Image: Olivia Brent
Shanik: Lamb Popsicles

Branzino

Oven-Roasted Branzino
The amber-lit Belltown beaut specializes in the Mediterranean sea bass it’s named for, which arrives whole for the server to fillet tableside. Seasoned crackling skin gives way to fluffy moist whitefish, served over salsa verde and topped with a refreshing arugula--fennel salad. Every bite is fun. 2429 Second Ave, Belltown, 206-728-5181; branzinoseattle.com

 

Shanik

Lamb Popsicles
Here’s a dish that at once establishes Shanik’s relationship to the astonishing Vij’s in Vancouver, BC—they’re sister Indian restaurants—and distinguishes itself. Unlike the creamy Vij’s version, this one places the beautifully sourced, popsiclelike lamb chops into a subtle coconut curry over a texture-rich split pea and spinach mash—rendering it both more Indian and more Cascadian than its admirable prototype. 500 Terry Ave N, South Lake Union, 206-486-6884; shanikrestaurant.com

 

The Wurst Place

Belgian Style Frites
It was a simple assignment: Find the best fries in town. Who knew they’d be inside this throwbacky Grateful Dead–loving beer hall near Amazon. Sure, order brats—they’re terrific—but do not miss these fries: hand cut, soaked to leach out starches, then fried not once but twice for exceptional crunch. Improve on perfection by dredging them through one of the Wurst Place’s eight dipping sauces, like sriracha Thai chili. 510 Westlake Ave N, South Lake Union, 206-623-3548; thewurstplace.com

 

Image: Olivia Brent
Bar Sajor: Chuletón de Buey

Bar Sajor

Chuletón de Buey
During Spanish winters, the cider houses of Basque country throw open their doors to offer guests pints of tart cider and rib-eye steaks (chuletón) cooked over fire. That ancient European tradition comes to delectable life in Seattle’s own ancient neighborhood, Pioneer Square, where chef Matt Dillon turns dry-aged rib-eyes into crisp-on-the-outside, pink-on-the-inside dinners for two, suffused with juice and tang and smoke. Topped with Treviso and garlic, accented with glasses of cider—it’s a fitting repast amid the Old World splendor of Bar Sajor. 323 Occidental Ave S, Pioneer Square, 206-682-1117; barsajor.com

 

Tanglewood Supreme

Sake Poached Octopus
This undersize joint off a Magnolia alley proved the sleeper of 2013, for chef Jeffrey Kessenich’s artful way around a piece of pristine seafood, line-caught king salmon to Alaskan weathervane scallops. He handily passed the octopus test, producing steaky, tender, sake-poached slices of the meat over baby bok choy with marinated slices of Thai eggplant and daikon—all sweet and savory with tamarind and soy. Memorable. 3216 W Wheeler St, Magnolia, 206-708-6235; tanglewoodsupreme.com

 

Rain City Burgers

Chicken Masala Burger
As cheap burger joints go, this tidy, friendly enterprise holding down the corner of 65th and Roosevelt fires on a lot of cylinders: hand-cut fries, hand-dipped shakes, a list of solid burgers, and a whole slew of vegetarian options. But the breakout winner is the chicken masala burger, marinated in dazzling spices from the owner’s native India, then served with pepper jack, all the fixings, and enough fire to make your eyeballs dance. 6501 Roose-velt Way NE, Roosevelt, 206-525-3542; raincityburgers.com

 

TanakaSan

Twice-Fried Chicken Wings with Salty Caramel
Best happy hour delectable this year: In a caramel of fish sauce and sugar, six meaty wings arrive armored in a crunchy twice-fried crust and dolloped with a thrumming relish of garlic and serrano chilies. All this and moist meat too, at Tom Douglas’s bright, warmly industrial Asian fusion joint in the lobby of the Via6 apartments. 2121 Sixth Ave, Downtown, 206-812-8412; tanakasanseattle.com

 

Chico Madrid

Pan Con Valdeon
The bewitchingly European coffeehouse/nosh bar in the thick of the North Capitol Hill condos builds its appeal on perfect bread—thank you, Columbia City Bakery—and blissful textural interplay, as happens when you top a thick, toasted slice of that perfect bread with ripe slices of Valdeón blue cheese, then drizzle it liberally with honey and black pepper. ¡Olé! 711 Bellevue Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-453-3234; chicomadrid.com

 

The Wandering Goose

Raspberry-Jam Buttermilk Biscuits
In this corner of the Carolinas, baker Heather Earnhardt overburdens her pastry case with triple chocolate chip cookies and pear cardamom muffins and enormous layer cakes—and that’s just the top shelf. Her signature is buttermilk biscuits, slathered with butter and jam, and they are very good. Request them warmed in the oven and now they’re great—browned edges crisp, interiors fluffy, butter melted creamily into the dough, the jam a bright finale. 403 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-323-9938; thewanderinggoose.com

 

Poppy

Chocolate Mint Chip Ice Cream
Among the many delights of Poppy, where chef Jerry Traunfeld draws small plates into unlikely harmonies, are the fresh herbs he scatters across them like stardust. A recent meal at that effervescent Broadway spot featured lemon balm in the salad, caraway in the leek-chicken entree, fennel in just about everything—and brisk gusts of fresh mint from the garden in the housemade ice cream. “It is arrestingly minty,” my server sighed. 622 Broadway E, Capitol Hill, 206-324-1108; poppyseattle.com

 

Canlis

Filet Mignon
The legend’s star is still rising, and not just because its fine-dining rivals in this town are dropping like flies (RIP Le Gourmand, RIP Rover’s). Chef Jason Franey is simply incapable of mediocrity. So a filet mignon—hardly the most thrilling showcase for a chef’s creativity—obliterates that expectation and becomes a metaphor for what sets Canlis apart: classic, flawlessly executed, presented with flavorful verve (on a sweet puddle of carrot puree)—and rare.2576 Aurora Ave N, Queen Anne, 206-283-3313; canlis.com