EAT THIS CITY: Chef Don Curtiss Shares His ‘Can’t Miss’ Food Experiences In Seattle

Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your weekly tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by top chefs. This week, we’re checking out Seattle.

The real Emerald City, Seattle has plenty to recommend itself as a tourist destination. Over 6,000 acres of parks, incredible museums, the iconic Space Needle, world famous Pike Place Market, and views of both waterways and mountains from within the city limits. You’d be hard-pressed to have more fun in Dorothy’s Oz.

So what if it rains? You won’t melt.

Leading our tour of Seattle’s culinary delights is Chef Don Curtiss, owner of Volterra — which Rachael Ray once called, “One of [my] favorite restaurants in the world.” Flavor-wise, Volterra offers a bold-flavored, Tuscan-inspired menu which “showcases the bountiful harvest of the Pacific Northwest.”

The name itself was inspired, “by the largely-undiscovered Tuscan hilltop town of Volterra, Italy, where my wife Michelle and I were married in 2004,” Chef Curtiss explains. Today, Michelle acts as a managing partner in the restaurant.

Passion is the name of the game for the Volterra team. Chef Curtiss says that he strives:

To instill a passion for innovation along with regard for tradition in my team. Throughout my career, I’ve been dedicated to using the highest quality local and imported ingredients and treating them with respect. There is a focus on paying respect to the food chain here which makes Seattle very special. Seattle is culturally diverse city and that is certainly reflected in our food culture. We are fortunate to enjoy cuisine from all over the world.

The diversity of Seattle’s food culture is nowhere more apparent than it is in Chef Curtiss’ restaurant selections. Let’s dig in!


Ballard Pizza Company

Simple & Delicious. My favorite is the Salsiccia — Italian sausage, fennel, fennel pollen. You can buy a slice or the whole pie. It’s right down the street from our Ballard location, and they deliver late, so after a busy night, I like to order for the team. My staff love their pizza happy hour, too!


La Carta de Oaxaca

Consistently delicious. Great carne asada, mole, and fresh tortillas. Minimalist design with beautiful photos by Spike Mafford filing the walls. It’s always bustling, so not a place to linger.


Sushi Kashiba

Shiro Kashiba is a legend in Seattle. He took a hiatus after being in Belltown for 20 years and I’m so happy he’s back. His new place is much different — a beautiful space with a great view. My favorite spot is sitting at the sushi bar and ordering omakase.



Lahm Bi Ajine (Lamb, onion, garlic, aleppo chili, parsley) on whole wheat Mana’eesh, adding Halloumi cheese and a Turkish coffee.


Hot Cakes

I sneak over to Hot Cakes for their cookies when I’m craving something sweet. Michelle’s favorite splurge is the Drunken sailor boozey milk shake.



Canlis is always the first place that comes to mind when I think of fine dining in Seattle. It’s iconic. If you are looking for elegant, sophisticated dining, this is your place.


La Isla Cuisine

Authentic Puerto Rican food with a fun, lively atmosphere. A meal at La Isla evokes memories of beach vacations and tropical drinks. Our go to items are the Pastelon (sweet plantain lasagna with ground beef and cheese), Pernil (slow roasted marinated pork), Alcapurrias (green banana ground to a fine masa and filled with seasoned ground beef and deep fried) and Arroz con Gandules (yellow rice with green pigeon peas).


Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe

I was a big fan of the Gravity Bar back in the ’90s. Chaco Canyon is the closest thing I’ve found and the lentil burger is really tasty.



In the summer, Westward for a leisurely brunch with a great view.

For comfort food in the winter, Biscuits & Gravy or The Sawmill biscuit sandwich (fried chicken, cheese & gravy) at The Wandering Goose, but you have to get there early.


Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar

Tourists associate Seattle with seafood. Clam Chowder at Dukes or Ivars is always a good recommendation. However, a stop by a Taylor Shellfish Oyster bar is on my list for visitors.


Mendoza’s Mexican Mercado

Authentic Mexican food served in the back of a Mexican grocery store with counter seating. We don’t come often, so we typically get an assortment of items, but the portions are big, so keep that in mind.



Chocolate popcorn at the Cinerama.


Dick’s Drive-In

Dick’s Deluxe, fries, and a vanilla shake.


Terra Plata

Dinner on the rooftop at Terra Plata. If you are lucky to dine on a night when Chef Tamara Murphy has her outdoor kitchen open, you are in for a treat. Everything is served right from the grill and so fresh. Since I don’t drink, I enjoy their selection of housemade sodas.


Miller’s Guild

Miller’s Guild is one of our favorites in Seattle. Jason Wilson is a fantastic Chef and great guy. The Bone In Short Rib is our go to dish and they serve the best Steak Tartare in the city. The room is modern yet comfortable and has a great vibe.

Thank you, Chef Curtiss, for taking us on a culinary tour of Seattle this week!

Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier-level chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston and Detroit.

See you next week!