recommended RESTAURANT ZOË • Capitol Hill: Back in Belltown, Zoë was spacious and hushed, with sweeping windows and gauzy drapes. If some things felt dated—a sponge-painted wall, riveted mod/corporate ceiling panels, curlicued ironwork—it was a great fancy date place, with a kitchen long committed to carefully sourced, lovely ingredients, yielding generally marvelous results. Now Zoë is on Capitol Hill, not too far from its gastropub sibling, Quinn's, in a smaller, more rustic-styled space—open kitchen with hanging pans, lots of wood—next to Oola Distillery. People in Seattle who love restaurants are excited. (1318 E Union St, 256-2060,, $$$)

recommended LA LOT • downtown: La Lot is named after the betel leaf used in the generally delicious, cigar-shaped beef la lot and elsewhere in Vietnamese cooking. While the restaurant is on the ground floor of the aspirationally slick Aspira condominiums, it's got its heart in the right place—inspired by "our passion for food, love of our culture, and unity of family." La Lot's menu includes Vietnamese street-food-style dishes—the sisters used to make banh xeo (savory crepes) at a neighborhood stand—as well as more upscale and fusion stuff. It looks all windowy and contemporary, in a good way, and definitely worth a try. (925 Stewart St, #102, 682-8812,, $$)

recommended SKELLY AND THE BEAN • Capitol Hill: The awesomely named Zephyr Paquette (Poco Wine Room, Elliott Bay Cafe, Dandelion, Cafe Flora) finally has her own place, Skelly and the Bean. Near the Roanoke, where Easy Joe's/XO Bistro/Cassis used to be, SATB is a local/organic/etc. labor of love, put together with lots of volunteer effort (thanked on a Wall of Love) and donated/scavenged chairs and tables. It'll also house cooking classes and miscellaneous food-oriented community stuff. Regarding the name: Skelly is a kid who provided an initial investment of $10 ($7 in coins) to open the place; the Bean is his less-wealthy little sister. (2359 10th Ave E, 328-2326,, $$)

recommended PERSEPOLIS GRILL • U-District: Stranger reader Bita recommends Persepolis (named after the capital city of the ancient Achaemenid empire) on the Ave thusly: "It's persian/middleeastern cuisine. The food is GREAT—lots of BBQ and stews. The owners are very very friendly and the price is very reasonable." (5517 University Way, 524-3434,, $–$$)

recommended REGENT BAKERY & CAFE • Capitol Hill: The original Redmond location of Regent is such a favorite of software developers that it got mentioned in Valve Software's Portal. The new Capitol Hill branch, kitty-corner from Artusi, has brightly lit cases of cakes (green-tea mousse!), pastries (chocolate croissant, fruit tarts), and other baked goods, as well as coffee, bubble tea, and a full Chinese menu with a slick-looking sit-down dining area and bar. The people there are extremely nice, and preliminary investigations of the kouign-amann—a buttery, caramelized-topped sticky-bun-thing—were very pleasing. And they're going to stay open late on the weekends, so yay for that. (1404 E Pine St, 743-8866,, $–$$)

recommended FONDA LA CATRINA • Georgetown: In Latin folklore, Catrina is a skeletal dame who represents the equalizing concept of death when it comes to the rich and poor. In lieu of revolución, Fonda La Catrina seeks to bridge the class divide with affordable Mexican and a classy interior featuring the drawings of legendary political cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada. (5905 Airport Way S, 767-2787,, $–$$)

recommended ST. JOHN'S BAR AND EATERY • Capitol Hill: St. John's—where the Rosebud used to be—is brought to you by Val Kiossovski (who's in Kultur Shock), Billy Gould (Faith No More), and Michael Lee (the Young Evils, Mal de Mer), who also own Lower Queen Anne's Solo. Joe Randazzo, who's cooked at Solo for the last couple years, is in the kitchen. (719 E Pike St, 245-1390, saintjohns, $$)

recommended CAFE MUNIR • Ballard: This airy little Lebanese restaurant is where Gabriel's Fire used to be (and Zagi's Pizza before that) in north Ballard. Owner Rajah Gargour (Serafina, Szmania's) grew up in the Middle East (Lebanon and Jordan, to be exact) and is serving traditional mezze, that is, Middle Eastern small plates. Sounds good! (2408 NW 80th St, 783-4190,, $$)

recommended CAFE SUISSE • downtown: Cafe Suisse brings some Alpine flavor to the Northwest with Swiss soft drinks, pastries, and hot cocoa, as well as 100 percent not-Swiss Victrola coffee. A wooden wall inside features a cross-shaped window (à la the Swiss flag) through which customers can see the owners' next-door boutique, Eurostyle Your Life, and watch toy-makers make toys. (2008 Westlake Ave, 633-3876, $)

recommended THE AMBER DEN • Ballard: When his mother expressed intimidation about wine pretension, owner Nick Simonton decided to make a bar that's equal parts T-shirt and tux. The Amber Den specializes in locally made beer and wine, with seasonal/local ingredient panini, soups, and salads for lunch and Mediterranean small plates for dinner. The Den itself is like an upscale living room, with a couch, bookshelves, and a cozy upstairs mezzanine. (1556 NW 56th St, 783-0131,, $$)

recommended KORAL BAR & KITCHEN • Bellevue: Koral is run by the duo responsible for Pearl Bar & Dining, who promise (via the website) “A warm and inviting atmosphere designed to create a relaxed look and feel... [with] upscale appetizers, small plates and a full menu featuring unique items with a plentiful selection of comfortably prepared foods." One hopes things in the kitchen aren't too comfortable. (900 Bellevue Way NE Suite 100, Bellevue, 425-623-1125,, $$–$$$)

recommended STREETZERIA • Ballard: Streetzeria is a family-run food cart that serves local- ingredient-focused pizza "at street prices." Owner Greg Bye somewhat puzzlingly says he's "proud to support the Norwegian traditions in Ballard." (NW Market St and 24th Ave, 755-5433,, $)

recommended THAI CURRY SIMPLE • South Lake Union: Third location, same cheap Thai greatness! (400 Boren Ave N, 682-7771,, $)