Sit Tight:

MATT'S IN THE MARKET

Matt's is the Mini Cooper S of downtown restaurants: small, cool, nimble, no frillsbut it blows the doors off

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Restaurants M-S

From Matt's in the Market to Salumi.

Sit Tight:

MATT'S IN THE MARKET

Matt's is the Mini Cooper S of downtown restaurants: small, cool, nimble, no frillsbut it blows the doors off your average hulking SUV eatery. With about five tables plus six stools at the counter, it seats as many people as a Ford Expedition, only without cup holders. What you get instead is a pithy, seasonally changing menu that perfectly reflects what's fresh in the Pike Place Market just downstairs. (There's also a keyhole view of Elliott Bay and the Olympics through Matt's single arched window.) The chef and staff are your buddies without being unctuous. You're apt to bump elbows with other diners in such a tight space, but that's more likely to lead to conversation than confrontation. Matt's is an acquired secret; those who goand who wait patiently in line outside, though reservations are takenknow that there's not enough room inside for attitude. B.R.M. Corner Market Building, 94 Pike St., #32, 206-467-7909. PIKE PLACE MARKET $$ Shuck & Awe:

McCORMICK & SCHMICK'S

Seattle Weekly readers have long acclaimed McCormick & Schmick's happy hour as one of the city's best with its generous menu (and portions) of $1.95 items, but it's the large daily menu with a strong emphasis on seafoodand a vast selection of fresh oystersthat is the major draw. The main dining rooms feature dark wood and white linen at tables and boothsa kind of businessperson's chophouse atmosphere, formal enough but accommodating of Seattle casual. Much overlooked by diners is the long front counter where you can watch many of the dishes being prepared: This is not a Benihana-style show, but the flying hands, the open flames, the shouts of the chefs, and the recurrent clang of metal remind one that the preparation of good food is a kind of alchemy, even the shucking of tight-lipped, briny oysters (perhaps especially so). Favorites include whatever fish is fresh, the thick clam chowder, and the shrimp, chicken, or calamari Caesar salads. K.B. 1103 First Ave., 206-623-5500. DOWNTOWN $$ Finer Diner:

MECCA CAFɼ/B>

Lower Queen Anne is chockablock with fancy feasts (e.g., 10 Mercer, places that put the upscale in uptown). Our agents in the field, on a casual stroll through the busy neighborhood surrounding First and Mercer, came across a welcome oasis in a desert of fashionable eating. The Mecca lives up to its name: Hungry wastrels on the prowl for cheap eats swarm in from dawn till dusk . This canny diner wears its greasy-spoon stripe on its sleeve; hell, for all we know, the forks and knives are greasy, too. But the servers and cooks have a sense of humor, and their colorful personalities (and attire, on occasion) distinguish this joint from all the downer diners. Also: The fruit pancakes are excellent, and everything costs about as much as you'd want to pay. The cozy diner might be a culinary clich鬠but nowhere else in Seattle does its familiar charm shine so brightly. N.S. 526 Queen Anne Ave. N., 206-285-9728. LOWER QUEEN ANNE $ Asian Oasis:

MONSOON

Delicate dining in an Asian oasis.

It's a family affair. Siblings Sophie and Eric Banh do the cooking; sister Yen is the hostess. (The clan came to Seattle from Saigon by way of Alberta, Canada, of all places.) Founded in 1999, Monsoon has already become a landmark on Cap Hill's 19th Avenue strip (along with Kingfish and the Little Theatre across the way), someplace almost best appreciated if you walk from 15th or even Broadwayto make it feel like an excursion to a remote Vietnamese village where you know you're going to eat wonderfully well. At Monsoon, the place doesn't get in the way of your plate. Its design is minimalist and unobtrusive, the furnishings spare and functional. The food is Vietnamese, of course, but a Vietnamese cuisine that's traveled and adaptedlike spring rolls made with Dungeness crab or lemon grass mesquite-grilled pork with kimchi. Among the starters: imperial spring rolls, sesame-seed-coated walnuts. Pot-cooked Idaho catfish comes in a caramelized glaze that balances the spicy sauce and tender fish on an exquisite threshold. The sweet, globular drunken chicken is a delicious steal at $12and Monsoon does take-out, too. The food couldn't be any better, and the service almost reaches the same impeccable standard. The Banhs know how to keep customers contentedly queued by quickly taking drink orders, and it doesn't hurt that their wine list is so strong and substantialhaving recently drawn the endorsement of Wine Spectator magazine. With a good glass of merlot in your hand and good people-watching inside the restaurant, Monsoon is always worth the wait. B.R.M. 615 19th Ave. E., 206-325-2111.CAPITOL HILL $$ Worth the Wait:

MUSASHI'S

The service is brusque and the ambience is about as cozy (and quiet) as a train station, but that doesn't keep the hungry hordes from lining up night after night to wait for one of a handful of tables at this matchbox-size Wallingford sushi house. The reason? Immense servings of good, fresh sushi at impossibly low prices. Miso soup, skewered veggies, and the nine-piece nigiri platter will set you back 12 bucks or so, and fat, six-piece sushi rolls are under $3. If you don't get there early, you'll likely have to wait outsiderain or shine. And even if you do get a seat, don't count on eating for a whilethe single sushi chef usually juggles dozens of orders. It won't be the most transcendent sushi experience you've ever had, but that's not why people come to Musashi's. For the freshness, portions, and quality, it may be the best sushi bargain in town. E.C.B. 1400 N. 45th St., 206-633-0212. WALLINGFORD $ Viva Taqueria!

MUY MACHO MEXICAN GRILL

For connoisseurs of authentic Mexican cuisine, the Northwest has historically been fallow territory. But since 1995, growing quietly in a Latin neighborhood called South Park, Muy Macho Mexican Grill has been a salvation for all those craving genuine comida. With its roots as a parking-lot taco truck, Muy Macho has developed into one of the area's true under-the-radar treasures. While the taqueria's walls are vividly adorned with murals and photos of Zapatista soldiers, the food is no less revolutionary for Seattle. Neither nouvelle nor heartless hybrid, the restaurant sticks to the basics, serving south-of-the-border soul food, a fresh and hearty mix of Baja- and Guadalajara-style selections that never fail to satisfy. Traditional meals like the pozole and menudo provideas you might expectflawless homemade flavor, but it's the selection of burritos (served wet, poco, or muy macho style), platters (chiles rellenos, carne asada), and tortas (including a tasty tripe) that are destined to be the highlight of any visit. B.M. 8515 14th Ave. S., 206-763-3484. SOUTH PARK $ Krishna Cuisine:

MY SWEET LORD

This Hare Krishna eatery is nothing if not unique. Meals are served on a pay-what-you-can basis, and everything is vegan. The place is run by Harivilas, a middle-aged Krishna with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Had he not decorated the place with talismans and books reflecting his spiritual inclination, he might be mistaken for a plainclothes Santa Claus. The soup du jour at My Sweet Lord is often a simple broth filled with shiitake mushrooms and other veggies, while sandwiches tend to be hearty tofu concoctions served in homemade flatbread and topped with a delicious green sauce that bears a passing resemblance to pesto. The overarching culinary influence here is Indian; as a general rule, however, My Sweet Lord is difficult to classify. Is it a restaurant or a soup kitchen? Real Change vendors talk politics with hipster kids as live drumming fills the background, adding to the soothing effect of comfort food and lively conversation. Just enjoy the music and the meal, and feel good about things for a while. N.S. 5521 University Way N.E., 206-522-5233. UNIVERSITY DISTRICT $ A Fine Romance:

NELL'S

The legendary Reed classicist Professor Peachey used to say, "Latin is not deadit has merely ceased to be mortal." You could say the same about the classic Saleh al Lago calamari with aﯬi: The late Italian eatery's greatest hit lives on, though the place has been impeccably transformed into Nell's. Both cuisine and decor are, if anything, a subtle improvement over the previous incarnation. The dishes range the globe far beyond Italy's boot heel, the service is learned and superb, and the presentation is so pretty it's almost a shame to tuck into it. Two walls of windows open up to the bustling lakeside scenery without letting the noise in or the romantic intimacy out; a two-tiered design and curvaceous walls create a quietly voluptuous space. Chef Philip Mihalski does tender wonders with seafood, though red meat can be tough on him. You should feel torn between the five-course tasting menu and the entr饳, and tormented by the richness of the dessert fare to come: a cheese plate redolent of Spanish Minorca ("What Gouda wishes it could be"), a symphonic pear tart, and a moon pie that will send you, pie-eyed, over same. T.A. 6804 E. Green Lake Way N., 206-524-4044. GREEN LAKE $$$ In the Raw:

NIKKO

Yes, you can find a better, more authentic yellowtail roll elsewhere in town, but authenticity's not why people come to Nikko. They come for the Western liberties the chef takes with the traditional sushi palette (e.g., rolls filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, apple, and avocado); because four itemized pages (two just for sushi) means something on the menu for nearly everyone; and because, well, it's located in a snazzy downtown hotel. It can be hard to get out without spending a whole lotta yen, but lunch specials fix that: There is, of course, the infamous all-you-can-eat sushi, but beware, eyes-bigger-than-stomach dineryou'll be charged extra for every piece you order but don't eat. Safer are the lunch specials, from the teriyaki combo to the noodle combination, complemented with some or all of the following: tempura, miso, soba salad, rice, fried tofu, California roll. Then again, a bargain's not why people come to Nikko, so go ahead and get the filet mignon or the shabu-shabu (minimum of two orders), why don't you? L.G. 1900 Fifth Ave., 206-322-4641. DOWNTOWN $$$ Zen Palate:

NISHINO

In the parking lot and street outside this Madison Park favorite, you'll see the nicest collection of all-wheel-drive Mercedes- Benz, Audi, and Volvo station wagons in the city. (SUVs? So last year.) You don't have to be rich to eat at Nishino, but it helps. So it's not an everyday dining-out destination, but an occasional joint where you know you'll be treated right by owner Tatsu Nishino, his family, and staffno matter what your income. You don't have to dress up; there's a friendly neighborhood vibe (with dogs often tied outside); stuffiness is utterly unknown here. And the food? Damn! The sushi is excellent, and the rest of the menu has been allowed to loosen up a little bit, like the Japanese language, to admit new elements and combinations. And if you want to eat here more often (which you will), Nishino is also a good place to check out the second-marriage/wealthy divorc饠market. You might even get a new car in the bargain. B.R.M. 3130 E. Madison St., 206-322-5800. MADISON PARK $$$ Now Entering Heaven:

NONNA MARIA

Now entering Italian heaven.

This lovely restaurant has "class" written all over it; it couldn't be clearer if the word were graffitied on its saffron-colored walls. Don't let the homey moniker fool you: Nonna Maria isn't your grandma's folksy kitchen, though the food this Queen Anne masterpiece turns out on an average Friday night would send your very own nonna into helpless paroxysms of joy. This is it, people: elegant, urban Italian done with equal attention to tradition and eye-catching presentation, with some of the most seductive restaurant lighting in Seattle and a waitstaff that attends without doting. Nonna Maria does everything right, from the luscious balsamic vinegar you dip your bread in, right through the dessert course, where a dazzling assortment of options should be navigated briskly with an immediate order of crespelle all caramello (a dreamy egg cr갥 wrapped around sweet caramel, then drizzled with dark chocolate and glazed with an almost world-endingly beautiful caramelized sugar shell). Pastas and main courses come dressed to impress, but without chicanery; this is one fancy dinner spot that knows when to say when. And don't get us started on the antipasto, which marinate in full view of arriving patrons, just begging to be collected and savored, piece by piece, as if time had stopped and all that mattered was tasting and tantalizing yourself into a state of nearly unbearable epicurean bliss. This is where to go, mister, if you feel like getting down on one knee and making somebody a missus. N.S. 530 First Ave. N., 206-378-0273. LOWER QUEEN ANNE $$ Pizza Place:

PAZZO'S

Pazzo's prepares practically perfect pizza. Almost everything about Pazzo's is simple, and therein lies its charm.The menu, with its list of straightforward but delicious pizzas and calzones, is minimalist. The decor is not aggressive. The servers are friendly and attentive enough to get the job done, but rarely more. It's a lovely informal dining experience, the kind that doesn't require much thought. Go, eat, enjoy. It's the kind of place with a fan base, loyal regulars. Some choose it for the dependable dinner options. Mostfrat types and professionals alikeseem to choose it for its peculiar sports-bar feel. Not peculiar because it broadcasts exotic sports (no jai alai herethe games on TV are your typical sports bar offerings); it's just that the atmosphere is so refreshingly low-key. Here, die-hard Mariners fans and less enthusiastic amateurs exist in harmony. K.M. 2307 Eastlake Ave. E., 206-329-6558. EASTLAKE $$ Pho Pause:

PHO THAN BROTHERS

Throughout the nine-month season that passes for Not Summer in Seattle, a steaming bowl of pho is the ultimate comfort meal. Heaps of fresh noodles, thin-sliced meat, and bright vegetables are served in a flavorful, salty broth with fragrant basil, cilantro, and lime wedges, all for around $5. There are literally a dozen excellent pho places in town, many of them in the International District, and a few as far-flung as White Center and Renton; but the Than Brothers have it down so well at their three locations, it's impossible not to recommend them. Long hours, clean, well-lit dining rooms, and, the coup de gr⣥, delicious, delicate, and completely complimentary cream puffs keep regulars coming back; the Capitol Hill location even makes an allowance for vegetarian pho eaters. But meat is still where it's atyou'll know by the 15 takes on five different kinds of cow, plus a few featuring the more adventurous bits of your farmyard pig or chicken. Sizes are built on an obscene, Andre-the-Giant scale, with the "small" more than filling up a hungry man and the extra large taking care of half his extended family. But, oh, the cream puffsif you don't spend $1.25 for an additional plate of three, you, friend, are a pillar of willpower. L.G. 516 Broadway Ave. E., 206-568-7218. CAPITOL HILL

4207 University Way N.E., 206-633-1735. UNIVERSITY DISTRICT

7714 Aurora Ave. N., 206-527-5973. GREENWOOD $ Pitcher Perfect:

LE PICHET

Pitcher perfect pommes frites.

Does the dirty war between Double-vay and Jacques Chirac mean the end of French food in les Etats Unis? Not at Le Pichet. War or no war, this little of piece of Paris on First Avenue remains proudly French. Pichet is French for pitcher, as in a pitcher of wine, and Le Pichet's a pitcher of France, too: tiled floor, zinc bar, Pernod, Gauloisesmais oui, go on, light up, this is France, it will make you feel right at home. House dinner specialties include Pichet's knock-your-socks-off roast chicken for two cooked to order (࠶otre commande, as they say) with sauerkraut, white wine, and caraway. My personal favorite is the noisettes d'agneaugrilled leg of lamb with chestnuts, celery root, and cauliflower and jus a l'ail doux ("sweet garlic jus"). Vive le France, vive le vin, vive les cornichons. H.J. 1933 First Ave., 206-256-1499. DOWNTOWN $$ Wake Me Up:

PORTAGE BAY CAFE

The sex was awkward. Where do you two go the Sunday morning after that fateful Saturday night to sort things out? Someplace light and airy, full of people and no awkward pauses. A friendly waitstaff will help. And lots of coffee, refilled copiously in big white mugs. Then there's the PBC's famously fruit-laden breakfast bar to take your minds off things. Most of the delicious menu items also have a personalized, welcoming touch, like Joe's Scramble and Phil's Breakfastfriends you can talk to, friends who understand. The PBC is also a good place to distract yourself with people watching, with all the familiar U District types: gaggles of sorority girls; double-Ph.D. types with babies wrapped in Patagonia fleece; gangly rowers gorging on carbs. (There's even half a racing shell suspended overhead.) And when your relationship is going better, it's a place you'll return to, where you'll recognize couples who act just like you. B.R.M. 4140 Roosevelt Way N.E., 206-547-8230. UNIVERSITY DISTRICT $ Grecian Session:

PORTA GREEK TAVERNA

A meal here is like dinner at your Greek aunt's house. You get the feeling the entire staff is related, that your waitress is the bartender's niece and the busser's cousin (if they're not, they do a great job of pretending). The food, too, is relaxed. Dishes are reliable and fairly simple. Everything's made to be shared family-style. Start with some pita and a traditional dip (the eggplant/red pepper/feta spread is a solid choice). Pass around a big salad or two and some starters, like the fried potatoes or the flaming sheep's cheese. When it's time for the main course, don't skip the tender, meaty calamari or the skewered, lemon- and herb-marinated chicken. On weekend nights, you might have to wait for a table in the modest space, but no worries: Stool up at the bar, sip an aperitif, and prepare for your Big Fat Greek Dinner. K.M. 2245 Eastlake Ave. E., 206-860-0284. EASTLAKE $-$$ Simple = Good:

POST ALLEY PIZZA

Post Alley churns out beguiling pies as unpretentiously as any downtown parlor, and the regulars know it. Business suits and overalls share equal time here: 9-to-5ers from every demographic can be found hunkering down over a piece of honest-to-goodness New York-style street pizza, thin-crusted and bedecked with vegetables and meats of uncommon freshness. Moreover, the men and women who make the pies and ring up your order have an understated air of friendliness about them. "Nice weather" and "How 'bout those Mariners?" may be unknown phrases to them, but what they will remember is what you like to order on a Wednesday when it's raining. Post Alley wears its back-to-basics style like a fine tuxedo, and at a time when Domino's and Pizza Hut can make a pie enthusiast weep, the little parlor at Post and Seneca is just enough of a good thing. N.S. 1123 Post Alley, 206-382-8475. DOWNTOWN $-$$ Local Royalty :

QUEEN CITY GRILL

Although it easily could be mistaken for a new-money, new-cuisine nightmare based on its location alone, the Queen City Grill is the real deal, and as soon as you step inside, you know it. Classic and elegant, the bar and dining room feel as if they belong in some sturdy old city like Boston or New York, but the washes of yellow and orange and the casual, laid-back feel are all West Coast. They do things with old-world style here, and the professional but friendly starched-shirt-and-tie bartenders are your first clue. The Dungeness crab cakes and their tangy remoulade are the best appetizer in town, and even though the Queen City thinks of itself as a seafood restaurant (and the ahi is mouth-wateringly terrific), the filet mignon and its perfect peppercorn sauce is one of the best steaks in town, hands down. L.C. 2201 First Ave., 206-443-0975. BELLTOWN $$$ Mouth Music:

RAGA

Ravi Shankar they do not have, but if it's chicken tikka masala you're after, or tandoori prawns marinated in mind-blowing spices and cooked in a clay oven, Raga (the word means musical note in Hindi and Urdu ) is the ticket. The reliable Kirkland joint is a favorite of the Indie Hindi Bindi set, well-to-do NRI's (nonresident Indians, as they are known back home) who have it made in the new country and want to eat well and be pampered. The end result is symphonic, and reminiscent of Bollywood music director Bappi Lahiri's virtuoso piece "You Are My Chicken Fry" (I'm not making this up). It's not just the foodthe whole place looks good enough to eat! From the expensive cars that ferry the patrons to the sumptuous, fatty, spice-laden plates of Mogul cuisine-inspired biryani (curried rice with succulent meat), Raga strikes a decidedly opulent note. "Jaye hind," you want to say as you finish off your meal with masala chai, a sweet spiced Indian tea latte. And if you like your meal and really want to make the waiter smile, just remark "Wah wah!!" (Translation: Dude, this is awesome). H.J. 212 Central Way, 425-827-3300. KIRKLAND $$ Dive-In:

RED MILL BURGERS

Pretty much anytime you stop by Red Mill's Phinney Ridge location, you're going to find a line of folks crowding out the front door and spilling over onto the picnic tables outsideeven in the dead cold or the sleeting rain. The burgers, fries, onion rings, and shakes are so good that a little thing like a long line can't deter the determined. And anyway, the line moves quickly and most of Red Mill's patrons are used to the push; when they're done eating they'll rub their satisfied stomachs, clean up the crumbs, and yield their booth to your vulturelike eyes. Moments later, your name is called, and you've got a heap of hand-cut onion rings, a burger topped with just the right amount of blue cheese and bacon, and a thick chocolate shake in front of you. The only thing that would make this place better would be if it were a drive-in, but hey, we're not complaining. L.C. 1613 W. Dravus St., 206-284-6363. MAGNOLIA

312 N. 67th St., 206-783-6362. PHINNEY RIDGE $ Bold Fusion:

RESTAURANT ZOE

Want adventure on your plate? Go to Restaurant Zo뮠Influence from varied cuisines "fuses" here to titillate Seattle's transnational palate. The menu changes with the seasons, but right now reliable favorites include the scrumptious and (very red) beet risotto with goat cheese and pea vines, and the superb pan-fried scallops in white wine sauce with parsnip flan, pickled ciopollini onions, and smoked bacon. Zo맳 proprietor-chef Scott Staples has a regular thing about bunny, and after tasting his rabbit pappardelle, you will, too. Call ahead for the prix-fixe menuhow Frenchand ask when wines by the bottle will be half off. In addition to mixing it up in the kitchen, Zo렡dventures in life, too. The restaurant sits on the corner of Second and Blanchard in Belltown, a confluence of Seattle's polyglot cultures: grunge, punk, and yuppie. Social progressives, indigent musicians, and rock groupies fill the street outside. Inside, with its cavernous feel and done-up decor, Zo려elivers the yuppie quotient. H.J. 2137 Second Ave., 206-256-2060. BELLTOWN $$$ Sushi for All:

RICE 'N' ROLL

Rice 'n' Rollwith its lime-colored walls, tidy window counter, and sparkling tile floorhas "franchise me!" written all over it. A simple menusushi rolls, soups, and saladslightning-fast service, and low prices have made this hillside sushi stop a standby for the downtown lunch crowd. The fish is fresh, the service is friendly, and the rolls, made when you order, are miles better than the typical downtown drop-in sushi spot. The crunchy pickle and veggie rolls make a nice midday snack, and the "rainbow roll," an eight-piece extravaganza of raw fish atop a crab-and-avocado roll, is a meal all by itself. E.C.B. 214 Madison St., 206-262-0381. DOWNTOWN

400 Pine St., third-floor food court, 206-442-1424. DOWNTOWN

2039 Bellevue Square, 425-455-4866. BELLEVUE $ Saucy Asian:

RIKKI RIKKI

Rikki Rikki opened in 1991, bringing Japanese cuisine with a modern twist to the Eastside. Kirkland was then just on the verge of its major makeover from lakefront bedroom into bustling arts burb. Rikki wasand isvery much in the swing of the new Kirkland: light, airy, with jazzy cartoon art on the walls and conveniently located next to the one Eastside multiplex that reserves a screen for independent films. The clientele comes from the neighboring condos and tech complexes for a menu offering traditional Japanese dishes and delicious Asia-inspired creations. You can belly up to the sushi bar and enjoy local favorites like the yellowtail, cucumber, and masago Kirkland Roll, order bento box dinners in one of the tatami rooms, or sit in the main dining room and sample one of the nouvelle house dishes such as ginger-crusted salmon on a bed of spinach with a tangy ponzu-sesame sauce. In fact, Rikki's house dressings and sauceslike soy ginger and Asian Caesarare a major attraction, so popular they've become a cottage industry of their own. K.B. 442 Parkplace Center, 425-828-0707. KIRKLAND $$ Island Getaway:

THE ROANOKE INN

An island institution since 1914, this former-speakeasy-turned-tavern/eatery is Mercer Island's cozy rec room, a place for reunions, home-cooked meals, or hoisting a microbrew by the fire with friends. It's set in a quiet, upand we mean upscale residential neighborhood, incongruously enough that a few years ago a couple of cranky NIMBYs tried to shut the old place down, as if it were an irritating anachronism rather than the soul of the island. Fortunately, residents rallied and the state landmark (run by the Reeck family since 1941) was saved. Long catering to cross-lake travelers, set near the island's old ferry landing and not far from today's I-90 floating bridges, it's a great place for Eastsiders and Seattleites to meet halfway. The menu offers classic tavern fooda hefty French dip, giant burritos, the two-thirds-pound Rowy Roanoke burger (with cheese and ham), and daily specials from spaghetti to crispy fish and chips. K.B. 1825 72nd Ave. S.E., 206-232-0800. MERCER ISLAND $ Family Style:

ROMIO'S PIZZA

Last time I went to Romio's, the 11-year-old in my party got the surprise of his life. Without prompting, our waiter set an icy, unopened can of orange soda next to the boy's near-empty glass of the same beverage. The kid was rendered speechless, but the look of joyous disbelief on his face said "Thank you!" many times over. "Free refills!" he whispered reverently after regaining his senses. The notion was foreign to him, but he liked it. He liked it a lot. This is the charm of Romio's: It's a family place in a city of hipper-than-thou hot spots. It's a great place to take large groups or rowdy kids. The food's great for sharing, toothe deep-dish pizzas are hearty, and the popular calzones are colossal. And, for the lactose-intolerant in your group: soy cheese pizza! K.M . 8523 Greenwood Ave. N., 206-782-9005. GREENWOOD $ Dining High:

ROVER'S

If you're not a Microsoft millionaire, why not live like one for an evening? Sit elbow-to-elbow with epicures from the Borg and other burgs at Seattle's ultimate restaurant, where the jaunty, chapeau-happy genius Thierry Rautureau whips up three prix-fixe menus every day (generally two five-course options, one veggie, and an eight-course Grand Menu). It's a French restaurant, but with a pronounced Northwest accent evident in a mania for freshness and a yen for imaginative seafoodsay, Dungeness crab cake with beets and 25-year-old Balsamic vinegar. The vast wine list won't steer you wrongmaybe into bankruptcy court, but never wrong. For such an eminent destination eatery, it's surprisingly cozy inside, very like the private home it used to be, only graced by Kathleen Encell-Rautureau's insanely great floral arrangements. You'd best phone or e-mail for reservations weeks ahead for Thursday through Saturday, though cancellations can bless impromptu drop-ins. Oh, and you might wear nicer-than-grungy dudsafter all, Thierry's Panama hats set a high sartorial standard. T.A. 2808 E. Madison St., 206-325-7442. MADISON VALLEY $$$ Pork Out:

SALUMI

Armandino Batali spent 30 years working for the Lazy B, mostly in Europe. When he retired, he came home but brought Europe with him. His salumeria on the border between Pioneer Square and the International District is the place restaurateurs go to unwind over a plate of pasta, a glass of vino, and some of the best Italian cold cuts this side of Hoboken, N.J., not to mention Bologna. (Don't take our word for it; see what Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Zagat have to say.) The take-out sandwiches are sloppy, gooey, and totally delicious; the once-a-week gnocchi is handmade by Batali's big sister; and the atmosphere is friendly, noisy, totally backroom-at-Tony's. In its funky way, Salumi is as hot as the in spots Batali's son Mario runs in New York, but way, way cheaper. If it were open for more than lunch four days a week, it would be impossible to get into at all. R.D. 309 Third Ave. S., 206-621-8772. PIONEER SQUARE $$

 
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