Traditional recipes

Bar Sajor: Savor Chef Matt Dillon's Mediterranean-inflected menu

Bar Sajor: Savor Chef Matt Dillon's Mediterranean-inflected menu

Savor Chef Matt Dillon's Mediterranean-inflected menu

James Beard 2012 NW award-winner Chef Matt Dillon.

Seattle’s historical heart, Pioneer Square, has gone from dodgy to delicious thanks to a slew of restaurant openings. The gorgeous space--zinc bar, white-washed walls, soaring windows—compliment the equally beautiful plating.


16 Mexican Restaurants to Know and Love

Asadero means “grill,” or in this case, a beloved Kent restaurant that expanded into Ballard with northern Mexico’s traditions of mesquite-grilled meats and tacos thereof. Seemingly every table has a 16-ounce carne asada draped on top of it, and the flawless prep and simple seasoning (just salt, pepper, and the savory smoke of mesquite charcoal) give you an almost bionic ability to register every vivid detail of the meat, which is mostly American wagyu. Even more exciting than the self-serve salsa bar: the screaming value on these high-end cuts of meat.

Barrio

It’s cavernous and packed from brunch through dinner, but the real joy of Barrio lies in its cocktail menu—predictably attentive to tequila, but with some truly inventive surprises along the way. A seat at the bar doubles as an education on Mexico’s agave-based spirits, especially smoky mescal, currently lighting up Seattle’s drink menus. Try a flight or just come on a Monday, when every single tequila and mescal is half price.

Cantina Leña

Tom Douglas is up to his old tricks in this bright Belltown space—showing us exactly how crisp pork carnitas need to be to render nachos impossible to resist, just how festive orange paint can make a metal chair, precisely how many tortilla makers must be visible in back to convey maximum authenticity. It’s very casual, with plenty of margs and other cantina cocktails, and full of flavor—from the achiote rubbed pork shoulder for stuffing into tortillas to the mescal-smoky caramel dipping sauce for the churros. When the flavors work, as in those nachos, good luck pushing the platter away.

Casa Durango

The month the Hernandez brothers revamped the menu at their flagship restaurant in Renton, the cellphone bill hit $600. The mole sauce wasn’t quite smoky enough, the green tomatillo sauce didn’t have that limey kick, so they called their mother, back home in the northern Mexican state of Durango, and went over her recipes again and again. And oh, that green sauce. Smothering a plate of enchiladas with its sweet and tangy richness, it’s worth all the premium daytime minutes it required. Same goes for the carne asada plate a huge helping of seasoned, just-charred skirt steak and perfectly dirty red rice and lard-free beans sends you, flip-flops and all, to the south of the border beach village that recharges your batteries every November. What makes one neighborhood Mexican-American restaurant better than the next? Fresh (not canned) ingredients, locally made tortillas, killer salsa, original family recipes—and the cellphone bill to prove it.

Copal

The wood-powered grill and oven that defined Matt Dillon’s Bar Sajor now focuses on Latin American flavors—grilled Salvadoran cheese, stuffed trout, quesadillas filled with smoked pumpkin, superlative tacos, braised beef adorned with massive slices of charred pineapple and a salsa made with bone marrow. Drinks are as sunny as the space Dillon’s a partner, but the actual chef is Taber Turpin, the guy previously behind the tiny, superb Taco Gringos on Olive Way.

D'La Santa

“In Mexico, people don’t just eat tacos and burritos and rice and beans.” That’s Angelica Villasenor’s mission statement for her restaurant on north Capitol Hill, which serves regional dishes and sizzling, perfectly seasoned steak from the same ranches that supply the city’s high-end beef temples. Next up in exceeding your expectations: The chile en nogada, a sauce-drizzled poblano pepper stuffed with three different meats, plus a world of texture and nuance from green apple, three types of nuts, and the traditional pomegranate seeds on top. Villasenor brought driftwood from her native Guadalajara to assemble the whimsical tree in the middle of the dining room. What she didn’t do was invest in PR, so this companionable spot on 10th Ave remains an undersung gem.

Fonda La Catrina

You might assume this color-splashed Georgetown cantina with the faintly industrial vibe and the courtyard patio is too enchanting and fun to be this precise—but orange-kissed cochinita pibil and grass-fed bistek tacos testify otherwise, along with (usually) the rest of the authentic Mexican menu. The salt-rimmed deal of the century, from 3pm to 6pm weekdays, are excellent $6 margaritas.

Gracia

The gravitas chef Chester Gerl brought to the kitchen at Matt’s in the Market he brings to his skinny Mexican slot on Ballard Ave, where intensity of flavors and exactitude of sourcing are top priorities. Well, those and tequila. Within the stuccolike and tiled and brick walls is a noisy crowd enjoying Mexican tapas, or antojitos, along with vivid tacos topped with locally sourced pork and duck and lamb, and made from the house-ground masa of imported Mexican heirloom corn varieties. That heirloom corn shows up all over the menu—perhaps in crispy gorditas or killer duck huarachitos—and deepens this food you thought you knew. Brunch too.

La Carta de Oaxaca

Old Ballard brick walls meet the terra-cotta tiles of old Mexico in this teeming sensation, and all those people ahead of you in line agree it’s one of the best in town. Indeed the mole is lush and sweet, entomatadas come with kicky tomatillo sauce, the margaritas rock.

The only thing more drool-worthy than a plate of churros from Cantina Leña? Churros and a trio of dipping sauces.

Little Neon Taco

It’s the newest taqueria on the block, and unlike Monica Dimas’s other joints—Sunset Fried Chicken, Westman’s—it’s no mere walkup window. Spacious digs on First Hill beget a bigger menu than the original (now-retired) Neon Taco, graced by nine tacos, like one with slabs of crispy pork belly and fresh salsa that test the max capacity of a corn tortilla, plus sandwiches, mole pork ribs, and sides aplenty. Don’t sleep on the agua fresca either.

Manu's Tacos

Pioneer Square’s basement Flatstick Pub features an array of competitive distractions—mini-golf!—and also a mighty compelling gastronomic one: tacos from chef Manu Alfau of Manu’s Bodega. By day you can grab them to-go from a street-level window just east of Second on Main, in varieties like black beans and cotija, chicken tinga, or chorizo potato. Our faves are a stewy brisket, with chunks of tender beef, black beans, and slivers of pickled onion and the stunning carnitas, loaded with explosive pork flavor and a frisky pico de gallo. Manu overstuffs these $3 babies, so come hungry.

Rocket Taco

The bygone space that formerly housed pasta and pizza at Contadino has morphed into a fully fledge neighborhood taco bar on Capitol Hill. A tall menu board outlines the many taco offerings, like a trio of Deluxe tacos for $12: perhaps that’s a mountain of carnitas with guacamole and pickled onions or grilled cod with pineapple salsa and coconut crema atop a perfectly thick, griddled corn tortilla—plus a side of smoky-spicy beans. For those wanting something a bit more classic, there’s a lineup of traditional tacos with a little less toppings action. Also: quesadillas, soups, salads, a kids’ menu and, oh yes, fresh horchata and margaritas aplenty.

Señor Moose

This little splash of colorful Mexican authenticity brightens a particularly gray patch of Leary Avenue with deep dark moles and notable seafood preparations, reminiscent of owner Kathleen Andersen’s 20 years in Mexico. But the joint’s real distinction is its stunning way with breakfast: entomatadas with eggs and black beans, huevos rancheros, and the city’s best chilaquiles, simmered in green or smoky red salsa and topped with cream and cotija cheese. Great coffee too.

Super Bueno

Ethan Stowell does Mexican? Well, yes but this family-friendly taco and margarita joint is Mexican the way Stowell’s kid-focused Frelard Pizza Company is Italian. Let’s just say there’s a play area upstairs and the menu includes a cheese quesadilla and a salad of cold watermelon topped with fizzing, crackling Pop Rocks. Margaritas come fast, and tacos come heaped with well-seasoned meat. They’re legitimately good—even the “mom taco” made with crunchy hard shells and ground beef—but there’s a reason the nachos and street corn show up on every table. If you’re bringing kids, call ahead to book a table upstairs by the play area they fill up fast.

Tacos Chukís

Tacos Chukís drags eaters by the taste buds on a tour of Mexico City. Yes there are $3.50 baby burritos and $4 quesadillas in its slight and sunny second-floor slot on Capitol Hill—but your first order of business has to be the tacos, swaddled in their corn cradles with plenty of cilantro, onion, salsa, and guacamole. And meat, like the deeply marinated adobada pork—sheared off a vertical spit and served with a slice of caramelized pineapple. If there is a single more compelling taco in this city—bring it. The original location is hidden in the upstairs warrens of the Broadway Alley building, and a second outpost feeds the Amazon lunch hordes. A third graces Beacon Hill, and oh you better believe it, a fourth and largest spot opened recently in the Central District.

Tacos El Asadero

When Seattleites crave tacos they’ll drive past a half-dozen ordinary joints in search of that particular parking lot, that particular taco truck. And everyone has a favorite: For some, Taqueria Los Potrillos in the 76 Station parking lot at Rainier and Graham for others, South Park’s Taqueria El Rincon. As for us, we point the car toward Columbia City and slam on the brakes when we get to the tricked-out Tacos El Asadero bus just south of the old Chubby and Tubby. Here they prepare carnitas to be both juicy and crispy here they fry our mulitas with just the right ratio of cotija cheese to chicken to exquisite grease. Portions are huge and prices loco-cheap. Best of all, indoor seating (with spinning stools!) and covered outdoor seating supply something akin to comfort. Sort of.


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Comments

Thank you for this curated list of Seattle eats! My husband and I are heading there this summer (his first time, my second), and I'm excited to try a few new spots. Delancey is number 1 on my list - as I'm also a fan of Orangette's blog and yours. Hope newlywed life is going well!

I was just in Seattle for a weekend last month and I wish I had had your list! Bookmarking this for next time. :) Love Seattle and all of the great places to eat!

Thanks for sharing this wonderful list! Many of these are favorites already but others I'll be adding to my list of must visits. I, especially, want to try the Lebanese restaurant - sounds excellent!

Thank you SO MUCH for this list. I've been following your blog (and Orangette) for a few years. We'll be in Seattle in August, so this was perfect timing. Thanks again!

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Welcome to A Sweet Spoonful, my blog devoted to seasonal cooking, whole grain baking, and casual gatherings in our Pacific Northwest home. My name is Megan Gordon and I'm so glad you're here.


Our Favorite Seattle Restaurants

Le Caviste There are two ways that I know of to go to Paris. The first is to save up a bunch of money, buy a plane ticket, and fly there. The second is to go to Le Caviste, which has the advantage of requiring neither major savings nor jet lag. The wine list is the star of the show, featuring expertly-chosen selections, most of which are available by the glass, but the imported cheeses are just as dynamic and often nearly-impossible to find elsewhere. 1919 7th Ave, 728-2657, lacavisteseattle.com ZACH GEBALLE

Le Pichet A splendid place to enjoy all three meals, Le Pichet is also my favorite place in town to spend an hour with a book and a cheese board nor can you go wrong with the top-flight charcuterie and pate. The narrow room, decked out with black-and-white floor tile and slate-topped tables and lined with mirrors and banquettes, seems airlifted straight from some arrondissement like good conversation with friends, the atmosphere here both enlivens and becalms. 933 First Ave., 256-1499, lepichetseattle.com GAVIN BORCHERT

St. Helens Café St. Helen&rsquos Café has a deck that backs right up to the Burke-Gilman trail in Laurelhurst and provides an excellent pit stop for cyclists to reward themselves after a long ride with a bite from the French-inspired menu. But even if you&rsquore not wearing spandex, this new spot is a winner, with a sharp interior characteristic of Josh Henderson and his Huxley Wallace collective. Its spin on a Nicoise salad&mdashhere with smoked black cod instead of tuna&mdashis a menu staple for good reason. Housemade pastas with seasonal sauces and the crispy pan-roasted chicken with salsa verde and fine herbes also stack up. 3600 NE 45th St., 775-7050, sthelenscafe.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

NEW PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Boat Street Kitchen Renee Erickson has moved on from her cute little gem at the base of Queen Anne, but I haven&rsquot. The French country aesthetic still does it for me, as do the smart takes on a host of classics: the Puy lentils remain a favorite. In an era of expansion and exploration, there&rsquos something comforting about the classics. 3131 Western Ave., Ste. 301, 632-4602, boatstreetkitchen.com ZG

Brimmer and Heeltap Neighborhood dining in Seattle has evolved dramatically, and Brimmer and Heeltap is the perfect example of how. Situated at the corner of 6th and Market and mostly surrounded by houses, it delivers the kind of creative and delicious food that you used to have to travel downtown to get. The charming patio, inherited from the late Sambar, is about as good as it gets in the Seattle summer, but the smart takes on global classics are what bring me back again and again. 425 NW Market St., 420-2534, brimmerandheeltap.com ZG

Canlis As one of Seattle&rsquos most iconic restaurants, possessing a fabulous view, it would be relatively easy for Canlis to coast on reputation alone. Yet I&rsquom always impressed by how dedicated the entire staff is to ensuring that each meal is as exceptional as the ones that preceded it. The full-on experience is perhaps a bit overwhelming for the average Tuesday night (and frankly, so is the bill at the end), but it remains an unparalleled outing in all ways, from the smartly-updated takes on classic dishes to the vast and yet playful wine list, to the graceful flourishes in service that you&rsquoll notice at first and take for granted by the end of the meal. 576 Aurora Ave. N., 283-3313, Canlis.com ZG

The Carlile Room Tom Douglas&rsquos 1970&rsquos retro lounge-style restaurant kitty-corner to The Paramount Theatre is groovy-looking, but the food is completely updated and surprisingly, perhaps, heavy on vegetables. The menu is classic Douglas, anchored by standards like prime rib and rotisserie chicken, but with a considerable chunk devoted to &ldquoPlants.&rdquo In a brilliant move, Douglas offers multiple price points for the proteins: three sizes including a &ldquoside,&rdquo a &ldquoregular,&rdquo and a &ldquoslab.&rdquo This means that one can actually enjoy filet mignon for just $17. Besides the show specials, there&rsquos a bar menu that runs until midnight, a lunch menu, a happy-hour menu, and even a &ldquoHunter&rsquos Breakfast&rdquo (as in Hunter S. Thompson) for $25: prime rib and eggs, bacon, fries, toast, milk, a cream puff, half a grapefruit, and a cup of coffee. 820 Pine St, 946-9720, thecarlile.com NS

Heartwood Provisions Few restaurants in Seattle are better suited for those who don&rsquot want to think too hard about their dining experience. The menu is full of delights, including a squash dish that I routinely fantasize about, but even better, there are creative and tasty cocktail pairings for each item. Those who prefer to go the wine route are in good hands as well, as the list briskly traverses the globe, scooping up highlights from just about everywhere. 103 1st Ave., 582-3505, heartwoodsea.com ZG

Lark John Sundstrom&rsquos Lark is airy and elegant, the perfect backdrop for his local/seasonal menu of beautiful, perfectly-executed dishes, ranging from housemade pastas to meat entrees such as buttermilk fried quail and Wagyu hanger steak. Surprisingly&mdashand refreshingly&mdashthe menu here is quite extensive, a trend-bucker in a restaurant landscape defined by abbreviated ones with similar requisite voguish options. Lark, in contrast, has 18 &ldquoStarters,&rdquo seven &ldquoPasta, Grains, and Dumplings,&rdquo 10 &ldquoMains,&rdquo and seven &ldquoDesserts&rdquo&mdashno small feat when you&rsquore serving food of this caliber. A perfect choice for a celebratory meal. 952 E. Seneca St., 323-5275, larkseattle.com NS

Le Petit Cochon As a kid, I hated the phrase &ldquoin your face!&rdquo I&rsquom still not fond of it, but I can&rsquot think of a better way to describe the food at LPC. Unapologetically meat-focused and occasionally a bit overwhelming, it&rsquos the kind of meal that will find you eating at least one or two parts of an animal you&rsquod never considered. There are lots of great choices, but the rotating charcuterie board is reliably one of the best purchases you can make in Seattle. 701 North 36th St., Suite 200, 829-8943, gettinpiggy.com ZG

LloydMartin There&rsquos underrated, and then there&rsquos LloydMartin: home to some of the best and most creative food in Seattle, yet perpetually overlooked on &ldquoBest-Of&rdquo lists. The food that chef Sam Crannell turns out of a kitchen without a conventional stove is thoughtful, flavorful, and often astonishingly unique, and yet the menu also offers plenty of what in 2016 might pass as &ldquocomfort food.&rdquo The vibe inside is also underrated: few Seattle restaurants are as romantic, at least to the gastronomically-inclined. 525 Queen Anne Ave N., 420-7602, lloydmartinseattle.com ZG

Matt&rsquos in the Market There must be some kind of magic in this restaurant, because I&rsquove never seen a spot where more people drink during lunch. Cocktails, beers, and bottles of wine festoon basically every table whenever I&rsquom there. Perhaps many of the diners are celebrating the fact that they actually found the somewhat-reclusive restaurant. The vast windows give glimpses of Puget Sound and the Pike Place Market below, while the menu puts that proximity to good use with fresh and flavorful dishes that simply sing with seasonality. 94 Pike St, 467-7909, mattsinthemarket.com ZG

Meet the Moon The latest from the Heavy restaurant group (Barrio, Purple) has one of the best locations in town, right by the waterfront in sleepy Leschi&mdashand superb food to boot. The kitchen executes beautifully and consistently&mdashwhether a whole trout with a light crust and flaky skin served with fries (trout frites), roasted cauliflower appetizer (further evidence that cauliflower is the new kale) in a golden-raisin gastrique, or an albacore tuna poke starter that stands up to the highest sushi-restaurant standards, the pliant squares of tuna bracingly fresh and accented by an accomplished balance of serrano pepper, green onion, sesame seed, ginger, and the subtlest soy dressing. Portions are big, but servers are often willing to call in a half-order. It&rsquos homey food, gussied up&mdashand neighborhood denizens snatch up seats fast for dinner and weekend brunch. 120 Lakeside Ave, 707-9730, meetthemooncafe.com NS

RockCreek In a city defined by seafood, RockCreek is the rare restaurant that allows the fish to shine through while still doing more than just searing a scallop and calling it good. The airy dining room is fun and breezy in summer, yet also comforting in the winter. The slightly-less seafood-focused brunch is fantastic as well, managing to offer high-quality dishes that are also filling: a rarity these days. 300 Fremont Ave N., 557-7532, rockcreekseattle.com ZG

Salare Is there any hotter restaurant or chef in town than Salare and Edouardo Jordan? It seems they&rsquove been nominated for almost every award or featured in just about every publication. Located in the unassuming, but rapidly growing, Ravenna neighborhood, this chic restaurant offers homemade pasta&mdashspaghetti with albacore tuna spinach fettuccine with oxtail&mdashas well as perfectly cooked honeycomb tripe, lamb, and black cod. This is evolved Northwest cuisine. 2404 NE 65th St., 556-2192, salarerestaurant.com JACOB UITTI

Stoneburner There&rsquos a reason why Ruth Reichl hit up this Ballard bastion of Pacific Northwest-inflected Mediterranean goodness when she came to town last year. Located inside the Hotel Ballard, the snazzy, bustling interior is home to Jason Stoneburner&rsquos inspired wood-fired pizzas, housemade pastas and delectable meats and vegetables. Many of the ingredients found on the menu derive from the restaurant&rsquos own plot of land in nearby Redmond, and the kitchen experiments heavily with the seasonal harvest. Seating is ample, but reservations are still suggested as this hot spot fills up fast, for both dinner and brunch. 5214 Ballard Ave NW, 695-2051, stoneburnerseattle.com NS

Vendemmia Chef Brian Clevenger almost fetishizes simplicity in his cooking: sometimes it seems like he&rsquos trying to see just how few ingredients he can use in a dish. The grilled green beans with olive oil and sea salt are the perfect testimonial to for the idea that a fantastic preparation needs only well-chosen ingredients that are perfectly cooked. The handmade pastas are only slightly more complex, and are so texturally enjoyable that the flavor almost seems secondary … though it is delicious, of course. 1126 34th Ave., 466-2533, vendemmiaseattle.com ZG

The Boiling Point Perhaps the most unique noodle experience in Seattle, this spacious outpost in the International District, right next to Uwijimaya, serves up Taiwanese style hot pot that you cook at your table&mdashand it&rsquos nearly impossible to find a seat at lunchtime. (There are also locations in Redmond, Bellevue and Edmonds.) The bubbling soups feature basic proteins that include lamb, shrimp and beef, as well as more exotic offerings such as pork intestine and fermented (stinky) tofu, and come in seven spice levels ranging from none to flaming. Add to them an array of ingredients like noodles, enoki mushrooms, quail eggs, imitation crab, bok choy and other seasonal specialties. Patrons typically wash it down with hot teas, bubble teas, or interesting juices like lemonade with basil seed. NS

Bok a Bok Bok a Bok is bringing on the KFC big-time, but this KFC is Korean fried chicken. The small space is drawing big crowds for its golden pieces of chicken, which you can eat straight up or as part of a sandwich. Fans of crispy-crusty fried food will especially enjoy the wings, which I recommend with either Korean BBQ or 4-chili hot sauce for dipping. Don&rsquot overlook the interesting side dishes, including kimchi mac n cheese made with ear-shaped orecchiette pasta instead of the usual elbows. 1521 SW 98th St., 693-2493, bokabokchicken.com JAY FRIEDMAN

Dong Thap Claiming that you know the best place for Vietnamese pho in Seattle is truly a throwing down of the gauntlet. But throw I will. While your favorite spot may, in part, be determined by a myriad of factors&mdashlike quality of meat, broth, size, freshness of toppings, convenience&mdashthis one, in Little Saigon, gets the win for its excellent noodles, painstakingly housemade by a husband/wife team who want to serve you the same version they make for their own kids. The result is a springier, tastier noodle that will likely make you pooh pooh the many inferior versions out there. The other plus here: you can get your pho with two types of noodles if you&rsquod like. Also worth trying: their bún bò Hue, a spicier soup. 303 12th Ave S, 325-1122, NS

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka Rising above the rest in the Seattle-area ramen boom is Japanese import Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. Serving up porky bowls of tonkotsu-style ramen, Santouka manages both consistency and quality. The Tsukemen (ramen with broth for dipping on the side) is a good choice,but the best bet is their signature tonkotsu shio (boiled pork bone salt broth) ramen that&rsquos at once simple and complex. Be sure to add an ajitama (seasoned, soft-boiled) egg, and consider corn with butter as an additional topping. 103 Bellevue Way NE, 425-462-0141, santouka-usa.com, Bellevue JF

Huong Binh Want to know where so many in the Vietnamese community go for favorite food from their homeland? Look no further. Huong Binh, a little restaurant in Little Saigon serves up a wide variety of noodle soups, rice plates, rice flour crepes and more at reasonable prices. The grilled pork is a signature item, delicious with &ldquointricate bundles&rdquo of thin rice noodles. I also recommend checking out the weekend specials, which include pork offal congee and the popular bún măng vịt: duck and bamboo noodle soup. 1207 S. Jackson St., 720-4907 JF

Katsu Burger The towering Mt. Fuji at Katsu Burger shows off beef, pork and chicken katsu (panko-breaded, deep-fried meats), but best is the simple and satisfying Tokyo Classic (but ask them to sub out the beef cutlet for pork for a more traditional Katsu experience.beef. With vegetable toppings plus tonkatsu sauce and mayo, the sandwich is endlessly crave-worthy. Be sure to add nori fries and a green tea milkshake to complete your decadent East-meets-West meal. 6538 4th Ave. S, 206-762-0752, katsuburger.com, Seattke 12700 SE 38th St., 425-971-7228, Bellevue 3333 184th St. SW, 425-622-4500, Lynnwood JF

Kedai Makan The popular Malaysian walk-up window in Capitol Hill became a brick and mortar restaurant last year, and the dynamite menu has expanded to include even more tastebud-tingling dishes in a bustling, but welcoming space with black and white photos of Southeast Asian rural and city life and a lively separate bar area braced by beautiful carved wooden pillars. The menu features noodle and rich dishes, rotis, salads and entrees&mdashall exploding with flavors derived from the likes of lime leaf, burnt chilies, fish sauce, shrimp paste, toasted coconut, sambal, palm sugar, sweet basil and more. Here, too, are alcoholic potions&mdashcocktails featuring medicinal Chinese herbs like red ginseng and eucommia bark. Whether they cure the ailments they purport to is undetermined, but they certainly do go down smoothly. 1802 Bellevue Ave., 556-2560, kedaimakansea.com NS

Lionhead When Jerry Traunfeld (Herbfarm, Poppy) announced he was opening not only a Chinese restaurant, but one that focused entirely on Sichuanese food at that, there was some head-scratching. But the chef known for his subtle flavors and focus on herbs and seasonal ingredients has managed to deliver a darn good Sichuan menu next door to Poppy in a modern space with just enough Asian accents. He didn&rsquot just wing it though he spent time in China along with Chinese cookbook writer extraordinaire Fuchsia Dunlop to help develop a menu that consists of classics like mapo dofu (spicy tofu with ground pork) and gung bao chicken, noodle, and rice dishes like dan dan mian (wheat noodles with pork and Sichuan peppercorn sauce) and some of the best braised Chinese vegetables. 618 Broadway Ave. E, 922-3326, lionheadseattle.com NS

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot There are a number of good all-you-can-eat hot pot places in the Seattle area, but no one does it like Little Sheep. With guidance from the servers, it&rsquos an interactive experience as you cook at your table, dropping items into the bubbling broth and then dipping the cooked food in various sauces. I especially like the lamb dumplings and the &ldquothick&rdquo noodles. Come with a group so you can eat as much as possible from the expansive menu. 609 S. Weller St., 206-623-6700, littlesheephotpot.com, Seattle and 1411 156th Ave. NE, 425-653-1625, littlesheephotpot.com, Bellevue JF

Little Ting&rsquos Dumplings Little Ting&rsquos Dumplings is indeed a doughy paradise. You can get a wide variety of daily-made dumplings boiled (the best way to try them) or pan-fried (also delicious, and delightfully plated with extra batter creating crispy &ldquowings&rdquo). Pork and chive or pork and cabbage are the standard-bearers, though there are occasional specials, like sea urchin. The friendly staff will steer you in the right direction, and also set you up with frozen dumplings to cook at home. 14411 Greenwood Ave. N, 363-3866, littletingsdumplings.com JF

Ma &lsquoOno Fried Chicken & Whisky This Hawaiian-influenced spot is the place to be for weekend brunch in West Seattle. It also features some of the best fried chicken in town, twice-fried and available as a half or whole bird, served with biscuits, sausage gravy and maple syrup. In fact, it&rsquos so popular you need to reserve your chicken in advance. Other standouts include their manapua (steamed pork buns), Saimin (a kind of Hawaiian version of ramen), and a Loco Moco, featuring cheesy grits, kokuho rose rice, ground chuck and Portuguese sausage topped with caramelized onion gravy. Wait, it&rsquos not over. The dish is served with a Sriracha grilled pineapple salad with cilantro, young coconut, sesame and two fried eggs. At dinner, the chicken, noodles and buns are also available, as is poke (Hawaiian raw fish salad). 4437 California Ave SW, 935-107, maonospringhillnorthwest.com NS

Nirmal&rsquos This Indian newcomer in Pioneer Square looks a little different than your typical Indian restaurant. Located in a spacious, airy brick-walled room with lovely, minimalist light fixtures, it&rsquos more of an exercise in modern restraint. The menu, however, aims to take you all over the country&mdashexpanding beyond the more traditional Northern Indian (Punjabi) dishes. While lunch consists primarily of thalis, dinner offers chances to try starters and entrees like a Kashmiri rack of lamb steeped in rum and seasoned with chili, garlic and nutmeg or Goan fish curry with fresh coconut and tamarind. 106 Occidental Ave. S., 388-2196, nirmalsseattle.com NS

Nue Though not strictly Asian, this global street-food themed restaurant in Capitol Hill does make quite a few stops in Asia&mdashincluding China, Japan and southeast Asia. However, besides items like the Malaysian curry laksa or the Sichuanese spicy jumbo chicken wings, you can also devour plates of South African bunny chow, Trinidadian goat curry and Brazilian fritters made from black eyed peas. I was skeptical that they could pull off so many kinds of cuisines, but somehow they make it work. The space, in street-food form, demands you share a large communal table, or a seat at the tiny bar in the back, surrounded by kitschy décor that includes papier-mâché dragons, bottles of cheap foreign beers, and tattered Lonely Planet guides. Don&rsquot leave without trying the savory with just a hint of sweet pineapple corn bread (it&rsquos become a cult classic) or one of the exotic cocktails featuring ingredients like scorpion, Thai water beetle, pickled herring and other oddities. 1519 14th Ave., 257-0312, nueseattle.com NS

Qin/Miah&rsquos Kitchen These sister restaurants are popular for their biang-biang noodles, biang being the onomatopoeic sound you&rsquoll hear as the chef thwacks dough against the counter to stretch the noodles. Springy and chewy, these Xi&rsquoan-style noodles are well worth the drive out of Seattle, and best simply seared with hot oil. (That hot also means chili hot.) There&rsquos more to explore on the menu, including the contrasting liangpi noodles. 22315 WA-99, 425-776-7847, miahskitchen.weebly.com, Edmonds and 2022 148th Ave. NE, 425-644-6090 Redmond JF

Stateside Stateside landed on so many Seattle best restaurant lists last year for good reason&mdashand it keeps getting better. The restaurant melds the fresh and vibrant flavors of Vietnamese cuisine with Pacific Northwest products and influence. Start with crispy duck fresh rolls, and be sure to order the cha ca la vong: black cod marinated in turmeric and galangal, with rice vermicelli and fresh herbs. Then come back for weekend brunch. 300 E Pike St., 557-7273, statesideseattle.com JF

Suika In a city that has quite a few Japanese izakayas, I find Vancouver import Suika to be the finest. There&rsquos a creative menu of dishes designed to complement your beer, sake, or cocktail. Start with an uni shooter or tako wasabi, the chewy octopus providing lasting pleasure. Chicken wings and kara-age prove that fried food is great drinking food. Or go lighter with aburi saba battera (lightly seared and pressed) or just simple but delicious sashimi. 611 E Pine St., 747-9595, suikaseattle.com JF

Ton Kiang Barbeque Noodle House Get past the continual thwack thwack thwack of the cleaver and you&rsquoll find there&rsquos much that&rsquos comforting about Ton Kiang. First, the restaurant uses free-range for its fantastic &ldquosalted sauce&rdquo chicken, which comes with an amazing ginger-green onion dipping sauce. Second, it tries to utilize the whole animal, so while there&rsquos delicious roast duck that looks familiar, you can also ask for duck wings and even tongue. If you call in advance to pre-order, you can even get a whole roast pig! 668 S Weller St., 622-3388 JF

Vientiane Asian Grocery Store It looks like just a grocery store from the outside, but treasures (and tables) await inside Vientiane. The food items for sale are also the raw materials the kitchen uses to create some interesting Thai and Lao dishes. Most notable: a selection of khao poun noodle soups in beef, chicken and fish varieties&mdashthough I recommend the khao poun nam poan with pork intestines and more. Have them whip you up a papaya salad plus Lao sausage on the side and you&rsquove found a feast. 6059 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S, 723-3160 JF

BBQ/SOUTHERN

Bitterroot Maybe the best known BBQ joint in the city, this Ballard Avenue locale is a mix of clean, modern fare with the traditional sauce-on-your-face goodness of a perfect hot wing. Dubbed &ldquoNorthwest barbecue,&rdquo meaning a hybrid of Texas and Kansas City flavors, the menu has a sweeter touch and incorporates the PNW&rsquos indigenous applewood stock when smoking its wares, including the finger-licking-worthy smoked half chicken. 5239 Ballard Ave NW, 588-1577, bitterrootbbq.com JU

Bourbon & Bones Specializing in Carolina BBQ (the oldest form in the country, focusing on spice rubs, vinegar-based sauces and smoke), chef Michael Law, formerly of The Wandering Goose, brings out an array of options from toothsome ribs to juicy brisket to velvety mashed potatoes. Wash it down with one of the seemingly never-ending bourbon options on the shelf and feel like southern royalty. 4350 Leary Way NW, 582-2241, bourbonandbones.com JU

Drunky&rsquos Two Shoe BBQ Flying in the face of the slew of hipster BBQ joints that have sprung up around the city, Drunky&rsquos is focused on large quantities of quality barbecue, served at reasonable prices. The decor borders on outright kitsch, and the service is breezy, but the brisket is tender and flavorful, the smoked chicken is dynamite, and the whiskey is cheap and plentiful. 4105 Leary Way NW, 693-3962 ZG

Fat&rsquos Chicken and Waffles New Orleans fare doesn&rsquot get much finer than at this this restaurant, located in the former Jackson&rsquos Catfish Corner space in the Central District. Shrimp and grits are perfection, painstakingly made with a shellfish broth, while the chicken, delivered alongside waffles, is juicy and well-salted inside its armor of skin. Other standouts: the mac n cheese, as well as the fried-green-tomato and shrimp salad over greens and dressed in a fantastic remoulade. Portions are large, and scream to be washed down with the house Hurricane&mdasha blend of three rums and passion fruit syrup that will knock you off your feet. The interior is homey, with hanging plants, macramé art, and photographs of Grandmaster Flash and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Outside, locals who mourn the loss of Jackson&rsquos Catfish Corner will at least be pleased to see that James Crespinal&rsquos 17-foot mural of Martin Luther King, Jr. remains. 2726 E Cherry St, 602-6863, fatschickenandwaffles.com NS

Jack&rsquos BBQ Brisket. Brisket. Brisket. Yes, there are other options at Jack&rsquos, and most of them are delicious. When it comes right down to it, though, if you don&rsquot get as much brisket as you can reasonably stomach, you&rsquore wasting everyone&rsquos time. Smoked perfectly, wonderfully juicy, and treated with the kind of care that borders on reverence, it&rsquos well worth the occasional long line to get your hands (and teeth) on. 3924 Airport Way S, 467-4038, jacksbbq.com ZG

Sisters and Brothers Next to the looming Jet City Winery and across from the Boeing air field sits this tiny dive filled with tacky Washington landscape paintings, sports and beer ephemera, and tables that double as old-school video games like Ms. Pac Man. The menu is simple and revolves around &ldquoNashville Fried Chicken,&rdquo which is coated in a mixture that speaks of chili powder, cayenne and paprika, both in taste and color. No matter which heat level you order, all the way up to &ldquoinsane,&rdquo the chicken is delectably moist and comes with a slice of white bread, cooling sweet bread-and-butter pickles, and a choice of a side&mdashfries, cabbage and pepper slaw, and mac &lsquon&rsquo cheese among them. Also, the New York Times just included Sisters and Brothers on a piece about Nashvilled Fried Chicken!1128 S. Albro St., 762-3767, sistersandbrothersbar.com NS

Kisaku Newer and pricier sushi restaurants are opening in Seattle, but Kisaku in Tangletown remains a classic neighborhood spot that bustles during both lunch and dinner. You can get all of the sushi standards, but among my top recommendations are shirako (cod sperm, with a creamy, custardy texture), amaebi (eat the sweet shrimp raw, and then the head and shell fried), and, a personal favorite, hotate kombu jime (kelp-marinated scallop). 2101 N. 55th St., 545-9050, kisaku.com JF

Mashiko Ethical can be incredible. That&rsquos what you&rsquoll learn at Mashiko, Seattle first sustainable sushi bar and one of the first of its kind in the country. If you open your mind to go beyond Bluefin tuna and eel, you&rsquoll learn about local and regional seafood that&rsquos great as nigiri or grouped with other ingredients in inventive ways. There&rsquos also an extensive izakaya-like menu, with dishes like the Utsunomiya gyoza well worth a try. 4725 California Ave. SW, 935-4339, sushiwhore.com JF

Sushi Kappo Tamura When Taichi Kitamura succeeded in his quest to Beat Bobby Flay and said he was more than a sushi chef, that wasn&rsquot news to many of us in Seattle. Still, he serves up some of the best sushi in the city at Sushi Kappo Tamura in Eastlake. But be sure to check out the fine selection of ippin ryori (small plates) as well that feature greens and more from the rooftop garden. New additions to SKT include weekend brunch and weekday lunch&mdashincluding tonkatsu Thursdays. 2968 Eastlake Ave. E, 547-0937, sushikappotamura.com JF

Sushi Kashiba Loyal customers bemoaned the depart of Chef Shiro from his namesake restaurant in Belltown. But the sushi master who trained under the famous Jiro Ono of Sukiyabashi, a three-star Michelin restaurant that was the subject of the 2012 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, has moved to a primo location in Pike Place Market&rsquos Post Alley. Here, the venerated chef works alongside other sushi chefs at the bar, while customers watch them work their magic surrounded by sweeping views of the sound. If ever there is a place to go &ldquoomakase&rdquo and let the chefs choose your fish, this is it. Be sure to try the freshly-killed shrimp that still comes quivering on your plate. 86 Pine St. #1, 441-8844, sushikashiba.com NS

MEXICAN/SOUTH AMERICAN

Chavez &ldquoDurango&rdquo-style tacos and antojitos (small plates) make up the tightly-curated menu at this stylish but understated Capitol Hill spot. Favorite tacos include the shrimp with tomato, chipotle and onions, and the braised pork shoulder with roasted poblano. For small plates, I&rsquom a fan of the stuffed poblano chili with beef, and nogal walnut. If you&rsquore choosing between salsas and guacamole, I vote for the former. 1734 12th Ave. 695-2588, chavezseattle.com NS

Fonda La Catrina The industrial chic says Georgetown the vinyl tablecloths in eye-popping colors and the mural art above the bar say Mexico and they work beautifully together at Fonda la Catrina. If you judge a Mexican place by its chips, your search ends here substantial and almost cracker-like, generously salty, they&rsquore even more addictive than usual. The food&rsquos distinctly a cut above the average, while the prices are a bit below what you might expect for Mexican of this caliber together they equal crowded, deservedly so, so plan ahead or prepare for a bit of a wait. It&rsquos so worth it. 5905 Airport Way S., 767-2787, fondalacatrina.com GB

Gracia One of the newest Mexican restaurants to hit Seattle, Gracia joins the parade of eateries along Ballard Avenue, offering up street-size tacos and small plates in a lively, stylish space that&rsquos low on Mexican kitsch, and dominated by a large bar. The focus here is on things like housemade masa: The the blue corn it is ground, yielding a dark-brown tortilla with an almost buckwheat-like flavor that is accented wonderfully in the mini huarachitos&mdashloaded up with duck carnitas, a spicy salsa roja, crema, and lettuce. The Veracruz-style ensalada de pulpa is also notable with capers and olives and tender chunks of octopus served essentially in a kind of pico de gallo sauce with healthy-sized pieces of avocado. Tacos some in five variations the beef brisket and fish are my picks. 5315 Ballard Ave NW, 268-0217, graciaseattle.com NS

Mojito It&rsquos not the most desirable location just off the Lake City Way exit towards Ravenna, but the South American and Caribbean menu here is not to be missed. Among my favorites are fish cooked in a banana leaf and flavored with cinnamon and other spices and the ceviche with white fish, red onions and white hominy over greens, served with tostones and avocados. The soupy black beans and rice that accompany many meals are great too&mdashand shockingly not made with any beef or pork stock. Always try a side of the signature Mojito sauce&mdashit&rsquos mayo based and spicy and garlicky in equal measure. The small bright space is inviting and kids love banging away on the various musical instruments in the back. Stop by on Sundays for a traditional Colombian stew. 7545 Lake City Way N.E., 525-3162, mojitoseattle.com NS

Señor Moose This old-timer off Ballard&rsquos beaten path got a refresh last year, but it still retains its original charm, eschewing the slick looks of many new spots around town in favor of brightly-colored walls and Day of the Dead ephemera. The food here is homey and solid, with brunch being perhaps the best time to visit, when the menu is dominated by huge assortment of egg dishes that include Huevos con Nopalitos with fresh cactus, tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and three scrambled eggs, served with black beans and tortillas. It&rsquos all here: tacos, enchiladas, tostados, mole, and more&mdashalong with starters like a refreshing jicama and cucumber salad with lime and chili. The margarita list is impressive too. I can never resist the Pina Chilos with chili-infused tequila and fresh pineapple. 5242 Leary Ave. NW, 784-5568 NS

Tacos Chukis Why do the best taco places always seem to be in the most no-frills places? This one is upstairs in the Broadway Alley building, with lines curling around inside. The tacos are street-size but the flavors are big and bold. So much is good here, but the house taco, which comes with a slice of grilled pineapple and pork adobado, is always a crowd pleaser. Despite a flurry of new Mexican restaurant openings, it&rsquos hard to rival this one. 219 Broadway E, 328-4447, facebook.com/tacoschukis NS

ITALIAN/MEDITERRANEAN

Altura Tasting menus are a tricky concept to execute, but Altura manages to combine creativity and craftsmanship in a largely unique way. The dining experience is as much about exploration as anything else, and it&rsquos a treat for those with a curious mind and palate. Beverage pairings are often intriguing, even when they don&rsquot always quite work. It&rsquos the kind of meal that you&rsquoll think about for days after, long after you&rsquove returned to more humble fare. 617 Broadway E, 402-6749, alturarestaurant.com ZG

Ciudad This Georgetown gem is hard to categorize, but given its theme of grilled meats and flatbread, Mediterranean felt like the best bet. In fact, Ciudad plays with all kinds of flavors and cooking techniques&mdashnot so surprising perhaps given that it&rsquos a joint venture between Matt Dillon (Bar Sajor, The London Plane) and Marcus Lalario (Li&rsquol Woody&rsquos, Fat&rsquos Chicken & Waffles). Nick Coffey (formerly of Dillon&rsquos Sitka & Spruce) helms the kitchen, which includes a massive grill at the entrance to this old, industrial brick building, modified slightly by a quirky mural and colorful seats. The deal here is to order as many of the deep, delicious sauces as you can&mdashfrom burnt honey to ramp mayo&mdashand smear them on lamb that was cooked slowly over the coals, chicken cooked under a brick, and braised and grilled by-catch octopus&mdashor onto the flatbread. It&rsquos not just a meat fest though veggies and accompaniments get that special Dillon touch, with seasonal offerings like shishito peppers, melon and blue cheese drizzled with caramelized honey or fermented chanterelles & apricots. 118 12th Ave S, 717-2984 NS

Ernest Loves Agnes Taking over the former Kingfish Café space, the latest from the Guild Seattle group (Comet Tavern, Lake Lake Café & Lounge), with its Hemingway-inspired Cuban/Key West décor, opened to great fanfare last year. Since then, it&rsquos had some bumps (their original chef Mac Jarvis moved on), but it&rsquos still turning out simple but delicious Italian fare as well as pizzas. Go for the squid-ink ravioloni filled with spiced lobster mushrooms and sheep&rsquos cheese and topped with a pistachio-parsley crumble that will make your taste buds tremble, or a simple bowl of bucatini with a sweet herbed marinara. Don&rsquot pass up a chance to try their half roasted acorn squash either. 600-602 19th Ave E, 535-8723, ernestlovesagnes.com NS

Il Corvo What&rsquos left to say about Il Corvo? It remains home to some of Seattle&rsquos best pasta, at prices that no other establishment can match. It remains devoted to a specific vision: you come in, pick from three or so daily offerings, maybe add on some cured meats or olives, you eat, and you leave happy (so someone else can take one of the precious few seats inside). It&rsquos a formula that is as vital and satisfying as it was in the Pike Place Steps days, and shows no signs of slowing down. 217 James St., 538-0999, ilcorvopasta.com NS

Omega Ouzeri Seattle was sorely lacking a good Greek restaurants until Omega Ouzeri opened just over a year ago. While most tend toward the dark, rustic tavern look, this Capitol Hill establishment takes you instead to the bright and sunny Greek isles with its soaring ceilings, cobalt and white palette, and a massive seaside mural. The food reflects a more modern sensibility as well, perhaps even more so now that award-winning chef, Zoi Antonistas (formerly of Westward), has taken the helm. While you&rsquoll find some of the usual suspects, including chicken souvlaki and Greek salad, outside-the-box items are more prevalent. Think braised wild boar ribs with Cypriot grain salad, emmer, black eyed peas, almonds, pine nut and honey and hand pie with greens, feta, scallions, dill, and yogurt sauce. Also unique at Omega Ouzeri: its expansive Greek wine and spirit list, divided by region, with wines from Macedonia, Attica, Peloponnisos, and elsewhere, plus half a dozen ouzos and cocktails using Greek liquors. 1529 14TH Ave, 257-4515, omegaouzeri.com NS

San Fermo This Italian newcomer on Ballard Avenue takes the prize when it comes to charming digs. Located in a house that was literally moved from the International District years ago&mdashsupposedly the oldest remaining residential structure in Seattle&mdashit resembles a white seaside cottage, complete with a front porch. Dominating the menu are classic house-made pastas that include spaghetti Bolognese and carbonara mafaldine made with chewy hunks of guanciale instead of bacon both are solid. Starters change with the season (I loved their soft shell crab in Calabrian chili and orange this summer) but you can always expect the inspired antipasti plate that comes with items like confit duck leg, burrata and house pickles. 5341 Ballard Ave NW, 342-1530, sanfermoseattle.com NS

Serafina This summer, Seattle lost this restaurant&rsquos beloved owner, Susan Kaufmann, to cancer. But the legacy she left at this Eastlake establishment, which has been the incubator for many a talented chef, still lives on. Known for its loyal regulars, Serafina didn&rsquot try to reinvent the wheel but, rather, perfected classic dishes, served in a quaint and welcoming space. Live music and an outdoor patio rounds out a perfect dining experience. 2043 Eastlake Ave E, 323-0807, serafinaseattle.com NS

Spinasse Chef Stuart Lane continues to keep Spinasse on point following the departure of Jason Stratton over a year ago, and it remains one of Seattle&rsquos finest places for Italian fare. The signature Tajarin (the impossibly fine pieces of it are hand-cut in front of your eyes) with butter and sage is thankfully still on the menu, and other freshly-made pastas such as lamb raviolini sing with sauces like marinated favas and pecorino. Besides pasta, come for unique entrees such as pan-roasted rabbit meatballs with polenta and chanterelle ragu and simple but excellent vegetable treatments. The interior manages to be both rustic and pretty, and makes every meal there feel like a special night out. 1531 14th Ave., 251-7673, spinasse.com NS

Tavolata My go-to restaurant for any celebration involving my daughter, Ethan Stowell&rsquos Italian trattoria just keeps getting better (and now it has a new location in Capitol Hill too). I&rsquoll always be loyal to the Belltown spot, though, with its spacious industrial interior that&rsquos perfectly refined by handsome lighting fixtures. It&rsquos all about the pasta here (extruded in-house in shapes and sizes you never knew existed) with menu staples like their spicy rigatoni and spaghetti with anchovy, garlic, chili and parmesan. But there are always new additions or specials and, of late, I&rsquom in love with their paccheri with huge gulf prawns, tomato, chili and sofrito. The starters too are dreamy you can never go wrong with their bruschetta with smoked fish, pickled onion and aioli, but their burrata with compressed melon and fried shishito peppers does the trick as well. 2323 Second Avenue, 838-8008, ethanstowellrestaurants.com NS

Westward Westward has become such an institution in three short years, in part due to its high-rent location smack on Lake Union, with a pier that boaters can dock at and slip in for oysters on the half-shell or a cocktail, and Adirondack chairs ringing fire pits&mdashusable summer or winter. But much of its celebrity also came from the genius of its former chef Zoi Antonistas, who has moved on to Omega Ouzeri. Fortunately, she taught her chefs well the kitchen continues to churn out great Mediterranean-inflected seafood in its quirky yet dignified setting (The Life Aquatic meets Ralph Lauren). Brunch is particularly notable, with items like a Dutch Baby pancake with stone fruit compote, pistachios, vanilla crème fraiche and grilled pork chorizo sausage with garlic, cumin and pimento. Dinner is more about the seafood, from wood oven-roasted whole fish to grilled octopus. And, of course, there&rsquos the oysters: always a great curation of local varieties. 2501 N Northlake Way, 552-8215, westwardseattle.com NS

Big Mario&rsquos A staple of Capitol Hill, Big Mario&rsquos came to lower Queen Anne last year, and replicates a vintage, slightly grungy New York pizza joint. The pizza is a decent rendition of New York style: thin crust, greasy-ish, if a little too doughy. Though I&rsquove never been a fan of Sicilian pie, I actually love it here: The thick, square slices are quite big, with the tomato sauce pooled in the center, the edges perfectly browned. There are 17 huge pies to choose from, ranging from $17.99 to $30 and including potato pesto, pear gorgonzola, or more traditional offerings such as &ldquoThe Macho Man&rdquo with pepperoni, salami, and sausage or &ldquoThe Spicoli&rdquo (&ldquothe pizza that made us famous&rdquo) with pepperoni, fresh pineapple, and jalapeños. While families can hang out in the front, the real place to be is in the dark cocktail lounge in the back, where roomy red vinyl booths sandwich shiny wood-veneer tabletops, mirrors line the wall, and art is limited to a neon Rainier beer sign, a framed classic poster of Farrah Fawcett, and illustrations of vintage lottery tickets. 815 5th Ave., 922-3875, bigmariospizza.com NS

Delancey It&rsquos hard to imagine a year when Delancey wouldn&rsquot make this list. Owners Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg (of famed food blog Orangette) serve up what are arguably the best pies in Seattle the wood-fired thin crust pizza has just the right ratio of cheese to sauce and boasts inspired seasonal toppings like Walla Walla onions and padron peppers. Further distinguishing this joint from most pizza places are the impressive seasonal salads (like one with roasted squash and pesto) and desserts (bourbon-roasted peaches with 9 Vanilla Bean ice cream, corn cookie crumble and anise hyssop). Get there by 5 sharp, or expect to wait as long as an hour for a seat. 415 NW 70th St, 838-1960, delanceyseattle.com NS

Dino&rsquos Tomato Pie Though it&rsquos owned by Delancey&rsquos Bradon Petitt and Molly Wizenberg, that&rsquos where the similarities between the two pizza places end. This paean to a 1980s New Jersey pizza joint is purposefully tacky with dark wood-paneled walls, fake flowers, faux-marble tabletops and awkward family photos from the era of bad perms and pastels. The focus here is on Sicilian square pizzas, though round pies are also available. These are the closest to the real thing (as in the original Ray&rsquos or Grimaldi&rsquos in New York) that I&rsquove found in Seattle, featuring a crust, with some black spotting on the bottom and sides, that is thin yet thick enough to fold over without cracking as you walk and eat. It&rsquos also not gooey with cheese or overly sauced. And there&rsquos just enough oil (read: grease) to ensure optimal flavor. The Sicilian is, of course, square, and characteristically thicker, but has that kind of golden, almost creamy texture in the center and is extremely crispy on the sides. Dino&rsquos Tomato Pie, 1524 E. Olive Way, 403-1742, dinostomatopie.com NS

Windy City Pie When I discovered David Lichterman&rsquos deep-dish pies last fall, I went crazy for it. Lichterman is a computer programmer and a photographer who once worked for Amazon but, while dabbling in pizza-making there, hit on the perfect recipe to rep his Chicago hometown. He quickly garnered the respect of Serious Eat&rsquos ultimate food geek, J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt and, after that, there was no looking back. So what makes it so coveted? The caramelized-cheese edge and the dough&mdashenriched, spongier, and sweet. It&rsquos also a rather civil deep-dish&mdashnot three inches thick and oozing cheese, which makes it less greasy and allows the flavors of the sauce and the toppings, like housemade sausage, to flood your taste buds. Delivery Only. 486-4743, windycitypie.com NS

MIDDLE EASTERN/AFRICA

Cafe Munir Serving authentic Lebanese food in a pretty, serene space bordering on romantic in Loyal Heights, Café Munir never disappoints with its delicious dips and flatbreads, grilled meats and savory pastries that include filo cigars filled with lamb, spices and pine nuts. They also have a huge offering of whiskeys and make some lovely liqueurs as well. This neighborhood gem always feels like a secret you&rsquove just stumbled upon. 2408 N.W. 80th St., 783-4190 NS

Jebena Seattle has a healthy number of Ethiopian restaurants, but none are as excellent as this one up near Northgate. If ever there was a place to try kitfo&mdashEthiopian raw beef seasoned with berbere and chilies&mdashthis is it. It&rsquos as fresh and flavorful as it comes. The injera bread is also first-rate, as are traditional chicken dishes like doro wot and veggies like lentils and spinach. As with most Ethiopian places, combo plates are always a great way to go, but do ask to try the kitfo, as it&rsquos rarely included on them. 1510 N.E. 117th St., 365-0757, jebenacafe.com NS

Juba If you&rsquore up for the drive to SeaTac, try lunch at this Somalian restaurant that fills with Muslim cab drivers on their lunch break who often spill out of the nearby Mosque for afternoon prayer. Here, platters of rice and pasta (Somalia was once a colony of Italy) come with various meats, which regulars eat with their hands. Try the lamb shanks, tender and mildly flavored with signature spices of the cuisine: cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, and coriander seeds. Try the beef steak, large pieces of boneless grilled skirt steak thinly cut are served with a fresh green salad and tomatoes and a side of about 10 squares of bread similar to Indian flatbread, but a tad oilier. Don&rsquot be surprised by the unpeeled bananas served on your plate. They&rsquore meant to be eaten atop the food. It all gets washed down with mango juice, served for free by the pitcher. 14223 Tukwila International Blvd, Tukwila, 242-2011 NS


Hotels & Travel

Seattle’s reputation as a place to go and eat proceeds it. We were living farther up the West Coast in Vancouver, Canada, when we visited, and here the coastal US city has an almost cult reputation for its influential food and drink scene. It’s somewhere you go to saunter around its sloping streets, clutching locally-brewed coffee and discovering its wealth of boutique delis, artisan producers, hidden bars, street trucks and independent restaurants. And it’s also somewhere you go to market, being, after all, home to one of the oldest public farmer’s markets in the US: Pike Place – but more on that later.

We checked into the Ace hotel in the artsy, post-industrial enclave of Belltown. This is the first ever outpost of the zeitgeisty boutique Ace group, set in a former maritime workers hotel, and doesn’t disappoint when it comes to relaxed, pared-back luxury. Our room had a sparse, utilitarian comfort to it, with sleek mid-century furniture and quirky little guidebooks including ‘The Ace Seattle Guide’ and ‘What To Read in the Rain’. Despite checking-in before midday, we were treated to a bucket full of ice cold Rainier beer, and various tip-offs from the super friendly receptionist on where we needed to check out.

But there couldn’t be a more perfect way for a food-lover to begin their first stint in Seattle than with a tour of Pike Place Market. We did ours through Savor Seattle, which runs an excellent food and cultural tour, led by enthusiastic actor-turned-tour guides with fascinating insight into the market’s history and a behind-the-scenes glimpse at some of its most compelling traders.

Overlooking Elliot Bay down on Seattle’s Waterfront, the market’s labyrinthine warren of restaurants, shops and stalls has been operational since 1907. Before that, our lively tour guide CJ informed us – farmers had to sell their wares through commission houses which ripped them off, and when it first opened, only eight farmers showed up because of threats from these disgruntled middle men. By the 1940s though, there were over 500 farmers trading here, and despite a crazy proposal to tear it down in the ‘60s (which the market and its supporters fought fiercely for eight years), Pike Place now has a firm place in the fabric of the city.

One of our tour’s highlights was a visit to BB Ranch – the market’s oldest butcher, which has been selling quality meat here since 1906. Now run by the ebullient William Von Schneirder, this place specialises in whole animal butchery and doesn’t waste anything: excess fat from the meats are rendered into ‘searbutter’ bones are used for stock and charcuterie like lardo, sobrasata, bresola and pork neck sausage are made in-house. Von Schneider told us about a rancher he uses for elk and beef who “doesn’t have a house – he’s this amazing nomad, living on the land with his animals.” It’s fair to Von Schneider is fairly obsessive about where he sources his meat from.

We also loved Pike Place Fish – a wet fishmonger focused on sustainable fish where the rambunctious, wader-clad staff are famous for throwing each other – and sometimes willing customers – whole fish. All the fish here is fresh, plentiful and sparkly eyed ruby red sockeye salmon being their most popular item, but make sure you try some of the melt-in-your-mouth sugar and salt brined alder wood-smoked Alaskan salmon.

While wandering around the market, you can’t help but have your head turned by the colourful fruit and vegetable stalls such as Frank’s Quality Produce, which showcase the bounteous seasonal produce of the surrounding Washington State, known for its cherries, mint, potatoes and asparagus. Crab is another local favourite, and we wound up our tour with freshly cooked, wonderfully perky crab cakes from Etta’s, one of Seattle super chef Tom Douglas‘ restaurants beside the market. The three-times James Beard-winning chef has 14 places in the city – as CJ points out, “you can’t go to a Tom Douglas restaurant without walking past two others.”

While he’s considered something of a restaurant godfather in the city, Douglas is just one of a host of chef talent boasted by Seattle. We enjoyed the locally-focused, wood-fired cuisine at chef restaurateur darling Matt Dillon’s beautifully-designed Bar Sajor in Pioneer Square and sitting at the bar and eating plates of delicious pasta at hot chef Ethan Stowell’s Staple and Fancy restaurant in the industrial Ballard neighourhood. His food here is Italian-inspired but retains a modern North American flavour – so expect dishes like lamb bolognese, mint, parmigiano and potato gnocchi.

The elevated diner fare at food truck-turned bricks and mortar restaurant Skillet Diner in trendy neighbourhood Capitol Hill should not be overlooked. Here the fried chicken sammy is a must order – crusted with fennel seeds and served on potato bread with skin-on fries and jalapeño aoili, it’s the perfect way to sooth a hangover.

And speaking of hangovers, your chances of flirting with one are greatly enhanced by a visit to the Bathtub gin bar, where original gin cocktails like the Fuji’s Daughter, a winning blend of sake, yellow Chartreuse, lemon, black sea salt and pressed apple juice are so good you’ll probably order one too many of them. Hidden away behind an unmarked door in Belltown, this place has an illicit speakeasy vibe to it. Take advantage of the 5-7pm happy hour ($7 a house cocktail), and then head to brilliantly well observed French bistro Le Pichet for a hearty plate of Muscovy duck leg confit, with winter squash-sage bread pudding, apple-calvados butter and Brussels sprouts. One thing’s for sure, you’ll be sated in Seattle.


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THE FAT HEN in Ballard as "a little neighborhood breakfast spot that serves killer baked eggs and eggs Benedict." Seattleite Linnea Gallo and her Italian-born husband, Massimo, run the Fat Hen, near Delancey in Ballard. The space is small but airy and lovely, with marble-topped cafe tables they're serving breakfast and lunch and weekend brunch&mdasheggs "in carrozza" (with prosciutto cotto and scamorza), eggs Benedict with superlative hollandaise on house-made English muffins, and more. Bock bock! (1418 NW 70th St, 782-5422, thefathenseattle.com, ndash$)

LA CARTA DE OAXACA in Ballard as "a perfect place for lunch, when there's no line!" Very delicious Oaxacan food&mdashmoles, tamales wrapped in banana leaves, chiles rellenos, etc., all made fresh in-house&mdashhas made bright, busy La Carta de Oaxaca in Ballard and Mezcaleria Oaxaca on Queen Anne citywide favorites, so expect a wait. Everything is much, much fresher and subtler (and spicier, and just better) than at your average family Mexican spot, with particularly fantastic homemade salsas and tortillas. Mezcaleria also has every mezcal available in Washington State and a big shiny metal roaster in the back room for the barbacoa de cabrito (marinated, barbecued goat, SO GOOD). Both restaurants are run by the Dominguez family, with mom Gloria Perez as head chef, and have millions of gorgeous photos of Oaxaca by local photographer Spike Mafford on the walls. Coming soon: La Carta on Capitol Hill! (5431 Ballard Ave NW, 782-8722, lacartadeoaxaca.com, $)

DOT'S DELICATESSEN in Fremont because "the Rueben is awesome, and their own and thick-sliced, fatty pastrami is the key!" Miles James has worked at Campagne, Union, and Cremant. His Fremont deli serves house-made meats, including sausages, pâtés, and terrines, as well as some damn fine sandwiches, Belgian frites, and simple dinners to eat in or take out. James has said he wants to serve fancy ingredients cheaply and unpretentiously, and in this, he has succeeded. For a place so meaty, the name is surprisingly sweet: Dot is James's grandmother's nickname. (4262 Fremont Avenue N, 687-7446, dotsdelicatessen.com, $)

CAFE BESALU in Ballard for the "best pastries in town, hands down." At Besalu, ham-and-cheese and chocolate croissants, orange-glazed brioche, quiche, and more are all made with benevolent obsessiveness by pastry chef/co-owner James Miller. Everybody agrees: SO GOOD. Excellent coffee, too. (5909 24th Ave NW, 789-1463, cafebesalu.com, $)

DOT'S DELICATESSEN in Fremont because "Miles used to work with me, and the place serves great food." Rachel Yang recommends Dot's, too&mdashsee above.

POPPY on Capitol Hill because "it's my wife's favorite place&mdashI think it's great too." At Poppy, former Herbfarm maestro Jerry Traunfeld fuses the Indian culinary tradition of the thali&mdasha platter featuring a variety of small dishes&mdashwith his long-standing love of local/seasonal ingredients and ambitious Northwest cuisine. (The most local ingredients come from the garden he created in back&mdashquite a change from the rear exit of the former tenant, the gay bar the Elite.) The interior is prototypically urban-contemporary: exposed brick walls, close-set tables, simple Scandinavian-style design (though the poppy-orange dots that accent the woodwork and menu feel a little forcibly whimsical). Strapped-but-adventurous types should try the great happy hour. (622 Broadway E, 324-1108, poppyseattle.com, $$)

SHIRO'S in Belltown because "he's the best chef working in Seattle, period." Shiro is the man. It is worth waiting to worship this dictatorial sushi master at his counter (and customers do wait for seats before him specifically). He laughs gleefully as you eat your uni, chortling, "Chocolate from the sea!" He tells you how much soy sauce to apply to individual pieces of fish, and, in some cases, how long to chew them. (If you want more of his wit and wisdom [plus recipes!]&mdashand you do&mdashcheck out his memoir Shiro: Wit, Wisdom and Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer. The photos alone&mdashfrom seemingly every step of his life in Japan and then Seattle&mdashare amazing.) Those seated at his bar compulsively tell him how fantastic everything is. So the paint's a little scraped on one wall&mdashwhatever. Feel the love. But call ahead: Shiro isn't at Shiro's as much anymore, since he sold all but a minority interest (to partners, including one from the less-than-amazing local I Love Sushi chain). (2401 Second Ave, 443-9844, shiros.com, $&ndash$$)

CANLIS on Queen Anne because "I love the bar, and Jason is one of my good buddies." Richie-riches, businesspeople, and gourmands love this midcentury marvel of a restaurant with its amazing view of Lake Union and its fancy-pants, imported-from-New-York-City, award-winning chef Jason Franey. The menu is "geeked-out comfort": wagyu tenderloin, lobster, foie gras, and so forth, dressed up with Franey's modernist techniques. The former dress code: "At Canlis, you cannot be overdressed." The new dress code: "At Canlis, we consider serving you a special occasion and hope you will consider this when planning your attire for the evening. We are a dressy, fine dining restaurant and we ask that gentlemen wear a suit or sport coat if possible." The music: live piano. Make a Republican take you. Make them pay. (2576 Aurora Ave N, 283-3313, canlis.com, $$)

SERIOUS PIE downtown because "I love the entire concept of the place, super-simple and super-good." Tom Douglas forays into the pizza arena with Serious Pie, where every day brings a selection of individual-sized specialty pizzas. The menu gets experimental&mdashone pie offers Yukon gold potato and rosemary on an olive-oil base, another's built of foraged mushrooms and truffle cheese&mdashbut the best is the traditional pie with house-made mozzarella and life-altering San Marzano tomatoes. Blackened around the edges by the 650-degree wood fire, the crust on all of the pies is salty and crispy on the outside, chewy and primal on the inside. (316 Virginia St, 838-7388, tomdouglas.com, $)

SITKA & SPRUCE on Capitol Hill because "I love the communal table at Sitka & Spruce, and we get super high-quality food and service that doesn't feel fussy. I always end up talking to the others at that table. 'Only Mom can insert herself into a double date and start talking politics'&mdashthat was last week's comment when I took my daughters to Sitka & Spruce for dinner. They were making fun of me, but I took it as a compliment. Their other line was 'This smelt is the best, even if we've never had it before.'" This eclectic restaurant is world-famous for its small menu featuring local farm-fresh foods. Chef/owner Matt Dillon's preparations revolve around simple, clear, lovely flavors sauces are sparing, nothing's overwrought, and insanely fresh produce meets again and again with the utmost care. Originally in a tiny spot in an Eastlake strip mall, in the spring of 2010 Sitka & Spruce moved on up to bigger rustic-chic digs in the Melrose Market on Capitol Hill. (1531 Melrose Ave E, 324-0662, sitkaandspruce.com, $&ndash$$)

SERIOUS PIE downtown because "We basically live and work next door to Serious Pie. It's our neighborhood joint, and we all love our neighborhood restaurant where we can go practically in our pajamas because we are so comfortable. Even though I always get the kale salad, I still feel the need to eat nothing but fruit and vegetables the next day, because the pizzas are super-rich, but too delicious not to finish." Ethan Stowell recommends Serious Pie, too&mdashsee above.

ROW HOUSE CAFE in South Lake Union because "Row House has the best house-baked, old-fashioned cakes in the world, with the perfect amount of not-too-sweet frosting and such a moist cake. We go there regularly for our 4 p.m. coffee-and-cake break and for our weekly staff meetings." The Row House is aptly named: The three connected small cottages were built in 1904 as housing for immigrant workers and remodeled in 2010 to become a cafe. The furnishings include burlap curtains, exposed lightbulbs, unfinished wood, and a mantel against a (fireplaceless) wall. If it can feel a tiny bit precious&mdashespecially with website copy like "Here, in the Row House Cafe, your ideas and feelings matter"&mdashit's got super-friendly waitstaff. (1170 Republican St, 682-7632, rowhousecafe.com, $)

HOT CAKES MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKERY in Ballard because "on Saturdays, if there's time, we go to Hot Cakes for coffee and their molten chocolate cake or warm chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream. We have a strong, but not big, sweet tooth that accompanies our 4 p.m. coffee. We always share." Autumn Martin, former Canlis pastry chef and Theo head chocolatier (and fourth generation Washingtonian), makes all-organic desserts from carefully sourced, local ingredients. The Ballard shop&mdasha hybrid soda fountain/dessert cafe&mdashfeatures classic desserts (bread pudding, crème brûlee, salted butter toffee) and original treats, plus boozy milkshakes and cocktails. Eat them immediately, or take-and-bake their most popular item, a molten chocolate cake in a four-ounce mason jar. (5427 Ballard Ave NW, 420-3431, getyourhotcakes.com, $)

LORETTA'S in South Park because it has "probably the best burger in Seattle and is exactly my style." From the owner of Georgetown's beloved 9 Lb Hammer comes this South Park bar that's comfortable to a degree that could be hazardous to your liver's health. Loretta's is cozy like crazy, with its low, dark-planked ceiling, dim old light fixtures, wood-burl clocks, and record player in the corner. Drinking at Loretta's is like drinking in a cabin in the woods, or maybe inside a wooden cigar box. The tavern steak is good, and so are the fries there's also burgers, a couple sandwiches, salad with or without meat or salmon. Skip the pork-tenderloin sandwich. (8617 14th Ave S, 327-9649, lorettasnorthwesterner.com, ndash$)

PALACE KITCHEN downtown because he loves "watching the line cooks cook on that line. and it feels like a real restaurant, has a great energy." This dim, crowded New American spot from Tom Douglas (aka T-Doug) is a longtime (since 1996!) late-night favorite for those who have the cash&mdashthe full menu is served until 1 o'clock in the morning. The Palace Burger Royale is possibly the original gourmet burger in the city. Hold out for a booth you can wait at the bar. (2030 5th Ave, 448-2001, tomdouglas.com, $&ndash$$)

CAFE PRESSE on Capitol Hill because of its "simplicity, perfection and consistency. they nail it." Cafe Presse&mdashbrought to you by the people of Le Pichet&mdashis goodness incarnate: pretty but not fancy, and serving simple, good French food from the crack of dawn until two in the morning (in Seattle, a miracle). Among the (many) great menu items: the epitome of an omelet, the world's best green salad, a grilled-sardine sandwich, a cheesy-hammy-creamy croque monsieur, a giant slab of chicken-liver terrine, steak frites, a daily fish special, and more, more, MORE. Also: the city's best baguette and butter, all you can eat (which may turn you into the kind of person who wraps the leftovers in a napkin and puts them in your pocket.) From Presse's full (and marble) bar issue forth decent French wines at very decent prices, beers, and cocktails, while the television plays soccer from around the globe. Cafe Presse is pretty much a civic treasure. (1117 12th Ave, 709-7674, cafepresseseattle.com, $)

MA'ONO FRIED CHICKEN & WHISKY in West Seattle because Mark Fuller is "probably one of my favorite chefs in Seattle. His flavors to me are always so spot-on." In Hawaiian, "ono" means "delicious," and "ma" is a prefix that means going toward, facing, or making. Ma'ono in West Seattle is the reincarnation of the marvelous Spring Hill. Chef Mark Fuller's mother is from Kauai, and he spent time there growing up when demand for his formerly Mondays-only fried chicken became unstoppable, he decided to make Hawaiian-inspired food to go along with it. (Whiskey requires no explanation.) The manapua (like Hawaiian hum bao) and the saimin (Hawaiian ramen) are just great, and you have to try the Ma'ono dog. And the freak-out-worthy brunch. If Spring Hill had to change, at least Mark Fuller's still, like the name says, making delicious. (4437 California Ave SW, 935-1075, maono.springhillnorthwest.com, $&ndash$$)

CAFE BESALU in Ballard for the "spectacular caramelization and dough development. the sugar/salt level is so perfect on every pastry." Ethan Stowell recommends Besalu, too&mdashsee above.

BALLARD SMOKE SHOP in (duh) Ballard "for first-call hash browns and Fernet at 6 a.m. before ill-fated boating debacles, apparently." This is the place to go for well whiskey, a cheap can of cold beer, and a few pull tabs&mdashat the Smoke Shop, people wear trucker caps unironically. The waitresses, who are old and beautiful in that dive-bar don't fuck with me way, are completely wonderful. The Smoke Shop is a treasure of a bar, even though you can't smoke there anymore. (5439 Ballard Ave NW, 784-6611, $)

LA CARTA DE OAXACA in Ballard because it's "my alma mater and still the best Mexican food in the city." Rachel Yang recommends La Carta, too&mdashsee above.

IN THE BOWL on Capitol Hill, though he failed to specify exactly why. In the Bowl is a tiny, no-frills diner with a vast, completely vegetarian menu that's a linguistic delight, with courses identified as "Episodes"&mdashdrinks are "Beverages Episode," side dishes are "Accompany Buddies Episode," curries are "Curry Episode" (yikes). To make decisions even harder, dishes can be ordered with four different veggie protein constructs (e.g., fried tofu, fake duck) and four different kinds of noodles. Especially popular: an appetizer called Melting Culture, served with grill-crisped, savory roti rice flour bread that may make you cry (with joy!). Noodle and curry dishes have un-overcooked veggies, and two stars gets you significant heat soups are good, too. Prices aren't quite as low as the surroundings might merit, but vegetarians (and some normal people) really love In the Bowl. (1554 E Olive Way, 568-2343, inthebowlbistro.com, ndash$)

LA BÊTE on Capitol Hill for "consistently great food and service&mdashpunching way beyond their weight." The beautiful former Chez Gaudy space&mdasha 1927 brick building tucked away on Capitol Hill's Bellevue Avenue&mdashgot a renovation and a very worthy tenant with La Bête. The space feels a little old-fashioned, intimate and pretty, but not at all precious the Northwest-ingredient-focused cuisine is made by Aleks Dimitrijevic (Bouley, Harvest Vine, and Licorous). Of note: the alchemical handmade pork rinds and the banana split&mdashand in between, it's hard to go wrong. One way to decide: Everybody here looks, surreptitiously or openly, at what everybody else is getting, in the way that the non-food-obsessed check out other people's dates. And on Mondays, the menu roves to cuisines like Indian or Mexican, and the results are generally as good or better than the best in town. A lot of chefs eat at La Bête on their nights off. (1802 Bellevue Ave, 329-4047, labeteseattle.com, $)

BARRIO on Capitol Hill, "especially on half-price tequila & mezcal Mondays." The Heavy Restaurant Group&mdashthat is, downtown's, Kirkland's, Woodinville's, and Bellevue's Purple Cafe and Wine Bars, as well as Lot. No. 3 in Bellevue&mdashcreated this upscale Mexican restaurant on Capitol Hill. The concept is "a Northwest approach to Mexican-inspired cuisine," with house-made salsas, short rib quesadillas, chipotle-seasoned scallops, and so forth. Also on offer: "creative, classic, and Latin-focused" cocktails and weekend brunch. The tiled bar resembles a swim-up one at a Mexican resort, but alas, there's no water around it the rumor that there's one staffer solely dedicated to keeping the wall of candles lit is not true. (Bellevue's branch of Barrio closed in July 2011 after two years because it "wasn't succeeding at the same rate as our other restaurants," according to the H.R.G.) (1420 12th Ave, 588-8105, barriorestaurant.com, $)

OOLA DISTILLERY on Capitol Hill because: "How awesome is it to have a really good distillery on Capitol Hill? It's pretty awesome." Oola Distillery makes handcrafted batches of premium distilled spirits&mdashi.e., sweet, local booze&mdashon Capitol Hill, across from Skillet Diner. Try it (and if you like it, buy it) in their tasting room. (1314 E Union St, 709-7909, ooladistillery.com, $)

CANLIS on Queen Anne because: "Who holistically does a better job than Canlis? Food, service, bar, and coffee. Unparalleled." Ethan Stowell recommends Canlis, too&mdashsee above.

CANON on Capitol Hill because "between the unmatched selection and great service. one may even forget that they have great food." Jamie Boudreau finally got his own bar, Canon: Whiskey and Bitters Emporium (his colon), and the very great Murray Stenson is behind the bar with him. Formerly, Boudreau ran the bar of Vancouver's departed Daniel Boulud restaurant Lumiere, then that of the former location of Vessel downtown. Canon has dark upholstery, an antique cash register, a bar stained with Angostura bitters (on purpose), and such an extensive and beautiful liquor collection, it's somewhat unbelievable. Boudreau wants his patrons to be "ensconced in booze." To that end: a 100-drink menu-book, antique glassware, barrel-aged cocktails served in glass flasks, punch-bowl service, and more, more, MORE (including a nice little menu of food for ballast). It's the slightly ridiculous, totally marvelous pinnacle of Seattle cocktail culture. (928 12th Ave, 552-9755, canonseattle.com, $)

BAR DEL CORSO on Beacon Hill because it's "a pizzeria where the pizza is great (of course), but there are enough other tasty things on the menu that you can forgo pizza completely if you aren't in the mood." On Beacon Hill, you can eat home-style Filipino food at brightly lit Inay's (and maybe catch the server's one-person drag show). You can get really good catfish at a Shell station. You can go to family Mexican restaurant Baja Bistro (or to its everyone-welcome-especially-gays-on-Wednesdays bar). Then there's Jerry Corso's wood-fired pizza place, Bar del Corso. Jerry&mdashbeloved in Seattle cooking from his days at Cafe Lago, Harvest Vine, and Campagne&mdashlives in the neighborhood, and it's a neighborhood spot: friends running into each other and sharing a table, little kids jumping up and down. The Neapolitan pies, made with local/seasonal/etc. ingredients, are just great. (3057 Beacon Ave S, 395-2069, bardelcorso.com, $)

MEZCALERIA OAXACA on Queen Anne because it's "just like the Carta [de Oaxaca], but mom is working at the Mezcaleria now. say no more." Very delicious Oaxacan food&mdashmoles, tamales wrapped in banana leaves, chiles rellenos, etc., all made fresh in-house&mdashhave made bright, busy La Carta de Oaxaca in Ballard and Mezcaleria Oaxaca on Queen Anne citywide favorites, so expect a wait. Everything is much, much fresher and subtler (and spicier, and just better) than at your average family Mexican spot, with particularly fantastic homemade salsas and tortillas. Mezcaleria also has every mezcal available in Washington State and a big shiny metal roaster in the back room for the barbacoa de cabrito (marinated, barbecued goat, SO GOOD). Both restaurants are run by the Dominguez family, with mom Gloria Perez as head chef, and have millions of gorgeous photos of Oaxaca by local photographer Spike Mafford on the walls. Coming soon: La Carta on Capitol Hill! (5431 Ballard Ave NW, 782-8722, lacartadeoaxaca.com, $)

BAR FERD'NAND on Capitol Hill because it's "halfway between Le Pichet and Cafe Presse, makes a great rest stop especially when walking uphill. Plus you can talk bike racing with Marc." Bar Ferd'nand is the oyster-and-wine bar in the middle of the neato hangar-like Melrose Market. It's run by Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce, which is just steps away it seems set up as sort of a S&S holding pen, but you can make an excellent supper of the snacks both off- and on-the-half-shell found here. (1531 Melrose Ave, Suite 3, 682-1333, ferdinandthebar.com, $)

SUGAR BAKERY & CAFE on Capitol Hill for its "very good brioche and croissants in a area that is poor on options. Worth a bus ride." Created by Stephanie Crocker (no relation to Betty) and her husband, John McCaig, Sugar Bakery makes cakes, pies, pastries, cookies, coffee, soups, and sammies. They also sell whole cakes made-to-order that range in size from cupcake to small-province-of-Candyland. People love Sugar. (1014 Madison St, 749-4105, sugarbakerycafe.com, $)

JOE BAR on Capitol Hill because it's "perhaps the prettiest stretch of street in Seattle and Joe Bar is right in the middle of it. Good coffee and no nonsense. Nice wine by the glass is a bonus." Cute little Joe Bar has interesting art on the walls as well as nice people inside those walls, and crepes are served in addition to its namesake coffee. The cheapest and most delicious item on the crepe menu is also the most classic: lemon juice and powdered sugar, topped with thin-to-transparent slices of lemon. The more substantial savory crepes include a tasty Caprese salad rip-off and a spinach, roasted red pepper, and blue cheese combo. Also: panini, soup, salads, antipasti plates, and beer and wine, and yay for that. (810 E Roy St, 324-0407, joebar.org, $)

LLOYDMARTIN on Queen Anne because it's "a gem that's hidden in plain sight on the top of Queen Anne. If you don't know about it, shame on you. If you know about it, shame on you for not going more often." Chicago native Sam Crannell (Quinn's, Oddfellows, and, very briefly, 5 Corner Market) serves "product-driven" small plates with cocktails and wine at his upper Queen Anne place. It's named after his two granddads, it's small, it's dominated by dark wood, and it has a simplicity that more restaurants should aspire to&mdashit looks great without making a lot of fuss. The food is good and so is the music, and you might overhear some amusing conversations ("Yes, I agree," the lady says, after taking a sip of her martini, "it's hard to find a good property manager these days"). LloydMartin is not cheap, but it is worth it. (1525 Queen Anne Ave N, 420-7602, lloydmartinseattle.com, $$)

MISTRAL KITCHEN downtown because it's got "consistently some of the best foie gras the city has to offer AND they have a patio on which you can enjoy some of the best food in the city." William Belickis's Mistral in Belltown was one of very few Seattle restaurants offering an unapologetically formal haute cuisine experience. Born at the beginning of 2010, Mistral Kitchen is a mammoth, starkly contemporary space on Westlake with multiple kitchens, dining options from a la carte crudos to eight-course set menus, and a bar serving craft cocktails. The financially challenged can get a look/taste/sip at happy hour. (2020 Westlake Ave, 623-1922, mistral-kitchen.com, ndash$$)

CANLIS on Queen Anne, and "oh, and by Canlis, I mean the bar at Canlis. Too many people forget that you can eat there, either from the bar menu or the regular menu. Just as good as the main room but with more options!" Ethan Stowell AND Andrew Friedman recommend Canlis, too&mdashsee above.

LITTLE UNCLE in Pioneer Square and on Capitol Hill because "both locations are so small and hidden that you might walk right by and not realize that you are missing some fantastic 'brick and mortar' street food. With the new Pioneer Square location, you can now drink booze and sit at a proper table and truly enjoy the experience!" Little Uncle on Capitol Hill is a walk-up window of Thai-food deliciousness. Little Uncle in Pioneer Square is equally delicious, located in the subterranean space where Marcus' Martini Heaven used to be. Both are brought to you by former Lark sous chef Wiley Frank and his wife, Poncharee Kounpungchart, also known as PK, and also a chef, who are both extremely nice people. (Somewhat confusingly, "Little Uncle" is PK's father's nickname.) If you go get Little Uncle's superlative, inexpensive Thai food, you will not regret it&mdashit is exceptionally fresh, legitimately spicy, and just great. For Capitol Hill, if you go to their website, you can place your order online, and they'll have it waiting in the 15-minute time frame of your choosing for Pioneer Square, note that they're super-busy between noon and one, but come before or after, and you'll probably have the run of the place. (88 Yesler Way, 223-8529, littleuncleseattle.com, and one other location, ndash$)

ZIG ZAG CAFE downtown because the "brand-new expanded patio and sound baffling add even more reasons to get some of the best cocktails and friendliest service the city has to offer." The Zig Zag, tucked away on the stairs below Pike Place Market, serves very fine cocktails. The atmosphere is nice but not at all stuffy, with favorable lighting conditions. This is where Murray Stenson, the bartenders' bartender, aka Murr the Blur, used to do his alchemy&mdashthose behind the bar here have been trained well. (1501 Western Ave, 625-1146, zigzagseattle.com, $)

BOTTLEHOUSE on Madrona because "Bottlehouse has a beautiful patio that is perfect for sipping (or pounding) wine." Bottlehouse is a wine bar and "shoppe" located upstairs from Madrona's urban winery, Wilridge (which makes special Bottlehouse blends). The motto: "Dwell, Drink, Be Well," which sounds soothing. The place was made with 80 percent reclaimed materials (including beams from a Capitol Hill duplex as seating and Montana barn wood) and focuses on local producers. Also: Salumi meats, cheeses from near and far, and both deck and back garden seating. (1416 34th Ave, 962-1619, bottlehouseseattle.com, $)

GREEN LEAF in Belltown and the International District because "Green Leaf serves delicious food until 1 a.m. or later, and when I enter the basement restaurant in Belltown, I feel like I'm being transported to somewhere far away." Green Leaf is the kind of place you selfishly want to keep a secret. The Vietnamese food is delicious and exciting and satisfying and good-looking and cheap as hell&mdasha gift of greatness at hole-in-the-wall prices. Try the bahn xeo, a savory crepe-type thing: two giant half-moons made with rice flour and coconut milk, scented and colored with turmeric, crisp outside, moist and chewy inside, filled with tons of bean sprouts, shrimp, and pork (with a bonus heap of cilantro, basil, mint, and lettuce). It's messy, fun, and brings together greasy and fresh in an outstanding way. The beef la lot is extra great here, as is cabbage salad with duck, and green papaya salad with charred, grilled whole shrimp, and lots of other stuff. The servers are lovely and helpful, and the original ID space is much less hole-in-the-wally than the prices would make you expect, while the second Green Leaf, in the basement of the Labor Temple in Belltown, is an elegantly awesome hideaway. Another Belltown location shares a storefront with the nightclub Tia Lou's. Green Leaf is great. (418 8th Ave S, 340-1388 2800 First Ave, 448-3318 greenleaftaste.com $)

ZIG ZAG CAFE downtown because it's "so warm and welcoming, with top-notch drinks and service." Jamie Boudreau recommends the Zig Zag, too&mdashsee above.

BRASS TACKS in Georgetown because it's "just a funky place bordering on bizarre. The food is good and the drinks are stiff." Brass Tacks is the full-service sister restaurant to Ground Control, the well-liked Georgetown sandwich shop and bar. The atmosphere is upscale roadhouse&mdashwelcoming and intentionally odd, with shuffleboard amid the dining tables and a baby doll smoking a cigar in a big birdcage. Strings of lights make the rough-around-the-edges look pretty a jazz band might play, loud enough that you have to shout a bit, on a Friday night. The Northwest comfort menu includes stuff like deviled duck eggs, lamb sliders, a Painted Hills cheeseburger, macaroni and cheese with house-smoked brisket, and something called pork fries if that all sounds weighty, a half-dozen interesting vegetable dishes, like a grilled Caesar or roasted artichoke and arugula, round it out. (6031 Airport Way S, 397-3821, georgetownbrass.com, $)

BATHTUB GIN & CO. in Belltown "'cause bourbon is my spirit animal and they have a great selection of it." Bathtub Gin, in the basement of the Humphrey Apartments in Belltown, is a miniature speakeasy-style bar that doesn't try too hard and works like a charm. The entrance is in the alley. Go early and park at the six-seat bar for a while to make new friends, drink great cocktails, and enjoy the hell out of yourself. (2205 Second Ave, 728-6069, bathtubginseattle.com, $)

LITTLE UNCLE in Pioneer Square and on Capitol Hill "'cause Wiley and PK are amazing human beings that only produce amazing soulful dishes." Jamie Boudreau recommends Little Uncle, too&mdashsee above.

TAVERN LAW and NEEDLE AND THREAD on Capitol Hill because "Needle and Thread&mdashI love hidey-hole places that really make you feel like you got away for a while." From the gentlemen of Belltown's well-reputed, extremely popular Spur Gastropub and (ditto) the Coterie Room, Tavern Law is an upscale cocktail lounge with a vigorous speakeasy theme (including a "secret" upstairs bar called Needle and Thread). If you're eating, get the sous-vide fried chicken. JUST GET IT. (1406 12th Ave, 322-9734, tavernlaw.com, $)

CANLIS on Queen Anne because "Food = mind-blowing / service = mind-readers." Ethan Stowell, Andrew Friedman, and Jamie Boudreau all recommend Canlis, too&mdashsee above. Canlis!

CAFE BESALU in Ballard because "What girl doesn't love crispy, flaky pastry made with butter and lard?" Ethan Stowell and Joshua Henderson recommend Cafe Besalu as well&mdashsee above. Besalu!

MAI THAIKU on Phinney Ridge "'cause it's not overly sweet Thai food made for the American palate. The spicy is hella spicy, and the sour will make your face pucker." Not your usual smothered-in-coconut-milk neighborhood Thai place, Mai Thaiku makes fresher, more interesting, and way more delicious Thai food than you might be used to. To heighten the buzz you'll get from the spicier dishes, the teeny bar, Fu Kun Wu, specializes in tincture-y cocktails that make various promises of vitality (with some aphrodisiac varieties limited to one per person, lest you get too freaky). Chef Anne Sawvalak, from Bangkok, heads up a mostly women-run kitchen "I learned to cook from my mom, and the food that we are serving at Thaiku is based on recipes from our families in Thailand," says she. NOTE: Thaiku moved from its bigger, darker Ballard space to a pretty little Phinney Ridge bungalow in early 2013 (and added to its name: "mai" means "new" in Thai). (6705 Greenwood Ave N, 706-7807, thaiku.com, $)

CRUMBLE & FLAKE on Capitol Hill because it "has some of the best pastries I've had anywhere in the world, and it's two blocks from my apartment, and it's so good that they often sell out of the good stuff before I'm dressed and out." Awesome pastry chef Neil Robertson (Canlis, Mistral Kitchen) bakes his ever-lovin' heart out (and sells out of his awesome goods really fast) at his tiny bakery on Olive Way. (1500 E Olive Way, 329-1804, crumbleandflake.com, $)

LA BÊTE on Capitol Hill because it "easily has some of the best food in the city, and combines it with the perfect amount of kitsch and a lack of pretentiousness." Andrew Friedman recommends La Bête, too&mdashsee above.

SHORTY'S in Belltown because "I love hot dogs, pinball, cheap booze, and Buck Hunter. Shorty's has these things." Hot dogs, booze, and pinball in one place spells fun for everyone (well, everyone 21 and older). Shorty's serves an array of bargain-priced wieners with a vast assortment of accompanying condiments&mdashthe Chicago dog, with all its salady stuff piled on top, is kind of close to healthy. Nostalgic soda pops and vegetarian options are offered for those who choose to abstain but still remember how to have a good time. For relatively high rollers, the Trophy Room back bar carries top-shelf liquors. Shorty's RULZ. (2222 Second Ave, 441-5449, shortydog.com)

ALTURA on Capitol Hill because "Altura truly cares about every aspect of their cuisine and provides a very unique menu format that is perfect for people who always want to try everything." In Italian, "Altura" means, roughly, a place on high. Dinner at Altura is expensive, but this is food of another order: Every plate is painstakingly composed, every bite compelling. The menu is Italianate local/seasonal/organic/foraged/etc., and the restaurant is across the street and south a bit from Poppy on Broadway. The interior is unintimidating, not-overdone rustic/reclaimed&mdashbeams, church pews, and the like&mdashwith an antique angel salvaged from a chapel in France that was bombed during World War II. Chef Nathan Lockwood (chef de cuisine at San Francisco's Acquerello when it earned a Michelin star, Fleur de Lys, the Ruins) and his crew works calmly in an open kitchen with counter seating sommelier Guy Kugel was wine director at Flying Fish. The business manager is Rebecca Lockwood she and Nathan met at the very unrarified Broadway Dick's (awww!). Altura is the sort of elevated eating you'll feel lucky to do even once in your lifetime&mdashwhen food becomes drug, it is very fine dining indeed. (617 Broadway E, 402-6749, alturarestaurant.com, $$)

ROCCO'S in Belltown because it's "a great casual spot to hang out and have a slice of pizza, and they just so happen to have an amazing cocktails, liquor, and beer selection!" Rocco's is where Noodle Ranch was for a billion years and then Dope Burger was for five minutes. Rocco's has a pressed-tin ceiling and old-timey light fixtures, and Rocco's serves a fine range of cocktails, plus pizza for cushioning. (2228 Second Ave, 448-2625, roccosseattle.com, $)

BOAT STREET CAFE in Belltown, which is "Renee E.'s (totally ignored now) first place. Still my fave of her empire." This obscurely located but lovely French-ish bistro from Renee Erickson (now more well-known for the later Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard and the Whale Wins in Fremont/Wallingford) is a longtime favorite for good reason. Especially nice, weather permitting: sweet, quiet outdoor seating for brunchtime sunshine. (3131 Western Ave, 632-4602, boatstreetcafe.com, $)

BAR DEL CORSO on Beacon Hill, but "I don't exalt the pizza the way everybody else does&mdashat Corso, I eat everything else. EVERYTHING." Jim Drohman recommends Bar del Corso, too&mdashsee above.

SZECHUAN NOODLE BOWL in the International District "because yeah." A brightly lit, 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 here possesses a deeply satisfying chew, and everything's real cheap, too. (420 Eighth Ave S, 623-4198, $)


Avance's cauliflower chowanmushi.

Very New-Style Cuisine in a Very Old-Style City

Finally, the sainted Le Bec-Fin space has found what it was looking for, a successor worthy of former chef Georges Perrier. A friend and I managed a quick meal at Avance at the very end of 2013, days after it opened for business under the chef and owner, Justin Bogle, formerly at Gilt in New York. He was ecutive chef there for three years and maintained its Michelin two-star status throughout. The food at Avance was so impressive we wish we could have stayed longer and eaten far more.

The old Le Bec-Fin was an expression of old-world sensibility, gilded and ornate. The new Avance looks Nordic from the outside, terribly serious and monotonal on the inside, with blue and grey walls, grey carpeting, grey banquettes, Edison bulbs screwed into overhead sockets, and a vertical arbor of unexuberant plants. Even the handles of the Laguiole knives are color-coordinated, a perfect matching grey.

I got lucky with the wine list, never easy in Philly, found a eight-year old Meursault for under $80. Bogle’s cooking was absolutely assured, even in those first days on the job. We tried warm, foamy, and not very Japanese cauliflower chawanmushi accented with Meyer lemon, and dry aged duck, likely to become a restaurant staple throughout America in 2014. The meat had been hung to tenderize and intensify for 12 days, and it came with preserved persimmons, which is indeed Japanese. One hurried meal during opening days doesn’t quite elevate a restaurant to superstardom, but I left convinced that Avance was already one of the most impressive new restaurants of the year.


The Sauce's Recommended Restaurants

Renee Erickson's teeny-tiny, Euro-style bar is attached to her renowned restaurant the Walrus and the Carpenter (making it the best-named place ever). Its menu of great snacks, amaro, and lovely wine will knock your socks off.

5239 Ballard Ave NW, 588-1577

Bitterroot uses an in-house smoker and picturesque stacks of apple wood to very good effect, especially with the chicken and the smoked-tomato-and-salt Bloody Mary. Sides are way better than average, especially the super-fluffy grits.

425 NW Market St, 420-2534

Brimmer & Heeltap is where the late, great Le Gourmand used to be in Ballard. The short menu of gastropub-type food, with just the right whispers of Asian ingredients, is by chef Mike Whisenhunt (previously at Revel).

5909 24th Ave NW, 789-1463

At Besalu, ham-and-cheese and chocolate croissants, orange-glazed brioche, quiche, and more are all made with benevolent obsessiveness by pastry chef/co-owner James Miller. Everybody agrees: SO GOOD. Excellent coffee, too.

2408 NW 80th St, 783-4190

This pleasant little Lebanese restaurant is owned by Rajah Gargour, who grew up in the Middle East (Lebanon and Jordan, to be exact). Munir serves excellent, traditional, small plates of mezze. Also: a fine selection of single-malt whiskies.

Support The Stranger

1415 NW 70th St, 838-1960

Delancey is a Ballard pizzeria with pie in the thin-crust mode of the (rightly) revered Di Fara in Brooklyn. The waits are long and the spare-chic interior gets loud, but if you are willing to dedicate three hours to dinner out, the pizza is mighty fine.

5431 Ballard Ave NW, 782-8722

The best seat here is at the counter, where you can watch the corn tortillas be made by hand. There is always a wait, but it is always worth it for the mole negro Oaxaqueno.

1447 NW Ballard Way, 782-2808

is a dive bar with sports on the telly and that comforting smell of a workingman's armpit. It's a place where one could sit down in a booth with a frosty glass of watery domestic and a plate smothered in a version of chili that merges the almighty Ohio with the behemoth Texas and feel like you've arrived at your favorite pub, even if you've never been there before.

2325 NW Market St, 784-0699

Ocho feels like a tapas bar should: a crowded, informal neighborhood place. The Ocho outing is for tasting things you probably aren't making at home: garlicky gambas, warm plates of octopus with white beans and chorizo, pan con chocolate (a dessert toast that goes from sweet to salty to heat in a magical manner). The bar's specialty is a $10 añejo margarita (which is worth it), but decent tumblersful of wine may be had for cheap.

5242 Leary Ave NW, 784-5568

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Things people especially love at Señor Moose: the Mexican breakfasts and the tortilla soup. The former includes excellent huevos rancheros, awesome chilaquiles, and extra-supergood homemade chorizo.

Staple & Fancy Mercantile

4739 Ballard Ave NW, 789-1200

Brought to you by Ethan Stowell (Anchovies & Olives, How to Cook a Wolf, Tavolata, more), Staple & Fancy has a local, seasonal, Italianate "staple" menu with a "fancy" option where the chef makes a multicourse feast for your whole table.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

4743 Ballard Ave NW, 395-9227

Renee Erickson runs this celebrated Ballard oyster bar, which also serves local clams and mussels, house-smoked fish, frites, and specialty meats, and everybody who eats here loves all of it.

Beacon Hill/Columbia City/Rainier Valley

2414 Beacon Ave S, 323-0953

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

In the morning and early afternoon, Baja Bistro functions as a coffeehouse and diner, with chilaquiles, breakfast tacos, and Stumptown coffee. At dinnertime, Baja Bistro becomes an adamantly casual outpost for authentic Baja California–style Mexican cuisine. Starting at 3 p.m., Baja Bistro's bar offers a happy-hour menu until 7 p.m. and drinks all night long—and becomes very, very gay on Wednesdays. This place is magical.

3057 Beacon Ave S, 395-2069

Jerry Corso—beloved in Seattle cooking from his days at Cafe Lago, Harvest Vine, and Campagne—and his wife, Angelina Tolentino, live on Beacon Hill, and Bar del Corso is a great neighborhood spot. But first and foremost, it's an excellent Italian restaurant with great small plates of vegetables and wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, most made with local and seasonal ingredients.

4865 Rainier Ave S, 723-6023

Ham-and-Gruyère croissants, the multigrain sunflower bread, chocolate whiskey tea cake, the mortadella and Mama Lil's peppers sandwich on ciabatta, and daily, fresh-baked quiches and tortas. There's nothing here that isn't delicious.

3209 Beacon Ave S, 329-2970

El Quetzal's Mexican food isn't run-of-the-mill, pool-of-cheese Tex-Mex—owner Juan Montiel uses some of his mom's original recipes, and the man loves cactus. The huarache norteño, piled high with nopales and chorizo, is wonderful. People also rave about the tortas.

Island Soul Caribbean Cuisine

4869 Rainier Ave S, 329-1202

Owner Theo Martin has created a space that is as much a community gathering spot as it is a restaurant. But make no mistake, the people come hungry for the Caribbean and soul food dishes like oxtail stew, Southern fried hens, gumbo, and goat curry. The tiny in-house bar also makes great rum cocktails.

4857 Rainier Ave S, 723-2192

La Medusa's seasonal, chalkboard menus of lovely Italian and Mediterranean dishes, made with lots of local and high-quality ingredients, make it a Columbia City favorite.

4903 Rainier Ave S, 725-1188

Bring friends—no more than three, though—to this tiny sliver of a restaurant serving traditional Senegalese dishes like thieboudienne (fish simmered in a spicy tomato sauce with cassava) and goat curry. Chef Mamadou Diakhate will likely be your server, too his charm and conversation will help you overlook what might be a long wait.

3300 Rainier Ave S, 725-4418

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Not to be confused with the Pho Bac in the International District, this Pho Bac is the one just off Rainier Avenue with the bright, spray-painted mural of a girl in a hoodie. You can get pho anywhere in this town, but the broth here is always rich and flavorful. Cash only. (But they have an ATM.)

San Fernando Roasted Peruvian Chicken

900 Rainier Ave S, 331-3763

As the name suggests, San Fernando's specialty is pollo a la brasa, Peruvian charcoal-roasted chicken, served with french fries and house-made salsa. You'll want to be generous with the green one—bright and piquant, made with fresh chilies and cilantro.

3513 Rainier Ave S, 722-9977

Yes, there are other taco buses. But Tacos El Asadero will always be the one, the only, the greatest taco bus in town.

Belltown/Queen Anne/Interbay

Chinook's at Salmon Bay

1900 W Nickerson St, 283-4665

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Inevitably, your parents will come to visit you and want to have local seafood. You should take them to Chinook's, which is tucked into the low-key Fisherman's Terminal, far from the tourists, where the working fishing boats find moorage. The view is sweet, the seafood fresh, and everyone will be happy.

1525 Queen Anne Ave N, 420-7602

Chicago native Sam Crannell serves "product-driven" small plates with cocktails and wine at his Queen Anne place. Named after his two granddads, the small, dark-wooded restaurant has a simplicity that more eateries should aspire to—the food is good without making a lot of fuss. LloydMartin is not cheap, but it is worth it.

2323 Second Ave, 838-8008

Ethan Stowell's Tavolàta is a home for Italian food. The all-house-made pasta (even the usually factory-made shapes—there's an extruder in the basement) possesses a fresh, springy, bouncy quality and a texture that's less slick, more sauce-sticky and absorptive of flavor.

Tilikum Place Cafe

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

Tilikum Place Cafe is a pleasant cafe by day (with lunch and brunch) and an inviting bistro by night, offering everything from tarts and homemade pastries to sardine sandwiches, pork braised in milk, pasta, and fry-ups. It's a favorite in the neighborhood and beyond.

Capitol Hill

Altura

617 Broadway E, 402-6749

In Italian, "Altura" means, roughly, a place on high. Dinner at Altura is expensive, but this is food of another order: Every plate is painstakingly composed, every bite compelling. The menu is Italianate local/seasonal/organic/foraged/etc., and it's the sort of elevated eating you'll feel lucky to experience—when food becomes a drug, it is fine dining indeed.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Ba Bar is a Vietnamese street-food and noodle spot from Eric Banh (Monsoon). There's superlative pho, vermicelli bowls, rotisserie lemongrass chicken, various small plates, and more, all made with high-quality, local ingredients. Also: cocktails, including mint juleps and Moscow mules served in proper silver and copper cups. And Ba Bar is open until 4 a.m. (!) on the weekend.

952 E Seneca St, 323-5275

Chef John Sundstrom's beloved Seattle restaurant has moved from its original 12th Avenue location to an expansive new space in the nearby historic Central Agency building. The menu features classic Lark dishes, along with new items.

1509 E Madison St, 329-1503

Brought to you by chef Wiley Frank and his wife, Poncharee Kounpungchart, also a chef, who are both extremely nice people. Little Uncle's superlative, inexpensive Thai food is exceptionally fresh, legitimately spicy, and just great. You can place your order online, and they'll have it waiting for you.

1508 Melrose Ave, 906-9606

Mamnoon serves upscale, bold, perfectly seasoned Lebanese/Syrian food, including a selection of delicious, freshly baked flat and leavened breads. If you don't want to sit in the dark, modern dining room, you can place orders to go at Mamnoon's take-out window.

622 Broadway E, 324-1108

At Poppy, former Herbfarm maestro Jerry Traunfeld fuses the Indian culinary tradition of the thali—a platter featuring a variety of small dishes—with his long-standing love of local/seasonal ingredients and ambitious Northwest cuisine.

Matt Dillon's locally focused Sitka & Spruce is world-famous, and rightfully so. Preparations revolve around simple, clear, lovely flavors sauces are sparing nothing's overwrought and the freshest produce, meat, and seafood meet again and again with the utmost care.

1531 14th Ave, 251-7673

The interior is picturesque, with the kitchen on display as a portrait in craft. The noise level gets high, as do the prices. Still, Spinasse is one of Seattle's most delicious places.

550 19th Ave E, 860-0077

Linda Derschang—of Linda's, King's Hardware, Smith, Oddfellows, and Bait Shop—runs this airy, stylish-but-not-trying-too-hard-to-be-stylish restaurant, named after her daughter and located on a quiet corner. The simple, seasonal menu is "vegetable-driven without being vegetarian"—think big salads, whole grains, and a few good quality meats.

1501 17th Ave E, 328-3155

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

Volunteer Park Cafe's focus: simple food, local ingredients. Where an old-timey corner store used to be, VPC serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner: fresh baked goods, brioche French toast, panini, pot pies, artisan pizzas, seasonal entrées (and also wine, beer, and meals to go).

Central District/Madrona/Madison Valley

The Barbecue Pit

2509 E Cherry St, 724-0005

The pitmaster, Pookie, smokes his excellent meat using fallen branches collected from throughout the Central District. Note: Cash only!

1114 34th Ave, 324-3039

Bistro Turkuaz serves delicious Turkish food. It's family-run, and mom does the cooking. Half the menu is small dishes: baked feta, eggplant in yogurt, hummus. The other half is kebabs: lamb, beef, and more.

2901 E Madison St, 325-9100

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

Cafe Flora was born in 1991 of a utopian dream. It was to be—according to three Madison Valley friends—the perfect restaurant: community-based, using local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and fully, ambitiously vegetarian. Years later, it remains a Seattle destination for upscale meat-free cuisine, presenting rigorously ethical, ecofriendly cuisine that's good enough to inspire lust in vegetarians.

Harvest Vine

2701 E Madison St, 320-9771

Harvest Vine has been serving tapas in Madison Valley since before anyone knew how to pronounce it: aged Spanish cheeses, anchovies, seared sea scallops, mushrooms sautéed with leeks and scrambled eggs, a whole pan-fried trout, Spanish ham.

1410 34th Ave, 325-7905

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch

A Madrona institution, Hi Spot has been drawing lines for its baked goods, scrambles, pancakes, and salads for the 30-plus years it has been open.

2605 E Cherry St, 860-1724

Flavors burn a little brighter at Meskel, and the menu extends beyond the standard wots (bebere-spiced stews), tibs (cubed-meat sautés), and veggie combos. And 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. Also, for summertime: outdoor seating!

1919 S Jackson St, 322-3378

Sometimes, through a weird confluence of perfect spices and glutinous magic, fake meat is better than actual meat. This is the case at Moonlight Cafe. The Vietnamese veggie, soy, and fake-meat dishes are so good, there's no reason to stray to their formerly sentient counterparts, though a bona fide meat menu is also offered.

1913 S Jackson St, 328-8320

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Besides making tofu and soy milk in-house, Northwest Tofu serves very good dim sum—cooked to order instead of served off a cart—in their small dining room every day. You can also get congee and, of course, the freshest tofu ever.

Emmett Watson's Oyster Bar

1916 Pike Place #16, 448-7721

The place's motto is "Beer, Wine, and Food for Thought, Est. 1978," and while the whole place is great, the small bar in the back is the greatest. Oysters on the half shell are the obvious choice, served no-nonsense with cocktail sauce and lemon. Also excellent: the clam chowder.

700 Virginia St, 443-1233

FareStart serves lunch Monday through Friday, and every Thursday evening hosts Guest Chef Night featuring dinners from great Seattle chefs—reserve in advance for your favorites, as these tend to sell out fast. All restaurant proceeds support FareStart's mission to provide "a community that transforms lives by empowering homeless and disadvantaged men, women, and families to achieve self-sufficiency through life skills, job training and employment in the food service industry." FareStart is a fantastic thing, and you should go there often.

Il Corvo, which means "the crow," is a place for handmade pasta lunches brought to you by chef Mike Easton. Easton makes his pasta with vintage hand-cranked machines, tops it with made-to-order sauces and seasonal vegetables, and serves it for less than $10 per plate. It's really, really good.

Jack's is a no-frills affair. You can buy fresh seafood, or line up to order freshly fried oysters, fish 'n' chips, or piping-hot bowls of chowder. It's the freshness that you're paying for, not ambience—if you're lucky, you can snag a bar stool or a place to stand at Jack's tiny counter area, surrounded by buckets of ice and Dungeness crab.

1933 First Ave, 256-1499

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Unfussy, delicious, uncluttered, wonderful. Here is the place to enjoy all the amazing things the French do to meat—rillettes, confit, pâté. Soups and fish and salads and everything else are marvelous, too.

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

Thierry Rautureau, aka the Chef in the Hat, formerly of Rover's and still of Luc, runs this 4,000-square-foot French restaurant downtown. Loulay goes big on rich, French flavors—foie gras, pork cheeks, rib eye steak, duck confit—and old-school flourishes. There are few places in town where you can indulge on this level.

94 Pike St #32, 467-7909

Matt's is an intensely pleasant place to be, overlooking the Pike Place Market with views of the big clock and glinting slices of the Sound—there aren't too many tables crammed in, everyone seems to be a regular, there's a celebratory air. The dinner menu changes regularly, featuring lots of very fresh seafood.

2030 Fifth Ave, 448-2001

Hands down the best of Tom Douglas's 436 Seattle restaurants, Palace Kitchen will please both out-of-town visitors and jaded locals. It's a longtime (since 1996!) late-night favorite for those who have the cash—the full menu is served until one o'clock in the morning. The Palace Burger is possibly the original gourmet burger in the city.

Eastlake/South Lake Union

125 Boren Ave N, 682-2513

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Dark and swanky, this 24-hour dining den blends a mid-1970s bachelor-pad vibe with pricey, retro grill fare. The Coins is most famous for its seating—both the row of high-backed cushy swivel chairs at the long counter and the cushy-walled booths. The food can be hit-or-miss, but if you need a steak-and-lobster combo at 4:30 in the morning, this is your place.

2238 Eastlake Ave E, 329-2744

Where Sitka & Spruce started out, then Nettletown lived, chef Charles Walpole has his own, also great, tiny first restaurant. The pig here is on one deep-orange-red wall, in the form of a taxidermied boar's head, and on the menu, maybe in the form of pork belly with the fat all bacony-crisp and the meat all rich, plus little, sweet baby turnips, braised red cabbage, and the surprise of horseradish jam. The menu is seasonable, the prices are reasonable, fishes are cooked precisely right, sauces may cause sharing issues.

121 E Boston St, 859-4155

Longtime favorite Italian restaurant Serafina's more casual (and more fun) little sister serves cocktails, wine, and small plates inspired by the version of tapas found in Venice, much of it made in the kitchen's wood-burning oven.

3230 Eastlake Ave E, 328-6523

Without a doubt, Le Fournil is one of the best bakeries in town—everyone agrees, especially about the croissants. (Get the croissants.)

2020 Westlake Ave, 623-1922

Born at the beginning of 2010, Mistral Kitchen is a mammoth, starkly contemporary space on Westlake with multiple kitchens, dining options from à la carte crudos to eight-course set menus, and a bar serving craft cocktails. The financially challenged can get a look/taste/sip at happy hour.

609 Eastlake Ave E, 420-2320

Pam's Kitchen makes delicious (and reasonably priced!) Caribbean/Trinidadian food, specifically a goat curry wrapped in fried flatbread roti.

Fremont/Wallingford

Bourbon & Bones

4350 Leary Way NW, 582-2241

Brought to you by Michael Law—formerly of the Wandering Goose—Bourbon & Bones smokes meats in its huge, on-site smokehouse, which has a window so you can watch the meat. Also: fried chicken and all the usual sides, plus tons of booze, all in a cozy barroom setting.

Brouwer's Cafe

400 N 35th St, 267-2437

Belgian cuisine offers all kinds of peasanty things: steamed mussels, frites, the creamy chicken-leek stew known as waterzooi, the beer-braised beef stew known as carbonnade. All of these are served at Brouwer's, and the kitchen gets the flavors right. And if you love beer, you're gonna freak out on the 64 taps and 300-plus bottles.

3506 Stone Way N, 632-5685

Joule relocated from its original location on 45th into a refurbished warehouse on Stone Way in late 2012 chef/owners Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi's Korean-influenced cuisine is, possibly, better than ever. The highly stylish space has great wallpaper, a communal table, and a neato fire pit in front.

2208 N 45th St, 632-4545

Seattle finally has a soba joint! From Mutsuko Soma—formerly of Harvest Vine, Chez Shea, and Saito's—Miyabi 45th offers esoteric delights like the "famous uni shot" and skate wings with pickled plum, along with the main attraction, soba made in-house from Washington grain. Served hot or cold, with or without broth, the mildly bouncy, delicately earthy buckwheat noodles come in a variety of guises, some hearty (duck and leek), some light (mushrooms and truffle oil).

3501 Stone Way N, 547-2967

The best fish 'n' chips in the city.

4225 Fremont Ave N, 545-7440

After its sudden, traumatic closure in 2014, Paseo promptly reopened under new ownership that promised to change nothing. Go back and order the roast pork sandwich and see for yourself.

403 N 36th St, 547-2040

Korean-inspired street food from Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule. Think pork-belly pancakes, short-rib dumplings, Dungeness crab noodles, and rice bowls topped with grilled meats and house-made kimchi. Also: good cocktails, soju, and creative desserts.

4201 Fremont Ave N, 547-5420

Restaurant Roux is the sit-down place from Where Ya at Matt's Matthew Lewis, named after the combination of hot butter and flour that starts out lots of recipes in his native New Orleans. At Roux, you can expect the same food that made Matt's truck famous—from jambalaya and gumbo to beignets and pecan pie—plus some fancier French Creole–inspired stuff like seared foie gras with Benton's country ham and spicy turtle and pork Bolognese.

4300 Fremont Ave N, 557-7532

RockCreek offers "globally sourced" seafood, which, in the current local-obsessed climate, is both courageous (carbon footprint be damned!) and off-putting (carbon footprint be damned?). But chef/owner Eric Donnelly—formerly of Toulouse Petit—makes some of Seattle's best seafood at RockCreek. There may be missteps, but overall, it's food that makes you happy to be alive, regardless of where the fish flew in from.

2501 N Northlake Way, 552-8215

Chef Zoi Antonitsas (formerly of the late, great Madison Park Conservatory) turns her attention to seafood, with an eye for fresh, Greek flavors. The results are wonderful: fried squid with skordalia, baked gigante beans with tomato feta, grilled haloumi cheese. Don't miss the whole wood-grilled trout.

Georgetown/Sodo

The Corson Building

5609 Corson Ave S, 762-3330

While trains intermittently rumble past and small planes occasionally scream overhead, the Corson Building (c. 1910) sits behind its wisteria-and-rose-covered wrought-iron fence, an island of loveliness marooned in Georgetown's grit. Inside, everything's picturesquely rustic and seating is communal. Matt Dillon's reverence for the local and the seasonal is everywhere in evidence. Dinner here is always a special occasion.

3201 First Ave S, 403-1228

Masterminded by Travis Kukull, Gastropod occupies Epic Ales' tiny, clubhouse-style tasting room in Sodo and has a short but fascinating menu, which might include miso/black garlic-baked Hama Hama oysters and roasted brussels sprout okonomiyaki with soy truffle emulsion. The not-all-that-small plates are, in general, goddamned great, and the Epic beers are interesting and generally wonderful, too.

Georgetown Liquor Company

5501 Airport Way S, 763-6764

Georgetown Liquor Company doesn't actually make booze, but it's a neighborhood favorite for drinks as well as high-minded vegetarian pub grub (creative salads, soups, sandwiches, wild mushroom tamales, etc.). They also have vintage arcade machines as well as assorted Atari and Nintendo consoles.

Kauai Family Restaurant

6324 Sixth Ave S, 762-3469

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

The most authentic Hawaiian food in town—loco moco, Spam musubi, poi, saimin, plate lunches/dinners, macaroni salad—is found in a strip mall in Georgetown, and the place is low-key, friendly, and overall great. Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino dishes are also available, all prepared "local" (Hawaiian) style.

1024 S Bailey St, 767-5002

Mostly a family-run Japanese grocery, Maruta is also home to a to-go lunch counter where you can order comfort food like chicken kara-age, bento boxes with pork tonkatsu, and good sushi. Bonus: At 5 p.m. every day, all the sushi is marked down to half price—a great deal, if you can beat the crowds!

Schooner Exact Brewery

3901 First Ave S, 432-9734

Tucked away deep in Sodo, Schooner Exact does many things right: great beer, way better than average pub food (beer-steamed clams, petite tender steak, and an "adult grilled cheese" sandwich made with Swiss on rye bread), and most important, some of the best service in town. The restaurant here is truly kid-friendly.

Slim's Last Chance Chili Shack

5606 First Ave S, 762-7900

Slim's has a great country-time roadhouse vibe in summertime, bands play on the bed of an old Ford F-600 in the big backyard while happy people sweat over bowls of liquid meat, then cool down with pitchers of beer. The chili ranges from traditional (Texas Red) to alternative (turkey and white bean). They're all good, and served either straight-up or, ingeniously, ladled over your choice of white cheddar grits or jalapeño mac 'n' cheese.

5513 Airport Way S, 763-1660

At Stellar, a favorite spot in Georgetown since 2001, the atmosphere is pleasant retro hodgepodge, the pizzas are classic American-style instead of namby-pamby Neapolitan, and there's pinball. Also a photo booth and a designated all-ages zone.

Greenwood/Phinney

8549 Greenwood Ave N, 782-9260

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

The Baranof is a crusty old diner that feels like it's been open forever, complete with an awesome nautical-themed dive bar that's open from 6 a.m. until two o'clock in the morning every damn day (also of note: karaoke!). The food is unexpectedly good, especially the clam chowder and the roasted-turkey sandwich. Saturday-morning bingo in the bar is completely fun and totally surreal.

6501 Aurora Ave N, 420-8548

Bongos serves delicious Caribbean food with zero pretensions, and the restaurant is practically a theme-park ride. It's a repurposed 76 station made into a Caribbean playground, with the help of a splash of colorful paint and a thorough reimagining of the space. Don't miss the maduros, deep-fried sweet plantains.

8420 Greenwood Ave N, 706-9300

This tiny spot serves good baba ghanoush and falafel and decent gyros. But it's one of the only places in town where you can get the wonderful Egyptian carb-fest known as koshary: rice, elbow macaroni, and lentils tossed in a spiced tomato sauce and topped with caramelized onions.

8532 Greenwood Ave N, 782-0533

From the outside, La Conasupo appears to be another typical mini-mart. But in the back is a tiny restaurant with a poster-board menu. Sunday morning is the time to come, when La Conasupo serves barbacoa—slow-roasted lamb wrapped in maguey leaves. For $5 you get a steaming mountain of meat served over corn tortillas and—even better—a bowl of rich, deeply flavorful consommé made from the drippings.

Naked City Brewing & Taphouse

8564 Greenwood Ave N, 838-6299

Greenwood's Naked City Brewery & Taphouse, named for the slow-moving 1948 film noir, sports a rotating selection of great draft beers and ciders, many of them house-brewed or regional—as well as a menu of very good made-from-scratch salads, sandwiches, and entrées.

6822 Greenwood Ave N, 706-6673

Delicious cocktails and a small but well-curated menu of bar snacks cooked in a kitchen that's little more than a few burners: garlic truffled popcorn, lacinato kale with chili flakes, and tomato soup with a fancy grilled cheese.

International District

418 Eighth Ave S, 340-1388

That the fresh spring rolls at Green Leaf are superior to any other fresh rolls in the city is simply fact. Inside are tiny sprigs of mint, a giant hunk of lettuce, a few vermicelli noodles, and, if you're into meat, some shrimp and/or pork (or, if you're not, tofu and/or no tofu). There is also a long stick of crunchiness inserted for extra texture. It's the size of a cinnamon stick, and crunchy like lightly fried dough, and it seals the superiority of Green Leaf's fresh rolls for eternity.

King Noodle

615 S King St, 748-9168

Formerly known as Homestyle HK Cafe, King Noodle may or may not have changed ownership when it switched over to its current format, which allows diners to build their own bowls of soup. Choose from a variety of noodles (thin or wide, rice, wheat, or egg), veggies, meats, and dumplings. You also can't go wrong with congee here, which arrives bubbling in a hot stone pot.

304 Sixth Ave S, 622-2631

In its 100-plus years of existence, Maneki has only had one major interruption to business: when it shut down because the US government sent Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II. After the war, in 1946, internees returned to the city and reclaimed their belongings from a space in the NP Hotel that has since been the restaurant's home. Maneki is pure comfort, serving izakaya and very reasonably priced sushi six nights a week. Do everyone a favor and call ahead for a reservation.

418 Maynard Ave S, 389-7099

The best thing about Mike's isn't actually the wonderful, warming bowls of noodle soups and congee (and it's certainly not the completely indifferent wait staff), it's the chance to peer from the dining room through the big picture window into the kitchen, watching the cooks work efficiently among cauldrons of bubbling broth and simmering noodles, and assemble dishes with as much focus as they do ease.

Phnom Penh Noodle House

660 S King St, 748-9825

The Fishermen's Bowl at Phnom Penh Noodle House contains a mix of seafood that is just right—not too much of any one thing, but a lot to look forward to, including prawns, tender calamari, fat slices of spiced fish cake, and springy fish balls (the hot dog of Asia). It's topped with green onion, cilantro, and roasted garlic add the house-made roasted chili and a squeeze of lime to spice it up. Plop some bean sprouts on top for a fresh crunch. Slurp the perfectly balanced herbed broth, chew the perfectly cooked slender rice noodles, and revel in the sea bounty.

1237 S Jackson St, 322-3700

All cheapo foodsters know about the $2.50 banh mi sandwiches from Saigon Deli. But what about all those non-white-people foods on the counter? They are strange and unfamiliar and oddly beautiful, and if you're ready to try something new, here's an easy first step: Try the little rolls that look like fat white slugs with colorful things inside. They are rice-flour wraps that contain shrimp, green onion, and carrot—and they cost $1.75. They're called a banh bot loc. Kind of like softer, gooier spring rolls, they're served at room temperature with a side of sweet dipping sauce.

1048 S Jackson St, 720-1690

If you're rolling with a group of friends, you'd be wise to order Sichuanese's hot pot, so you can share the joy of boiling lamb slices and napa cabbage in a fiery broth right at your table. If you want the kitchen to do the cooking, you can't go wrong with the hand-pulled pork chow mein, pepper chicken, and stir-fried lamb.

406 Fifth Ave S, 327-4838

The food at Thai Curry Simple is simply great (and very reasonably priced). The green curry is the standout, with generous amounts of shredded chicken, lime leaves, and big hunks of bamboo shoot.

515 S Main St, 467-4004

A diminutive, unpretentious Japanese joint serving old standbys and unusual delicacies with very little fuss, Tsukushinbo is one of the best sushi deals in town. Note that from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, a stellar shoyu ramen is served. They usually run out by 1 p.m. The rarity of this ramen—the brief opening of this ramen-window—makes it all the more precious.

North End/Aurora

Aloha Ramen

3004 NE 127th St, 838-3837

Aloha Ramen has a classic Japanese ramen-ya menu: noodles, fried rice, gyoza. Some dishes are tweaked island-style, like the deeply gratifying kalua ramen: a tangle of eggy, spaghetti-thick noodles (imported from Hawaii) topped with smoky braised shreds of pork and silky cabbage. Owner and chef Lorenzo Rangel makes only enough chicken and pork stock each day for 100 bowls—a sign on the door apologizes profusely for this fact, a reflection of the sweetness of this family-style joint. Does Aloha make the best ramen in town? Plenty of people say hell yes.

9820 Aurora Ave N, 522-2044

Yes, there's Dick's Drive-In, but it's a fraud compared to Burgermaster, where you can actually pull in to the parking lot, order a fantastic, cooked-to-order burger (onion rings too, while you're at it), and eat it, all without ever leaving your car. Burgermaster rules.

11728 Aurora Ave N, 367-2777

Yes, there's a brick-and-mortar El Camion in Ballard now, but before that (and before the two other El Camion trucks), there was the original El Camion parked next to the Home Depot up north on Aurora, which built its reputation churning out tasty tacos and tortas.

Pop Pop Thai Street Food

13242 Aurora Ave N, Suite 104, 695-2858

Pop Pop feels warm and personal—almost defiantly so—in spite of its sterile, strip-mall surroundings. The owners' vision is to "bring home-cooking to our customers," including excellent, hard-to-find dishes such as braised pork leg and red sea noodle soup.

Pioneer Square

323 Occidental Ave S, 682-1117

Bar Sajor (pronounced sigh-YOUR) is brought to you by Matt Dillon (Sitka & Spruce and the Corson Building, and James Beard Best Chef Northwest 2012). Sajor serves food influenced by North Africa, Portugal, and Spain. It has a wood-fired oven and a wood-fired grill and rotisserie for lots of Stokesberry chickens—no stove and no range. Also: flatbread, simple roasted vegetables, house-made yogurt, excellent seafood, and "lots of naturally fermented goodness," like whey-fermented pickles. It is really, really good.

221 First Ave S, 838-0339

Long ago, a Seattleite named Victor Twu met a German woman while traveling in Thailand. Romance ensued. During their courtship, Twu also fell in love with the German doner sandwich, a sort of Turkish gyro made from lamb, and decided to share that love with the city. Berliner's doner is a fine specimen of a sandwich: not-too-thick flatbread, marinated lamb, spicy mayo, a tangle of fresh veggies, and pickled red cabbage.

116 First Ave S, 946-1283

Bryn Lumsden (who has tended bar at Rob Roy, Vessel, and Vito's) teamed up with Jay Kuehner (beloved from Sambar) and Eli Dahlin (who's cooked at the Walrus and the Carpenter) to open this spot, named after an old-time cocktail. The classic Pioneer Square brick space looks just right, and the drinks and food are delicious, with just the right mix of classic and unexpected elements. Think chicken fat fries with lemon and ras el hanout, a Caesar salad sandwich, and beef heart tartare.

208 First Ave S, 641-7250

The front half of E. Smith is the mercantile part, where you'll find things like expensive denim and facial products for sale. But tucked away in the back is a charming, horseshoe-shaped bar where they make lovely craft cocktails and serve snacks such as smoked trout crostini and lamb meatballs. Keep an eye out for evening dinners, when E. Smith invites a chef to take over the space and cook a one-night-only dinner served at communal tables.

100 Prefontaine Pl S, 682-2175

Manuel Alfau used to make his Dominican sandwiches on a grill in front of Capitol Hill bar Montana. At his tiny, vibrant place in Pioneer Square, what you want to get is the puerco asado: a slow-roasted pork shoulder sandwich, topped with chopped cabbage and pickled onions, served on a Macrina roll. The marinated pork is so soft and juicy, you could practically spread it with a butter knife, but the secret weapon is chimichurri, which is oily and vibrant with a garlicky kick.

300 Occidental Ave S, 624-1374

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

The lovely, airy London Plane is a cafe, bakery, wine bar, and groceries-and-flowers-and-sundries shop brought to you by Katherine Anderson (Marigold and Mint) and Matt Dillon (Sitka & Spruce, the Corson Building, and Bar Sajor). The bread is so good, you might freak out, and you can pretty much bet that you will get an excellent breakfast, lunch, or snack here.

Rain Shadow Meats Squared

404 Occidental Ave S, 467-4854

In opening a second location of his butcher shop featuring locally sourced cuts of meat and house-made sausages and charcuterie, Rain Shadow owner Russel Flint (who cooked for years at Renee Erickson's Boat Street Cafe) wisely added counter seating and a menu of salads and beautiful, meaty sandwiches.

309 Third Ave S, 621-8772

Armandino Batali's narrow storefront in Pioneer Square is world famous (his son is kind of a big deal, too) and duly mobbed (and rightfully so). At Salumi, you'll find fantastic house-cured Italian meats (various salamis, coppa, pancetta, prosciutto, tongue, cured lamb), along with hot and cold sandwiches. The sandwiches are delicious models of balance, designed to showcase the meat without giving any of the other elements short shrift.

159 Yesler Way, 264-8287

There's nothing scientific or precise about Tat's enormous, sloppy sandwiches they're just slapped together with the belief that more is always better. And at Tat's, that's right. Here you will find authentic cheesesteaks, Italian subs and grinders, hot pastrami sandwiches, roast beef, roast turkey, soups, and salads.

Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar

410 Occidental Ave S, 501-4060

It's easy to serve great seafood when you happen to be your own supplier. At the Pioneer Square location of Taylor Shellfish, there's no retail shop, just a full bar and a full menu of fresh oysters, geoduck, mussels, and Dungeness crab, as well as hot entrées like chowder and oyster po'boys.

Ravenna/University District

Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club

1303 NE Boat St, 545-8570

Begin by paddling away from the Agua Verde Paddle Club with someone you like. Proceed in tandem to marvel at the water, at the Montlake Bridge as seen from beneath, at the beauty of our fair city, and at the richness of life itself. Upon paddling back, toast each other and it all with Agua Verde's margaritas, made with fresh juices, whilst enjoying excellent fish tacos. Yes!

4139 University Way NE, 632-5253

Aladdin Gyro-cery's falafel and gyro sandwiches are perfect student food: cheap, fast, filling, portable. That the gyros happen to be delicious is an added bonus. If you're drunk and hungry on the Ave, they're open until 2 a.m. (3 a.m. on Saturdays)!

5828 Roosevelt Way NE, 523-5282

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

Cafe Racer is a hodgepodge of mismatched furniture, weird stuff on shelves, and, of course, the OBAMA (Official Bad Art Museum of Art). The menu is simple, with Racer Dogs being the clear favorite. Cafe Racer is an embodiment of the triumph of the human spirit.

7845 Lake City Way NE, 527-8888

Chiang's has four menus: an Americanized Chinese menu, with all the usual suspects a traditional Chinese menu, full of authentic dishes that you probably didn't know even existed a secret vegetarian menu that you have to ask for and an especially wonderful weekend Taiwanese made-to-order dim-sum menu. Or you can just let them bring you things you will like (hint: YES). It is all very, very delicious.

Chili's South Indian Restaurant

5002 University Way NE, 412-0874

Chili's stands out—and not just because it serves South Indian cuisine, which you usually have to drive east to Bellevue to find. Its dosas—large, thin crepelike pancakes made from a fermented rice and black lentil batter—are always perfectly toasted, crackly and thin at the edges. Also, the owners are possibly the nicest people in town.

Frank's Oyster House & Champagne Parlor

2616 NE 55th St, 525-0220

Ravenna favorite Frank's atmosphere is upscale-ish eclectic, and same with the menu—mini Maine lobster rolls, fried free-range chicken, and, of course, oysters.

4543 University Way NE, 548-9548

If you sit at the counter, you'll have to avoid flying grease from the grill and cram elbow-to-elbow with the other sweating customers, but that's a small price to pay for watching the genius chef gracefully manipulate seven burners simultaneously. It's all incredible. Go at lunchtime and you might just get a seat.

1215 NE 65th St, 524-7082

Pies & Pints offers not pizzas or mom's apple pie, but made-from-scratch savory pies stuffed with meat, veggies, and cheese, in a comfortable, laid-back setting. A pint of beer is the natural addition.

4219 S Othello St, 568-3019

Chef/owner Jose Luis Pantiga-Flores and his wife Ana are ready to welcome you. The family-owned Mexican place is especially beloved for its namesake huaraches—corn cake "sandals" smeared with beans and topped with cheese, meat, and veggies. But don't skip over the excellent platos fuertes, including a terrific cochinita pibil.

Loretta's Northwesterner

8617 14th Ave S, 327-9649

This South Park bar is comfortable to a degree that could be hazardous to your liver's health. Drinking at Loretta's is like drinking in a cabin in the woods, or maybe inside a wooden cigar box. The burgers are great, and so are the fries.

8515 14th Ave S, 763-3484

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Damn good tacos—and the price is right. The array of meats includes tripe and brains and such—but for the less daring, the pork variations are all delicious, as is the deep-red, fiery pozole.

6400 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S, 760-1090

It's not on Rainier, and it's not barbecue—it's on MLK, and the food is Vietnamese. Excellent Vietnamese, which enjoyed 15 minutes of well-deserved fame when Anthony Bourdain visited and featured it on his television show The Layover. The extensive menu is more than enough to satisfy, but if you ask for the "other" menu, you can try cobra, deer, alligator, or curry rabbit stir-fry.

West Seattle/White Center

4737 California Ave SW, 923-0534

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

You'll know you're near Bakery Nouveau before you see it—the smell of buttery dough baking, the line leading down California Ave. You'll find everything from breads to sweet pastries, delicate cakes, confections, and macarons, as well as savory sandwiches on croissants that shatter when you bite into them.

3520 SW Genesee St, 937-7676

A West Seattle (and possibly citywide) obsession. People come just for the crispy garlic chicken (dubbed "crack chicken" by many)—fried chicken sautéed in plenty of garlic, with dried red chilies and crispy basil leaves.

6032 California Ave SW, 938-9000

Tiny, zero-pretense Harry's is the neighborhood chicken joint you always wished for, and the chicken—soaked in buttermilk for 24 hours, double-dredged in a spicier-than-normal mix, then smoked before being fried in big-ass cast-iron cauldrons—is just great.

9622-A 16th Ave SW, 432-9765

White Center's Proletariat—"By the people, for the people"—is sandwiched cozily on the main drag. Pies topped with the usual suspects, as well as more bourgeoisie stuff (prosciutto, egg), are $20 and less. The hand-mixed crust is New York thin and pliable, nicely retaining its crispness.

9808 14th Ave SW, 767-8363

Queen's Deli serves wonderful Khmer food in an unsuspecting little joint just off the main part of White Center: fragrant, grilled lemongrass beef skewers, briny and tart green papaya salad, wok-charred wide rice noodles. If you have trouble navigating the menu, just follow the owner's suggestions or point to dishes at one of the nearby tables, no doubt packed with families enjoying massive feasts.

1719 SW Roxbury St, 762-4064

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

The pupusas here—hand-formed corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and other fillings—are awesome. Top them with the house-made curtido, a pickled-cabbage concoction (briny, spicy, lively) that falls somewhere between salsa and kimchi.


The Breakfast You Pay $1,500 a Night Just to Have

Soufflé Pancakes at Twin Farms,_ _Barnard, Vermont

Nestled in the Vermont forest, this bucolic all-inclusive getaway is home to America&rsquos most perfect pancakes. Since 1993, each acting chef (currently, Nathan Rich) has carried on a tradition every morning of flipping light-as-air, soufflé-style pancakes in the Main House. The secret is egg whites whipped into stiff peaks and then folded into the batter. The addition of seasonal, often locally grown fruit results in flavors that change daily &ndash sweet raspberry-almond, citrusy lemon-poppy-seed, creamy banana-chocolate. What remains constant is a breakfast that&rsquos quite possibly better than any dessert and ends only when you&rsquore too full for more. Doubles from $1,500, all-inclusive.


Bar Sajor: Savor Chef Matt Dillon's Mediterranean-inflected menu - Recipes

In the wee hours of last night I started on Part 1 of the Best Dishes I ate in the past year. Here, in chronological order, picking up right around mid-year, is Part 2, starting with a couple great things at the sadly now-closed BoxPark, then a trek through the Pacific Northwest, including the magnificent Willows Inn (my favorite meal of the year), along with a brief visit to New Orleans and several more great dishes here in Miami.

(You can see pictures of all of them in this 2013 Best Dishes flickr set).

Everglades Gumbo - BoxPark (Brickell) (my thoughts on BoxPark)

Chef Matt Hinckley’s version [of gumbo], like a lot of things at BoxPark from the house-made charcuterie to the “Brickell Pickles,” uses almost all locally sourced ingredients, some from rather unusual places. He makes his own andouille sausage using invasive feral pigs trapped by local farmers. Ruby red shrimp are seasonally harvested from deep waters off Florida’s east coast. Those “nuisance gators” that are often removed from local golf courses and swimming pools also go into the pot. Okra comes from independent Homestead farms. The sassafras for the gumbo filé is supplied by a small local family farm, then dried and ground into a powder at the restaurant. Even the salt comes from solar evaporated seawater harvested in the Florida Keys.

The result is not much to look at: a ruddy, roux-thickened stew studded with various bits and pieces. But what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in flavor: the tender, curled shrimp, the mildly aquatic alligator meat, the spicy, intensely porcine wild boar sausage, the vegetal snap of the okra, the subtle, complex aroma of sassafras, all supported by a backbeat of peppery heat and bound in a velvety, tomato-speckled broth. It’s a perfect combination of surf and turf and earth that is truly of this place.

Charcuterie - BoxPark (Brickell) (my thoughts on BoxPark)

Hinckley's charcuterie was also exceptional - more rustic in style than that at DB Bistro, which also made my list, but every bit as flavorful. This platter included duck prosciutto, porchetta di testa, lonza, saucisson sec, biltong, and some silky duck rillettes. Last I heard, Hinckley and partner / pastry chef Crystal Cullison were moving to New York - which is a real loss for Miami, but I'm eager to see what they do next.

Crepe with Salmon Roe, Maple Cream and Chive - Willows Inn (Lummi Island, WA) (my thoughts on Willows Inn)

A crisp delicate crepe shell wraps itself around a filling of salmon roe, maple cream and chives. It is creamy, salty, and sweet, the fresh green herb complimenting the roe's marine brine. It is also head-smackingly delicious.

Blackberries with Juice of Herbs and Grasses - Willows Inn (Lummi Island, WA) (my thoughts on Willows Inn)

And then, for the first course, a dish that captures a sense of place possibly more perfectly than any other I've had. Plump blackberries rest in a pool of an emerald green juice of herbs and grasses, garnished with more of those same delicate herbs and their flowers. It is, very much literally, the landscape right outside the restaurant, on a plate.

Hay Aged Smoked Quail - Wildebeest (Vancouver, BC) (my thoughts on Wildebeest)

But obviously, a place called "Wildebeest" is really about the meat. And it's great stuff here - prepared simply but thoughtfully and presented essentially ungarnished. Quail is hay aged, and then smoked, brought to the table with a wad of still-smoking straw protruding from its carcass. The intense flavor of the tiny bird's flesh, still rosy-hued, belies its size. Served with little dipping bowls of a fermented wild berry honey and a salt and pepper mix, and just begging to be eaten with one's hands, this was one of the best birds I ate all year.

"Dan Dan" Kohlrabi - Pidgin (Vancouver, BC)

I've not yet written about Pidgin, in Vancouver, but it was one of the best meals we've had all year - a testament to the notion that "fusion" cuisine is back from the dead, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. This dish - "Dan Dan" Kohlrabi - is a great example. With the classic Sichuan noodle dish, Dan Dan Mien, as a starting point, virtually every component gets reinvented. In place of the noodles, long strands of kohlrabi. In place of the ground pork and sesame paste, a rich sauce of tofu and miso, with a sprinkle of slivered almonds and scallions. A smart, surprising and exciting dish, like just about everything we tried at Pidgin.

Dungeness Crab - Bar Sajor (Seattle, WA)

Another great meal I've not yet written about was at Bar Sajor, Chef Matthew Dillon's latest venture in Seattle. Simple, honest, focused cooking, almost all of it done over open fire or in a wood-burning hearth. There was a lot we liked, but I particularly enjoyed this Dungeness Crab, cooked in the fireplace, served with nothing more than some plump lobster mushrooms braised in garlic, smashed lemon cucumbers, and a scatter of purslane.

Lamb Shoulder - Michael Solomonov (Zahav, Philadelphia), Harry's Pizzeria pop-up dinner

I make regular stops at Harry's Pizzeria for their pizzas - but one of the best things they do is the series of visiting chef "pop-up" dinners that Michael Schwartz has orchestrated. Over the past couple years, he has brought some of the top chefs from around the country in to Miami to cook with him and his crew. Service is casual and family style, wine is poured freely, and the food is usually great. I was crushed when I had a short business trip to Philadelphia earlier this year and couldn't make time to get into Michael Solomonov's Israeli-inspired Zahav. I was thrilled when Schwartz brought him in for a dinner. The highlight was Solomonov's braised lamb shoulder, shiny with pomegranate molasses and served over tender chickpeas with a scatter of fresh mint.

Antonio Bachour's Desserts - Cobaya Tea Party at the St. Regis (Bal Harbour) (my thoughts on our Cobaya Tea Party with Antonio Bachour)

It would be impossible for me to pick a favorite among the dozens of desserts Antonio Bachour created for our Cobaya afternoon tea at the St. Regis in Bal Harbour So instead I've picked them all. Here's what I said then:

Bachour's desserts look spectacular but what I find truly remarkable is that his creations taste every bit as good as they look. I don't particularly have a sweet tooth, but still find his work utterly compelling. The flavors are vibrant, often echoing our tropical landscape. There's a great interplay of textures, almost always offering some combination of creamy and crunchy, rich and light to hold interest. These are not some of the best desserts I've tried in South Florida - they are some of the best I've had anywhere. I've said it to Antonio and will say here: we should feel very lucky to have this kind of talent here in Miami.

Glazed Carrots - "Kulinary Therapy" dinner at Josh's Deli (Surfside) (my thoughts on Josh's Deli)

I regret only getting to one of Josh Marcus' "Kulinary Therapy" dinners at his "faux deli" in Surfside. The one I did make was a collaboration with local artist LEBO, a/k/a David LeBatard, who offered to do some artistic plating if Josh kept the meal vegan. It maybe wasn't the most artistic of the plates, but my favorite dish of the night were these carrots, some halved and roasted, some thinly slivered, paired with an avocado-pistachio purée, raisins, arugula, flax seeds and a bit of pickled onion. I admire Josh's willingness to experiment, to push himself, and to play, and look forward to seeing what's to come when the deli opens up for dinner a few nights a week.

"Not the first, but the best!" our waiter said of the Oysters Rockefeller. I wouldn't argue. These were delightful, the oysters warmed through but not killed, the topping like a fine emerald cloud of spinach and absinthe (and about 20 other ingredients, according to our waiter, among which I suspect that fennel and leek figure prominently).

The tete de cochon was simply done, and excellent. A few thin slices of the pressed headcheese, striated with ribbons of silky fat, flavorful meat and the occasional firmer bits of ear. A few slices of egg, the whites firm but the yolks still barely runny. Pickled mustard seeds for a bit of contrast in flavor and texture. Tender peppery arugula leaves. I loved it.

Rotisserie Guinea Hen - The Cypress Room (Design District)

I fell in love with the space at The Cypress Room immediately. I took a little longer to warm up to the food. But my last couple of meals there have been excellent, highlighted by this rotisserie game hen, the bird presented whole, then carved in the kitchen, plated over some peppery arugula and soft herbs.

Risotto with Alba White Truffles - "Pink Collar" Cobaya charity dinner at Blue Collar (Miami Upper Eastside) (my thoughts on the "Pink Collar" dinner)

Given their expense, truffles are usually carefully guarded and parsimoniously administered, with some restaurants measuring out truffle supplements by the gram. So setting out a few golf ball sized Alba truffles for each table was a pretty luxurious approach. These were some really magnificently fragrant truffles too - out of the ground four days ago, per Danny's supplier (Mikuni Wild Harvest). And while a Microplane may not be as elegant as those fancy shavers that shower thin slices of truffle, it did a nice job of releasing their musky perfume into the creamy, saffron and pecorino laced risotto. This was extravagant and delicious.

Veal Brains Meuniere - Cobaya dinner at PB Steak (Miami Beach) (my thoughts on our CobayaBelly dinner)

On my last visit to Pubbelly I had an excellent veal brain dish, done very classically in a meuniere style with brown butter and a sauce gribiche. It was on the menu as something of a try-out for the next upcoming addition to the Pubbelly empire: L'Echon, a PB-style French brasserie in North Beach. This was perhaps the 2.0 version of that dish: the brains dyed jet-black by a squid ink and soy "black butter," served with roasted huitlacoche (a corn fungus with a truffle-like aroma), Oregon chanterelles and other mushrooms, sweet corn, fava beans, red-vein sorrel, and shards of parmigiano reggiano. It was a dramatic presentation and it was a fantastic dish. The brain's delicate texture is matched by a pure, clean - almost consommé-like - meaty essence of flavor, and though there were lots of other things on the plate, they complemented rather than overwhelmed the star of the dish.

This classic was the highlight of Andrew Carmellini and Conor Hanlon's "Trufflepalooza" dinner at Miami's The Dutch in late November. It was executed perfectly - flaky crust, rosy medium-rare beef tenderloin capped with a layer of truffled mushrooms, served with roasted chanterelles, a frothy truffle sabayon, a drizzle of foie jus, and a generous shaving of white truffles over the top. I've generally had good meals at The Dutch, but the special event dinners are truly special.

Pork Raviolo with Lardo and Matsutake Broth - Brad Kilgore, P.I.G.#4 (Wynwood)

Another outstanding experience I never got around to writing about, Jeremiah Bullfrog's P.I.G. #4 event at GAB Studios was the best yet: a team effort, with contributions from Aaron Brooks, Giorgio Rapicavoli, Brad Kilgore, Conor Hanlon, Antonio Bachour, Steve Santana from Broken Shaker, which also provided some cocktails, and beer from Gravity Brewlab. I'm not being glib when I say that every dish was great, but the standout among them for me was Brad Kilgore's deeply flavored pork raviolo in a lardo and matsutake broth, topped with delicate sea vegetables.

Gemelli with Key West Pink Shrimp and Sea Urchin - Cobaya dinner with Nina Compton at Scarpetta (Miami Beach) (my thoughts on Cobaya Nina)

Chef Compton is the self-proclaimed "Gnocchi Queen" but there would be no gnocchi tonight. Instead, she served these gemelli, a hearty twisted pasta with a great chew, paired with plump chopped Key West pink shrimp and a ricci di mare (sea urchin) sauce. There was a beautiful, deep clean oceanic flavor that permeated the dish (I'm guessing a reduced shrimp shell stock in addition to the sea urchin). Crispy bread crumbs and soft herbs provided just the right contrast in texture and flavor. This was one of the best pasta dishes I've tried all year.

And to wrap up 2013, a dish from one of the most recent openings of the year: Richard Hales' BlackBrick. Miami suffers from a serious Chinese food deficit, and Hales - who opened Sakaya Kitchen four years ago - is aiming to fix that. BlackBrick's expanding, ambitious menu dabbles much in hearty Sichuan flavors, and though I've only started to make a dent in it, I'm very excited by what I've tried. The Gung Bao Rabbit is a great example: crisp-edged nuggets of tender rabbit meat stir-fried with onions, peppers and a generous handful of roasted fresh chilies, topped with crunchy spicy peanuts and Sichuan pepper. Despite the small sample size, BlackBrick is my favorite new restaurant of the year.

I've said it the past couple years but it always bears repeating: thanks to everyone who made 2013 such an enjoyable year - all the chefs, line cooks, waitstaff, sommeliers, bartenders and busboys, all the farmers, fishermen and foragers, all the winemakers, brewers and distillers, all the guinea pigs who supported our Cobaya dining experiments, and all the great people I've had the good fortune to share meals with, both at the table and vicariously through reviews, blogs, tweets and pictures. As my grandfather used to wish us each year: always better, never worse.