* new restaurant DINER* A great diner is hard to come by in these parts, and Diner—nestled in its obscure location on a Pioneer Square

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100 Favorite Restaurants (Part 2)

* new restaurant DINER* A great diner is hard to come by in these parts, and Diner—nestled in its obscure location on a Pioneer Square side street—is a great diner, with proper red-upholstered booths and shiny tabletops and a checkered floor. Other signs that this place is the real deal: Cops frequent it. Service, even at a busy lunchtime, is shockingly fast. They know what a black-and-white shake is. A hot turkey sandwich, with white bread toast and nice sear marks on the turkey and good salty gravy, comes with what one can only believe are potato buds. The hash browns ($1, people!) are appropriately greasy and, appropriately, the grated kind, none of this home-fries bullshit. The Fantabulous Eggwich (scrambled eggs, cheese, and ham, bacon, or sausage on toast, a muffin, or a biscuit) is exactly as it should be, and if you choose the biscuit you get TWO side-by-side, because a biscuit isn't as big as toast or an English muffin, and that wouldn't be fair, and this way it's more than fair. The prices are also more than fair. Now that's how a diner should be. B.J.C. 72 S. Washington, 340-8859. Breakfast, lunch, & dinner, closed Sun. PIONEER SQUARE $ THE DISH Generally, people don't like waiting around outside on dreary, miserable mornings. And many flinch at paying $7.50 for an omelet. Even more in these parts frown upon breakfast establishments that don't own an espresso machine. So just why do they descend in droves on the Dish, the modest cafe situated in the nondescript zone between Ballard and Fremont? The answer is quite simple: The ingredients are top quality and always fresh, everything's served in healthy portions, the coffee never stops flowing, and the mismatched furnishings are somehow oddly comforting. A case could certainly be made for the Slacker Especial (scrambled eggs, green chiles, tortilla chips, and Monterey Jack, coated with a zesty enchilada sauce), but there's no such thing as a signature item here: It's all good. Someplace on the menu there's a house combo of eggs, meats, cheeses, and veggies to satisfy the most fickle breakfast connoisseur, but they'll accommodate custom orders if you really must. And please don't neglect the lunch side of the menu—the soups and sandwiches are no less spectacular. P.F. 4358 Leary, 782-9985. Breakfast & lunch, closed Mon. Cash and checks only. BALLARD $ EARTH & OCEAN Earth & Ocean shares many of the qualities of a successful love affair; it's plenty serious about the right things but has wicked fun with others. It's sleek and elegant, dark and comfortable. If you're here for Dinner with a capital D, plan to spend big money, feel serious, and eat rich. Try one of the chef-selected four-course dinners, and look for the unadulterated honeycomb that shows up from time to time. Flavor contrasts abound in the appetizer menu; the wild boar ravioli has a heady intense taste of porcini mushrooms and caramelized onions. The joie de sweet is the amazing the Sue McCown—her gold medal-worthy work as executive pastry chef is brash, creative, and just plain incredible. The "Cool Kind of Mint" is simply gorgeous, celadon green chocolate cake layered with mint ganache. Earth & Ocean is trying, obviously, to do a lot and be a number of places—an arbiter of taste, a serious eatery, a Candace Bushnell-worthy cocktail bar. It brings together the feelings of comfortable old marrieds, thrilling blind dates, and the uneasy questioning of the just-moved-in-together. As with love, it's nearly always fun trying—especially if you order dessert. A.V.B. 1112 Fourth, 264-6060. Breakfast, lunch, dinner every night. DOWNTOWN $$$ EL GALLITO For the muy tasty stuff, visit the little, er, cock. The compelling exterior signage beckons as you drive by on Madison, and diner-esque booths, a linoleum floor, and general working-class Los Angeles feel (cement block walls, stuffed rooster watching over the place) greet you. Get an order of stellar guacamole with your chips; delicate palates should be wary of the house salsa, which will impress even the most desperate capsaicin addicts. The burning is nothing one of their fine house margaritas won't solve, though their other drinks are tempting as well, and El Gallito maintains an extensive tequila selection for sipping or shots. The main courses blend simple ingredients and complex spice mixtures elegantly—even the rice stands out! The mole sauce is thick and full of yummy details, the tortillas are perfectly soft but don't fall apart midbite, and the portions will outlast most appetites. The lunch menu is varied and tasty, though not as cheap as their competitors'—but that extra buck or two pays for some serious postprandial satisfaction. Rob Lightner 1700 20th, 329-8088. Lunch & dinner, no lunch on weekends. CAPITOL HILL $ EL GAUCHO Scampering valet parking attendants signal the swarming hub of swank that is El Gaucho, Belltown's reigning champion in the heavyweight dating category. This is a place to impress your beau (or client), a joint to show you have, most emphatically, Arrived. The tiered, open floor plan is topped by old-school, U-shaped booths overlooking a theatrical space just waiting for Rita Hayworth to slink into the spotlight and sing "Put the Blame on Mame." Since diners on a midweek visit wore white tennis shoes, jeans, and logoed sweatshirts, the Stork Club revival feeling may be lost on some—glamour works both ways. The abundant, uniformed, attentive staff holds up its end with sales shtick that can be a little over-the-top (when requesting a Tanqueray and tonic, you may be complimented on your choice), but you can't complain about the food, which tends toward supersized luxury signifiers like lobster and steak. Crab cake starters are mercifully firm and well-textured. A seasonal special of Alaskan halibut was top-drawer, served unpretentiously with greens and scalloped potatoes. The "Magnificent Northwest Bouillabaisse" raises suspicions, but doesn't bludgeon the palate with either sauce or seafood selection. You won't be able to finish any of it, however, even the dessert; size has its price. Brian Miller 2505 First, 728-1337. Dinner, closed Sun. DOWNTOWN $$$ EL GRECO People on Capitol Hill know El Greco for its great weekend brunches (and their concomitant long waits; those people standing around inside the strange "Alley" minimall are, yes, all waiting). Brunch specials might include pumpkin pancakes with honey-cinnamon butter or a fancy egg sandwich with arugula, bacon, and basil aﯬi; frittata of the day, omelets, the incredibly rich El Greco Benedict, and so forth are brunch standards. And people in the know on Capitol Hill know El Greco also has very good Mediterranean dinners in its spacious L-shaped room (and you usually don't have to wait for dinner at all). The appetizer variety plate of zucchini cakes, excellent olives, hummus, pita, etc., and a bread salad with tomatoes and squares of mild, squishy white cheese are favorites—as is the crispy penne, saut饤 and topped with eggplant, olives, capers, and sheep's milk cheese. A recent special of piccata-rubbed halibut in vine leaves had tender, flaky fish within its crisp and flavorful wrapping, and the daily risottos are uniformly admired. Add in the marble tiled floor, fresh flowers on the little tables, and big windows looking out onto the sordid splendor of Broadway, and El Greco is quite a nice place for a spring supper. B.J.C. 219 Broadway E., 328-4604. Dinner Wed.-Sat., brunch Sat.-Sun. CAPITOL HILL $-$$ ELLIOTT'S OYSTER HOUSE Elliott's is the waterfront seafood place all your dryland friends and relatives would want you to take them to if they knew it existed. And you would, too, if you knew it existed, embedded amidst the tourist-teasing ticky-tacky of the downtown waterfront. Elliott's is the kind of place that shows how good a job a big chain of restaurants (Consolidated, in this case) can do when it's trying. From the crowded entryway with its beaming hostesses to the toque-wearing saut頣ooks in the open kitchen to the breezy waiter who takes your order, there's not a surprise to disturb you—until your food arrives. It's good! Not just OK-good, but first-rate. Imaginative: ancho chiles and andouille sausage and cream with steamed clams? You bet. Subtly cheesed mashed potatoes under your king salmon? Yowza. Bizarre little dipping sauces with your plate of oysters (more than a dozen varieties any day during the season) that each give you a new angle on your favorite raw bivalve. You could spend weeks just eating your way round the big standard menu, but you probably won't, because the daily specials are so, well, special: just plain perfect peak-of-season seafood grilled or baked to perfection, with unconventional but subtle seasonings. The desserts are not your routine cheesecakes but yummy, Momma-used-to-make pies, cakes, and puddings. The only thing your out-of-town guests might jib at is the prices, because Elliott's isn't cheap: Your special platter of sturgeon or steelhead will run around $25. But once you explain how much it costs to get fish this good, they'll stop complaining. R.D. Pier 56 (1201 Alaskan Way, foot of Seneca), 623-4340. Lunch & dinner daily. DOWNTOWN $$$ EL PUERCO LLORON The rickety old metal tables and chairs, the loud shades of blue and maize adorning the walls, the strings of gaily colored lights, and the wealth of imported knickknacks that cover the full spectrum of tacky to traditional all holler "south of the border," but it's the initial glimpse behind the counter revealing the woman shaping and grilling handmade corn tortillas that lets you know for sure that El Puerco Lloron is indeed Mexican fare at its most authentic. The menu here is no-frills: Ten entr饳—order by number, por favor—are all priced between $5.25 and $6.25, including the side of rice and beans (fresh guacamole will run you an extra $1.35, but it's worth it). No bulging burritos or taco salads here, just classic meat dishes like carne asada, taquitos, and good old-fashioned tacos. Pork may reign supreme, though—the meat in the carnitas is so moist and tender that you'll understand why the pig is crying. The meat-shy aren't exactly excluded—the rellenos de queso are splendid. It's safe to drink the water here, but the cerveza best fits the mood. P.F. 1501 Western, 624-0541. Lunch & dinner. DOWNTOWN $ EVA* Amy McCray and James Hondros do things their own way: The right to do things their own way is why they opened Eva in the first place. And they've found a clientele that appreciates novelty and tolerates surprises. Hondros' wine-by-the-glass list is a series of vinous adventures, and moderately priced so you can afford to adventure with grape varieties and growing regions way off the beaten path. McCray's menu also eschews the well-trodden: Her "firsts" span everything from a cream of chicken soup laced with sweet sherry, to tiger prawns swimming in curried lemon grass broth and oily, fishy taramasalata dip; "seconds" (main dishes, mostly) may mix almond-crusted halibut with paprika and garlic, grilled pork and cinnamon-basil salad with Vietnamese-seasoned cucumber pur饬 sherry-braised rabbit with chorizo bread pudding. (There are also "in betweens," which can be just about anything.) McCray's whimsical combos work most of the time, but when they don't the results can be distinctly odd; so if a dish description sounds interesting but vague, get your server to tell you exactly what's in it and in what proportions—thus you may choose your own adventures nicely. R.D. 2227 N. 56th, 633-3538. Dinner only, closed Mon. GREEN LAKE/WALLINGFORD $$ EZELL'S Ah, heavenly grease. Ezell's is a small, no-nonsense eatery that serves famous fried chicken—crispy, golden, delicious—and famous is truly the operative word. Die-hard fans include Steve Pool (OK, maybe he's not that famous) and Oprah Winfrey. You can order any combination of crackly crusted, succulent pieces, from singles to dinners with sides to 24-piece family orders. (You can even order a Faygo to go with your livers and gizzards.) Best of show for the sides goes to the slaw, though the smoky-sweet beans and distinctive potatoes (with gravy!) likewise merit a mention. The rolls? So soft and golden you'll want to use 'em for a pillow. As for the atmosphere, tradition dictates that you eat in your car. OK, so it's not really tradition: Ezell's just doesn't have any seats, so it's either the wet pavement or your own dry bucket seats. You make the call. Or you can try to drive home, but good luck. Thirty seconds in the car steeped in those swirling clouds of chickeny goodness will break anyone. P.H. 501 23rd (across from Garfield High), 324-4141. Lunch & dinner every day. Cash only. CENTRAL DISTRICT $ FLYING FISH At Flying Fish, you always know, and you never know, just what you're going to get. You know you're going to get fish, but within that water world there's an amazing amount of variety, much of which turns up on the menu at one time or another. A recent night's menu featured uku, escolar, and wahoo among the more predictable choices of salmon, swordfish, and rockfish. That rockfish, served fried whole with a pineapple-anchovy dipping sauce, is one of the most popular dishes and may be single-handedly convincing Seattle diners that there's more to fish than boneless steaks. The wahoo, a firm and meaty white fish, came with pale satsuma potatoes mashed to a pur饠and a sweet and salty soy-ginger butter sauce. Among the small plates, don't miss the king salmon gravlax topped with a confettilike spray of crisp fried capers and sweet potato threads. The large platter of grilled fish tacos is fun for a group, though if you like tacos, don't miss Fandango, Flying Fish chef/ owner Christine Keff's other restaurant located just across First: South America colors heat up the walls, and that continent's flavors heat up the plates. The chile rellenos are like a fast trip to the Southwest. A.V.B. 2234 First, 728-8595. Dinner daily. BELLTOWN $$$ FARESTART What's the best thing about a homeless person preparing and serving your food? At FareStart, many things—including the food being damn good, the atmosphere buzzing like a highly successful restaurant's should, and the warm, fuzzy feeling of being a small part in the rehabilitation of your community. The people dicing, grilling, baking, roasting, and bringing you your seared Alaskan salmon with English pea risotto and chive oil are training for new jobs—and new lives—in the food service industry. Commanded by a different distinguished chef each Thursday—Marianne Zdobyz of Madison Park Caf頡nd Michael Weeks of Dragonfish, recently—this place can be more difficult to get into than Studio 54 in its heyday. Says FareStart director Megan Karch, "It can be pretty hard to find a table here; we're usually booked weeks in advance." So don't go down to Belltown just to sleep better at night. Go for the wilted spinach salad tossed with warm bacon and the oven-roasted hunter-style chicken with shiitake mushrooms and three-potato hash. You'll sleep better, all right, knocked out from the soporific effects of plentiful portions and a pleased palate. Your sated conscience will be a bonus. Tristan Swanson 1902 Second, 443-1233. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Thurs. only. BELLTOWN $$ FERNANDO'S HIDEAWAY* If you know that the name Fernando's Hideaway plays off the title of a forgotten novelty number from the 1950s musical, go ahead and feel smug; and damned if it isn't like the "dark, secluded place" in the old song. Moody, romantic, and labyrinthine, Fernando's offers toothsome Spanish fare and authentic Spanish service. Tapas-type appetizers include saffron-scented deep-fried calamari, served with a creamy sweet-pepper dipping sauce, and prawns pil pil, swimming in peppery, garlicky oil. A fine paella has lots of succulent marine and porky bits in a mound of tender rice. Lunch is a bargain; look for a wonderful stew with garbanzos and bread dumplings. Desserts are lovely, too, especially the helados galetas: creamy lemon-scented ice embedded in a hollowed-out lemon. And by authentic Spanish service, we mean a perversely charming mix of complete attention—so friendly, so attentive, so passionately devoted to helping the senor y senora find just the right appetizers and the best dry sherry to accompany them—and benign neglect. R.D. 522 Wall, 441-0606. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat., brunch Sat.-Sun. DOWNTOWN $$ GALERIAS Some people say there's no good Mexican food in Seattle. Before telling them to go back to California, try sending them to Broadway first for the decadent splendor of a Galerias dinner. Those intimidated by the gigantic, metal-bound menus will soon be disarmed by the waitstaff's charm and the comfortable decor, well-suited to their big new space. Favorites include the devastatingly tasty chiles en nogada, stuffed with meat and fruit and draped with a light sauce, and the filete uruapan, a broiled skirt steak covered with saut饤 vegetables and a gentle avocado sauce. Vegetarians have only a few options, but every choice is satisfying—try the enchiladas chipotle or the spinach-feta vegetarian tamale. Drinks are stiff, and tequila connoisseurs will appreciate the breadth of liquors offered. Even the most flan-phobic diner will reflexively save room for dessert, as they're hard to miss on the way to the dining room and look as rich as they taste. Galerias' lunch menu is limited but much less expensive than dinner; for not much more than the cost of a burrito elsewhere, diners can enjoy the best of Jalisco close to home. R.L. 611 Broadway E., 322-5757. Lunch & dinner, closed Mon. CAPITOL HILL $$ GENEVA The best Seattle restaurant you've never heard of, Geneva is a glittering jewel box of old-world charms, anchored with a diminutive chandelier and a lush floral arrangement, set with formal tables just begging for romance. The name signals the Swiss heritage of owners Hanspeter and Margret Aebersold and, consequently, the pedigree of the cuisine. You know, Swiss food: Bndnerfleisch, veal Bernoise, jaeger schnitzel. Actually, maybe you don't know; German and Bavarian cuisines have hardly been represented in this region west of Leavenworth (and there mostly with studied mediocrity). What, the diner is left to wonder, is jaeger schnitzel supposed to taste like? In the capable hands of chef Hanspeter, you can find out. The pork scaloppine are butter-tender and ever so lightly crusted. They're topped with wild mushrooms and draped in a bacony sauce that lends the whole plate a lip-smacking cured quality. On the side are buttery snow peas and asparagus in a substantive lemon sauce, along with a mound of fennel-topped sweet carrot pur饮 A heap of lightly crusty, well-buttered spaetzle completes the dish, which in turn completes you. When Herr Aebersold comes around to the table to greet you—this is that sort of restaurant—you find you can't sputter out a thank you big enough. Kathryn Robinson 1106 Eighth, 624-2222. Dinner. Closed Sun. & Mon. FIRST HILL $$$ THE GEORGIAN The Georgian Room is now just the Georgian, having undergone a paint job (11 shades of yellow now adorn the enormous space with its dumbfoundingly elaborate moldings and details) and a charge by the Four Seasons Olympic to make the space and the menu more "accessible" and "inviting." It's nice that they're not going to force a loaner tie on you at the door anymore, but it's still all about the Room. What is and always will be great about the Georgian is the splendorous formality; the place is fit for royalty. (So Dennis Quaid doesn't count; he's still at the next table, and various Sonics are at the Terrace bar on the mezzanine.) The cuisine now concentrates on Northwest ingredients, with appetizers like smoked salmon with Indian cornbread or Dungeness and king crab salad with capsicum dressing, and main courses like roasted sea bass and—of course—salmon with warm potato and wild mushroom salad. And the lunch menu now has a quickie special of a fancy soup, sandwich, and salad of the day for $13, a price that certainly accomplishes the new accessibility dictate and allows some of us who live more like paupers to dine like royalty. B.J.C. 411 University, 621-7889. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tues.-Sat.; breakfast & lunch Sun. & Mon. DOWNTOWN $$$ GLO'S Glo's is from that early '90s, still-towny Seattle whose residents searched for the best breakfast dive, not the glitziest dot-com martini lounge or (as is the depressing case today) the random market that tolerates food stamps. Lodged alongside Olive's ascension to Broadway, the forever-adored greasy spoon's conspicuous only because it's the spot with all the people loitering outside (the wait can stretch to an hour on weekend mornings). But inside is a tiny, triangular-shaped dining room that's more charged than most bars. Those who find their way into Glo's heart—a motley lot of Seattle's late-risers, hungover, and brunch connoisseurs—have lots to chat about: Not one component's less than excellent in the eggs-hash-browns-and-bacon plate, while the perfectly toasted oatmeal—accompanied by a heap of strawberries, kiwi, and other fruit—will delight people who don't want to walk out with extra pounds. A symmetrical presentation with two surprisingly spherical eggs atop English muffins, the eggs Benedict further proves that Glo's has fierce class within its modest shell—something the Starbucks across the road should note. David Massengill 1621 E. Olive, 324-2577. Breakfast & lunch every day. CAPITOL HILL $ GYPSY* [This restaurant has changed chefs since this review was written.] Gypsy is an odd name for this comforting, cozy little neighborhood spot. There's little exotic about the Madison Valley storefront, though the ceiling is painted a deep blue and some furnishings are vaguely foreign-looking. The combination of a long, classy bar and just a few small tables would seem more appropriate in a place called Alice, but the name doesn't really matter. Instead focus on the lovely, earthy, satisfying food. The antipasto plate is a meal in itself, layered with a changing assortment of cured meats, perfectly soft and mellow roasted garlic, a variety of olives, slabs of smoked fish and sharp cheeses, and a handful of dried cranberries and candied nuts. Pair this with a dinner-sized salad topped with perfectly cooked steak and a scattering of blue cheese, and you'll leave full and happy. The menu changes frequently, but there are always several delicious-sounding entr饳: A seafood stew in a light tomato broth was jam-packed with crustaceans (no fighting over the sole shrimp here), and a barbecued pork tenderloin was generously portioned, with the sweet and the smoke carefully balanced. After all this comfort, you may think you'll skip dessert, but the chocolate cake with cr譥 brl饠topping is worth the extra splurge. A.V.B. 2805 E. Madison, 709-8324. Dinner every night. MADISON VALLEY $$ THE HARVEST VINE The Harvest Vine is small: very, very small. And because it is also very, very good, and doesn't take reservations, and is located right in the middle of a neighborhood that knows just how good it is, it is also a pain in the neck if you happen to like knowing when you go out to dinner when you'll be sitting down, if ever. And if you persist and do get a table or a place at the bar, it brings out every ounce of selfishness in you, as you slowly, luxuriously sip your chilly sherry as you watch the next delicacy being prepared just for you: fresh white sardines, sweet peppers stuffed with salt cod and mashed potato, prawns swimming in garlic and oil, Spanish egg-and-potato cake . . . and all the time aware of the hunger of the waiting eyes fixed on you, willing you to make the current dainty your last. The hell with them; we've paid our dues. Joseph: an order of your calamari Donostiarra, please. Take your time: we're in no hurry. R.D. 2701 E. Madison, 320-9771. Dinner only Tues.-Sat. MADISON PARK $$$ HATTIE'S HAT Ballard would not be Ballard without Hattie's Hat, and Hattie's Hat would not be Hattie's Hat without Ballard. The symbiosis is perfect, and it's upon a majestic slab of Guinness meat loaf with sides of creamed corn and garlic mashed potatoes that the mutually advantageous relationship rests. Homey, comforting, and about as real as the rain that regularly falls on these parts, Hattie's and its finest accomplishment (the aforementioned meat loaf), not to mention the deliciously southern-tasting chicken-fried chicken, the spicy grilled catfish, and the big, juicy burgers, are the stuff that restful good dreams are made of. And as soon as you wake up from those dreams, c'mon back, because Hattie's does breakfast right, too. Sloppy, fried, and sauced with melted cheese and gravy, the breakfast menu reads like an anti-hangover handbook, with all the regulars and a crazy-good smoked salmon Benedict. Slurp it all down with a few of the best Bloody Marys in town; at Hattie's the bartenders don't mess around, regardless of the hour. And since it's a mere strolling distance from all your favorite Ballard haunts (the Tractor, the Sunset, the Majestic Bay theater, Bop Street Records, and Sonic Boom), Hattie's is the perfect place for apr賭date drinks or preshopping dinners. Laura Learmonth 5231 Ballard N.W., 784-0175. Breakfast (weekends only), lunch (after 3 p.m.), and dinner. BALLARD $ HOUSE OF HONG Dim sum done right combines a cheery family atmosphere with profoundly satisfying, fatty treats—no wonder some people call this place "House of Hungover." But even those who went to bed early the night before will love the food and service here. Come early—around 10-10:30 a.m.—for better parking and a more relaxed waitstaff, but even during the rush you'll get everything you want. Humbows are terrific, whether baked or steamed, the shrimp puffs are perfectly presented and tasty, and the barbecued pork is fresh and understated. Looking for a little fiber somewhere amongst the pork and pastry? Try the Chinese broccoli and you won't feel guilty later. Strategy is important, as it's all too easy to front-load and miss out on late-coming delights from the kitchen. It's hard to say no to the barrage of carts laden with great food, but do make an effort to save room for a sesame dumpling with sweet bean paste. And don't rush; dim sum can be as relaxing as a good massage. R.L. 409 Eighth S., 622-7997. Lunch & dinner, dim sum weekends. INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT $ HUONG BINH Ask for extra napkins. Prepare to make a mess. Sure, you can request silverware, but that only invites culinary shame at this superfast, family-oriented stalwart of the burgeoning Little Saigon district. Your fingers, chopsticks, and soup spoon are the preferred implements for folding, tearing, crushing, dunking, defoliating, rending, smashing, smooshing, and scattering delicious ingredients across the Formica tabletop. If you're lucky, some of it will also end up in your mouth. It's like do-it-yourself Benihana as you customize your own soup and create your own lettuce-wrapped rolls, then dip them in fish sauce—"the catsup of central Vietnamese cuisine," according to one source. On a menu with both weekday and weekend specials, all of them unpronounceable, you should try numbers 2, 8, 17, 47, and 48—then 59 for dessert. (Sorry, 46 was out during a recent visit.) Rice noodles and nearly transparent rice paper provide excellent starchy bases to most orders; roast skewered pork has a savory texture; sugar cane wrapped in shrimp paste—like pigs in a blanket!--is both novel and tasty (Miss Manners says to discreetly deposit the resulting rind in a napkin). After eating, you can shop at the many adjacent markets for ingredients for your own Vietnamese kitchen experiments. B.R.M. 1207 S. Jackson Ste. B104, 720-4907. Lunch & dinner every day. Cash only. INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT $ JONES BARBEQUE Let's compromise with the fundamentalist vegetarians: If animals have to die, let it be for art. The Joneses must be the most prolific artists in town, tossing off masterpieces for their adoring fans every day but Monday. Jones' sauce, widely and rightly known as the best in town, recalibrates diners' sense of taste—the spice blend is rich and soothing and complements the hot stuff rather than struggling against it. (Fear not; the mild sauce is just as inspired.) The ribs, chicken, and brisket offer just the right resistance to cutting and chewing, and the sweet, sweet baked beans make an excellent dessert. Even if you're done with sweets after the beans and cornbread, grab a slice of pie or cake on your way out—it's cheap, and you know you'll want that pecan or sweet potato goodness at midnight. Seating is fairly limited but comfortable, and the atmosphere is neighborly and relaxed during the quieter hours. The ordering counter can get crowded, especially at lunchtime, so phone ahead if you're in a rush. You can't hurry art, but you can get it to go. R.L. 3216 S. Hudson, 725-2728. Lunch & dinner, closed Mon. RAINIER VALLEY $ KANISHKA Here's one reason to be jealous of those who work in Redmond that has nothing to do with the wealthiest man in the world: the lunch buffet at Kanishka. At $6.95 a person, it costs about what Bill Gates makes in the blink of an eye, but it's a meal fit for kings, paupers, and billionaires alike. No mere high-school-cafeteria-style double row of nearly indistinguishable curries, this buffet is fresh, hot, and doesn't pull any punches. Gorgeous tandoori chicken, moist and tangy, creamy chicken tikka masala, a shocking variety of delicious and distinct vegetarian dishes, and plenty of chewy, just-off-the-griddle naan make this the best Indian feast we've found in the county. If you're at all interested in turning up the heat, don't miss the oily pickled hot jalape�epper relish. For dinner, if you're any sort of Indian food fan at all, you'll recognize most of the things on the menu, but at Kanishka it seems like everywhere else is serving the low-flavor Weight Watchers version. The butter chicken and lamb mint may or may not be more fattening than the norm, but after one bite you really won't care. Hell, if it's worth a special trip to Redmond, that's saying a lot. A.V.B. 16101 Redmond Way, Redmond. 425-869-9182. Lunch and dinner every day. REDMOND $$ KINGFISH CAFE My theory's this: One late night in 1996, a year before twins Leslie and Lori Coaston opened Capitol Hill's absurdly successful Kingfish Cafe, a spirit—most likely one of the sisters' ancestors—hovered into town from the Deep South. Flung over her shoulder was a satchel of good juju, which she sprinkled on that snoozy strip of 19th Avenue East that would soon contain Seattle's premier place to experience Southern cooking. How else to explain how the Leschi-grown twins—one a flight attendant, one a teacher, neither with any entrepreneurial experience—established an instant moneymaker that still has a line down the block before it even opens at 6 p.m.? Like Kingfish's history, the food served by the uncannily gorgeous waitstaff at this regal, high-ceilinged establishment also seems linked with the otherworldly. The flaky crab and catfish cakes will easily comfort your harshest sorrow. The fried green tomatoes will transport you to Mississippi on a soggy Seattle evening. The so-crisp buttermilk-fried chicken will kick you into ecstasy. And then there's the gold-brick-like loaf of macaroni, the collard greens sanctified by apple-cider vinegar, the godly three-layer cake. . . . When next you exit Kingfish, your stomach in so-sweet pain, glance at the blown-up portraits of Coaston relatives adorning the walls, and think, thank you. D.M. 602 19th E., 320-8757. Lunch & dinner; brunch only Sun.; closed Tues. CAPITOL HILL $$ LAMPREIA Lampreys are hideous, eel-shaped, jawless fish with horny teeth. Thoughts of those cyclostomes are probably the only unpleasant

 
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