*See Also Seattle Weekly's Snackdown Returns
Tiffany Ran is speaking up for Bellevue.
In the food world, chains are not always a bad thing, especially for Bellevue. Nestled in the posh confines of Bellevue's Lincoln Square, Din Tai Fung is only the second national location of this world renowned Taiwan-based chain. Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot, with hundreds of locations worldwide, settled into the polished city last year, joining another Asian franchise, Taiwanese hot pot joint Boiling Point, with restaurant locations up and down the west coast.
Whether it's a business luncheon or a weekend dinner with friends, Downtown Bellevue has the upscale yet welcoming options for any local: Purple Café and Wine Bar, Lot No. 3, Black Bottle Postern, Monsoon East has kept shoppers and diners well fed.
But casual diners are not left in the cold. Bellevue's Main Street stretch is home to Gilbert's Main Street Bagel, home of - bagels aside -- a generous helping of matzo ball soup, while Spiced brings the best of the Sichuan province to the home front. The Lake Hills Shopping Center is the neighborhood secret for cheap and diverse eats like northeastern Chinese dumplings from Yang's Dumplings and German deli fare from Leibchen Delicatessen. Perhaps the moral of the culinary story here is not to judge the Bellevue book by its ritzy cover, as this city has all the bases covered.
And Hanna Raskin is supporting Redmond and Woodinville.
When I first wrote about Woodinville, about a week after I'd moved to Seattle, I mistakenly called it a tourist town. "It's a suburb," an editor explained.
I've since ridden the bus to Woodinville, so can appreciate its suburban dimensions (it's far more bucolic when you arrive by bike.) But I still think it's deserving of visits by tourists and locals alike: The contrived concentration of wineries is incredible, and the restaurant scene is growing to match it. Drinkers who need a break from swirling and sniffing can grab a wood-fired coppa-and-arugula pizza at The Station, or cap off the day with a plateful of handmade pasta at Italianissimo. And wine isn't the only booze justifying a Woodinville trip: In addition to Redhook Brewery, a grandaddy of the micro movement, the area's also home to the precocious Woodinville Whiskey Company.
Still, Woodinville has plenty to offer teetotalers, including brunch at Barking Frog (don't miss the view from the patio) and dinner at the iconic Herbfarm, which offers Seattle's most distinctive spin on farm-to-table fancy. While the wine cellar holds 26,000 bottles, the non-alcoholic drink program - which relies heavily on the herb garden - is equally impressive.
Down the road in Redmond, the choice for upscale evenings out is Pomegranate Bistro. But the area's best homegrown restaurants specialize in cuisines from afar, including Spicy Talk Bistro, Neville's, Kanishka and Sichuanese Cuisine. Who wouldn't want to be a culinary tourist here?