$$$ = $21 and up
Price code based on average cost of entrée.
Bait House Café 5517 Seaview Ave NW, 297-9109, $$
Two words: crab melt. All right, maybe you can get the crab cocktail as well. The melt--with chewy cheese on a kind of brioche bread--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.
Cafe Besalu 5909 24th Ave NW, 789-1463, $
If you have to wake up, it may as well be with the help of delicious European breakfast pastries. At Besalu, ham-and-cheese and chocolate croissants, orange glazed brioche, outstanding quiche, and tender/chewy springerle cookies are all made with benevolent obsessiveness by Besalu's pastry chef, co-owner James Miller. Excellent coffee, too.
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.
Market Street Grill 1744 NW Market St, 789-6766, $$
This is new Ballard--a sleek, sophisticated restaurant painted in IKEA-like colors, with food that seems to take on a bustling city's characteristics by being layered, complex, detailed, and very, very busy. Every dish is embellished up the wazoo, but it doesn't mean that some of them aren't very good.
Mike's Chili Parlor 1447 NW Ballard Ave, 782-2808, $
Down-home, meat-packed dishes for those who want their meals served without all that fancy shit. Mike's food is cheap and hearty, with everything from burgers to various chili-themed entrees that you can wash down with the brands of beers that are always on sale.
People's Pub 5429 Ballard Ave NW, 783-6521, $
If you're looking for the kind of hearty fare Germans use to power through dark, cold winters, the People's Pub's Kraut-friendly menu may be just what you need. Giant Wiener schnitzel helps to soak up its many brands of beer--some of which are meals in and of themselves.
Ray's Boathouse Cafe 6049 Seaview Ave NW, 789-3770, $$$
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 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.
Sambar 425 NW Market St, 781-4883, $$
A younger, nibblier restaurant from the owners of Le Gournand, Sambar specializes in elaborate cocktails and dainty portions of food. Flavors, like the lighting, are muted: Aggressive flavors are set aside in favor of the mellow, the French. It's all part of the mood.
The Other Coast Cafe 5315 Ballard Ave NW, 789-0936, $
You know what sounds good? A huge, cheesy, potentially messy sandwich. Go here.
Afrikando 2904 First Ave, 374-9714, $
The tasty Senegalese dishes made here--plates of ripe produce and savory meats--are filling, rich with flavor, and unlike anything in town.
Brasa 2107 Third Ave, 728-4220, $$$
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, $
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.
El Gaucho 2505 First Ave, 728-1337, $$$
A swank, old school, see-and-be-seen spot to fill up on salty steaks and good martinis. Great for expense-account dinners, or to entertain your parents.
EN 2429 Second Ave, 770-0250, $
No sushi here-just Japanese home cooking. Tonkatsu (a breaded, fried pork cutlet served over rice) is just the thing for a cold rainy day; pan-roasted sea bass, fried scallop cakes, and maguro salad are good any time.
Fandango 2313 First Ave, 441-1188, $$
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, $$
One of the first and still one of the best of the high-end, upscale/casual eateries in Belltown. Whole grilled fish, huge platters of well-prepared seafood, and a happening bar all make Flying Fish a must-eat spot. Pricey but justifiably so.
Marco's Supperclub 2510 First Ave, 441-7801, $$
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.
Mistral 113 Blanchard St, 770-7799, $$$
Mistral is one of a few Seattle restaurants offering an unapologetically haute-cuisine experience. The formal dining freaks out some people, as do the prices, but its young chef, William Belickis, gets consistent praise for his high-minded tasting menus, which are sometimes improvised for individual guests. Be ready to spend $100-plus a person.
Noodle Ranch 2228 Second Ave, 728-0463, $
A stone's throw from the Crocodile Cafe, Noodle Ranch is an ever-so-slight step up from your many alternative between-band options on Second Avenue--pan-Asian cuisine with some of the best green curry in town.
Toi 1904 Fourth Ave, 267-1017, $$
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, $
Great pub food, great drinks, and exceptionally friendly service. A comfortable neighborhood joint.
1200 Bistro 1200 E Pike St, 320-1200, $$
A bit of Belltown on Capitol Hill serving grown-up comfort food: a burger with Gorgonzola, pasta with smoked tomato sauce, grilled duck with potatoes. Plus, some really sophisticated-looking drinks.
611 Supreme 611 E Pine St, 328-0292, $
The crepes are larger than the plates underneath them, a serene brown (due, in part, to the use of buckwheat flour), crispy at the edges. This is perfect food--whether wrapped around smoked salmon, sautéed mushrooms, or caramelized apples--both ephemeral and hearty at the same time.
Ballet 914 E Pike St, 328-7983, $
Under vigorous new ownership, the once-spotty Ballet has reemerged as Capitol Hill's underdog champ of routinely delicious food. Offering an array of Asian, pan-Asian, and Pacific Rim delights (including a much-celebrated pho), Ballet's key asset is shockingly fresh, expertly prepared vegetables--if you're trying to bed a vegetarian, take 'em here and you're a shoo-in.
Bill's Off Broadway 725 E Pine St, 323-7200, $
Honestly, you don't have to be drunk to like the food here, although the pizza--pillowy and cheesy, the right balance of hot, salty, and greasy--has been known to make the room stop spinning.
Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen 506 E Pine St, 329-9978, $
Fat, tasty burritos, pretty good everything else. Sometimes crowded, which means a wait, but the Bimbo's crew is perfectly willing to come track you down in the Cha-Cha when your table's ready.
Broadway New American Grill 314 Broadway E, 328-7000, $$
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, $$
A casual, heavily draped interior coupled with a mostly Mediterranean menu and full bar.
Capitol Hill Cafe Internet Lounge & Eatery 216 Broadway E, 860-6858, $
Offers a wide selection of delicious sandwiches (catering to both meat-eaters and vegans), salads, and specials like homemade calzones and macaroni and cheese. Many are convinced that Capitol Hill Cafe has the best veggie burger in Seattle. Plus, it's open until midnight every night.
Cassis 2359 10th Ave E, 329-0580, $$
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, $$
With its revolving, typically delicious menu, Coastal Kitchen rustles up geographically themed "coastal inspired foods" on a seasonal basis. Don't be frightened: It's carved a niche serving food that's both exotic and familiar. One thing that never changes: stunningly delicious brunch items, grouped under the unfortunate title "Blunch."
Deluxe Bar & Grill 625 Broadway E, 324-9697, $
A great place to duck into during a rainstorm for a bowl of soup and some cozy cocktails, or to toss back some pints before taking in some subtitled gem at the nearby Harvard Exit. Food is good, but before its froofy remodel, the Deluxe had the greatest fries in the world. Sigh.
El Greco 219 Broadway E, 328-4604, $
This Broadway Mediterranean staple-usually crowded due to the cramped layout of the blue-hued dining room-is a great spot to settle in over a bottle of wine and while away the hours nibbling on hummus, tzatziki, and baba ghanoush.
Galerias 611 E Broadway, 322-5757, $$
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 carefully imaginative salad options, which are meals unto themselves.
Globe 1531 14th Ave, 324-8815, $
The ideal destination for a healthy vegan lunch. The biscuits and gravy are addictive--especially with the salty little kick of broiled tofu on top. Should you need a little color in there among the browns, there are collard greens, which have a tangy, vinegary smack that is exactly right, and whole-corn grits.
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.
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.
Hopvine Pub 507 15th Ave E, 328-3120, $
A relatively warm alternative to a lot of the Hill's drinking establishments, the Hopvine features a lot of local fare, with Northwest brews and sandwiches.
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.
Kingfish Cafe 602 19th Ave E, 320-8757, $$
From the day it opened its doors to do business, some five or so years ago, the lines into Kingfish have never diminished. People still wait, often for an hour during the weekends, to eat its fancy soul foods, and absorb its atmosphere of jazz and black American prosperity. Buttermilk fried chicken, thick and sweet collard greens, spicy and flesh-soft catfish are a few of their treasured items.
Linda's Tavern 707 E Pine St, 325-1220, $
Good bar food and standard, very solid breakfasts. One of Seattle's best drinking joints, with a killer jukebox.
Piecora's 1401 E Madison St, 322-9411, $
Sure, there's an Italian menu, but Piecora is a simple destination for one thing: pizza by the slice, made to order.
Six Arms 300 E Pike St, 223-1698, $
Good, non-adventurous food and stellar beer. A very relaxed, comfortable place.
Catfish Corner 2726 E Cherry St, 323-4330, $$
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.
13 Coins 125 Boren Ave N, 682-2513, $-$$$
Dark, swanky, and somewhat spooky, this 24-hour dining den blends a mid-'70s bachelor-pad vibe with freakishly ambitious grill fare. But if you need a top-dollar steak-and-lobster combo at 4:30 am, this is your place.
727 Pine 727 Pine St, 774-6400, $$
The ambience here is pre-2000 boom, and the food seems accordingly opulent--actually, the menu is mostly just elevated versions of things you've had before, eclectic American cuisine and so forth. We like the lounge, for fancy comfort food and happy-hour specials.
Assaggio 2010 Fourth Ave, 441-1399, $$$
The ebullient Mauro Golmarvi presides over Assaggio, shaking hands and kissing babies. This is food in the tradition of tourist-friendly Italian restaurants, but no matter--some of it, such as the brodo aconetano (mussels, clams, scallops, and bay shrimp packed in a fragrant tide pool of creamy saffron broth), is very good.
Bakeman's 122 Cherry St, 622-3375, $
Bakeman's turkey sandwich is legendary, and has been around longer than most things in Seattle. You line up cafeteria-style, and you better know what you want: light or dark meat, white or wheat bread, cranberry or no. Other stuff is good; the turkey sand is great.
Cafe Paloma 93 Yesler Way, 405-1920, $$
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 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, $$$
The minimalist Zen-inspired restaurant attached to downtown's W Hotel plays host to a widely varied menu. You'll find wild-boar sausage and oysters, mache and salmon, wild mushrooms and scallops, all mixed and matched and dished up high on tiny plates. Plus: fancy top-shelf drinks and slick desserts.
El Puerco Lloron 1501 Western Ave, 624-0541, $
It means "the crying pig," ostensibly because the food is spicy but perhaps because life can be pretty colorless if you haven't been to this hot-pink-and-blue cafe for a while. The food is dished up cafeteria-style, and until you've had a tamale there, you haven't had a tamale. And yes, those are homemade corn tortillas.
Etta's Seafood 2020 Western Ave, 443-6000, $$
Alongside its many celebrated seafood items, Etta's also offers a juicy, pleasing wedge of iceberg lettuce doused with Thousand Island dressing among its fancier salads. Props to the iceberg, yo.
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.
Library Bistro 92 Madison St, 624-3546, $$$
The food is a miracle at this restaurant in the very nice Alexis Hotel. It's unfussy but sophisticated, with excellent ingredients (but not so many that you lose track of what you're eating). Too bad the Alexis had to give itself a subtitle; now it's "The Alexis: A Work of Art."
Maximilien in the Market 81A Pike St, 682-7270, $$
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, $$$
Oceanaire has a kind of Titanic glamour, without the doomed feeling--although people were suspicious of this spiffy, expensive seafood restaurant opening when our economy was at its lowest. But Oceanaire has somehow proved them all wrong. Could the lobster cobb salad have something to do with it? The oysters Rockefeller? The insanely fresh fish? Dunno.
Palace Kitchen 2030 Fifth Ave, 448-2001, $$$
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 strong, and the monorail zips by overhead.
Pink Door 1919 Post Alley, 443-3241, $$
It's good to know the restaurant's name because there's no sign outside, just the damn pink door. Inside, you can sit in the rosy dining room (where the light makes everyone look good) or out on a nice deck with a view of the water. The atmosphere is so lovely that even if the food (mostly your basic Italian, dressed up a bit for fun) misses the mark (which occasionally it does), you probably won't mind.
The Green Room 1426 First Ave, 628-3151, $
Housed within the Showbox, the adjacent bar features a fresh and vibrant menu emphasizing Mexican basics: spicy snapper fish tacos, tart and succulent ceviche, and the sexiest guacamole ever encountered--perfectly balanced with slivered cilantro and the unexpected lushness of half-and-half.
Bandoleone 2241 Eastlake Ave E, 329-7559, $$
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.
Le Fournil 3230 Eastlake Ave E, 328-6523, $
The croissants from Le Fournil cannot be eaten without a considerable mess: Each bite creates a shower of pastry shards, while inside the crisp exterior the croissants are moist and coiled like a perfect wave. The plain croissant is perfect as it is, but try the chocolate, almond, raspberry, peach, and apple versions if you must. Le Fournil also makes tasty sandwiches.
Serafina 2043 Eastlake Ave E, 323-0807, $$
A rustic Euro-Italian restaurant in a low, easy-to-miss Eastlake building. Bright, delicious ingredients--fresh peperonata, white Spanish anchovies, tender pea shoots--lift the menu from suffocating red sauces to a variation on Tuscan purity. Even simple dishes such as flank steak (so easy to abuse) are treated with care.
Sophie's Doughnuts 2238 Eastlake Ave E, 323-7132, $
Proving Top Pot isn't the only local competition for Krispy Kreme, this sweet shop in an Eastlake strip mall gives the hipsters a run for their money with cake donuts dipped in a fantastically magenta berry glaze, glazed apple fritters as big as your head, and sweet, sweet custard pillows.
Brad's Swingside Cafe 4212 Fremont Ave N, 633-4057, $$
This wood-paneled cafe is probably best known for its hearty soups, ranging from seafood chowder to Caribbean-flavored lamb and venison stew.
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 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.
Longshoreman's Daughter 3510 Fremont Pl N, 633-5169, $
Diner food with imaginative twists. Great breakfast, served into the afternoon.
The Red Door 3401 Evanston Ave N, 547-7521, $
More yuppie gloss than Fremont funk, the Red Door is a crowded beer-and-bar-food standby, with standard-issue sandwiches, burgers, shellfish, and fish and chips.
Acorn Eatery & Bar 9041 Holman Rd NW, 297-0700, $$
The Acorn Eatery & Bar serves Italian food (pasta, pizza) as well as local entrées (salmon).
Bick's Broadview American Grill 10555 Greenwood Ave N, 367-8481, $$
The kind of place you don't expect in a residential neighborhood--upscale atmosphere and a daring menu.
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, $$
Carmelita is the city's highest-minded vegetarian restaurant, with elaborate dishes that set out to make you forget the portobello-mushroom "steak" that passes for a vegetarian meal at so many restaurants. Look for pea flans, parsnip gnocchi, and vegan options like peach-tomato gazpacho.
Gordito's Healthy Mexican Food 213 N 85th St, 706-9352, $
Huge, healthy portions and an absence of lard and fat make this one of the neighborhood's busier joints.
Greenwood Mandarin Restaurant 7307 Greenwood Ave N, 783-6426, $
A fine Chinese restaurant run by a fine family.
Phad Thai 8530 Greenwood Ave N, 784-1830, $
As its name suggests, this is a popular neighborhood place that turns out reliable Thai favorites at however many stars you'd like.
Prost! 7311 Greenwood Ave N, 706-5430, $
This tavern is all about the beer, with a dizzying selection of German imports. On Wednesday nights, the dinner special--rippchen mit sauerkraut--is a must. This salty little treat is a gorgeous piece of pork tenderloin, smoked unto pinkness and then long-cooked until it just about falls apart in a pot of sauerkraut.
Red Mill Burgers (Phinney Ridge) 312 N 67th St, 783-6362, $
Perhaps most famous for the aromatic heaps of freshly fried bacon ready to be crisscrossed on a burger, Red Mill just might offer the best in Seattle--especially the green-chile-draped southwestern version. (Full veggie options accommodated.)
Stalk Exchange 6711 Greenwood Ave N, 868-2071, $$
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, $$
In a perfect world, you would never have to eat anywhere else. Each tapas dish is perfect in some way: aged Spanish cheeses, lovely anchovies, seared sea scallops, mushrooms sautéed with leeks and scrambled eggs, a whole pan-fried trout, Spanish ham... you could sit at the counter and have one amazing dish after another slide right by you. That would be heaven indeed.
Cafe Soleil 1400 34th Ave, 325-1126, $
Breakfast here is American, while dinner is Ethiopian by way of Madrona (with a few pasta dishes as well). The stews are delicious, with greens not cooked unto limpness but fresh and light. It's all served with the traditional sour injera bread, but you might be tempted to use a fork.
Hi-Spot Cafe 1410 34th Ave, 325-7905, $
Two words: Pint-size mimosas. So much better than those dinky champagne flutes that are gone three times before your breakfast arrives. Even the hearty toast and good-as-Grandma-makes jam is yummy, and that's not just the mimosa talking.
Madrona Eatery 1138 34th Ave, 323-7807, $$
Offering a mixed bag of pub food and finer cuisines, Madrona Eatery is a family-friendly, early-to-bed local watering hole.
Supreme 1404 34th Ave, 322-0884, $$$
Upscale American fare with international accents, delectably housed in minimal décor.
5 Spot Cafe 1502 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-7768, $$
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.
Bamboo Garden 364 Roy St, 282-6616, $$
Bamboo Garden is heaven on earth for any vegetarian when the craving for some delicious Chinese food hits. Because Bamboo Garden uses vegetable protein when creating its "meat" entrées, everything on the menu (which boasts over 100 selections), from the sweet-and-sour chicken (my favorite) to the braised-chicken-and-shark-fin soup, is safe for the vegetarians in the group. Surprisingly, everything's delicious enough for the carnivores too.
Banjara Cuisine of India 2 Boston St, 282-7752, $$
Admirable daals and vindaloos, stuffed naan and tandoori, all presented with a visual flair. But Banjara's claim to fame is the fried calamari appetizer, flecked with green bits of cilantro.
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, $$
Famous for the Tower, a three-tiered sampling of appetizers that is chosen by the chef and changes nightly, Kaspar's is a good way to get your fill of fancy food. After you and your date have devoured the Tower, be sure to save room for the desserts, which are always impressive and delicious.
Malena's Taco Shop 620 W McGraw St, 284-0304, $
If you get tired of the showier restaurants on Queen Anne Avenue, Malena's offers relief in the form of a small, spare dining space, a no-nonsense white board of a menu, and tasty tacos and burritos filled with homemade salsa, carne asada, and carnitas.
Mecca 526 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-9728, $
An old-timey counter-and-booth-style diner, for those times when only dependable food can hit the spot. The jukebox is a history lesson unto itself.
Racha 537 First Ave N, 281-8883, $$
So you're in the Queen Anne neighborhood and you want a safe bet for some pad thai? Go to Racha. It's littered with yuppies, but the food's delicious.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pecos Pit BBQ 2260 First Ave S, 623-0629, $
If you're trapped in South Seattle, and your mouth won't stop watering at the thought of tender, smoked meat, hit up Pecos.
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, $$
A clean, bright restaurant with big windows that look out onto the leafy Montlake neighborhood. Customers cram the place for the fresh handmade pastas and delicious rustic pizzas. There may be a wait, but don't worry: There's a bar.
College Inn Pub 4006 University Way NE, 634-2307, $
One of Seattle's best bars. Try the chili, for it is amazing.
Flowers Bar & Restaurant 4247 University Way NE, 633-1903, $
Every day of the week, from 11 am to 3 pm, Flowers has a Mediterranean-inspired vegetarian buffet. After that, it serves a combination of Mediterranean and American starters and entrées. Plus, with its dark colors, triphop and jazz music floating from the bar, and abundance of glass and Parisian mirrors, Flowers is the most fashionable hangout on the Ave.
Maple Leaf Grill 8929 Roosevelt Way NE, 523-8449, $
The kind of bar everyone wishes his or her neighborhood had, the Maple Leaf Grill is a cozy, worn-in den, perfect for folks in the area to walk to and grab a burger and a beer-with their kids or without. A giant horseshoe-shaped bar dominates the main room, making a perfect spot for solo diners who crave a little background noise and people-watching with their dinner.
Queen Mary 2912 NE 55th St, 527-2770, $$
High tea, for ladies and their friends--pleasingly British, but not coyly so. Take solace in crustless finger sandwiches, scones, crumpets, cookies, beautifully cut fruit, and chocolate tea-cake.
Sunlight Cafe 6403 Roosevelt Way NE, 522-9060, $
Vegan and vegetarian comfort food. Very good, and popular, breakfasts.
Au Bouchon 1815 N 45th St, 547-5791, $
Some very fine French food. We like the duck; the cassoulet's good, too.
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.
Diggity Dog 5421 Meridian Ave N, 633-1966, $
A popular neighborhood hangout, with hot dogs that are pretty good. They could be served a little hotter, but at least Diggity Dog isn't stingy with the sauerkraut.
Eva 2227 N 56th St, 633-3538, $$
Amy McCray's menu is both worldly and grounded, with good honest cooking. She's got a nice knack for sides like chorizo-bread pudding with sherry-braised rabbit, squash spaetzle with a veal shank, and corn pudding with pork loin.
Luau 2253 N 56th St, 633-5828, $$
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.
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, $$
A gourmet-food-store-slash-elegant-bistro with all the makings for a sophisticated dinner, to eat in the shop or make at home.
Jade West 6032 California Ave SW, 932-9840, $
Sit down at the low counter and choose between your favorite greasy American favorites (French toast, hamburgers, etc.) and your favorite greasy Chinese favorites (fried rice and chow mein). Chef/owner Wah will customize each order for you with flair.
Mamey's Cuban Bistro 2620 Alki Ave SW, 933-0848, $$, $$
With its long-stewed meats and beans, its crunchy fried goodies, and its unflappable devotion to garlic, Mamey's serves the kind of earthy food we need more of around here.
Mashiko 4725 California Ave SW, 935-4339, $$$
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.
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.
Spud's Fish & Chips 2666 Alki Ave SW, 938-0606, $
Fish and chips done right. A classic Seattle restaurant.
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.