Sunday, October 3, 2010

Restaurant Recommendations

All the following are recommended.


Bai Pai - Roosevelt/Wedgewood (12/10)
This restauarant has been "on my list" for quite a while, because it has consistently received positive reviews from the media. While the location is convenient, it's not in my main corridor of drive-bys so I have never managed to visit. But it was close for some friends, so I suggested it, and I was so glad I did! I love the interior, very stylish and trendy-romantic, but with the expected reasonable prices for a Thai restaurant. We had the papaya salad, walnut prawns, pineapple rice, panang curry with beef, bai pai noodles with steamed tofu, and sauteed eggplant. Yum yum [tom] yum.

Brave Horse Tavern - South Lake Union
I come from a family of big Tom Douglas fans, and consider myself one as well, with Dahlia Lounge being one of the two epitomes of classic Seattle dining. But I thought Brave Horse was a bit of a let-down, especially after reading reviews that suggested Tom continues to hit the mark on his new restaurant ideas even as he keeps breaking his own mold. There is really nothing to complain about, but there isn't much to rave about either. The food tries to step-up bar classics to a new, interesting, and inspired level, but it's a just a bit of a game. And before you go, make sure you know that the tables are all shared, communal seating. (1/12)

Cafe Munir - Ballard
Service was understaffed, but admittedly so, and made up for multiple times over by friendly, knowledgeable service and amazing food. Small dining room is well-decorated, but with all white walls and ceiling, it somehow feels a bit bare. Every table was filled on a rainy Tuesday evening, lending a nice buzz without feeling too loud or hectic. We ordered four dishes for two people, and easily agreed to a fifth on the recommendation of the waitress given as our biggest decision was choosing what not to order. Hommus bi Tahini; Fattoush:  Romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, green pepper,  green onions, mint, parsley, toasted Arabic bread, with a  sumac dressing; Rikikat bil  Lahme: Philo  pastries filled with Lamb, onion and spices; Shish Taouk: Skewers of Chicken Breast marinated in garlic and lemon olive oil, garlic sauce; Kosheri: Egypt’s national dish of rice, lentils, and caramelized onions, served with a spicy tomato sauce and yogurt.  (5/12)

Caravan Kebab - Edmonds
Charming and clean atmosphere, very nice service/owners, delicious food at great prices. Eclectic mix of regional cuisines represented, all delicious! Wine list is short, but very affordable. Beet borsch is amazing, as were eggplant roll appetizer. Entrees were freshly prepared and filling. We'll go back! (6/10)

Chaiyo Thai - Pinehurst (6/10)

COA Mexican Eatery and Tequileria - Maple Leaf
Only here for happy hour, but ordered a number of their specialty drinks and food items. All were delicious. Can't beat the happy hour menu. (9/11)

The Corson Building - Georgetown
Communal tables are a fun idea, but I've never actually experienced it; I recommend getting the right size group of your friends together to go, and try their Sunday night dinner which is a great bargin compared to their standard prix fixe price. (10/09)

Djan's - Wallingford
They call themselves "modern Thai" though I found the menu - at lunch anyway - to have the pretty standard offerings. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was cooly sophisticated, service was spot-on, and the food was of very high quality. (5/11)

Gaspare Restaurant - Greenwood/Phinney
I love the aura in this restaurant. Walking into a house gives going "out to eat" such a nicer feel. Plus, I love being greeted by the owners and knowing they are making the food and caring for their guests. I was here with a group of 8 and everyone loved their food. We tried two appetizers, including one special, a couple of the entree specials, and a couple of the pastas. All were delicious and prices very reasonable. (2/10)

Eltana Bagel - Pike/Pine
These bagels were good. They taste better knowing the sustainable model behind the business. Also recommend BioWilly's Beans coffee served in the store; beans also available for sale. Nice bright coffee shop, a little loud from the high ceilings and industrial decor, but still with a very neighborly atmosphere making it a good place for a casual meeting. (10/11)

Gojo Restaurant  - North Seattle
This delicious and charming restaurant is located in a strip mall where I would not normally expect to find "a find." But a little gem it is. Seattle Times gave the food good reviews, but we were pleased to find a delightful atmosphere inside as well, matched with very friendly, unrushed service. The food was tasty and satisfying, and we thoroughly enjoyed our experience. They were quite busy on a Saturday night, and although we did not have to wait to get seated, I wouldn't go if I was in a hurry. (8/10)

The Golden Olive - Wallingford
Moussaka is to die for. Beet salad was also wonderful. (8/09)

Habesha - Westlake/Downtown
Our first experience with Ethiopian in over ten years.  We went on a quiet weeknight, but this stylish restuarant with its large adjoining bar looks like it could be a happening scene on another day. Delicious food and a trendy atmosphere. (11/09)

Hawaiian Breeze - Wallingford
Nothing special. Tasty, filling, affordable. Market prices for acceptable food in a budget atmosphere. (8/11)

Homegrown - Fremont (and Queen Anne)
A lot of the restaurants here are places I like for lunch, but this may be a new top-of-list! Delicious and unique sandwiches with a focus on sustainability. I had the broccoli melt sandwich on toasted french bread with the turnip soup of the day. Both were excellent. I also had some of the homemade potato chips which came with my friend's sandwich. They were so thin and crispy, but a little bit tender in the center giving them a special, clearly homemade, and surprisingly delicious taste and texture. I can't wait to try more of their offerings, and see the Queen Anne location when it opens later this year. The Fremont location has a great atmosphere, though it is quite noisy right at lunchtime, and all the tables were filled up shortly after noon, so go early. (10/10)

Jamjuree - Capital Hill
One of my favorite lunch places. (6/10)

Kiriba Sushi - Greenwood
Cute atmosphere in a converted house on 145th.  The caterpillar roll was amazing. And stunningly artful. (9/11)

Kozue - Wallingford
Next door to May Thai, I remark on the unbelievable sushi specials for happy hour every time we go by. Finally stop in for lunch on a weekday, when every table fills up. Don't get to try the sushi, but enjoy delicious noodle soups (ramen, soba, and udon) for great value. Still want to make it back for happy hour, where they have a decent outdoor patio in nice weather. (10/11)

Yummy Japanese noodle dishes. Haven't tried the sushi but they have great sushi specials during happy hour. (12/11)

La Casa Azul - North Seattle
I never would have expected this great little place, but after reading some reviews, I had it try it. So glad I did! Not only is it cute, clean, and bright, but the service is so friendly and the food is wonderful. There are the standard enchildas, etc. but the menu also has some wonderful regional specialties. (4/10)
New location in Wallingford!

La Casa del Mojito - Lake City/Roosevelt
As you would hope - eponymously - La Casa del Mojito has fantastic mojitos, along with caparinhas and other cocktails. But the food is just as good, and the service is outstanding. These had to be some of the friendly, kindest, most good natured servers I've ever encountered. I've already forgotten the names of what we ordered, because I was so taken by everything else, but we had the Cuban shredded beef, and the Venezualan fish with tomatoes, capers, and white wine. The restaurant is small, and very noisy even though it wasn't full and no one was being rowdy (just poor acoustics), but we will definitely go back. The atmosphere and personalities are charming. (11/10)

Le Gourmand - Ballard
Really fantastic fine French styling with all locally-sourced, sustainable ingredients. Small venue with only 12 tables makes for a very intimate experience, but upscale, contemporary decor tends it away from highly-romantic and puts the focus more right on to the food, where it should be. Quite expensive, but you get what you pay for here, and you can't go wrong. And the bar (connected, but next door) has fantastic-sounding cocktails. (10/10) Closing in June, 2012!

Little Water Cantina - Eastlake
Went for lunch on a dripping wet rainy day, so missed their awesome-sounding dinner menu, and their fantastic outdoor lake-view patio. Nevertheless, their torta sandwiches are fantastic, and the view from inside is still charming. It was a quiet day, and I'm sure this place has quite the buzz on a sunny evening, but still loved the atmosphere and the upscale twist on some classic Mexican favorites.

Marcello's - Roosevelt/Ravenna
Love the atmosphere here, romantic without being fancy or expensive. The food is very good; not especially adventurous or creative but great for satisfying Italian food staples in a convenient and adoreable location. (4/10)

May Thai - Wallingford
Cute, intimate restaurant upstairs, and nice bar with booths, tables, and great happy hour specials along with the full menu downstairs. (9/11)

Mekong Village - North Seattle
Generally, we make it practice not to stop on Aurora on Saturday nights (the conventional wisdom being that such a stop is to pick-up a prostitute; not on our list of preferred activities.) However, this venue had long been a Korean restaurant, which for whatever reason, I'd always been curious about. A couple months ago, it converted to "Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine" so when we had a hankering for pho, I convinced Will to stop there based on a thumbnail photo I pulled up on my phone of the restaurant's interior. What fortuity! This place is truly a tropical oasis on Aurora. The interior couldn't be more unexpected given the address, with above average food.

Mondello Ristorante Italiano - Magnolia
Terrific atmosphere, fabulous service, excellent meal. Sweet yet sophisticated sea-shore decor. Tasty Sicilian pastas, fresh seafood, indulgent veal, yummy wines. We went for a birthday party and they completely accomodated our bringing in our own birthday cake, delivering it to the table with candles, then serving it for us. Will definitely go back. (10/10)

Monkey Bridge - Ballard
Great Vietnamese when you're in the mood for something other than Pho. (8/10)

Naked City Brewery & Taphouse  - Greenwood
Recommended for great selection of mostly Northwest beers on tap; very knowledgeable waitstaff. Casual ambiance, affordable prices.  Food is adequate, nothing earth-shattering, but good to pair with the excellent brews. (9/10)

Noble Fir - Ballard
Great local and craft beer selections. Limited food menu is high quality, but not exactly filling, and not exactly what I'm usually in the mood for after a couple high-alcohol content Belgian brews. (5/11)

Orrapin - Queen Anne
Another favorite lunch spot. (7/10)

Paratti Craft Bar - Ballard
I don't know how this place will survive, because even on a Saturday night with live music, it wasn't even half-full. But they do have great cocktails with inspired ingredients and combinations, as well as friendly service. (1/12)

PB Kitchen (at Polish Home Association) - Capital Hill
I had never even heard of the Polish Home Association until friends suggested we go there for dinner.  Friday nights from 6-11 p.m. this Polish cultural club opens it doors to the public (for a hefty $1.00 cover charge) for dinner in their restaurant. Incredible pierogies and cabbage rolls, I recommend the Polish Plate entree which gives you a taste of everything. This was great for a group, though if you go after 7 p.m., expect to wait for a table, and you will wait for your food too because everything seems to be heavenly made from scratch. But at $12 for the most expensive entree, you can't find a better bargain or more authentic Polish experience anywhere in Seattle. Also recommended are the Polish beers which are sold separately at the bar in authentic 17 oz bottles.
Note: cash only.

Plaka Estiatorio - Ballard
Classic Greek and Mediterranean dishes. Gyros platters and moussaka and baked casseroles were all amazing. (12/11)

Pho Tic Tac - North Seattle/Shoreline (9/10)
One of our favorites for Pho, especially after their remodel in 2010.

Poppy - Capitol Hill/Broadway
So so so impressed. Jerry Traunfeld, formerly of The Herbfarm, offers an amazingly unique, creative, modern, sophisticated, yet truly delicious, delightful, and accessible meal. This is an excellent example of "value" for while it's not inexpensive, the meal is worth far more than the price. Highly recommend, even for skeptics of modernist cuisine.(10/11)

Poquitos - Pike/Pine
Ate here first for lunch and didn't know anything about it. When I realized their menu is comprised of primarily local ingredients from sustainable producers, everything tasted a lot better and I ordered some chicken tacos without guilt. Great drinks, especially the "ditchweed" and even though it's a very large restaurant in the hip 'n happenin' pike-pine district, it has a casual, low-key scene. (8/11)

The Ridgeback Cafe - Phinney Ridge
Awesome (though not especially French) crepes at this charming diner. Retro without being hipster, and comfort food without being a greasy-spoon, this bright, open cafe exudes warmth and friendly neighborhliness. The menu is crepes, sandwiches, soups, and salads, perfect for lunch with very generous portions. (1/12)

Ristorante Picolinos - Ballard/Sunset Hill (12/10)
This is the greatest neighborhood Italian restaurant, well-worth visiting from outside the neighborhood! It is huge, but has a very intimate feel. It can work as a casual, fun hang-out, or a sweet romantic getaway. They have a warm and inviting, protected patio for fabulous summer dining, especially for wood-fired pizzas. The main dining room stretches between three or four distinct rooms, giving a much more friendly atmosphere. The decor is elegant without being fancy. The menu is reasonably priced, with delicious pizzas and pastas, but outstanding special seafood entrees. In two years, I have tried probably 8-10 items from their menu, and all have been excellent. The halibut special I had this most recent time was some of the best I've had anywhere. We have gone in a large group (8-10) almost every time and are always accomodated with quality, attentive, and generous service.

Saffron Grill - Northgate
Saffron is one of our favorites for Indian food in Seattle; it brings all the great food of Taste of India (on Roosevelt) to a more trendy and upscale venue. It's slightly more expensive, but portions are ample for leftovers. (2/10)

Saltoro - North Seattle
Saltoro is a great mix of all the things I like in a restaurant: good food, interesting menu options, sophisticated but casual atmosphere, neighborhood friendliness, all at modest prices. I especially loved the pear ginger cocktail and the grilled feta appetizer. (4/10)

Satay - Wallingford
Cafeteria-style ordering and service, but fun to try a different version of SE Asian food. Skipping the curry puff ($2.95) is a very very bad decision.  (9/11)

The Sexton - Ballard
This review is 100% spot-on. The food is delicious Southern comfort dishes, the atmosphere is fun and casual, not too noisy, affordable, great cocktails, and after enough people order the blackened fish, you might start coughing and leave with a sinus blockage. Hopefully they'll take care of the air-circulation issue and make this a real find in Ballard. (1/12)

Setsuna - Northgate
This used to be a scary-looking Chinese restuarant, but when it changed owners and became a Japanese restaurant, I started reading reviews for it and decided to give it a try. We finally got there after it had been open over a year, and were very pleased. They have a great menu, with great prices and ample portions. The atmosphere is clean and welcoming even though it's pretty "budget," and the service was especially friendly and efficient. (11/10)

Siam on Eastlake - Eastlake
Huge restaurant, but very classy atmosphere and great food. Had a noodle dish and a delicious salmon entree. (4/11)

Snappy Dragon - Maple Leaf
Chinese food with fresh ingredients - none of those frozen carrots and canned peas. I LOVE the Mongolian Tofu, and their noodles are handmade. (6/10)

Spur Gastropub - Belltown
Tried this for the first time during restaurant week. Two in our party ordered off the special prix-fixe menu, and two others ordered from the regular menu. We were all very pleased with our selections. I was needlessly worried that there would be more focus on creativity and presentation than on actual food and flavor, but the unique cooking methods and ingredient combinations really complemented the meal. (10/11)

Staple & Fancy - Ballard
This is everything everyone says it is. One of the few times I didn't feel a shred of over-hype. ABSOLUTELY do the chef's tasting menu. Especially impressed by how many things that I never would have ordered off a menu, and that didn't sound like something I would enjoy, were still amazingly delicious and enjoyable. Plus, this has to be one of the best values in town for quality, innovation, and quantity. You will not  leave hungry. (5/11 and 3/12)

Stumbling Goat - Phinney Ridge
I was only here for Happy Hour, but felt I was able to experience a wide array of their standard menu, and was quite impressed. (3/10)

Tangerine Thai - Bellevue
More upscale atmosphere than the other Thai restaurants listed here, but same great menu selections and ample sized portions even for lunch. (9/10)
Thai Kitchen - Queen Anne
Yet another favorite for lunch. (7/09)

Thaiku - Ballard
Thai entrees that I haven't found at any other Thai restaurant; come here if you're in the mood for Thai but thaiered of the your regular favorites. (5/10)

Tuogo Coffee - Central District
Needed a meeting place in a neighborhood I'm not so familiar with, and selected Tuogo for their commitment to fair-trade coffee. Nice shop, smaller than it looks in the photos, but adequate for a comfortable conversation. I didn't end up getting to try their coffee because a tasty chocolate chip cookie was calling to me from the bakery case. (9/11)

Other Venues:

Abergine - Carmel, California (5/12)

Bavaria Restaurant - Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
REALLY yummy, and exactly what you're in the mood for after a day out in the mountains. Maybe not especially vegetarian-friendly. Fun, pubby-atmosphere.

Buddha's Belly - Santa Monica, California
Quick, casual, inexpensive, and very tasty. Kinda of noisy, but still a trendy, attractive atmosphere. (12/10)

Cottage - La Jolla, California
This is exactly what we hoped to find in La Jolla except that it exceeds all expectations! We've been twice for lunch and once for breakfast, and both times with groups of people where every guest has been thrilled with their meal. I love the menu - so fresh and California, love the atmosphere, especially after their renovation this year, love the patio, love the service. (4/10)

Deetjens - Big Sur, California
Great Sunday brunch in a fun setting.

Big Wood Grill at Thunder Spring - Ketchum, Idaho
Bigwood Grill at Thunder Spring was an enjoyable Sun Valley experience, as we had a lovely table outside, but under a tent, overlooking the golf course and the sunset. The food was skillfully prepared, although the menu somewhat limited. We had the salmon and beef both off the dinner specials; the romaine salad was amazing. Service was a bit harried and inconsistent, but I would go back for a well-executed menu in a lovely, casual setting. (7/10)

Galena Lodge - Sun Valley, Idaho
Stopped here for lunch after the Chocolate Gulch hike and all four in our party enjoyed tasty sandwiches. The grown-up grilled cheese, the grilled chicken breast, and lamb sausage were particular favorites. Nice place to take a break from an active day in the mountains. (7/10)

Georgian Hotel - Santa Monica, California
I was staying at this hotel, and probably wouldn't have bothered with the restaurant otherwise, but that would have been a mistake. The Veranda is probably one of the nicest venues, being as they are right across from the beach, a block north of the pier, but also above street level for a better view and less traffic and pedestrian distraction. The service is excellent, and the menu is the classic Californian cuisine.
Separately, the hotel itself is a lovely, historical boutique hotel with significantly larger rooms than I've experienced in other hotels of similar vintage, and the location can't be beat.

Il Lucano - Gig Harbor, WA
Surprisingly pleased with this Gig Harbor restaurant. I don't typically consider there to be too many dining choices in Kitsap County, so this was highly appreciated. Sadly, the location is not on the water, though they've done a very nice job building atmosphere into their strip-mall location. Server was friendly and endearing. Salads were very fresh and not over-dressed. Three pasta dishes were all served with excellent presentation and flavorful sauces. The cannoli and tiramisu both made in-house. (10/10)

Ivy at the Shore - Santa Monica, California
This place doesn't have a website, probably because they're supposed to be "the place to go" and feel they don't need one. Frankly, it made me a bit skeptical, especially because then I had absolutely no idea of what type of food they would offer. It's supposed to be "the scene for spotting Hollywood stars" as well as having a lovely patio across from the beach. While I had a very enjoyable meal there, and no complaints whatsoever, I was completely unimpressed. Normally, I wouldn't include a review like this, because I don't have any reason to criticize a place - I'd rather post my praise. But given the difficulty in finding other information (besides traveller's reviews) about this venue, I thought it would be useful to share here. The menu was surprisingly affordable, given what I interpreted as a pretentious image by trying to fly under the media radar. It was also surprising unsophisticated, offering items such as individual pizzas and fish tacos. The patio would be great for lunch, but for dinner was fenced in with vinyl windows to protect from the evening ocean air. The decor is described by others as a retro throwback to Hollywood's golden age, but to me looked was just more of a beach cabana feel - casual and unremarkable.

La Chachette Bistro  - Santa Monica, CaliforniaMountain Air Cafe - Joseph, Oregon
You would not believe the cinnamon rolls here.  It is worth the 9 hour drive from Seattle for them. (7/10)

Pegasus Coffee House  - Bainbridge Island
After wandering around Winslow on an unexpectedly quiet Saturday night looking for a place to eat that was casual enough for a group with a baby and wasn't going to cost $20 for fish & chips, we were pleased to end up at Pegasus. They were friendly and accomodating; we had a very pleasant table out on their patio, and delicious sandwiches and entrees all for under $10 each. Don't let the name deter you from stopping in for much more than just coffee. (8/10)

Sawtooth Club - Ketchum, Idaho
We expected to find good restaurants in Sun Valley, but not necessarily good value. We were pleasantly surprised that the Sawtooth Club had a charming atmosphere (sat outside on the flower-lined upstairs deck) along with delicious but also uniquely-prepared food, for a very reasonable price. We had the fresh Idaho trout and the house special chicken curry and both were excellent. Our server was experienced, friendly, and knowledgeable. Many other diners around us were celebrating special events, so I recommend the Sawtooth Club for either a casual night out or a special occasion. (7/10)

Sun Valley Brewing Company - Hailey, Idaho
Our judgements of this place were perhaps unfairly elevated by the fact that when we showed up, we were tired and hungry after an eight-hour drive and excellent live music was playing outside. But nevertheless, we always enjoy going to a beer's "source" and here we were greeted with friendly service, satisfying pizza, tasty brews, and a fabulous view through rolled-up garage doors looking out into the sun as it set behind the mountains with awesome live band groovin in the parking lot. (7/10)

Terminal Gravity Brewing - Enterprise, Oregon
Great beer. (7/10)
Simple, stylish, upscale casual in decor, atmosphere, and food. Felt very French. The menu has changed to "French tapas" since I was there, but we only ordered a selection of appetizers, soup, and salad, and were pleased with all our choices, so it's probably similar to what we experienced anyway. (12/10)

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