Dandelion 5809 24th Ave NW, 706-8088, $$
A delicately scaled cafe, with glowing lighting, an open kitchen, and a relaxed ease seems downright Californian. The menu is pointedly unfussy: just six or seven appetizers, a few cheese choices, and six or seven entrées, all of it bundled up with lots of farmy name-dropping (Full Circle greens, Oregon Country beef, Quillisascut cheese) to let you know that someone in the kitchen cares about how the ingredients are grown.
Hattie's Hat 5231 Ballard Ave NW, 784-0175, $$
Hattie's no longer has potroast 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.
Hi-Life 5425 Russell NW, 784-7272, $
Housed in the beautifully renovated Ballard Firehouse. Hi-Life serves a delicious breakfast. The Fancy French Toast was delicious. Two huge slices of crusty and thick Essential Bakery bread were soaked to the core in yummy, not-too-sweet vanilla custard and cooked to a crisp, deep golden brown.
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 that doesn't mean that some of them aren't very good.
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.
The Apartment 2226 First Ave, 956-8288, $$
Named for the Billy Wilder movie starring Jack Lemmon (which plays on a plasma screen) this sleek Belltown lounge has smart cocktails and tasty if not pretty steaks.
Jai Thai 2132 First Ave, 770-7884, $
Jai Thai's phad kee mao is a kind of variation on pad thai with wide noodles and curry-- tremendously good with shrimp. Not everything is great, but here's decent, cheap Thai food at your service.
Lampreia 2400 First Ave, 443-3301, $$$
This quiet foodie mecca serves some understated, artful, and thickly delicious food: you know, foie gras, cheese, chocolate. If you're super serious about fine food, this is the place to go.
Le Pichet 1933 First Ave, 256-1499, $$
Unfussy, delicious, clean, uncluttered, real. Here is the place to indulge your cravings for all the weird, wonderful things the French do to meat, such as rillettes, confit, and pâté. Le Pichet could so easily have gone over the top with the preciousness and the pretentiousness and the expensive food; praise the Lord, it didn't.
Marjorie 2331 Second Ave, 441-9842, $$
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, $$
Seafood is the weeknight attraction at this longstanding Belltown corner spot, but weekends become overcrowded with hot-n-horny singles trolling for fun.
Saito's Japanese Cafe and Bar 2122 Second Ave, 728-1333, $$$
Nestled in Belltown, Saito's, named for chef-owner Yutaka Saito, who has been preparing sushi since his teens in Tokyo, is a popular spot for fresh and impeccably prepared sushi. The restaurant draws a big lunch crowd, and though it's pricey, most sushi fans will find it to be worth every penny. Saito's also boasts an impressive sake bar, with over 40 selections.
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, $$
A friendly upscale Belltown spot with European sophistication (they're not afraid of kids) and inventive, high-class American cooking.
Capitol Hill Cafe Internet Lounge & Eatery 216 Broadway E, 860-6858, $
Offers a wide selection of delicious sandwiches (catering to both meat-eaters and vegans), salads, and specials like homemade calzones and macaroni and cheese. Many are convinced that Capitol Hill Cafe has the best veggie burger in Seattle. Plus, it's open until midnight every night.
El Greco 219 Broadway E, 328-4604, $
This Broadway Mediterranean staple--usually crowded due to the cramped layout of the blue-hued dining room-is a great spot to settle in over a bottle of wine and while away the hours nibbling on hummus, tzatziki, and baba ghanoush.
Garage 1130 Broadway Ave, 322-2296, $
The main attraction is the gigantic pool hall, but the bar food is also good. Burgers, pizza--perfect to wash down with the booze o' your choice.
Hana 219 Broadway Ave E, 328-1187, $
Located on the lip of Broadway Alley, Hana is one of Capitol Hill's best bargains for sushi and teriyaki. Clean and casual, and usually quite crowded, it's still worth the wait.
Jamjuree 509 15th Ave E, 323-4255, $
This family-owned restaurant is a Capitol Hill favorite for seafood, curries, noodle dishes, and other Thai standards. With plenty of veggie options (they work small miracles with green beans) and street-style food, such as fish cakes and chicken satay.
Kingfish Cafe 602 19th Ave E, 320-8757, $$
From the day it opened its doors to do business, some five or so years ago, the lines into Kingfish have never diminished. People still wait, often for an hour during the weekends, to eat its fancy soul foods, and absorb its atmosphere of jazz and black American prosperity. Buttermilk fried chicken, thick and sweet collard greens, spicy and flesh-soft catfish are a few of their treasured items.
Linda's Tavern 707 E Pine St, 325-1220, $
Good bar food and standard, very solid breakfasts. One of Seattle's best drinking joints, with a killer jukebox.
Local Cafe 1514 E Olive Way, 328-2282, $
Sure their onion and herb-rich meatloaf is available hot at dinner (alongside other appealing staples like steamed mussels and roast chicken), but we all know that meatloaf is at its best cold in a sandwich.
Monsoon 615 19th Ave E, 325-2111, $$$
Sparse and simple Vietnamese cuisine in the upscale Monsoon is surprisingly comfortable--and well worth the menu price.
Olympia Pizza 516 15th Ave E, 329-4500, $
With dark wood walls and tall vinyl booths, Olympia feels like the Pizza Inn of your suburban childhood. With famous thick-crust pizza and gigantic pasta dishes, it tastes like the heaven of your afterlife.
Piecora's 1401 E Madison St, 322-9411, $
Sure, there's an Italian menu, but Piecora is a simple destination for one thing: pizza by the slice, made to order.
The Green Papaya 600 E Pine St, 323-1923, $$
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 astray. Sturdy, yet soft and pillowy, it can be dipped in baba ghanoush, tzatziki, or hummus.
Catfish Corner 2726 E Cherry St, 323-4330, $$
Catfish encrusted with cornmeal; catfish baked and drizzled with spicy, buttery sauce; catfish, catfish, catfish. Plus, side dishes that are like school food only better: rice and beans, a curry-tinged potato salad, and sweet li'l cornmeal muffins.
Meskel 2605 E Cherry St, 860-1724, $$
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.
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.
Moonlight Restaurant 1919 S Jackson St, 322-3378, $
This place is great for vegetarians, great for non-vegetarians, and altogether great for the purse. Never mind the shady characters that sometimes line the street--they don't hurt people who don't owe them money. Just walk straight past them into the capacious restaurant, and enjoy its vast and original Vietnamese menu.
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.
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 sandwich is great.
Dragonfish Asian Cafe 722 Pine St, at the Paramount Hotel, 467-7777, $$
Sort of a pop-culture Asian restaurant where you can snack on cuisines from 'round the Pacific Rim. A good place to try dim sum (on weekends) for beginners: roasted-duck spring rolls, Chinese bacon and scallion mini-quiche, shiitake and salmon satay with a wonderful noodle salad, and savory spare ribs with hoisin sauce.
Etta's Seafood 2020 Western Ave, 443-6000, $$
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, $$
Only a few tables and a small bar tucked into a cozy second-floor restaurant. The place overlooks the big Market clock and a bit of the Sound, but the real draw is the clean simplicity of everything surrounding it--from the décor to the food. The dinner menu changes every two months but features plenty of seafood selections.
Oceanaire Seafood Room 1700 Seventh Ave, 267-2277, $$$
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, $$$
Expensive but worth it--if you can get a booth along the wall. The tables along the windows are cramped and the glare from the streetlights can be annoying. Terrific, hearty food, apple-wood grill, and awesome appetizers. The pork chops are terrific, the drinks are strong, and the monorail zips by overhead.
Quarter Lounge 909 Madison St, 332-0772, $
The substance of these Cajun dishes will not disappoint you--however, you will wish there were a little more of them. The catfish sandwich and chicken strips are both excellent.
Rippe's 2801 Alaskan Way, Pier 70, 267-0236, $$
The concept of "Seattle's Blue Jeans Steakhouse" is a little cheesy, but boy is the steak damn good. (It should be, considering that Rippe's is run by the team behind Belltown's swelligant El Gaucho.) The meat is dry-aged for four weeks until it's silky, beefy, and tender, and not the least bit mushy. Some of the details are a bit awry (rock-hard tomatoes, watery crab in the crab cocktail), but when the meat is this good, you can forgive a few things.
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, $$
A rustic Euro-Italian restaurant in a low, easy-to-miss Eastlake building. Bright, delicious ingredients--fresh peperonata, white Spanish anchovies, tender pea shoots--lift the menu from suffocating red sauces to a variation on Tuscan purity. Even simple dishes such as flank steak (so easy to abuse) are treated with care.
Siam on Lake Union 1880 Fairview Ave E, 323-8101, $
Same great food as the original legendary Broadway location, offered in a snazzier, more expansive setting. Plus, E-Z parking!
Sophie's Doughnuts 2238 Eastlake Ave E, 323-7132, $
Proving Top Pot isn't the only local competition for Krispy Kreme, this sweet shop in an Eastlake strip mall gives the hipsters a run for their money with cake donuts dipped in a fantastically magenta berry glaze, glazed apple fritters as big as your head, and sweet, sweet custard pillows.
Chiso 3520 Fremont Ave N, 632-3430, $$
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.
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.
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.
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.
Manna Smoked BBQ 10410 Holman Rd N, 782-5491, $
Texas-style barbecue done right with brisket, ribs, and sausage. The smoky baby-back pork ribs were this non-Texan's favorite.
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.
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.
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 comfort food. Dip into the wide selection of congees at Mike's--the rock cod is a particularly satisfying choice.
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.
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 upwards of a dozen elegant dishes.
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.
Voila! 2805 E Madison St, 322-5460, $$
Despite the goofy name, Voila!'s bistro menu isn't entirely predictable, although to be sure, one can order coq au vin, pâté, and even the occasional frog leg special. The salads, for example, are lovely, and the spicy North African merguez is really succulent and decidedly lamb-y.
Cafe Soleil 1400 34th Ave, 325-1126, $
Breakfast here is American, while dinner is Ethiopian by way of Madrona (with a few pasta dishes as well). The stews are delicious, with greens not cooked unto limpness but fresh and light. It's all served with the traditional sour injera bread, but you might be tempted to use a fork.
Hi-Spot Cafe 1410 34th Ave, 325-7905, $
Two words: Pint-size mimosas. So much better than those dinky champagne flutes that are gone three times before your breakfast arrives. Even the hearty toast and good-as-Grandma-makes jam is yummy, and that's not just the mimosa talking.
Madrona Eatery 1138 34th Ave, 323-7807, $$
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, $$
An ambitious, good-hearted, elegant neighborhood joint, offering everything from nightly dinner (stylish spins on American standards) and happy hour (half-price drinks every weekday from 5-6:30 pm) to weekend breakfasts and late-night fare, with "light dining" offered till 1 am (2 am on weekends). Good food and drinks in a coolly charming atmosphere.
5 Spot Cafe 1502 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-7768, $$
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.
Barbacoa 2209 Queen Anne Ave N, 352-6213, $$
This upscale barbecue joint probably wouldn't pass muster with hardcore fans of Memphis-style barbecue, but for the rest of us, it's pretty damn good. Juicy, flavorful, delicious brisket and ribs, with expertly rendered side dishes.
Mecca 526 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-9728, $
An old-timey counter-and-booth-style diner, for those times when only dependable food can hit the spot. The jukebox is a history lesson unto itself.
Perchè No 621 1/2 Queen Anne Ave N, 298-0230, $$
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.
Rainier Valley/Beacon Hill/ Mount Baker/Columbia City
Baja Bistro 2410 Beacon Ave S, 323-0953, $
Good Mexican food isn't easy to find in Seattle, and I certainly wouldn't have guessed that Beacon Hill would be the destination for it. But Baja Bistro turns out to be the home of great Mexican fare.
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.
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria 4918 Rainier Ave S, 721-3501, $
I couldn't decide between pizza or salad, and both seemed too indulgent even for rule-breaking. But that either/or decision was quickly and conveniently resolved when we ordered the Pizza Insalata alla Tutta Bella. The thin oven-baked crust is seasoned with sea salt and olive oil and then topped with a choice of salad.The combination of salad and pizza, which sounded strange at first, was perfect.
Cucina De Santis 1759 First Ave S, 587-4222, $
Michael de Santis, owner and chef of the cucina, serves up family recipes, rich on red sauce and melted cheese, fried peppers and onions whose smell beckons you to eat more than you really should.
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.
Wazobia West African Cuisine 170 S Washington St, 624-9154, $$
Unfamiliar components like fufu and egusi melon seeds come together with chicken and spicy okra stew to create a perfect balance of flavor and texture. Also tempting is the Nigerian pepper soup, which, as the menu informs us, is "consumed in great quantities by beer and palm wine drinkers."
Agua Verde Cafe and Paddleclub 1303 NE Boat St, 545-8570, $
If the sun is out, the water will be shimmering behind this cottage-like restaurant that, along with offering yam tacos and mango margaritas and hominy stew, also rents kayaks by the hour. The menu of simple, fresh food--tacos (meats, fish, and vegetables), empanadas, sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, nightly specials, and sublime desserts--recalls the cuisines of Baja, Oaxaca, Tampico, and salt-sprayed Mexican beach towns.
Cafe Lago 2305 24th Ave E, 329-8005, $$
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.
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.
Hillside Quickie's Vegan Sandwich Shop 4106 Brooklyn Ave NE, 632-3037, $
Seattle's only health-conscious, hiphop-oriented deli serves opulent sandwiches that are filling but not heavy, and spicy but not to the point of masking the ingredients.
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, $$
High tea, for ladies and their friends--pleasingly British, but not coyly so. Take solace in crustless finger sandwiches, scones, crumpets, cookies, beautifully cut fruit, and chocolate tea-cake.
Taste of India 5517 Roosevelt Way NE, 528-1575, $
Your usual selection of curries, vindaloos, and tandooris--but everything is just that much better than at your average lunch buffet. There's "butter chicken," which is chicken simmered in butter until it's so tender it hurts, and then served in a creamy tomato bath that's sweet and mellow like a pasta sauce; there's nan, which is so good it's hard not to stuff yourself silly.
Thai Tom 4543 University Way NE, 548-9548, $
Sit at the counter and watch cooks ladle varying portions of sauces, meats, vegetables, and spices into crusty woks, and keep the ingredients dancing frantically on blackened surfaces over tall flames. Ingredients don't spend a lot of time on the fire, so they don't suffer from the overkill-spice-absorption and mushiness you often find in Thai restaurants. This is vibrant, macho cooking-some of the best Thai food in Seattle.
Au Bouchon 1815 N 45th St, 547-5791, $
Some very fine French food. We like the duck; the cassoulet's good, too.
Bizzarro Italian Cafe 1307 N 46th St, 545-7327, $$
Occasionally verging on the cutesy, Bizzarro nevertheless manages to keep it together while seducing devoted diners with good wine, art-bedecked walls, the occasional singing waiter, and damn good food, of the traditional-yet-exciting pasta variety.
Blue Onion Bistro 5801 Roosevelt Way NE, 729-0579, $$
This former gas station has been converted into a cozy home-style bistro where just a few bucks can get you a fully satisfying bistro-style lunch of soup, salad, and a sandwich. All-American dinners get jazzed up with quality ingredients (duck breast with maple-sausage glaze, alongside fish sticks made of salmon, and mac 'n' cheese made with blue cheese) while staying in the moderate price range.
Diggity Dog 5421 Meridian Ave N, 633-1966, $
A popular neighborhood hangout, with hot dogs that are pretty good. They could be served a little hotter, but at least Diggity Dog isn't stingy with the sauerkraut.
Eva 2227 N 56th St, 633-3538, $$
Amy McCray's menu is both worldly and grounded, with good honest cooking. She's got a nice knack for sides like chorizo-bread pudding with sherry-braised rabbit, squash spaetzle with a veal shank, and corn pudding with pork loin.
West Seattle/White Center
Capers 4521 California Ave SW, 932-0371, $$
A gourmet-food-store-slash-elegant-bistro with all the makings for a sophisticated dinner, to eat in the shop or make at home.
Phoenecia at Alki 2716 Alki Ave SW, 935-6550, $$
Food from all over the Mediterranean basin--the accents are Sicilian, Spanish, Turkish, Moroccan, Greek, and Middle Eastern, but they function as suggestions rather than strictly traditionally correct dishes. The bouillabaisse is what everyone talks about.
Salty's on Alki 1936 Harbor Ave SW, 937-1600, $$$
At Salty's, one can devour huge and heavy American foods-steaks, seafood, and big brunches-for a near-pretty penny.
Spud's Fish & Chips 2666 Alki Ave SW, 938-0606, $
Fish and chips done right. A classic Seattle restaurant.
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.