankie & Jo’s after departing Seattle, the company sells pint four-packs that ship (with dry ice) across the country.
Frankie & Jo’s, 1010 E. Union St. Seattle, Wash. 98122