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, $$$
Traditional French cuisine done up with fresh Northwest produce makes for down-to-earth yet fancy food, with names that are hard to pronounce but very easy to enjoy.
People's Pub 5429 Ballard Ave NW, 783-6521, $
If you're looking for the kind of hearty fare Germans use to power through dark, cold winters, the People's Pub's Kraut-friendly menu may be just what you need. Giant Wiener schnitzel helps to soak up its many brands of beer-some of which are meals in and of themselves.
Thaiku 5410 Ballard Ave NW, 706-7807, $
Not your usual smothered-in-coconut-milk Thai food. Some very nice and balanced dishes. Noodle soup with duck is especially good.
The Apartment 2226 First Ave, 956-8288, $$
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.
El Gaucho 2505 First Ave, 728-1337, $$$
A swank, old school, see-and-be-seen spot to ﬁll up on salty steaks and good martinis. Great for expense-account dinners, or to entertain your parents.
Five Point Cafe 415 Cedar St, 448-9993, $
Another one of Seattle's 24-hour dives, except the Five Point is actually worth going to even if it isn't the only thing open. Get the fries-some of the best in Seattle.
Flying Fish 2234 First Ave, 728-8595, $$
One of the ﬁrst and still one of the best of the high-end, upscale/casual eateries in Belltown. Whole grilled ﬁsh, huge platters of well-prepared seafood, and a happening bar all make Flying Fish a must-eat spot. Pricey but justiﬁably so.
Marco's Supperclub 2510 First Ave, 441-7801, $$
A truly urban place-one where a lot of people share a small space and interaction is inevitable-serving truly urban food, with ethnic ﬂourishes from all over. The gossamer fried sage leaves have become something of a legend.
Marjorie 2331 Second Ave, 441-9842, $$
Food from all over the place: There's both fish sauce and mango salsa on the menu. It's eclectic, and the quality varies from one region to the next.
1200 Bistro 1200 E Pike St, 320-1200, $$
A bit of Belltown on Capitol Hill serving grown-up comfort food: a burger with Gorgonzola, pasta with smoked tomato sauce, grilled duck with potatoes. Plus, some really sophisticated-looking drinks.
Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen 506 E Pine St, 329-9978, $
Fat, tasty burritos, pretty good everything else. Sometimes crowded, which means a wait, but the Bimbo's crew is perfectly willing to come track you down in the Cha Cha when your table's ready.
Chapel 1600 Melrose Ave, 447-4180, $
This sleek but unpretentious bar has food that is anything but typical fare to accompany drinking.
El Greco 219 Broadway E, 328-4604, $
This Broadway Mediterranean staple-usually crowded due to the cramped layout of the blue-hued dining room-is a great spot to settle in over a bottle of wine and while away the hours nibbling on hummus, tzatziki, and baba ghanoush.
Glo's 1621 E Olive Way, 324-2577, $
Expect to relax with a cup of Glo's coffee while you wait for a table in this delicious, popular, and tiny breakfast nook. Morning burritos, omelets, and eggs done fancy or plain make the wait well worth the time.
The Green Papaya 600 E Pine St, 323-1923, $$
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.
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.
Kimchi Bistro 219 Broadway E, 323-4472, $
Korean dishes are often spicy and always soulful (they like barbecue too, you know), and every entrée comes accessorized with funky, pickley kimchi and another little vegetal treat. Oxtail soup, with clear slippery noodles, has an unmistakable fragrance. Bibimbop, the classic rice bowl, comes with a rainbow of marinated veggies, beef if you like it, and a very lightly fried egg on top.
Kingfish Cafe 602 19th Ave E, 320-8757, $$
From the day it opened its doors to do business, some ﬁve or so years ago, the lines into Kingﬁsh have never diminished. People still wait, often for an hour during the weekends, to eat its fancy soul foods, and absorb its atmosphere of jazz and black American prosperity. Buttermilk fried chicken, thick and sweet collard greens, spicy and ﬂesh-soft catﬁsh are a few of their treasured items.
Lark 926 12th Ave, 323-5275, $$$
The stress of eating at an expensive restaurant is missing from Lark, partly because everything is delicious, and also because you order two or three small dishes and taste lots of other things and therefore you don't have much opportunity to worry about what you're missing. The food is also not particularly fancy, but the menu radiates both intelligence about excellent classic combinations and innovation.
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.
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.
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.
Assaggio 2010 Fourth Ave, 441-1399, $$$
The ebullient Mauro Golmarvi presides over Assaggio, shaking hands and kissing babies. This is food in the tradition of tourist-friendly Italian restaurants, but no matter-some of it, such as the brodo aconetano (mussels, clams, scallops, and bay shrimp packed in a fragrant tide pool of creamy saffron broth), is very good.
Dragonfish Asian Cafe 722 Pine St, at the Paramount Hotel, 467-7777, $$
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.
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.
Salumi 309 Third Ave S, 621-8772, $
We love Salumi so much that we have a nickname for it: We call it "Hello, meat." At Armandino Batali's busy, narrow storefront/counter/tiny restaurant in Pioneer Square, you can ﬁnd house-cured Italian meats all made by Batali and his talented staff-along with hot and cold sandwiches, and platters that feature cooked meats (sausages, meatballs, oxtails) as well as cured meats (various salamis, coppa, pancetta, prosciuttos, tongue, and cured lamb).
Tulio Ristorante 1100 Fifth Ave, 624-5500, $$
While Tulio's menu boasts some amazing and delicious-sounding Italian entrées (like lamb sirloin in a balsamic glaze), it's the impressive wine list that keeps people coming back.
Le Fournil 3230 Eastlake Ave E, 328-6523, $
The croissants from Le Fournil cannot be eaten without a considerable mess: Each bite creates a shower of pastry shards, while inside the crisp exterior the croissants are moist and coiled like a perfect wave. The plain croissant is perfect as it is, but try the chocolate, almond, raspberry, peach, and apple versions if you must. Le Fournil also makes tasty sandwiches.
Siam on Lake Union 1880 Fairview Ave E, 323-8101, $
Same great food as the original legendary Broadway location, offered in a snazzier, more expansive setting. Plus, E-Z parking!
Sophie's Doughnuts 2238 Eastlake Ave E, 323-7132, $
Proving Top Pot isn't the only local competition for Krispy Kreme, this sweet shop in an Eastlake strip mall gives the hipsters a run for their money with cake donuts dipped in a fantastically magenta berry glaze, glazed apple fritters as big as your head, and sweet, sweet custard pillows.
Bandoleone 703 N. 34th St, 329-7559, $$
A cozy, noisy, elegant restaurant with spicy, tasty Spanish-style cuisine. It's a little pricey, but you'll feel satisfied about dollars well spent.
El Camino 607 N 35th St, 632-7303, $$
Fancy Mexican food, with fancy drinks and cute waiters. Don't miss the deep-fried plantain chips with guacamole.
Fremont Dock 1102 N 34th St, 633-4300, $
The Dock is known primarily as a dive bar, so don't expect hoity-toity cuisine here. The dark, smoky Fremont fixture serves just enough grub to grease up your stomach for its drinks. A full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu offers a mix of standard diner fare, from steak and eggs to apple pie.
Kwanjai Thai 469 N 36th St, 632-3656, $
Located in the Thai-food capital of Seattle-where Thai restaurants outnumber baby strollers almost two to one-the casual Kwanjai Thai has earned a reputation as being worth the wait. They're serious about their noodles, soups, and star-spice ratings, and many swear it's the Thai talk of the town in Fremont, which is saying a lot.
Acorn Eatery & Bar 9041 Holman Rd NW, 297-0700, $$
The Acorn Eatery & Bar serves Italian food (pasta, pizza) as well as local entrées (salmon).
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.
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.
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.
Cafe Flora 2901 E Madison St, 325-9100, $$
A mecca for vegetarians desiring a night out as ﬁrst-class culinary citizens. From drinks to dessert, the Flora experience is intoxicating enough to stun even the hoariest carnivore into submission, at least for an evening.
Voilà! 2805 E Madison St, 322-5460, $$
Despite the goofy name, Voilà!'s bistro menu isn't entirely predictable, although to be sure, one can order coq au vin, pâté, and even the occasional frog leg special. The salads, for example, are lovely, and the spicy North African merguez is really succulent and decidedly lamb-y.
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.
5 Spot Cafe 1502 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-7768, $$
With its ever-evolving menu, the 5 Spot Cafe focuses on regionalism in American cuisine. Even better, the experiments are almost always yummy.
Banjara Cuisine of India 2 Boston St, 282-7752, $$
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.
Barbacoa 2209 Queen Anne Ave N, 352-6213, $$
This upscale barbecue joint probably wouldn't pass muster with hardcore fans of Memphis-style barbecue, but for the rest of us, it's pretty damn good. Juicy, ﬂavorful, delicious brisket and ribs, with expertly rendered side dishes.
Shiki 4 W Roy St, 281-1352, $$
Owner Ken Yamamoto is the only chef in Washington State certiﬁed to handle fugu-the blowﬁsh with the poisonous liver. If you like taking your life in your hands, this is the place to do it, although there are lots and lots of things on the menu (and gorgeous sushi) that are quite delicious and not life-threatening.
Buckley's on Queen Anne 232 First Ave W, 691-0232, $
Buckley's specializes in hearty pub fare, as the menu boasts stick-to-your-ribs items like meatloaf, mac 'n' cheese, and mushrrom stroganoff. It may be loacted on lower Queen Anne, but there's something very reminiscent of San Francisco about the pub.
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
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.
Judkins Barbecue 2608 S Judkins St, 328-7417, $
Good, cheap barbecue in a comfortable setting.
La Medusa 4857 Rainier Ave S, 723-2192, $$
Authentic Sicilian food in Columbia City: Note the presence of sardines and anchovies, as well as more Middle Eastern touches like pine nuts and raisins (the legacy of Sicily's invasion by the Moors).
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria 4918 Rainier Ave S, 721-3501, $
I couldn't decide between pizza or salad, and both seemed too indulgent even for rule-breaking. But that either/or decision was quickly and conveniently resolved when we ordered the Pizza Insalata alla Tutta Bella. The thin oven-baked crust is seasoned with sea salt and olive oil and then topped with a choice of salad.The combination of salad and pizza, which sounded strange at first, was perfect.
The Wellington 4869 Rainier Ave S, 722-8571, $
The dressed-up Southern menu is small but complete-what more do you need than gumbo, smothered pork chops, fried chicken, catfish, red beans and rice? Well, you need side dishes, and lots of them; each entrée comes with two, and extras are $4 each. You also need peach cobbler. Trust me.
Cucina De Santis 1759 First Ave S, 587-4222, $
Michael de Santis, owner and chef of the cucina, serves up family recipes, rich on red sauce and melted cheese, fried peppers and onions whose smell beckons you to eat more than you really should.
Juan Colorado 8709 14th Ave S, 764-9379, $
A lovely family-run diner-style Mexican restaurant. Delicious and reasonable.
Muy Macho 8515 14th Ave S, 763-7109, $
Damn good and cheap. The tacos arrive with just meat and salsa-not, thank heaven, doused in cheese. And the array of meats includes the tripe and brains and such-but for the less daring, the pork variations are amazingly good.
Wazobia West African Cuisine 170 S Washington St, 624-9154, $$
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."
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.
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.
Matt's Gourmet Hot Dogs 1301 NE 45th St, 545-4490, $
The Chicago-style hot dogs might sound like a dumb gimmick but Midwestern acquaintances confirm it's the way things are done. Basically you get a boiled Vienna Beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, add mustard and a small pile of vegetables and crazily bright blue-green relish. The final ingredient, a dash of celery salt, is the coup de grace.
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.
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.
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.
Jitterbug 2114 N 45th St, 547-6313, $$
Weekend breakfasts at Jitterbug are a treat-if you can handle waiting a while for a table (the narrow restaurant ﬁlls up quickly, and folks linger over their meals). Their huevos rancheros are the perfect hangover cure (the right combo of salt and comfort), and gingerbread wafﬂes are a sweet early-morning option. For later dining, Jitterbug's cutesy menu offers traditional crowd-pleasers like roasted chicken, ravioli, or market-fresh ﬁsh (and the kitchen's been known to whip up late-night breakfasts on request).
Nell's 6804 E Green Lake Way N, 524-4044, $$
Low-key, understated dishes made from seasonal local food. Sounds too good to be true, right? Philip Mihalski lets the ingredients do their own advertising, especially when he's ﬂaunting the good stuff: porcini mushrooms, Black Mission ﬁgs, saffron, shaved black trufﬂes, and veal sweetbreads.
Pacific Inn Pub 3501 Stone Way N, 547-2967, $
Your basic bar that happens to have unbelievably good ﬁsh and chips. Especially the fried oysters: a decently hard coating on the outside, but somehow still oystery and full of brine inside.
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
Da Bro Ribs 6459 California SW, 938-7868, $$
Short ribs that really will melt in your mouth.
Jade West 6032 California Ave SW, 932-9840, $
Sit down at the low counter and choose between your favorite greasy American favorites (French toast, hamburgers, etc.) and your favorite greasy Chinese favorites (fried rice and chow mein). Chef/owner Wah will customize each order for you with ﬂair.
Mashiko 4725 California Ave SW, 935-4339, $$$
Don't expect to leave the Ikea-stylish Mashiko for less than $30 a pop, and that's if you plan on eating light. That said, the ﬁsh is incredibly fresh, plentiful, and tasty, and the rolls are more creative than your standard California-roll-and-spicy-tuna affair.
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.