$ = $10 or less $$ = $20 or less

$$$ = $21 and up

Price code based on average cost of entrée.

Ballard
Bait House Cafe 5517 Seaview Ave NW, 297-9109, $$ Two words: crab melt. With chewy cheese on a kind of brioche bread, the melt is so decadent one has to nap afterward. You might find yourself waiting until the end of time for your food to come, but the deck is very, very pleasant.

The Dish 4358 Leary Way NW, 782-9985, $ One of the best breakfast spots in Seattle (hence the constant wait for tables), the Dish serves up incredible portions of delicious egg (and tofu) scrambles. The Mexican-flavored plates are out of this world.

Grapes 5424 Ballard Ave NW, 297-1460, $ This Ballard Avenue wine shop/cafe has all the good elements of a cocktail party without the obligatory small talk. You can sample wines and get a ploughman's plate too, loaded with cured meats and imported cheeses. The bistro also offers nice sandwiches, including a ProvenŸal-style pan bagnat with tuna, and another one with pear and Fourme d'Ambert, a slightly mushroomy French blue.

Hattie's Hat 5231 Ballard Ave NW, 784-0175, $$ Hattie's no longer has pot-roast night (rest its soul), but the buttermilk-soaked fried chicken with gravy (and choice of excellent sides) is still around. Breakfast--biscuits and gravy, huevos rancheros, good pancakes with jam--is worth getting out of bed for.

Le Gourmand 425 NW Market Street, 784-3463, $$$ Traditional French cuisine done up with fresh Northwest produce makes for down-to-earth yet fancy food with names that are hard to pronounce but very easy to enjoy.

Market Street Grill 1744 NW Market St, 789-6766, $$ This is new Ballard--a sleek, sophisticated restaurant painted in IKEA-like colors, with food that seems to take on a bustling city's characteristics by being layered, complex, detailed, and very, very busy. Every dish is embellished up the wazoo, but it doesn't mean that some of them aren't very good.

Mike's Chili Parlor 1447 NW Ballard Ave, 782-2808, $ Featuring down-home, meat-packed dishes, Mike's food is cheap and hearty, with everything from burgers to various chili-themed entrees that you can wash down with a variety of beers.

The Other Coast Cafe 5315 Ballard Ave NW, 789-0936, $ You know what sounds good? A huge, cheesy, potentially messy sandwich. Go here.

People's Pub 5429 Ballard Ave NW, 783-6521, $ If you're looking for the kind of hearty fare Germans use to power through dark, cold winters, the People's Pub's Kraut-friendly menu may be just what you need. Giant Wiener schnitzel helps soak up its many brands of beer--some of which are meals in and of themselves.

Ray's Boathouse Cafe 6049 Seaview Ave NW, 789-3770, $$$ The Ballard institution offers both "cafe" and dining-room seating and a wide selection of dishes from the sea, but some of its star attractions are on the super-cheap happy-hour specials menu.

Thaiku 5410 Ballard Ave NW, 706-7807, $ Not your usual smothered-in-coconut-milk Thai food. Some very nice and balanced dishes. Noodle soup with duck is especially good.

Belltown
Brasa 2107 Third Ave, 728-4220, $$$ One of the current Seattle food stars, Brasa may overwhelm average diners--the menu is far-flung and can be intimidating--but it's a surprisingly fun place to go with a group for appetizers in the bar.

Buffalo Deli 2123 B First Ave, 728-8759, $ Fact: the cozy little Buffalo Deli has the best French dip (or would that be Freedom dip?) in town.

Cyclops 2421 First Ave, 441-1677, $$ Another Belltown restaurant that's often packed, Cyclops earns its popularity by serving good, imaginative food, tasty drinks, and the best empanadas downtown.

Dahlia Lounge 2001 Fourth Ave, 682-4142, $$ Serving up favorites like salmon (of course), pork loin, and rib-eye steak (plus a few vegetarian options for good measure), Dahlia Lounge tops 'em all off with fancy purées (cipollini), confits (carrot), and emulsions (asparagus). But the real draw is dessert, featuring everything from chocolate cake or blueberry sorbet, to homemade doughnuts or poached apricots.

El Gaucho 2505 First Ave, 728-1337, $$$ A swank, old school, see-and-be-seen spot to fill up on salty steaks and good martinis.

EN 2429 Second Ave, 770-0250, $ No sushi here--just Japanese home cooking. Tonkatsu (a breaded, fried pork cutlet served over rice) is just the thing for a cold rainy day; pan-roasted sea bass, fried scallop cakes, and maguro salad are good any time.

Fandango 2313 First Ave, 441-1188, $$ Lively pan-Latin cooking with fun cocktails and a well-dressed crowd. Make a reservation for one of the booths.

Five Point Cafe 415 Cedar St, 448-9993 Another one of Seattle's 24-hour dives, except the Five Point is actually worth going to even if it isn't the only thing open. Get the fries--some of the best in Seattle.

Flying Fish 2234 First Ave, 728-8595, $$ One of the first and still one of the best of the high-end, upscale/casual eateries in Belltown. Whole grilled fish, huge platters of well-prepared seafood, and a happening bar all make Flying Fish a must-eat spot. Pricey but justifiably so.

Lampreia 2400 First Ave, 443-3301, $$$ This quiet foodie mecca serves some understated, artful, and thickly delicious food: you know, foie gras, cheese, chocolate. If you're super serious about fine food, this is the place to go.

Le Pichet 1933 First Ave, 256-1499, $$ Unfussy, delicious, clean, uncluttered, real. Here is the place to indulge your cravings for all the weird, wonderful things the French do to meat, such as rillettes, confit, and pâté. Le Pichet could so easily have gone over the top with the preciousness and the pretentiousness and the expensive food; praise the Lord, it didn't.

Mama's Mexican Kitchen 2234 Second Ave, 728-6262, $ No one ever admits to liking Mama's Mexican Kitchen but people eat there all the time, making it the most popular guilty pleasure in town. Maybe it's because every dish they serve is enormous and smothered in cheese.

Marco's Supperclub 2510 First Ave, 441-7801, $$ A truly urban place--one where a lot of people share a small space and interaction is inevitable, not to say guaranteed--serving truly urban food, with ethnic flourishes from all over. The gossamer fried sage leaves have become something of a legend.

Marjorie 2331 Second Ave, 441-9842, $$ This hot newcomer to Belltown features around-the-world cuisine in a cool, candlelit setting. The cocktails are flawless, the kitchen serves late, and the fresh bread comes with homemade butter.

Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant 2334 Second Ave, 956-0500, $$ Thank goodness Moroccan food is back in Seattle--with all the traditional and slightly theatrical accompaniments: the pillows to lounge against, the minty tea poured from a great height, scented water poured over the hands. And the food is lovely: fragrant stews over couscous, a flaky, buttery chicken pie, chicken with preserved lemons.

Mistral 113 Blanchard St, 770-7799, $$$

One of a few Seattle restaurants offering an unapologetically haute-cuisine experience. The formal dining freaks out some people, as do the prices, but its young chef, William Belickis, gets consistent praise for his high-minded tasting menus, which are sometimes improvised for individual guests. Be ready to spend $100-plus a person.

Noodle Ranch 2228 Second Ave, 728-0463, $ Pan-Asian cuisine with some of the best green curry in town.

Queen City Grill 2101 First Ave, 443-0975, $$ Seafood is the weeknight attraction at this longstanding Belltown corner spot, but weekends become overcrowded with hot-n-horny singles trolling for fun.

Shorty's 2222 3/4 Second Ave, 441-5499, $ Coney dogs, booze, and pinball in one small joint spells fun for everyone (well, those 21 and older). Nostalgic soda pops and vegetarian options are offered for those who choose to abstain but still remember how to have a good time.

Toi 1904 Fourth Ave, 267-1017, $$ Toi, first a dance club, second a restaurant, is a great place to wine and dine your date and then get your dance on.

Two Bells Tavern 2313 Fourth Ave, 441-3050, $ A comfortable neighborhood joint with great pub food, great drinks, and exceptionally friendly service.

Zoe 2137 Second Ave, 256-2060, $$

A friendly upscale Belltown spot with European sophistication (they're not afraid of kids) and inventive, high-class American cooking.

Capitol Hill
611 Supreme 611 E Pine St, 328-0292, $ The crepes are larger than the plates underneath them, a serene brown (due in part to buckwheat flour), crispy at the edges. This is perfect food--whether wrapped around smoked salmon, sautéed mushrooms, or caramelized apples--both ephemeral and hearty at the same time.

1200 Bistro 1200 E Pike St, 320-1200, $$ A bit of Belltown on Capitol Hill serving grown-up comfort food: a burger with Gorgonzola, pasta with smoked tomato sauce, grilled duck with potatoes. Plus, some really sophisticated-looking drinks.

Ballet 914 E Pike St, 328-7983, $ Under vigorous new ownership, the once-spotty Ballet has reemerged as Capitol Hill's underdog champ of routinely delicious food. Offering an array of Asian, pan-Asian, and Pacific Rim delights (including a much-celebrated pho), Ballet's key asset is shockingly fresh, expertly prepared vegetables.

Bill's Off Broadway 725 E Pine St, 323-7200, $ Honestly, you don't have to be drunk to like the food here, although the pizza--pillowy and cheesy, the right balance of hot, salty, and greasy--has been known to make the room stop spinning.

Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen 506 E Pine St, 329-9978, $ Fat, tasty burritos, pretty good everything else. Sometimes crowded, which means a wait, but the Bimbo's crew is perfectly willing to come track you down in the Cha-Cha when your table's ready.

Broadway New American Grill 314 Broadway E, 328-7000, $$ Open early, open late, the Broadway Grill offers a good menu of perfectly okay renditions of American standards. Very popular with the gays and those who love them.

Cafe Septieme 214 Broadway E, 860-8858, $ Places all over town have copied Cafe Septieme's trademark blood-red walls, but no place in the city can capture Septieme's ambience. At lunch, have the chicken club or the Septieme salad. At dinner, the schnitzel, the spaghetti carbonara, and the strip steak are all worth the calories. Breakfasts are awesome--and can take the edge off any hangover. Lattes are served in a bowl at Septieme and you're free to sit as long as you like.

Capitol Club 414 E Pine St, 325-2149, $$ A casual, heavily draped interior coupled with a mostly Mediterranean menu and full bar.

Capitol Hill Cafe Internet Lounge & Eatery 216 Broadway E, 860-6858, $ Offering a wide selection of delicious sandwiches (catering to both meat-eaters and vegans), salads, and specials like homemade calzones and macaroni and cheese, the Capitol Hill Cafe is open until midnight every night.

Cassis 2359 10th Ave E, 329-0580, $$ Everyone has a roast-chicken theory, but trust us--get the roast chicken at Cassis. It's chicken sent to sublime new heights. The other food at this restaurant specializing in the heartier side of French cuisine is also swoony: slow-roasted pork shank, cassoulet, coq au vin, sweetbreads. Don't ignore desserts.

Coastal Kitchen 429 15th Ave E, 322-1145, $$ With its revolving, typically delicious menu, Coastal Kitchen rustles up geographically themed "coastal inspired foods" on a seasonal basis. Don't be frightened: It's carved a niche serving food that's both exotic and familiar. One thing that never changes: stunningly delicious brunch items, grouped under the unfortunate title "Blunch."

Deluxe Bar & Grill 625 Broadway E, 324-9697, $ A great place to duck into during a rainstorm for a bowl of soup and some cozy cocktails, or to toss back some pints and a burger before taking in some subtitled gem at the nearby Harvard Exit.

El Greco 219 Broadway E, 328-4604, $ This Broadway Mediterranean staple--usually crowded due to the cramped layout of the blue-hued dining room--is a great spot to settle in over a bottle of wine and while away the hours nibbling on hummus, tzatziki, and baba ghanoush.

Galerias 611 E Broadway, 322-5757, $$ Scrumptious nouveau Mexican food, jaw-dropping margaritas, and a charmingly laissez-faire wait staff make Galerias a beloved fixture on Broadway. And it's not all melted cheese and mole: Check out the imaginative salad options, which are meals unto themselves.

Garage 1130 Broadway, 322-2296, $ The main attraction is the pool hall, but the bar food is also good. Burgers, pizza--perfect to wash down with the booze o' your choice.

Glo's 1621 E Olive Way, 324-2577, $ Expect to relax with a cup of coffee while you wait for a table in this delicious, popular, and tiny breakfast nook. Morning burritos, omelets, and eggs done fancy or plain make the wait well worth the time.

Gravity Bar 415 Broadway E, 325-7186, $ Gravity Bar's RV1 is health food at its most basic: a bowl of steamed brown rice with a colorful array of perfectly steamed vegetables and sauce (lemon-tahini may even win over people who don't like tahini) on the side. This futuristic hippie-style place also features a staggering list of juice combinations.

Green Cat Cafe 1514 E Olive Way, 726-8756, $ The robust vegetarian menu at this Capitol Hill institution features eggs or tofu scramble, granola and fruit, smoothies and juices, salads and sandwiches, brown rice and veggies. It's not the afterthought food of many cafes, but the real, thoughtful thing. If only you could get a table.

Hana 219 Broadway E, 328-1187, $ One of Capitol Hill's best bargains for sushi and teriyaki. Clean and casual, and usually quite crowded, it's still worth the wait.

HoneyHole 703 E Pike St, 709-1399, $ Serving the biggest and sloppiest hot sandwiches in Seattle, HoneyHole will quiet any grumbling stomach screaming for comfort food as the temperature drops and the rain starts to fall.

Jamjuree 509 15th Ave E, 323-4255, $ This family-owned restaurant is a Capitol Hill favorite for seafood, curries, noodle dishes, and other Thai standards. With plenty of veggie options (they work small miracles with green beans) and street-style food, such as fish cakes and chicken satay.

Kimchi Bistro 219 Broadway E, 323-4472, $ Finally there's some good Korean food on Capitol Hill. Often spicy and always soulful (Koreans like barbecue too, you know), every entrée comes with funky, pickley kimchi and another little vegetal treat. Oxtail soup, with clear slippery noodles, has an unmistakable fragrance. Bibimbop, the classic rice bowl, comes with a rainbow of marinated veggies, beef if you like it, and a very lightly fried egg on top.

KingFIsh Cafe 602 19th Ave E, 320-8757, $$ From the day it opened its doors some five or so years ago, the Kingfish has been packed. People still wait, often for an hour during the weekends, to eat its fancy soul foods, and absorb its atmosphere of jazz and black American prosperity. Buttermilk fried chicken, thick and sweet collard greens, spicy and flesh-soft catfish are a few of their treasured items.

Linda's Tavern 707 E Pine St, 325-1220, $ Good bar food and standard, very solid breakfasts. One of Seattle's best drinking joints, with a killer jukebox.

Monsoon 615 19th Ave E, 325-2111, $$$ Sparse and simple Vietnamese cuisine in the upscale Monsoon is surprisingly comfortable--and well worth the menu price.

Olympia Pizza 516 15th Ave E, 329-4500, $ With dark wood walls and tall vinyl booths, Olympia feels like the Pizza Inn of your suburban childhood. With famous thick-crust pizza and gigantic pasta dishes, it tastes like the Heaven of your afterlife.

Osteria La Spiga 1401 Broadway, 323-8881, $ The foods of Italy's super-blessed Emilia-Romagna region (whence come Parma ham and Parmigiano cheese). Pastas, especially noodles with truffle butter, are lovely, and the sandwiches--a few excellent ingredients in a chewy, griddle-cooked flatbread called piadina--are just heavenly.

Pho Than Brothers 516 Broadway E, 568-7218, $ Unconscionably inexpensive, Than Brothers is devoted to pho and pho alone--excusing the delectable cream puffs--and has it down to a science.

Piecora's 1401 E Madison St, 322-9411, $ Sure, there's an Italian menu, but Piecora is a simple destination for one thing: pizza by the slice, made to order.

Ristorante Machiavelli 1215 Pine St, 621-7941, $$ Here is basic Italian food made exactly right--the Bolognese with different meats plus chicken livers, carbonara that is not scrambled but silken and decadent, a restrained but perfect antipasto plate. And the service is some of the best in the city: brisk, excellent, and, above all, dedicated to getting the food on the table while it's still hot.

Rosebud Cafe and Restaurant 719 E Pike St, 323-6636, $$ A warm place with warm food and good drinks, the Rosebud is one of the few cafes on Capitol Hill where people can talk while dining or drinking. The music, which is usually classical jazz, never overwhelms a conversation, and so it's perfect for a work meeting or a date. Great happy hour, well-prepared though pricey food.

Saigon Pearl 1430 Harvard Ave, 322-2081, $ Crouching above QFC in the Harvard Market, this small, clean room packs in a lunchtime crowd with meticulously fresh Vietnamese standards. Less crowded at dinner, just as delicious.

Satellite Lounge 1118 E Pike St, 324-4019, $ Boasting some of the most generous drink specials in town, Satellite Lounge is terribly underutilized by Seattle's hung-over community, whose heads would be quickly relieved by the salty, heavy breakfasts served on Saturday and Sunday mornings--particularly the eggs-and-steak dish. The Satellite also has excellent chicken wings--maybe the best on Capitol Hill.

Siam on Broadway 616 Broadway E, 324-0892, $ Still the best good ol' Thai food to be found in Seattle. Weekend evenings can be busy, but always worth the wait.

Six Arms 300 E Pike St, 223-1698, $ Good, non-adventurous food and stellar beer. A very relaxed, comfortable place.

Tango Tapas Restaurant & Lounge 1100 Pike St, 583-0382, $$ Tapas (of course), moderately priced and enjoyed in a posh, comfortable environment. Great bar, plus on Monday nights, all bottles on Tango's wine menu are half the listed price.

Central District
CatFIsh Corner 2726 E Cherry St, 323-4330, $$ Catfish encrusted with cornmeal, catfish baked and drizzled with spicy, buttery sauce, catfish catfish catfish. Plus, side dishes that are like school food only better: rice and beans, a curry-tinged potato salad, and sweet li'l cornmeal muffins.

CC's Gourmet Burgers 2600 E Union St, 324-2119, $ No chutney relishes, mayonnaise referred to as aioli, or fried cheese sticks. No nonsense. CC's does provide a "fishwich," and chicken and garden burger options, but to be sure, these things sway from the mission: an honest-to-god hamburger.

Ezell's Fried Chicken 501 23rd Ave, 324-4141, $ The best fried chicken in the country, dished out over a low-key neighborhood counter. Oprah has it FedExed directly to her mouth.

Meskel 2605 E Cherry St, 860-1724, $ Good Ethiopian food in a nice homey atmosphere.

Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant 1325 E Jefferson St, 860-0403, $ What distinguishes Mesob from its numerous competitors is a certain lightness it achieves in what should otherwise be very heavy meals. The meats, the bread, the stews, the African greens, even the egg, which sits at the center of a wide variety plate, do not burden the stomach but, with assistance from honey wine, seem to be absorbed with great ease and satisfaction.

Moonlight Restaurant 1919 S Jackson St, 322-3378, $ This place is great for vegetarians, great for non-vegetarians, and altogether great for the purse, with a vast and original Vietnamese menu.

Ms. Helen at Deano's Cafe and Lounge 2030 E Madison St, 322-7670, $ Ms. Helen is a one-woman show at a lunch counter inside a bar, and what a show it is. The tenderest possible oxtails, okra stew with corn and tomatoes, fried catfish with a sweet cornmeal crust, and skillet-style cornbread that is so good you'll want to howl. Service can take a while--that's a lot of work for one woman--but you won't begrudge a single second of it.

Philadelphia Fevre 2332 E Madison St, 323-1000, $ The sexy sandwiches at Philadelphia Fevre are filled with fistfuls of shaved meat and creamy melted American cheese.

R & L Home of Good Barbeque 1816 E Yesler Way, 322- 0271, $ With its inarguable moniker, R & L has been providing inexpensive barbeque and Louisiana-style soul cuisine for over 50 years.

Downtown/Pioneer Square
13 Coins 125 Boren Ave N, 682-2513, $-$$$ Dark, swanky, and somewhat spooky, this 24-hour dining den blends a mid-'70s bachelor-pad vibe with freakishly ambitious grill fare. But if you need a top-dollar steak-and-lobster combo at 4:30 am, this is the place.

Alibi Room 85 Pike St, 623-3180, $ Located underneath Pike Place Market, the offhand chicness of the Alibi Room makes it a great place to hang out for drinks and board games or to have a simple, tasty dinner. Beloved by local cineastes.

Bakeman's 122 Cherry St, 622-3375, $ Line up cafeteria-style and know what you want: light or dark meat, white or wheat bread, cranberry or no. Nearly everything's good; the turkey sandwich is legendarily great.

Cafe Paloma 93 Yesler Way, 405-1920, $$ Mediterranean food with the emphasis on Turkey--such as some lovely little Turkish meatballs in a bright tomato sauce. Much of the food is of the tapas/meze/happy-hour ethic, but prepared with care and served with delicious pita.

Campagne 86 Pine St, 728-2800, $$$ Unlike its casual cousin cafe downstairs, Campagne is a full-on special-occasion restaurant serving French-style food adapted to Northwest ingredients. Watch the staff professionally sidestep each other in the tiny box of a kitchen as they whip up some of the finest food in the city. Dress nice.

Earth & Ocean 1112 Fourth Ave, 264-6060, $$$ The minimalist Zen-inspired restaurant attached to downtown's W Hotel plays host to a widely varied menu. You'll find wild-boar sausage and oysters, mache and salmon, wild mushrooms and scallops, all mixed and matched and dished up high on tiny plates. Plus: fancy top-shelf drinks and slick desserts.

El Puerco Lloron 1501 Western Ave, 624-0541, $ The spicy food is dished up cafeteria-style, and until you've had a tamale here, you haven't had a tamale. And yes, those are homemade corn tortillas.

George's Sausage and Delicatessen 907 Madison St, 622-1491, $ In a city that's shy on the flavors of Central Europe, George's Polish shop delivers on that meaty, smoky feel that every deli should have. While you're picking up a loop of kielbasa for home, the very nice, very blond ladies will make you some very reasonably priced sandwiches to go: liverwurst, veal loaf... turkey, too, if you're scared. George's also has an irresistible selection of candies and Polish gossip magazines.

The Green Room 1426 First Ave, 628-3151, $ Housed within the Showbox, the adjacent bar features a fresh and vibrant menu emphasizing Mexican basics: spicy snapper fish tacos, tart and succulent ceviche, and the sexiest guacamole ever encountered--perfectly balanced with slivered cilantro and the unexpected lushness of half-and-half.

Hurricane Cafe 2230 Seventh Ave, 682-5858, $ The Hurricane Cafe (one of the city's few 24-hour joints) keeps trying to reinvent itself, seemingly fighting the fact that it always has been and always will be the smoky, noisy after-show ritual of Seattle's late-night crowd. The wait staff's generally lazy (with a few exceptions), and the food is always half-assed, but who gives a fuck? It's 4 am and you want to eat.

Il Bistro 93-A Pike St, 682-3049, $$ Off the cobblestones that run under Pike Place Market, Il Bistro is a nice spot for a cozy date or to get away from the bustle and savor some tippy-top-shelf scotch. Bowls of pasta and zesty cioppino are satisfying choices among other Italian fare.

Library Bistro 92 Madison St, 624-3546, $$$ For years, the restaurant in the very nice Alexis Hotel was a hit-or-miss affair, but now that Matt Costello has taken the reins, we feel a bit more secure about taking our relatives there (especially when they're paying). The food is a miracle--unfussy but sophisticated, with excellent ingredients (but not so many that you lose track of what you're eating).

Matt's in the Market 94 Pike St, 467-7909, $$ With only a few tables and a small bar tucked into this cozy second-floor restaurant, Matt's is a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of Pike Place Market below. The dinner menu changes every two months but features plenty of seafood selections.

Maximilien in the Market 81A Pike St, 682-7270, $$ Classily designed Maximilien in the Market is a charming French restaurant (with great views of the Sound) good for both family outings and romantic dinners for two. The menu offers a broad range of French standards, from escargot and foie gras to casoulet, and butter-rich sauces are prepared by the book. If you hit them at brunch time, be sure to order one of their near-perfect Bloody Marys.

Oceanaire Seafood Room 1700 Seventh Ave, 267-2277, $$$ Oceanaire has a kind of Titanic glamour, without the doomed feeling--although people were suspicious of this spiffy, expensive seafood restaurant opening when our economy was at its lowest. But Oceanaire has somehow proved them all wrong. Could the lobster cobb salad have something to do with it? The oysters Rockefeller? The insanely fresh fish? Dunno.

Palace Kitchen 2030 Fifth Ave, 448-2001, $$$ Expensive but worth it--if you can get a booth along the wall. The tables along the windows are cramped and the glare from the streetlights can be annoying. Terrific, hearty food, apple-wood grill, and awesome appetizers. The pork chops are terrific, the drinks are good, and the monorail zips by overhead.

Pink Door 1919 Post Alley, 443-3241, $$ It's good to know the restaurant's name because there's no sign outside, just the damn pink door. Inside, you can sit in the rosy dining room (where the light makes everyone look good) or out on a nice deck with a view of the water. The atmosphere is so lovely that even if the food (mostly your basic Italian, dressed up a bit for fun) misses the mark (which occasionally it does), you probably won't mind.

Salumi 309 Third Ave S, 621-8772, $ We love Salumi so much that we have a nickname for it: We call it "Hello, meat." At Armandino Batali's busy, narrow storefront/ counter/tiny restaurant in Pioneer Square, you can find house-cured Italian meats all made by Batali and his talented staff--along with hot and cold sandwiches, and platters that feature cooked meats (sausages, meatballs, oxtails) as well as cured meats (various salamis, coppa, pancetta, prosciuttos, tongue, and cured lamb).

Zaina Food Drinks and Friends 108 Cherry St, 624-5687, $ At Zaina, they know how to overstuff a pita well, crowding it with veggies like eggplant, garbanzos, marinated peppers, and onions. Chicken's tasty too, but unnecessary amidst the vegetable glory. A mess is pretty much guaranteed: For a few dollars more, you can keep your cuffs clean and get a plate of the same elements, but it's less fun. At the downtown branch near the Bon, you can rent hookah pipes.

Eastlake
Bandoleone 2241 Eastlake Ave E, 329-7559, $$ Perfect. If you want to impress a date. Perfect. If you want to celebrate an anniversary. Perfect. If you need a place for a friend's birthday. Perfect. If your parents are in town. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. A cozy, noisy, elegant restaurant with spicy, tasty Spanish-style cuisine. It's a little pricey, but you'll feel satisfied about dollars well spent.

Serafina 2043 Eastlake Ave E, 323-0807, $$ A rustic Euro-Italian restaurant in a low, easy-to-miss Eastlake building. Bright, delicious ingredients--fresh peperonata, white Spanish anchovies, tender pea shoots--lift the menu from suffocating red sauces to a variation on Tuscan purity. Even simple dishes such as flank steak (so easy to abuse) are treated with care.

Siam on Lake Union 1880 Fairview Ave E, 323-8101, $ Same great food as the original legendary Broadway location, offered in a snazzier, more expansive setting. Plus, E-Z parking!

Sophie's Doughnuts 2238 Eastlake Ave E, 323-7132, $ Proving Top Pot isn't the only local competition for Krispy Kreme, this sweet shop in an Eastlake strip mall serves up cake donuts dipped in a fantastically magenta berry glaze, glazed apple fritters as big as your head, and sweet, sweet custard pillows.

Terry's 14 Carrot Cafe 2305 Eastlake Ave E, 324-1442, $ Typical breakfast fare for the salty- and sweet-toothed. Nothing too special here, but if you're nearby and looking for straightforward breakfast selections, the 14 Carrot is the ticket.

Fremont
Chiso 3520 Fremont Ave N, 632-3430, $$ The standard sushi options are perfect here but you should absolutely look at the specials list, where you might find little silver smelt, or monkfish liver, or aji (a kind of Spanish mackerel that's less fatty than the usual kind). Chiso is a serene urban spot hidden away in funk-land Fremont, so it's not often very crowded.

Dad Watson's 3601 Fremont Ave N, 632-6505, $ Big burgers, big booths and tables, big pints of beloved beer.

El Camino 607 N 35th St, 632-7303, $$ Fancy Mexican food, with fancy drinks and cute waiters. Don't miss the deep-fried plantain chips with guacamole.

Fremont Classic Pizzeria & Trattoria 4307 Fremont Ave N, 548-9411, $ Great pizza and entrées in a cozy, friendly neighborhood space.

Fremont Dock 1102 N 34th St, 633-4300, $ The Dock is known primarily as a dive bar, so don't expect hoity-toity cuisine here. The dark, smoky Fremont fixture serves just enough grub to grease up your stomach for its drinks. A full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu offers a mix of standard diner fare, from steak and eggs to apple pie.

Kwanjai Thai 469 N 36th St, 632-3656, $ This casual joint has earned a reputation as being worth the wait. They're serious about their noodles, soups, and star-spice ratings, and many swear it's the Thai talk of the town in Fremont, which is saying a lot.

Longshoreman's Daughter 3510 Fremont Place N, 633-5169, $ Diner food with imaginative twists. Great breakfast, served into the afternoon.

Paseo 4225 Fremont Ave N, 545-7440, $ In its essentials, Paseo's pork sandwich is like a Caribbean bahn mi: grilled pork on a sturdy roll with cilantro and lettuce, and not stingy with the mayonnaise. However, a bahn mi is a tidy little operation, and a pork sandwich from Paseo is a lovely mess, with dripping marinade and onions that have been grilled for so long that they just give up and become a sweet, mellow tangle. Other things here--like the jerk chicken--are very good, but it's the pork that you remember.

Still Life 705 N 35th St, 547-9850, $ Though the Still Life has been a Fremont favorite for lunch meetings, the best experiences have always come from the dessert case.

Greenwood/Phinney
74th Street Ale House 7401 Greenwood Ave N, 784-2955, $ A popular place serving standard pub fare.

Burrito Loco 9211 Holman Rd NW, 783-0719, $

One of the best burrito joints in town, Burrito Loco stuffs fluffy tortillas with flavorful ingredients--including appropriately seasoned beans--then grills the folded package for some extra gusto before delivering it to your table.

Carmelita 7314 Greenwood Ave N, 706-7703, $$ Carmelita is the city's highest-minded vegetarian restaurant, with elaborate dishes that set out to make you forget the portobello-mushroom "steak" that passes for a vegetarian meal at so many restaurants. Look for pea flans, parsnip gnocchi, and vegan options like peach-tomato gazpacho.

Gordito's Healthy Mexican Food 213 N 85th St, 706-9352, $ Huge, healthy portions with an absence of lard and fat.

La Botana 8552 Greenwood Ave N, 706-5392, $ It's less well-known than the nearby Gordito's, but La Botana offers a different kind of Mexican dining experience, with sit-down house specialties like chicken in mole. Takeout food is good too, and includes tacos, tamales, and tortas. (Try one filled with cochinita pibil, tangy long-cooked pork.) La Botana opens early (at 10 am), so it's a good place to catch Mexican breakfast: eggs with shredded beef (machaca), chorizo, and huevos rancheros.

Mr. Gyros 8411 Greenwood Ave N, 706-7472, $ Mr. Gyros turns out the solid standards of quick Middle Eastern food: falafel, schawerma, kabobs, baba ghanoush, and hummus. The chicken schawerma stands out: It's scented with a hint of cinnamon, slathered with tahini, and wrapped in a thin pita.

Phad Thai 8530 Greenwood Ave N, 784-1830, $ As its name suggests, this is a popular neighborhood place that turns out reliable Thai favorites at however many stars you'd like.

Red Mill Burgers (Phinney Ridge) 312 N 67th St, 783-6362, $ Perhaps most famous for the aromatic heaps of freshly fried bacon ready to be crisscrossed on a burger, Red Mill just might offer the best in Seattle--especially the green-chile-draped southwestern version. (Full veggie options accommodated.)

Stalk Exchange 6711 Greenwood Ave N, 868-2071, $$ Here, "organic" doesn't necessarily suggest "flesh-free": The Stalk Exchange focuses on locally grown and raised produce and meats to craft standard American fare.

Stumbling Goat Bistro 6722 Greenwood Ave N, 784-3535, $$ Here a purist philosophy results in a small, restrained menu. You might think you could cook this stuff at home, but don't be misled--it is precisely this simplicity, this lack of pretension or fuss, with a careful focus on each ingredient and its true flavor, that makes the food very good. The menu changes frequently; generally there is beef, pork, chicken, one type of fresh fish, and a risotto.

Szechuan Bistro 212 N 85th St, 781-1818, $ A modest little place offering a good bowl of hand-shaved noodles with sesame sauce, and other fiery Szechuan specialties: eggplant in garlic sauce, mapo tofu, and the salt and pepper pancake.

Yanni's 7419 Greenwood Ave N, 783-6945, $$ If you think you don't like Greek food, Yanni's may very well convert you. It's a neighborly place where the waiters will gently nag you about your Greek pronunciation, and where everything lamb is spiced and delicious. Dolmathes are not the cold little bombs of the deli case, but warm and bursting with ground meat and rice.

Zeek's Pizza 6000 Phinney Ave N, 789-0089, $ As much a hangout as a pizza place. You know--large pies of sauce and thick cheese, large pitchers of foamy beer, loud music.

International District
Binh Huong Restaurant 1207 S Jackson St, 720-4907, $ A neat Vietnamese restaurant serving traditional Vietnamese combos.

House of Hong 409 Eighth Ave at Jackson, 622-7997, $ Top-notch food and fast-paced dim sum. Hesitate too long over a dish in the cart and it's gone.

King Cafe 723 S King St, 622-6373, $ Never too full, never too empty, the King Cafe serves some of the best dim sum in Seattle. Their shrimp balls are unmatched, as is their sticky rice, which is huge and wrapped in large blue-green lotus leaves. The dim sum, offered from 11 am to 5 pm, arrives at the second-floor dining room on a mini-elevator, down the shaft of which the casually dressed Chinese waiters send their orders. Sadly, the King Cafe is closed Wednesdays.

Malay Satay Hut 212 12th Ave S, 324-4091, $ Three cuisines fuse under the heading of Malaysian food: the intense sweetness possible in Chinese food joining the slower, more lumbering heat and weight of Indian and the brightness of Thai that we identify with cilantro and fish sauce. Here, you'll want the roti canai (soft Indian flatbread served with a potato curry), the Belachan okra (okra sautéed in pungent shrimp paste), and perhaps a whole steamed fish.

Maneki Restaurant 304 Sixth Ave S, 622-2631, $ The sushi bar is a nutty accumulation of all kinds of kitsch, both Japanese and not. Maneki is a sort of secret sushi hangout for the not-so-wealthy: good food, decent prices.

Pho Bac 1314 S Jackson St, 323-4387, $ The building that shelters Pho Bac is as famous as the little Vietnamese restaurant's bowls of angelic pho. The place is on the very edge of 14th Avenue and Jackson Street, before the streets merge and swerve into Rainer; its large windows look out onto the streets and business that make up Little Saigon; and those who walk by always see within it the shadows of numerous people working hard at emptying large bowls of good, cheap pho.

Sea Garden Seafood 509 Seventh Ave S, 623-2100, $ First things first: This Chinese classic is open until 3 am on the weekends. Then there's the food: seafood plucked from the aquarium, and prepared with consistent skill. Especially good: the whole crab in ginger sauce.

Shanghai Garden 524 Sixth Ave S, 625-1688, $ The hand-shaved noodles are the thing here, especially in a bright-green Barleygreen variation. Shanghai Garden proves that Chinese food doesn't have to be greasy, salty, and so loaded with MSG that you're stunned into speechlessness. Instead the food is fragrant, clean, and delicious.

Tai Tung 655 S King St, 622-7372, $ Here is emotional fortitude in a bowl: Tai Tung has about 20 varieties of soup and hot pots, plus tons of specials--from comfort foods (sautéed string beans with shredded pork) to modest luxuries (wok-seared crab). You'll want to sit at the counter with the regulars.

Madison Park

Cafe Flora 2901 E Madison St, 325-9100, $$ A mecca for vegetarians desiring a night out as first-class culinary citizens. From drinks to dessert, the Flora experience is intoxicating enough to stun even the hoariest carnivore into submission, at least for an evening.

Cactus 4220 E Madison St, 342-4140, $ Though the menu selections are rather limited, the Tex-Mex offerings at this crowded Madison Park eatery are dependably exotic, especially in a town sadly lacking in this type of cuisine.

Gitano 2805 E Madison St, 709-8324, $$ The food at Gitano is inspired by the cuisines of Mexico, Cuba, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Argentina, among others, and it's idiosyncratic: steak comes with Argentinean chimichurri sauce and creamy mashed malanga root instead of potatoes. These are intricate dishes, with a lot going on--not exactly everyday food.

Harvest Vine 2701 E Madison, 320-9771, $$ Each tapas dish is perfect in some way: aged Spanish cheeses, lovely anchovies, seared sea scallops, mushrooms sautéed with leeks and scrambled eggs, a whole pan-fried trout, Spanish ham... In a perfect world, you would never have to eat anywhere else.

Madrona/Leschi
Cafe Soleil 1400 34th Ave, 325-1126, $ Breakfast here is American, while dinner is Ethiopian by way of Madrona (with a few pasta dishes as well). The stews are delicious, with greens not cooked unto limpness but fresh and light. It's all served with the traditional sour injera bread, but you might be tempted to use a fork.

Hi-Spot Cafe 1410 34th Ave, 325-7905, $ Two words: Pint-size mimosas. So much better than those dinky champagne flutes that are gone three times before your breakfast arrives. Even the hearty toast and good-as-Grandma-makes jam is yummy, and that's not just the mimosa talking.

Leschi Lake Cafe 102 Lakeside Ave, 328-2233, $$ One of the only dining options in Leschi after dark, the Leschi Lake Cafe offers standard grill fare at sometimes laughably high prices. But on a nice night, the deck is so pretty, it stifles all complaints.

Nishino 3130 E Madison St, 322-5800, $$$ Nishino, considered one of the premier places to get sushi in a sushi-crazed town, offers its top-quality fare in lively surroundings. The sushi bar is always bustling, and the room rings with exclamations of delight from ecstatic diners. The service is leisurely and friendly. Because of Nishiro's popularity, it's best to book reservations in advance. They also offer a variety of other dishes, if raw fish isn't your cup of tea.

St. Clouds 1131 34th Ave, 866-655-5269, $$ An ambitious, good-hearted, elegant neighborhood joint, offering everything from nightly dinner (stylish spins on American standards) and happy hour (half-price drinks every weekday from 5-6:30 pm) to weekend breakfasts and late-night fare, with "light dining" offered till 1 am (2 am on weekends). Good food and drinks in a coolly charming atmosphere.

Supreme 1404 34th Ave, 322-0884, $$$ Upscale American fare with international accents, delectably housed in minimal, barren décor.

Queen Anne
5 Spot Cafe 1502 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-7768, $$ With its ever-evolving menu--half of which rotates every three months or so--the 5 Spot Cafe focuses on regionalism in American cuisine. Even better, the experiments are almost always yummy.

Barbacoa 2209 Queen Anne Ave N, 352-6213, $$ This upscale barbecue joint probably wouldn't pass muster with hardcore fans of Memphis-style barbecue, but for the rest of us, it's pretty damn good. Juicy, flavorful, delicious brisket and ribs, with expertly rendered side dishes.

Canlis 2576 Aurora Ave N, 283-3313, $$$ Fancy folks, businesspeople, and retirees love this atrium-like dining room that serves upscale surf-and-turf and specialties like wasyugyu tenderloin. Take your parents. Make them pay.

El Diablo Coffee Company 1811 Queen Anne Ave N #101, 285-0693, $ In addition to cinnamony hot chocolate and cafe cubanos sweetened with a little caramelized sugar, El Diablo offers nice snacky bits: coconut cake and sandwiches and cheese plates, plus milky tropical fruit shakes (batidos) made with mangos, papayas, and the like.

Kaspar's 19 W Harrison St, 298-0123, $$ Famous for the Tower, a three-tiered sampling of appetizers chosen by the chef, Kaspar's is a good way to get your fill of fancy food. After you and your date have devoured the Tower, be sure to save room for the desserts, which are always impressive and delicious.

Malena's Taco Shop 620 W McGraw St, 284-0304, $ If you get tired of the showier restaurants on Queen Anne Avenue, Malena's offers relief in the form of a small, spare dining space, a no-nonsense white board of a menu, and tasty tacos and burritos filled with homemade salsa, carne asada, and carnitas.

Mecca 526 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-9728, $ An old-timey counter-and-booth-style diner, for those times when only dependable food can hit the spot. The jukebox is a history lesson unto itself.

Perchè No 621 1/2 Queen Anne Ave N, 298-0230, $$ Cluttered and kitschy, Perchè No would fit right in among the Italian American restaurants on Mulberry Street. The restaurant's name means "why not?" and it's owned by a Chinese couple who asked themselves that very question. Alongside Italian standards you'll find dishes such as veal porterhouse, wild boar sausage, and an impressive selection of fresh seafood.

Shanty Cafe 350 Elliott Ave W, 282-1400, $ Your basic coffee-shop breakfast, in a sort of lumberjack atmosphere. The Shanty actually looks like a shanty, but never mind. Here are sympathetic waitresses who are brisk, but keep your coffee cup full.

Shiki 4 W Roy St, 281-1352, $$ Owner Ken Yamamoto is the only chef in Washington State certified to handle fugu--the blowfish with the poisonous liver. If you like taking your life in your hands, this is the place to do it, although there are lots and lots of things on the menu (and gorgeous sushi) that are quite delicious and not life-threatening.

Tup Tim Thai 118 W Mercer St, 281-8833, $ We've never heard an ill word spoken about the comfortable yet convenient Tup Tim Thai. Maybe that's why its lunch and dinner hours are consistently bustling and its regulars refuse to eat Thai anywhere else.

Rainier Valley/Beacon Hill/ Mount Baker/Columbia City
Jones BBQ 3216 S Hudson St, 725-2728, $ BBQ enthusiasts have said that Jones BBQ in Rainier Valley has the best ribs and the best Arkansas-Texas-influenced sauce in town. It's one-stop shopping for barbecue fans.

Judkins Barbecue 2608 S Judkins St, 328-7417, $ Good, cheap barbecue in a comfortable setting.

La Medusa 4857 Rainier Ave S, 723-2192, $$ Authentic Sicilian food in Columbia City: Note the presence of sardines and anchovies, as well as more Middle Eastern touches like pine nuts and raisins (the legacy of Sicily's invasion by the Moors).

Pho Hoa 4406 Rainier Ave S, 723-1508, $ Keeping it simple: Pho Hoa--with a sister restaurant in the International District--is a sweet Vietnamese neighborhood soup shop that's nearly always busy.

Rose Club Cafe 3601 S McClellan St, 725-3654, $$ The unpretentious neighborhood cafe serves homemade-tasting dishes in a warm, candlelit ambiance. Wooden booths give privacy for intimate dinners, although the place is more cozy-casual than romantic. On Mondays, the restaurant's calling card is a half-price wine list and a two-for-one special on gourmet pizza.

Willie's Taste of Soul 6305 Beacon Ave S, 722-3229, $$ Willie himself looks like he may have starred opposite Pam Grier in one of her '70s movies: He's strapping and charismatic even while wearing a plastic apron. His barbecue is worth the trip down south to Beacon Hill: Ribs and brisket have a pleasant campfire tone, while Willie's sauce is not too sweet and packs a little vinegar punch. Greens, too, are delicious.

SoDo/Georgetown/South Park
Juan Colorado 8709 14th Ave S, 764-9379, $ A lovely family-run diner-style Mexican restaurant. Delicious and reasonable.

Muy Macho 8515 14th Ave S, 763-7109, $ Damn good and cheap. The tacos arrive with just meat and salsa--not, thank heaven, doused in cheese. And the array of meats includes the tripe and brains and such--but for the less daring, the pork variations are amazingly good.

Stella Pizza & Ale 5513 Airport Way S, 763-1660, $ In this warehousey old space you can get pizzas that tilt between the classic and the nouveau (although we prefer the former), excellent sandwiches such as the meatball and the "Local 174" (Italian sausage, provolone, marinara, and hot peppers), and plenty of PBR on tap. Pretty much the heart of social life in Georgetown.

University District/Ravenna
Agua Verde Cafe and Paddleclub 1303 NE Boat St, 545-8570, $ If the sun is out, the water will be shimmering behind this cottage-like restaurant that, along with offering yam tacos and mango margaritas and hominy stew, also rents kayaks by the hour. The menu of simple, fresh food--tacos (meats, fish, and vegetables), empanadas, sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, nightly specials, and sublime desserts--recalls the cuisines of Baja, Oaxaca, Tampico, and salt-sprayed Mexican beach towns.

Big Time Brewery & Alehouse 4133 University Way NE, 545-4509, $
The quintessential college bar. Wood-warm, with big and aged tables, the joint offers affordable and hearty food for lean students and rich and dark beers for full professors. Their chili is worth its price.

Cafe Lago 2305 24th Ave E, 329-8005, $$ A clean, bright restaurant with big windows that look out onto the leafy Montlake neighborhood. Customers cram the place for the fresh handmade pastas and delicious rustic pizzas. There may be a wait, but don't worry: There's a bar.

Calypso Caribbean Kitchen 7917 Roosevelt Way NE, 525-5118, $$ The hallmarks of Caribbean cuisine--jerk spices, rum, brown sugar, coconut, lime--permeate Calypso's menu, but the influences of other cuisines are at work here as well. The jerk dishes are very good.

Cedar's on Brooklyn 4759 Brooklyn Ave NE, 527-5247, $$ This treasured U-District hole-in-the-wall offers reliably delicious Indian and Middle Eastern fare (tandoor-cooked meats, Indian curries, great falafel) that you'll find yourself craving with shocking regularity.

College Inn Pub 4006 University Way NE, 634-2307, $ One of Seattle's best bars. Try the chili, for it is amazing.

Flowers Bar & Restaurant 4247 University Way NE, 633-1903, $ Every day of the week, from 11 am to 3 pm, Flowers has a Mediterranean-inspired vegetarian buffet. After that, it serves a combination of Mediterranean and American starters and entrées. Plus, with its dark colors, triphop and jazz music floating from the bar, and abundance of glass and Parisian mirrors, Flowers is the most fashionable hangout on the Ave.

Maple Leaf Grill 8929 Roosevelt Way NE, 523-8449, $ The kind of bar everyone wishes his or her neighborhood had, the Maple Leaf Grill is a cozy, worn-in den, perfect for folks in the area to walk to and grab a burger and a beer--with their kids or without. A giant horseshoe-shaped bar dominates the main room, making a perfect spot for solo diners who crave a little background noise and people-watching with their dinner.

Queen Mary 2912 NE 55th St, 527-2770, $$ High tea, for ladies and their friends: finger sandwiches, crumpets and scones with dreamy clotted cream, cakes, cookies, tarts, and of course tea.

Sahara 4752 University Way NE, 527-5216, $$ Sahara still has that funny training-manual quality that some ethnic restaurants have a hard time giving up: an overly pedantic waiter and lots of sampler platters of its kabobs, falafel, and veggie dips. But the food is tasty (with a stellar baba ghanoush), and your entrée comes with a cute little cup of lentil soup and very tasty rice.

Shultzy's Sausage 4114 University Way NE, 548-9461, $ Shultzy's used to be a tiny, crowded storefront where you had to fight your way up to the grill, manned by friendly and sausage-mad college guys. Now it's a nice, spacious restaurant, but the essentials are the same: tremendously excellent sausages (kosher, andouille, Italian, you name it), onions and peppers optional, plenty of sauerkraut if you like it. Lemonade mandatory in the summer.

S.U.B.S. Sandwiches 4754 University Way NE, 441-6366, $ They've got all the usual sandwiches here, but the 16 or so different Italian-meat combos (with copacolla, a peppery cured ham called prosciuttini, pepperoni, different kinds of salami, and mortadella) are what you've come for. Or else a sandwich of small, dense, tangy meatballs served warm with melted provolone on honey-ish wheat bread.

Sunlight Cafe 6403 Roosevelt Way NE, 522-9060, $ Vegan and vegetarian comfort food. Very good, and popular, breakfasts.

Taste of India 5517 Roosevelt Way NE, 528-1575, $ Your usual selection of curries, vindaloos, and tandooris--but everything is just that much better than at your average lunch buffet. There's "butter chicken," which is chicken simmered in butter until it's so tender it hurts, and then served in a creamy tomato bath that's sweet and mellow like a pasta sauce; there's nan, which is so good it's hard not to stuff yourself silly.

Thai Tom 4543 University Way NE, 548-9548, $ Sit at the counter and watch cooks ladle varying portions of sauces, meats, vegetables, and spices into crusty woks, and keep the ingredients dancing frantically on blackened surfaces over tall flames. Ingredients don't spend a lot of time on the fire, so they don't suffer from the overkill-spice-absorption and mushiness you often find in Thai restaurants. This is vibrant, macho cooking--some of the best Thai food in Seattle.

Wallingford/Green Lake
Au Bouchon 1815 N 45th St, 547-5791, $ French classics. Have the duck, have the duck, have the duck.

Bizzarro Italian Cafe 1307 N 46th St, 545-7327, $$ Occasionally verging on the cutesy, Bizzarro nevertheless manages to keep it together while seducing devoted diners with good wine, art-bedecked walls, the occasional singing waiter, and damn good food, of the traditional-yet-exciting pasta variety.

Blue Onion Bistro 5801 Roosevelt Way NE, 729-0579, $$ This former gas station has been converted into a cozy home-style bistro, where just a few bucks can get you a fully satisfying bistro-style lunch of soup, salad, and a sandwich. All-American dinners get jazzed up with quality ingredients (duck breast with maple-sausage glaze, alongside fish sticks made of salmon, and mac 'n' cheese made with blue cheese) while staying in the moderate price range.

Essential Baking Company 1604 N 34th St, 545-3804, $ Delicious European sandwiches, plus amazing bread.

Eva 2227 N 56th St, 633-3538, $$ Amy McCray's menu is both worldly and grounded, with good honest cooking. She's got a nice knack for sides like chorizo-bread pudding with sherry-braised rabbit, squash spaetzle with a veal shank, and corn pudding with pork loin.

Jitterbug 2114 N 45th St, 547-6313, $$ Weekend breakfasts at Jitterbug are a treat--if you can handle waiting a while for a table (the narrow restaurant fills up quickly, and folks linger over their meals). Their huevos rancheros are the perfect hangover cure (the right combo of salt and comfort), and gingerbread waffles are a sweet early-morning option. For later dining, Jitterbug's cutesy menu offers traditional crowd-pleasers like roasted chicken, ravioli, or market-fresh fish and the kitchen's been known to whip up late-night breakfasts on request).

Luau 2253 N 56th St, 633-5828, $$ Fun and crazy--expect Polynesian ambiance complete with thatched roof and oversized pupu platters.

Nell's 6804 E Green Lake Way N, 524-4044, $$ Low-key, understated dishes made from seasonal local food. Sounds too good to be true, right? Philip Mihalski lets the ingredients do their own advertising, especially when he's flaunting the good stuff: porcini mushrooms, Black Mission figs, saffron, shaved black truffles, and veal sweetbreads.

PaciFIc Inn Pub 3501 Stone Way N, 547-2967, $ Your basic bar that happens to have unbelievably good fish and chips. Especially the fried oysters: a decently hard coating on the outside, but somehow still oystery and full of brine inside.

Spud's Fish & Chips 6860 E Greenlake Way N, 524-0565, $ Fish and chips done right. A classic Seattle restaurant.

Stone Way Cafe 3620 Stone Way N, 547-9958, $ This tiny neighborhood cafe boasts a regular breakfast crowd, who give high marks to items like omelets and biscuits and gravy. Lunch is good too--down-home food (think burgers and other standard diner fare) served up quick.

West Seattle/White Center
Alki Homestead 2717 61st Ave SW, 935-5678, $$ Heavy silverware, cloth napkins, and the sweetest old ladies lend this restaurant--set in a huge old house--a decidedly down-home charm. The fried chicken is the best you'll ever have. (Except maybe Ezell's.) Reservations are a must.

Backporch BBQ 6459 California SW, 932-7427, $$ The best boneless pork and beef brisket in the city.

Capers 4521 California Ave SW, 932-0371, $$ A gourmet-food-store-slash-elegant-bistro with all the makings for a sophisticated dinner, to eat in the shop or make at home.

Jade West 6032 California Ave SW, 932-9840, $ Sit down at the low counter and choose between your favorite greasy American favorites (French toast, hamburgers, etc.) and your favorite greasy Chinese favorites (fried rice and chow mein). Chef/owner Wah will customize each order for you with flair.

Mashiko 4725 California Ave SW, 935-4339, $$$ Don't expect to leave the Ikea-stylish Mashiko for less than $30 a pop, and that's if you plan on eating light. That said, the fish is incredibly fresh, plentiful, and tasty, and the rolls are more creative than your standard California-roll-and-spicy-tuna affair. For those who can't decide, they have a couple of sashimi sampler plates at prices that range from expensive to very expensive, but if you've got the corporate card for the night (or you're just rich like that), this is the place to go.

Phoenecia at Alki 2716 Alki Ave SW, 935-6550, $$ Food from all over the Mediterranean basin--the accents are Sicilian, Spanish, Turkish, Moroccan, Greek, and Middle Eastern, but they function as suggestions rather than strictly traditionally correct dishes. The bouillabaisse is what everyone talks about.

Salty's on Alki 1936 Harbor Ave SW, 937-1600, $$$ At Salty's, one can devour huge and heavy American foods--steaks, seafood, and big brunches--for a near-pretty penny.

Salvadorean Bakery 1719 SW Roxbury St, 762-4064, $ Order what the locals are eating, like pupusas--tortillas split and stuffed with cheese and other fillings--topped with curtido, a delicious pickled-cabbage concoction (briny, spicy, lively) that falls somewhere between salsa and kimchi. The silken chicken soup, served with jalapeños, is also good, and the pastries (guava jam enclosed in dense, eggy crust) are divine.

Spud's Fish & Chips 2666 Alki Ave SW, 938-0606, $ Fish and chips done right. A classic Seattle restaurant.

SunFIsh 2800 Alki Ave SW, 938-4112, $ In the summer, Sunfish is one of the best places in Seattle for outdoor dining. In the cold, rainy winter, however, their lightly battered halibut and fries will keep you warm.

Taqueria del Rio 10230 16th Ave SW, 767-9102, $ At the little market that houses Taqueria del Rio, you can by dried chiles by the pound, Mexican candies galore, or a plastic statue of Jesus or Tweety Bird. In the dining area, the ceiling's hung with paper flags, the booths are lined in parrot-print fabric, and the conjunto music blares over the speakers. At $2.75, the fish taco runs a little pricey for the neighborhood, but it's overstuffed with fried fish bits, cabbage, and salsa, so who's complaining?

West 5 4539 California Ave SW, 935-1966, $ If you're looking for something heavy and comforting, some down-home cooking that could put you into a food coma, then head over to West Seattle's West 5. They serve up some impressive meatloaf and macaroni and cheese that'll get you off to a good start.

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