Neighborhoods

The Top 10 Restaurants & Bars in Seattle's University District, According to Our Readers

The College Inn Pub, Korean Tofu House, and More
October 5, 2021
Much to Charles Mudede's delight, the  College Inn Pub did survive the pandemic. (College Inn via Facebook)

Whether you're newly back to school or planning a trip to the quad to check out some fall color, you're likely going to find yourself hungry near UW at some point. On our recent neighborhood survey, our readers came through with some stellar recommendations for cheap, delicious food in the U District. We've rounded them all up below—read on for where to get the best arepas, biscuit sandwiches, and more.

Want to participate in the next neighborhood survey? Tell us about your favorite places in Fremont!

Aladdin's Gyro-cery and Deli

More about it: Aladdin Gyro-cery’s falafel and gyro sandwiches are perfect student food: cheap, fast, filling, portable. That the gyros happen to be delicious is an added bonus. If you’re drunk and hungry on the Ave, they’re open until 2 a.m. (3 on Fridays and Saturdays!). Reader Ashley W. also adds, "Aladdin's fries are to die for, especially after a long study session. You can always count on these guys late in the night. Shout out to Mushal who has been working in the shop for 10 years!"

Arepa Venezuelan Kitchen

More about it: The food that comes out of Arepa Venezuelan Kitchen is as warm and satisfying as its cozy interior. Located in a quaint green cottage adjacent to Grand Illusion Cinema in the U-District, Arepa serves more than a dozen varieties of its namesake offering, kind of like a cross between a pancake and cornbread that’s made of ground maize (corn) flour, and served sandwich-style—cut open and stuffed with fillings. Here, all arepas are made fresh, grilled, or deep-fried, with fillings that range from the vegetarian chicas (spinach, tomatoes, and white cheese), to the tasty pabellon (shredded beef, black beans, sweet plantains, and white cheese). LEILANI POLK

Big Time Brewery & Alehouse

More about it: The quintessential college bar, the Big Time has big wooden tables and offers affordable, hearty food for lean students and rich, dark beers for everyone. The Stranger's Lester Black notes, "Big Time is one of the country's oldest craft breweries and Seattle's oldest continuously operating brewery...Big Time's cellar of beers form a sort of history book for Seattle's beer scene, as many of the region's brewers have spent time working the mash tun on the Ave. Dozens of other breweries have employees who passed through Big Time's brewhouse, including Diamond Knot, American Brewing, Beardslee Public House, and Flying Bike."

College Inn Pub

More about it: This beloved watering hole previously announced it would close permanently in summer 2020, but it has since been taken over by new owners and longtime regulars Seth Howard (owner of The Collins PubLast Drop Bottle Shop, and Draft Punk), Al Donohue, and Jen Gonyer. The team intends to retain the spirit of the original pub but has given it some TLC, including a deep clean, updated electricity and plumbing, new kitchen and bar equipment, and refinished woodwork. They've also brought back all of the original menu items, with the exception of the bagel dog (due to sourcing issues and eliminating microwaved menu items), along with a few new ones, like pizza bread with house-made marinara. The beer menu has also been expanded with brews from local breweries like CloudburstRavenna, and Maritime. Charles Mudede writes, "During a recent visit to the wood-rich basement bar, I ordered from the pub's menu of grub a Hot Italian Grinder. This was my favorite item of the former College Inn Pub, and my question was just this: Did the HIG change under new ownership? By the taste of it, it was much the same as before: perfectly simple, moderately meaty, and the right size (not too big and too small). My love for the grinder was renewed. There is hope for the post-pandemic world."

Korean Tofu House

More about it: Lester Black once wrote for The Stranger, "The University District is packed with cheap Korean jjigae restaurants, but the best is this generic-sounding basement restaurant a few steps off the Ave." He touted its "incredibly cheap and delicious earthenware bowls of bulgogi, broiled squid, pork tofu soup, and spicy barbecue pork. True to Korean tradition of banchan, each entrée includes unlimited amounts of five side dishes: kimchi, cold potato with soy (gamjajorim), seasoned soybean sprouts (kongnamul), scallion pancake (pajeon), and fish cake (odeng)."

Morsel

More about it: Giant, cloudlike biscuits are Morsel’s specialty; their “Cheesy Biscuit” with roasted tomato jam is what garlic bread wishes it could be. And their cappuccino, made with local Velton’s Mexico Nayarita coffee and Twin Brook Creamery milk, is way better than most coffee drinks, even in this land of high-quality coffee. There is also house-made bacon jam and sandwiches, such as the popular “Spanish Fly,” with prosciutto, Manchego cheese, fried egg, arugula, and aioli.

Mountaineering Club

More about it: This Northwest-themed rooftop bar at the University District's Graduate Hotel (formerly Hotel Deca) offers a view of Mount Rainier and the Space Needle, locally inspired plates, and a cocktail menu with regional ingredients and novelties like hot drinks served in Thermoses. The Stranger's Nathalie Graham celebrated her birthday here in 2019, about which she wrote, "I liked the Mountaineering Club for how jarring it felt to be there, all fancy and decadent, one block from the squalor and grit of the Ave."

Shultzy's Sausage

More about it: Shultzy’s used to be a tiny, crowded storefront where you had to fight your way up to the grill, manned by friendly and sausage-mad college guys. Now it’s a nice, spacious restaurant, but the essentials are the same: excellent sausages (kosher, andouille, Italian, you name it), onions and peppers optional, plenty of sauerkraut if you like it. Reader Michaelann J. also loves it for its "awesome staff" and claims it has the "best chicken wings and fries in the city." The drink menu includes rotating daily specials like Tequila Tuesdays and Double Down Fridays, where a double of their signature "Slamminades" is just $7.

Taste of India

More about it: Indian flavors this amped-up usually come accompanied by an afterpool of oiliness. But at Taste of India in the U-District—some say the best Indian restaurant in the city—the food is bright and fresh without tasting remotely virtuous or health-like. A vast array of dishes are rich and ample and not too expensive. Reader Sheila L. adds that the "chaotic atmosphere only adds to the pleasure of the dining experience."

Wayward Vegan Cafe

More about it: Satisfy your soul's yen for old-fashioned American greasy-spoon fare at this Roosevelt comfort-food dispensary, which dishes up veganized versions of hearty diner standards like chicken fried steak and gravy, breakfast burritos, eggs Benedict, omelets, and huevos rancheros. Portions are generous and the coffee is bottomless.