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.
Hattie's Hat 5231 Ballard Ave NW, 784-0175, $$
Hattie's no longer has pot--roast night (rest its soul), but the buttermilk-soaked fried chicken with gravy (and choice of excellent sides) is still around. Breakfast--biscuits and gravy, huevos rancheros, good pancakes with jam--is no longer served all day and night, but is worth getting out of bed for.
La Carta de Oaxaca 5431 Ballard Ave NW, 782-8722, $
If Oaxaca is Mole Central, how are the moles at La Carta? Some black moles have a hint of char to them, to balance out the sugar and chocolate in the sauce, but La Carta's sticks to sweeter notes. It's delicious and mysterious--perfect in tamales wrapped with banana leaves.
Le Gourmand 425 NW Market Street, 784-3463, $$$
Traditional French cuisine done up with fresh Northwest produce makes for down-to-earth yet fancy food with names that are hard to pronounce but very easy to enjoy.
Market Street Grill 1744 NW Market St, 789-6766, $$
This is new Ballard--a sleek, sophisticated restaurant painted in IKEA-like colors, with food that seems to take on a bustling city's characteristics by being layered, complex, detailed, and very, very busy. Every dish is embellished up the wazoo, but it doesn't mean that some of them aren't very good.
People's Pub 5429 Ballard Ave NW, 783-6521, $
If you're looking for the kind of hearty fare Germans use to power through dark, cold winters, the People's Pub's Kraut-friendly menu may be just what you need. Giant Wiener schnitzel helps to soak up its many brands of beer--some of which are meals in and of themselves.
Sambar 425 NW Market St, 781-4883, $$
A younger, nibblier restaurant from the owners of Le Gournand, Sambar specializes in elaborate cocktails and dainty portions of food.
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.
Brasa 2107 Third Ave, 728-4220, $$$
One of the current Seattle food stars, Brasa may overwhelm average diners--the menu is far-flung and can be intimidating--but it's a surprisingly fun place to go with a group for appetizers in the bar.
Cyclops 2421 First Ave, 441-1677, $$
Another Belltown restaurant that's often packed, Cyclops earns its popularity by serving good, imaginative food and tasty drinks.
El Gaucho 2505 First Ave, 728-1337, $$$
A swank, old school, see-and-be-seen spot to fill up on salty steaks and good martinis. Great for expense-account dinners, or to entertain your parents.
Flying Fish 2234 First Ave, 728-8595, $$
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.
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.
Shorty's 2222 3/4 Second Ave, 441-5499, $
Coney dogs, booze, and pinball in one small joint spells fun for everyone (well, those 21 and older). Nostalgic soda pops and vegetarian options are offered for those who choose to abstain but still remember how to have a good time.
Two Bells Tavern 2313 Fourth Ave, 441-3050, $
Great pub food, great drinks, and exceptionally friendly service. A comfortable neighborhood joint.
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, $$
Open early, open late, the Broadway Grill offers a good menu of perfectly okay renditions of American standards. Very popular with the gays and those who love them.
Deluxe Bar & Grill 625 Broadway E, 324-9697, $
A great place to duck into during a rainstorm for a bowl of soup and some cozy cocktails, or to toss back some pints before taking in some subtitled gem at the nearby Harvard Exit. Food is good, but before its froofy remodel, the Deluxe had the greatest fries in the world. Sigh.
El Greco 219 Broadway E, 328-4604, $
This Broadway Mediterranean staple-usually crowded due to the cramped layout of the blue-hued dining room-is a great spot to settle in over a bottle of wine and while away the hours nibbling on hummus, tzatziki, and baba ghanoush.
Hana 219 Broadway E, 328-1187, $
Located on the lip of Broadway Alley, Hana is one of Capitol Hill's best bargains for sushi and teriyaki. Clean and casual, and usually quite crowded, it's still worth the wait.
Hopvine Pub 507 15th Ave E, 328-3120, $
A relatively warm alternative to a lot of the Hill's drinking establishments, the Hopvine features a lot of local fare, with Northwest brews and sandwiches.
Lark 926 12th Ave, 323-5275, $$$
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.
Linda's Tavern 707 E Pine St, 325-1220, $
Good bar food and standard, very solid breakfasts. One of Seattle's best drinking joints, with a killer jukebox.
Monsoon 615 19th Ave E, 325-2111, $$$
Sparse and simple Vietnamese cuisine in the upscale Monsoon is surprisingly comfortable--and well worth the menu price.
Pho Than Brothers 516 Broadway E, 568-7218, $
Unconscionably inexpensive, Than Brothers is devoted to pho and pho alone--excusing the delectable cream puffs--and has it down to a science.
Ristorante Machiavelli 1215 Pine St, 621-7941, $$
Here is basic Italian food made exactly right--the Bolognese with different meats plus chicken livers, carbonara that is not scrambled but silken and decadent, a restrained but perfect antipasto plate. And the service is some of the best in the city: brisk, excellent, and, above all, dedicated to getting the food on the table while it's still hot.
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.
Catfish Corner 2726 E Cherry St, 323-4330, $$
Catfish encrusted with cornmeal, catfish baked and drizzled with spicy, buttery sauce, catfish catfish catfish. Plus, side dishes that are like school food only better: rice and beans, a curry-tinged potato salad, and sweet li'l cornmeal muffins.
Ezell's Fried Chicken 501 23rd Ave, 324-4141, $
The best fried chicken in the country, dished out over a low-key neighborhood counter. Oprah has it FedExed directly to her mouth.
Meskel 2605 E Cherry St, 860-1724, $$
The menu at Meskel extends beyond the standard wots (stews rich in berbere, a Ethiopian chile-based spice blend), tibbs (cubed-meat sautes), and veggie combos, and there always seems to be something special simmering up in the kitchen. Here the injera isn't just a floppy, edible utensil, but a lively flavor unto itself, lending a cool, pleasantly sour counterpoint to all the slow-cooked stews.
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, $-$$$
Dark, swanky, and somewhat spooky, this 24-hour dining den blends a mid-'70s bachelor-pad vibe with freakishly ambitious grill fare. But if you need a top-dollar steak-and-lobster combo at 4:30 am, this is your place.
Alibi Room 85 Pike St, 623-3180, $$
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.
Alexandria's on Second 2020 Second Ave, 374-3700, $$
There isn't just one Southern cuisine out there, and the menu at Alexandria's is scattered to the torpid breezes of several southerly regions. It boasts Cajun classics like the jambalaya; soul food standards--fried chicken and catfish, barbecued ribs plus all the sides--the collards, the macaroni and cheese, the sweet potatoes; a Caribbean dish or two.
Assaggio 2010 Fourth Ave, 441-1399, $$$
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.
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, $$$
The minimalist Zen-inspired restaurant attached to downtown's W Hotel plays host to a widely varied menu. You'll find wild-boar sausage and oysters, mache and salmon, wild mushrooms and scallops, all mixed and matched and dished up high on tiny plates. Plus: fancy top-shelf drinks and slick desserts.
El Puerco Lloron 1501 Western Ave, 624-0541, $
It means "the crying pig," ostensibly because the food is spicy but perhaps because life can be pretty colorless if you haven't been to this hot-pink-and-blue cafe for a while. The food is dished up cafeteria-style, and until you've had a tamale there, you haven't had a tamale. And yes, those are homemade corn tortillas.
Hurricane Cafe 2230 Seventh Ave, 682-5858, $
The Hurricane Cafe (one of the city's few 24-hour joints) keeps trying to reinvent itself, seemingly fighting the fact that it always has been and always will be the smoky, noisy after-show ritual of Seattle's late-night crowd. The wait staff's generally lazy (with a few exceptions), and the food is always half-assed, but who gives a fuck? It's 4 am and you want to eat.
Il Bistro 93-A Pike St, 682-3049, $$
Off the cobblestones that run under Pike Place Market, Il Bistro is a nice spot for a cozy date or to get away from the bustle and savor some tippy-top-shelf scotch. Bowls of pasta and zesty cioppino are satisfying choices among other Italian fare.
Library Bistro 92 Madison St, 624-3546, $$$
The food is a miracle at this restaurant in the very nice Alexis Hotel. It's unfussy but sophisticated, with excellent ingredients.
Maximilien in the Market 81A Pike St, 682-7270, $$
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, $$$
Oceanaire has a kind of Titanic glamour, without the doomed feeling--although people were suspicious of this spiffy, expensive seafood restaurant opening when our economy was at its lowest. But Oceanaire has somehow proved them all wrong. Could the lobster cobb salad have something to do with it? The oysters Rockefeller? The insanely fresh fish? Dunno.
Typhoon 1400 Western Ave, 262-9797, $$
If you want Thai food in Seattle, all you have to do is turn around and there are six billion choices at your feet, but if you want Thai food in Seattle and you want to get a little fancy and impress a date at the same time, look into Typhoon. Typhoon is a bit more expensive and has a little more ambiance than your typical local Thai joint.
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, $$
A rustic Euro-Italian restaurant in a low, easy-to-miss Eastlake building. Bright, delicious ingredients--fresh peperonata, white Spanish anchovies, tender pea shoots--lift the menu from suffocating red sauces to a variation on Tuscan purity. Even simple dishes such as flank steak (so easy to abuse) are treated with care.
Siam on Lake Union 1880 Fairview Ave E, 323-8101, $
Same great food as the original legendary Broadway location, offered in a snazzier, more expansive setting. Plus, E-Z parking!
Bandoleone 703 N. 34th St, 329-7559, $$
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.
Brad's Swingside Cafe 4212 Fremont Ave N, 633-4057, $$
This wood-paneled cafe is probably best known for its hearty soups, ranging from seafood chowder to Caribbean-flavored lamb and venison stew.
Fremont Classic Pizzeria & Trattoria 4307 Fremont Ave N, 548-9411, $
Great pizza and entrées in a cozy, friendly neighborhood space.
Fremont Dock 1102 N 34th St, 633-4300, $
The Dock is known primarily as a dive bar, so don't expect hoity-toity cuisine here. The dark, smoky Fremont fixture serves just enough grub to grease up your stomach for its drinks. A full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu offers a mix of standard diner fare, from steak and eggs to apple pie.
Longshoreman's Daughter 3510 Fremont Pl N, 633-5169, $
Diner food with imaginative twists. Great breakfast, served into the afternoon.
Persimmon 4256 Fremont Ave N, 632-0760, $
Brunch that doesn't disappoint. With its jolly colors, beaded curtains, and sad clown paintings in the hallway, Persimmon's look is retro-cute, but not overstuffed. The same goes for the food.
Acorn Eatery & Bar 9041 Holman Rd NW, 297-0700, $$
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, $$
The kind of place you don't expect in a residential neighborhood--upscale atmosphere and a daring menu.
Gordito's Healthy Mexican Food 213 N 85th St, 706-9352, $
Huge, healthy portions and an absence of lard and fat make this one of the neighborhood's busier joints.
Greenwood Mandarin Restaurant 7307 Greenwood Ave N, 783-6426, $
A fine Chinese restaurant run by a fine family.
Kabob House 8102 Greenwood Ave N, 782-3611, $
Their chicken boti kabob and lamb boti kabob--meat marinated in yogurt, garlic, and spices served with rice, a simple iceberg salad, and moon-sized naan--are wonders to behold.
OK Corral 8733 Greenwood Ave N, 783-3356, $
There are no menus at OK Corral, but if you order "the hook-up" you'll get that giddy sense that you know the secret handshake. The hook-up means a load of meat and an array of sides--at least four large ribs, two or three pieces of chicken, a hot link, beans and greens, and either a wedge of cornbread or a cluster of hush puppies--as well as all the "ghetto juice" (also known as Tang) the establishment has to offer. Caution: the hook-up is more than enough to feed two people.
Phad Thai 8530 Greenwood Ave N, 784-1830, $
As its name suggests, this is a popular neighborhood place that turns out reliable Thai favorites at however many stars you'd like.
Red Mill Burgers (Phinney Ridge) 312 N 67th St, 783-6362, $
Perhaps most famous for the aromatic heaps of freshly fried bacon ready to be crisscrossed on a burger, Red Mill just might offer the best in Seattle--especially the green-chile-draped southwestern version. (Full veggie options accommodated.)
Stumbling Goat Bistro 6722 Greenwood Ave N, 784-3535, $$
Here, a purist philosophy results in a small, restrained menu. You might think you could cook this stuff at home, but don't be misled--it is precisely this simplicity, this lack of pretension or fuss, with a careful focus on each ingredient and its true flavor, that makes the food very good. The menu changes frequently; generally there is beef, pork, chicken, one type of fresh fish, and a risotto.
Yanni's 7419 Greenwood Ave N, 783-6945, $$
If you think you don't like Greek food, Yanni's may very well convert you. It's a neighborly place where the waiters will gently nag you about your Greek pronunciation, and where everything lamb is spiced and delicious. Dolmathes are not the cold little bombs of the deli case, but warm and bursting with ground meat and rice.
Zeek's Pizza 6000 Phinney Ave N, 789-0089, $
As much a hangout as a pizza place. You know--large pies of sauce and thick cheese, large pitchers of foamy beer, loud music.
House of Hong 409 Eighth Ave at Jackson, 622-7997, $
Top-notch food and fast-paced dim sum. Hesitate too long over a dish in the cart and it's gone.
King Cafe 723 S King St, 622-6373, $
Never too full, never too empty, 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.
Mike's Noodle House 418 Maynard Ave S, 389-7099, $
Congee, a salty porridge made from rice, is the perfect mid-winter comfort food. Dip into the wide selection of congees at Mike's--the rock cod is a particularly satisfying choice.
Seven Stars Pepper Szechuan Restaurant 1207 S Jackson St, Suite 211, 568-6446, $
The flavors are distinct and specific: delicately textured wontons swimming in spicy, oily sauce; fragrant cumin lamb; and delicious crispy duck. Whole crab dishes are phenomenal.
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.
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.
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, $$$
Nishino, considered one of the premier places to get sushi in a sushi-crazed town, offers its top-quality fare in lively surroundings. Open since 1995, the sushi bar is always bustling, and the room rings with exclamations of delight from ecstatic diners. The service is leisurely and friendly. Because of Nishiro's popularity, it's best to book reservations in advance. They also offer a variety of other dishes, if raw fish isn't your cup of tea.
Cafe Soleil 1400 34th Ave, 325-1126, $
Breakfast here is American, while dinner is Ethiopian by way of Madrona (with a few pasta dishes as well). The stews are delicious, with greens not cooked unto limpness but fresh and light. It's all served with the traditional sour injera bread, but you might be tempted to use a fork.
Hi-Spot Cafe 1410 34th Ave, 325-7905, $
Two words: Pint-size mimosas. So much better than those dinky champagne flutes that are gone three times before your breakfast arrives. Even the hearty toast and good-as-Grandma-makes jam is yummy, and that's not just the mimosa talking.
Madrona Eatery 1138 34th Ave, 323-7807, $$
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.
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.
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.
Steel Pig BBQ 601 Roy St, 213-5870, $
The small Pig Out has a bit of everything: ribs, chicken, and catfish (which features melting, tender fish inside a briskly seasoned coating). The sauce on the ribs was very good: vinegary and sweet, with a little pepper kick.
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.
StellaR 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.
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.
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, $$
This treasured U-District hole-in-the-wall offers reliably delicious Indian and Middle Eastern fare (tandoor-cooked meats, Indian curries, great falafel) that you'll find yourself craving with shocking regularity.
Sahara 4752 University Way NE, 527-5216, $$
Sahara still has that funny training-manual quality that some ethnic restaurants have a hard time giving up: an overly pedantic waiter and lots of sampler platters of its kabobs, falafel, and veggie dips. But the food is tasty (with a stellar baba ghanoush), and your entrée comes with a cute little cup of lentil soup and very tasty rice.
Shultzy's Sausage 4114 University Way NE, 548-9461, $
Shultzy's used to be a tiny, crowded storefront where you had to fight your way up to the grill, manned by friendly and sausage-mad college guys. Now it's a nice, spacious restaurant, but the essentials are the same: tremendously excellent sausages (kosher, andouille, Italian, you name it), onions and peppers optional, plenty of sauerkraut if you like it.
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.
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
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.
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.