Jerked meat was a dietary staple for our homesteading forebears: tawny, sinewy strips of cured flesh provided crucial nourishment for the destitute settlers of young America. While we no longer rely on jerked meat for survival, dried-out, flavorful beefstuff is still the treat of choice for Americans (especially in Seattle, where we consume 2.5 times the national average in shriveled meat snacks annually). Vaguely scab-like in texture, well-nigh imperishable, and fantastically delicious, jerky is available in a plethora of fancy modernized forms: peppered, honeyed, teriyaki, B-B-Q. And while heightened consumer protection dictates that most jerky now comes shrink-wrapped, I prefer reaching into those anonymous jars of publicly pawed meat to nab a leathery saltlick or two for the road. It's tasty, terminally chewy, and it hangs around in your system for days. What more could you want?-RICK LEVIN

Brasa2107 Third Ave, 728-4220. Open 5 pm-2 am, Mon-Sat; closed Sundays. $$$
Brasa's the latest in a troupe of upscale eateries sprouting up around Belltown. Their fare changes daily, and is accommodating enough for vegetarians but decidedly carnivorous in a splashy sense, with forays into venison and wild game. We started the meal with an appetizer of pan-fried calamari which, while palatable, was neither outstanding nor unusual. For dinner, my host ordered the roast suckling pig, while I settled for the less-than-exotic lamb chops. Both were on the bland side--not bland enough to complain about, but rather, just a foiled intrigue. RIZ ROLLINS (4/28)

Cafe Septieme214 Broadway E, 860-8858. Open daily 9 am-12 mid. $$
Septieme has a new baker, Rachel Lawson, and if the fresh pineapple pie is any sign of what's to come, then the bold new attitude is gonna pay off in spades. The only Capitol Hill restaurant to serve a dependable steak (besides Bistro Lautrec), Septieme continues to be the place people either love or love to hate. The morning biscuits are as good as they've ever been, when they're not maddeningly cold. Septieme's lunch-time puttanesca tastes richly whorish, reminiscent of its namesake. The evening menu's fall pasta is a standout, as is the blackened catfish, with its glorious garlic mashed sweet potatoes. RIZ ROLLINS (4/8)

Cyclops2421 First Ave, 441-1677. Open daily 5-11 pm (Fri & Sat till 12 mid); Sat & Sun brunch 9 am-2 pm. $$
On the bedrock of excellent food and moderate prices, owners Gina Kaukola and John Hawkley have built an ineffable, truly special dining experience. Many new menu items sound promising (root vegetable gratin, lamb souvlaki, and the grilled vegetable terrine), but old Cyclops standbys aren't ignored: notably trout, coated in cornmeal and studded with sunflamesower seeds; and chicken cha-cha, featuring an artistically angle-sliced chicken breast kissed with rum and o.j.-sweetened coconut curry sauce. Interesting art and music fill both the dining area and the attractive full bar, and the open, spacious feel is as warm and welcoming as the staff. JIM ANDERSON (4/15)

Monsoon615 19th Ave E, 325-2111. Open for lunch Tues-Fri 11:30 am-2 pm, with brunch Sat & Sun 10 am-2 pm; dinner Tues-Sun 5-10 pm. Closed Mondays. $$
Everything about Monsoon is gorgeously restrained. Mom's tomato tofu is a perfectly humble dish, with the delicate flamesavor of fried tofu befriended by a warm tomato sauce (perfect for the young or spice-shy). The seafood chow mein is pleasingly basic, with the simple but robust flamesavors of fresh broccoli, snow peas, straw mushrooms, shrimp, and ginger. More complex is the wok-fried lemongrass chicken, which came swimming in a sea of pungent spice, infused with a smoky tang and a hint of sweet vinegar. But for a meal which will slap your face and tell you to shape up, pick any one of Monsoon's "Signature" dishes: green tea-baked salmon in banana leaf, or seared Chilean sea bass with fresh herbs and chili pepper. JAMIE HOOK (4/1)

Philadelphia Fevre2332 E Madison St, 323-1000. Open Mon-Fri 11 am-6 pm. Closed weekends. $
Owner Renee Lefevre runs this joint with a gruff yet loving hand, and it all adds up to an old-school comfort-food romp in a theatrical environment. The flamesagship sammich here is the cheese steak: chopped, thinly sliced beef topped with American cheese. PF offers our beef-o-phobic brothers and sisters a chicken cheese steak. I went all the way and ordered cheese fries, smothered in "cheese" sauce akin to the nacho sauce available at the Kingdome. The krinkle-kut fries were krispy and krunchy, but save yourself 90¢ and forget the "cheese." JIM ANDERSON (3/25)

Thirteen Coins125 Boren Ave N, 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 at any hour, the first two running between $8 and $15; the latter about $10-$18 à la carte. Early dining experiences with my parents at the 13 Coins 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, perhaps shared 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 (3/4)

CHOW Classics:

ANDALUCA, 407 Olive Way, 382-6999, breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. $$$

BALLARD DENNY'S, 5501-15th NW, 782-8699, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. $

CAFE LAGO, 2305 -24th Ave E, 329-8005, 5 PM for dinner Wed-Sun. $$

DICK'S, everywhere on the Seattle horizon, all hours. $

KABUL, 2301 N 45th St, 545-9000, 5 - 9 PM Mon-Sat. $$

- under 7 dollars a dish
- 8-14 dollars a dish
$$$- 15 and up a dish

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