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, $
For all of Seattle's hippy-dippiness, it's a real project to find a good tofu scramble in town. Luckily, there's the dish.The Slacker Special is a rich, inventive scramble of cheeese, enchilada sauce, more cheese, onions, tortilla chips, and eggs or tofu, topped by a dollop of sour cream and salsa and offered with a side of potatoes and toast.
Hattie's Hat 5231 Ballard Ave NW, 784-0175, $$
Hattie's no longer has pot--roast night (rest its soul), but the buttermilk-soaked fried chicken with gravy (and choice of excellent sides) is still around. Breakfast--biscuits and gravy, huevos rancheros, good pancakes with jam--is no longer served all day and night, but is worth getting out of bed for.
India Bistro 2301 NW Market St, 783-5080, $
Consistently considered above the grade for Indian food, this Ballard bistro ranks high for its tandoori combos, curries, dahl, and masalas. Meat, seafood, and vegetarian lovers alike should all find something to fit their cravings here.
Market Street Grill 1744 NW Market St, 789-6766, $$
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.
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.
The Apartment 2226 First Ave, 956-8288, $$
Named for the Billy Wilder movie starring Jack Lemmon (which plays on a plasma screen) this sleek Belltown lounge has smart cocktails and tasty if not pretty steaks.
Cyclops 2421 First Ave, 441-1677, $$
Another Belltown restaurant that's often packed, Cyclops earns its popularity by serving good, imaginative food and tasty drinks.
Dahlia Lounge 2001 Fourth Ave, 682-4142, $$
The ruby-red-walled Dahlia Lounge--for better or worse--is one of those quintessential Seattle restaurants that everyone takes out-of-town visitors to. Serving up favorites like salmon (of course), pork loin, and rib-eye steak (plus a few vegetarian options for good measure), Dahlia Lounge tops 'em all off with fancy purées (cipollini), confits (carrot), and emulsions (asparagus). But the real draw is dessert, featuring everything from chocolate cake or blueberry sorbet, to homemade doughnuts or poached apricots.
Five Point Cafe 415 Cedar St, 448-9993, $
Another one of Seattle's 24-hour dives, except the Five Point is actually worth going to even if it isn't the only thing open. Get the fries-some of the best in Seattle.
Jai Thai 2132 First Ave, 770-7884, $
Jai Thai's phad kee mao is a kind of variation on pad thai with wide noodles and curry, tremendously good with shrimp. Not everything is great, but here's decent, cheap Thai food at your service.
Lampreia 2400 First Ave, 443-3301, $$$
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.
Marco's Supperclub 2510 First Ave, 441-7801, $$
A truly urban place--one where a lot of people share a small space and interaction is inevitable, not to say guaranteed--serving truly urban food, with ethnic flourishes from all over. The gossamer fried sage leaves have become something of a legend.
Marjorie 2331 Second Ave, 441-9842, $$
Food from all over the place: There's both fish sauce and mango salsa on the menu. It's eclectic, and the quality varies from one region to the next.
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.
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, $
Great pub food, great drinks, and exceptionally friendly service. A comfortable neighborhood joint.
Zoe 2137 Second Ave, 256-2060, $$
A friendly upscale Belltown spot with European sophistication (they're not afraid of kids) and inventive, high-class American cooking.
611 Supreme 611 E Pine St, 328-0292, $
The crepes are larger than the plates underneath them, a serene brown (due, in part, to the use of buckwheat flour), crispy at the edges. This is perfect food--whether wrapped around smoked salmon, sautéed mushrooms, or caramelized apples--both ephemeral and hearty at the same time.
Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen 506 E Pine St, 329-9978, $
Fat, tasty burritos, pretty good everything else. Sometimes crowded, which means a wait, but the Bimbo's crew is perfectly willing to come track you down in the Cha-Cha when your table's ready.
Broadway New American Grill 314 Broadway E, 328-7000, $$
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.
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.
Frites Belgian Fries 925 E Pike St, no phone, $
What better late night food is there than Belgian frites, those kosher-salt-flecked, thick-cut, crispy-limp fries that derive their texture from a cooking process that involves blanching the potatoes in oil, cooling them completely, then frying them yet again?
Galerias 611 E Broadway, 322-5757, $$
Scrumptious nouveau Mexican food, jaw-dropping margaritas, and a charmingly laissez-faire wait staff make Galerias a beloved fixture on Broadway. And it's not all melted cheese and mole: Check out the carefully imaginative salad options, which are meals unto themselves.
Hana 219 Broadway E, 328-1187, $
Located on the lip of Broadway Alley, Hana is one of Capitol Hill's best bargains for sushi and teriyaki. Clean and casual, and usually quite crowded, it's still worth the wait.
Jamjuree 509 15th Ave E, 323-4255, $
This family-owned restaurant is a Capitol Hill favorite for seafood, curries, noodle dishes, and other Thai standards. With plenty of veggie options (they work small miracles with green beans) and street-style food, such as fish cakes and chicken satay.
Joe Bar 810 E Roy St, 324-0407, $
Joe Bar serves delicious crepes in addition to its namesake espresso. The cheapest and most delicious item on the cr*pe menu is also the most classic: lemon juice and powdered sugar, topped with thin-to-transparent slices of lemon. The more substantial savory crepes include a tasty Caprese salad rip-off and a spinach, roasted red pepper, and blue cheese combo.
Kimchi Bistro 219 Broadway E, 323-4472, $
Korean dishes are often spicy and always soulful (they like barbecue too, you know), and every entrée comes accessorized with funky, pickley kimchi and another little vegetal treat. Oxtail soup, with clear slippery noodles, has an unmistakable fragrance. Bibimbop, the classic rice bowl, comes with a rainbow of marinated veggies, beef if you like it, and a very lightly fried egg on top.
Kingfish Cafe 602 19th Ave E, 320-8757, $$
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.
Lark 926 12th Ave, 323-5275, $$$
The stress of eating at an expensive restaurant is missing from Lark, partly because everything is delicious, and also because you order two or three small dishes and taste lots of other things and therefore you don't have much opportunity to worry about what you're missing. The food is also not particularly fancy, but the menu radiates both intelligence about excellent classic combinations and innovation.
Local Cafe 1514 E Olive Way, 328-2282, $
Sure their onion and herb-rich ematloaf is available hot at dinner (alongside other appealing staples like steamed mussles and roast chicken), but we all know that meatloaf is at its best cold in a sandwich.
Olympia Pizza 516 15th Ave E, 329-4500, $
With dark wood walls and tall vinyl booths, Olympia feels like the Pizza Inn of your suburban childhood. With famous thick-crust pizza and gigantic pasta dishes, it tastes like the Heaven of your afterlife.
Pho Than Brothers 516 Broadway E, 568-7218, $
Unconscionably inexpensive, Than Brothers is devoted to pho and pho alone--excusing the delectable cream puffs--and has it down to a science.
Piecora's 1401 E Madison St, 322-9411, $
Sure, there's an Italian menu, but Piecora is a simple destination for one thing: pizza by the slice, made to order.
Six Arms 300 E Pike St, 223-1698, $
Good, non-adventurous food and stellar beer. A very relaxed, comfortable place.
The Green Papaya 600 E Pine St, 323-1923, $$
Best known as "that Vietnamese place under the Press Apartments," the Green Papaya offers a full bar and sturdy takes on Vietnamese standards (with plenty of vegetarian options) in Crate and Barrel-furnished décor.
Vios Cafe & Marketplace 903 19th Ave E, 329-3236, $
Follow the pita-the pita will not lead you atray. Sturdy, yet soft and pillowy, it can be dipped in baba ghanoush, tzatziki, or hummus.
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.
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.
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 somewhat inarguable moniker, R & L has been providing inexpensive barbeque and soul cuisine--Louisiana style--for over 50 years.
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.
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.
Earth & Ocean 1112 Fourth Ave, 264-6060, $$$
The minimalist Zen-inspired restaurant attached to downtown's W Hotel plays host to a widely varied menu. You'll find wild-boar sausage and oysters, mache and salmon, wild mushrooms and scallops, all mixed and matched and dished up high on tiny plates. Plus: fancy top-shelf drinks and slick desserts.
Elliott's Oyster House 1201 Alaskan Way, Pier 56, 623-4340, $$
Raw oysters are what the late Laurie Colwin would have called a "cheap luxury," meaning you can enjoy them in small amounts--and therefore not nurse feelings of deprivation from high lifestyle--for a moderate price. You might not get full on a half-dozen oysters, but you will be more than satisfied.
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.
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, $$
Off the cobblestones that run under Pike Place Market, Il Bistro is a nice spot for a cozy date or to get away from the bustle and savor some tippy-top-shelf scotch. Bowls of pasta and zesty cioppino are satisfying choices among other Italian fare.
Maximilien in the Market 81A Pike St, 682-7270, $$
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.
Pan Africa Market 1521 First Ave, 652-2461, $
This sunny cafe has dual menus: one rotates with African food from around the continent, from the slightly spicy Tanzanian groundnut stew to a chicken braised with dates in a more Moroccan vein. The other is devoted to Ethiopian standbys like spicy braised chicken, lentil stew, and beef with tomatoes.
Pink Door 1919 Post Alley, 443-3241, $$
It's good to know the restaurant's name because there's no sign outside, just the damn pink door. Inside, you can sit in the rosy dining room (where the light makes everyone look good) or out on a nice deck with a view of the water. The atmosphere is so lovely that even if the food (mostly your basic Italian, dressed up a bit for fun) misses the mark (which occasionally it does), you probably won't mind.
Quarter Lounge 909 Madison St, 332-0772, $
The substance of these Cajun dishes will not disappoint you--however, you will wish there was a little more of them. The catfish sandwich and chicken strips are both excellent.
Tulio Ristorante 1100 Fifth Ave, 624-5500, $$
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.
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, $$
A rustic Euro-Italian restaurant in a low, easy-to-miss Eastlake building. Bright, delicious ingredients--fresh peperonata, white Spanish anchovies, tender pea shoots--lift the menu from suffocating red sauces to a variation on Tuscan purity. Even simple dishes such as flank steak (so easy to abuse) are treated with care.
Siam on Lake Union 1880 Fairview Ave E, 323-8101, $
Same great food as the original legendary Broadway location, offered in a snazzier, more expansive setting. Plus, E-Z parking!
Brad's Swingside Cafe 4212 Fremont Ave N, 633-4057, $$
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, $$
The standard sushi options are perfect here but you should absolutely look at the specials list, where you might find little silver smelt, or monkfish liver, or aji (a kind of Spanish mackerel that's less fatty than the usual kind). Chiso is a serene urban spot hidden away in funk-land Fremont, so it's not often very crowded.
Dad Watson's 3601 Fremont Ave N, 632-6505, $
A part of Oregon's McMenamins empire, Dad Watson's has the usual big burgers, big booths and tables, and big pints of beloved beer, like the Terminator Stout. While Oregon must endure Starbucks, we can enjoy McMenamins, a far more relaxed and less viral corporation.
Longshoreman's Daughter 3510 Fremont Pl N, 633-5169, $
Diner food with imaginative twists. Great breakfast, served into the afternoon.
Paseo 4225 Fremont Ave N, 545-7440, $
In its essentials, Paseo's pork sandwich is like a Caribbean bahn mi: grilled pork on a sturdy roll with cilantro and lettuce, and not stingy with the mayonnaise. However, a bahn mi is a tidy little operation, and a pork sandwich from Paseo is a lovely mess, with dripping marinade and onions that have been grilled for so long that they just give up and become a sweet, mellow tangle. Other things here--like the jerk chicken--are very good, but it's the pork that you remember.
The Red Door 3401 Evanston Ave N, 547-7521, $
More yuppie gloss than Fremont funk, the Red Door is a crowded beer-and-bar-food standby, with standard-issue sandwiches, burgers, shellfish, and fish and chips.
Bick's Broadview American Grill 10555 Greenwood Ave N, 367-8481, $$
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, $$
Carmelita is the city's highest-minded vegetarian restaurant, with elaborate dishes that set out to make you forget the portobello-mushroom "steak" that passes for a vegetarian meal at so many restaurants. Look for pea flans, parsnip gnocchi, and vegan options like peach-tomato gazpacho.
Greenwood Mandarin Restaurant 7307 Greenwood Ave N, 783-6426, $
A fine Chinese restaurant run by a fine family.
Manna Smoked BBQ 10410 Holman Rd N, 782-5491, $
Texas-style barbecue done right with briskt, ribs, and sausage. The smoky baby-back pork ribs were this non-Texan's favorite
OK Corral 8733 Greenwood Ave N, 783-3356, $
There are no menus at OK Corral, but if you order "the hook-up" you'll get that giddy sense that you know the secret handshake. The hook-up means a load of meat and an array of sides--at least four large ribs, two or three pieces of chicken, a hot link, beans and greens, and either a wedge of cornbread or a cluster of hush puppies--as well as all the "ghetto juice" (also known as Tang) the establishment has to offer. Caution: the hook-up is more than enough to feed two people.
Phad Thai 8530 Greenwood Ave N, 784-1830, $
As its name suggests, this is a popular neighborhood place that turns out reliable Thai favorites at however many stars you'd like.
Prost! 7311 Greenwood Ave N, 706-5430, $
This tavern is all about the beer, with a dizzying selection of German imports. On Wednesday nights, the dinner special--rippchen mit sauerkraut--is a must. This salty little treat is a gorgeous piece of pork tenderloin, smoked unto pinkness and then long-cooked until it just about falls apart in a pot of sauerkraut.
Red Mill Burgers (Phinney Ridge) 312 N 67th St, 783-6362, $
Perhaps most famous for the aromatic heaps of freshly fried bacon ready to be crisscrossed on a burger, Red Mill just might offer the best in Seattle--especially the green-chile-draped southwestern version. (Full veggie options accommodated.)
Stumbling Goat Bistro 6722 Greenwood Ave N, 784-3535, $$
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, $
Szechuan Bistro is not much to look at--just 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.
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.
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.
Arosa: The Waffle Cafe 3121 E Madison St, Suite 101, 324-4542, $
Arosa's snack waffles are what Eggos hope to be in the afterlife. More or less round, these $1.50 bargains are self- sweetened, with balls of pearl sugar that melt on contact with the iron and turn into a half-crispy, half-sticky glaze.
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.
Nishino 3130 E Madison St, 322-5800, $$$
Nishino, considered one of the premier places to get sushi in a sushi-crazed town, offers its top-quality fare in lively surroundings. Open since 1995, the sushi bar is always bustling, and the room rings with exclamations of delight from ecstatic diners. The service is leisurely and friendly. Because of Nishiro's popularity, it's best to book reservations in advance. They also offer a variety of other dishes, if raw fish isn't your cup of tea.
Voilà! 2805 E Madison St, 322-5460, $$
Despite the goofy name, Voilà!'s bistro menu isn't entirely predictable, although to be sure, one can order coq au vin, pâté, and even the occasional frog leg special. The salads, for example, are lovely, and the spicy North African merguez is really succulent and decidedly lamb-y.
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, $$
Offering a mixed bag of pub food and finer cuisines, Madrona Eatery is a family-friendly, early-to-bed local watering hole.
St. Clouds 1131 34th Ave, 866-655-5269, $$
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, $$$
Upscale American fare with international accents, delectably housed in minimal décor.
5 Spot Cafe 1502 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-7768, $$
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.
Canlis 2576 Aurora Ave N, 283-3313, $$$
Fancy folks, businesspeople, and retirees love this atrium-like dining room that serves upscale surf-and-turf and specialties like wasyugyu tenderloin. Take your parents. Make them pay.
El Diablo Coffee Company 1811 Queen Anne Ave N #101, 285-0693, $
In addition to cinnamony hot chocolate and cafe cubanos sweetened with a little caramelized sugar, El Diablo offers nice snacky bits: coconut cake and sandwiches and cheese plates, plus milky tropical fruit shakes (batidos) made with mangos, papayas, and the like.
Mecca 526 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-9728, $
An old-timey counter-and-booth-style diner, for those times when only dependable food can hit the spot. The jukebox is a history lesson unto itself.
Shanty Cafe 350 Elliott Ave W, 282-1400, $
Your basic coffee-shop breakfast, in a sort of lumberjack atmosphere. The Shanty actually looks like a shanty, but never mind. Here are sympathetic waitresses who are brisk, but keep your coffee cup full.
Tup Tim Thai 118 W Mercer St, 281-8833, $
We've never heard an ill word spoken about the comfortable yet convenient Tup Tim Thai. Maybe that's why its lunch and dinner hours are consistently bustling and its regulars refuse to eat Thai anywhere else.
Panos Kleftiko Taverna 815 Fifth Ave N, 301-0393, $$
You could make a whole dinner out of appetizers here, out of tzatziki and baked olives and stuffed artichoke hearts and chopped peppers. But the rest of the menu looks good, too.
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, $$
Authentic Sicilian food in Columbia City: Note the presence of sardines and anchovies, as well as more Middle Eastern touches like pine nuts and raisins (the legacy of Sicily's invasion by the Moors).
Pho and Banh Mi Saigon Restaurant and Deli 810 Rainier Ave S, 323-5570, $
The tofu sandwiches are deservedly famous and go for two dollars. Dine-in options are vast and delicious. There's papaya salad with beef jerky, and 13 varieties of pho. It's all good, and it's all cheap.
Rose Club Cafe 3601 S McClellan St, 725-3654, $$
The unpretentious neighborhood cafe serves homemade-tasting breakfasts and lunches. Wooden booths permit privacy, although the place is more cozy-casual than romantic.
Willie's Taste of Soul 6305 Beacon Ave S, 722-3229, $$
Willie himself looks like he may have starred opposite Pam Grier in one of her '70s movies: He's strapping and charismatic even while wearing a plastic apron. His barbecue is worth the trip down south to Beacon Hill: Ribs and brisket have a pleasant campfire tone, while Willie's sauce is not too sweet and packs a little vinegar punch. Greens, too, are delicious.
SoDo/Georgetown/ South Park
Juan Colorado 8709 14th Ave S, 764-9379, $
A lovely family-run diner-style Mexican restaurant. Delicious and reasonable.
Muy Macho 8515 14th Ave S, 763-7109, $
Damn good and cheap. The tacos arrive with just meat and salsa--not, thank heaven, doused in cheese. And the array of meats includes the tripe and brains and such--but for the less daring, the pork variations are amazingly good.
Stella Pizza & Ale 5513 Airport Way S, 763-1660, $
In this warehousey old space you can get pizzas that tilt between the classic and the nouveau (although we prefer the former), excellent sandwiches such as the meatball and the "Local 174" (Italian sausage, provolone, marinara, and hot peppers), and plenty of PBR on tap. Pretty much the heart of social life in Georgetown.
Agua Verde Cafe and Paddleclub 1303 NE Boat St, 545-8570, $
If the sun is out, the water will be shimmering behind this cottage-like restaurant that, along with offering yam tacos and mango margaritas and hominy stew, also rents kayaks by the hour. The menu of simple, fresh food--tacos (meats, fish, and vegetables), empanadas, sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, nightly specials, and sublime desserts--recalls the cuisines of Baja, Oaxaca, Tampico, and salt-sprayed Mexican beach towns.
Calypso Caribbean Kitchen 7917 Roosevelt Way NE, 525-5118, $$
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.
Pies & Pints 1215 NE 65th St, 524-7082, $
Pies & Pints offers not pizzas or your Mama's apple pie, but pubby, savory pies stuffed with meat, veg, and cheese. It turns out, pies--even manly pies like those served at P&P--are inherently cute. There is a sort of giddy pie feeling you get when you know your meal is going to come encased in buttery pastry.
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.
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.
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.
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, $$
Fun and crazy--expect Polynesian ambiance complete with thatched roof and oversized pupu platters.
Murphy's 1928 N 45th St, 634-2110, $
A great Irish joint with a spectacular beer selection and good bar food.
Nell's 6804 E Green Lake Way N, 524-4044, $$
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.
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.
Da Bro Ribs 6459 California SW, 938-7868, $$
Backporch BBQ has been under new management and has a new, revamped and very tantalizing message.
West Seattle/White Center
Alki Homestead 2717 61st Ave SW, 935-5678, $$
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.
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.
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.