Voracious Dining Guide

Our Favorite Seattle Restaurants

From Altura to Vendemmia.

FRENCH

Le Caviste There are two ways that I know of to go to Paris. The first is to save up a bunch of money, buy a plane ticket, and fly there. The second is to go to Le Caviste, which has the advantage of requiring neither major savings nor jet lag. The wine list is the star of the show, featuring expertly-chosen selections, most of which are available by the glass, but the imported cheeses are just as dynamic and often nearly-impossible to find elsewhere. 1919 7th Ave, 728-2657, lacavisteseattle.com ZACH GEBALLE

Le Pichet A splendid place to enjoy all three meals, Le Pichet is also my favorite place in town to spend an hour with a book and a cheese board; nor can you go wrong with the top-flight charcuterie and pate. The narrow room, decked out with black-and-white floor tile and slate-topped tables and lined with mirrors and banquettes, seems airlifted straight from some arrondissement; like good conversation with friends, the atmosphere here both enlivens and becalms. 933 First Ave., 256-1499, lepichetseattle.com GAVIN BORCHERT

St. Helens Café St. Helen’s Café has a deck that backs right up to the Burke-Gilman trail in Laurelhurst and provides an excellent pit stop for cyclists to reward themselves after a long ride with a bite from the French-inspired menu. But even if you’re not wearing spandex, this new spot is a winner, with a sharp interior characteristic of Josh Henderson and his Huxley Wallace collective. Its spin on a Nicoise salad—here with smoked black cod instead of tuna—is a menu staple for good reason. Housemade pastas with seasonal sauces and the crispy pan-roasted chicken with salsa verde and fine herbes also stack up. 3600 NE 45th St., 775-7050, sthelenscafe.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

NEW PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Boat Street Kitchen Renee Erickson has moved on from her cute little gem at the base of Queen Anne, but I haven’t. The French country aesthetic still does it for me, as do the smart takes on a host of classics: the Puy lentils remain a favorite. In an era of expansion and exploration, there’s something comforting about the classics. 3131 Western Ave., Ste. 301, 632-4602, boatstreetkitchen.com ZG

Brimmer and Heeltap Neighborhood dining in Seattle has evolved dramatically, and Brimmer and Heeltap is the perfect example of how. Situated at the corner of 6th and Market and mostly surrounded by houses, it delivers the kind of creative and delicious food that you used to have to travel downtown to get. The charming patio, inherited from the late Sambar, is about as good as it gets in the Seattle summer, but the smart takes on global classics are what bring me back again and again. 425 NW Market St., 420-2534, brimmerandheeltap.com ZG

Canlis As one of Seattle’s most iconic restaurants, possessing a fabulous view, it would be relatively easy for Canlis to coast on reputation alone. Yet I’m always impressed by how dedicated the entire staff is to ensuring that each meal is as exceptional as the ones that preceded it. The full-on experience is perhaps a bit overwhelming for the average Tuesday night (and frankly, so is the bill at the end), but it remains an unparalleled outing in all ways, from the smartly-updated takes on classic dishes to the vast and yet playful wine list, to the graceful flourishes in service that you’ll notice at first and take for granted by the end of the meal. 576 Aurora Ave. N., 283-3313, Canlis.com ZG

The Carlile Room Tom Douglas’s 1970’s retro lounge-style restaurant kitty-corner to The Paramount Theatre is groovy-looking, but the food is completely updated and surprisingly, perhaps, heavy on vegetables. The menu is classic Douglas, anchored by standards like prime rib and rotisserie chicken, but with a considerable chunk devoted to “Plants.” In a brilliant move, Douglas offers multiple price points for the proteins: three sizes including a “side,” a “regular,” and a “slab.” This means that one can actually enjoy filet mignon for just $17. Besides the show specials, there’s a bar menu that runs until midnight, a lunch menu, a happy-hour menu, and even a “Hunter’s Breakfast” (as in Hunter S. Thompson) for $25: prime rib and eggs, bacon, fries, toast, milk, a cream puff, half a grapefruit, and a cup of coffee. 820 Pine St, 946-9720, thecarlile.com NS

Heartwood Provisions Few restaurants in Seattle are better suited for those who don’t want to think too hard about their dining experience. The menu is full of delights, including a squash dish that I routinely fantasize about, but even better, there are creative and tasty cocktail pairings for each item. Those who prefer to go the wine route are in good hands as well, as the list briskly traverses the globe, scooping up highlights from just about everywhere. 103 1st Ave., 582-3505, heartwoodsea.com ZG

Lark John Sundstrom’s Lark is airy and elegant, the perfect backdrop for his local/seasonal menu of beautiful, perfectly-executed dishes, ranging from housemade pastas to meat entrees such as buttermilk fried quail and Wagyu hanger steak. Surprisingly—and refreshingly—the menu here is quite extensive, a trend-bucker in a restaurant landscape defined by abbreviated ones with similar requisite voguish options. Lark, in contrast, has 18 “Starters,” seven “Pasta, Grains, and Dumplings,” 10 “Mains,” and seven “Desserts”—no small feat when you’re serving food of this caliber. A perfect choice for a celebratory meal. 952 E. Seneca St., 323-5275, larkseattle.com NS

Le Petit Cochon As a kid, I hated the phrase “in your face!” I’m still not fond of it, but I can’t think of a better way to describe the food at LPC. Unapologetically meat-focused and occasionally a bit overwhelming, it’s the kind of meal that will find you eating at least one or two parts of an animal you’d never considered. There are lots of great choices, but the rotating charcuterie board is reliably one of the best purchases you can make in Seattle. 701 North 36th St., Suite 200, 829-8943, gettinpiggy.com ZG

LloydMartin There’s underrated, and then there’s LloydMartin: home to some of the best and most creative food in Seattle, yet perpetually overlooked on “Best-Of” lists. The food that chef Sam Crannell turns out of a kitchen without a conventional stove is thoughtful, flavorful, and often astonishingly unique, and yet the menu also offers plenty of what in 2016 might pass as “comfort food.” The vibe inside is also underrated: few Seattle restaurants are as romantic, at least to the gastronomically-inclined. 525 Queen Anne Ave N., 420-7602, lloydmartinseattle.com ZG

Matt’s in the Market There must be some kind of magic in this restaurant, because I’ve never seen a spot where more people drink during lunch. Cocktails, beers, and bottles of wine festoon basically every table whenever I’m there. Perhaps many of the diners are celebrating the fact that they actually found the somewhat-reclusive restaurant. The vast windows give glimpses of Puget Sound and the Pike Place Market below, while the menu puts that proximity to good use with fresh and flavorful dishes that simply sing with seasonality. 94 Pike St, 467-7909, mattsinthemarket.com ZG

Meet the Moon The latest from the Heavy restaurant group (Barrio, Purple) has one of the best locations in town, right by the waterfront in sleepy Leschi—and superb food to boot. The kitchen executes beautifully and consistently—whether a whole trout with a light crust and flaky skin served with fries (trout frites), roasted cauliflower appetizer (further evidence that cauliflower is the new kale) in a golden-raisin gastrique, or an albacore tuna poke starter that stands up to the highest sushi-restaurant standards, the pliant squares of tuna bracingly fresh and accented by an accomplished balance of serrano pepper, green onion, sesame seed, ginger, and the subtlest soy dressing. Portions are big, but servers are often willing to call in a half-order. It’s homey food, gussied up—and neighborhood denizens snatch up seats fast for dinner and weekend brunch. 120 Lakeside Ave, 707-9730, meetthemooncafe.com NS

RockCreek In a city defined by seafood, RockCreek is the rare restaurant that allows the fish to shine through while still doing more than just searing a scallop and calling it good. The airy dining room is fun and breezy in summer, yet also comforting in the winter. The slightly-less seafood-focused brunch is fantastic as well, managing to offer high-quality dishes that are also filling: a rarity these days. 300 Fremont Ave N., 557-7532, rockcreekseattle.com ZG

Salare Is there any hotter restaurant or chef in town than Salare and Edouardo Jordan? It seems they’ve been nominated for almost every award or featured in just about every publication. Located in the unassuming, but rapidly growing, Ravenna neighborhood, this chic restaurant offers homemade pasta—spaghetti with albacore tuna; spinach fettuccine with oxtail—as well as perfectly cooked honeycomb tripe, lamb, and black cod. This is evolved Northwest cuisine. 2404 NE 65th St., 556-2192, salarerestaurant.com JACOB UITTI

Stoneburner There’s a reason why Ruth Reichl hit up this Ballard bastion of Pacific Northwest-inflected Mediterranean goodness when she came to town last year. Located inside the Hotel Ballard, the snazzy, bustling interior is home to Jason Stoneburner’s inspired wood-fired pizzas, housemade pastas and delectable meats and vegetables. Many of the ingredients found on the menu derive from the restaurant’s own plot of land in nearby Redmond, and the kitchen experiments heavily with the seasonal harvest. Seating is ample, but reservations are still suggested as this hot spot fills up fast, for both dinner and brunch. 5214 Ballard Ave NW, 695-2051, stoneburnerseattle.com NS

Vendemmia Chef Brian Clevenger almost fetishizes simplicity in his cooking: sometimes it seems like he’s trying to see just how few ingredients he can use in a dish. The grilled green beans with olive oil and sea salt are the perfect testimonial to for the idea that a fantastic preparation needs only well-chosen ingredients that are perfectly cooked. The handmade pastas are only slightly more complex, and are so texturally enjoyable that the flavor almost seems secondary … though it is delicious, of course. 1126 34th Ave., 466-2533, vendemmiaseattle.com ZG

ASIAN

The Boiling Point Perhaps the most unique noodle experience in Seattle, this spacious outpost in the International District, right next to Uwijimaya, serves up Taiwanese style hot pot that you cook at your table—and it’s nearly impossible to find a seat at lunchtime. (There are also locations in Redmond, Bellevue and Edmonds.) The bubbling soups feature basic proteins that include lamb, shrimp and beef, as well as more exotic offerings such as pork intestine and fermented (stinky) tofu, and come in seven spice levels ranging from none to flaming. Add to them an array of ingredients like noodles, enoki mushrooms, quail eggs, imitation crab, bok choy and other seasonal specialties. Patrons typically wash it down with hot teas, bubble teas, or interesting juices like lemonade with basil seed. NS

Bok a Bok Bok a Bok is bringing on the KFC big-time, but this KFC is Korean fried chicken. The small space is drawing big crowds for its golden pieces of chicken, which you can eat straight up or as part of a sandwich. Fans of crispy-crusty fried food will especially enjoy the wings, which I recommend with either Korean BBQ or 4-chili hot sauce for dipping. Don’t overlook the interesting side dishes, including kimchi mac n cheese made with ear-shaped orecchiette pasta instead of the usual elbows. 1521 SW 98th St., 693-2493, bokabokchicken.com JAY FRIEDMAN

Dong Thap Claiming that you know the best place for Vietnamese pho in Seattle is truly a throwing down of the gauntlet. But throw I will. While your favorite spot may, in part, be determined by a myriad of factors—like quality of meat, broth, size, freshness of toppings, convenience—this one, in Little Saigon, gets the win for its excellent noodles, painstakingly housemade by a husband/wife team who want to serve you the same version they make for their own kids. The result is a springier, tastier noodle that will likely make you pooh pooh the many inferior versions out there. The other plus here: you can get your pho with two types of noodles if you’d like. Also worth trying: their bún bò Hue, a spicier soup. 303 12th Ave S, 325-1122, NS

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka Rising above the rest in the Seattle-area ramen boom is Japanese import Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. Serving up porky bowls of tonkotsu-style ramen, Santouka manages both consistency and quality. The Tsukemen (ramen with broth for dipping on the side) is a good choice,but the best bet is their signature tonkotsu shio (boiled pork bone salt broth) ramen that’s at once simple and complex. Be sure to add an ajitama (seasoned, soft-boiled) egg, and consider corn with butter as an additional topping. 103 Bellevue Way NE, 425-462-0141, santouka-usa.com, Bellevue JF

Huong Binh Want to know where so many in the Vietnamese community go for favorite food from their homeland? Look no further. Huong Binh, a little restaurant in Little Saigon serves up a wide variety of noodle soups, rice plates, rice flour crepes and more at reasonable prices. The grilled pork is a signature item, delicious with “intricate bundles” of thin rice noodles. I also recommend checking out the weekend specials, which include pork offal congee and the popular bún măng vịt: duck and bamboo noodle soup. 1207 S. Jackson St., 720-4907 JF

Katsu Burger The towering Mt. Fuji at Katsu Burger shows off beef, pork and chicken katsu (panko-breaded, deep-fried meats), but best is the simple and satisfying Tokyo Classic (but ask them to sub out the beef cutlet for pork for a more traditional Katsu experience.beef. With vegetable toppings plus tonkatsu sauce and mayo, the sandwich is endlessly crave-worthy. Be sure to add nori fries and a green tea milkshake to complete your decadent East-meets-West meal. 6538 4th Ave. S, 206-762-0752, katsuburger.com, Seattke; 12700 SE 38th St., 425-971-7228, Bellevue; 3333 184th St. SW, 425-622-4500, Lynnwood JF

Kedai Makan The popular Malaysian walk-up window in Capitol Hill became a brick and mortar restaurant last year, and the dynamite menu has expanded to include even more tastebud-tingling dishes in a bustling, but welcoming space with black and white photos of Southeast Asian rural and city life and a lively separate bar area braced by beautiful carved wooden pillars. The menu features noodle and rich dishes, rotis, salads and entrees—all exploding with flavors derived from the likes of lime leaf, burnt chilies, fish sauce, shrimp paste, toasted coconut, sambal, palm sugar, sweet basil and more. Here, too, are alcoholic potions—cocktails featuring medicinal Chinese herbs like red ginseng and eucommia bark. Whether they cure the ailments they purport to is undetermined, but they certainly do go down smoothly. 1802 Bellevue Ave., 556-2560, kedaimakansea.com NS

Lionhead When Jerry Traunfeld (Herbfarm, Poppy) announced he was opening not only a Chinese restaurant, but one that focused entirely on Sichuanese food at that, there was some head-scratching. But the chef known for his subtle flavors and focus on herbs and seasonal ingredients has managed to deliver a darn good Sichuan menu next door to Poppy in a modern space with just enough Asian accents. He didn’t just wing it though; he spent time in China along with Chinese cookbook writer extraordinaire Fuchsia Dunlop to help develop a menu that consists of classics like mapo dofu (spicy tofu with ground pork) and gung bao chicken, noodle, and rice dishes like dan dan mian (wheat noodles with pork and Sichuan peppercorn sauce) and some of the best braised Chinese vegetables. 618 Broadway Ave. E, 922-3326, lionheadseattle.com NS

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot There are a number of good all-you-can-eat hot pot places in the Seattle area, but no one does it like Little Sheep. With guidance from the servers, it’s an interactive experience as you cook at your table, dropping items into the bubbling broth and then dipping the cooked food in various sauces. I especially like the lamb dumplings and the “thick” noodles. Come with a group so you can eat as much as possible from the expansive menu. 609 S. Weller St., 206-623-6700, littlesheephotpot.com, Seattle and 1411 156th Ave. NE, 425-653-1625, littlesheephotpot.com, Bellevue JF

Little Ting’s Dumplings Little Ting’s Dumplings is indeed a doughy paradise. You can get a wide variety of daily-made dumplings boiled (the best way to try them) or pan-fried (also delicious, and delightfully plated with extra batter creating crispy “wings”). Pork and chive or pork and cabbage are the standard-bearers, though there are occasional specials, like sea urchin. The friendly staff will steer you in the right direction, and also set you up with frozen dumplings to cook at home. 14411 Greenwood Ave. N, 363-3866, littletingsdumplings.com JF

Ma ‘Ono Fried Chicken & Whisky This Hawaiian-influenced spot is the place to be for weekend brunch in West Seattle. It also features some of the best fried chicken in town, twice-fried and available as a half or whole bird, served with biscuits, sausage gravy and maple syrup. In fact, it’s so popular you need to reserve your chicken in advance. Other standouts include their manapua (steamed pork buns), Saimin (a kind of Hawaiian version of ramen), and a Loco Moco, featuring cheesy grits, kokuho rose rice, ground chuck and Portuguese sausage topped with caramelized onion gravy. Wait, it’s not over. The dish is served with a Sriracha grilled pineapple salad with cilantro, young coconut, sesame and two fried eggs. At dinner, the chicken, noodles and buns are also available, as is poke (Hawaiian raw fish salad). 4437 California Ave SW, 935-107, maonospringhillnorthwest.com NS

Nirmal’s This Indian newcomer in Pioneer Square looks a little different than your typical Indian restaurant. Located in a spacious, airy brick-walled room with lovely, minimalist light fixtures, it’s more of an exercise in modern restraint. The menu, however, aims to take you all over the country—expanding beyond the more traditional Northern Indian (Punjabi) dishes. While lunch consists primarily of thalis, dinner offers chances to try starters and entrees like a Kashmiri rack of lamb steeped in rum and seasoned with chili, garlic and nutmeg or Goan fish curry with fresh coconut and tamarind. 106 Occidental Ave. S., 388-2196, nirmalsseattle.com NS

Nue Though not strictly Asian, this global street-food themed restaurant in Capitol Hill does make quite a few stops in Asia—including China, Japan and southeast Asia. However, besides items like the Malaysian curry laksa or the Sichuanese spicy jumbo chicken wings, you can also devour plates of South African bunny chow, Trinidadian goat curry and Brazilian fritters made from black eyed peas. I was skeptical that they could pull off so many kinds of cuisines, but somehow they make it work. The space, in street-food form, demands you share a large communal table, or a seat at the tiny bar in the back, surrounded by kitschy décor that includes papier-mâché dragons, bottles of cheap foreign beers, and tattered Lonely Planet guides. Don’t leave without trying the savory with just a hint of sweet pineapple corn bread (it’s become a cult classic) or one of the exotic cocktails featuring ingredients like scorpion, Thai water beetle, pickled herring and other oddities. 1519 14th Ave., 257-0312, nueseattle.com NS

Qin/Miah’s Kitchen These sister restaurants are popular for their biang-biang noodles, biang being the onomatopoeic sound you’ll hear as the chef thwacks dough against the counter to stretch the noodles. Springy and chewy, these Xi’an-style noodles are well worth the drive out of Seattle, and best simply seared with hot oil. (That hot also means chili hot.) There’s more to explore on the menu, including the contrasting liangpi noodles. 22315 WA-99, 425-776-7847, miahskitchen.weebly.com, Edmonds and 2022 148th Ave. NE, 425-644-6090 Redmond JF

Stateside Stateside landed on so many Seattle best restaurant lists last year for good reason—and it keeps getting better. The restaurant melds the fresh and vibrant flavors of Vietnamese cuisine with Pacific Northwest products and influence. Start with crispy duck fresh rolls, and be sure to order the cha ca la vong: black cod marinated in turmeric and galangal, with rice vermicelli and fresh herbs. Then come back for weekend brunch. 300 E Pike St., 557-7273, statesideseattle.com JF

Suika In a city that has quite a few Japanese izakayas, I find Vancouver import Suika to be the finest. There’s a creative menu of dishes designed to complement your beer, sake, or cocktail. Start with an uni shooter or tako wasabi, the chewy octopus providing lasting pleasure. Chicken wings and kara-age prove that fried food is great drinking food. Or go lighter with aburi saba battera (lightly seared and pressed) or just simple but delicious sashimi. 611 E Pine St., 747-9595, suikaseattle.com JF

Ton Kiang Barbeque Noodle House Get past the continual thwack thwack thwack of the cleaver and you’ll find there’s much that’s comforting about Ton Kiang. First, the restaurant uses free-range for its fantastic “salted sauce” chicken, which comes with an amazing ginger-green onion dipping sauce. Second, it tries to utilize the whole animal, so while there’s delicious roast duck that looks familiar, you can also ask for duck wings and even tongue. If you call in advance to pre-order, you can even get a whole roast pig! 668 S Weller St., 622-3388 JF

Vientiane Asian Grocery Store It looks like just a grocery store from the outside, but treasures (and tables) await inside Vientiane. The food items for sale are also the raw materials the kitchen uses to create some interesting Thai and Lao dishes. Most notable: a selection of khao poun noodle soups in beef, chicken and fish varieties—though I recommend the khao poun nam poan with pork intestines and more. Have them whip you up a papaya salad plus Lao sausage on the side and you’ve found a feast. 6059 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S, 723-3160 JF

BBQ/SOUTHERN

Bitterroot Maybe the best known BBQ joint in the city, this Ballard Avenue locale is a mix of clean, modern fare with the traditional sauce-on-your-face goodness of a perfect hot wing. Dubbed “Northwest barbecue,” meaning a hybrid of Texas and Kansas City flavors, the menu has a sweeter touch and incorporates the PNW’s indigenous applewood stock when smoking its wares, including the finger-licking-worthy smoked half chicken. 5239 Ballard Ave NW, 588-1577, bitterrootbbq.com JU

Bourbon & Bones Specializing in Carolina BBQ (the oldest form in the country, focusing on spice rubs, vinegar-based sauces and smoke), chef Michael Law, formerly of The Wandering Goose, brings out an array of options from toothsome ribs to juicy brisket to velvety mashed potatoes. Wash it down with one of the seemingly never-ending bourbon options on the shelf and feel like southern royalty. 4350 Leary Way NW, 582-2241, bourbonandbones.com JU

Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ Flying in the face of the slew of hipster BBQ joints that have sprung up around the city, Drunky’s is focused on large quantities of quality barbecue, served at reasonable prices. The decor borders on outright kitsch, and the service is breezy, but the brisket is tender and flavorful, the smoked chicken is dynamite, and the whiskey is cheap and plentiful. 4105 Leary Way NW, 693-3962 ZG

Fat’s Chicken and Waffles New Orleans fare doesn’t get much finer than at this this restaurant, located in the former Jackson’s Catfish Corner space in the Central District. Shrimp and grits are perfection, painstakingly made with a shellfish broth, while the chicken, delivered alongside waffles, is juicy and well-salted inside its armor of skin. Other standouts: the mac n cheese, as well as the fried-green-tomato and shrimp salad over greens and dressed in a fantastic remoulade. Portions are large, and scream to be washed down with the house Hurricane—a blend of three rums and passion fruit syrup that will knock you off your feet. The interior is homey, with hanging plants, macramé art, and photographs of Grandmaster Flash and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Outside, locals who mourn the loss of Jackson’s Catfish Corner will at least be pleased to see that James Crespinal’s 17-foot mural of Martin Luther King, Jr. remains. 2726 E Cherry St, 602-6863, fatschickenandwaffles.com NS

Jack’s BBQ Brisket. Brisket. Brisket. Yes, there are other options at Jack’s, and most of them are delicious. When it comes right down to it, though, if you don’t get as much brisket as you can reasonably stomach, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Smoked perfectly, wonderfully juicy, and treated with the kind of care that borders on reverence, it’s well worth the occasional long line to get your hands (and teeth) on. 3924 Airport Way S, 467-4038, jacksbbq.com ZG

Sisters and Brothers Next to the looming Jet City Winery and across from the Boeing air field sits this tiny dive filled with tacky Washington landscape paintings, sports and beer ephemera, and tables that double as old-school video games like Ms. Pac Man. The menu is simple and revolves around “Nashville Fried Chicken,” which is coated in a mixture that speaks of chili powder, cayenne and paprika, both in taste and color. No matter which heat level you order, all the way up to “insane,” the chicken is delectably moist and comes with a slice of white bread, cooling sweet bread-and-butter pickles, and a choice of a side—fries, cabbage and pepper slaw, and mac ‘n’ cheese among them. Also, the New York Times just included Sisters and Brothers on a piece about Nashvilled Fried Chicken!1128 S. Albro St., 762-3767, sistersandbrothersbar.com NS

SUSHI

Kisaku Newer and pricier sushi restaurants are opening in Seattle, but Kisaku in Tangletown remains a classic neighborhood spot that bustles during both lunch and dinner. You can get all of the sushi standards, but among my top recommendations are shirako (cod sperm, with a creamy, custardy texture), amaebi (eat the sweet shrimp raw, and then the head and shell fried), and, a personal favorite, hotate kombu jime (kelp-marinated scallop). 2101 N. 55th St., 545-9050, kisaku.com JF

Mashiko Ethical can be incredible. That’s what you’ll learn at Mashiko, Seattle first sustainable sushi bar and one of the first of its kind in the country. If you open your mind to go beyond Bluefin tuna and eel, you’ll learn about local and regional seafood that’s great as nigiri or grouped with other ingredients in inventive ways. There’s also an extensive izakaya-like menu, with dishes like the Utsunomiya gyoza well worth a try. 4725 California Ave. SW, 935-4339, sushiwhore.com JF

Sushi Kappo Tamura When Taichi Kitamura succeeded in his quest to Beat Bobby Flay and said he was more than a sushi chef, that wasn’t news to many of us in Seattle. Still, he serves up some of the best sushi in the city at Sushi Kappo Tamura in Eastlake. But be sure to check out the fine selection of ippin ryori (small plates) as well that feature greens and more from the rooftop garden. New additions to SKT include weekend brunch and weekday lunch—including tonkatsu Thursdays. 2968 Eastlake Ave. E, 547-0937, sushikappotamura.com JF

Sushi Kashiba Loyal customers bemoaned the depart of Chef Shiro from his namesake restaurant in Belltown. But the sushi master who trained under the famous Jiro Ono of Sukiyabashi, a three-star Michelin restaurant that was the subject of the 2012 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, has moved to a primo location in Pike Place Market’s Post Alley. Here, the venerated chef works alongside other sushi chefs at the bar, while customers watch them work their magic surrounded by sweeping views of the sound. If ever there is a place to go “omakase” and let the chefs choose your fish, this is it. Be sure to try the freshly-killed shrimp that still comes quivering on your plate. 86 Pine St. #1, 441-8844, sushikashiba.com NS

MEXICAN/SOUTH AMERICAN

Chavez “Durango”-style tacos and antojitos (small plates) make up the tightly-curated menu at this stylish but understated Capitol Hill spot. Favorite tacos include the shrimp with tomato, chipotle and onions, and the braised pork shoulder with roasted poblano. For small plates, I’m a fan of the stuffed poblano chili with beef, and nogal walnut. If you’re choosing between salsas and guacamole, I vote for the former. 1734 12th Ave. 695-2588, chavezseattle.com NS

Fonda La Catrina The industrial chic says Georgetown; the vinyl tablecloths in eye-popping colors and the mural art above the bar say Mexico; and they work beautifully together at Fonda la Catrina. If you judge a Mexican place by its chips, your search ends here; substantial and almost cracker-like, generously salty, they’re even more addictive than usual. The food’s distinctly a cut above the average, while the prices are a bit below what you might expect for Mexican of this caliber; together they equal crowded, deservedly so, so plan ahead or prepare for a bit of a wait. It’s so worth it. 5905 Airport Way S., 767-2787, fondalacatrina.com GB

Gracia One of the newest Mexican restaurants to hit Seattle, Gracia joins the parade of eateries along Ballard Avenue, offering up street-size tacos and small plates in a lively, stylish space that’s low on Mexican kitsch, and dominated by a large bar. The focus here is on things like housemade masa: The the blue corn it is ground, yielding a dark-brown tortilla with an almost buckwheat-like flavor that is accented wonderfully in the mini huarachitos—loaded up with duck carnitas, a spicy salsa roja, crema, and lettuce. The Veracruz-style ensalada de pulpa is also notable with capers and olives and tender chunks of octopus served essentially in a kind of pico de gallo sauce with healthy-sized pieces of avocado. Tacos some in five variations; the beef brisket and fish are my picks. 5315 Ballard Ave NW, 268-0217, graciaseattle.com NS

Mojito It’s not the most desirable location just off the Lake City Way exit towards Ravenna, but the South American and Caribbean menu here is not to be missed. Among my favorites are fish cooked in a banana leaf and flavored with cinnamon and other spices and the ceviche with white fish, red onions and white hominy over greens, served with tostones and avocados. The soupy black beans and rice that accompany many meals are great too—and shockingly not made with any beef or pork stock. Always try a side of the signature Mojito sauce—it’s mayo based and spicy and garlicky in equal measure. The small bright space is inviting and kids love banging away on the various musical instruments in the back. Stop by on Sundays for a traditional Colombian stew. 7545 Lake City Way N.E., 525-3162, mojitoseattle.com NS

Señor Moose This old-timer off Ballard’s beaten path got a refresh last year, but it still retains its original charm, eschewing the slick looks of many new spots around town in favor of brightly-colored walls and Day of the Dead ephemera. The food here is homey and solid, with brunch being perhaps the best time to visit, when the menu is dominated by huge assortment of egg dishes that include Huevos con Nopalitos with fresh cactus, tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and three scrambled eggs, served with black beans and tortillas. It’s all here: tacos, enchiladas, tostados, mole, and more—along with starters like a refreshing jicama and cucumber salad with lime and chili. The margarita list is impressive too. I can never resist the Pina Chilos with chili-infused tequila and fresh pineapple. 5242 Leary Ave. NW, 784-5568 NS

Tacos Chukis Why do the best taco places always seem to be in the most no-frills places? This one is upstairs in the Broadway Alley building, with lines curling around inside. The tacos are street-size but the flavors are big and bold. So much is good here, but the house taco, which comes with a slice of grilled pineapple and pork adobado, is always a crowd pleaser. Despite a flurry of new Mexican restaurant openings, it’s hard to rival this one. 219 Broadway E, 328-4447, facebook.com/tacoschukis NS

ITALIAN/MEDITERRANEAN

Altura Tasting menus are a tricky concept to execute, but Altura manages to combine creativity and craftsmanship in a largely unique way. The dining experience is as much about exploration as anything else, and it’s a treat for those with a curious mind and palate. Beverage pairings are often intriguing, even when they don’t always quite work. It’s the kind of meal that you’ll think about for days after, long after you’ve returned to more humble fare. 617 Broadway E, 402-6749, alturarestaurant.com ZG

Ciudad This Georgetown gem is hard to categorize, but given its theme of grilled meats and flatbread, Mediterranean felt like the best bet. In fact, Ciudad plays with all kinds of flavors and cooking techniques—not so surprising perhaps given that it’s a joint venture between Matt Dillon (Bar Sajor, The London Plane) and Marcus Lalario (Li’l Woody’s, Fat’s Chicken & Waffles). Nick Coffey (formerly of Dillon’s Sitka & Spruce) helms the kitchen, which includes a massive grill at the entrance to this old, industrial brick building, modified slightly by a quirky mural and colorful seats. The deal here is to order as many of the deep, delicious sauces as you can—from burnt honey to ramp mayo—and smear them on lamb that was cooked slowly over the coals, chicken cooked under a brick, and braised and grilled by-catch octopus—or onto the flatbread. It’s not just a meat fest though; veggies and accompaniments get that special Dillon touch, with seasonal offerings like shishito peppers, melon and blue cheese drizzled with caramelized honey or fermented chanterelles & apricots. 118 12th Ave S, 717-2984 NS

Ernest Loves Agnes Taking over the former Kingfish Café space, the latest from the Guild Seattle group (Comet Tavern, Lake Lake Café & Lounge), with its Hemingway-inspired Cuban/Key West décor, opened to great fanfare last year. Since then, it’s had some bumps (their original chef Mac Jarvis moved on), but it’s still turning out simple but delicious Italian fare as well as pizzas. Go for the squid-ink ravioloni filled with spiced lobster mushrooms and sheep’s cheese and topped with a pistachio-parsley crumble that will make your taste buds tremble, or a simple bowl of bucatini with a sweet herbed marinara. Don’t pass up a chance to try their half roasted acorn squash either. 600-602 19th Ave E, 535-8723, ernestlovesagnes.com NS

Il Corvo What’s left to say about Il Corvo? It remains home to some of Seattle’s best pasta, at prices that no other establishment can match. It remains devoted to a specific vision: you come in, pick from three or so daily offerings, maybe add on some cured meats or olives, you eat, and you leave happy (so someone else can take one of the precious few seats inside). It’s a formula that is as vital and satisfying as it was in the Pike Place Steps days, and shows no signs of slowing down. 217 James St., 538-0999, ilcorvopasta.com NS

Omega Ouzeri Seattle was sorely lacking a good Greek restaurants until Omega Ouzeri opened just over a year ago. While most tend toward the dark, rustic tavern look, this Capitol Hill establishment takes you instead to the bright and sunny Greek isles with its soaring ceilings, cobalt and white palette, and a massive seaside mural. The food reflects a more modern sensibility as well, perhaps even more so now that award-winning chef, Zoi Antonistas (formerly of Westward), has taken the helm. While you’ll find some of the usual suspects, including chicken souvlaki and Greek salad, outside-the-box items are more prevalent. Think braised wild boar ribs with Cypriot grain salad, emmer, black eyed peas, almonds, pine nut and honey and hand pie with greens, feta, scallions, dill, and yogurt sauce. Also unique at Omega Ouzeri: its expansive Greek wine and spirit list, divided by region, with wines from Macedonia, Attica, Peloponnisos, and elsewhere, plus half a dozen ouzos and cocktails using Greek liquors. 1529 14TH Ave, 257-4515, omegaouzeri.com NS

San Fermo This Italian newcomer on Ballard Avenue takes the prize when it comes to charming digs. Located in a house that was literally moved from the International District years ago—supposedly the oldest remaining residential structure in Seattle—it resembles a white seaside cottage, complete with a front porch. Dominating the menu are classic house-made pastas that include spaghetti Bolognese and carbonara mafaldine made with chewy hunks of guanciale instead of bacon; both are solid. Starters change with the season (I loved their soft shell crab in Calabrian chili and orange this summer) but you can always expect the inspired antipasti plate that comes with items like confit duck leg, burrata and house pickles. 5341 Ballard Ave NW, 342-1530, sanfermoseattle.com NS

Serafina This summer, Seattle lost this restaurant’s beloved owner, Susan Kaufmann, to cancer. But the legacy she left at this Eastlake establishment, which has been the incubator for many a talented chef, still lives on. Known for its loyal regulars, Serafina didn’t try to reinvent the wheel but, rather, perfected classic dishes, served in a quaint and welcoming space. Live music and an outdoor patio rounds out a perfect dining experience. 2043 Eastlake Ave E, 323-0807, serafinaseattle.com NS

Spinasse Chef Stuart Lane continues to keep Spinasse on point following the departure of Jason Stratton over a year ago, and it remains one of Seattle’s finest places for Italian fare. The signature Tajarin (the impossibly fine pieces of it are hand-cut in front of your eyes) with butter and sage is thankfully still on the menu, and other freshly-made pastas such as lamb raviolini sing with sauces like marinated favas and pecorino. Besides pasta, come for unique entrees such as pan-roasted rabbit meatballs with polenta and chanterelle ragu and simple but excellent vegetable treatments. The interior manages to be both rustic and pretty, and makes every meal there feel like a special night out. 1531 14th Ave., 251-7673, spinasse.com NS

Tavolata My go-to restaurant for any celebration involving my daughter, Ethan Stowell’s Italian trattoria just keeps getting better (and now it has a new location in Capitol Hill too). I’ll always be loyal to the Belltown spot, though, with its spacious industrial interior that’s perfectly refined by handsome lighting fixtures. It’s all about the pasta here (extruded in-house in shapes and sizes you never knew existed) with menu staples like their spicy rigatoni and spaghetti with anchovy, garlic, chili and parmesan. But there are always new additions or specials and, of late, I’m in love with their paccheri with huge gulf prawns, tomato, chili and sofrito. The starters too are dreamy; you can never go wrong with their bruschetta with smoked fish, pickled onion and aioli, but their burrata with compressed melon and fried shishito peppers does the trick as well. 2323 Second Avenue, 838-8008, ethanstowellrestaurants.com NS

Westward Westward has become such an institution in three short years, in part due to its high-rent location smack on Lake Union, with a pier that boaters can dock at and slip in for oysters on the half-shell or a cocktail, and Adirondack chairs ringing fire pits—usable summer or winter. But much of its celebrity also came from the genius of its former chef Zoi Antonistas, who has moved on to Omega Ouzeri. Fortunately, she taught her chefs well; the kitchen continues to churn out great Mediterranean-inflected seafood in its quirky yet dignified setting (The Life Aquatic meets Ralph Lauren). Brunch is particularly notable, with items like a Dutch Baby pancake with stone fruit compote, pistachios, vanilla crème fraiche and grilled pork chorizo sausage with garlic, cumin and pimento. Dinner is more about the seafood, from wood oven-roasted whole fish to grilled octopus. And, of course, there’s the oysters: always a great curation of local varieties. 2501 N Northlake Way, 552-8215, westwardseattle.com NS

PIZZA

Big Mario’s A staple of Capitol Hill, Big Mario’s came to lower Queen Anne last year, and replicates a vintage, slightly grungy New York pizza joint. The pizza is a decent rendition of New York style: thin crust, greasy-ish, if a little too doughy. Though I’ve never been a fan of Sicilian pie, I actually love it here: The thick, square slices are quite big, with the tomato sauce pooled in the center, the edges perfectly browned. There are 17 huge pies to choose from, ranging from $17.99 to $30 and including potato pesto, pear gorgonzola, or more traditional offerings such as “The Macho Man” with pepperoni, salami, and sausage or “The Spicoli” (“the pizza that made us famous”) with pepperoni, fresh pineapple, and jalapeños. While families can hang out in the front, the real place to be is in the dark cocktail lounge in the back, where roomy red vinyl booths sandwich shiny wood-veneer tabletops, mirrors line the wall, and art is limited to a neon Rainier beer sign, a framed classic poster of Farrah Fawcett, and illustrations of vintage lottery tickets. 815 5th Ave., 922-3875, bigmariospizza.com NS

Delancey It’s hard to imagine a year when Delancey wouldn’t make this list. Owners Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg (of famed food blog Orangette) serve up what are arguably the best pies in Seattle; the wood-fired thin crust pizza has just the right ratio of cheese to sauce and boasts inspired seasonal toppings like Walla Walla onions and padron peppers. Further distinguishing this joint from most pizza places are the impressive seasonal salads (like one with roasted squash and pesto) and desserts (bourbon-roasted peaches with 9 Vanilla Bean ice cream, corn cookie crumble and anise hyssop). Get there by 5 sharp, or expect to wait as long as an hour for a seat. 415 NW 70th St, 838-1960, delanceyseattle.com NS

Dino’s Tomato Pie Though it’s owned by Delancey’s Bradon Petitt and Molly Wizenberg, that’s where the similarities between the two pizza places end. This paean to a 1980s New Jersey pizza joint is purposefully tacky with dark wood-paneled walls, fake flowers, faux-marble tabletops and awkward family photos from the era of bad perms and pastels. The focus here is on Sicilian square pizzas, though round pies are also available. These are the closest to the real thing (as in the original Ray’s or Grimaldi’s in New York) that I’ve found in Seattle, featuring a crust, with some black spotting on the bottom and sides, that is thin yet thick enough to fold over without cracking as you walk and eat. It’s also not gooey with cheese or overly sauced. And there’s just enough oil (read: grease) to ensure optimal flavor. The Sicilian is, of course, square, and characteristically thicker, but has that kind of golden, almost creamy texture in the center and is extremely crispy on the sides. Dino’s Tomato Pie, 1524 E. Olive Way, 403-1742, dinostomatopie.com NS

Windy City Pie When I discovered David Lichterman’s deep-dish pies last fall, I went crazy for it. Lichterman is a computer programmer and a photographer who once worked for Amazon but, while dabbling in pizza-making there, hit on the perfect recipe to rep his Chicago hometown. He quickly garnered the respect of Serious Eat’s ultimate food geek, J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt and, after that, there was no looking back. So what makes it so coveted? The caramelized-cheese edge and the dough—enriched, spongier, and sweet. It’s also a rather civil deep-dish—not three inches thick and oozing cheese, which makes it less greasy and allows the flavors of the sauce and the toppings, like housemade sausage, to flood your taste buds. Delivery Only. 486-4743, windycitypie.com NS

MIDDLE EASTERN/AFRICA

Cafe Munir Serving authentic Lebanese food in a pretty, serene space bordering on romantic in Loyal Heights, Café Munir never disappoints with its delicious dips and flatbreads, grilled meats and savory pastries that include filo cigars filled with lamb, spices and pine nuts. They also have a huge offering of whiskeys and make some lovely liqueurs as well. This neighborhood gem always feels like a secret you’ve just stumbled upon. 2408 N.W. 80th St., 783-4190 NS

Jebena Seattle has a healthy number of Ethiopian restaurants, but none are as excellent as this one up near Northgate. If ever there was a place to try kitfo—Ethiopian raw beef seasoned with berbere and chilies—this is it. It’s as fresh and flavorful as it comes. The injera bread is also first-rate, as are traditional chicken dishes like doro wot and veggies like lentils and spinach. As with most Ethiopian places, combo plates are always a great way to go, but do ask to try the kitfo, as it’s rarely included on them. 1510 N.E. 117th St., 365-0757, jebenacafe.com NS

Juba If you’re up for the drive to SeaTac, try lunch at this Somalian restaurant that fills with Muslim cab drivers on their lunch break who often spill out of the nearby Mosque for afternoon prayer. Here, platters of rice and pasta (Somalia was once a colony of Italy) come with various meats, which regulars eat with their hands. Try the lamb shanks, tender and mildly flavored with signature spices of the cuisine: cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, and coriander seeds. Try the beef steak, large pieces of boneless grilled skirt steak thinly cut are served with a fresh green salad and tomatoes and a side of about 10 squares of bread similar to Indian flatbread, but a tad oilier. Don’t be surprised by the unpeeled bananas served on your plate. They’re meant to be eaten atop the food. It all gets washed down with mango juice, served for free by the pitcher. 14223 Tukwila International Blvd, Tukwila, 242-2011 NS

Mamnoon Mamnoon continues to be the destination for Middle Eastern food in a fine-dining atmosphere, and now former Spinasse chef Jason Stratton is in charge. The emphasis is on Syrian cuisine, though it gives other countries their due. From the small plates (mezze) like a knockout crispy fried cauliflower with tarrator and parsley to oven-cooked and grilled dishes featuring quality meats and fresh produce expertly seasoned with the spices of the Middle East, the menu never fails to impress. 1508 Melrose Ave, 906-9606, mamnoonrestaurant.com NS

The London Plane Matt Dillon’s larder/bakery/boutique/floral shop/restaurant continues to charm the Pioneer Square lunch crowd with its very particular style of beautifully-plated vegetable and grain dishes—mostly served room temperature and featuring interesting (mostly Middle Eastern) flavor and textural combinations, like turnips with hazelnuts, parsley, and preserved lemon. My favorite staple: the bread and crackers with a seasonally-changing mezze of spreads like beet hummus, cashew romesco, and kale borane that’s great for sharing. There’s some meat on the menu, more so at dinner, like roasted chicken and seared pork belly, but it’s the veggies and baked goods that really stand out here. Come for a delicious croissant in the morning or a glass of wine and several pretty plates in the afternoon or evening. The vibe is always elegant, yet relaxed in the soaring, palette-cleansing spot. 300 and 332 Occidental Square S., 206-624-1374, thelondonplaneseattle.com NS