Mike's Noodle House
418 Maynard Ave S (International District), 389-7099. Mon-Fri 9:30 am-8 pm, Sat-Sun 9:30 am-9 pm. $
Mike's is a better, cheerier version of the International District's Canton Wonton, a Chinese, soup-only cafe that specializes in homemade dumplings. Mike's raises the bar, though, with larger, fancier wontons and sui kau dumplings; plus, Mike makes his own squid balls (more tasty and less erotic than it sounds). Here, first-rate broth doesn't call too much attention to itself with wild, meaty overtures, and there's no MSG used at all. Mike also orders his soup noodles from Vancouver, BC, because they taste better, he says, than locally made noodles. STACEY LEVINE
1400 N 45th St (Wallingford), 633-0212. Lunch Tues-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm; dinner Tues-Thurs 5-9 pm, Fri 5-10 pm, Sat 5-9:30 pm. Closed Sun-Mon. No credit cards. $
Musashi has a teeny-weeny dining space. When approaching the long line outside, you might be greeted with amused and slightly bitter smirks as old-timers greet rookies with knowing glances and superiority. It's understood: Musashi is always worth waiting for.
The selection of sushi pieces is moderate when compared with other places, but what they do have is of amazing quality at remarkable prices. You can get teriyaki and some grilled vegetable skewers, but sushi is nature's candy, and that's what you should go to Musashi for.
I was most impressed by the maguro (tuna, $1.50) and hamachi (yellow tail, $1.50)--the cuts of fish are luscious, generous, and refreshing. The unagi (broiled eel, $1.60) is my favorite: smoky, crispy, and strapped to a bed of sticky rice by a seaweed seat belt. Hint: Spicy tuna rolls ($2.70) are not on the menu, but order them anyway. MELYSA LIEBERMAN
My Favorite Piroshki on Broadway
124 1/2 Broadway E (Capitol Hill), 322-2820. Daily 7 am-11 pm. $
For nearly seven years, with bustling efficiency and a thick accent, Alla Lyublin has been serving up topnotch Russian bakery tidbits at this tiny Broadway enclave, ensuring a dedicated clientele. The piroshki, of course--a pastry filled with various vegetables, meats, and cheeses ($3.25/$3.45)--is the bakery's most popular item. Diet-conscious eaters should note that My Favorite Piroshki only uses low-cholesterol egg whites and soybean oil; the rest of us can drool over the head-spinning house-made sweets (God save me from those poppy-seed rolls). The borscht ($1.85/$2.50) is also a must--once you've tasted the deep purplish-red beet soup with a dollop of sour cream, you'll be a regular. Specials like beef or chicken stroganoff never fail to please, and for the truly ravenous, the pirogy or pelmeni ($5.95)--platters of little dumplings filled with potato, turkey, mushroom, or cheese--are enough to fill your rumbling gut all day. MELODY MOSS
First Hill Bar and Grill
901 Madison St (First Hill), 623-6333. Mon-Fri 7 am-9:45 pm, Sat-Sun 8 am-9:45 pm; bar open later. $
This homey, low-key First Hill joint is an oasis of comfort food and stiff drinks, offering diner-style booths and counter seats, clocks set to various international times, cheesy Greek paintings, sweet-as-pie waitresses, and soft neon bar lighting. The Velaoras family has run this Greek American diner/bar for nearly 30 years, and the place deserves credit for not cashing in on the retro craze of nearby establishments. The food is unpretentious, delicious, and satisfying, with all-day breakfasts, soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, and meats--basic American dishes with a Greek twist, all done to perfection. Don't forget to stop by the diner's "Medi-Kwik" pain-reliever dispenser, or perhaps the cologne machine in the ladies' room--the latter shoots out a generous blast of Obsession for a mere quarter. MELODY MOSS
Nha Trang Restaurant
1207 S Jackson St, Suite B101, (International District), 860-0057. Sun-Thurs 9:30 am-9:30 pm, Fri-Sat 9:30 am-midnight. $
The Formica interior and artificial flowers all say, "Another Vietnamese noodle shop!" But a look at the elaborate menu and a taste of the fantastic food tells a very different story. This newcomer in the International District has some of the tastiest, freshest Vietnamese food around. The name is taken from a resort city in the southern part of the country, not far from Ho Chi Minh City. The artificial flowers attempt to re-create the tropical feeling of this destination on the China Sea, but the food does a much better job. Though they've got all the usual noodle dishes, there's a lot that you won't see elsewhere, like lotus flower stem salad ($9.95) and catfish fire pot ($6.95). Nha Trang has something for everyone, with an extensive vegetarian selection (15 dishes) as well as the infamous "Seven Courses of Beef" ($14.95). If you're still hungry after that, get an iced coconut-bean-jelly drink and imagine you're on a sunny beach in Indochina. CHARLES ROSENBERG
Price Scale (per entrée)
$= $10 and under; $$ = $10-$20; $$$ = $20 and up.