Part of a series of restaurant recommendations offered in The Stranger’s 2017 Guide to Food and Drink (International Edition).
When I want to take out-of-towners to a restaurant that feels truly unique, I drive them to this aquavit distillery and cafe right by the Ballard ship canal, where Lexi and team offer a tasting board of locally sourced herring that's pickled in house and flights of their house-produced aquavit (they can't serve you more than two ounces, as they currently function on a distillery license). The seating area is small, little more than one counter and one handsome wooden table in the middle of the store, but this is what you want—a front-row seat to learn more about aquavit, the history of old Ballard, and the people you're sharing some delicious cardamom bread and homemade butter with. CORINA ZAPPIA
It's not a restaurant per se, although it does have a lovely restaurant/event space overlooking Lake Union, and it used to be a restaurant back in the good old days. As an homage to that, the Swedish Club does "Kafe" Fridays, where they serve traditional Swedish fare starting at noon, transitioning to more significant menu items at 6 p.m. If you're craving some fabulous Swedish meatballs and you don't want to navigate a psychologically manipulative maze of furniture to get them, Kafe's got you covered. There are also the occasional Swedish pancake breakfasts on the cheap, and truly dedicated Swedish food connoisseurs can enjoy Lilla Fredag (Little Friday), which occur on the first, third, and last Wednesdays of the month. For Lilla Fredag, the bar opens at 5 p.m. and the only item on the menu is Swedish yellow pea soup. TOBIAS COUGHLIN-BOGUE