13 Coins

125 Boren Ave N (Denny Regrade), 682-2513. Open 24 hours, 7 days. $$

Nestled in the mysterious Denny Way trough, this bottom-feeder has been serving its mixed clientele 24/7 for 32 years. You can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner any hour; the first two running between $8 and $15, the latter about $10-$20 à la carte. My early dining experience at the 13 Coins with my parents had brought me back to see if it still exuded the mystery, the shimmer, the drama of Adult Life. I was not disappointed. Adults swam everywhere around us, accompanied by the subtle ice-cube clink of cocktails, shared possibly on clandestine dates. We enjoyed an abundant antipasto plate, which comes automatically (and was refreshed as we lingered). Remember this place when, famished from an arduous night of drinking, you long for substance before you retire. JAN WALLACE

Ai Japanese Restaurant

1608 N 45th Street (Wallingford), 632-7044. Open daily; lunch 11:30 am-4 pm, dinner 5-9 pm. $

If you're craving a delicious meal and a big Sapporo in Wallingford, Ai Japanese Restaurant won't leave you disappointed. Dinner specials come with seaweed salad, traditional miso soup, a California roll, white or vegetable-steamed rice, and your choice of two entrées (try the shrimp & vegetable tempura and broiled salmon). Don't forget to try Ai's sushi, too, which is super-fresh and delicious. Excellent stand-outs include tuna roll, yellow-tail, eel, tuna, and shrimp sushi. For the squeamish, the menu also offers teriyaki, stir fry, yakisoba, udon, tempura, donburi, and bento boxes for more "conservative" Japanese dining. Warning: The food is so tasty and the waitstaff so friendly (especially the sushi chef, who likes engaging in conversation with customers sitting at the sushi bar), you'll become an Ai addict! JEN CHAROWHAS

Aladdin Gyrocery

4139 University Way NE (University District), 632-5253. Open daily, 9 am-2 am (Sat till 3 am). $

Nestled tightly into a narrow space on University Avenue, the Gyrocery turns out super-charged gyros ($3-$6.99), which stand proudly as the finest available in the metropolitan area. Lying like a sleeping baby inside the omnipresent paper gyro wrapper, a warm, beige pita wraps like a blanket around the brown and steamy meat shavings. Tatziki sauce mingles between and peeks out above the gyro meat, soothing in its cucumber-cool whiteness. Could all this flavor come from just yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and parsley? Throw in the Gyrocery's ample portioning philosophy, and you've got a true value blowout. JIM ANDERSON

Bacchus Restaurant

806 E Roy (Capitol Hill), 325-2888. Open daily 11 am-11 pm. $$.

At first glance the Bacchus appears upscale, with its meandering ivy, strings of lights, Grecian-style columns, and 1930s murals of Russian folk tales. Upon closer inspection, however, you'll discover that the place is a bit worn -- which only makes it more appealing, with its homey, neighborhood feel. This Greek restaurant has all the classics, like moussaka, souvlaki, keftethes, avgolemono soup, and plenty of tatziki dressing. The combination platters -- especially the Athenian Plate ($12.50) -- are perfect for the indecisive, and offer a good variety. There are many tempting individual entrées as well, and the lamb dishes are especially appealing. The Kokinisto Arni ($11.95) -- sautéed lamb with vegetables, wine, cloves, cinnamon, and tomato sauce, served with rice and potatoes -- is tender and perfectly spiced. There are only two desserts, Baklava ($3.50) and Galactoboureko, a lemon custard baked in a phyllo pastry ($4), but both are superb. MELODY MOSS

El Trapiche Pupuseria and Restaurant

127 SW 153rd St (Burien), 244-5564. Open daily, 10 am-9 pm. $

Neat, clean, and well-lit, El Trapiche Pupuseria and Restaurant sits proudly in a small strip mall. The food here is solidly based in the traditions of El Salvador, and pupusas stand front and center in the parade of Salvadorian food. A pupusa resembles a twin-stacked corn tortilla, filled with cheese, pork, and beans. Sealed on the sides, these filled 'n' grilled mouth-parties exude a powerful and evocative aroma, virtually exploding with a ferocious and humid zest when punctured with teeth. Pescado Frito con Arroz y Ensalada y Tortillas ($6) introduced us to a pleasantly small fish with hellacious spikes and a mild flavor. A natural, head-on presentation added to the appeal of this dish, as did the tender rice and small salad, simply accompanied by a lime wedge. JIM ANDERSON

Malena's Taco Shop

620 W McGraw St (Queen Anne), 284-0304. Mon-Sat 11 am-9 pm, Sun 12-7 pm. $

Malena's Taco Shop -- a tiny storefront with bright curtains and other small, homey touches surrounding three or four small tables -- may seem strangely out of place next to the health spas and upscale homes of Queen Anne. But who cares when the food is this authentic, fresh, and addictive, featuring simple and original flavors? You'll soon find yourself making detours just to get to Malena's for the Fish Tacos ($5.50), which are presented like a beautifully wrapped gift next to a side of rice, beans, and delectable salsa. The menu is long, and covers combinations of all kinds, burritos, side orders, and "Tortas" -- those amazing Mexican sandwiches you haven't had since you rode the ferry all night and ended up at Johnny's Taqueria in La Paz. MEGAN HAAS

HoneyHole Sandwiches

703 E Pike St (Capitol Hill), 709-1399. Open Mon-Fri 9 am-7 pm, Sat 9 am-6 pm, closed Sundays. $

I know how silly it is to get all excited about a dinky li'l sandwich shop... but trust me. Two of the cutest boys God ever dropped on this earth invaded the former home of Beyond the Edge Cafe, a stomping ground for Seattle's S&M community (and host to nefarious late-night "private" functions). They scrubbed it free of mysterious stains and bondage accoutrements, painted it yellow, and started making sandwiches. Really good sandwiches. I mean, really good (certainly tasty enough to forget the fact that people used to hang by their nipples from the ceiling of this very restaurant). Some of these luscious little gems are (too) cutely named after obscure Happy Days references, e.g. "The Gooch" (hot roast beef, red onions, and smoky cheddar on a French roll, $5.25) and the downright deelish "Chachi's Favorite" (pepper turkey, havarti, tomato, and ranch on a French roll, $5.50). You can also opt for the soup 'n' half-sandwich combo (an ultra-cheap $4.25), or one of the six all-veggie options ($4.95). The regular crowd seems to increase daily, as word-of-mouth spreads and neighborhood residents and workers begin eschewing Capitol Hill's trendier eateries in favor of the HoneyHole's superior quality, varied selection, and reasonable prices. Potsie would be proud. ADRIAN RYAN

Moctezuma's Mexican Restaurant

4102 S 56th St (Tacoma), 253-474-5593. Sun-Thurs 11 am-10 pm; Fri-Sat 11 am-11 pm. $$

When you dine at "Mock"tezuma's, the concept of authenticity is not exactly paramount; but I'm not always in the mood for authentic Mexican. So when you realize Taco Bell is giving you botulism, jet down to Moctezuma's for the deep-fried chimichangas ($9.50) with rice, beans, and a big glop of creamy guacamole, or their Tamales Combo Platter ($8.25), served by an accommodating waiter who resembles a Latino Billy Joel. Nothing is too spicy, but nothing is bland. The diner-style decor is bright and clean, even if the mock-Southwestern color scheme is more Tukwila than Tijuana. It's basically Mexican American comfort food: meat and cheese and bread stuffs. While it would be easy to turn up your nose at the place, it does what it means to do really well. You'll leave happy and full -- without the annoying ringing echoes of some anemic, digitally altered Chihuahua yammering about chalupas like Cheech 'n' Chong on helium. ERIN FRANZMAN

Stanley & Seafort's

115 E 34th St (Tacoma), 253-473-7300. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:15 am-3 pm, dinner Mon-Fri 5-9:30 pm, Sat 4:30-10:30 pm, Sun 4:30-9:30 pm. $$$

The spectacular vistas offered by this Tacoma steakhouse's cliff-edge location are only enhanced by the warm, cocoa-and-caramel-paneled interior and the Sinatra tunes piped through at a discreet volume from the car park to the kitchen. Although it's fairly pricey (entrées range from $17.95 to $40) and the menu is both innovative and classic, the quality remains consistent. Scallops Cabernet ($23.95) arrive in an unusually successful red wine-butter sauce. It looks a little odd on the plate, but one bite into the pearly seared scallops and light sauce reduction proves the risk worth taking. One of the restaurant's signature dishes -- Smoked Top Sirloin with Chili Prawns ($21.95) -- elicited drooling praise, moans, and ecstatic eye-rolling from our party. The prawns gave a kick without overwhelming our palates with spicy heat, and the steak was cooked to order by color (order "dusty rose" instead of medium-rare). A truly genial waitstaff adds to this place's charm and value: One of our party was warned that his entrée might be phased out; but our waitress assured us that if he called ahead, they'd be happy to make it especially for him. It's this kind of service that earns Stanley & Seafort's its status as a perennial favorite. ERIN FRANZMAN

Avenue One

921 First Ave (Belltown), 441-6139. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2 pm, dinner every night 5-10:30 pm, bar open until 2 am. $$$

You are alone, and have found yourself a restaurant that's nice -- no, elegant; but intimate. You are escorted past the whispering front bar, through the champagne-peach warmth of the main dining room, to an intimate back parlor. Items on the menu are as extraordinary as this time you're spending with yourself: Tuna Tartare Wrapped in Nova-Smoked Salmon with Dill-Mint Vinaigrette ($9) comes as twin towers of seafood, on a dish dotted with discs of thinly sliced radish and lemon zest. Potato and Salt Cod Galette with Roasted Red Peppers ($8) -- a thick cake with two stems, reaching out like antennae from a crown in full blush -- arrives in a pool of warm cream and chives. The French Onion Soup Gratinée ($6) is thick, slightly sweet, gilded with a rich broth, and anchored by still-bubbling cheese. When it's time to move on, you can choose from Roasted Herb-Crusted Beef Filet on Roasted Shallots and Potatoes ($27) -- a hearty slab of beef sliced and splayed like a deck of cards in a velvet olive glaze; or the Roasted Duck Breast and Confit with Green Peppercorn and Cherry Sauce ($25), crispy and juicy atop a plateau of wild rice. And despite your evening's indulgences, you won't want to leave until you've tasted the Fresh Mango Tart or the Chocolat Pot au Crème (both $6). RIZ ROLLINS

The Bors Hede Restaurant

Camlann Medieval Village, 10320 Kelly Road NE (Carnation), 425-788-8624. Dinner Tues-Sun 5-8 pm. $$

Historians of medieval Europe tend to cringe at the modern marketing of medieval culture, but at the Bors Hede, you can have your history and eat it too. Not only is the food tasty, you won't find any egregious blunders like potatoes (from the New World) or "medieval Pepsi." The three-course prix-fixe meal ($15.71) begins with Rastons, a round of bread filled with breadcrumbs, currants, and fennel seeds. This jolly fellow seemed to welcome us to the Middle Ages with its buttery goodness, allaying fears of a pestilent repast. Entrées were accompanied by Buttered Worts, a simple but delectable mixture of lightly sautéed greens. The Fenberrie Pye (pork, chicken, and cranberry pie) presented a tasty blend of sweet spices, and the Chicken in White Wine Sauce was superb. Tucked under a blanket of emerald sauce, this dish was spicy with mysterious flavors, as if conjured up by Merlin himself. MELODY MOSS

Cuff Kitchen

1533 13th Ave (Capitol Hill), 323-1525. Tues-Fri 11 am-10 pm, Sat-Sun 9 am-9 pm. $

The Cuff Kitchen has made a valiant attempt to construct a menu and ambiance. Pinched snugly between an eternal twilight "bar" and a less-constrained "liquor area," the Cuff Kitchen is a six-table tour de force of an excuse to serve liquor. I was surprised to find a stout Cajun-themed menu: hush puppies and catfish dance alongside barbecued pork and Cuff burgers to a Barbra Streisand score. The Caesar salad ($6.50) is a pleasant shock of grated Parmesan, homemade croutons, and a real Caesar dressing. The series of sandwiches, of which I sampled both the meatloaf ($6.95) and the barbecued pork ($5.95), were spicy and tasty. But if there's one place where the Cuff Kitchen leaps toward immortality, it's in their sweets selection: Few restaurants in the city offer as wide a variety of flaming desserts. JAMIE HOOK

Mr. Spot's Chai House

2213 NW Market St (Ballard), 297-2424. Mon-Fri 8 am-10 pm, Sat-Sun 9 am-10 pm. $

It's funny that Mr. Spot's shares an entry with a wine/cheese shop, whose upscale customers couldn't be more different from the abstracted, hemp-wearin' denizens of Mr. Spot's. The cafe menu is small but sturdy; homemade dishes vary, depending on who cooks and what mood the cook is in. The week I was there, the Vegetarian Lasagna ($4.50) was tame but interesting, and the Black Bean Soup ($3) was curiously sweet. The Hummus Plate ($3.50), seasoned with ample cayenne and Bulgarian feta, is a Mr. Spot's standout. Homemade pastries include dark, earthy pumpkin bread and thick, excitingly misshapen homemade brownies; and "Morning Glory" -- Mr. Spot's subtly peppery chai recipe with astragalus, galangal, cardamom, and ginger -- is brewed in steel vats right in the kitchen. STACEY LEVINE

Roxy's Deli

1909 First Ave (Belltown), 441-6768. Mon-Sat 11 am-7 pm, Sun 12-6 pm. $

Crowded and bustling, Roxy's certainly looks and feels like a New York City deli. But in a notable departure from authenticity, we were greeted warmly, and basked in the meaty odors. The Hot Pastrami Sandwich ($5.95) is served on a chewy light rye, and the grilled pastrami explodes with flavor. The Classic Reuben ($6.95), which features corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, mustard, and Thousand Island dressing, presents a voluminous challenge: Roxy's meat slicing seems a little on the giant side, with thick-cut pieces of corned beef stacked high and proud. Each sandwich comes with stunningly crisp pickles -- these are the real deal -- that snap with a juicy vigor. Roxy's is set up primarily for take-out, so seating is limited; but you can easily find a spot to enjoy your food among the nearby parks and benches. JIM ANDERSON

Price Scale (per entrée)

$ = $10 and under; $$ = $10-20; $$$ = $20 and up

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