Ballard
Dandelion 5809 24th Ave NW, 706-8088, $$
A delicately scaled cafe, with glowing lighting, an open kitchen, and a relaxed ease seems downright Californian. The menu is pointedly unfussy: just six or seven appetizers, a few cheese choices, and six or seven entrées, all of it bundled up with lots of farmy name-dropping (Full Circle greens, Oregon Country beef, Quillisascut cheese) to let you know that someone in the kitchen cares about how the ingredients are grown.

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.

La Carta de Oaxaca 5431 Ballard Ave NW, 782-8722, $
If Oaxaca is Mole Central, how are the moles at La Carta? Some black moles have a hint of char to them, to balance out the sugar and chocolate in the sauce, but La Carta's sticks to sweeter notes. It's delicious and mysterious--perfect in tamales wrapped with banana leaves.

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.

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.

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

Belltown
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 loung 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.

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.

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.

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.

Zoe 2137 Second Ave, 256-2060, $$
A friendly upscale Belltown spot with European sophistication (they're not afraid of kids) and inventive, high-class American cooking.

Capitol Hill
611 Supreme 611 E Pine St, 328-0292, $
The crepes are larger than the plates underneath them, a serene brown (due, in part, to 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

Central District
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.

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

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.

Crow 823 Fifth Ave N, 283-8800, $$
Contrary to the dominant trend, Crow is not a small plate restaurant. It's serves hearty entrees like sausage-stuffed lasagna ($12) whose pleasant spiciness made an otherwise macho friend declare that it felt like he had stars in his mouth (I think this is the same thing I said the first time I tried a clove cigarette....) Good old chicken n' green beans was also a pleasure, especially wrapped in a crispy blanket of pancetta, and especially when I discovered a crackly skinned, boneless thigh hidden under the breast ($14). Poor chicken thighs! They are so tasty and so often neglected.

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. .

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.

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

Library Bistro 92 Madison St, 624-3546, $$$
The food is a miracle at this restaurant in the very nice Alexis Hotel. It's unfussy but sophisticated, with excellent ingredients.

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.

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.

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.

The Green Room 1426 First Ave, 628-3151, $
Housed within the Showbox, the adjacent bar features a fresh and vibrant new menu of American cuisine.

Eastlake
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!

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.

Fremont
Bandoleone 703 N. 34th St, 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. Perefcet. Perfect. Perfect. A cozy, noisy, elegant resaurant with spicy, tasty Spanish-style cuisine. It's a little pricey, but you'll feel satisfied about dollars well spent.

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.

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

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

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

Kwanjai Thai 469 N 36th St, 632-3656, $
Located in the Thai-food capital of Seattle--where Thai restaurants outnumber baby strollers almost two to one--the casual Kwanjai Thai has earned a reputation as being worth the wait. They're serious about their noodles, soups, and star-spice ratings, and many swear it's the Thai talk of the town in Fremont, which is saying a lot.

Longshoreman's Daughter 3510 Fremont 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.

Greenwood/Phinney
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.

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.

Kabob House 8102 Greenwood Ave N, 782-3611, $
Their chicken boti kabob and lamb boti kabob--meat marinated in yogurt, garlic, and spices served with rice, a simple iceberg salad, and moon-sized naan--are wonders to behold.

Kona Kitchen 8501 Fifth Ave NE, 517-5662, $
Kona Kitchen is unintentionally pushing the hangover food envelope, offering hope through a bizarre Hawaiian concoction known as the Loco Moco. The lkey to the LOco Moco is its simplicity and gravy, lots of gravy.

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.

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.)

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.

International District
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.

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

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.

Tamarind Tree 1036 S Jackson St, Suite A, 860-1404, $
There are a plethora of beefy delights here. They play fast and loose with the notion of courses here.; it's more like a stampede, as very shortly your table is covered with with upwards of a dozen elegant dishes.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Wallingford/Green Lake
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.

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.

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

West Seattle/White Center
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.

Guadalajara 9214 45th Ave SW, 935-8595, $
Guadalajara has all the standard fare like quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos, plus token American favorites, like steak and grilled cheese. But it's their authentic Mexican dishes that are superb.

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.

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

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

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

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

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