Toddlers press their noses against the glass in the entrance way to Din Tai Fung in University Village. On the other side, uniformed men and women expertly pleat dough 18 times into dumplings; the kids watch, fascinated.
The live entertainment at places like Din Tai Fung (anywhere with an open kitchen) can keep parents from reaching for a screen or a scream when a kid falls apart in the restaurant. It shows the children the kind of work that goes into preparing the food while distracting them from the wait between ordering and the arrival of food.
From pizza to sushi, dumplings to pad Thai, these Seattle restaurants offer ample opportunity for you and the kids to watch your food go from ingredients to prepared dish.
Just steps from Madison Park Beach (and perfect for a post-sun pick-me-up) this wood-fired pizza place churns out some of the best pies in the city. Chewy, charred crust comes with the option of fancy toppings (egg or arugula) or classic kid-pleasers (the Queen comes just with two types of mozzarella). For the kids, there’s a view of flames and dough over the counter; for adults, a great list of wines by the glass.
Neighborhood: Madison Park. 4235 E Madison St., Seattle, WA, 98112
Other restaurants are easier to squeeze into or can claim better food, but there’s no restaurant in town where the chef performs as intricate a dance as the U-District’s Thai Tom. With just a few woks over roaring flames on the stove, the master flicks together meat, noodles, herbs, and vegetables practically without looking. His practiced art allows him to simultaneously spoon sauces, stir pots, and serve up dishes without hesitation or mistake.
Neighborhood: University District. 4543 University Way NE, Seattle, WA,98105
As described above, the soup dumpling folders can keep a kid entertained for at least as long as the wait for a table. Thankfully the menu could keep any eater happy for just as long—though those dumplings are the signature item, the mild Shanghai-style noodles and rice cake dishes are easy eating for the whole family. The famously long lines will hopefully subside a bit soon, when the U-Village and Bellevue locations are joined by ones in Pacific Place and Southcenter.
Neighborhood: Ravenna. University Village, 2621 NE 46th St., Seattle, WA, 98105
Neighborhood: Downtown Bellevue. Bellevue Square: 700 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA, 98005
Not only can you see the food as its made at this Tangletown sushi spot, but kids can reach out to receive their food directly from the chef. The chefs who man the counter here put in the effort to make a connection to kids, making sure they know what’s going on and how to eat what’s in front of them. The broad menu encompasses traditional raw fish sushi, as well as a variety of other styles plus salads and cooked food, so even squeamish kids find a way to enjoy the experience.
Neighborhood: Tangletown. 2101 N 55th St., Seattle, WA 98103
Even for adults, little captures the attention more than meat cooking—think about every barbecue ever. At this Wallingford hot stone grill, chefs grill skewers of meat, vegetables, and more, as well as serving up sushi rolls and a variety of other izakaya specialties—Japanese drinking food. The open kitchen takes up just a small section of the big dining room, so it’s a wander-over-to-watch type of place, but the rest of the restaurant is loud and fun and quite kid-friendly.
Neighborhood: Wallingford. 1618 N 45th St., Seattle, WA, 98103
The reincarnated version of this Rainier Valley restaurant (after a 2011 fire) sports snazzy décor, including big booths that sit just across from the tall counter of the open kitchen. The chef cooks typical dishes of his Mexican homeland, including the namesake huaraches—flat disks of dough said to be shaped like sandals (what the name actually means), layered with beans, meat, sauce, and garnishes. The lunch menu is limited, but the dinner menu covers wide swaths of Mexican cuisine from California burritos to coastal ceviche.
Neighborhood: Rainier Valley. 4219 South Othello St., Seattle, WA, 98118