Life Is Sweet:

DOLCE VITA

People come to Dolce Vita to be reminded of the exquisite tastes of Italy: espresso, doughnuts, and amazing gelato. All

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Restaurants D-M

From Dolce Vita to Mashiko.

Life Is Sweet:

DOLCE VITA

People come to Dolce Vita to be reminded of the exquisite tastes of Italy: espresso, doughnuts, and amazing gelato. All flavorings are made in-store and balance traditional with contemporary flavors. Italian standards such as straciatella menta (mint chocolate flake), rice, and strawberry are set alongside house creations like mojito (lime, rum, and mint), Reese's Pieces peanut butter cup, and cucumber lemon basil. The emphasis is on seasonal flavors: In the summer they'll use boxes of raspberries to make just one batch of raspberry sorbetto. They're open till midnight Friday and Saturday, so stop in late and get an espresso expertly made on the La Marzocca machine straight from Italy. The smiling help doesn't mind giving eight or 10 tastes, so take time to deliberate between the lemon ginger and the lemon custard. As you consume your cup of one or two (or, ideally, three or four) scoops, visualizations of Italy come rushing forward with every intense, decadent spoonful. R.B . 2123 Queen Anne Ave. N., 206-284-3460. QUEEN ANNE $ Eat to the Beat:

EASY STREET RECORDS & CAFɠ

Where rockers go to eat to the beat:

Musos and rock geeks have found an all-purpose Shangri-la at Easy Street Records ever since the much-loved retailer's West Seattle location began doubling as an eatery in 2001. While the space originally took its concept and inspiration from Starbucks pairing with Barnes & Noble, Easy Street offers a more laid-back charm with its open-air Euro-styled caf鮠A favorite of the city's rock stars and Westside hipsters, Easy Street's two-story setup is an airy space where diners, shoppers, and staff seamlessly mingle. (Appropriately, part of the store's restaurant area also doubles as its stage, a place where both local and national artists regularly ply their trade.) Although it has a few celebrity monikered items, this is no generic "themed" eateryless Hard Rock Caf頴han hard-core diner, Easy Street's menu offers a bevy of breakfast and lunch choices that prove consistently solid grub. Add to that a wide selection of coffee/espresso choices, as well as a fully stocked beer and wine bar, and you've got the makings of a perfect time whether you're trying to salt last night's hangover with a hearty meal or just browse for hot U.K. singles. Whatever your needs, Easy Street's m鬡nge of food, booze, and rock 'n' roll will keep you entertained for hours. B.M. 4559 California Ave. S.W., 206-938-3279. WEST SEATTLE $ Sushi-Free:

EN SEATTLE

If it took you a long time to get over the weirdness of Regis and Kelly (where's Kathy Lee?) or the suddenly soloand adultJoe McIntire (where are his NKOTB brothas?), then you may be mildly traumatized by En Seattle. It's a Japanese restaurant without sushi. Where, you might ask, is the nigiri? Yes, this is revolutionary, and might take some getting used to, but there is no nigiri in the housenot in this house. What you will find here is a long, pleasant list of "homemade-style" modern Japanese dishes. There's a lunch menu and a dinner menu, but a person can do well on the starters list alone. Order enough starters to go around the table and some drinks from the full bar, andif it's a weekend nightenjoy live jazz or a house DJ. Try the crispy black tiger shrimp ball and the breaded, skewered vegetables, fish, and chicken with spicy mustard dipping sauce. The diced, uncooked red tuna, avocado, and celery salad is supremely good, as is the agedashi (golden tofu squares in a tasty fish broth). K.M. 2429 Second Ave., 206-770-0250. BELLTOWN $$ Sexy Mexie:

GALERIAS

Not all great Mexican food comes from an unassuming roadside taco stand or a hole-in-the-wall take-out jointthe papaya-colored walls, airy muslin scrims, and embossed menus of Galerias' spacious new Broadway location complement a menu that is nouveau without being precious, vivid yet still refined. From the crisp, confetti-colored chips and piquant green salsa to the fantastically rich desserts, almost everything on the menu succeeds. It's hard to go wrong with the basicsenchiladas done four ways, chiles rellenos, a just-right mole saucebut the braver items are just as rewarding. The few vegetarian items the menu offers are all delicious, but carnivores will thank the humble cow for Filete Uruapan (broiled skirt steak with sweetly mild avocado sauce) and Dolores Olmedo (spinach cr갥 bundles with cactus and grilled steak in poblano sauce). If nothing else, margaritas only slightly smaller than a child's head will pull in even the most reluctant gringos. L.G. 611 Broadway Ave. E., 206-322-5757. CAPITOL HILL $ Top Cock:

EL GALLITO

Every year we make a big deal about their margaritas, and with good reason; the Cock stocks all the best tequilas, and they serve them up as well as anyone around. But there are so many things to love about El Gallito that we're going to forget the booze this yearwell, at least for right now. First (yes, even before the mole) is owner Refugio Lopez. A kinder man would be hard to find; one with a better pitcher full of homemade salsa at the ready is damn near impossible. Then there's the mole: Find a better combination of tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon, and chocolate, we dare you. And the guacamole. Oh, the guacamole. The enchiladas are the best in town, so order a combo of one guac and one mole and you'll be in heaven. With their recent remodel and expansion, and the best old school signage in town, El Gallito tops the top. L.C. 1700 20th Ave. E., 206-329-8088. CENTRAL DISTRICT $-$$ Diet for a Small Planet:

THE GLOBE CAFɠAND BAKERY

Mainstream customers might feel a little intimidated walking into the Globe on a Saturday afternoon, with its packed crowd of Capitol Hill students and hipsters. But saunter up to the counter and order all-vegan breakfast food: the biscuits and gravy, the cornbread with maple syrup and fresh fruit, the apple-and-ginger flapjack. Your booth will be covered in graffiti and doodleslook up to see poetry painted on the ceiling. Once your food arrives, grab the communal margarine dish from the fridge and eat up: Everything is fresh and yummy, tasting like homemade farm food and not carob/fake cheese stuff, which is all some vegan restaurants are about. The space, tucked into a quiet corner between 15th and Broadway, is low-key and unpretentious, as are the prices: Have a nourishing meal for under $6. R.B. 1531 14th St., 206-324-8815. CAPITOL HILL $ Little Fat One: GORDITO'S HEALTHY MEXICAN FOOD

Right now in front of me sits a little fat one: a delicious Gordito's burrito smothered in red salsa and melted cheese. In Greenwood's favorite Mexican dining room, a burrito in this particular condition is called "wet." I picked up this little monster last night at dinner; but, as the team of tie-dye-wearing cooks behind Gordito's grills insist on stuffing these things to the gills with black beans, rice, tomatoes, jalape� and your choice of charbroiled pork, beef, chicken, veggies, or tofu, the remains are pulling double duty as my lunch. They're not real keen on letting you leave hungry up there, but considering the incredibly familial feel of the staff and, when you're lucky, your fellow diners too, that shouldn't surprise any of us. Going to Gordito's is like going to your favorite aunt's for someone's birthday feastonly here you get to keep the leftovers. L.C. 213 N. 85th St., 206-706-9352. GREENWOOD $$ Artist at Work:

LE GOURMAND

Eating at Le Gourmand is a little like being admitted to an artist's studio. Granted, it's even more like going to a restaurant, but there's something about Bruce Naftaly's cooking that savors of the atelier as much as the kitchen. Naftaly crafts his dishes; each one is an original, a product of seasonal, textural, and gustatory impulse. When he's exhausted what interests him in that particular tissue of sense impressions, he moves on and that dish is gone until inspiration strikes again. Not that you'll see anything flossy or contrived on the menu: Naftaly is dedicated to solid country-style foods; he loves game, and the woodsy fragrance of mushrooms, and the delicate flavors of vegetables cooked with care and affection. Some of what you eat may have been gathered by Naftaly himself (he's notorious for his raids on Discovery Park's spring crop of nettles); all is cooked by him. This is food to linger over, in a cozy room that encourages lingering. If you hear French being spoken at the next table, no surprise; after nearly 20 years in business, Naftaly and Le Gourmand may be better known in Rouen and Caen than here at home. R.D. 425 N.W. Market St., 206-784-3463. BALLARD $$ Viva Las Vegans:

GRAVITY BAR

The service ranges from indifferent to hostile, the food arrives like it took the slow boat from China, and the stools seem designed expressly to keep your chiropractor in businessand yet, the Gravity Bar still gets it done. A full page of juices range from the insufferably virtuous (the grapefruit, lemon, garlic, olive oil, and cayenne Liver Flush) to the heedlessly yummy (the luscious Hawaii 5-O, all pineapple, papaya, banana, coconut, and yogurt), while the food offerings range from healthy (the tofu-avocado roll-up) to healthy (a field-roast vegan burger). Marinated tofu, hummus, and black beans fill most of the protein quotient, while pizzas, salads, and RV1 combos (organic brown rice and vegetables) are topped with everything from tapenade to tahini. There is a short menu just for sauces and dressingsa rich Thai curry; the oil-free Kimono with rice vinegar, honey, and ginger; a deeply flavored Indian dahland another list for "energetic additives" like bee pollen, spirulina, and flaxseed oil. Flaxseed may not be the tastiest thing on God's green earth, but otherwise, you'll be surprised how great good-for-you can taste. L.G. 415 Broadway Ave. E., 206-325-7186. CAPITOL HILL $$ Sorta Greek:

EL GRECO

The Spanish called him El Greco 'cause he came from Greece. And some of the menu items here are Greek, but other plates are filled with a sundry mix of recipes, Mediterranean and otherwise. It's best known as a choice brunch spot. Capitol Hillers and others wait in line weekend mornings for favorites like the Spanish omelet (with chorizo, potato, and manchego cheese) and the applesauce pancakes. At lunch, the tasty sandwiches (pita and otherwise) come with sweet-potato fries. Salads abound here; try the roasted beet salad or the always fun and slightly oxymoronic bread salad. You might need an atlas to navigate the dinner menuentr饳 span the globe: Greek lamb burger, Moroccan chicken, Spanish seafood paella, South American ancho-chili pork, and Italian risotto will have your head spinning (and your tummy cooing). The walls are painted a striking blue, like the sky above Santorini. K.M. 219 Broadway Ave. E., 206-328-4604. CAPITOL HILL $-$$. Big Veg:

GREEN CAT CAFɠ

If meatless comfort food is calling your name, you'd do well to plop yourself down at this reborn Capitol Hill standby. The menu's all vegetarian, but the dishes aren't gimmickyno protein powders or spirulina supplements, just good, wholesome cafe fare that happens to be meat-free. In good weather, the sidewalk tables on Olive Way are prime seating. Other times, the raised dining room, with its quaint wood furniture and live DJ weekend brunch, is the destination of choice. It's always busy but never overly soyou'll have plenty of company but you'll rarely have to wait for a table. Try the Hobo (cheesy, potato-centric egg scramble with sour cream and salsa), Green Eggs Sans Ham (eggs scrambled with pesto), or the tamale pie (an inspired black bean, blue-corn chip, salsa, egg, and cheese bake in a corn tortilla pie crust). Most plates include lovingly arranged fresh fruit. K.M. 1514 E. Olive Way, 206-726-8756. CAPITOL HILL $ Daily Bread:

GREENWOOD BAKERY CAFɠ

At this little neighborhood favorite on Phinney Ridge, you're likely to see tarts and cr譥 brl饠in the revolving case, lots of cookie samples on the counter, a poster board overloaded with community announcements, and jovial, attentive help. Breads are lined up on the wall behind the counter, croissants are ready early every morning, and there's row upon row of melt-in-your-mouth Susans (the best cookie in the world) with either vanilla or chocolate frosting. Year after year, Greenwood Bakery keeps on acquiring devoted fans. Besides their excellent breads and pastries, they also do sandwiches and feature daily specials such as a fantastic Tuscan torte (savory pastry, egg, spinach, and meat). You'll feel comfy and comforted here in any weather: If it's raining, stay inside, sip your coffee, and munch on a bear claw; if it's sunny, sit outside and people-watch as locals with toddlers and puppies get their weekend bread. R.B. 7227 Greenwood Ave. N., 206-783-7181. GREENWOOD $ Noble Nibbles:

THE HARVEST VINE

Time was, trying to dine at the Harvest Vine was a frustrating exercise. Tiny to the point of absurdity, the place was all but impossible to get into except in high summer when the outdoor terrace was available for seating. Today, the Harvest Vine is somewhat largerthough not enough to mean you'll never have to wait for a taste of Josef Jimenez de Jimenez's superb cooking. And a taste is all you'll ever get, because Harvest Vine is that rarity, a "tapas bar" that means business. All the portions are small, mere snacklets to nibble while sipping a carafe of sherry, each gone before the next delectable item arrives: fresh sardines, prawns, tortilla (Spanish potato omelet), and on and on until the appetite is, if not sated, dulled at least. Surfeit's not an option at Harvest Vine. As a matter of fact . . . Waiter? A plate of the calamari, please; and another quarter-liter of sherry. R.D. 2701 E. Madison St., 206-320-9771. MADISON VALLEY $$$ Notable and Quotable:

ICON GRILL

There oughta be a dance floor at icon, where swing music floats tantalizingly above the heads of diners and everything about the ambiance says "dance!" What's more, the original owner was a quotation enthusiast, and it shows: The menu is filled with witty, throwaway lines aboutyou guessed itfood. Standouts include "Everything you see I owe to pasta" (Sophia Loren) and "Of soup and love, the first is best" (Zorro). icon is also notable for its attention-grabbing marquee, which joins the Neptune theater and the Lusty Lady on the shortlist for Best Seattle Marquee. Even the restaurant's contemporary art bears the mark of icon's erstwhile former owner. These are all pieces from his private collection, it seems, and when he sold the place he left them, turning the establishment into a permanent gallery/bistro hybrid. Between the dance tunes and the sculpted glass art (not to mention the equally sculpted and artful desserts), icon easily ranks among the city's most exuberant eateries. N.S. 1933 Fifth Ave., 206-441-6330. BELLTOWN $$ Nouvelle Reborn:

KASPAR'S

The last time Gourmet magazine visited Kaspar's, the reviewer was struck by the kitchen's ability to create such dishes as Dungeness crab and chopped vegetable salad in sushi rolls, not to mention the ever reliable smoked-salmon and goat-cheese quesadilla! Would you be surprised then if we called chef and owner Kaspar Donier Seattle's Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower all rolled into one? Donier has been nominated five times as Best Chef Pacific Northwest, and The New York Times calls Kaspar's "one of the most imaginative spots in Seattle." May we at Seattle Weekly heartily swell the chorus? Whether it is an excellent selection of French vintages at the wine bar or cuisine that continues to be ever newly nouvelle even as nouvelle elsewhere is getting old, Kaspar's delivers as few restaurants can. Make a reservation, bring your wallet, and prepare not to be disappointed. H.J. 19 West Harrison St., 206-298-0123. LOWER QUEEN ANNE $$$ Little Korea:

KIMCHI BISTRO

Good Korean foodeven bad Korean food, for that matteris not easily found in Seattle proper. Or it wasn't until Kimchi Bistro came along this year. What carnivore doesn't know the excitement spawned by a plate full of delicious, tender beef? More electrifying still is a bowl full of sizzling, delicious, tender beef. And should said beef be yummily sweet and spicy, a bulgogi masterpiece, the enthusiasm is magnified greatly. In this department, the little Kimchi Bistro delivers. The prices are fair, and the menu is built around Korean favoritesnot just bulgogi (Korean barbecue), but bibimbob, kimchi soup, and the bistro's special sweet, spicy barbecue short ribs, too. There are no desserts or alcohol on the menu as of yet, but order a pot of barley tea to balance out that Korean kick. Your flaming taste buds will thank you. K.M. 219 Broadway Ave. E., 206-323-4472. CAPITOL HILL $ Gotta Have Soul:

KINGFISH CAFɼ/B>

The line outside can be dismaying, they don't take reservations, and the buzz on this Southern-gets-Northwestern joint has barely died down since the Coaston sisters opened up shop in 1997and, certainly, buzz can be a barrier to a comfortable, relaxed evening of eating out. But those who can channel their most patient selves and brave the queue and the crowd find themselves behind some fairly marvelous fried chicken. And seafood gumbo and macaroni and cheese and sweet potato pie and crab and catfish cakes and pretty much every other delicious dish with its origins on the other side of the Mason-Dixie Line. Sure, you can find folks who will tell you otherwise (we Northerners do like to quarrel about Southern cuisine, don't we?), but it's damn near impossible to have dinner (or lunch, or especially Sunday brunch) at the Kingfish without licking your lips and planning your next trip back before you're even out the door. L.C. 602 19th Ave E., 206-320-8757. CAPITOL HILL $$ Starry Night:

LAMPREIA

Very much at your service.

When you're in the mood for seeing four stars (and when your wallet agrees), head to this small locale in Belltown where gastronomic dreams come true. The driving force behind the operation is chef Scott Carsberga maniac, a workaholic, a fanatic obsessed with providing the hands-down best of every season, using the finest ingredients and innovative combinations in ways to enthrall your inner critic. Though Lampreia is considered to be one of the West Coast's most inspired restaurants, there's hardly anything "trendy" about the preparation or the ingredientsCarsberg would never dare insult his food that way. He only seeks the best way to prepare a certain seasonal ingredient, sometimes embellishing, but always letting the true flavor shine through in each forkful. Everything is artfully presented and served with touches you'd expect J.P. Morgan to receive: without being fussy, the waitstaff lavishes attention on guests and seems genuinely proud to serve you dinnerand it's certainly a pleasure to find a restaurant in Seattle where the service is equal to the food. A recent spring dinner included an ethereal foie gras with Italian plums, fresh, melt-in-you-mouth zucchini blossoms, and troffiete (small spiral) pasta with Venetian anchovies. While each dish was a distinct pleasure, the fat spears of white asparagus were the most divineand as a further example of Carsberg's fascination with the perfect piece of equipment, each serving was cooked in individual terra cotta shells. Ever since my parents introduced me to their friend Scott's restaurant when I was 17, every dinner there has been an impressive example of how complex and awe-inducing a meal can be. After a long repast on white linen, accompanied by a bottle of one of their standout chiantis or an exceptional grappa, you'll surely join me in thanking Mr. Carsberg and his fanatical aspirations. R.B. 2400 First Ave., 206-443-3301. BELLTOWN $$$ Good Vibrations:

LINDA'S TAVERN

Capitol Hill's nearly iconic hangout epitomizes the best of its neighborhood. It's accessible, diverse, filled with the sounds of a killer jukebox (Chet Baker meets the Smiths), and feels hip without striking any kind of pose. The diner-style comfort food doesn't have any pretensions, eitheryou can't put on airs in your menu when you know people will be eating under the gaze of the stuffed buffalo head looming over the bar. Any of the many regulars here can tell you exactly what to order, and it will probably be the big, beefy meatloaf sandwich, which is a great way to prepare your stomach for the pitcher of beer to follow (and don't miss the weekend brunchno wait for seating and an under-$5 basic breakfast). The service, it should be said, isn't all thatthey'll get to your table when they're good and readybut after all, isn't that the very height of laid-back cool? S.W. 707 E. Pine St., 206-325-1220. CAPITOL HILL $ Island Time:

LUAU POLYNESIAN LOUNGE

If you can't be in Hawaii, you might as well party like it. With its cool, dark tiki-kitsch interior, outdoor patio, and friendly staff, Luau's the place to kick it island-style. If it's sunny, grab a patio table and share a bucket of cute little Coronitas on ice or a giant Polynesian cocktail with a friend. Or sit inside under the faux-thatch roof and make your way down the dinner menu. Don't skip the pupus (appetizers); try the spicy tuna poke. Then dig into some island soul food: The smoked, Hawaiian-style baby back ribs are a messy treat that includes a few good hunks of cornbread; the cayenne-spiced fried chicken will have you playing love songs on your ukulele. Spunky families take their kids here (the tykes have their own menu), and the spunkiest sport Hawaiian shirts. You could probably wear a grass skirt here if you wanted to. Nobody caresit's island time. K.M. 2253 N. 56th St., 206-633-5828. GREENLAKE/WALLINGFORD $$ Love and Gnocchi:

MACHIAVELLI

Machiavelli, like its dastardly namesake, is the stuff of legendor at least extremely positive word of mouth. This corner spot is like something out of your dreams: bright, friendly waitstaff, intimate setting, and meltingly delicious food. The cozy Italian ambiance is a date-night clich頦or a reason; Machiavelli demonstrates why this age-old American mating ritual continues. A place that makes gnocchi as tender as a good-night kiss and bathes them in sauce this silky should put anyone in the mood for love. Further, the traditional lasagna, with its old-school use of chicken livers, is described by many as an out-of-body experience. But the void Machiavelli fills isn't just about the food; this is the place to duck into on a cold, rainy night on the Hill, when nothing seems to be going your way, when the only cure for heartbreak is a plate of food made with A-M-O-R-E. When the moon hits your eye, baby. . . . N.S. 1215 Pine St., 206-621-794. CAPITOL HILL $$ Hot 'n' Saucy:

MADAME K'S PIZZA BISTRO

At the Lusty Lady, you can get an eyeful (15 seconds' worth per quarter, actually). At any of the area's delightful D骠 Vu clubs, you can get a lap dance. But to our knowledge, Madame K's Pizza Bistro is the only converted bordello in Seattle where every every pie-lovin' man or woman can get the cheesiest, most decadent pizza this side of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. Tastefully designedahemto resemble a house of extremely ill repute, Madame K's is redder than a maraschino cherry and randier in spirit than a lunkheaded frat boy on spring break. Perhaps the city's most endearingly shameless restaurant, K's milks its supposed origins for all they're worth, yet the servers and the atmosphere stop short of Hooters-level tackiness. At Madame K's, the many references to sexual scandals of yore are in good fun, and the joint's trademark sauciness goes perfectly with all that pizza. N.S. 5327 Ballard Ave. N.W., 206-783-9710. BALLARD $ Thai on Time:

MAE PHIM THAI RESTAURANT

At Mae Phim, your order is ready in just slightly more time than it takes to pronounce it. This is one of those places that lend credence to the phrase "lunch rush." The tiny Thai joint buzzes with the chitchat of noodle addicts, and just being there can make you feel important, like you're part of it all, whatever "it" may be: life, commerce, the corporate lunch sceneessentially, the giant human ant farm we call home. As for the eats, anything "swimming" in peanut sauce is a go, and the phad Thai, though a bit on the tomato-y side, is colorful and comes, like the rest of Phim's food, in portions suitable for sharingand sharing, and sharing some more. Mae Phim is like a favorite jukebox, cranking out a stream of hits with very few misses, all for the change jangling in your pocket. Long live Mae Phim. N.S. 94 Columbia St., 206-624-2979. DOWNTOWN $ Mama Mia:

MAMA'S MEXICAN KITCHEN

Mama, Papa, and a guy named Phred.

Mama's looks like whatever has been filling the minds of several eccentric souls has exploded onto its walls and into its nooks and cranniesand we mean that with all the affection in the world. It's just a great place to hang with a burrito and some booze. Its appeal has obviously exercised some kind of control over manager (and chef) Phred Millerhe's been working here for 27 years, starting just a year after its opening in '75-'76. "We wanna be a place where people from all walks of life can come and enjoy Mama's food," he says, and he knows damn well they've accomplished that. Mama, the restaurant's beloved matriarch who died a few years ago ("She outlived some of her grandchildren," Miller notes), can boast to the angels that on any given day her and husband Papa's irresistibly fatty, generous Mexican recipes are simultaneously pleasing families, older couples, business types, and casual hipster kids (who dominate at night). It would take an awfully haughty person to begrudge the place its cheap, huge chicken screamer (chicken and sour cream) or Nolasco (a veggie concoction named after Papa) burritos. And that decor? "Eclectic," Miller understates. "It's evolved through the years. Every room is someone who took it over. We have some quirky handymen people." No kiddingthere are Mexican tchotchkes, random paintings, local show posters, strings of lights, a bit of Marilyn, and, of course, the famed Elvis room, where people often request to sit. Nowhere else on Cinco de Mayo will offer margaritas with Mama's singular level of welcomingly weird intoxication. S.W. 2234 Second Ave., 206-728-6262. BELLTOWN $ Upscale in Ballard:

MARKET STREET URBAN GRILL Urban? Until lately, the neighborhood felt more like the small town it once was. There were few options for finer dining, and none of them could be regarded as big-city sophisticated. Then this place opened on Ballard's main streethere at last you will find cuisine worthy of downtown. Fish, beef, and poultry are done equally well, and all dishes come with a vegetable, like asparagus that crunches just right when you bite. The decor is modern but warm, with a big map of the neighborhood painted on the wall to remind you that this ain't Belltown. Another clue you are north of the Ship Canal: Though not cheap, the food and wine are a terrific value. C.T. 1744 N.W. Market St., 206-789-6766. BALLARD $$$ Go West:

MASHIKO

Something like a top-rate Japanese joint mixed with a comfy neighborhood hangout, Mashiko is one of West Seattle's most treasured secrets. Not that it's a secret with the locals who come in droves and pack the place nearly every night, but no one is especially anxious for word of chef Hajime's gently bent traditions and superb standards to spread all over town. Oops. Casual and fun, Mashiko has a webcam focused on the sushi bar for the benefit of the folks playing along at home, and the TV set is usually tuned to the Mariners game (when in season, of course) while the hip-hop flavor of the week bumps and waves through the stereo system. "Shut up and eat!" is Hajime's most common refrain, and the genuine smile on his face tells you he means it in the nicest way. L.C. 4725 California Ave. S.W., 206-935-4339. WEST SEATTLE $$ info@seattleweekly.com

 
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