Chef Brian Clevenger at Vendemmia. Kelly O

1. Bill's Off Broadway

Capitol Hill

725 E Pine St, 420-7493

Okay, it's not new new, but Bill's Off Broadway has reopened after a two-year hiatus (during which its 100-year-old building was transformed into a multistory structure with 95 apartments), with an expanded menu and more beers on tap. In a city that feels like it's losing many of its charming older haunts, the return of Bill's—and its gloriously cheesy pizzas made with mozzarella, cheddar, and Monterey Jack—is cause for celebration.

2. The Carlile Room

Downtown

820 Pine St, 946-9720

Seattle's most prolific restaurateur, Tom Douglas, has said that his 19th restaurant, the Carlile Room, is most similar to the Palace Kitchen, his best eatery. The menu—crafted by chef Dezi Bonow (who came over from the Palace)—is heavy on creative vegetable dishes such as roasted cauliflower head with lobster broth and braised eggplant with burned cumin aioli. But don't worry, carnivores, there's plenty of meat, too, including a knockout prime-rib roast.

3. Chop Shop Cafe & Bar

Capitol Hill

1424 11th Ave, 535-8541

From chef Ericka Burke, whose tagline at her beloved Volunteer Park Cafe is "always fresh goodness," comes the similarly minded Chop Shop, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner—plus cocktails and wine via a full bar. The food is very Pacific Northwest: small plates of well-sourced, local, seasonal food, including a rotating meat chop (pork, lamb, etc.). The in-house juice bar offers fresh juices, house-made pastries, and grab-and-go lunches.

4. Country Dough

Downtown

1916 Pike Place #14, 728-2598

Fans of chef Cheng Biao Yang have followed him as he's moved around over the years, from Seven Stars Pepper in the ID to Szechuan Chef and Spicy Talk Bistro on the Eastside, and then back to the ID at Uway Malatang. At Country Dough, his small stand in Pike Place Market, Yang hand shaves the noodles for which he is famous, but he also makes guo kui, Szechuan flatbread that's hand rolled, griddled, baked, and then stuffed with fillings like cumin-sauce beef.

5. Eden Hill

Queen Anne

2209 Queen Anne Ave N, 708-6836

Chef Maximillian Petty, a Northwest native who built a solid culinary reputation in Austin, has brought his "avant-garde New American" cuisine to Queen Anne. His menu of small plates includes luxurious, over-the-top-sounding dishes like "crispy pig-head candy bar" and "duck duck goose," the latter of which includes a duck-leg-confit crepe with prosciutto and foie gras.

6. Fat's Chicken & Waffles

Central District

2726 E Cherry St, 602-6863

Marcus Lalario (Li'l Woody's, 95 Slide) has taken over the Central District space that was home to Catfish Corner for nearly 30 years, given it a major structural upgrade and a stylish 1970s vibe, and turned it into a New Orleans–influenced eatery of fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, and fried okra. (Also of note, cocktails, beer, and wine.) As a nod to the building's history, there's also fried catfish.

7. Girin

Pioneer Square

501 Stadium Place S, 257-4259

Girin is a high-end—and beautifully designed—Korean steak house situated, somewhat improbably, across the street from CenturyLink Field. The menu focuses on beef—much of it butchered and aged in-house and then grilled and offered as traditional ssam to wrap in lettuce leaves with herbs and house-made sauces. Girin's ambitious bar also brews its own makgeolli, a traditional Korean unfiltered rice wine.

8. Gnocchi Bar

Capitol Hill

1542 12th Ave, 328-4285

Lisa Nakamura's Gnocchi Bar has a decidedly casual (and somewhat hodgepodge) feel, partly because the space is still dominated by a large case of D'Ambrosio Gelato, the former tenant of the space. But when it comes to culinary skills, Nakamura, who worked at both the French Laundry and the Herbfarm, is dead serious. Her gnocchi are pillowy, fluffy, and delicious—and the buttery, still-warm biscuits she serves every morning are damn good, too.

9. Goldfinch Tavern

Downtown

99 Union St, 749-7070

It's amazing how quickly chef and restaurateur Ethan Stowell opens good-looking new restaurants around the city. With Goldfinch Tavern, housed inside the swanky Four Seasons Hotel and named after the state bird of Washington, Stowell and chef Joe Ritchie aren't straying much from the seasonal, Pacific Northwest formula, and it's worth a trip particularly for the raw bar stocked with pristine seafood. Also, the dining room's view of Elliott Bay is flat-out gorgeous.

10. Herb & Bitter Public House

Capitol Hill

516 Broadway E, 708-6468

Herb & Bitter Public House owner Jesus Escobar completely overhauled the space that was home to Capitol Hill's Than Brothers Pho for many years, and the transformation is impressive—skylights, a massive bar made of reclaimed wood, and, most notably, a back patio with a retractable glass roof that has both air-conditioning and heating. It's a lovely place to sip cocktails made from the bar's vast array of bitter Italian amari, as well as liquors that are barrel-aged in-house.

11. Heyday

Mount Baker

1372 31st Ave S, 829-9816

Owned in part by Gary Snyder, whose Geraldine's Counter is a fixture in Columbia City, Heyday is all about burgers made from all kinds of protein: beef, pork, and shrimp (the Saigon burger); smoky lamb; jerk chicken; and beets, beans, mushrooms, and nuts (the house-made "beety bean"). Purists will appreciate the classic burger, made from a third of a pound of grass-fed beef. Chef Melissa Nyffeler, of the late, great Dinette on Capitol Hill, created the menu. This is the casual neighborhood restaurant Mount Baker needed, and the crowds are already lining up.

12. Lionhead

Capitol Hill

618 Broadway E, 922-3326

Chef Jerry Traunfeld (Poppy, the Herbfarm) is rightfully famous for his masterful use of herbs, spices, and Northwest ingredients. At Lionhead, located right next door to his Indian-inspired restaurant Poppy, Traunfeld offers his take on the fiery Szechuan cuisine he's been a fan of for many years—pork meatballs, ma po tofu, and dan dan noodles. This is beautiful food.

13. Naka

Capitol Hill

1449 E Pine St, 294-5230

Kaiseki is the Japanese tradition of coursed meals comprising artfully plated, seasonal dishes. At Naka, the first restaurant from chef Shota Nakajima, you can relinquish all control and order one of three omakase options, ranging from $75 to $170. If you want to experience Nakajima's most elaborate—and no doubt gorgeous—meal, you'll need to order it at least seven days in advance. Those with less cash and planning skills can also order most of his dishes à la carte.

14. Orfeo

Belltown

2107 Third Ave, 443-1972

Owners Kevin and Terresa Davis (Steelhead Diner, Blueacre Seafood) are known for their seafood-focused restaurants, but with Orfeo, they're turning their attention toward classic Italian and French cuisine prepared in a kitchen equipped with two types of traditional hearths: there's a custom-built charcoal-burning Wood Stone Josper for entrées like New York strip steak and Dungeness crab, and a wood-fired brick oven for baking pizzas and fresh bread, as well as roasting proteins and vegetables.

15. Salare

Ravenna

2404 NE 65th St, 556-2192

There's no one in Seattle making food like chef Edouardo Jordan at Salare. Drawing from his time at such notable places as the French Laundry, the Herbfarm, and Bar Sajor, as well as his own southern upbringing and salumi-making training in Italy, Jordan has developed a style that's utterly distinct—and delicious. His menu is rich with nose-to-tail cooking, local produce, handmade pastas, house-made charcuterie, and fresh seafood, as well as fermented foods and pickles.

16. Salted Sea

Columbia City

4915 Rainier Ave S, 858-6328

Huy Tat, a Columbia City native who also owns the International District's wonderful noodle shop Hue Ky Mi Gia, opened Salted Sea because he wanted to give South Seattle the restaurant he felt it was missing: a place where people can enjoy the fresh seafood he and his family love. The menu is filled with oysters, mussels, crab, trout, scallops—and more—with flavors from Vietnam, China, and the Philippines.

17. Soi

Capitol Hill

1400 10th Ave, 556-4853

Soi, which translates to "side street," specializes in traditional Thai food, particularly funky, spicy, and boldly flavored dishes (such as green-papaya salad with pickled crab and fish sauce, grilled game hen, and sour pork) from the Isaan region of northeast Thailand. "Our food is fiery," Soi's menu states, as much a warning as a declaration of pride.

18. Super Six

Columbia City

3714 S Hudson St, 420-1201

Super Six serves the Hawaiian- and Asian-influenced food that has helped owners Kamala Saxton and Roz Edison build a loyal following at their Marination restaurants. But for this project, they've upped the ante by having chef Mark Fuller of West Seattle's excellent Ma'Ono Fried Chicken & Whisky consult on the menu, including dishes like grilled mackerel poke, Korean fried chicken wings, and pork ssam. If the weather is nice, you'd be wise to grab a seat on the restaurant's expansive outdoor patio.

19. Rachel's Ginger Beer

Capitol Hill

1610 12th Ave

At the second location featuring Rachel Marshall's wildly popular ginger beer, the original as well as seasonal flavors flow from taps in both their pure form and as cocktails. There are also machines churning out frozen cocktails and soft-serve ice cream (think boozy floats). Drinks aside, the menu—designed by Neon Taco's Monica Dimas—features excellent frites with almost 20 house-made dipping sauces in flavors as wide-ranging as buttermilk ranch, maple, malt mayo, and pho.

20. Vendemmia

Madrona

1126 34th Ave, 466-2533

Vendemmia may be chef Brian Clevenger's first restaurant, but the assuredness of the food reflects his extensive experience cooking at Italian restaurants Staple & Fancy, Tavolàta, and Serafina. The menu is grounded in handmade pastas and seasonal produce, but perhaps the best way to eat is by reserving up to five seats at the chef's counter, which faces Vendemmia's open kitchen and for which Clevenger writes a different tasting menu every day. recommended

This article appeared in the fall 2015 issue of The Sauce.