Offbeat, Interesting Dining in Seattle by Dr. Oscar John Ma

Dr. Oscar John Ma Curates the Quintessential List of Seattle’s Most Interesting Eateries

Seattle boasts dozens of dining establishments for the adventurous, well-rounded palate. Dr. Oscar John Ma chooses five of his favorites.


2576 Aurora Ave N

Seattle, WA 98109

The owners of the 71-year-old icon of the Queen Anne district shocked Seattle gourmands in March 2020 by posting on their website “Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now.” They even rumbled about converting their venerable fine dining establishment into a drive-through for burgers. However, new executive chef Aisha Ibrahim has re-energized Canlis with a super-seasonal menu inspired by Japanese kanseki cooking. Menu items include grilled sable with matsutake mushrooms, chilled mussels with kohlrabi, and striploin with celeriac and green onions.


1054 N 39th St

Seattle, WA 98103

Kamonegi’s star Chef Mutsuko Soma specializes in Japanese comfort food, featuring soba noodles made from-scratch fresh every day. Kamonegi offers traditional soba shop dishes like cold seiro soba served with a dipping sauce and some of Seattle’s crunchiest tempura, but also offers more creative dishes like oysters braised in gochujang and tempura Oreos with toasted marshmallows. Sample sake and snacks at Kamonegi’s sibling bar, Hannyatou, before heading over to Kamonegi for dinner.

Off The Rez Cafe

4300 15th Avenue Northeast

Seattle, WA 98105

(Inside the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture)

In 2019, Seattle’s only Native American-owned food truck opened its first indoor restaurant at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. It has become the go-to venue for hard-to-find specialties of the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, such as smoked bison and 12-hour pulled braised pork. Off the Rez Cafe also offers wild rice bowls and vegetarian stews.

The Whale Wins Larder and Cafe

3506 Stone Way N

Seattle, WA 98103

James Beard Award winner Chef Renee Erickson converted her full-service restaurant into a grocery and fast-casual counter spot in 2020, but she has retained all of the charm of her cuisine. Diners find charcuterie, fresh pasta, cheese, and good selection of wine, as well as a wide selection of made-to-order full meals, including black cod dans une pâte feuilletée with curry sauce and melted leeks and geoduck clam ceviche with ginger crème fraiche. The Whale Wins also offers artisanal crafts of the Pacific Northwest. 


11752 15th Ave NE

Seattle, WA 98125

Fine dining, Dr. Oscar John Ma points out, is not always a competition in finesse. Zylberschtein’s charming kosher-style deli and bakery in Pinehurst is a purveyor of comfort food not just to its neighborhood but by delivery throughout the city.

Owner Josh Grunig, formerly a master baker at Grand Central Bakery, delights lovers of carbs with sourdough loaves, challah, croissants, and some of the most widely appreciated bagels in Seattle. There is a covered patio for diners who come for his “big, ridiculous sandwiches” piled with corned beef or home-smoked pastrami.

Of all of Seattle’s memorable dining experiences, Dr. Oscar John Ma says, the food at Zylberschtein’s is easily the hardest to forget—because it offers whole cakes and whitefish and chopped liver by the pound to take home.