Our 100 Favorites (part 2)

Cafe Lago 2305 24th E, 329-8005 Tuesday-Thursday 5-9:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-10 p.m., Sunday-Monday 5-9 p.m. $6-$14 Having recently expanded into a second large room, Cafe Lago can now better accommodate almost all of its admirers. That's right. Chances are there's going to be a bit of a line, because there's much to appreciate about this Montlake trattoria: its inconspicuous location in a quiet 'hood, its spaciousness, its modern design, its classic checkered floor, its quality Italian cuisine. The establishment makes one of the more handsome Caesars around town, with lengthy leaves of lettuce moistened with a subtle splash of dressing. Baked to perfection in a flaming brick oven, the pizzas—like the exquisite Giardiniere, topped with red onion, roasted red pepper, and fresh basil—are light on the crust, heavy on the flavor. Other plates should not be passed up: The pastas are all homemade, and the gnocchi, coated in a cheesy, creamy tomato sauce, makes it all worth the wait. David Massengill Cafe Paloma 93 Yesler Way, 405-1920 Monday-Saturday 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. $4-$6 Talk about irresistible: This Pioneer Square hole-in-the-wall serves scrumptious panini sandwiches and other Mediterranean delicacies in a charming, close-quartered, bric-a-brac-filled space, with Turkish-born proprietor Sedat Uysal—and his able assistants—at the center manning the grill. Paloma is one of those rare lunch spots where fast and cheap meets fresh and savory. The grilled sandwiches come in four equally appealing varieties: eggplant (with roasted pepper and feta), gorgonzola (with spinach and basil), chicken (with caramelized onions and mushrooms), and prosciutto (with mozzarella and tomato); each is accompanied with a tasty side salad of baby greens and made-from-scratch dressing. Other options include homemade soups, stuffed grape leaves, and borek, a sort of spinach pie that's flaky, not mushy. Paloma stays open late on First Thursday Art Walk evenings, when Sedat serves up special dinner creations. I was lucky enough to wander in on the day of Paloma's third anniversary and came away with a free slice of baklava. I can't wait till next year. M.D.F. Cafe Soleil 1400 34th, 325-1126 Dinner Tuesday-Friday 5:30-9:30 p.m.; brunch Saturday-Sunday 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $8-$12 The effect of Cafe Soleil's delicate European interior combined with its Bach/Vivaldi soundtrack might make you think that you're in the wrong place, but it really is an Ethiopian restaurant—it's just a fancy one. We started off with a satisfying potato soup, broth-based (instead of cream-based) and flavored with garlic, rosemary, onion, and black pepper. The lamb berberri stew was the star entr饺 deep and heady and garlicky, tender without being gamey, and spicy without being unpleasant about it. The chicken tibes was plain but fine, made of chicken breast slices saut饤 with garlic and onions in a fajita kind of way, and the tomato-y ginger shrimp saut頷as beautifully executed with plenty of ginger. Community eating is the name of the game, so bring friends and order a dish or two per person. Cafe Soleil excels in sauces and the entr饳 are extra saucy—you're supposed to use the injera (big, sour teffe pancakes) to sop it up. Us? There wasn't a drop left when we paid the check. Meg van Huygen Campagne 86 Pine, 728-2800 Daily 5:30-10 p.m.; after-theater menu until midnight; full bar until 2 a.m. $17-$30 Peter Lewis dreamed of a vine-covered inn in the French countryside, and Campagne was born. The dream lives on just off the courtyard of the Inn at the Market, and has even spawned a junior daydream (bistro-style Cafe Campagne) around the corner. You too may find yourself dreaming of a rural auberge as you peer through the candlelit murk of the richly appointed dining room to read the menu, larded with exotic French culinary terms, or tuck into items like the coarse-ground house p⴩ ($8) or richly sauced meat and game dishes (squab in port wine reduction, lamb in anise-scented jus, $25). Still, Campagne has changed in the 15 years since it was founded, and changed for the better. Under current chef Daisley Gordon, dishes draw more imaginatively on tradition and are distinctly lighter—though the signature cassoulet ($22) remains one redoubtable pot o' beans indeed—the better to leave room for the airy delights Lauren Feldman devises daily for dessert. How does "blood orange soup with pink grapefruit-champagne sorbet and tarragon crisps" strike you? R.D. Canlis 2576 Aurora N, 283-3313 Dinner Monday-Thursday 5:30 p.m.-midnight, Friday-Saturday 5 p.m.-midnight $22-$50 You can't ignore Canlis' service: Always polite, smooth as silk—it's absolutely top-notch. You can't really argue with a place that has your car waiting after your meal (and that treats even the dingiest chariots with the utmost respect), can you? Canlis is like a luxurious warm blanket you drape over yourself when you want to feel taken care of. Once inside this gustatory haven, swathed in firelight and comforting wood tones perched fabulously above Lake Union, you're in for a treat. Amidst the murmurs of pleased customers and the tinkling piano from the bar, prepare to be swept away by chef Greg Atkinson's fresh, confident fare, like the fail-safe Wasyugyu tenderloin (a filet of Kobe-style Washington beef) or the pan-saut饤 crab legs with shrimp butter, red chiles, garlic, and lime. Appetizers hit the taste buds just right, too, with offerings such as scallops with lime and spice-rubbed calamari. Wanna revel in being one of the pampered hoi polloi? Here you go. Did we mention the Zenlike women's rest room, complete with waterfall? E.B.R. Capitol Club 414 E Pine, 325-2149 Sunday-Thursday 5-11 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5 p.m.-midnight; bar daily till 2 a.m. $14.50-$16 If Seattle were Casablanca, the Capitol Club would be Rick's; everybody comes to the crowded upstairs bar to look beautiful in the Moroccan-style room. The secret here is the dark, quiet, intimate dining room downstairs and its fantastic, fantastically priced food. It's the perfect place to hide in a pillow-lined corner with your love and pretend you're Bogie and Bergman (or Bogie and Bogie or Bergman and Bergman). Service is excellent; ask what's best that night or for a wine recommendation and you won't be disappointed. Michael Ruiz, formerly of Marco's Supperclub, is the chef here now, and with his unerring, inventive use of spice and sophisticated combinations of tastes, the Mediterranean-influenced menu here ranks with the best in town. Piquillo peppers stuffed with fresh mozzarella and green olive tapenade is a standout appetizer, as are the Mediterranean mussels steamed in wine with chickpeas, olives, and Moroccan spices; for entr饳, a pan-seared charmoula rockfish on pistachio couscous with cucumber-coriander raita will delight, as will a splendid beef tenderloin with its accompanying toasted cumin potatoes, saut饤 winter greens, and (an inspired choice) cabrales cheese. Go while it's still a secret, and here's looking at you, kids. B.J.C. Cassis 2359 10th E, 329-0580 Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-11 p.m. $17-$24 It is hard to be moderate in one's praise of Cassis; for fans of simple fare splendidly prepared in the offhand, knowing French manner, there's no place like it. The small, spartan, unprepossessing room with its routinely postered walls and paper tablecloths gives no hint of the delights to come; the short, one-sheet menu hardly signals pretension (apart from the logo, styled—hubristically—after that of Brasserie Lipp in Paris!). An appetizer of perfectly cooked angel hair pasta; fish stew (one of the menu's few permanent items) just scented with fennel, tomato, and garlic, and its chunks of seasonal fish falling-apart tender; a veal chop, subtle and tender, raised to exaltation by an utterly French side of crunchy-tender flageolet beans. The pomme frites come on a plate as big as your head, but are so good you have to eat every last spaghetti-thin piece. Everything at Cassis pleases: The bread's great, the desserts are great, the carafes of house wine are great. Then the food arrives, and one is immediately in heaven. About the only thing that could be improved is the sometimes offhand hosting; once you're sitting at your table, though, you're in the best of hands. R.D. Chez Shea 94 Pike, 467-9990 Dinner Tuesday-Sunday 5:30-10 p.m. $43 (four-course, prix fixe) Chez Shea pioneered prix fixe dining in the Northwest at this hideaway on the third floor of the Corner Market Building, and though Sandy Shea has branched out since (at the next-door Shea's Lounge), it's her four-course dinners featuring local seasonal ingredients that continue to draw plaudits from national magazines such as Bon App鴩t: that and the cozy sunset-and-candlelight atmosphere that has made Chez Shea something of a standard stop on the rounds of courting Seattle couples. Despite the four courses, dining at Chez Shea isn't heavy going: Portions are small and there's a usually a choice at each stage of the meal. Recently one could opt for potato blini topped with a dab of caponata or asparagus bisque as a first course, and for halibut, rabbit, scallops, or tenderloin as a main course; there are always vegetarian alternatives for each course. Portions are so modest that even dainty eaters may be tempted by the (a la carte) dessert choices; there's also a fine selection of cheeses, domestic and imported, to savor with your after-dinner wine or coffee. R.D. Chinoise Cafe 12 Boston, 284-6671 Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday-Sunday noon-3 p.m.; dinner daily 5-9:30 p.m. also: 2801 E Madison, 323-0171 also: Uwajimaya Village, 610 Fifth S, 254-0413 $7-$22 In the competitive Queen Anne Avenue- Boston Street vortex of dining establishments, Chinoise rewards and responds to speedy, savvy neighborhood patrons. (Know your order, and make it quickly!) The crowd can spill onto the sidewalk even on a weeknight, while locals double-park to order takeout with children clinging to their legs. The open kitchen can be smoky, cell phones ring regularly, but it's a friendly, informal clamor. Tasty pork pot stickers boast unsoggy shells and go down fast. Spicy yellow curry with beef is no less savory. You get your veggies' worth with the spicy ginger stir-fry with chicken, always a good bet. Nowhere to sit? Try the sushi bar, where individual items are abundant; full dinners top the menu's price list. There's nothing special about the decor, of course; people are here to eat! Problem is, having rushed your table, rushed your order, and rushed to gobble down the fine grub, you want to stay a little longer. There's still curry on my plate! Miss, could we get some more rice here, please? Miss? Miss? Brian Miller Chinook's 1900 Nickerson (Fisherman's Terminal), 283-4665 Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; dinner Monday-Thursday 4-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 4-11 p.m., Sunday 1:30-10 p.m. Lunch $7-$16, dinner $7-$19 Seattle has a working fishing fleet and San Francisco doesn't, but when it comes to providing tourists with saline atmosphere, Seattle has nothing to compare to Fisherman's Wharf. This restaurant in Fisherman's Terminal is the closest we've got, and, fortunately, a local can take Uncle Ed and Aunt Minnie out to eat without risking indigestion himself. Let your Midwestern relatives plough through the scores (hundreds? thousands?) of items on the main menu while you concentrate on the daily fresh specials. To do the main menu justice, it's remarkably consistent across the board; no black holes of limp greens and soggy seafood in the salad area, no dried-out burgers with mushy fries. "Novelty" items like the mahi mahi and halibut tacos stand up to critical inspection, likewise the tempura-seafood and coleslaw platters; and the signature wild mountain blackberry cobbler would be a standout anywhere. R.D. El Greco 219 Broadway E, 328-4604 Dinner Tuesday-Thursday 5-9:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-10 p.m.; brunch Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $8-$17 Don't let Broadway distract you. Sure, El Greco—oddly situated in an eclectic minimall that also houses a tattoo parlor and a sushi bar—provides a showing of the street's rain-drenched pavement, pink-haired fixtures, and steady stream of traffic. But you can always pretend you're peering out at sun-soaked houses, white beaches, and the cerulean Aegean Sea. A loftlike space with high ceilings and walls painted terra cotta, olive, and mustard, El Greco soothes its urban eaters with a warm atmosphere and great Mediterranean-inspired food. Breakfast-goers might sweeten their morning with the honey orange pancakes or go for something zanier and zestier, like the bacon, arugula, tomato, and scrambled egg sandwich. Late sleepers ambling in mid- to late-afternoon should try one of El Greco's scrumptious salads or its chicken panini, a piping-hot chicken, pesto, and cheese sandwich that will melt away any doubts about where to dine on Broadway. D.M. Etta's Seafood Restaurant 2020 Western, 443-6000 Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Monday-Thursday 4-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 4-11 p.m., Sunday 4-10 p.m.; brunch Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. $12-$35 If the Dahlia Lounge is the father, Etta's Seafood is the son in chef Tom Douglas' food universe. And, no surprise with such impeccable parentage, it's a child any parent would be proud of. The friendly and accommodating staff shares the remarkable skill of making every visitor feel like a regular. The menu, obviously, heavily leans toward swimming (or floating) delicacies. Among the first courses, there are seasonal oysters on the half-shell, mussels or clams in zesty broth with chorizo, or a gorgeous mound of tuna sashimi cubes over scallionflecked pancakes. Traditionalists shouldn't miss the super-crunchy wedge of iceberg topped with creamy bleu cheese dressing. The straightforward salad of mixed greens gets a piquant twist of huckleberry vinaigrette. Half the entr饳 come off the grill and come with a dumpling of cornbread pudding and ruby chard. If you love salmon (and doesn't everyone?), you won't be disappointed with the tender slab of spice-rubbed king, sprinkled with basil oil. In fact, we'll be surprised if you're disappointed with much of anything, except maybe the wait. A.V.B. Fandango 2313 First, 441-1188 Daily 5-11 p.m., late-night menu 5 p.m.- 1 a.m. $16-$20 Just a short casting distance from her other taste sensation, Flying Fish, chef/owner Christine Keff has this south-of-the-border emporium. It may be gray outside, but the dazzling colors and cushy booths at Fandango summon a Latin mood even on the dreariest night. And that's even before you've ordered. You may feel you need an Alice Waters dictionary on hand to decipher the menu, peppered with names like cajeta and chimichurri, but the friendly servers will help you out. There's a terrific and reasonable (especially for Belltown) bar menu with $1 tacos, stuffed with beef and cotija cheese. Other treats include addictive green-chile quesadillas and huitlacoche (check that dictionary). Among the main dishes there's a heady Oaxacan green mole, dense with pork and white beans. Seared rare tuna gets doused with coconut lime sauce, and incredibly good chiles rellenos prove that everything is better with cheese. The fun doesn't stop at dessert: Try succulent orange flan with espresso caramel syrup, or a tender, grilled, glazed banana with chocolate ice cream and rum caramel sauce. A.V.B. Fifth Avenue Cafe 1522 Fifth, 621-7137 Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. $3-$6 Simply put, the Fifth Avenue Cafe makes the best sandwiches downtown. Let me qualify that: They make the best traditional sandwiches (ham and cheese, turkey, roast beef, veggie, and a delectable chicken salad) just about anywhere in the city. Nothing fancy, but the bread is exceptionally fresh, the lettuce crisp, and the meats superb. Let it be stated that this walk-in with glassy windows and display cases a hop, skip, and a jump from Nordstrom also offers soups, ready-made salads, homemade pastries, bottled juices, and espresso. But wait, let's go back to the soup: There is nothing—and we mean nothing—better than their chicken dumpling soup, made from scratch with bits of carrot, chicken, and lovely, doughy dumplings bobbing around. If you have a cold, it'll cure you; if you don't, you'll still suck it down gratefully. Open since 1991, everything here smacks of a simpler, sweeter time, when a great cup of soup and a sandwich could brighten your entire day. E.B.R. Figaro Bistro 11 Roy, 284-6465 Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-10:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-11:30 p.m. $16-$18 You'll need reservations for this Seattle Center-area favorite on a theater, ballet, or opera night. (For the Sonics—maybe not.) Housed in a former parking garage with blue-painted beams high overhead, the place communicates its updated, neo-Gallic ambitions—we're not stodgy!--with an open floor plan that gets loud when crowded. The stereo ranges from Europop to Sade, while the walls support canvasses in the style of Pissarro and Seurat. Figaro's small, straightforward French menu is usually augmented by a long specials list that must be recited, not read. Among starters, the grilled prawns reign supreme—salt, pepper, and garlic are omnipresent, while fussy presentations are not. The coq au vin is certainly a hearty meal for the hungry; a better bet is the traditional steak frites, which can require a sharp knife but boasts excellent fries. (Don't even think of asking for ketchup, imb飩le!) Dessert specials vary; a pear-almond tart was a recent highlight. Service? Attentive, unobtrusive, and sometimes actually French. Bon. B.R.M. Flying Fish 2234 First, 728-8595 Daily 5 p.m.-1 a.m. $15-$23 Even if you consider yourself a fish connoisseur, you'll be surprised by some of the offerings at chef Christine Keff's homage to water dwellers. From grilled escolar with mashed potatoes to crispy monkfish with sweet coconut black rice, the ever-changing menu offers so many appetizing dishes, you'll plan on returning. Seems there's nothing that Keff doesn't do with fish, from folding it into tacos to mixing it into red curry or creamy fettuccini to slicing it up raw for ahi tuna tartar with fresh horseradish. The menu is charmingly organized into small plates, large plates, and platters, all ideal for sharing. The Thai crab cake with lemon grass mayo and grilled scallop salad with asparagus and wild mushrooms make good places to start. Sister-in-law mussels with chili-lime dipping sauce make fine conversation fodder for a crowd (what makes mussels by a sister-in-law so special?), though for presentation, you can't beat the whole fried rockfish. There are a few air-breathing choices for fish-disdainers, but if you are one, we'd rather you leave your seat for us. A.V.B. Fullers 1400 Sixth, 447-5544 Dinner Tuesday-Thursday 5:30-9:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5:30-10:30 p.m. $20-$35 A class act, from the top down. It won't come cheap, however; expect to spend a good chunk of the rent money here. We'd love to tell you all about the fabulous menu items, but we were so seduced by our waiter's recitation of the specials, we stuck almost entirely with the daily selections. An appetizer of pork cheeks could not have been more tenderly prepared, though a somewhat oversalted gravy wasn't quite meant for sopping. The baby beets and arugula topped with a warm goat cheese disk makes for a delicious start; the roasted rabbit wrapped around rabbit sausage that followed, paired with—no kidding—carrot risotto was a meat lover's delight, once thoughts of Thumper were put to rest. A far less hearty entr饬 poached sole in a delicate broth with Yukon Gold potatoes and artichoke hearts, offered subtler but still substantial pleasures. The verdict? Eat ramen for a week prior if you must, but even the most financially challenged Seattleite should enjoy a meal like Fullers offers at least once. Try one of the pre-selected tasting menus, which start as low as $55 per person. Leah Greenblatt Glo's 1621 E Olive Way, 324-2577 Daily 7 a.m.-4 p.m. $4-$9 Glo's menu claims to make "the best breakfast in town here on Olive Way." It also ingenuously admits "we know we are not the fastest or the cheapest," and it's true, you'll wait (first outside with coffee, then inside with a piece of "Heather's fabulous coffee cake" to stave off starvation if you're smart) and you'll maybe pay a little more—but the food is worth it. Lord knows you're not here for the bad '80s decor (sponge-painted walls, track lighting, one spectacularly wrong mirrored wall in the tiny room), and service varies from brusque to sweet. The brunch, however, is great. The special of biscuits with mushroom gravy is indeed arguably the best in town, and Glo's hash browns are the good shredded kind, none of this home-fries bullshit. Four tasty scrambles and five variations on eggs Benedict will please egg fans. All the other breakfast favorites are here, too, and portions are monstrous. Glo's is always filled with a young urban crowd looking a little hungover; a recap of the action at Manray the night before from the next table will entertain you while you stuff your face. B.J.C. Gordito's 213 N 85th, 706-9352 Daily 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. (except Tuesday) $5-$8 Gordito's boasts of serving "healthy Mexican food"; you couldn't prove it by us. "Hearty"? Now that's an adjective we can go with. From the moment you walk through the door into the blare of recorded Mexican pop and step up to the counter to pay for your gigantic burrito or colossal chimichanga and are sent off to seek a table with a bull-shaped pi� named Rodrigo in hand to help your waitress find you, you realize that at Gordito's, the watchwords are hearty, fast, and cheap, in no particular order, and ambiance and frills are nonexistent. The clientele is both Anglo and Latino, mainly neighborhood and working-class and serious about getting maximum bang for its eating-out buck, as shown by the Styrofoam take-out containers stacked to the ceiling next to the bus-your-own-dishes-Buster disposal station. If atmosphere were all Gordito's offered, one visit would be enough; but the food alone—utterly plain but flavorful and somehow "authentic" in its industrial-strength way—may bring you back even if the incredibly low price doesn't. R.D. Harvest Vine 2701 E Madison, 320-9771 Tuesday-Saturday 4-10 p.m. $15-$20 Two dozen varieties of hot and cold tapas are the heart and soul of this stylish Basque taverna in the Madison Valley . . . and good luck finding a seat. The place is so tiny—500 square feet, by a generous guess—a meal here winds up feeling like a really good dinner party. Your hosts are Joseph Jimenez de Jimenez, onetime chef to the royalty of Spain, and Carolin Messier de Jimenez, pastry chef. Arrive early, sidle up to the copper tapas bar, and place yourself in their hands for some extraordinary noshing. Peerless chorizo empanadas, fat wedges of tortilla Espanola topped with marinated red onions, Yukon Golds topped with creamy aﯬi, roasted pimentos stuffed with potatoes and salt cod, sliced lamb over shallot paste, gratin of cauliflower with tomato sauce and manchego cheese—it's all sumptuous, liberally oiled, beautifully cooked, and exotically redolent of climes friendlier than ours. Paella turns out to be ordinary, so make a meal of the tapas and go right to Carolin's finishers, which if you're lucky will include the espresso flan. K.R. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

 
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