Best escape for Anglophiles
I say, there's a good chap! Thanks, ever so! Indubitably, there are some among us who really did live out the advertisement for PBS in which, gauzed in by her four-poster canopy bed curtains, a young girl flirts with an accent she picked up watching Masterpiece Theater. We thought we could spurn the Darcys and Pips and Mr. Beans of the world, until—well, the advent of the Valley Girl. But when the cravings overcome us and we would like nothing better than to nibble a bit of hand-cut bread, a few radishes, and some marmite yeast, we know exactly where to go. The Crumpet Shop (1503 First, Pike Place Market, 682-1598) has been around since 1976, when it merely poured tea and served crumpets smothered in preserves like gooseberry and orange marmalade. Twenty-three years later, it's doing that and then some: cooked oats with steamed milk and honey in the mornings, crumpets with sweet and savory companions (pesto, cheese, scrambled eggs, Nutella, almond butter, smoked salmon), and perhaps the nicest, most brilliant homemade oat groat bread sandwich, complete with watercress, radishes (!), horseradish, cream cheese, red onions, mustard, salt, pepper, and cucumber. Besides the food, the shop offers a distinctive selection of loose teas (served hot or iced) for purchase and sipping, as well as teapots, tea infusers, and other accoutrements. This year marks the end of an era: Owners Gary Lasater and Nancy McFaul recently posted a sign announcing that they are looking for a buyer to expand the business, tempting us to nominate this gem for "best excuse to quit your current day job."
Best new dim sum
Here's a place that screams kitsch—not just the restaurant but also the newly opened mall that surrounds it: the Jumbo Chinese Restaurant (4208 Rainier S, 760-9200). For starters, the building is painted a cotton-candy peach. Besides food you get extravagant furniture, doll-like wedding gowns, and artificial flowers—all apparently popular with a certain segment of the southeast Asian crowd. But it doesn't pay to be snooty. The dim sum here is fresh and varied. You'll find all the staples: humbow, shrimp and pork dumplings, taro cakes, rice noodles filled with barbecued pork, egg tarts, stuffed eggplant and peppers, and much, much more. You'll also find some surprises, like pungent Chinese broccoli and a melt-in-your-mouth sesame bun that seems like the Chinese answer to cinnamon rolls. Dim sum is served every day till 3pm, and Jumbo's ample seating means no lines.
Best huevos rancheros
Ryan Ackerson and Katy Aversenti own and operate Cafe Venus (609 Eastlake E, 624-4516), a quirky, comfortable space with tomato-red walls and an offbeat assortment of space-age artifacts, including a Mars pinball machine. Of the decor, Aversenti says, "Both of us have always liked planets, and we're continuing the theme with a bar, which we'll add to the cafe in August. It'll be the Mars Bar—on Venus." Here on earth, however, is where huevos rancheros receive the most interesting treatment of this dish in all of Seattle. Beautifully presented on a base of gorgonzola-infused polenta with shallots, they're crowned with eggs as golden and white as a diamond ring. Slender slivers of carrot float around this treasure island, setting off the color of Ryan's fantastic ranchero sauce. Here's the secret ingredient: Ackerson roasts tomatillos, peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro, blends them together with a touch of Ibarra chocolate for sweetness and drizzles it over the eggs and black beans. It's topped off with roasted corn salsa, and then comes the coup de gr⣥: a generous dollop of sour cream flavored with cumin, lime juice, and a little brown sugar. Si, si, si!
Best cupcakes with testicles
Say it with a vagina! Order customized cakes to celebrate your favorite part, pal, position, or proclivity. Wallingford's landmark Erotic Bakery (2323 N 45th, 545-6969) has been creating edible nasty bits since 1986 and has long outlived would-be neighborhood censors. Owner Richard Prado serves our city's prurient pastry needs by sculpting florid freehand penii in attentive marzipan; homologous female parts in gynecological pinks with butter-cream pubes and sweet gelatinous spuz. The gift shop is like Archie McPhee without the V-chip, with romantic love staples like penile pencil erasers, body dessert toppings, candy underpants, and bi-gendered butt-cheek wrapping paper.
Best reason to become a vegetarian
The main problem with being a vegetarian is a social one: If you make a dinner date with unrepentant carnivores, where do you go? While there are plenty of places to eat with fellow green gullets—Caf順lora in Madison Park; Carmelita on Phinney; the Sunlight on Roosevelt; and the Green Cat, the ARO.space cafeteria, and vegan HQ the Globe, all on Capitol Hill—the choices for those engaged in interdietary relationships are limited, to say the least. So three cheers for the Elysian Brewery (1221 E Pike, 860-1920)! Aside from beer, they've got some of the best French fries you'll ever eat: thick-cut slabs of fresh potato, golden and crispy on the outside, tender and fluffy on the inside, always perfectly cooked. For another, you can get these French fries with a delicious burger or with a couple of choices of vegetarian sandwiches. The most persuasive of these is the Camden Cheese Steak, made with a beef substitute called "field roast." It's not quite as good as a Philly Cheese Steak—few things are—but it also doesn't make you feel guilty when you devour it all in one sitting. And if all this health proves too much for your robust constitution, you can always sit in the smoking section. Try doing that at a vegetarian restaurant.
Best dead snakes
They're boneless, skinless, fresh-frozen, and pan-ready. They've got rattlers, cobras, and pythons. Also in the edible reptile/amphibian department of Seattle's Finest Exotic Meats (17532 Aurora N, 546-4922): alligator tails, turtle parts, and frogs' legs. If you're hesitant about the creepers and crawlers, there's a fine selection of weird but warm-blooded, farm-raised meats in recognizable cuts in frozen little packages—like emu burgers, buffalo bums, yak patties, musk-ox filets, reindeer chops, whole wild turkeys, kangaroo steaks, and ostrich nostrils. You'll need more hand-holding here than at the QFC, so let the knowledgeable staff guide you: They cook up samples every Saturday from noon to 4—don't miss the wild-boar bacon!
Best mashed potatoes
Your mom never made mashers like the ones at Rover's (2808 E Madison, 325-3005). Mega-chef Thierry Rautureau's recipe: a pound of potatoes to a pound of butter. No meatloaf to be found at this joint, though, and gravy's quite a bit extra. Exquisite comfort food.
Best gas station chicken
Eat here, get gas! The chicken at Richlen's Super Mini (2220 E Union, 323-6775) is crispy-skinned, juicy, spicy, and greasy in a good way. All the popular parts are here—legs, thighs, breasts—served up hot with jo-jos or egg rolls in paper bags or styro with an astonishing array of 40-ouncers to choose from.The regulars are cultish over the fried turkey booties. The oil menu is extensive and exquisite, with an exhaustive list of weights, grades, and labels both domestic and imported. Gasoline choices were a little disappointing, though—limited to a single brand (Exxon), with only a few unremarkable offerings with the usual octane ratings and in the usual price range.
Best gland with a sauce
It's the veal thymus: a glandular structure of largely lymphoid tissue that functions in cell-mediated immunity by being the site where T-cells develop. It's found in the young of most vertebrates, typically in the upper anterior chest or at the base of the neck, arising from the epithelium of one or more embryonic branchial clefts, and it tends to disappear or become rudimentary in the adult. It's also found sliced and artfully arranged on a plate at the Queen City Grill (2201 First, 443-0975) in Belltown, with the inevitable sprig of cilantro. Folks here call it "pan-roasted sweetbread salad," and it comes tender with warm tarragon vinaigrette—a sauce that's rich with demiglace and piquant with balsamic vinegar. Yum-o!
They're like baby fists dripping with chocolate, crispy brown on the outside, moist on the inside. Greenwood Bakery Caf鼯B> (7227 Greenwood N, 783-7181), a humming little home-owned bakery, does just about everything a bakery is supposed to do. Besides the semi-legendary macaroons, there's plenty of other cookies, too, like the very popular susans—shortbread drops frosted with chocolate or vanilla. Homemade breads are remarkable, like the pain au levain, a dense sourdough loaf decorated with crusty leaf imprints. Don't miss the rosemary garlic bread—sourdough with whole rosemary and fresh garlic. The bagels are homemade, and the sandwiches here are worth driving for—especially the Greenwood Bakery Special: roast chicken and wet mozzarella on sour peasant bread slathered with pesto. There's sidewalk dining, homemade croissants, spinach-feta quiche, and gingerbread lips. Enough said!
Here, at the Bavarian Meat Delicatessen (1920 Pike Pl, Pike Place Market, 441-0942), are the hot dogs you thought you'd left behind when you left New York. Here are the dogs you used to get from the butcher shop down the street (when there was a butcher shop down the street).They're mild and skinny, with casings that crack when you bite 'em. This Seattle institution in the Market is a real European meat market, with a good selection of fresh veal and beef and lots of subtly seasoned natural smoked and fresh sausages. Try the bockwurst—a fat, pillowy, mild "white hot dog" of veal and pork. The deli carries a darned good selection of mustards, too.
Best restaurant that won't benefit from proximity to the stadiums
No hot dogs, no ribs, no problem. What Kolbeh (1956 First S, 224-9999), the city's best Persian-and-Mediterranean restaurant, is doing in SoDo is anyone's guess; what they're not doing is pulling in the foot traffic. In fact, on at least one occasion we've dropped by for the fabulous fesenjah and found them closed, since Game Day means no nearby parking. (Time will tell if the new lots will help.) Step inside this misplaced oasis: Instead of the game on the tube, you'll be kicking back to videos from Arabic pop-music broadcasts. Instead of a Mariner dog on a bun and a plastic cup of beer, you'll enjoy kebabs and hummus and as much of your dining partner's khoresht (stew) as you can steal before he/she notices you raiding his/her plate. And instead of the Moose or (god forbid!) one of those flabby shirtless guys gyrating on the Trinitron, on Friday and Saturday nights Kolbeh has live music and a real belly dancer from 10:30pm to 2am. You couldn't get any further from the Mariners in a rocket.
Best late-evening restaurant
There's still a dearth of great (or even acceptable) all-night restaurants in Seattle; there's only so much of Stella's any one person can take, and if there was ever an appreciable difference between Caffe Minnie's and Denny's, it's lost to the ages. It is, therefore, imperative to the Seattleite looking for decent late-night grub to pull him- or herself together before midnight. If you're feeling both organized and a little spendy, Tom Douglas' mighty Palace Kitchen (2030 Fifth, 448-2001) will relieve you of both cash and cravings in style. Do what you can to tune out the pickup scene, which thankfully stays pretty close to the U-shaped bar in the middle of the restaurant and leaves the booth- and table-dwellers in peace. And though it's all very straightforward (albeit terrific) food, those of you in training for eating at Douglas' swankier Dahlia Lounge and Etta's Seafood will be pleased to note that Palace Kitchen is the commissary for those two venues. It's truly a magic kingdom for those who can drag themselves to dinner by 1am; whether that means before or after the clubs is up to you.
Best bread pudding
Le Fournil (3230 Eastlake E, 328-6523) owner/chef Nicolas Par頣rams leftover dessert croissants (when he has them) into bread pans and bakes them into fat, buttery loaves, crusty-brown and serendipitously studded with pockets of the fillings: chocolate chunks, hazelnuts, almonds, raspberry, apple, and peach. They're sensational, and only $2! The crusty croissants of Par駳 pssier, French-trained Kevin Thompson, are just like Parisian ones, and his peasant-style light rye is perfect for fat but very civilized sandwiches of Camembert, ham, turkey, or country-style p. A loyal lunch crowd bellies up to grab wedges of asparagus or leek/blue cheese quiche. They're saying (whoever in hell they are) that French food is coming back—at Le Fournil, you'd never know it went away.
Best strip-mall Mexican joint
Uff-da ol顠Theoretically, if you're trolling the Ballard-Crown Hill area for Mexican food, you probably deserve a run-in with the Taco Bell ratdog, which means that this inconspicuous little restaurant is even better than you could have hoped. Tucked into an utterly undistinguished strip mall on the curve where Holman Road becomes the equally charming 15th NW, Burrito Loco (9211 Holman Rd NW, 783-0719) looks unpromising. Thank god looks are deceiving, or you'd never get a seat. The entrees are terrific (ooh, enchiladas verdes! aah, pipian!), but it's the appetizers we can't seem to resist: The crunchy-soft taquitos de papa are the stuff that midnight food cravings are made of, the guac is superb, and the ceviche met with the approval of our most annoying California-native friends. Best of all, if you get your order to go, the size of the ceviche helping practically doubles, providing even the most dedicated pickled-fish lover with a feeling approaching satiation.
Best cross-cultural dining experience
It's simply a matter of taste. No one's going to force you to do this, you know. Just because you drove all the way to Issaquah to try the durian ice cream at Farfar's Danish Ice Cream (660 Front N, Issaquah, 425-392-2777) doesn't mean you have to go through with it. Give yourself a break. Bask in the good cheer of the nice lady behind the counter. Savor the other exquisite handmade flavors (the lemon chiffon, in particular, is a treat). The durian, the Asian "King of the Fruits" (and alleged aphrodisiac) that looks like a small thorny football and smells like rotting onions, isn't for you. In fact, it isn't for anyone in this store. If you want it, you're going to have to buy a prepackaged container of the foul stuff and go outside. No one wants to share your ice cream—except us, since the durian smells like hell but tastes like (once you're used to it) heaven. That's why we'll drive to Issaquah with you. We can sit outside together and wonder how a "Danish" ice cream joint came to cater to that most arcane of Asian tastes, the stinking, glorious durian. But you have to sit downwind of it this time.
Best act of culinary faith
You've heard the tales of the dreaded lutefisk, the lye-soaked dried cod that separates the real Scandinavians from the merely blond and tall. There is no lutefisk on the menu at Solvorn (2232 NW Market, 783-7670), though owner Mark Morin (a former cook at the late Scandies) could probably serve up a lutefisk that couldn't be beat. (One hopes that it might, however, be outrun. By and large, we here at the Weekly are some of those fake Scandinavians.) So what are those little cups of pearly gray fish bits that certain patrons seem to delight in so? Why, that's pickled herring, and it wouldn't hurt you to try it. It's a very pleasant start to a meal of tasty open-faced sandwiches, rich and filling komle, meatballs, or cod—sturdy Scand fare that'll make you feel hale enough to ford a fjord. And if your nerve fails you at the last minute, the Swedish pancakes come with loads of lingonberries and real whipped cream (authentic enough for Sven and Ole, un-lutefisk enough for the rest of us). But first you really should try the herring. Trust us.
Best diner waitstaff
Ah, the agony of de feet! Years of pouring coffee and serving up fried chicken at the local truck stop during high school convinced some of us that if we ever had to make a living as waitstaff, we just as well head straight for the welfare office. It takes a special temperament to work a diner floor: humor, tact, and serenity, not to mention a back and legs that can take serious abuse. Which makes a body wonder: Why is it that the cheaper and less pretentious a restaurant, the nicer and more competent the waitstaff? At Cyndy's (10507 Aurora N, 522-5100), located on a thoroughly undistinguished block of Aurora, waitresses young and old ply their trade with kindness and skill, and no one scowls when you want more coffee or a bottle of ketchup or, god forbid, to see the menu again. We can think of many "upscale" Seattle restaurants that ought to be taking notes.
With Vietnam's fragrant beef-noodle soup becoming a local staple as well, and homey pho joints proliferating faster than pretentious Italian restaurants in Seattle, the competition is getting stiff. But we'll stick with what was probably the first of them all, the place whose plastic flowers, scuffed linoleum, and generous bowls of pho haven't changed even after X-million served (except that the linoleum's more scuffed). Pho Bac (1314 S Jackson, 323-4387) has not only funky Saigon-back-street atmosphere but also all the essential touches: a broth fragrant with star anise, tai beef sliced very thin and served amply. It still makes sure to serve a pot of tea with your bowl, plenty of basil and other rau on the side, and real limes, not American lemons—niceties that many lesser pho joints are starting to neglect. And we haven't even noticed any cockroaches lately.
Best supermarket pita bread
In 1991, the Gulf War drove Erza Basson out of Israel. His wife, a Seattle native, dragged his butt to the Northwest. He soon noticed that the pita available on supermarket shelves in the Northwest was flat and stale. Basson took action. He persuaded his two brothers, one of whom was a baker, to leave Israel and join him in the Emerald City. They started up Basson Bakery, which just makes pita bread. (The weather has since driven away the brothers.) It was a business plan that was met with skepticism by his friends, who felt he should expand his product line. Basson refused: "We concentrate on making one good product." And a fabulous product it is! Delightfully fluffy with a hint of sweetness, its flavors are delicate, but the bread holds sturdy when stuffed vigorously. Basson's pita is so much better than other brands that you'll never go back once you've tried it. You'll pay a mere $1.99 for a package of five at QFC, PCC, Costco, Larry's Markets, Albertson's, Top Foods, Red Apple, and Thriftway. And hey, it's kosher, too.
Best store-bought hummus
One taste of this light, creamy wonder and you know this is an old family recipe. Sure enough, Akram and Lamis Joudi emigrated from Lebanon to Kuwait to Shoreline, bringing knowledge of generations past direct to your supermarket coolers. Lamis' brother was already here when they arrived, running Saleh al Lago, his fabulous restaurant near Green Lake. Eleven years ago, Lamis and Akram started a Middle Eastern specialty food line specifically for supermarkets. Most supermarket hummus is too garlicky and wooden in texture, but Saleh al Lago's hummus seems to have been spun lighter than air, with all of its flavors—chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice—in perfect balance. Akram says there are many secrets. First off, they start from scratch, soaking the chickpeas overnight and cooking them slowly the next day. (Most supermarket brands use canned chickpeas, he asserts.) They import the finest tahini from Lebanon and use fresh lemon juice. The trade-off for the fresh ingredients is a short shelf life. Whereas most supermarket hummus lasts a month or more, ya gotta eat Saleh al Lago's in a week. Believe me, you'll finish it in the first sitting. Eight-ounce containers are priced from $3 to $3.50, depending on where you buy them. Available at QFC, Thriftway, Red Apple, and Town & Country, or visit their own place, Mama's Deli & Grocery, at 1125 N 152nd in Shoreline.
Best restaurant in the International District
Don't let the generic name dissuade you. Sichuanese Cuisine (1048 S Jackson, 720-1690) is a standout, offering some of the tastiest Szechuan food in town. Hearty portions come in sauces that are authentic, meaning that they are simply spicy, not heavy in oil and starch. Good choices are the deep-fried crispy prawns, seductively light and crunchy; the Szechuan eggplant; and the seafood wonton soup. Plus there's a variety of hot pots, each big enough for the entire party. Fresh jaozi and pot stickers are on sale to take home—store 'em in your freezer for your own recipes. To top off the authentic Chinese dining experience, smoking is OK, and you can bring your own six-packs of Tsingtao. Cheers!
Best drink to order to impress your date
If you're looking for a drink that combines sophisticated taste with a floor show, try ordering a Spanish coffee at Il Bistro (93A Pike, 682-3049), a brandy, Kahla, and coffee concoction that's a great antidote to the Seattle grays. There's an impressive bite to this drink, which is thick, sweet, and creamy, but the best part of all is the final touch, in which a patina of alcohol is set alight on the glass, melting a delectable sugary sheen onto its surface. With all that blue flame and tumbler-twirling, it's quite a performance. Just make sure you don't blow the whole effect by being too obvious when you're running your tongue along the glass.
Best place to have a latte and feel really good about yourself
Enough of us java junkies are addicted to a morning latte to make that cup of frothy white and brown goodness a necessity. But the last thing you want as part of the morning routine is a big dose of guilt included, whether it's for drinking coffee extracted from Third World folks messed over by American corporations, or putting our cash directly into the coffers of US Corporate Culture. If you'd rather avoid such moral qualms at an early hour, head to Habitat Espresso (202 Broadway E, 329-3807). This nonprofit coffeehouse donates half of its profits to a trio of local charitable organizations (their current lineup is the 45th Street Clinic, Home Alive, and the sadly just-closed Capitol Hill Youth Center) and puts the other half into a reserve fund to invest in future not-for-profits, including the incipient group My First Web Site, which helps introduce Net neophytes to the complexities of the information cybermaze. Their coffees and teas are from Kalani, which makes organic coffee free of foreign chemicals that's featured by PCC and several other food cooperatives. They also feature a variety of vegan and vegetarian treats, though sugarholics will be glad to see that they also include a doughnut selection and the ever-decadent pink cookies in their dessert case. You can even check your e-mail at Habitat by using the caf駳 Speakeasy RAIN terminals.
Best picnic item
Atop Queen Anne sits the king of local butcher shops, A&J Meats (2401 Queen Anne N, 284-3885), which offers truly first-rate products for the meatarian. Last year we picked 'em for offering the most grill-worthy cuts around; this year we recognize A&J for their ham nuggets, giant two-fisted knots of lean pork tenderloin tied and smoked with apple wood, just $5.25 per pound. Ah, yes—a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, a ham nugget, and thou maketh the perfect Arboretum picnic (it's great carved up for sandwiches or diced and tossed into pasta or omelet). Next year, maybe we'll pick 'em for "best alternative to expensive steak" (forget beef tenderloin; try A&J's tender, cheaper Spencers!).
Best foamy dessert
For those who think beer and ice cream make a bad combination, Hale's Ales Pub (4301 Leary Wy NW, 782-0737) makes a dessert that proves otherwise. The stout float does the doubly evil deed of making you both fat and drunk. But it tastes good! Turns out very sweet vanilla ice cream and very bitter dark beer complement each other perfectly. This might be a good concoction to try at home to woo your favorite beer lover!
Best drug-free brownie
The PCC at Green Lake (7504 Aurora N, 525-3586) carries an outstanding one, believe it or not. We've had brownies at gourmet bakeries that were okay, but a little thin and powdery, not thick and gooey and habit-forming like the ones you'll find stacked on PCC's deli counter (above the glass case of chocolate-tofu tortes and gluten-free carrot cakes). Occasionally they make "alternative" health-conscious or vegan brownies, which we haven't tried, but usually you'll find almond, chocolate chip, or even raisin brownies made with eggs and white sugar, the way you know you like them.
Best schizophrenic neighborhood hangout
Let's get this straight: It's a tearoom during the day and a salsa club on Wednesday nights. Not the most logical of pairings (think of your favorite tweedy Anglophile working those hips), but who cares? The Wellington Tea Room (4869 Rainier S, 722-8571) is an unusual establishment that has stood for years as an oasis of refinement on Rainier Avenue in Columbia City. Even when gang shootings were a feature of life in the 'hood, the Wellington was calmly pouring Darjeeling into china cups and serving them up with freshly baked scones, cream, and jam. Now that a new Starbucks has crowned a neighborhood revival, the Wellington doesn't look so out of place. And its salsa nights help it tap into the neighborhood vibe. The atmosphere is loose and easy, and yes, dancers stop for tea. You can also eat dinner there most nights and hear jazz on Fridays. Open Tue noon-6, Wed-Fri noon-9 (Wed: salsa from 7pm; Fri: jazz from 8pm), Sat 9-5, Sun by appointment.
Best ice creamery
Ben & Jerry's is always a good bet for when you're craving a rich treat, but you can't beat Marbletop Creamery (4507 University Wy NE, 547-3436) for its user-friendly setup. Dream up your own recipe, and a hunk behind the counter makes it into reality, plopping down the ingredients on a board and mixing them up right in front of you. Don't settle for just one flavor; combine two or three, or choose from their list of tried-and-true favorites such as "Jamaica Me Crazy" (vanilla ice cream, coconut, almonds, and rum), "Freight Train" (chocolate ice cream, peanut butter, and fudge), "Stoney's Delight" (sweet cream, cashews, coconut, Reese's peanut butter cups, and caramel), or "Tree Hugger" (sweet cream, peaches, granola, and walnuts). And to complete the indulgence, there's a sofa and TV in the back room, with the channel always turned to a favorite like Dawson's Creek.
Best Korean takeout
Psst, listen up! While Teriyaki 1st (5201B University Wy NE, 526-1661) advertises itself as a Japanese takeout joint, the place is run by a Korean brother-and-sister team who also offer a Korean menu (written in Korean). Our mouths water just thinking about their down-home Korean dishes like duk-bok-i (thick rice cakes fried with onions, garlic, and veggies in a thick, fire-hot chile sauce), yuk-ae-jang (beef stew in chile broth), or bo-kun-bap (kimchee fried rice). All three dishes, which are hard to find at bigger restaurants because they're considered "peasant food," come in large portions and are spicier than anything we've eaten outside of Seoul. Like many cheap eateries, Teriyaki 1st is not much of a sit-down place—so pack up the food and head over to nearby Cowen Park or, if you don't mind undergrads, the UW campus. Don't miss the homemade kimchee, of which you can get your monthly supply to take home for just five bucks. A bit of warning: If your taste buds are tame, ask for mild versions, or stick to the various teriyaki or fried Korean mandu (pot stickers).
All right, if only to start a fight: Some of us think Caffe Appassionato's espresso and latte drinks are, day in and day out, either the greatest or, on another level, far less bitter than the rest of the specialty coffee market (with world-renowned Starbucks somewhere near the acrid bottom). That's a qualified and left-handed compliment, since any cuppa joe can vary with the hour, the bean, the brewing process, and the experience, or lack thereof, of the barista. But to our taste buds, the smoother Appassionato can be habit-forming in ways beyond caffeine, especially when served at what is arguably the city's best coffeehouse, the Appassionato at Interbay (4001 21st W, 281-8040). Never seen it? With the look of a small, vine-covered European villa, it sits just to the west of Fishermen's Terminal, with a high-ceilinged, wood-paneled interior that includes a large viewing window opening onto the huge roaster. There's outside seating on a garden patio, private and well-spaced tables inside, and, for something a little different, a piano for customers to tinkle.
Best low-cost view dining in the Market
You've got your Maximilien and your Place Pigalle, then your more downscale overpriced joints like Lowell's and the Athenian. But if you really want to be able to enjoy view dining at its cheapest, walk straight from Rachel the Pig toward the back of the Market, along Flower Row—with the fish-throwing guys on your left—and you'll arrive at a nice little public dining area that's just next door to the Soundview Caf鮠Here, in a charming, more-or-less-clean room lined with windows, you can break out your Three Girls sandwich or your brown-bag leftovers and dine like a queen, lo