The Chef Recommends…
Seattle's Most Awesome Chefs and Bartenders Tell You Where to Go (With The Stranger's Mini-Reviews of Each Place, Too)
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- The Chef Recommends... Seattle's Most Awesome Chefs and Bartenders Tell You Where They Love to Eat and Drink Right Now
THE FAT HEN in Ballard as "a little neighborhood breakfast spot that serves killer baked eggs and eggs Benedict." Seattleite Linnea Gallo and her Italian-born husband, Massimo, run the Fat Hen, near Delancey in Ballard. The space is small but airy and lovely, with marble-topped cafe tables; they're serving breakfast and lunch and weekend brunch—eggs "in carrozza" (with prosciutto cotto and scamorza), eggs Benedict with superlative hollandaise on house-made English muffins, and more. Bock bock! (1418 NW 70th St, 782-5422, thefathenseattle.com, $–$$)
LA CARTA DE OAXACA in Ballard as "a perfect place for lunch, when there's no line!" Very delicious Oaxacan food—moles, tamales wrapped in banana leaves, chiles rellenos, etc., all made fresh in-house—has made bright, busy La Carta de Oaxaca in Ballard and Mezcaleria Oaxaca on Queen Anne citywide favorites, so expect a wait. Everything is much, much fresher and subtler (and spicier, and just better) than at your average family Mexican spot, with particularly fantastic homemade salsas and tortillas. Mezcaleria also has every mezcal available in Washington State and a big shiny metal roaster in the back room for the barbacoa de cabrito (marinated, barbecued goat, SO GOOD). Both restaurants are run by the Dominguez family, with mom Gloria Perez as head chef, and have millions of gorgeous photos of Oaxaca by local photographer Spike Mafford on the walls. Coming soon: La Carta on Capitol Hill! (5431 Ballard Ave NW, 782-8722, lacartadeoaxaca.com, $$)
DOT'S DELICATESSEN in Fremont because "the Rueben is awesome, and their own and thick-sliced, fatty pastrami is the key!" Miles James has worked at Campagne, Union, and Cremant. His Fremont deli serves house-made meats, including sausages, pâtés, and terrines, as well as some damn fine sandwiches, Belgian frites, and simple dinners to eat in or take out. James has said he wants to serve fancy ingredients cheaply and unpretentiously, and in this, he has succeeded. For a place so meaty, the name is surprisingly sweet: Dot is James's grandmother's nickname. (4262 Fremont Avenue N, 687-7446, dotsdelicatessen.com, $)
CAFE BESALU in Ballard for the "best pastries in town, hands down." At Besalu, ham-and-cheese and chocolate croissants, orange-glazed brioche, quiche, and more are all made with benevolent obsessiveness by pastry chef/co-owner James Miller. Everybody agrees: SO GOOD. Excellent coffee, too. (5909 24th Ave NW, 789-1463, cafebesalu.com, $)
DOT'S DELICATESSEN in Fremont because "Miles used to work with me, and the place serves great food." Rachel Yang recommends Dot's, too—see above.
POPPY on Capitol Hill because "it's my wife's favorite place—I think it's great too." At Poppy, former Herbfarm maestro Jerry Traunfeld fuses the Indian culinary tradition of the thali—a platter featuring a variety of small dishes—with his long-standing love of local/seasonal ingredients and ambitious Northwest cuisine. (The most local ingredients come from the garden he created in back—quite a change from the rear exit of the former tenant, the gay bar the Elite.) The interior is prototypically urban-contemporary: exposed brick walls, close-set tables, simple Scandinavian-style design (though the poppy-orange dots that accent the woodwork and menu feel a little forcibly whimsical). Strapped-but-adventurous types should try the great happy hour. (622 Broadway E, 324-1108, poppyseattle.com, $$$)
SHIRO'S in Belltown because "he's the best chef working in Seattle, period." Shiro is the man. It is worth waiting to worship this dictatorial sushi master at his counter (and customers do wait for seats before him specifically). He laughs gleefully as you eat your uni, chortling, "Chocolate from the sea!" He tells you how much soy sauce to apply to individual pieces of fish, and, in some cases, how long to chew them. (If you want more of his wit and wisdom [plus recipes!]—and you do—check out his memoir Shiro: Wit, Wisdom and Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer. The photos alone—from seemingly every step of his life in Japan and then Seattle—are amazing.) Those seated at his bar compulsively tell him how fantastic everything is. So the paint's a little scraped on one wall—whatever. Feel the love. But call ahead: Shiro isn't at Shiro's as much anymore, since he sold all but a minority interest (to partners, including one from the less-than-amazing local I Love Sushi chain). (2401 Second Ave, 443-9844, shiros.com, $$–$$$)
CANLIS on Queen Anne because "I love the bar, and Jason is one of my good buddies." Richie-riches, businesspeople, and gourmands love this midcentury marvel of a restaurant with its amazing view of Lake Union and its fancy-pants, imported-from-New-York-City, award-winning chef Jason Franey. The menu is "geeked-out comfort": wagyu tenderloin, lobster, foie gras, and so forth, dressed up with Franey's modernist techniques. The former dress code: "At Canlis, you cannot be overdressed." The new dress code: "At Canlis, we consider serving you a special occasion and hope you will consider this when planning your attire for the evening. We are a dressy, fine dining restaurant and we ask that gentlemen wear a suit or sport coat if possible." The music: live piano. Make a Republican take you. Make them pay. (2576 Aurora Ave N, 283-3313, canlis.com, $$$)
SERIOUS PIE downtown because "I love the entire concept of the place, super-simple and super-good." Tom Douglas forays into the pizza arena with Serious Pie, where every day brings a selection of individual-sized specialty pizzas. The menu gets experimental—one pie offers Yukon gold potato and rosemary on an olive-oil base, another's built of foraged mushrooms and truffle cheese—but the best is the traditional pie with house-made mozzarella and life-altering San Marzano tomatoes. Blackened around the edges by the 650-degree wood fire, the crust on all of the pies is salty and crispy on the outside, chewy and primal on the inside. (316 Virginia St, 838-7388, tomdouglas.com, $$)
SITKA & SPRUCE on Capitol Hill because "I love the communal table at Sitka & Spruce, and we get super high-quality food and service that doesn't feel fussy. I always end up talking to the others at that table. 'Only Mom can insert herself into a double date and start talking politics'—that was last week's comment when I took my daughters to Sitka & Spruce for dinner. They were making fun of me, but I took it as a compliment. Their other line was 'This smelt is the best, even if we've never had it before.'" This eclectic restaurant is world-famous for its small menu featuring local farm-fresh foods. Chef/owner Matt Dillon's preparations revolve around simple, clear, lovely flavors; sauces are sparing, nothing's overwrought, and insanely fresh produce meets again and again with the utmost care. Originally in a tiny spot in an Eastlake strip mall, in the spring of 2010 Sitka & Spruce moved on up to bigger rustic-chic digs in the Melrose Market on Capitol Hill. (1531 Melrose Ave E, 324-0662, sitkaandspruce.com, $$–$$$)
SERIOUS PIE downtown because "We basically live and work next door to Serious Pie. It's our neighborhood joint, and we all love our neighborhood restaurant where we can go practically in our pajamas because we are so comfortable. Even though I always get the kale salad, I still feel the need to eat nothing but fruit and vegetables the next day, because the pizzas are super-rich, but too delicious not to finish." Ethan Stowell recommends Serious Pie, too—see above.
ROW HOUSE CAFE in South Lake Union because "Row House has the best house-baked, old-fashioned cakes in the world, with the perfect amount of not-too-sweet frosting and such a moist cake. We go there regularly for our 4 p.m. coffee-and-cake break and for our weekly staff meetings." The Row House is aptly named: The three connected small cottages were built in 1904 as housing for immigrant workers and remodeled in 2010 to become a cafe. The furnishings include burlap curtains, exposed lightbulbs, unfinished wood, and a mantel against a (fireplaceless) wall. If it can feel a tiny bit precious—especially with website copy like "Here, in the Row House Cafe, your ideas and feelings matter"—it's got super-friendly waitstaff. (1170 Republican St, 682-7632, rowhousecafe.com, $)
HOT CAKES MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKERY in Ballard because "on Saturdays, if there's time, we go to Hot Cakes for coffee and their molten chocolate cake or warm chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream. We have a strong, but not big, sweet tooth that accompanies our 4 p.m. coffee. We always share." Autumn Martin, former Canlis pastry chef and Theo head chocolatier (and fourth generation Washingtonian), makes all-organic desserts from carefully sourced, local ingredients. The Ballard shop—a hybrid soda fountain/dessert cafe—features classic desserts (bread pudding, crème brûlee, salted butter toffee) and original treats, plus boozy milkshakes and cocktails. Eat them immediately, or take-and-bake their most popular item, a molten chocolate cake in a four-ounce mason jar. (5427 Ballard Ave NW, 420-3431, getyourhotcakes.com, $)
LORETTA'S in South Park because it has "probably the best burger in Seattle and is exactly my style." From the owner of Georgetown's beloved 9 Lb Hammer comes this South Park bar that's comfortable to a degree that could be hazardous to your liver's health. Loretta's is cozy like crazy, with its low, dark-planked ceiling, dim old light fixtures, wood-burl clocks, and record player in the corner. Drinking at Loretta's is like drinking in a cabin in the woods, or maybe inside a wooden cigar box. The tavern steak is good, and so are the fries; there's also burgers, a couple sandwiches, salad with or without meat or salmon. Skip the pork-tenderloin sandwich. (8617 14th Ave S, 327-9649, lorettasnorthwesterner.com, $–$$)
PALACE KITCHEN downtown because he loves "watching the line cooks cook on that line... and it feels like a real restaurant, has a great energy." This dim, crowded New American spot from Tom Douglas (aka T-Doug) is a longtime (since 1996!) late-night favorite for those who have the cash—the full menu is served until 1 o'clock in the morning. The Palace Burger Royale is possibly the original gourmet burger in the city. Hold out for a booth; you can wait at the bar. (2030 5th Ave, 448-2001, tomdouglas.com, $$–$$$)
CAFE PRESSE on Capitol Hill because of its "simplicity, perfection and consistency... they nail it." Cafe Presse—brought to you by the people of Le Pichet—is goodness incarnate: pretty but not fancy, and serving simple, good French food from the crack of dawn until two in the morning (in Seattle, a miracle). Among the (many) great menu items: the epitome of an omelet, the world's best green salad, a grilled-sardine sandwich, a cheesy-hammy-creamy croque monsieur, a giant slab of chicken-liver terrine, steak frites, a daily fish special, and more, more, MORE. Also: the city's best baguette and butter, all you can eat (which may turn you into the kind of person who wraps the leftovers in a napkin and puts them in your pocket.) From Presse's full (and marble) bar issue forth decent French wines at very decent prices, beers, and cocktails, while the television plays soccer from around the globe. Cafe Presse is pretty much a civic treasure. (1117 12th Ave, 709-7674, cafepresseseattle.com, $)
MA'ONO FRIED CHICKEN & WHISKY in West Seattle because Mark Fuller is "probably one of my favorite chefs in Seattle. His flavors to me are always so spot-on." In Hawaiian, "ono" means "delicious," and "ma" is a prefix that means going toward, facing, or making. Ma'ono in West Seattle is the reincarnation of the marvelous Spring Hill. Chef Mark Fuller's mother is from Kauai, and he spent time there growing up; when demand for his formerly Mondays-only fried chicken became unstoppable, he decided to make Hawaiian-inspired food to go along with it. (Whiskey requires no explanation.) The manapua (like Hawaiian hum bao) and the saimin (Hawaiian ramen) are just great, and you have to try the Ma'ono dog. And the freak-out-worthy brunch. If Spring Hill had to change, at least Mark Fuller's still, like the name says, making delicious. (4437 California Ave SW, 935-1075, maono.springhillnorthwest.com, $$–$$$)
CAFE BESALU in Ballard for the "spectacular caramelization and dough development... the sugar/salt level is so perfect on every pastry." Ethan Stowell recommends Besalu, too—see above.
BALLARD SMOKE SHOP in (duh) Ballard "for first-call hash browns and Fernet at 6 a.m. before ill-fated boating debacles, apparently." This is the place to go for well whiskey, a cheap can of cold beer, and a few pull tabs—at the Smoke Shop, people wear trucker caps unironically. The waitresses, who are old and beautiful in that dive-bar don't fuck with me way, are completely wonderful. The Smoke Shop is a treasure of a bar, even though you can't smoke there anymore. (5439 Ballard Ave NW, 784-6611, $)
LA CARTA DE OAXACA in Ballard because it's "my alma mater and still the best Mexican food in the city." Rachel Yang recommends La Carta, too—see above.
IN THE BOWL on Capitol Hill, though he failed to specify exactly why... In the Bowl is a tiny, no-frills diner with a vast, completely vegetarian menu that's a linguistic delight, with courses identified as "Episodes"—drinks are "Beverages Episode," side dishes are "Accompany Buddies Episode," curries are "Curry Episode" (yikes). To make decisions even harder, dishes can be ordered with four different veggie protein constructs (e.g., fried tofu, fake duck) and four different kinds of noodles. Especially popular: an appetizer called Melting Culture, served with grill-crisped, savory roti rice flour bread that may make you cry (with joy!). Noodle and curry dishes have un-overcooked veggies, and two stars gets you significant heat; soups are good, too. Prices aren't quite as low as the surroundings might merit, but vegetarians (and some normal people) really love In the Bowl. (1554 E Olive Way, 568-2343, inthebowlbistro.com, $–$$)
LA BÊTE on Capitol Hill for "consistently great food and service—punching way beyond their weight." The beautiful former Chez Gaudy space—a 1927 brick building tucked away on Capitol Hill's Bellevue Avenue—got a renovation and a very worthy tenant with La Bête. The space feels a little old-fashioned, intimate and pretty, but not at all precious; the Northwest-ingredient-focused cuisine is made by Aleks Dimitrijevic (Bouley, Harvest Vine, and Licorous). Of note: the alchemical handmade pork rinds and the banana split—and in between, it's hard to go wrong. One way to decide: Everybody here looks, surreptitiously or openly, at what everybody else is getting, in the way that the non-food-obsessed check out other people's dates. And on Mondays, the menu roves to cuisines like Indian or Mexican, and the results are generally as good or better than the best in town. A lot of chefs eat at La Bête on their nights off. (1802 Bellevue Ave, 329-4047, labeteseattle.com, $$)
BARRIO on Capitol Hill, "especially on half-price tequila & mezcal Mondays." The Heavy Restaurant Group—that is, downtown's, Kirkland's, Woodinville's, and Bellevue's Purple Cafe and Wine Bars, as well as Lot. No. 3 in Bellevue—created this upscale Mexican restaurant on Capitol Hill. The concept is "a Northwest approach to Mexican-inspired cuisine," with house-made salsas, short rib quesadillas, chipotle-seasoned scallops, and so forth. Also on offer: "creative, classic, and Latin-focused" cocktails and weekend brunch. The tiled bar resembles a swim-up one at a Mexican resort, but alas, there's no water around it; the rumor that there's one staffer solely dedicated to keeping the wall of candles lit is not true. (Bellevue's branch of Barrio closed in July 2011 after two years because it "wasn't succeeding at the same rate as our other restaurants," according to the H.R.G.) (1420 12th Ave, 588-8105, barriorestaurant.com, $$)
OOLA DISTILLERY on Capitol Hill because: "How awesome is it to have a really good distillery on Capitol Hill? It's pretty awesome." Oola Distillery makes handcrafted batches of premium distilled spirits—i.e., sweet, local booze—on Capitol Hill, across from Skillet Diner. Try it (and if you like it, buy it) in their tasting room. (1314 E Union St, 709-7909, ooladistillery.com, $$)
CANLIS on Queen Anne because: "Who holistically does a better job than Canlis? Food, service, bar, and coffee. Unparalleled." Ethan Stowell recommends Canlis, too—see above.
CANON on Capitol Hill because "between the unmatched selection and great service... one may even forget that they have great food." Jamie Boudreau finally got his own bar, Canon: Whiskey and Bitters Emporium (his colon), and the very great Murray Stenson is behind the bar with him. Formerly, Boudreau ran the bar of Vancouver's departed Daniel Boulud restaurant Lumiere, then that of the former location of Vessel downtown. Canon has dark upholstery, an antique cash register, a bar stained with Angostura bitters (on purpose), and such an extensive and beautiful liquor collection, it's somewhat unbelievable. Boudreau wants his patrons to be "ensconced in booze." To that end: a 100-drink menu-book, antique glassware, barrel-aged cocktails served in glass flasks, punch-bowl service, and more, more, MORE (including a nice little menu of food for ballast). It's the slightly ridiculous, totally marvelous pinnacle of Seattle cocktail culture. (928 12th Ave, 552-9755, canonseattle.com, $$)
BAR DEL CORSO on Beacon Hill because it's "a pizzeria where the pizza is great (of course), but there are enough other tasty things on the menu that you can forgo pizza completely if you aren't in the mood." On Beacon Hill, you can eat home-style Filipino food at brightly lit Inay's (and maybe catch the server's one-person drag show). You can get really good catfish at a Shell station. You can go to family Mexican restaurant Baja Bistro (or to its everyone-welcome-especially-gays-on-Wednesdays bar). Then there's Jerry Corso's wood-fired pizza place, Bar del Corso. Jerry—beloved in Seattle cooking from his days at Cafe Lago, Harvest Vine, and Campagne—lives in the neighborhood, and it's a neighborhood spot: friends running into each other and sharing a table, little kids jumping up and down. The Neapolitan pies, made with local/seasonal/etc. ingredients, are just great. (3057 Beacon Ave S, 395-2069, bardelcorso.com, $$)
MEZCALERIA OAXACA on Queen Anne because it's "just like the Carta [de Oaxaca], but mom is working at the Mezcaleria now... say no more." Very delicious Oaxacan food—moles, tamales wrapped in banana leaves, chiles rellenos, etc., all made fresh in-house—have made bright, busy La Carta de Oaxaca in Ballard and Mezcaleria Oaxaca on Queen Anne citywide favorites, so expect a wait. Everything is much, much fresher and subtler (and spicier, and just better) than at your average family Mexican spot, with particularly fantastic homemade salsas and tortillas. Mezcaleria also has every mezcal available in Washington State and a big shiny metal roaster in the back room for the barbacoa de cabrito (marinated, barbecued goat, SO GOOD). Both restaurants are run by the Dominguez family, with mom Gloria Perez as head chef, and have millions of gorgeous photos of Oaxaca by local photographer Spike Mafford on the walls. Coming soon: La Carta on Capitol Hill! (5431 Ballard Ave NW, 782-8722, lacartadeoaxaca.com, $$)
BAR FERD'NAND on Capitol Hill because it's "halfway between Le Pichet and Cafe Presse, makes a great rest stop especially when walking uphill. Plus you can talk bike racing with Marc." Bar Ferd'nand is the oyster-and-wine bar in the middle of the neato hangar-like Melrose Market. It's run by Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce, which is just steps away; it seems set up as sort of a S&S holding pen, but you can make an excellent supper of the snacks both off- and on-the-half-shell found here. (1531 Melrose Ave, Suite 3, 682-1333, ferdinandthebar.com, $$)
SUGAR BAKERY & CAFE on Capitol Hill for its "very good brioche and croissants in a area that is poor on options. Worth a bus ride." Created by Stephanie Crocker (no relation to Betty) and her husband, John McCaig, Sugar Bakery makes cakes, pies, pastries, cookies, coffee, soups, and sammies. They also sell whole cakes made-to-order that range in size from cupcake to small-province-of-Candyland. People love Sugar. (1014 Madison St, 749-4105, sugarbakerycafe.com, $)
JOE BAR on Capitol Hill because it's "perhaps the prettiest stretch of street in Seattle and Joe Bar is right in the middle of it. Good coffee and no nonsense. Nice wine by the glass is a bonus." Cute little Joe Bar has interesting art on the walls as well as nice people inside those walls, and crepes are served in addition to its namesake coffee. The cheapest and most delicious item on the crepe menu is also the most classic: lemon juice and powdered sugar, topped with thin-to-transparent slices of lemon. The more substantial savory crepes include a tasty Caprese salad rip-off and a spinach, roasted red pepper, and blue cheese combo. Also: panini, soup, salads, antipasti plates, and beer and wine, and yay for that. (810 E Roy St, 324-0407, joebar.org, $)
LLOYDMARTIN on Queen Anne because it's "a gem that's hidden in plain sight on the top of Queen Anne. If you don't know about it, shame on you. If you know about it, shame on you for not going more often." Chicago native Sam Crannell (Quinn's, Oddfellows, and, very briefly, 5 Corner Market) serves "product-driven" small plates with cocktails and wine at his upper Queen Anne place. It's named after his two granddads, it's small, it's dominated by dark wood, and it has a simplicity that more restaurants should aspire to—it looks great without making a lot of fuss. The food is good and so is the music, and you might overhear some amusing conversations ("Yes, I agree," the lady says, after taking a sip of her martini, "it's hard to find a good property manager these days"). LloydMartin is not cheap, but it is worth it. (1525 Queen Anne Ave N, 420-7602, lloydmartinseattle.com, $$$)
MISTRAL KITCHEN downtown because it's got "consistently some of the best foie gras the city has to offer AND they have a patio on which you can enjoy some of the best food in the city." William Belickis's Mistral in Belltown was one of very few Seattle restaurants offering an unapologetically formal haute cuisine experience. Born at the beginning of 2010, Mistral Kitchen is a mammoth, starkly contemporary space on Westlake with multiple kitchens, dining options from a la carte crudos to eight-course set menus, and a bar serving craft cocktails. The financially challenged can get a look/taste/sip at happy hour. (2020 Westlake Ave, 623-1922, mistral-kitchen.com, $–$$$)
CANLIS on Queen Anne, and "oh, and by Canlis, I mean the bar at Canlis. Too many people forget that you can eat there, either from the bar menu or the regular menu. Just as good as the main room but with more options!" Ethan Stowell AND Andrew Friedman recommend Canlis, too—see above.
LITTLE UNCLE in Pioneer Square and on Capitol Hill because "both locations are so small and hidden that you might walk right by and not realize that you are missing some fantastic 'brick and mortar' street food. With the new Pioneer Square location, you can now drink booze and sit at a proper table and truly enjoy the experience!" Little Uncle on Capitol Hill is a walk-up window of Thai-food deliciousness. Little Uncle in Pioneer Square is equally delicious, located in the subterranean space where Marcus' Martini Heaven used to be. Both are brought to you by former Lark sous chef Wiley Frank and his wife, Poncharee Kounpungchart, also known as PK, and also a chef, who are both extremely nice people. (Somewhat confusingly, "Little Uncle" is PK's father's nickname.) If you go get Little Uncle's superlative, inexpensive Thai food, you will not regret it—it is exceptionally fresh, legitimately spicy, and just great. For Capitol Hill, if you go to their website, you can place your order online, and they'll have it waiting in the 15-minute time frame of your choosing; for Pioneer Square, note that they're super-busy between noon and one, but come before or after, and you'll probably have the run of the place. (88 Yesler Way, 223-8529, littleuncleseattle.com, and one other location, $–$$)
ZIG ZAG CAFE downtown because the "brand-new expanded patio and sound baffling add even more reasons to get some of the best cocktails and friendliest service the city has to offer." The Zig Zag, tucked away on the stairs below Pike Place Market, serves very fine cocktails. The atmosphere is nice but not at all stuffy, with favorable lighting conditions. This is where Murray Stenson, the bartenders' bartender, aka Murr the Blur, used to do his alchemy—those behind the bar here have been trained well. (1501 Western Ave, 625-1146, zigzagseattle.com, $$)
BOTTLEHOUSE on Madrona because "Bottlehouse has a beautiful patio that is perfect for sipping (or pounding) wine." Bottlehouse is a wine bar and "shoppe" located upstairs from Madrona's urban winery, Wilridge (which makes special Bottlehouse blends). The motto: "Dwell, Drink, Be Well," which sounds soothing. The place was made with 80 percent reclaimed materials (including beams from a Capitol Hill duplex as seating and Montana barn wood) and focuses on local producers. Also: Salumi meats, cheeses from near and far, and both deck and back garden seating. (1416 34th Ave, 962-1619, bottlehouseseattle.com, $)
GREEN LEAF in Belltown and the International District because "Green Leaf serves delicious food until 1 a.m. or later, and when I enter the basement restaurant in Belltown, I feel like I'm being transported to somewhere far away." Green Leaf is the kind of place you selfishly want to keep a secret. The Vietnamese food is delicious and exciting and satisfying and good-looking and cheap as hell—a gift of greatness at hole-in-the-wall prices. Try the bahn xeo, a savory crepe-type thing: two giant half-moons made with rice flour and coconut milk, scented and colored with turmeric, crisp outside, moist and chewy inside, filled with tons of bean sprouts, shrimp, and pork (with a bonus heap of cilantro, basil, mint, and lettuce). It's messy, fun, and brings together greasy and fresh in an outstanding way. The beef la lot is extra great here, as is cabbage salad with duck, and green papaya salad with charred, grilled whole shrimp, and lots of other stuff. The servers are lovely and helpful, and the original ID space is much less hole-in-the-wally than the prices would make you expect, while the second Green Leaf, in the basement of the Labor Temple in Belltown, is an elegantly awesome hideaway. Another Belltown location shares a storefront with the nightclub Tia Lou's. Green Leaf is great. (418 8th Ave S, 340-1388; 2800 First Ave, 448-3318; greenleaftaste.com; $)
ZIG ZAG CAFE downtown because it's "so warm and welcoming, with top-notch drinks and service." Jamie Boudreau recommends the Zig Zag, too—see above.
BRASS TACKS in Georgetown because it's "just a funky place bordering on bizarre. The food is good and the drinks are stiff." Brass Tacks is the full-service sister restaurant to Ground Control, the well-liked Georgetown sandwich shop and bar. The atmosphere is upscale roadhouse—welcoming and intentionally odd, with shuffleboard amid the dining tables and a baby doll smoking a cigar in a big birdcage. Strings of lights make the rough-around-the-edges look pretty; a jazz band might play, loud enough that you have to shout a bit, on a Friday night. The Northwest comfort menu includes stuff like deviled duck eggs, lamb sliders, a Painted Hills cheeseburger, macaroni and cheese with house-smoked brisket, and something called pork fries; if that all sounds weighty, a half-dozen interesting vegetable dishes, like a grilled Caesar or roasted artichoke and arugula, round it out. (6031 Airport Way S, 397-3821, georgetownbrass.com, $$)
BATHTUB GIN & CO. in Belltown "'cause bourbon is my spirit animal and they have a great selection of it." Bathtub Gin, in the basement of the Humphrey Apartments in Belltown, is a miniature speakeasy-style bar that doesn't try too hard and works like a charm. The entrance is in the alley. Go early and park at the six-seat bar for a while to make new friends, drink great cocktails, and enjoy the hell out of yourself. (2205 Second Ave, 728-6069, bathtubginseattle.com, $)
LITTLE UNCLE in Pioneer Square and on Capitol Hill "'cause Wiley and PK are amazing human beings that only produce amazing soulful dishes." Jamie Boudreau recommends Little Uncle, too—see above.
TAVERN LAW and NEEDLE AND THREAD on Capitol Hill because "Needle and Thread—I love hidey-hole places that really make you feel like you got away for a while." From the gentlemen of Belltown's well-reputed, extremely popular Spur Gastropub and (ditto) the Coterie Room, Tavern Law is an upscale cocktail lounge with a vigorous speakeasy theme (including a "secret" upstairs bar called Needle and Thread). If you're eating, get the sous-vide fried chicken. JUST GET IT. (1406 12th Ave, 322-9734, tavernlaw.com, $$)
CANLIS on Queen Anne because "Food = mind-blowing / service = mind-readers." Ethan Stowell, Andrew Friedman, and Jamie Boudreau all recommend Canlis, too—see above. Canlis!
CAFE BESALU in Ballard because "What girl doesn't love crispy, flaky pastry made with butter and lard?" Ethan Stowell and Joshua Henderson recommend Cafe Besalu as well—see above. Besalu!
MAI THAIKU on Phinney Ridge "'cause it's not overly sweet Thai food made for the American palate. The spicy is hella spicy, and the sour will make your face pucker." Not your usual smothered-in-coconut-milk neighborhood Thai place, Mai Thaiku makes fresher, more interesting, and way more delicious Thai food than you might be used to. To heighten the buzz you'll get from the spicier dishes, the teeny bar, Fu Kun Wu, specializes in tincture-y cocktails that make various promises of vitality (with some aphrodisiac varieties limited to one per person, lest you get too freaky). Chef Anne Sawvalak, from Bangkok, heads up a mostly women-run kitchen; "I learned to cook from my mom, and the food that we are serving at Thaiku is based on recipes from our families in Thailand," says she. NOTE: Thaiku moved from its bigger, darker Ballard space to a pretty little Phinney Ridge bungalow in early 2013 (and added to its name: "mai" means "new" in Thai). (6705 Greenwood Ave N, 706-7807, thaiku.com, $$)
CRUMBLE & FLAKE on Capitol Hill because it "has some of the best pastries I've had anywhere in the world, and it's two blocks from my apartment, and it's so good that they often sell out of the good stuff before I'm dressed and out." Awesome pastry chef Neil Robertson (Canlis, Mistral Kitchen) bakes his ever-lovin' heart out (and sells out of his awesome goods really fast) at his tiny bakery on Olive Way. (1500 E Olive Way, 329-1804, crumbleandflake.com, $)
LA BÊTE on Capitol Hill because it "easily has some of the best food in the city, and combines it with the perfect amount of kitsch and a lack of pretentiousness." Andrew Friedman recommends La Bête, too—see above.
SHORTY'S in Belltown because "I love hot dogs, pinball, cheap booze, and Buck Hunter. Shorty's has these things." Hot dogs, booze, and pinball in one place spells fun for everyone (well, everyone 21 and older). Shorty's serves an array of bargain-priced wieners with a vast assortment of accompanying condiments—the Chicago dog, with all its salady stuff piled on top, is kind of close to healthy. Nostalgic soda pops and vegetarian options are offered for those who choose to abstain but still remember how to have a good time. For relatively high rollers, the Trophy Room back bar carries top-shelf liquors. Shorty's RULZ. (2222 Second Ave, 441-5449, shortydog.com)
ALTURA on Capitol Hill because "Altura truly cares about every aspect of their cuisine and provides a very unique menu format that is perfect for people who always want to try everything." In Italian, "Altura" means, roughly, a place on high. Dinner at Altura is expensive, but this is food of another order: Every plate is painstakingly composed, every bite compelling. The menu is Italianate local/seasonal/organic/foraged/etc., and the restaurant is across the street and south a bit from Poppy on Broadway. The interior is unintimidating, not-overdone rustic/reclaimed—beams, church pews, and the like—with an antique angel salvaged from a chapel in France that was bombed during World War II. Chef Nathan Lockwood (chef de cuisine at San Francisco's Acquerello when it earned a Michelin star, Fleur de Lys, the Ruins) and his crew works calmly in an open kitchen with counter seating; sommelier Guy Kugel was wine director at Flying Fish. The business manager is Rebecca Lockwood; she and Nathan met at the very unrarified Broadway Dick's (awww!). Altura is the sort of elevated eating you'll feel lucky to do even once in your lifetime—when food becomes drug, it is very fine dining indeed. (617 Broadway E, 402-6749, alturarestaurant.com, $$$)
ROCCO'S in Belltown because it's "a great casual spot to hang out and have a slice of pizza, and they just so happen to have an amazing cocktails, liquor, and beer selection!" Rocco's is where Noodle Ranch was for a billion years and then Dope Burger was for five minutes. Rocco's has a pressed-tin ceiling and old-timey light fixtures, and Rocco's serves a fine range of cocktails, plus pizza for cushioning. (2228 Second Ave, 448-2625, roccosseattle.com, $$)
BOAT STREET CAFE in Belltown, which is "Renee E.'s (totally ignored now) first place. Still my fave of her empire." This obscurely located but lovely French-ish bistro from Renee Erickson (now more well-known for the later Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard and the Whale Wins in Fremont/Wallingford) is a longtime favorite for good reason. Especially nice, weather permitting: sweet, quiet outdoor seating for brunchtime sunshine. (3131 Western Ave, 632-4602, boatstreetcafe.com, $$)
BAR DEL CORSO on Beacon Hill, but "I don't exalt the pizza the way everybody else does—at Corso, I eat everything else. EVERYTHING." Jim Drohman recommends Bar del Corso, too—see above.
SZECHUAN NOODLE BOWL in the International District "because yeah." A brightly lit, no-nonsense source of fabulous Sino-starch, the Bowl specializes in all things doughy, from bowls of ropy noodles to hand-pleated gyoza to scallion pancakes. Nearly everything served here possesses a deeply satisfying chew, and everything's real cheap, too. (420 Eighth Ave S, 623-4198, $)
BAKERY NOUVEAU on Capitol Hill (and West Seattle) for its "butter croissants two blocks from home." This beloved bakery is owned by William Leaman, the captain of Seattle's 2005 World Cup of Baking team, and offers crazy-making artisan breads, pastries, quiches, and tartines from both its Capitol Hill and West Seattle locations. (137 E John Ct, 858-6957, and 4737 California Ave SW, 923-0534; bakerynouveau.com; $)
BAR SAJOR in Pioneer Square "for that two-person steak he roasts up in fall and winter—at lunch!" Bar Sajor (pronounced sigh-YOUR) is a place in Pioneer Square brought to you by Matt Dillon (Sitka & Spruce and the Corson Building, and Food & Wine's 10 best new chefs in 2007, and James Beard Best Chef Northwest 2012) and his "co-conspirator de cuisine," Edouardo Jordan. The lovely high-ceilinged space is on the corner of cobblestoney Occidental Park at Jackson (next to Temple Billiards for your pool-shooting convenience). It's a bar in the Spanish or Portuguese sense of being a bar, Dillon says, "a casual place for simple food," one where you stop by for lunch or after work, and have a conversation and a drink and a snack or supper, instead of, say, drinking until you can't see straight at 2 a.m. (Pioneer Square's already set for that). Sajor is Dillon's mother's maiden name. While "Sajor" is Polish, Bar Sajor serves food influenced by North Africa, Portugal, Spain... it has a wood-fired oven and a wood-fired grill and rotisserie for lots of Stokesberry chicken—no stove and no range. Also: flatbread, simple roasted vegetables, house-made yogurt, excellent seafood, and "lots of naturally fermented goodness," like whey-fermented pickles. It is really, really good. (323 Occidental Ave S, 682-1117, barsajor.com, $$–$$$)