Hot Dish

American BluWater Greenlake A sleek new sorority sister for Green Lake's good-looking young professionals who don't want to drive the new Audi all the way to the original BluWater on Lake Union (or the Paragon, or Ten Mercer, or Toi . . . ). The menu offers lots of appetizers (Jamaican jerk chicken satay, artichoke dip, calamari), salads (including the big seafood Louie [sic]), and steaks, chops, fish, etc. for entrées. 7900 Green Lake Dr, 206-525-0755, GREEN LAKE; BluWater Bistro, 1001 Fairview Ave. N, 206-447-0769, EASTLAKE/LAKE UNION $$ Charlie's on Broadway An oasis of very odd nostalgia, this place is like the set for a Jimmy Stewart movie worn around the edges and turned into a strangely popular restaurant. Charlie's knows to keep it simple with just-right breakfast classics, burgers and sandwiches, and entrées such as pot roast and country fried steak that put Denny's to shame. Not even the most resolute can resist Charlie's mud pie dessert. The bar in the back has a grand happy hour, a diverse crowd, and absurd decor that is somehow both frightening and alluring. 217 Broadway Ave. E, 206-323-2535. CAPITOL HILL $ Cyclops Cafe and Lounge A sturdy Belltown fixture, Cyclops has settled into a non-too-shabby niche: the atmosphere's comfy, and the menu doesn't slouch. Achiote-marinated grilled prawns are meaty, mild spices balanced by rich saffron aioli and sweet pineapple salsa. Roasted vegetable risotto is non-traditionally filling, with portobello mushrooms, roma tomatoes, and zucchini. Double cut pork chops are sweet, juicy, and perfectly cooked. For dessert, the chai crème brûlée tastes better than it sounds. 2421 First Ave., 206-441-1677. BELLTOWN $$ Luau Polynesian Lounge If you can't be in Hawaii, you might as well party like it. With its cool, dark tiki-kitsch interior, outdoor patio, and friendly staff, Luau's the place to kick it island-style. If it's sunny, grab a patio table and share a bucket of cute little Coronitas on ice or a giant Polynesian cocktail with a friend. Or sit inside under the faux-thatch roof and make your way down the dinner menu. Don't skip the pupus (appetizers); try the spicy tuna poke. Then dig into some island soul food. You could probably wear a grass skirt here if you wanted to. Nobody cares—it's island time. 2253 N. 56th St., 206-633-5828. WALLINGFORD $$ Mr. Lucky The vibe is strong, the food excellent, and the bartenders generous. Come Monday for live jazz, Tuesday for tango, or Thursday for Latin rhythms. For dinner, arrive around eight and start with the braised calamari. Entrees, like grilled ahi or steak, are traditional bistro items prepared heartily and well, but for those without beefy wallets, the happy hour offers similar high-quality cuisine for low prices. Sugar quotas can be reached with the drink specials (try the Citron Snap), but try the raspberry sorbet anyway. Delicious, and light enough to get you on the dance floor for one more tango. 315 First Ave. N., 206-282-1960. QUEEN ANNE $-$$ Asian Ambrosia This could claim to be the most exotic place in town. You'll watch the brightly colored "foaming milk tea" being concocted from Hong Kong tea, milk, tapioca pearls, and fresh fruit. But that's not all—Ambrosia offers over 100 drinks like Strawberry Green Tea, Pear Milk Tea, and Honeydew Shake. 619 S King, 206-623-9028. CHINATOWN/INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT $ The Green Papaya Everything served in this clean, airy space is well-crafted, reasonably priced, and almost aglow with quality and freshness. Spring rolls are easy starters, or skip the deep fryer and opt for cho lon—veggies, basil, and mint in chewy rice paper (or the White Tiger variety, with prawns and pork loin.) Chili-flecked squid is clean and ocean-tangy in its salad of chili peppers and Asian celery. Entrees are tasty and refined: carmelized eggplant in garlic pepper sauce, Mariner's noodle soup (consommé broth with crab claws). The only regret is for dishes left untried. 600 E. Pine St., 206-323-1923. CAPITOL HILL $$ Lee's Asian Traditional Thai dishes are listed alongside Szechuan entrees, lo mein dishes, and Singapore noodles. The rich salmon hot muk—thick pink fillets steamed in banana leaves and served in a red curry and coconut milk sauce—and seven-flavor beef (count them: lemongrass, chilies, basil, garlic, ginger, hosin, and peanuts) are favorites, but everything here is dependable. The downside is that it's a true hole in the wall—you can wear your flip-flops but you might have to use your chopsticks to bat at a few flies. 4510 California Ave. S.W., 206-932-8209 WEST SEATTLE $ Noodle Ranch Start your meal in this very chic Belltown mainstay with gyoza, perfect satay, or an Asian cabbage salad. If anything has lemon grass in it, try it. Our favorite: the green curry with potatoes, broccoli, and an intense puddle of sauce over rice. Have some green-tea ice cream for dessert. 2228 Second Ave., 206-728-0463. BELLTOWN $ Shilla Restaurant Here, you'll find Korean food at its most exotic (try the kop chang gooy, "slices of beef intestine aggressively seasoned") and fiery. The heart of the menu is the Korean-style barbecue, which the guest cooks on the gas grill built into the tables. 2300 Eighth Ave., 623-9996. DOWNTOWN; 16330 Cleveland, Redmond, 425-882-3272. REDMOND $$ Tan Dinh Deli A Sweet secret of Chinatown, Tan Dinh resides in a dingy mini-mall. But forget the settings—throw down bus change and receive two enormous spring rolls stuffed with cilantro, lettuce, tofu, glass noodles, and pork or petal-pink shrimp. Double that price—now you're getting crazy!—And get piquant tofu, rice and a plump egg roll, or any number of hot-tray dishes to satisfy midday hunger. Servers are happy to lead you through the menu, which includes tasty desserts. Though a couple items are bland, in this I.D. spot, price and quality have that rare positive inverse connection. 1212 S. Main St., 206-726-9990. CHINATOWN/INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT $ Bar Food Bernard's Bernard's is an underground-dungeon-style diner with a "lords-and-ladies theme." If that isn't enough to charm you, they've got sausages. The "assorted sausage for two" platter includes the odds and ends from various kielbasa, bratwurst, and knockwurst links. But here's why you should go there: happy hour. Every night at Bernard's from 4:30 to 7, well drinks and martinis are two bucks each and come with free mozzarella sticks. Sure, the mozzarella sticks are lukewarm, but who's going to complain about that when the drinks are as cheap as they are strong and you're sitting in a blissfully windowless room full of flickering flame-shaped lightbulbs? 315 Seneca St. (in the Hotel Seattle), 206-623-5110. DOWNTOWN $ Chopstix Comedic piano bar meets old cheesy diner. Sound weird? It is. Inside you'll find blazing red walls, a black and white checkered floor, and typical diner food renamed with goofy puns like Great Wings of Fire (spicy chicken wings). The piano men will play anything from Sinatra to AC/DC. Be sure to check out the "Tightwad Tuesday" happy hour, with food and drink specials from 5 to 10 p.m. 11 Roy St., 206-270-4444. LOWER QUEEN ANNE $ Collins Pub The atmosphere of Collins Pub—upscale but homey, the latter conferred by the dark woodwork, the former by the number of right angles—is reflected in its food. The artichoke, spinach and fresh dungeness crab dip ($8) was on the creamy side, but with a hint of spice to kick it a little, an effect redoubled by garlicky toast with melted-on Parmesan. The baby back ribs ($7), though, were tender to the bite but tasted like liquid smoke, and the fries they were served atop were a bit too stiff. But a strawberry Stoli Sundance (made with 7-Up, sweet and sour, and strawberry purée—$5) washed it all down nicely. 526 Second Ave., 206-623-1016. PIONEER SQUARE $ First Hill Bar & Grill A Greek diner with the works. Customers have their pick of seats at the counter, in cozy booths, or in a pleasant upstairs nonsmoking level. The FHB&G serves breakfast classics (eggs any way you want 'em, pancakes, omelets, lotsa sausage) all day and traditional hot entrées (burgers, melts, salads, soups). 901 Madison St., 206-623-6333. DOWNTOWN $ Honeyhole Capitol Hill's sweetheart sandwich shop now has a full bar (what's left without one now? Just Dick's?), an expanded dinner menu (pasta, grilled chicken kebabs, steak, salads), and a tiki-loungey look. Check out the happy hour for drink specials and appetizers including the amazing-sounding bacon-and-cream-cheese-stuffed mushrooms. 703 E Pike St., 206-709-1399. CAPITOL HILL $ The People's Pub A cozy atmosphere and good German food in Seattle—who knew? Try the Paprikaschnitzel, a pork cutlet sautéed with onions and peppers—eating Paprikaschnitzel isn't quite as fun as saying the word out loud, but it's pretty close. Served with a surprisingly light and fluffy spätzle and some red cabbage, it's an authentic German feast (which wouldn't be complete without the proper beverage accompaniment, and there's an impressive selection of German brews on tap). People love the People's Pub! 5429 Ballard Ave N.W., 206-783-6521. BALLARD $ Pizza Abbondanza Pizzeria A sleek, sophisticated spin on the Italy-by-way-of-New-York pizzeria concept. The Rustica is resplendent: savory sausage, bright red peppers, and giant half-moons of eggplant. Or invent your own with the ingredients on hand (capers, marinated chicken, goat cheese). If pizza's not your thing, there are plenty of pasta options—but if pizza's not your thing, Abbondanza's not for you. 6503 California Ave. S.W., 206-935-8989. WEST SEATTLE $ Mad Pizza An old favorite, ham and pineapple, becomes a new treat with Virginia smoked ham and generous slices of real pineapple. Their cheese blend is tangy and smooth no matter what you decide to load up with: barbecue chicken, summer squash, Roma tomatoes, pesto, or any number of meat/veggie combos. 4021 E Madison St., 206-329-7037. MADISON PARK; 3601 Fremont Ave. N, 206-632-5453. FREMONT; 1314 Madison St., 206-322-7447. FIRST HILL; 12720 Lake City Way N.E., 206-417-6500. LAKE CITY $ Post Alley Pizza Post Alley churns out beguiling pies as unpretentiously as any downtown parlor. Regular 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. The staff have an understated air of friendliness; niceties may be unknown to them, but they'll remember what you like to order on Wednesdays when it's raining. At a time when Domino's and Pizza Hut can make a pie enthusiast weep, the little parlor is just enough of a good thing. 1123 Post Alley, 206-382-8475. DOWNTOWN $-$$ Second Avenue Pizza 2AP's polka-dot interior combines rave and playpen, and it's where the best pizza sauce in Seattle may be found. "The secret," says Darren, "is in pressure-cooked tomatoes—they seal in all the juice and flavor the sauce." Recommended: the potato pizza on a blue-cheese crust and the sausage pizza over onions. 2015 Second Ave., 206-956-0489. DOWNTOWN $ South American/Caribbean Fandango Sunday nights, a special happening occurs: Groups of four or more sit down for the La Familia Dinner and are plied with 10 courses, served family style: mussel appetizers, green salad, orange-tequila shrimp, smoky pork adobo, and chicken Yucutan-style. And when one pan's empty, another's on the way. Same goes for sides: fiesta rice, drunken cranberry beans, creamed corn with poblano chiles. Save the best for last: the "Brazil nut truffle torte" can't describe the ecstasy melting in your mouth. More ecstasy? The bill, which comes to a mere $25 per person (excludes tax, tip, and beverage). 5-10 p.m. Sunday nights only. 2313 First Ave., 206-441-1188. BELLTOWN $$ Mojito Mojito's menu looks very promising. Just a few items drawn from the main Latin food groups: meat, beans, rice, and tostones (delicious, crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-sweet-inside fried plantains). But the service is atrocious, the drinks far from satisfying, and the ambience of blaring Latin pop underscored by the rush of freeway cars hardly pleasing. Still, if you long for beans, rice, yucca, and tostones, it's about all there is. If you want my advice, order them straight: All are available as sides, and they're the best in Seattle. 7545 Lake City Way N.E., 206-525-3162. ROOSEVELT/LAKE CITY $ Paseo Caribbean Restaurant This frill-free Caribbean place is about the size of a garage. Inside, the busy but quite personable staff slaps together traditional Cuban entrées and chicken, pork, and prawn sandwiches that are fantastic: Slathered in a savory marinade, the meat comes on a toasted roll with cilantro, lettuce, sautéed onions, and mayo. The accompanying corn on the cob should be plenty enough, but if you want still more, order the beans and rice, which complement the sandwich's smokiness with a little spice. 4225 Fremont Ave. N, 206-545-7440. FREMONT $ Salvadorian Bakery If you don't speak Spanish and can't read the menu, just smile and ask for help—they're used to it. The bulk of business here seems to be in fancy wedding cakes and pre-paid long distance phone cards, but they're equally adept at filling a pupusa (cornmeal cakes stuffed with cheese, refried beans, pork, chicken, and loroco, Salvadorian flower petals). The amazingly wonderful crème-filled ravioli-like shortbread cookies make a great post-pupusa treat. Throw in a real sugar sweetened Coca-Cola imported from Mexico (none of your wimpy gringo corn-syrup Coke here) and you're good. 1719 S.W. Roxbury St., 206-762-4064. WHITE CENTER $ Tempero do Brasil Brazil comes to Seattle here, and that's a really good thing. Known primarily for its seafood, Bahian cuisine is a marriage of tastes: ginger, lime, coconut milk, and the spicy palm oil dende. Order a caipirinha (Brazil's national drink), a handful of the tira-gustos (appetizers), and relax to the strains of bossa nova. 5628 University Wy NE, 206-523-6229. UNIVERSITY DISTRICT $-$$ El Trapiche Pupuseria and Restaurant This Salvadorian place is bustling with Spanish-speaking clients at any given hour of the day. Their perfect little pupusas (cornmeal cakes stuffed with cheese, refried beans, pork, chicken, and loroco, Salvadorian flower petals) are served with cortida, a spicy slaw, and a dollop of un-spicy tomato sauce. Make a meal and order the fried plantains (try not to think how they resemble sunburned banana slugs) or the sweet, thick, tasty fried yucca. You'll be fending "friends" away with a fork. 127 S.W. 153rd St., 206-244-5564. BURIEN $ Spanish Dulces Latin Bistro No one entering the place can miss the huge glass-fronted wine coolers containing 1,100 bottles of the highest of high-end reds from California and Washington; the food menu is comparatively modest but lovely nonetheless. The red pepper ravioli is the most luscious of their appetizers, and for fans of country Mexican home cooking, a soupy pork and hominy stew is as close to what Mamacita used to make as you're going to get north of the border. Dessert is a high point. 1430 34th, 206-322-5453. MADRONA $$$ Madrid 522 Tapas Bar & Restaurant Madrid 522—"the food-the drinks-the Passion of Spain"—doesn't fail to offer an authentic Spanish experience. At first glance, the menu is daunting: over 25 tapas plates and a list of rustic entrees such as fresh whole trout and rabbit. Other impressive dishes include the grilled seafood parrillada—an enormous platter of succulent shellfish and crispy fried filets and the rack of lamb with red peppers and garlic potatoes. 522 Wall St., 206-443-1522. BELLTOWN $$-$$$ Vegetarian Café Flora Where's the beef? You won't really care when you're chowing down on spicy, mashed-potato filled Oaxaca tacos or juicy, pastry-encased Portobello Wellington. Certain items do a riff on traditional animal-enhanced dishes, like the "French dip" (Portobellos, caramelized onions, and Swiss cheese with mushroom jus) or the vegan lentil-pecan pate (served with gherkins, marinated olives, and red-onion confit), but the majority of entrees are proudly plant-based. Even bacon junkies swear by the popular brunch, with everything from vegan doughnuts and fluffy fig waffles to a "green eggs and yam" scramble. 2901 E. Madison St., 206-325-9100. MADISON VALLEY $$ Carmelita A butternut squash and apple terrine, a broccoli pesto pizza, and a portabello mushroom roulade stuffed with baby green beans, roasted peppers, and caramelized onions should put to rest any questions about the compatibility of the words "vegetarian" and "gourmet." Carmelita has been criticized for its somewhat spotty execution: Starters like bruschetta and an antipasti platter are safe bets, but note that the purple potato pizza has a prodigious quantity of powerful Oregon blue cheese. No matter; Carmelita's still a good reminder of how far herbivorous fare has come. 7314 Greenwood Ave. N, 206-706-7703. PHINNEY RIDGE/GREENWOOD $$-$$$ The Globe Café and BakeryStudents, hipsters, and all-vegan breakfast food: the biscuits and gravy, the cornbread with maple syrup and fresh fruit, the apple-and-ginger flapjack. Your booth will be covered in graffiti and doodles—look up to see poetry painted on the ceiling. Once your food arrives, grab the communal margarine dish from the fridge and eat up: Everything is fresh and yummy, tasting like homemade farm food and not the usual carob/fake cheese vegan fare. 1531 14th St., 206-324-8815. CAPITOL HILL $ Gravity Bar The service ranges from indifferent to hostile, the food arrives like it took the slow boat from China, and the stools seem designed expressly to keep your chiropractor in business—and yet, the Gravity Bar still gets it done. A full page of juices is available, while the food offerings range from healthy (the tofu-avocado roll-up) to healthy (a field-roast vegan burger). There is a short menu just for sauces and dressings and another list for "energetic additives" like bee pollen, spirulina, and flaxseed oil. Flaxseed may not be the tastiest thing on God's green earth, but otherwise, you'll be surprised how great good-for-you can taste.415 Broadway Ave. E., 206-325-7186. CAPITOL HILL $$

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