A slice of cake at the Kingfish Café

Wake Up at Volunteer Park Café

No place reveals Seattle’s small-town soul like the Volunteer Park Café on a Saturday morning. Someone’s golden retriever wags affably at the door. Sunbeams pour in soaring windows, warming flour sack–topped tables and mismatched chairs and legions of sleepy neighbors waiting (and waiting) for a cup of steaming, stunning Stumptown and the city’s best house-baked pastries, blueberry scones to pear-­cardamom muffins. There’s fancy food too, day and night, but it’s the drop-in dreaminess of morning combined with the casually exquisite food that makes Volunteer Park Café indispensable. Volunteer Park Café, 1501 17th Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-328-3155; alwaysfreshgoodness.com

Salade Composée at Le Gourmand

More chapel than restaurant, Le Gourmand is Seattle’s shrine to the edible benedictions of Cascadia, from Northwest cuisine’s high priest and original architect, Bruce Naftaly. Within the luxe white walls it’s all about the most pristine haricots verts, the perfect pattypan squash—either of which might show up with first-of-the-season chanterelles and an orange blossom–thyme vinaigrette in that individually marinated and intricately arranged French art form, the salade composée. Every night Naftaly and his wife Sara extemporize a different seasonal version; every night it shines. Le Gourmand, 425 NW Market St, Ballard, 206-784-3463; legourmandrestaurant.com

Honey from Heaven at Salish Lodge

Sure it’s cheesy, not to mention potentially sticky. Your brunch waiter lifts her honey dripper high above your plate, and just as you’re starting to wish you’d at least glanced at her target-practice credentials, it spills into a golden pool right where the butter’s melting into your buttermilk biscuit. The waterfall-routine began in 1919 when the first country restaurant opened on this spot alongside thundering Snoqualmie Falls, then faded into the mists of history when the burnished new Salish Lodge went up in 1988. Last year the savvy Salish brought the ritual back, reminding generations of former kids why they loved it so much when their parents aimed the Sunday drive in the direction of Snoqualmie. Salish Lodge, 6501 Railroad Ave S, Snoqualmie, 425-888-2556; salishlodge.com

A Slice of Cake at the Kingfish Café

Sorry, did we say “slice of cake”? I believe we meant “bigger-than-your-head-and-could-feed-four Platonic ideal of cake.” A towering three-story slice arrives supine on its plate, necessarily: Its dense, moist red velvet or chocolate fudge or spice cake crowned with icing, whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel, and a fan of strawberries. The Coaston sisters celebrate their Southern heritage through small-town hospitality and traditional family recipes at their Capitol Hill café, where a whole lot of fans ignore the soul-food lunches and dinners just to let themselves eat cake. Kingfish Café, 602 19th Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-320-8757; thekingfishcafe.com

Party for 10 at the Corson Building

Grab your squeeze and four other couples and book the big table at the most idiosyncratic dinner house in the city, perhaps the country. There it is now in unlikely Georgetown, the little nasturtium-twined Italianate villa between the freeway exit and the train tracks. Approach through a flourishing Eden—mind the rooster!—and enter a twinkling, stucco dining room filled with good energy and even better aromas. Chef Matthew Dillon (Sitka and Spruce) regards his endeavor more as a dinner party than a restaurant, so that’s how to experience it: Around a big, loud table for which he’ll throw together excellent wines and a few small plates and family-style platters from what’s freshest in market and garden. Only Dillon’s version of “thrown together”—maybe rabbit legs in olive oil and aromatics or grilled zucchini with gooseberries, pistachios, and chunks of feta—could render the term meaningless. The Corson Building, 5609 Corson Ave S, Georgetown, 206-762-3330; thecorsonbuilding.com

Dinner Out of the Fish Tank at Sea Garden

You walk right past them on your way to your table, trying desperately to avoid eye contact with the tilapia and spot prawns and lumbering Dungeness that are about to become dinner. It’s a beloved tradition in Chinatown’s seafood restaurants—well, beloved for humans—and one best worth savoring at longtime haunt Sea Garden, where you can walk right up to the tank and point out the very lobster or geoduck you prefer. Or leave the choice to the chef, who will pluck the creature out of the brine and bring it squirming to your table for your approval. Your heart may bleed a little, but one garlicky bite of Sea Garden’s signature black bean crab will restore your killer instincts immediately. Sea Garden, 509 Seventh Ave S, International District, 206-623-2100