Our 100 Favorites

Adriatica 1107 Dexter N, 285-5000 Sunday-Thursday 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5 p.m.-11 p.m. $19-$34 Still plugging away after more than 20 years, the Old Girl has earned her reputation as a Seattle classic. Adriatica was Jim Malevitsis' (Ponti, Axis) first big foray into sophisticated Mediterranean cuisine, and from the day it opened the charming house restaurant on the western flank of Lake Union was a smasher: its decor a timeless model of elegance and restraint, its tone unapologetically romantic, its prospect a sweeping grandstand view over Lake Union's twinkling lights. Alas, time passed and progress happened and when a big herking building partially obstructed Adriatica's view, the fans began heading elsewhere. They shouldn't have. Malevitsis' kitchen remains devoted to flavor (making it a dandy place for vegetarians), with frequently stunning treatments of fish—the roasted sea bass!--and meat and absolutely unmissable desserts. It's spendy, but one can be well satisfied coming just for a couple of appetizers and a finisher. (Malevitsis first introduced Seattle to fried squid with skorthalia, and it's still the best in town.) As for romance . . . view, schmiew: The Old Girl's still got it to burn. Kathryn Robinson Afrikando 2904 First, 374-9714 Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday-Saturday 5-10 p.m., Sunday 4-9 p.m. Lunch $6-$15, dinner $9-$18 When people talk about Seattle becoming a world-class city, they ought to be talking about Afrikando. We can fool ourselves into thinking that a spiffy symphony hall or a Gehry-designed museum means that we can hold our own, but this humble space on the outskirts of Belltown demonstrates that simple things, like supping on delicious, traditional Senegalese cuisine, separate the towns from the cities. Chef and co-owner Jacques Sarr prepares the kinds of dishes that, at first bite, have you mentally planning your next return trip—and fantasizing about an excursion to Africa. Mafe, a traditional ensemble of root vegetables, jasmine rice, and tangy, garlic-rice peanut sauce (served with or without chicken), provides easy acclimation to the palate of Senegalese flavors. Dishes such as the brochette (skewered slices of tender tangy beef over onion and mustard-spiced couscous) and boulette (tender balls of salmon and halibut) will be more of a leap for the uninitiated, but the first step is always the hardest. Once you're there, though, you'll never want to leave. Laura Learmonth Agua Verde 1303 NE Boat, 545-8570 Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m. $4-$6 If you miss summers on Martha's Vineyard or in Provincetown, you'll love the ambiance here. You may have to wait for dinner, but it's fun and relaxed inside. Outside, you can walk along the water, play in the park, or even rent a kayak (or two). The food is Baja Mexican, which means tacos, tacos, and more tacos (as well as some killer margaritas—try the pineapple). They come three to an order, so go with a couple of pals and share. The mero pairs flaky grilled halibut with cabbage and an avocado sauce, the boniato tops sauteed sweet potatoes with mild cotija cheese. Meat-eaters will like the carnitas (browned and shredded pork) and the carne (flank steak with peppers and onions). Even if you think you're stuffed from the tacos, don't forego the sides. The creamy chile potatoes are amazing; the corn and nopalito slaw refreshing and crisp. For dessert, indulge in Kahlua-pecan pie or chocolate flan. Agua Verde makes you feel like you're on vacation. Audrey Van Buskirk Al Boccalino 1 Yesler Way, 622-7688 Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner 5-10 p.m. $14-$27 Far in spirit from the crowds that throng Pioneer Square, this comfortable yet sophisticated Italian restaurant turns out consistently fine cooking. It's not a melted-candles-over-wine-jugs sort of place; instead, dark wood and white napery contrast with candlelight echoed in the hanging mirrors, and the food is simple and satisfying. Start with the moscardini ai capperi—pan-seared squid with capers and delicate tomato sauce; it's nothing like your usual fried calamari. The caprese salad of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella is like a summer's day in your mouth. There's a fine Caesar and an equally nice salad of softly saut饤 spinach with garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil. The rich, earthy fettuccine al Bolognese isn't your mother's meat sauce. More decadent is the farfalle con prosciutto e piselli, with peas, cured ham, and plenty of cream. But you don't have to avoid Al Boccalino if you're following the Atkins diet. There's a wonderful chicken breast browned in sage butter or, if you're really craving protein, a whopping 21-ounce Porterhouse with olive oil and herbs. Now that's Italian. A.V.B. Andaluca 407 Olive Way, 382-6999 Breakfast Monday-Saturday 6:30-11 a.m., Sunday 7 a.m.-noon; lunch Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-11 p.m. $18.50-$28 Seattle's hotel restaurants have long defied conventional wisdom that hotels don't have to offer good food. Count the Mayflower Park, that gleaming little independent jewel on Fourth and Olive, among them. Andaluca is its restaurant, a warmly sexy Mediterranean spot with luscious wall art, avant lighting, and a glittering half-moon of a bar smack in the middle of the room. It also has excellent tapas. They're generally grand, including calamari with saffron aﯬi and a transporting dish of smoky sherry-almond scallops. Meats, too, are nicely done, particularly a blushing pork tenderloin served in rosemary jus with Parmesan-crusted potato cakes. If they're offering the Cabrales-crusted beef tenderloin, order first and ask questions later: The heartbreakingly rare meat served with grilled pear, bleu cheese, mashed potatoes, and Marsala glaze wins my vote as best beef dish in town, mad cows be damned. Desserts rock. K.R. Assaggio Ristorante 2010 Fourth, 441-1399 Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday-Saturday 5-10 p.m. Lunch $10-$17, dinner $16-$27 Earthy frescoes, exposed wine racks, and a cool jazz ambiance give this downtown restaurant a real European feel. The staff is faultlessly cordial and the airy room is immaculate, but the place has the kind of convivial dignity that makes it great for both an intimate date and a lively social supper. The reasonably priced Italian menu is executed with genuine aplomb. A prosciutto salad with fresh greens and shaved Parmesan is a must to begin dinner, and the gamberoni alla griglia—prawns smothered in goat cheese—make a fine appetizer. Pastas are both reliable and inventive (the salmon and sun-dried tomato rotini is quite tasty) and fans of veal or chicken dishes won't be disappointed (the roast chicken on marinated bread has perfectly crispy skin but not a dry moment inside). Don't even think about skipping dessert: Aside from the expected gelato and tiramisu, the profiteroles, vanilla cream puffs completely covered in a chocolate sauce, are worth any diet sacrifice. Steve Wiecking Asteroid Cafe 1605 N 45th, 547-2514 Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-11 p.m. $9-$23 In suburban New York, it's possible to stumble into a shopping center and discover a startlingly good Italian restaurant, where the sauce's flavor practically ricochets around the palate and the plate is filled with enough pasta to feed the hungriest "Fat Tony" in town. For going on four years, the Asteroid has yielded such a culinary result, albeit in an intimate (it seats less than 30) storefront setting. Co-owner/maitre d'/waiter Marlin Hathaway and his small staff flit around the space, recommending wines and counseling diners intimidated by the 50 or so regular dishes on the sprawling, consistent menu. Fresh ingredients and intricate preparation make the appetizers and salads appealing, but the Asteroid's overriding strength is matching pasta with sauce. The penne al pomodoro, with tomatoes, spinach, and goat cheese, is masterful, and the rigatoni alla salsiccia threatens to steal the show with its tangy tomato basil sauce and spicy sausage. To add to the already enjoyable dining experience, the Asteroid's added a sampler menu for two that delves into second courses and more traditional Italian entr饳 such as veal piccata and chicken. Richard A. Martin Avenue One 1921 First, 441-6139 Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m., bar menu till 11 p.m.; lunch Friday-Saturday 1-5 p.m., dinner 5-11 p.m., bar menu till midnight (starting May 16th, lunch Sunday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) $16-$31 Welcome to Paris, France, mes amis, but fear not: You will not find snobbery or weird bathroom fixtures here, for this is the gleaming, idealized Paris bistro of your dreams. Avenue One is a lovely contradiction: easily sophisticated, casually formal, unintimidatingly posh, and, bizarrely, a former mortuary (the main dining room was the chapel, and the ornate 1903 choir loft still decorates the west wall; the bartender may even tell tales of mischievous ghosts). In its current incarnation, the space is airy but warmly lit, with a Euro-style elegance; upholstered booths along one wall make splendid muffled nests for lovebirds. The waitstaff is extremely knowledgeable, demonstrating an accommodation to your wishes that borders on psychic. And food, the raison d'괲e? Without flaw, bien sr. A recent crab Napoleon appetizer was maddeningly rich and perfect; the entr饠of duck "Two Ways" is a sweet, smoky confit and a tender, rare breast. Every element of every plate is balanced with consummate care; even a divine vanilla cr譥 brl饠is accompanied by perfectly complementing slices of pear. The wine list is also consummate, with a breadth and depth that merited a Wine Spectator award of excellence. Welcome, indeed; you will be well cared for here. Bethany Jean Clement Bahn Thai 409 Roy, 283-0444 Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Sunday-Thursday 4:30-9:30, Friday-Saturday 5-10 p.m. Lunch $5.75-$7.50, dinner $5.75-$12 When Bahn Thai opened, Thai cuisine was still a novelty to Northwest palates. Now that phad Thai and tom young goong are on dozens of menus, Bahn Thai remains the one to beat. This is partly due to its location, in the fringes-of-Seattle-Center zone where good restaurants for some reason find it difficult to survive. Partly it's because Bahn Thai's light menu and rapid service are particularly suitable for diners in a hurry to attend an evening event and wanting to be alert and comfortable when they do. But in large measure it's simply because Bahn Thai's kitchen does really inspiring work on the classics of Thai-American cuisine. There is surely not a better phad Thai in town; even diners who normally turn up their noses at anything with peanuts in it have been known to indulge. Similarly, the "Hot Garden"—with its crisp vegetables and chewy tofu in clear spicy sauce—appeals to those who normally shun vegetarian items. And the lemon grass broth that underlies all the restaurant's soups is rarely matched and never surpassed at restaurants with far more pretension to quality. Add fast, friendly, accommodating service, and you have a restaurant that's hard to beat. Roger Downey Bandoleone 2241 Eastlake E, 329-7559 Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday-Sunday 5:30-11 p.m.; bar/lounge open daily until 2 a.m. $16-$25 To the passerby, Eastlake may seem an odd, non-neighborhood. But spend a little time on its main thoroughfare (Eastlake Avenue) and you're apt to discover some downright hangout-worthy locales. Bandoleone is one such haunt. Long on atmosphere and even longer on friendly service and great tapas, Bandoleone sweetens the pot by frequently hosting live Latin music and providing a sultry haven for the city's cigar-and-tequila cognoscente. (Nonsmokers: Don't fret, the dining room is strictly smoke-free during the early evening hours.) Whether you're sipping a Portuguese wine at the bar or smooching with your sweetie under the chili pepper lights in the front window, be sure and try the barbacoa tropical, a rack of wonderfully grilled baby back ribs with papas fritas, and the delicious sweet potato soup from the tapas and primeros platos section of the menu. Of the entr饳, the grilled pork chop, complete with Serrano ham and an onion-crusted outer layer, and the dependably delicious fish of the day are not to be missed. L.L. Bizzarro Italian Cafe 1307 N 46th, 545-7327 Dinner daily 5-10 p.m. $12-$17 Though it's in a bizarre location next to a bingo parlor at the end of a residential Wallingford street, nobody has a problem finding Bizzarro. The casual, offbeat neighborhood favorite is revered as much for its decor as its Italian cuisine; patrons love dining under the fully set upside-down table hanging from the ceiling, amid other objets d'artistic license. Yet few would pass up a chance to sink a fork into the chewy, cheesy roasted pepper lasagna, flavorful risotto—a different selection almost every night—or the rotating ravioli special. Dining here begins with a silver platter of doughy La Panzanella bread and garlic butter. Then comes an appetizer—calamari or mussels for the seafood-inclined, antipasto or artichoke-cheese spread for splurging. Entr饳 also include various pastas served in unconventional sauces (gnocchi in a marsala cream sauce with ham, hazelnuts, and caramelized carrots) and typical Italian fare like chicken piccata. Like everything else here, the desserts satisfy rather than dazzle, concluding an amiable, carefree meal in a memorable environment. R.A.M. Boat Street Cafe 909 NE Boat, 632-4602 Lunch Tuesday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Wednesday-Saturday 5:30-10 p.m.; brunch Saturday-Sunday 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $14.50-$16.50 Tucked into a dead-end street on a scruffy edge of the Lake Washington Ship Canal you'll find a little outpost of rough-hewn elegance. A tastefully bare cement floor, stone tables, and slanting roof beams create a cozy atmosphere, free of bustle or scene-making. That's all the better for conversation and for concentrating on the menu of classy, but unfussy, home fare such as pork tenderloin, beef in black olive marinade, and a medley meat loaf of beef, turkey, and pork. Food is served in rustic style: The walnut, pear, and Gorgonzola appetizer arrives unadorned, with its three elements simply set down next to one another. (The warm walnuts are especially lovely and fresh.) Whatever you do, do not depart without experiencing the awesome blackberry cobbler, a sweet-and-sour symphony that had my companion asking at what hour the restaurant would open the following day, so she could return with her mother for a second serving. Weekend brunch is heavily weighted toward all things poached. Heads up: no credit cards. Mark D. Fefer Brad's Swingside Cafe 4212 Fremont N, 633-4057 Dinner Tuesday-Saturday 5:30 -10 p.m. $10-$20 If the prospect of eating someplace where a cat might sit next to you and stare intently at your plate doesn't appeal to you, read no further. If you are agreeable to this type of cozy domesticity, however, Brad's is the place for you. It's intimate, casual, and friendly—quintessential Fremont. The menu is short but focused, spotlighting pasta dishes. (Be prepared: Sauces tend to be on the rich side; an empty stomach is highly recommended). The specials menu is where chef Brad Inserra really gets to show off his range. On a recent visit, a calamari appetizer served over warm tapenade with a touch of citrus was spectacular. It's also not unusual, though, for Inserra to stray from the restaurant's usual Italian focus with his specials: Other common influences include, but are not limited to, Middle Eastern and Pacific Northwest cuisines. Wine enthusiasts will be impressed by the size and scope of the wine list. Paul Fontana Brasa 2107 Third, 728-4220 Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-10:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5 p.m.-midnight; bar menu daily 5 p.m.-1 a.m. $19-$34 Brasa is a destination restaurant that simultaneously cultivates a lively bar scene within its lavish square footage and upscale, split-level dining room. Such schizophrenic division could easily spell doom for the average upper-end restaurant, but here the two complement each other just fine, thank you. Chef Tamara Murphy wields a sure hand behind this plush and powerful interior of curved booths and yam-colored walls, which recently celebrated its second anniversary. The food—from the pleated ravioli with aged Piedmontese cheese, porcini jus, and currants to the recent addition of a beef tenderloin, potato-parsnip mash, haricot verts, and smoked pepper jam—comes attentively prepared and has a distinctly Northwest-cuisine-meets-the-Mediterranean focus. Nothing's fussy, contrived, or, for that matter, unnaturally fused. The bar is sleek and dark and provides a welcome, scaled-down version of the full-blown menu. Brasa attracts Belltown scenesters and after-hours suburbanites. There's a cruise-ship feeling to the main dining space, but it manages to please by being whatever you want it to be—occasion joint, after-work drink spot, or a place to have a really dependably nice meal. Emily Baillargeon Russin Brasserie Margaux 401 Lenora, 777-1990 Breakfast 6:30-11 a.m.; lunch 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.; dinner 5-10:30 p.m. Lunch $8.50-$16, dinner $11.50-$25 Attached to the tony Warwick Hotel, Brasserie Margaux at first glance appears too staid to merit the "brasserie" designation—the gold and burgunday d飯r, the wood floors, and domed ceiling add to the serious ambiance. Opened in July 1999 with Lyonnaise chef Stephan Desgaches at the helm, the kitchen has been serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner with more panache than you'd find ata typical french brasserie. The finely tuned service adds to the sense that this place is too darn elegant. But semantics (and appearances) aside, Desgaches has done an admirable job of filling the menu with hearty, likable fare, whether it's the cassoulet or croque monsieur at lunch; or the steak frites—a generous cut of peppercorn-crusted beef accompanied by salty shoestring potatoes—at dinner. The French onion soup and Belgian endive salad are perfect, straight out of French cuisine's Greatest Hits, and the lemon crepe dessert rounds out a repas nicely. Margaux's mix of first-class atmosphere and accessible dining makes for a winning combination. R.A.M. Burrito Loco 9211 Holman Rd NW, 783-0719 Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m. $4-$11 There are innumerable Mexican joints on the 15th NW/Holman corridor of strip malls, but Crown Hill's Burrito Loco may deserve top prize. It's clean, bright, and family-friendly, but the food is the real attraction. The surprising ceviche tostadas topped with lime, avocado, and cilantro makes a great start to a meal. Appetizers are by no means necessary, though, as the entr饠portions are most generous. Especially generous is the signature Burrito Loco, which is fully loaded with rice, beans, cheese, and lots of other fixins; pour some of the house salsa on top (the salsa verde is exceptional) and it's a real treat. The enchiladas, smothered in either the verde or mole sauce, are delicious. What truly sets Burrito Loco apart from its peers, however, is its consistency, much of which stems from its commitment to fresh ingredients. Not every dish is spectacular, but you are at least assured that it will never be bad. Beer and wine is available, but no liquor. If you simply must have a margarita, consider getting your food to go and making your own cocktails. P.F. Cactus 4220 E Madison, 324-4140 Lunch Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Saturday-Wednesday 5-10:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 5-11 p.m. Lunch $7-$9, dinner $10-$16 There's a reason this Madison Valley restaurant is always spilling over with beautiful people, and it's really quite simple: Beautiful people love beautiful food. And the staff at Cactus happily provides. Most choose to make a meal out of two or three tapas, and with tempting options like the bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed jalapenos or the beef picadillo empanadas, it's easy to see why diners get stuck on that side of the menu. Of the entr饳, the chorizo-filled chimayo enchilada and the chicken tamales stand out as surefire hits. But the true talent of Cactus' kitchen staff lies in their ability to turn just about anything into a one-of-a-kind treat. Even the tacos, done here with their deliciously sweet Navajo fry bread instead of a crisp shell, arrive at your table as a brand new invention instead of an old favorite. Ditto for the margaritas: As Cactus is typically teeming with hungry patrons, you'll likely have occasion to sample one or two at the bar while you wait for your table. L.L. Cafe Campagne 86 Pine, 728-2233 Breakfast Monday-Friday 8-11 a.m.; lunch Monday-Saturday 11:45 a.m.-5 p.m.; dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5:30-11 p.m.; brunch Saturday 8-11 a.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-3 p.m. $10-$18 Tucked away on the Pine Street entrance to Post Alley, it's the casual appeal and ease of this spot that stands out. The location is smallish and would feel cramped if the warm, polished wood tables and bar weren't nestled in such a quietly charming Parisienne interior. The superlative menu entices with an equally accessible French touch; this is elegant fare that won't intimidate anyone. Even the savory cassoulet—a version of the white bean stew that features a flawless duck confit snuggled inside—tastes somehow comfortingly familiar. Expect to wait for a table at brunch, and expect to wait a long time. You should also expect to disregard that nuisance the minute you get a taste of what's offered. You'll be able to find larger, cheaper portions elsewhere, sure, but if you find any brunch item better than the oeufs plats (two eggs skillet-baked with white beans) or French French toast (a brioche-and-bourbon-batter affair that may ruin your taste for any other local attempt at this staple), consider yourself blessed. S.W. Cafe Flora 2901 E Madison, 325-9100 Tuesday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday brunch 9 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner 5-10 p.m.; Sunday brunch 9 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner 5-9 p.m. Brunch $5-$11, lunch $9-$11, dinner $13-$16 Vegetarians, and those who eat like them, have been flocking to this Madison Park palace of meatless gourmet for a decade now. Cafe Flora elevates healthy eating to fine dining, with an ambiance and menu a world away from your grains-and-greens buffet. Where else can you get roasted pear, arugula-cashew pesto, tomme de ch趲e, and port-Cabernet reduction on a pizza? Though vegan options are always available, the emphasis here is not on macrobiotic ideology but on flavors. The quesadilla verde makes for a succulent starter, with roasted yams and pumpkin seed-cilantro-scallion spread tucked inside tender tortillas with pepper jack cheese. Main entr饳 include some pillow-y fritters, of black-eyed or chickpeas, and a Portobella Wellington; Cafe Flora is also home to what I suspect may be the world's only $9.25 falafel sandwich. You can soak up the sophisticated Bay Area vibe in the main room or escape to the cool, meditative atrium with burbling fountain: perfect for bright, sun-streaked afternoons or dark, quiet nights. M.D.F. Cafe Juanita 9702 NE 120th Pl, Kirkland, 425-823-1505 Tuesday-Saturday 5-10 p.m., Sunday 5-9 p.m. $19-$28 For years this sleek, woody dining room in Kirkland's Juanita Beach was a restaurateur's restaurant, known for its reliable pastas and the larger-than-life presence of its impresario, the affable Peter Dow. Last year the retiring Dow handed off the place to newcomer Holly Smith (Brasa, Dahlia Lounge) and a legion of fans watched and waited. The jury's in, and the good news is the place still has the seasoned, sure-handed feel of a pro at the helm. Smith suffuses the place with a warm, engaging energy and the sophisticated menu with her formidable creativity. Off that menu one can order innovations heretofore unheard of (grilled squab with foie gras and date-almond gnocchi, seared sea scallops with smoked ham hock) but tasting like they were written in the stars. Yep, it's pricey but it's worth it. Execution never falters; if conception does you'll want to applaud the chef's bravery. Homemade pastas rule. And bravo the cell phone ban! K.R. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

 
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