Pass It On

Because none of us is as smart as all of us.

THE BLINKING RED light on my desk phone has been screaming. Most recently, it was G., a woman with a soft maternal voice and a nagging concern. She could not recall the name of a new Vietnamese place that a friend had heartily recommended, and sadly, the friend has since moved to California. She remembered that if you were to go "east on Jackson" (from where she didn't mention) it would be "kind of in that Vietnamese area there," but that was about it. "If someone else said the name, it might ring a bell," said G. hopefully before hanging up. I don't think I can help G., mainly because I'm fiercely loyal to my favorite Vietnamese place, 88 Restaurant in White Center. The banh mi sandwiches there are perfect and the Penang curry (my favorite Vietnamese place is also my favorite Thai place) is amazingly fresh and complex, especially considering it comes from a rather drab-looking kitchen and goes for $6.95. If any of you think you can ring G.'s bell, drop me a line and I, in turn, will drop it to her. LAST WEDNESDAY, the food-related red glow came courtesy of J., a gentleman who implored me to try Doake's Louisiana Style Barbeque near Columbia City. His reasoning: the "ambience is nice, and they have excellent service," and, he noted, we only write about a few of the restaurants in that neighborhood. Fair enough, but what really got me down there was the easy but direct way he said, "I think you'll really like it, Laura." It was as if he had said, "Honey, that yellow shirt makes your face look plastic, try this blue one." The service at Doake's certainly is excellent. The proprietress, a Louisiana native, of course, cultivates a cozy warmth from behind her lime green–painted counter. She'll call your order back to you as she adds it up, and again as she packs it to go. I like that kind of unrushed clarity, and the food ain't half bad either. My first taste of Doake's very brown sugary baked beans elicited an involuntary, out loud, "wow." If I'm talking to myself, I'm eating something pretty amazing. Black-eyed peas were wonderfully smoky; together the two sides made a matched set. The hushpuppies, Ping-Pong-sized balls of fried corn bread dotted with salty jalapeño, were a tad well done but still really good, and if the catfish sandwich—served on buttery toast in lieu of a bun—was a little subtle (or, just sort of uninteresting), the pulled pork sandwich—also served on that bright yellow toast—more than made up for it. It wasn't a big sandwich, and the hunks of saucy pork were mere little shreds, but the flavor was loud and lusty. It was like eating a bacon sandwich. Good tip, J. I'm really glad I went. VIA E-MAIL, N. had a tip as well: The Sun Cafe on the edge of Chinatown and the International District. While N. shrugged, "the decor is nothing to write about," I was actually quite taken with the dragon-patterned ceiling tiles at the relatively new and largely unpopulated restaurant. More importantly, we're in agreement about the hot and sour soup. N. says she grew up eating Chinese food served to her by her best friend's restaurateur father, and the soup is her litmus test. Sun's is great, as is their Szechuan tofu with veggies—a surprisingly well-plated lunch special/bargain for $4.95. N. recommends the crispy shrimp with sweet chili sauce. I also like the wholesome, satisfying hand-shaved noodles because they are exactly what you want prepared and served to you at a mom-and-pop shop like the Wang's. The cafe's business card states that "China Chef Wang" was named "Top 10" (of what they don't specify) in 1984, and that the Daily News (which Daily News it does not say) gave him four stars. Twenty years later, he's still worth at least that. Go see for yourself. 88 Restaurant, 9418 Delridge Way S.W., 206-768-9767; Doake's Louisiana Style Barbeque, 4421 Rainier Ave. S., 206-725-8628; Sun Cafe, 212 Fourth Ave. S., 206-223-5289.

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