$$$ = $21 and up
Price code based on average cost of entrée.
Hattie's Hat 5231 Ballard Ave NW, 784-0175, $$
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 no longer served all day and night, but is worth getting out of bed for.
India Bistro 2301 NW Market St, 783-5080, $
Consistently considered above the grade for Indian food, this Ballard bistro ranks high for its tandoori combos, curries, dahl, and masalas. Meat, seafood, and vegetarian lovers alike should all find something to fit their cravings here.
Le Gourmand 425 NW Market Street, 784-3463, $$$
Traditional French cuisine done up with fresh Northwest produce makes for down-to-earth yet fancy food with names that are hard to pronounce but very easy to enjoy.
People's Pub 5429 Ballard Ave NW, 783-6521, $
If you're looking for the kind of hearty fare Germans use to power through dark, cold winters, the People's Pub's Kraut-friendly menu may be just what you need. Giant Wiener schnitzel helps to soak up its many brands of beer--some of which are meals in and of themselves.
Ray's Boathouse Cafe 6049 Seaview Ave NW, 789-3770, $$$
Although patrons flock to Ray's outdoor area when the sun hits Seattle, seafood lovers keep coming back once the rains return. The Ballard institution offers 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.
Afrikando 2904 First Ave, 374-9714, $
The tasty Senegalese dishes made here--plates of ripe produce and savory meats--are filling, rich with flavor, and unlike anything in town.
Buffalo Deli 2123 B First Ave, 728-8759, $
Rumor has it that the cozy little Buffalo Deli has the best French dip (or would that be Freedom dip?) in town!
Cyclops 2421 First Ave, 441-1677, $$
Another Belltown restaurant that's often packed, Cyclops earns its popularity by serving good, imaginative food, tasty drinks, and the best empanadas downtown.
Dahlia Lounge 2001 Fourth Ave, 682-4142, $$
The ruby-red-walled Dahlia Lounge--for better or worse--is one of those quintessential Seattle restaurants that everyone takes out-of-town visitors to. 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.
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.
Jai Thai 2132 First Ave, 770-7884, $
Jai Thai's phad kee mao is a kind of variation on pad thai with wide noodles and curry, tremendously good with shrimp. Not everything is great, but here's decent, cheap Thai food at your service.
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. Screw cinnamon rolls--what's better than a weekend breakfast of a cheesy baked egg and a tiny cup of espresso? 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 delicious dish they serve is enormous and smothered in cheese.
Marco's Supperclub 2510 First Ave, 441-7801, $$
A truly urban place--one where a lot of people share a small space and interaction is inevitable, not to say guaranteed--serving truly urban food, with ethnic flourishes from all over. The gossamer fried sage leaves have become something of a legend.
Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant 2334 Second Ave, 956-0500, $$
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. There is something inherently royal about it.
Mistral 113 Blanchard St, 770-7799, $$$
Mistral is one of a few Seattle restaurants offering an unapologetically haute-cuisine experience. The formal dining freaks out some people, as do the prices, but its young chef, William Belickis, gets consistent praise for his high-minded tasting menus, which are sometimes improvised for individual guests. Be ready to spend $100-plus a person.
Queen City Grill 2101 First Ave, 443-0975, $$
Seafood is the weeknight attraction at this longstanding Belltown corner spot, but weekends become overcrowded with hot-n-horny singles trolling for fun.
Saito's Japanese Cafe and Bar 2122 Second Ave, 728-1333, $$$
Nestled in Belltown, Saito's, named for chef-owner Yutaka Saito, who has been preparing sushi since his teens in Tokyo, is a popular spot for fresh and impeccably prepared sushi. The restaurant draws a big lunch crowd, and though it's pricey, most sushi fans will find it to be worth every penny. Saito's also boasts an impressive sake bar, with over 40 selections.
Shorty's 2222 3/4 Second Ave, 441-5499, $
Coney dogs, booze, and pinball in one small joint spells fun for everyone (well, those 21 and older). Nostalgic soda pops and vegetarian options are offered for those who choose to abstain but still remember how to have a good time.
Two Bells Tavern 2313 Fourth Ave, 441-3050, $
Great pub food, great drinks, and exceptionally friendly service. A comfortable neighborhood joint.
Zoe 2137 Second Ave, 256-2060, $$
A friendly upscale Belltown spot with European sophistication (they're not afraid of kids) and inventive, high-class American cooking.
1200 Bistro 1200 E Pike St, 320-1200, $$
A bit of Belltown on Capitol Hill serving grown-up comfort food: a burger with Gorgonzola, pasta with smoked tomato sauce, grilled duck with potatoes. Plus, some really sophisticated-looking drinks.
611 Supreme 611 E Pine St, 328-0292, $
The crepes are larger than the plates underneath them, a serene brown (due, in part, to the use of buckwheat flour), crispy at the edges. This is perfect food--whether wrapped around smoked salmon, sautéed mushrooms, or caramelized apples--both ephemeral and hearty at the same time.
Bill's Off Broadway 725 E Pine St, 323-7200, $
Honestly, you don't have to be drunk to like the food here, although the pizza--pillowy and cheesy, the right balance of hot, salty, and greasy--has been known to make the room stop spinning.
Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen 506 E Pine St, 329-9978, $
Fat, tasty burritos, pretty good everything else. Sometimes crowded, which means a wait, but the Bimbo's crew is perfectly willing to come track you down in the Cha-Cha when your table's ready.
Cafe Septieme 214 Broadway E, 860-8858, $
Places all over town have copied Cafe Septieme's trademark blood-red walls, but no place in the city can capture Septieme's ambience. At lunch, have the chicken club or the Septieme salad. At dinner, the schnitzel, the spaghetti carbonara, and the strip steak are all worth the calories. Breakfasts are awesome--and can take the edge off any hangover. Lattes are served in a bowl at Septieme and you're free to sit as long as you like.
Cassis 2359 10th Ave E, 329-0580, $$
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.
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 before taking in some subtitled gem at the nearby Harvard Exit. Food is good, but before its froofy remodel, the Deluxe had the greatest fries in the world. Sigh.
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 carefully imaginative salad options, which are meals unto themselves.
Garage 1130 Broadway, 322-2296, $
The main attraction is the gigantic 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 Glo's 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.
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, $
Located on the lip of Broadway Alley, Hana is 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, $
Korean dishes are often spicy and always soulful (they like barbecue too, you know), and every entrée comes accessorized 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 to do business, some five or so years ago, the lines into Kingfish have never diminished. 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, $$$
Sparse and simple Vietnamese cuisine in the upscale Monsoon is surprisingly comfortable--and well worth the menu price.
Olympia Pizza 516 15th Ave E, 329-4500, $
With dark wood walls and tall vinyl booths, Olympia feels like the Pizza Inn of your suburban childhood. With famous thick-crust pizza and gigantic pasta dishes, it tastes like the Heaven of your afterlife.
Osteria La Spiga 1401 Broadway, 323-8881, $
The foods of Italy's super-blessed Emilia-Romagna region (whence come Parma ham and Parmigiano cheese). Pastas, especially noodles with truffle butter, are lovely, and the sandwiches--a few excellent ingredients in a chewy, griddle-cooked flatbread called piadina--are just heavenly.
Pho Than Brothers 516 Broadway E, 568-7218, $
Unconscionably inexpensive, Than Brothers is devoted to pho and pho alone--excusing the delectable cream puffs--and has it down to a science.
Ristorante Machiavelli 1215 Pine St, 621-7941, $$
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, $$
A warm place with warm food and good drinks, the Rosebud is one of the few cafes on Capitol Hill where people can talk while dining or drinking. The music, which is usually classical jazz, never overwhelms a conversation, and so it's perfect for a work meeting or a date. Great happy hour, well-prepared though pricey food.
Saigon Pearl 1430 Harvard Ave (upstairs in Harvard Market), 322-2081, $
Crouching above QFC in the Harvard Market, this small, clean room packs in a lunchtime crowd with meticulously fresh Vietnamese standards. Less crowded at dinner, just as delicious.
Tango Tapas Restaurant & Lounge 1100 Pike St, 583-0382, $$
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.
Catfish Corner 2726 E Cherry St, 323-4330, $$
Catfish encrusted with cornmeal, catfish baked and drizzled with spicy, buttery sauce, catfish catfish catfish. Plus, side dishes that are like school food only better: rice and beans, a curry-tinged potato salad, and sweet li'l cornmeal muffins.
CC's Gourmet Burgers 2600 E Union St, 324-2119, $
No chutney relishes, mayonnaise referred to as aioli, or fried cheese sticks. No nonsense. CC's does provide a "fishwich," and chicken and garden burger options, but to be sure, these things sway from the mission: an honest-to-god hamburger.
Ezell's Fried Chicken 501 23rd Ave, 324-4141, $
The best fried chicken in the country, dished out over a low-key neighborhood counter. Oprah has it FedExed directly to her mouth.
Meskel 2605 E Cherry St, 860-1724, $
Good Ethiopian food in a homey atmosphere.
Moonlight Restaurant 1919 S Jackson St, 322-3378, $
This place is great for vegetarians, great for non-vegetarians, and altogether great for the purse. Never mind the shady characters that sometimes line the street-they don't hurt people who don't owe them money. Just walk straight past them into the capacious restaurant, and enjoy its vast and original Vietnamese menu.
Ms. Helen at Deano's Cafe and Lounge 2030 E Madison St, 322-7670, $
Ms. Helen is a one-woman show at a lunch counter inside a bar, and what a show it is. The tenderest possible oxtails, okra stew with corn and tomatoes, fried catfish with a sweet cornmeal crust, and skillet-style cornbread that is so good you'll want to howl. Service can take a while--that's a lot of work for one woman--but you won't begrudge a single second of it.
Philadelphia Fevre 2332 E Madison St, 323-1000, $
The sexy sandwiches at Philadelphia Fevre are filled with fistfuls of shaved meat and creamy melted American cheese.
13 Coins 125 Boren Ave N, 682-2513, $-$$$
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 your 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.
Cafe Paloma 93 Yesler Way, 405-1920, $$
Mediterranean food with the emphasis on Turkey-such as some lovely little Turkish meatballs in a bright tomato sauce. Much of the food is of the sort of tapas/meze/happy-hour ethic, but prepared with care and delicious pita, and likely as not the jovial owner will check in with you from time to time to see how everything is.
Campagne 86 Pine St, 728-2800, $$$
Unlike its casual cousin downstairs, Campagne is a full-on special-occasion restaurant serving French-style food adapted to Northwest ingredients (with the Pike Place Market right outside their door, they've got a lot to work with, after all). You can watch the staff professionally sidestep each other in the tiny box of a kitchen (their window looks out on Post Alley) as they whip up some of the finest food in the city. Don't embarrass us--dress nice, please.
Dragonfish Asian Cafe 722 Pine St, at the Paramount Hotel, 467-7777, $$
Sort of a pop culture Asian restaurant where you can snack on cuisines from 'round the Pacific Rim. A good place to try dim sum (on weekends) for beginners: roasted-duck spring rolls, Chinese bacon and scallion mini-quiche, shiitake and salmon satay with a wonderful noodle salad, and savory spare ribs with hoisin sauce.
Earth & Ocean 1112 Fourth Ave, 264-6060, $$$
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, $
It means "the crying pig," ostensibly because the food is spicy but perhaps because life can be pretty colorless if you haven't been to this hot-pink-and-blue cafe for a while. The food is dished up cafeteria-style, and until you've had a tamale there, 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.
Il Bistro 93-A Pike St, 682-3049, $$
Off the cobblestones that run under Pike Place Market, Il Bistro is a nice spot for a cozy date or to get away from the bustle and savor some tippy-top-shelf scotch. Bowls of pasta and zesty cioppino are satisfying choices among other Italian fare.
Matt's in the Market 94 Pike St, 467-7909, $$
Only a few tables and a small bar tucked into a cozy second-floor restaurant. The place overlooks the big Market clock and a bit of the Sound, but the real draw is the clean simplicity of everything surrounding it--from the décor to the food. The dinner menu changes every two months but features plenty of seafood selections.
Maximilien in the Market 81A Pike St, 682-7270, $$
The classily designed Maximilien in the Market is a charming French restaurant (with great views of the Sound) good for both family outings and romantic dinners for two. The menu offers a broad range of French standards, from escargot and foie gras to cassoulet, and butter-rich sauces are prepared by the book. If you hit them at brunch time, be sure to order one of their near-perfect Bloody Marys.
Oceanaire Seafood Room 1700 Seventh Ave, 267-2277, $$$
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.
Pink Door 1919 Post Alley, 443-3241, $$
It's good to know the restaurant's name because there's no sign outside, just the damn pink door. Inside, you can sit in the rosy dining room (where the light makes everyone look good) or out on a nice deck with a view of the water. The atmosphere is so lovely that even if the food (mostly your basic Italian, dressed up a bit for fun) misses the mark (which occasionally it does), you probably won't mind.
Quarter Lounge 909 Madison St, 332-0772, $
The substance of these Cajun dishes will not disappoint you--however, you will wish there was a little more of them. The catfish sandwich and chicken strips are both excellent.
Salumi 309 Third Ave S, 621-8772, $
We love Salumi so much that we have a nickname for it: We call it "Hello, meat." At Armandino Batali's busy, narrow storefront/counter/tiny restaurant in Pioneer Square, you can find house-cured Italian meats all made by Batali and his talented staff--along with hot and cold sandwiches, and platters that feature cooked meats (sausages, meatballs, oxtails) as well as cured meats (various salamis, coppa, pancetta, prosciuttos, tongue, and cured lamb).
Tulio Ristorante 1100 Fifth Ave, 624-5500, $$
While Tulio's menu boasts some amazing and delicious-sounding Italian entrées (like lamb sirloin in a balsamic glaze), it's the impressive wine list that keeps people coming back.
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.
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 gives the hipsters a run for their money with cake donuts dipped in a fantastically magenta berry glaze, glazed apple fritters as big as your head, and sweet, sweet custard pillows.
Chiso 3520 Fremont Ave N, 632-3430, $$
The standard sushi options are perfect here but you should absolutely look at the specials list, where you might find little silver smelt, or monkfish liver, or aji (a kind of Spanish mackerel that's less fatty than the usual kind). Chiso is a serene urban spot hidden away in funk-land Fremont, so it's not often very crowded.
Dad Watson's 3601 Fremont Ave N, 632-6505, $
A part of Oregon's McMenamins empire, Dad Watson's has the usual big burgers, big booths and tables, and big pints of beloved beer, like the Terminator Stout. While Oregon must endure Starbucks, we can enjoy McMenamins, a far more relaxed and less viral corporation.
El Camino 607 N 35th St, 632-7303, $$
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.
Longshoreman's Daughter 3510 Fremont Pl 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.
Acorn Eatery & Bar 9041 Holman Rd NW, 297-0700, $$
The Acorn Eatery & Bar serves Italian food (pasta, pizza) as well as local entrées (salmon).
Burrito Loco 9211 Holman Rd NW, 783-0719, $
One of the best burrito joints in town, Burrito Loco stuffs fluffy tortillas with flavorful ingredients-including appropriately seasoned beans-then grills the folded package for some extra gusto before delivering it to your table.
Carmelita 7314 Greenwood Ave N, 706-7703, $$
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 and an absence of lard and fat make this one of the neighborhood's busier joints.
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.)
Stumbling Goat Bistro 6722 Greenwood Ave N, 784-3535, $$
Here, a purist philosophy results in a small, restrained menu. You might think you could cook this stuff at home, but don't be misled--it is precisely this simplicity, this lack of pretension or fuss, with a careful focus on each ingredient and its true flavor, that makes the food very good. The menu changes frequently; generally there is beef, pork, chicken, one type of fresh fish, and a risotto.
Yanni's 7419 Greenwood Ave N, 783-6945, $$
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.
Huong Binh Restaurant 1207 S Jackson St, 720-4907, $
A neat Vietnamese restaurant serving traditional Vietnamese combos.
King Cafe 723 S King St, 622-6373, $
Never too full, never too empty, and furnished with rather cheap chairs and tables, 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.
Mike's Noodle House 418 Maynard Ave S, 389-7099, $
Congee, a salty porridge made from rice, is the perfect mid-winter comfort food. Dip into the wide selection of congees at Mike's--the rock cod is a particularly satisfying choice. .
Seven Stars Pepper Szechuan Restaurant 1207 S Jackson St, Suite 211, 568-6446, $
The flavors are distinct and specific: delicately textured wontons swimming in spicy, oily sauce; fragrant cumin lamb; and delicious crispy duck. Whole crab dishes are phenomenal.
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.
Top Gun Seafood Restaurant 668 S King St, 623-6606, $
Every day, from 11 am to 3 pm, the usually busy Chinese restaurant Top Gun serves dim sum from steaming and heaped carts. Their shrimp balls, sticky rice, Chinese broccoli, and shrimp toast are almost perfect; their salt and pepper squid plate is perfect.
Yoshinobo Japanese Restaurant 520 S Jackson St, 405-4646, $
Yoshinobo's food is rich in ordinary pleasures: the exquisite variety of the bento box, the clean-as-a-whistle sushi, the nabeyaki udon topped with tempura and a lovely poached egg. The tatami rooms are serene, but the U-shaped bar with the Captain Kirk chairs is strictly bizarro-world.
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.
Cafe Flora 2901 E Madison St, 325-9100, $$
A mecca for vegetarians desiring a night out as first-class culinary citizens. From drinks to dessert, the Flora experience is intoxicating enough to stun even the hoariest carnivore into submission, at least for an evening.
Harvest Vine 2701 E Madison, 320-9771, $$
In a perfect world, you would never have to eat anywhere else. 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... you could sit at the counter and have one amazing dish after another slide right by you. That would be heaven indeed.
Nishino 3130 E Madison St, 322-5800, $$$
Nishino, considered one of the premier places to get sushi in a sushi-crazed town, offers its top-quality fare in lively surroundings. Open since 1995, the sushi bar is always bustling, and the room rings with exclamations of delight from ecstatic diners. The service is leisurely and friendly. Because of Nishiro's popularity, it's best to book reservations in advance. They also offer a variety of other dishes, if raw fish isn't your cup of tea.
Hi-Spot Cafe 1410 34th Ave, 325-7905, $
Two words: Pint-size mimosas. So much better than those dinky champagne flutes that are gone three times before your breakfast arrives. Even the hearty toast and good-as-Grandma-makes jam is yummy, and that's not just the mimosa talking.
Leschi Lake Cafe 102 Lakeside Ave, 328-2233, $$
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.
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.
Bamboo Garden 364 Roy St, 282-6616, $$
Bamboo Garden is heaven on earth for any vegetarian when the craving for some delicious Chinese food hits. Because Bamboo Garden uses vegetable protein when creating its "meat" entrées, everything on the menu (which boasts over 100 selections), from the sweet-and-sour chicken (my favorite) to the braised-chicken-and-shark-fin soup, is safe for the vegetarians in the group. Surprisingly, everything's delicious enough for the carnivores too.
Canlis 2576 Aurora Ave N, 283-3313, $$$
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, $$
Famous for the Tower, a three-tiered sampling of appetizers that is chosen by the chef and changes nightly, Kaspar's is a good way to get your fill of fancy food. After you and your date have devoured the Tower, be sure to save room for the desserts, which are always impressive and delicious.
Mecca 526 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-9728, $
An old-timey counter-and-booth-style diner, for those times when only dependable food can hit the spot. The jukebox is a history lesson unto itself.
Orrapin Noodle Experience 2208 Queen Anne Ave N, 352-6594, $
It's like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel: You pick your noodles (fat, thin, clear, and so on), then you pick your soup (duck, spicy beef, halibut, veggie), and then you see how the story turns out. Actually, it's pretty hard to screw up, and the space is charming.
Perchè No 621 1/2 Queen Anne Ave N, 298-0230, $$
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, $$
Owner Ken Yamamoto is the only chef in Washington State certified to handle fugu--the blowfish with the poisonous liver. If you like taking your life in your hands, this is the place to do it, although there are lots and lots of things on the menu (and gorgeous sushi) that are quite delicious and not life-threatening.
Rainier Valley/Beacon Hill/ Mount Baker/Columbia City
Angkor Noodle 1038A S Jackson St, 325-0180, $
Angkor Noodle specializes in Cambodian food filtered through the lens of Cambodia's resident Chinese population. In the same place that you get noodle soups redolent of Southeast Asia--lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce--you can also get dim sum from morning to night. The truly mind-blowing dish, however, is the beef stew.
Jones BBQ 3216 S Hudson St, 725-2728, $
BBQ enthusiasts have said that Jones BBQ in Rainier Valley has the best ribs and the best Arkansas-Texas-influenced sauce in town. It's one-stop shopping for barbecue fans.
La Medusa 4857 Rainier Ave S, 723-2192, $$
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 and Banh Mi Saigon Restaurant and Deli 810 Rainier Ave S, 323-5570, $
The tofu sandwiches are deservedly famous and go for two dollars. Dine-in options are vast and delicious. There's papaya salad with beef jerky, and 13 varieties of pho. It's all good, and it's all cheap.
Rose Club Cafe 3601 S McClellan St, 725-3654, $$
The unpretentious neighborhood cafe serves homemade-tasting dishes in a warm, candlelit ambiance. Wooden booths give privacy for intimate dinners, although the place is more cozy-casual than romantic. On Mondays, the restaurant's calling card is half-price wine and a two-for-one special on gourmet pizza.
Willie's Taste of Soul 6305 Beacon Ave S, 722-3229, $$
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
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.
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, $$
A clean, bright restaurant with big windows that look out onto the leafy Montlake neighborhood. Customers cram the place for the fresh handmade pastas and delicious rustic pizzas. There may be a wait, but don't worry: There's a bar.
Cedar's on Brooklyn 4759 Brooklyn Ave NE, 527-5247, $$
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.
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, $$
High tea, for ladies and their friends--pleasingly British, but not coyly so. Take solace in crustless finger sandwiches, scones, crumpets, cookies, beautifully cut fruit, and chocolate tea-cake.
Sahara 4752 University Way NE, 527-5216, $$
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.
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.
Blue Onion Bistro 5801 Roosevelt Way NE, 729-0579, $$
This former gas station has been converted into a cozy home-style bistro where just a few bucks can get you a fully satisfying bistro-style lunch of soup, salad, and a sandwich. All-American dinners get jazzed up with quality ingredients (duck breast with maple-sausage glaze, alongside fish sticks made of salmon, and mac 'n' cheese made with blue cheese) while staying in the moderate price range.
Essential Baking Company 1604 N 34th St, 545-3804, $
Delicious European sandwiches, plus amazing bread.
Luau 2253 N 56th St, 633-5828, $$
Fun and crazy--expect Polynesian ambiance complete with thatched roof and oversized pupu platters.
Murphy's 1928 N 45th St, 634-2110, $
A great Irish joint with a spectacular beer selection and good bar food.
Nell's 6804 E Green Lake Way N, 524-4044, $$
Low-key, understated dishes made from seasonal local food. Sounds too good to be true, right? Philip Mihalski lets the ingredients do their own advertising, especially when he's flaunting the good stuff: porcini mushrooms, Black Mission figs, saffron, shaved black truffles, and veal sweetbreads.
Pacific Inn Pub 3501 Stone Way N, 547-2967, $
Your basic bar that happens to have unbelievably good fish and chips. Especially the fried oysters: a decently hard coating on the outside, but somehow still oystery and full of brine inside.
Spud's Fish & Chips 6860 E Greenlake Way N, 524-0565, $
Fish and chips done right. A classic Seattle restaurant.
West Seattle/White Center
Backporch BBQ 6459 California SW, 932-7427, $$
The best boneless pork and beef brisket in the city.
Capers 4521 California Ave SW, 932-0371, $$
A gourmet-food-store-slash-elegant-bistro with all the makings for a sophisticated dinner, to eat in the shop or make at home.
Jade West 6032 California Ave SW, 932-9840, $
Sit down at the low counter and choose between your favorite greasy American favorites (French toast, hamburgers, etc.) and your favorite greasy Chinese favorites (fried rice and chow mein). Chef/owner Wah will customize each order for you with flair.
Mamey's Cuban Bistro 2620 Alki Ave SW, 933-0848, $$, $$
With its long-stewed meats and beans, its crunchy fried goodies, and its unflappable devotion to garlic, Mamey's serves the kind of earthy food we need more of around here.
Mashiko 4725 California Ave SW, 935-4339, $$$
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.
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.
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.
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.