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 cheeese, enchilada sauce, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Sofrito Rico 2320 NW Market St, 789-0516 , $
Because we're greedy and want every one of the fried appetizers, we order a mixed appetizer platter. It's a little bit of crispy-fried heaven, and each nugget has its own distinct texture: alcapurrias, or taro dumplings, start crisp, then dissolve into tender mush; the flaky empanada lets loose a tumble of seasoned beef with each mouthful; there are the more stolid tostones (pressed and fried plantains); and best of all is the feathery bacalaito, redolent with aromatic salt cod. Every one of these fritters is made infinitely happier by the ajilimojili, a garlic sauce that walks you right to the edge of overdoing it, but then mellows out with a bit of lemon and oil.
Zagi's Pizza Ristorante 2408 NW 80th St, 706-0750, $
The pie is New York style, and it is satisfaction incarnate. A little cornmeal on the bottom of the excellent crust adds body without giving the gritty sensation that your pizza's been dropped on a cornmeal beach. The cheese evades the mountain-of-mozzarella problem and tastes interesting enough to make a plain slice a pleasure.
Le Pichet 1933 First Ave, 256-1499, $$
Unfussy, delicious, clean, uncluttered, real. Here is the place to indulge your cravings for all the weird, wonderful things the French do to meat, such as rillettes, confit, and pâté. Le Pichet could so easily have gone over the top with the preciousness and the pretentiousness and the expensive food; praise the Lord, it didn't.
Mistral 113 Blanchard St, 770-7799, $$$
Mistral is one of a few Seattle restaurants offering an unapologetically haute-cuisine experience. The formal dining freaks out some people, as do the prices, but its young chef, William Belickis, gets consistent praise for his high-minded tasting menus, which are sometimes improvised for individual guests. Be ready to spend $100-plus per person.
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.
Toi 1904 Fourth Ave, 267-1017, $$
Toi, first a dance club, second a restaurant, is a great place to wine and dine your date and then get your dance on.
Two Bells Tavern 2313 Fourth Ave, 441-3050, $
Great pub food, great drinks, and exceptionally friendly service. A comfortable neighborhood joint.
Zoe 2137 Second Ave, 256-2060, $$
A friendly upscale Belltown spot with European sophistication (they're not afraid of kids) and inventive, high-class American cooking.
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 andwich deals in the city.
Capitol Club 414 E Pine St, 325-2149, $$
This snazzy nightclub/eatery specializes in seasonal Mediterranean-Moroccan fare, from seared duck breast and braised lamb shank to small plates of grilled spiced prawns and Penn Cove mussels. But what people lose their minds over is the Kobe beef burger ($13), a legendarily luxurious burger experience praised by devotees for its intricate flavors and juicy hugeness.
Chapel 1600 Melrose Ave, 447-4180, $
This sleek but unpretentious bar has food that is anything but typical fare to accompany drinking.
Crave 1621 12th Ave, 388-0526, $$
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.
Globe 1531 14th Ave, 324-8815, $
The ideal destination for a healthy vegan lunch. The biscuits and gravy are addictive—especially with the salty little kick of broiled tofu on top. Should you need a little color in there among the browns, there are collard greens, which have a tangy, vinegary smack that is exactly right, and whole-corn grits.
Oasis Cafe 1024 E Pike St, 323-3293, $
Live in Seattle long enough and you start to feel like we have more Thai restaurants than freakin' Thailand. The lunch specials are outstanding here though, setting it apart from the many Thai restaurants on Capitol Hill. 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.
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.
Rosebud Restaurant and Bar 719 E Pike St, 323-6636, $$
A warm place with warm food and good drinks, the Rosebud is one of the few cafes on Capitol Hill where people can talk while dining or drinking. The music, which is usually classical jazz, never overwhelms a conversation, and so it's perfect for a work meeting or a date. Great happy hour, well-prepared though pricey food.
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.
Siam on Broadway 616 Broadway Ave E, 324-0892, $
Still the best good ol' Thai food to be found in Seattle. Weekend evenings can be busy, but always worth the wait.
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).
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.
Hidmo Eritrean Restaurant 2000 S Jackson St, 329-1534, $
The heart of Eritrean cuisine is injera, the spongy, slightly sour pancake bread that serves as serving platter, sauce sopper, and utensil. I find injera-eating one of the most collegial ways to share food, much better than the frenetic passing of small plates, or the vague menace of forks reaching across the table to try someone else's meat. Instead each person wraps their hand in a hygienic hunk of flatbread and grabs a morsel of whichever preparation looks appealing. Double dipping is nearly impossible.
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.
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.
Cafe Paloma 93 Yesler Way, 405-1920, $$
Mediterranean food with the emphasis on Turkey—such as some lovely little Turkish meatballs in a bright tomato sauce. Much of the food is of the sort of tapas/meze/happy-hour ethic, but prepared with care and delicious pita, and likely as not the jovial owner will check in with you from time to time to see how everything is.
Crow 823 Fifth Ave N, 283-8800, $$
Contrary to the dominant trend, Crow is not a small plate restaurant. It's serves hearty entrees like sausage-stuffed lasagna, whose pleasant spiciness made an otherwise macho friend declare that it felt like he had stars in his mouth. Good old chicken 'n' green beans was also a pleasure, especially wrapped in a crispy blanket of pancetta, and especially when I discovered a crackly skinned, boneless thigh hidden under the breast.
Etta's Seafood 2020 Western Ave, 443-6000, $$
Alongside its many celebrated seafood items, Etta's also offers a juicy, pleasing wedge of iceberg lettuce doused with Thousand Island dressing among its fancier salads. Props to the iceberg, yo.
George's Sausage and Delicatessen 907 Madison St, 622-1491, $
In a city that's shy on the flavors of Central Europe, George's Polish shop delivers on that meaty, smoky feel that every deli should have. While you're picking up a loop of kielbasa for home, the very nice, very blond ladies will make you some very reasonably priced sandwiches to go: liverwurst, veal loaf... turkey, too, if you're scared. George's also has an irresistible selection of candies and Polish gossip magazines.
Ibiza Dinner Club 528 Second Ave, 381-9090, $$
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. As for the food, it's often great, otherwise valiantly good, and always beautiful.
Matt's in the Market 94 Pike St, 467-7909, $$
Only a few tables and a small bar tucked into a cozy second-floor restaurant. The place overlooks the big Market clock and a bit of the Sound, but the real draw is the clean simplicity of everything surrounding it—from the décor to the food. The dinner menu changes every two months but features plenty of seafood selections.
Palace Kitchen 2030 Fifth Ave, 448-2001, $$$
Expensive but worth it—if you can get a booth along the wall. The tables along the windows are cramped and the glare from the streetlights can be annoying. Terrific, hearty food, apple-wood grill, and awesome appetizers. The pork chops are terrific, the drinks are strong, and the monorail zips by overhead.
Pan Africa Market 1521 First Ave, 652-2461, $
This sunny cafe has dual menus: one rotates with African food from around the continent, from the slightly spicy Tanzanian groundnut stew to a chicken braised with dates in a more Moroccan vein. The other is devoted to Ethiopian standbys like spicy braised chicken, lentil stew, and beef with tomatoes.
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, $$
The concept of "Seattle's Blue Jeans Steakhouse" is a little cheesy, but boy is the steak damn good. (It should be, considering that Rippe's is run by the team behind Belltown's swellegent El Gaucho.) The meat is dry-aged for four weeks until it's silky, beefy, and tender, and not the least bit mushy. Some of the details are a bit awry (rock-hard tomatoes, watery crab in the crab cocktail), but when the meat is this good, you can forgive a few things.
Tulio Ristorante 1100 Fifth Ave, 624-5500, $$
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.
Serafina 2043 Eastlake Ave E, 323-0807, $$
A rustic Euro-Italian restaurant in a low, easy-to-miss Eastlake building. Bright, delicious ingredients—fresh peperonata, white Spanish anchovies, tender pea shoots—lift the menu from suffocating red sauces to a variation on Tuscan purity. Even simple dishes such as flank steak (so easy to abuse) are treated with care.
35th Street Bistro 709 N 35th St, 547-9850, $
The Girard & Dominique smoked-trout salad dazzles you with its presentation, then kicks you in the shins while you figure out how to eat it. A fillet of smoked trout—like smoked salmon only less briny, with an almost sweet smokiness—sits between a pile of lightly dressed mixed greens and an airy cream concoction, along with triangles of toasted brioche and slices of cucumber.
Bandoleone 703 N. 34th St, 329-7559, $$
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.
Brad's Swingside Cafe 4212 Fremont Ave N, 633-4057, $$
This wood-paneled cafe is probably best known for its hearty soups, ranging from seafood chowder to lamb and venison stew.
El Camino 607 N 35th St, 632-7303, $$
Fancy Mexican food, with fancy drinks and cute waiters. Don't miss the deep-fried plantain chips with guacamole.
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.
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 key to the Loco Moco is its simplicity and gravy, lots of gravy.
Prost! 7311 Greenwood Ave N, 706-5430, $
This tavern is all about the beer, with a dizzying selection of German imports. On Wednesday nights, the dinner special-rippchen mit sauerkraut is a must. This salty little treat is a gorgeous piece of pork tenderloin, smoked unto pinkness and then long-cooked until it just about falls apart in a pot of sauerkraut.
SaltAro 14053 Greenwood Ave N, 365-6025, $$
From the miniature prawns with big chunks of pancetta and goat cheese to the top sirloin and halibut and risotto cakes, Saltaro delivers on every front, with plenty of its namesake salt.
House of Hong 409 Eighth Ave at Jackson, 622-7997, $
Top-notch food and fast-paced dim sum.
Shanghai Garden 524 Sixth Ave S, 625-1688, $
The hand-shaved noodles are the thing here, especially in a bright-green Barleygreen variation. Shanghai Garden proves that Chinese food doesn't have to be greasy, salty, and so loaded with MSG that you're stunned into speechlessness. Instead the food is fragrant, clean, and delicious.
Tai Tung 655 S King St, 622-7372, $
Here is emotional fortitude in a bowl: Tai Tung has about 20 varieties of soup and hot pots, plus tons of specials—from comfort foods (sautéed string beans with shredded pork) to modest luxuries (wok-seared crab). You'll want to sit at the counter with the regulars.
Tamarind Tree 1036 S Jackson St, Suite A, 860-1404, $
There are a plethora of beefy delights here. They play fast and loose with the notion of courses here; it's more like a stampede, as very shortly your table is covered with upwards of a dozen elegant dishes.
Cafe Flora 2901 E Madison St, 325-9100, $$
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.
Harvest Vine 2701 E Madison, 320-9771, $$
In a perfect world, you would never have to eat anywhere else. Each tapas dish is perfect in some way: aged Spanish cheeses, lovely anchovies, seared sea scallops, mushrooms sautéed with leeks and scrambled eggs, a whole pan-fried trout, Spanish ham... you could sit at the counter and have one amazing dish after another slide right by you. That would be heaven indeed.
Hi-Spot Cafe 1410 34th Ave, 325-7905, $
Two words: Pint-size mimosas. So much better than those dinky champagne flutes that are gone three times before your breakfast arrives. Even the hearty toast and good-as-Grandma-makes jam is yummy, and that's not just the mimosa talking.
St. Clouds 1131 34th Ave, 726-1522, $$
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.
Banjara Cuisine of India 2 Boston St, 282-7752, $$
Admirable daals and vindaloos, stuffed naan and tandoori, all presented with a visual flair. But Banjara's claim to fame is the fried calamari appetizer, flecked with green bits of cilantro.
Perchè No 621 1/2 Queen Anne Ave N, 298-0230, $$
Cluttered and kitschy, Perchè No would fit right in among the Italian American restaurants on Mulberry Street. The restaurant's name means "why not?" and it's owned by a Chinese couple who asked themselves that very question. Alongside Italian standards you'll find dishes such as veal porterhouse, wild boar sausage, and an impressive selection of fresh seafood.
Racha 537 First Ave N, 281-8883, $$
So you're in the Queen Anne neighborhood and you want a safe bet for some pad thai? Go to Racha. It's littered with yuppies, but the food's delicious.
Shanty Cafe 350 Elliott Ave W, 282-1400, $
Your basic coffee-shop breakfast, in a sort of lumberjack atmosphere. The Shanty actually looks like a shanty, but never mind. Here are sympathetic waitresses who are brisk, but keep your coffee cup full.
Shiki 4 W Roy St, 281-1352, $$
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.
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.
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.
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.
Juan Colorado 8709 14th Ave S, 764-9379, $
A lovely family-run diner-style Mexican restaurant. Delicious and reasonable.
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.
Casa D'Italia 2615 NE 65th St, 525-7747, $
Casa D'Italia turned me into a drooling hero addict. The gateway sandwich was a seven-dollar number, the Joe Pesci: Italian tuna fish, tomato, and mixed greens. You'll be hooked too.
Hillside Quickies 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.
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 naan, 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.
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.
Luau 2253 N 56th St, 633-5828, $$
Fun and crazy-expect Polynesian ambiance complete with thatched roof and oversized pupu platters.
Pacific Inn Pub 3501 Stone Way N, 547-2967, $
Your basic bar that happens to have unbelievably good fish and chips. Especially the fried oysters: a decently hard coating on the outside, but somehow still oystery and full of brine inside.
Stone Way Cafe 3620 Stone Way N, 547-9958, $
This tiny neighborhood cafe boasts a regular breakfast crowd who give high marks to items like omelets and biscuits and gravy. Lunch is good too-down-home food (think burgers and other standard diner fare) served up quick.
West Seattle/White Center
Mission 2325 California Way SW, 937-8220, $
The deep, dim room feels like a private compound, a grand refuge on a still-sunny evening (or a rainy one, for that matter). The décor cleverly plays on '60s Mission ranch style with geometrical wrought iron and an immense flagstone wall; rough lath cutouts highlight the bar. The house margaritas are quite good (which figures; the owners are from El Camino). The short but appealing Mexican menu is well priced, and the food looks very pretty on the plate. Order the ceviche. Recently, superfresh halibut (the fish varies) had, extraordinarily, the pillowy texture of scallops. It's excruciatingly, deliciously the tartest ceviche in town and easily the boldest, best thing on the menu.
Phoenecia at Alki 2716 Alki Ave SW, 935-6550, $$
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.
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.
Spud's Fish & Chips 2666 Alki Ave SW, 938-0606, $
Fish and chips done right. A classic Seattle restaurant.