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.

Ba-da-dum!

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 Yelp.com)

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

    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 Flickr.com)

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

    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 Yelp.com)

    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 Yelp.com)

    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 flickr.com)

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

    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 Yelp.com)

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

    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 Flickr.com)

    Not pictured: Numerous health violations (Photo courtesy of closari, via Flickr.com)

    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 Flickr.com)

    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 Flickr.com)

    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 Yelp.com)

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

    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 Yelp.com)

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

    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.

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