According to: Arnie Millan, owner
Avenue One (1921 First, 441-6139)
"Around here, we like Three Girls Bakery—they have great soup and sandwiches—and Bacco: They've got a juicing machine, lots of salads and healthy foods, rice bowls of various types. We like Bacco because it's very healthy. Sometimes I like to go to Le Panier, too—they have nice sandwiches. The Garlic Tree has Korean/Asian food, and they're unbelievably good. I had their beef in black bean sauce today, which was just marvelous. We also like Cucina Fresca—for a buck twenty-five or so, they've got bruschetta with these great toppings that makes a meal."
According to: Barbara Figueroa, director of food and beverage
Brasserie Margaux (Warwick Hotel, Fourth and Lenora, 777-1990)
"I'm quite partial to Vietnamese food, and Huong Binh is one of the best bargains I know. They have the most authentic stuff imaginable. It's a good place to bring a few people whose company you enjoy—they've got basic noodles with no frills, kind of mystical flavors. Also, tapas, provided you can keep yourself in check, are good for cheap eats. I'd recommend Tango. They're 'small bites,' of course, but tapas have so much flavor that you don't really need too many to be satisfied."
According to: John Finneson, chef
Dragonfish (Paramount Hotel, 722 Pine, 467-7777)
"I'm a fan of a Tacos Guaymas—the tortilla soup is great and they've recently introduced a line of fantastic tortas. A little Vietnamese place down on 12th and Jackson, Thanh Vi, has great Vietnamese—they've got fresh rice noodles as opposed to dry, as well as great soups and appetizers. I'd recommend anything with rice noodles in it. . . . Also, the Salvadorean Bakery on Roxbury near White Center; they have the only authentic pupusas I've found in the city."
According to: John Sundstrom, chef
earth & ocean (W Hotel, 1112 Fourth , 264-6060)
"One of my favorite places for a rainy-day lunch is Saigon Bistro in Asian Plaza; it's a great place for pho and the price is right. There's a little place at the same intersection [Saigon Sandwiches]—half of it is a video store and all they do is Vietnamese sandwiches, about 12 different varieties, and the sandwiches are a buck-fifty apiece. It's a great find. Another place is Malay Satay Hut—a good day-off, meet-a-few-friends-and-go-have-a-movie kind of place. Also, there's a little Mexican hole-in-the-wall [Villa Victoria] in Madrona that serves really great tamales and Mexican sodas and things out of a takeout window. Very unpretentious, family-owned kind of thing."
According to: Tim Kelley, chef
The Painted Table (Alexis Hotel, 92 Madison, 624-3646)
"Salumi is one of my favorite places—that's the little restaurant owned by Mario Batali's dad, Armando, and he's awesome—one of the few guys who's willing to cook off-cuts of meat. He braises tongue and oxtail and all kinds of funky stuff—maybe even tripe. Anyhow, it's great. One place on the Ave, Thai Tom—there's this guy I call 'the rock and roll Thai guy' who cooks with all these bracelets and rock and roll jewelry, and he's just really feisty. It's like watching the Filipino Michael Jackson cook Thai food—he'll point at the food all the time while he's cooking it. There's like 10 seats at the bar and three tables—it's a really good, hot, steamy restaurant. As far as sushi restaurants, I love Hana up on Capitol Hill. Also, Paseo is a little Caribbean place above Fremont that has THE best jerked pork and jerked chicken sandwiches that you could probably ever eat. It's really cheap and it's super, super good. In fact, I'm hungry for it right now."
According to: Leonard Reed, owner
Sapphire (1625 Queen Anne N., 281-1931)
"Usually, for something casual, I love the Elysian. They have really good beer, of course, and you can have, say, the Hot Babe—their pulled pork BBQ sandwich—and a beer, and get in and out for under 10 bucks. Sabai Sabai in Greenlake has great Thai food—you can always get a huge amount of food for relatively cheap. There's the Indian joint just down the street, Banjara; they have a great lunch buffet with all these curries for like seven bucks. Then there's also all the taco joints around town; you can always grab a quick, cheap meal at Taco del Mar or Tacos Guaymas."
According to: Julie Szmania, owner
Szmania's (3321 W. McGraw, 284-7305)
"We like Kinnaree Thai Cuisine, the little Thai place next door, quite a bit—we get takeout from them almost every day. It's a sweet little place, very cheap, and they do a nice job. Another good one is the Greek place down the street, Niko's Gyros. Both of those are very, very good for neighborhood joints."
According to: Bryce Lamb, chef
Tango (1400 Pike, 583-0382)
"Mi So 1 on South Jackson for their house noodle soups. Salumi for, you know, everything. Shanghai Garden's got great lunch specials. Juan Colorado's carnitas tacos are the best in town, Seattle Deli has great BBQ pork sandwiches, and La Spiga has great pasta. A Little Taste of Saigon—their pho is really, really good. All of these are places that're really good for the price, and they're a lot better than going out for a burger and fries."
According to: Stacy Manning, lunch director
Il Terrazzo Carmine (411 First S., 467-7797)
"La Vita Bella, on Second between Battery and Bell, is a teeny little place with reasonable prices, excellent food, nice ambiance, and live music. Thai Heaven at the base of Queen Anne Hill is a longtime standard that I've been attending for over 10 years. The staff knows my name, where I work, and what I like to eat, and my favorite drink is always waiting for me on the table. I love it. . . . At Gourmondo, the owner is just fabulous—he'll shout at you when he sees you out the window and invite you in for all kinds of yummy little treats."