I recently had a blind date arranged for a Saturday afternoon. The plan was to meet in front of Viet Wah grocery in the International District so this guy could take me to his favorite Vietnamese snack places. As you can imagine, this is my idea of a great date—it's hard to feel awkward when pork sandwiches are close at hand, plus there was the postdate promise of buying tea from the old men at Viet Wah and shopping for cheap vegetables at Van Produce. One hour before we were supposed to meet, dude canceled via text message. I haven't heard from him since. How people find themselves in relationships is a mystery to me. At this point, I can barely remember what it feels like to have a boyfriend.

My best relationships have never actually involved much romance—a conceit I find phony—but they've always involved food. I am lucky to have found true love in Seattle: Maneki Restaurant (304 Sixth Ave S, 622-2631). I used to live across the street from the place and for the better part of a year I had dinner alone at the bar at least once a week. I got to know Maneki's simple and perfect menu items intimately, at my own pace—hamachi and fresh salmon sushi ($4 each/$7 for two), sunomono with mackerel ($3.75), tonkatsu ($6.95), the horse-mackerel sashimi special-occasionally posted on the wall, Kurosawa sake in the brown bottle ($12). I've moved out of the neighborhood, but there is never a time I don't want to eat at Maneki. It is easily the most inviting, comforting, and inspiring restaurant I know. I love Maneki—unconditionally and unequivocally—with a depth I didn't realize I was capable of; it loves me back. I hope we staytogether forever.

Much different than my long-termrelationship—though no less satisfying—was the mind-blowing one-night stand I had with La Carta de Oaxaca (5431 Ballard Ave NW, 782-8722). Talk about hitting the spot. The caldo de pescado, an incredibly spicy fish soup ($6), and tacos de carne asada ($5 for two) knew just what to do—whisper dirty things in my ear and slap me hard across the ass. It was hot. The day after was awash in daydream and distraction—did my tongue really do that? How did La Carta manage to take my expectations of Mexican food and bend them so far back behind my head? I wanted to see La Carta again; I thought we could have something. But it seems a lot of people feel the same way—there's always a line outside La Carta's door, so I content myself with the memory of what we shared that one night.

I've never admitted this publicly, but around the time I was beginning my courtship with Maneki, I made consistent late-night booty calls to nearby Hing Loon (628 S Weller St, 682-2828). I was working nights at a bookstore in Pioneer Square, and when I got off at 10:00 p.m., alone and hungry, Hing Loon's stuffed tofu with shrimp ($8.25) was always ready, willing, and available. I knew there were other dishes on Hing Loon's menu—many less greasy and far better for me—but it was just so easy and satisfying that I stuck with the tofu. It was a sure thing and it was good while it lasted. Eventually our relationship fizzled, but I'll always be grateful for what Hing Loon and I had.

I've lived in Seattle long enough to have had my heart broken several times, but nothing stays with you like the loss of your first love. My very first apartment on Denny Way, behind the post office and Dick's on Broadway, was just a few blocks up from the Green Cat Cafe. I was young and fell hard and fast for its warmth and simplicity. I didn't care that it was vegetarian. The place has been closed for years, and during its long, slow decline the ownership changed and the food got bad, but I still miss the hobo scramble of the Green Cat's golden age. The full-on heartache is gone and a worthy restaurant, Dinette, now occupies the space at 1514 E Olive Way, but I still haven't eaten there. I am not sentimental, but I'm still carrying a torch after all these years.

editor@thestranger.com

Sponsored
Day In • Day Out returns this summer, August 12th thru 14th!
Featuring The National, Mitski, Mac DeMarco and more! Full lineup and tickets at dayindayoutfest.com