Best Restaurants In Seattle's International District

An extended walking tour from Japantown to Little Saigon gives voracious travelers a day full of exciting eats

Of all the areas to eat in Seattle, one part of town stands particularly strong with a diverse range of restaurants. Known as the International District, it encompasses the historic Nihonmachi (Japantown), the long-running Chinatown and the relatively more recent Little Saigon. Right along the light rail (which runs from the airport to Downtown and beyond), walking distance from the stadiums (cementing the tradition of pre-football dim sum) and a short stroll from many of Seattle's biggest office buildings, its accessible, central location makes it a prime place to do a little walking tour of the city's best-tasting, most culinarily wide-ranging neighborhood.

Chow Down in Chinatown

Start your walk just across the street from the light rail station, where mini chain Dough Zone sprang up to do battle (and came out on top) with internationally renowned Din Tai Fung for soup dumpling superiority. From there, pop next door to Japanese grocery giant Uwajimaya to browse imported candy, live geoduck and fresh-roasted nuts.

Across the street, Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot serves an extensive selection of all-you-can-eat Chinese hot pot—if you're famished, make this your main lunch stop. Otherwise, save it for next time and walk one block up Sixth Avenue to King Street, where at King Noodle, you can customize your own noodle soup with anything from enoki mushrooms to barbecue duck.

Slurp Up Little Saigon

From there, keep heading east (and pop into the Seattle Pinball Museum for a quick break from eating, if need be) toward Little Saigon. At the corner of 12th and Jackson, the heart of the city's Vietnamese community, choose between the searingly spicy boiled fish at longtime favorite Sichuanese Cuisine or a vermicelli bowl from the newest noodle darling, Dong Thap, which makes its rice noodles fresh daily.

Take a break for a drink across the street at Pho Bac Sup Shop—the now-adult children of the couple who opened Seattle's first pho shop (located just across the parking lot) recently opened this trendy bar and soup restaurant. Since you're probably a little full, stick with the What'sup Pho Bac(k), a shot of pho spice-infused whiskey with a chaser of pho broth and some Unfortunate Cookie Mix (broken fortune cookies with peanuts and chile oil). Pick up a bottle of wine for later from Vita Uva, the natural wine shop within the restaurant, while you're there.

Now that you're ready for more food, head across the street to the humble-looking strip mall, which actually holds some of Seattle's longest-running local gems. In one corner, Hue Ky Mi Gia quietly turns out the crispiest, meatiest, most wonderfully pepper-flecked chicken wings on the planet in the city, aptly and enticingly named "fried butter garlic chicken wings." Though it's unlikely you'll have room for the home-style Vietnamese specialties that Huong Binh has been making next door for 25 years, stop by at least for a glass of fresh-squeezed sugarcane juice for your walk down the hill. 

End Your Night in Nihonmachi (Japantown)

You're headed back toward where you came, to Maneki, in part of what's left of the area's historic Japanese section. While most of the older Japanese-owned businesses shuttered during the Second World War, Maneki managed to not only reopen postwar but remain a Seattle favorite beyond its centennial anniversary (it's been around for 114 years). Cap off the night with a little sake and as much sushi as you can still find room for in your belly—the oversize slices of fresh fish draped over rice are well worth any struggle to eat. 

Welcome to TT on Tour, where Tasting Table's editors guide you through everything you'll want to eat, drink and do in rising travel destinations around the world. 

Naomi Tomky is an award-winning freelance food and travel writer. Follow her edible adventures on Twitter at @Gastrognome and on Instagram at @the_gastrognome.