Ballard

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. Excellent coffee, too.

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 hippie-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 cheese, 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.

Maritime Pacific Brewing Company 1514 NW Leary Way, 782-6181, $
This is no mere pub food. The Maritime has a menu that incorporates their first-rate beers into some of the recipes, but that doesn't just mean beer-battered fish and chips. The lunch menu is populated with generously portioned sandwiches, chili, and burgers, while the dinner fare offers satays, oysters, steak, and veal.

Matador 2221 NW Market St, 297-2855, $
With its candlelit patio extending the upscale border-saloon vibe onto the sidewalk, and a happy-hour special that's a steal—a lengthy menu of $4 versions of their Tex-Mex specialties—Matador packs in a lot of flavor for a little cash.

Mike's Chili Parlor 1447 NW Ballard Way, 782-2808, $
Mike's Chili is served with minced jalapeño, diced onions, and fine shavings of cheese with the option to top it off with a generous wallop of Tabasco sauce. I lustfully ate my chili over my favorite food group-the hot dog.

Sambar 425 NW Market St, 781-4883, $$
A younger, nibblier restaurant from the owners of Le Gourmand, Sambar specializes in elaborate cocktails and dainty portions of food.

Smokin' Pete's BBQ 1918 NW 65th St, 783-0454, $
The pork ribs are meaty and succulent, served "dry" with the sauce on the side, and the brisket is so seductively tender you'll blush. There's also chicken, wonderful sausages, and a number of sandwiches, including the Slow Joe Pork Sandwich—tons of smoky pulled pork on a hoagie roll, smothered in sauce.

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

Dahlia Lounge 2001 Fourth Ave, 682-4142, $$
Serving up favorites like salmon (of course), pork loin, and rib-eye steak (plus a few vegetarian options for good measure), Dahlia Lounge tops 'em all off with fancy purées (cipollini), confits (carrot), and emulsions (asparagus). But the real draw is dessert, featuring everything from chocolate cake or blueberry sorbet, to homemade doughnuts or poached apricots.

Five Point Cafe 415 Cedar St, 448-9993, $
Another one of Seattle's 24-hour dives, except the Five Point is actually worth going to even if it isn't the only thing open. Get the fries—some of the best in Seattle.

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.

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 páté. 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.

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

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.

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.

Bleu Bistro 202 Broadway E, 329-3087, $
Bleu Bistro's veggie BLT is a tower of unbuttered, toasted sourdough; cold, perfectly ripe tomatoes; crisp iceberg lettuce; and layers upon layers of marbled, crisply salty "bacon." The sandwich is not dainty. It is more than big enough for two, making it, at $8.95, one of the best sandwich deals in the city.

Chapel 1600 Melrose Ave, 447-4180, $
This sleek but unpretentious bar has food that is anything but typical fare to accompany drinking.

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."

Crave 1621 12th Ave, 388-0526, $$
Crave is the kind of restaurant that seems to crop up in every district in San Francisco and Brooklyn. It is not a destination restaurant, but cultivates regulars with a slightly industrial space, medium prices, and a menu of homey dishes done up in noble ingredients. Restaurants like this should be a given.

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 fresh-soft catfish are a few of their treasured items.

Lark 926 12th Ave, 323-5275, $$$
The stress of eating at an expensive restaurant is missing from Lark, partly because everything is delicious, and also because you order two or three small dishes and taste lots of other things and therefore you don't have much opportunity to worry about what you're missing. The food is also not particularly fancy, but the menu radiates both intelligence about excellent classic combinations and innovation.

Local Cafe 1514 E Olive Way, 328-2282, $
Sure their onion and herb-rich 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.

Oasis Cafe 1024 E Pike St, 323-3293, $
You can spend under $10 on a full meal—an entrée, Phad Thai, and steamed rice, plus a bowl of miso soup. The Buddhist Tofu is especially rich, its golden garlic sauce (peppered with spicy red flakes) covering tofu, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, and mushrooms with just enough flavor to avoid drenching the food.

Teapot Vegetarian House 125 15th Ave E, 324-2262, $
I love going to Teapot Vegetarian House even as a devoted carnivore. During a recent dinner, I was floored by the "BBQ pork" special, another glowing testament to the sophisticated world of fake meats. Along with various other soy options and tofu entrées—there's a curry-eggplant-tofu hot pot that rocks my world—this place also knows what to do with string beans (sear 'em crunchy and garlicky) and baby bok choy (sauté 'em tender with delicate strands of enoki mushrooms).

Support The Stranger

Vios Cafe & Marketplace 903 19th Ave E, 329-3236, $
Humbly delicious Greek cuisine, served in an elegantly communal room.

Central District

CC's Gourmet Burgers 2600 E Union St, 324-2119, $
No chutney relishes, mayonnaise referred to as aioli, or fried cheese sticks. No nonsense. CC's does provide a "fishwich," and chicken and garden burger options, but to be sure, these things sway from the mission: an honest-to-god hamburger.

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, an Ethiopian chile-based spice blend), tibbs (cubed-meat sauteés), 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.

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.

Downtown/Pioneer Square

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.

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.

Cherry Street Coffeehouse 2719 First Ave, 441-5489 , $
Khoreshe fesenjan is a favorite of mine, made with tangy-sweet pomegranate molasses and thickened with ground walnuts. At Cherry Street, it's made with chicken and it was very thick and satisfying (made with duck, it's a near-miracle), hitting a lot of the same notes as a good Oaxacan mole.

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.

Ibiza Dinner Club 528 Second Ave, 381-9090, $$
Dining here isn't too far from the maddening bar crowd—separated by just a futuristic metal mesh drape—but the expansive space feels fabulously decadent. Table settings are immaculate and considering the pomp and the circumstances, prices are bizarrely low. Three courses for three might set you back a hundred bucks—not bad for feeling like you've Arrived. (A bottle of wine might, of course, make your bill arrive at half again as much.) As for the food, it's often great, otherwise valiantly good, and always beautiful.

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.

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.

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.

Eastlake

Pomodoro Ristorante 2366 Eastlake Ave E, 324-3160, $$
The menu is divided in two: Spanish tapas on the left and Italian pastas on the right, and my dining entourage veered toward Italy. Inspired by the restaurant's name, we started with a giant slab of beefsteak tomato dressed in balsamic vinegar and topped with a confetti of basil and fresh mozzarella—an appetizer ample enough for three to share. Gnocchi (Italian for "dumplings") are hand-rolled little footballs of boiled dough. Pomodoro's were perfect: wee, dimpled, more tender than chewy, and joined by beer-boiled fennel sausage and mushrooms in a chunky tomato sauce.

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!

Fremont

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.

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.

Greenwood/Phinney

Carmelita 7314 Greenwood Ave N, 706-7703, $$
Carmelita is the city's highest-minded vegetarian restaurant, with elaborate dishes that set out to make you forget the portobello-mushroom "steak" that passes for a vegetarian meal at so many restaurants.

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.

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.

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.

Szechuan Noodle Bowl 420 Eighth Ave S, 623-4198, $
A no-nonsense source of fabulous Sino-starch, The Bowl specializes in all things doughy, from bowls of ropy noodles to hand-pleated gyoza to scallion pancakes. Nearly everything served there possesses a deeply satisfying chew.

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.

Madison Park

Crush 2319 E Madsion Park, 302-7874, $$
Crush is a sexy, sexy spot with sexy food. My wild mushroom and duck confit tart was topped with an oozing poached egg (topping things with oozing poached eggs is a trend I wildly salute), and it was stacked and smoky and offered little peppery pockets among the general greatness. A salad of grilled asparagus with goat cheese was tarted up in a pretty pile; the textures (including chips of crisped prosciutto) took to each other instinctually. The third dish—tender cauliflower-filled agnolotti ("priests' caps" of pasta; no comment) with delicate pieces of smoked sturgeon, currants, and walnuts—provoked the remark, "I never want to eat anything else ever again."

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

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.

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.

Queen Anne

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.

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.

May 1612 N 45th St, 675-0037 , $$
Pad thai—spelled pud thai at May—lacked the coral glare of ketchup that you find in most American pad thais. Instead, the noodles were tinted light tan from cola-hued tamarind paste and a little wok browning. They were less sweet than the American pad thai standard, and made more intense with a funky underpinning of pickled vegetable. But it was the duck that made my head spin. Too often, in Thai restaurant cooking, the meat is a mere afterthought, incidental to a dish. In May's Gang Ped Ped Yang, however, a light red curry sauce full of chilies and sweet spices was utterly reliant on silky, musky slices of duck breast. Each seemed unable to exist without the other.

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.

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.

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.

SoDo/Georgetown/South Park

Juan Colorado 8709 14th Ave S, 764-9379, $
A lovely family-run diner-style Mexican restaurant. Delicious and reasonable.

Muy Macho 8515 14th Ave S, 763-7109, $
Damn good and cheap. The tacos arrive with just meat and salsa—not, thank heaven, doused in cheese. And the array of meats includes the tripe and brains and such—but for the less daring, the pork variations are amazingly good.

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, 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

Big Time Brewery & Alehouse 4133 University Way NE, 545-4509, $
The quintessential college bar, this warm 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.

Pies & Pints 1215 NE 65th St, 524-7082, $
Pies & Pints offers not pizzas or your Mama's apple pie, but pubby, savory pies stuffed with meat, veg, and cheese. It turns out, pies—even manly pies like those served at P&P—are inherently cute. There is a sort of giddy pie feeling you get when you know your meal is going to come encased in buttery pastry.

Sunlight Cafe 6403 Roosevelt Way NE, 522-9060, $
Vegan and vegetarian comfort food. Very good, and popular, breakfasts.

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

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.

Elemental 3309 Wallingford Ave N, 849-2542, $$
Before I say anything else about Elemental, let me just get this off my chest: braised shortribs on a garlic waffle. Because, brothers and sisters, braised shortribs on a garlic waffle is a very good thing. Think about it: a soft golden waffle, with the round fragrance of roasted garlic, peeking its little squares out from under a juicy pile of long-stewed meat. It's perfectly comforting food, but not boring and somehow it avoids being that knowing "pop" food from the early '90s.

Essential Baking Company 1604 N 34th St, 545-3804, $
Delicious European sandwiches, plus amazing bread.

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).

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.

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.