People are CA-RAZY about Vij's in Vancouver, BC. When sister restaurant Shanik opened this past winter in South Lake Union, anticipation was CA-RAZY high, and the start was rocky (including staff turnover right as the opening occurred). Shanik is not Vij's, nor will it ever be, but if you want refined, imaginative Indian cuisine made with high-quality, carefully sourced ingredients, served with professionalism in an unostentatious but elegant setting, you should try it. Yes, it is expensive, but this isn't your neighborhood Indian joint, and you can try lunch if you're cash-poor. And no, they don't take reservations (except for parties of six in the private room), but if waiting makes you cranky, you can line up before they open (just like at Vij's) or try, say, a Tuesday night. It's worth it. (Shanik, 500 Terry Ave N,, $$–$$$) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

Little Uncle in Pioneer Square

The extremely nice couple that runs Little Uncle has been dispensing exceptionally fresh, legitimately spicy, and fantastic Thai food from a pretty much literal hole-in-the-wall on Madison for a year and a half. Now they've also opened an actual restaurant, in the subterranean Pioneer Square space where Marcus' Martini Heaven used to be. It's lunch only right now, and it still has an under-construction look, but they are so nice and their food is so good (and well-priced, $5.50 to $10.95), it's just great to be here. Note that Thai food is perfect for hot weather, as is a cool basement room with old brick walls and Thai pop music playing. They're super-busy between noon and one; come before or after, and you'll probably have the run of the place. (Little Uncle, 88 Yesler Way,, Mon–Fri 11 am–3 pm, $–$$) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT


"Morsel" better describes the tiny space this cafe and restaurant inhabits in the U-District than the giant, cloudlike biscuits that are its specialty. The place feels like a neighbor's kitchen. Morsel's "Cheesy Biscuit" with roasted tomato jam is what garlic bread wishes it could be. Even if you're an Americano person, try the cappuccino. Just try it. Made with local Velton's Mexico Nayarita coffee and Twin Brook Creamery milk, its deliciousness towers above that of most coffee drinks, even in this land of high-quality coffee. There is also housemade bacon jam (!) and sandwiches, such as the popular "Spanish Fly," with prosciutto, Manchego cheese, fried egg, arugula, and aioli. Morsel took over the space of the beloved Nook this spring, and the love continues on. (Morsel, 4754 University Way NE,, $) SARAH GALVIN


The Essex is the name of the real-life ship that inspired the Pequod in Moby-Dick. Essex in Ballard, open since last summer, is a charmingly small space with a marble bar and old-timey wallpaper with whales in the pattern. Here, the owners of adjoining (and great) Delancey make homemade Fernet, different bitters, their own version of Grand Marnier with blood orange and grapefruit, and charred liqueurs made from fruits, herbs, and spices roasted in the pizza oven. They also offer simple, tasty oven-roasted foods (not quite as tasty as the pizza you can get next door, but then very little is). Nothing here feels overdesigned or overthought; it's just a lovely spot. (Essex, 1421 NW 70th St,, $$) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

Peddler Brewing Company

Parts of this bicycle-themed brewery, which opened this spring in Ballard, are actually made of bikes. There are brake-lever faucet handles in the bathroom, and the cement bar is inlaid with chain rings. There are tools, so patrons can work on their bikes socially while enjoying adult beverages, like Peddler's exceptional Caramel ESB, rather than crouched in some spider-filled carport. Rudimentary bike stuff like tubes and patch kits are for sale. Even more exciting—a sampler tray of every beer they make is available for a very reasonable price, and the beers come in itsy-bitsy glasses suitable for stuffed-animal parties and pretending to be Godzilla. (Peddler Brewing Company, 1514 NW Leary Way,, $) SARAH GALVIN


Back in 2006, Vessel was the first place in town where each cocktail on the menu bore a date, a place of origin, and a composer. It was contemporary-swank, it was snobby about vodka, and it was good. The location near the Fifth Avenue Theater closed in 2010, but last summer, Vessel was reincarnated at Seventh and Olive (site of the original El Gaucho, from 1953 to 1985). Vessel's bar is tended by Jim Romdell and a rotating cast of other local greats; the space is dark and luxe, with leather floor tiles in the entryway, matching leather coasters, and a laboratory for experiments with ice. The cocktail menu is less reverent now—you might find a fancy, superlative version of a grasshopper—but once again, as before, Vessel is an excellent place for an excellent drink. (Vessel, 624 Olive Way,, $$) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

La Toscanella

The next time you're hungry in South Lake Union, head over to La Toscanella. Open since last summer, the airy Italian cafe has a beautiful array of morning pastries (and outdoor seating on nice days) and also serves phenomenal egg skillets all day long—try the pear and Gorgonzola one! The very serious Italian man behind the counter also makes great baked pasta dishes with pasta that's made in-house every day. The summery Caprese sandwich is delicious, too, with buffalo mozzarella and homemade focaccia bread. And get dessert! You must! Their pastry case is one of the best in the city, filled with colorful fruit tarts, fat stacks of tiramisu, and various chocolate-drenched things. The best part: There's rarely a line on weekend mornings, unlike some of their cramped neighbors. Go! (La Toscanella, 116 Westlake Ave N,, $) MEGAN SELING

The Blu Grouse

Wraps and flatbread pizzas dominate the menu at this Georgetown restaurant and bar, which opened last year where the Tiger Lounge used to be. The Caprese wrap with buffalo mozzarella is the kind of sandwich you save half of because you never want to be done eating it. There are also "Bar Fight Nachos," which the owner assures are nonviolent, and the intriguing "Grandma Mona's Hamburger Soup." The Blu Grouse is in an old house whose backyard has been turned into a patio and fire pit. It's lovely place to have a beer on a warm night, or a Fireball shot, which are only $4 on Fridays. (The Blu Grouse, 412 S Orcas St,, $–$$) SARAH GALVIN

Le Zinc

Most folks associate Maximilien, located in a corner of the Pike Place Market, with its wooden sign shaped like a French officer pointing toward a hidden door. If you go inside, which you should, they greet you in French (Bonjour! Bonsoir!), and they serve some of the plumpest mussels in town (from Penn Cove). The vantage from the upstairs is unbeatable: Elliott Bay, ferries, freight cranes, West Seattle, and the Olympics, all magnificent in summer and cozy in winter. Maximilien's infant sibling, Le Zinc, opened like an hour ago on Capitol Hill—where Maximilien is traditional, Le Zinc is contemporary urban bistro, with a staff that's even more visually stunning, ahem, than the decor. They serve mussels, too, but the kitchen has some kinks to work out (someone give those chefs a bowl of lemons). (Maximilien, 81 Pike St,; Le Zinc, 1449 E Pine St,; $$) DOMINIC HOLDEN

Chico Madrid

Bocadillos are Spanish-style sandwiches made on baguettes. Tiny, new Chico Madrid on the west slope of Capitol Hill has absolutely delicious ones; they use Columbia City ficelle with stuff like high-quality bonito tuna and little bits of salty-tart preserved lemon. The bocadillos are neither too big nor too small, and with a super-crisp romaine salad and a glass of icy sangria (Chico Madrid has a sangria machine!), they are ideal hot-weather eating. Also: plates of choose-your-own meats and cheeses, pickled vegetables, tortilla Espanola... I ate here every day for a week when they opened this spring, and I didn't get anywhere close to tired of it. (Chico Madrid, 711 Bellevue Ave E,, $) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

Bar Sajor

Bar Sajor (pronounced sigh-YOUR) is a new place in Pioneer Square brought to you by the great Matt Dillon (Sitka & Spruce, the Corson Building). The lovely, high-ceilinged space is right on cobblestoney Occidental Park (next to Temple Billiards for your pool-shooting convenience), and it is particularly lovely (like all of Seattle) in summertime. The food—like all of Dillon's, it is extremely local and seasonal—will be magical all year round, but you just can't beat the foodstuffs of the Pacific Northwest over the next few months. Go to Bar Sajor and get some vegetables, the housemade yogurt, the chilled Dungeness crab with garlic mayonnaise, and a bottle of rosé, and it will be one of the best things you do all summer. (Bar Sajor, 323 Occidental Ave S,, $$–$$$) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT