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All You Can Eat

Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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June 23, 2008 8:08 AM

Counter Intelligence: Where do you eat?

Posted by Nancy Leson


Good morning, Eaters. After a two-week vacation, it's back to work for me. Before I tell you about where I've been, what I saw and, of course, what I've been eating, I've got a query.

Next month's restaurant roundup will highlight counters: places where I can belly up to the bar, watch the cooks in action and get in on the drama of an open kitchen. My question? Where are your favorite open-kitchen counters? And let's leave cocktail bars, wine bars and sushi bars out of it -- that's another story altogether, perfect for other roundups.

OK. I'll start. With one of my favorites: the quick-service Filipino-food counter at Oriental Mart in Pike Place Market. There, you'll regularly find me eating a bowl of bony-salmon soup afloat with fresh greens. Or -- if chief-cook-and-bottle-washer "Auntie Lei" has some on hand -- a platter of fried milkfish. And, if I'm really lucky (as I was the last time I ate there) both:

COMMENTS













Posted by KAN





10:50 AM, Jun 23, 2008



Welcome back, Nancy!

Voula's Offshore Cafe. Nikos, Sikey and the rest of the crew have a well-orchestrated ballet in that cramped cooking space.

Posted by foodiegirl

11:18 AM, Jun 23, 2008

My favorite was eating at the counter at the now defunct Dandelion (24th in Ballard), but I do still enjoy sitting at the chef's counter at Crow from time to time.

Posted by Lorinda

11:50 AM, Jun 23, 2008

Best Indian food in town: India Bistro on 65th and Roosevelt. I've been there a half dozen times over the last few months and the food is always excellent. The price is great too at $6.95 for lunch buffet.

Posted by cuyahoga

12:05 PM, Jun 23, 2008

Primo Grill in Tacoma has some great seats where you can watch the chefs cook.

Posted by Simonian

12:11 PM, Jun 23, 2008

There's a counter at Crow overlooking the kitchen. Also at The Hardware Store on Vashon.

Posted by Mmm

12:30 PM, Jun 23, 2008

I love the filipino food counter at the Market! It's the best use of salmon that I've ever had.

Posted by Natasha

12:55 PM, Jun 23, 2008

Geraldine's in Columbia City!

Posted by bobert1006

1:45 PM, Jun 23, 2008

Harvest Vine and Joule.

Posted by L

2:22 PM, Jun 23, 2008

I've enjoyed watching the cooks at Fire Creek Grill in Kent off Meridian. Of course, 13 Coins is great too.

Posted by Lisa C.

2:24 PM, Jun 23, 2008

As a chef groupie, and when tables are short, we love to dine at the counter at Betty. It�s sort of like food foreplay � whether it is the superb pan roasted chicken, steak frites or steamed mussels (in addition to specials like pesto crusted halibut in beurre blanc sauce), we are drooling by the time our food is pushed across to us. With impeccable, friendly service, and well priced bistro fare, it�s hard to beat our favorite joint. The gracious staff and creative chefs make you feel at home, again and again.

Posted by Laurie

2:31 PM, Jun 23, 2008

Crave has a nice counter.

Posted by Digital Sasquatch

2:55 PM, Jun 23, 2008

Old school: the food is solid, if a bit uninspired, at 13 Coins, and the the leather chairs at the counter may be showing their age, but the show is still good. I could, quite honestly, enjoy the flames and the hollering---with bread, the antipasti, and drinks, for a couple of hours.

Posted by Simonian

5:05 PM, Jun 23, 2008

Oh, and I forgot that you can stand at the bar at Txori and watch them make amazingly delicious things with very little space to work in.

Posted by WrightEats

7:11 PM, Jun 23, 2008

Definitely love Harvest Vine. And Txori, too!

Posted by Kairu

7:51 PM, Jun 23, 2008

Welcome back!

I love the Harvest Vine, as well as Geraldine's Counter. There's always Matt's in the Market, too, although I actually prefer eating at the bar to eating at the counter.

Posted by Abby B.

10:44 PM, Jun 23, 2008

I am a weekend regular at Saigon in the Pike Place Market. It is a wonderful, family-run Vietnamese place that I have frequented for more than 20 years (starting at the age of 8 or so). I am a creature of habit there (beef noodle salad, cha gio and a limeade), but can't think of a meal or counter eating experience that is more satisfying.

Posted by alex

1:25 PM, Jun 24, 2008

Definatly Txori. But I would also have to say that while sitting at any part of the restaurant in Sitka and Spruce you have a great view of everything in the kitchen,

Posted by sailcocktail

2:13 PM, Jun 24, 2008

I like to sit at the counter at:
- 94 Stewart, chef Celinda Norton always finds a little time to visit and talk about food and wine.
- Steelhead Diner, ditto with chef Kevin Davis.
- McCormack and Schmicks on Frist Ave., though it can get really warn there it's fun to visit with the line cooks.

Posted by KatZed

2:59 PM, Jun 24, 2008

How has no one mentioned Thai Tom on the ave? Only the best and coolest place to watch chefs whip up hot thai right in front of you... in Seattle!

P.S. get the penang curry and anything with peanut sauce.

Posted by Elizabeth

4:00 PM, Jun 24, 2008

Harvest Vine (love watching them grill sardines), Mio Posto in Mt. Baker, the Dish in Ballard

Posted by Jefe

5:05 PM, Jun 24, 2008

at 11:18 AM, Jun 23, 2008 Foodiegirl wrote;
My favorite was eating at the counter at the now defunct Dandelion (24th in Ballard)

Of course, the counter is still there, and lots of folks have been enjoying the view at Austin Cantina, now occupying the Dandelion space.

Posted by JW

7:39 AM, Jun 25, 2008

The Steelhead Diner (with chef Kevin Davis and crew), and the satay bar at the OLD Wild Ginger down on Western Ave. (newer location not as cozy and lacks that somewhat "exclusive" feeling).

Posted by Dr. Food

8:27 AM, Jun 25, 2008

Nick's Grill is Kirkland is fantastic. Go for the barrito!

Posted by Michele

8:57 AM, Jun 25, 2008

The Canton Wonton House on 6th and weller has the best wonton noodle soup in the state of Washington and at 3.95 a bowl you cant beat it!!
hmmmm.... I think I know what I am having for lunch.

Posted by Teneighty

12:36 PM, Jun 25, 2008

Endolyne Joe's, pure theater!

Posted by Joe

12:44 PM, Jun 25, 2008

Steelhead in the market and Betty on Queen Anne

Posted by N.B.

1:14 PM, Jun 25, 2008

Matt’s in the Market and The Brooklyn are not only some of the best places to belly up at a counter but some of the finest Northwest cuisine the Seattle has to offer!

Posted by wontonsoup

2:12 PM, Jun 25, 2008

Ditto for Thai Toms. If your lucky enough to score a seat at the counter you can watch the single chef whip up dishes like mad & serve them to you piping hot. Best Thai food in Seattle.

Posted by Vinca Minor

2:45 PM, Jun 25, 2008

Jack's Fish Spot in the Market. Yep, they're a fishmonger, but they also serve fish and chips, steamers and great shrimp cocktail. Place your order and snag a seat at the bar over looking the fish counter. Best place to people watch in the market.

Posted by LoveThatCounter

3:09 PM, Jun 25, 2008

I make it a habit to stop by 94 about once a week to chat with the "family". Chef Celinda is almost always in the kitchen and I love to chat with her about her most recent adventures. I just read their weekly newsletter and it sounds like she's heading out to Benton City this weekend on a visit to Terra Blanca Winery. Wonder if I can bum a ride...

Posted by StellarBee

11:14 AM, Jun 26, 2008

My absolute favorite live-action counter .. Lil' Jon in Factoria on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Tasty old-school diner food, lots of slicing and dicing in the kitchen, and waitresses that move in the cramped space behind the counter like they could do so blind-folded and hand-cuffed.

Posted by Stu

9:01 PM, Jun 26, 2008

Szmania's in Magnolia has to be at the top of the list for counter dining. A full view of the kitchen, and wonderful food.

Posted by Chuck

8:13 AM, Jun 27, 2008

The Whole Foods on 65th and Roosevelt has a fairly new sit-down counter for about 4-5 near the deli. The items I've tried are fantastic. On my first visit, I had hand-dipped fish and chips. Last week, my daughter and I shared a flatbread sandwich with grilled steak (A whole steak grilled and thinly sliced), with arugula, blue cheese, carmelized onions, and garlic basil aioli. It was divine.

Here's another nice feature -- you can first go to the meat or seafood counter, purchase whatever you want, take it to the sit-down counter, and they'll grill it for you. Along with two sides for around $2.99 I believe, you can have it your way!

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Food for Thought | Nancy Leson on KPLU

Listen to Nancy at 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. during Morning Edition, at 4:40 p.m. during All Things Considered and again the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. during Weekend Edition on KPLU 88.5.

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