Madison Valley Secret

Brunch haven Hi Spot now serves dinner.

Hi Spot Cafe—beloved for its brunch and serving about 8 million amazing omelets every weekend—is now serving dinner. Few know about it yet, so like a proper gossip, we're going to blow Madrona's best-kept secret with a glowing review of Seattle's best stealth dinner spot. Upon first inspection of the menu, I was disappointed by the lack of innovation—every item seemed ordinary, something I've seen or eaten before. But the Hi Spot achieves transcendence by following the same formula for dinner that it does for brunch: standard fare cooked and presented at a level fit for the finest of palates. The dinner menu is chock-full of your favorite comfort meals at prices that won't break the bank. Summertime enhances the pleasure: Seated at a table on the patio, you feel you could easily be dining at a country restaurant in the summery south of France, complete with wafts of lavender lending a bottom note on the light breeze that blew occasionally during our supper al fresco. Appetizers arrived in all their simple splendor. We started with a Greek salad ($8.50), fresh and flawlessly tossed with the right amount of dressing (enough to coat each spinach leaf without making it limp). We backed our salad with a shrimp quesadilla ($8.95). Granted, melted cheese makes anything taste good, but the quesadilla filling of mozzarella, spinach, and a dash of pesto created an ideal marriage of flavors. Since it was a warm night, we sipped an Italian pinot grigio (Kris 2002, $18 a bottle or $5.50 a glass) on the recommendation of one of the numerous knowledgeable and friendly waitstaff. Dry and crisp, it quenched our thirst perfectly, but we might have chosen from a number of other interesting-looking and equally inexpensive nondomestic choices, as well as mainline bottlings from the Columbia Valley and California. To follow our appetizers, we decided to share a bowl of spaghetti puttanesca ($10.95): Pasta simply dressed with kalamata olives, tomato, capers, garlic, anchovy, all topped with grated Parmesan cheese, this dish burst with freshness and zest. You can play it straight-ahead American at the Hi Spot and order the New York steak with its side of grilled protobellos ($15.95), but the Latin-accented main dishes are where it's at valuewise, like grilled tilapia tacos with chipotle crème ($9.95) or the grilled chicken chile verde burrito in tomatillo sauce ($8.95). But the biggest deal-meal of all is the all- American Reuben ($8.50), served with a choice of salad, chips, or soup. As for us, even though we were stuffed to the brim, we couldn't pass up the strawberry shortcake ($4.50) and a pot de crème ($4.50, thick chocolate mousse with the consistency of warm butter). Both were well worth the stomach-hurts-because-I-ate-too-much feeling. The French say that the measure of a good chef is how he cooks an omelet; it seems like such a simple dish, but it's one of the hardest to do perfectly. As with their omelets at lunch, the Hi Spot Cafe has worked its magic on some of our favorite meals and transformed them into a gourmet's delight. Hi Spot Cafe, 1410 34th Ave., 206-325-7905. Dinner 5–9:30 p.m. Tues.–Sat.

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