A Food Critics Year in Review - Steve

Steve GApril 10th, 2008
By: Steve G

Now that 2007 has ended, I've had a little bit of time to reminisce on all of the places that we've visited over the last year. Some of the places have always been on my personal favorite list, while others were more of an eye opening experience. From cheap eats to great date spots, here's a list of my personal favorites and great anecdotes of restaurants in the Greater Seattle area for 2007.

But before I get started with all the great places, I just wanted to give a shout out to two Seattle icons that have closed their doors for good. Pete's Pizza and Atlantic Street Pizza.

Pete's Pizza was King of Calzones and those who have had a taste can attest to this fact. For me, it was all about the rich mozzarella cheese and heavenly crust that was always wonderfully soft and flaky. I'll miss you Pete's Pizza. If anyone asked me about the best place for a calzone, my gut reaction is always Pete's Pizza. Sadly, Pete's Pizza became one of the numerous victims of the condofication of Seattle leaving me with an empty craving for another one of their famous calzones.

Atlantic Street Pizza was just as revered as Pete's Pizza within the local Seattle area. There's a rich history at this former spot and if you ever had the chance to order a pie and sit down with Harry, he'd have quite the tales for you. Atlantic Street Pizza started out in an old condemned building, where a construction worker found an old Italian cookbook. Intrigued by the popularity of the dishes, they opened up a shop and after catering to a band after a big concert in Seattle, word soon spread about some amazing pizza that all celebrities needed to try. While it's interior was always a little drab and rundown, you couldn't help but take a quick gander at all of the celebrity photos that were signed and gave a quick thanks to the fantastic pies this place always churned out. Atlantic Street Pizza closed up shop when Harry past away, so I'll never get another slice of Mama Casa with a side of fresh made pesto sauce.

Date Spots:
When it comes to date spots, my personal preference is to go to hidden spots that have a bit of vintage appeal over the glitz and glamour of most of the downtown area. The first on my list is old Japanese restaurant named Maneki. The history around Maneki is simply amazing and a great conversation piece for those new to it. Open for nearly a hundred years, it's one of the only Japanese businesses that survived the Japanese Internment of World War II. The oyster miso rockefeller is a must order appetizer and the sushi is always top notch in quality. Reservations are required if you want to get seated in less than an hour and even then you might have to wait awhile. Best way to kill time while waiting for a seat? Grab a cup of tea around the corner at the Panama Hotel.

Another great date spot for 2007 was Serafina. This Italian restaurant has a great neighborhood vibe and the staff was so friendly that I really enjoyed it and definitely recommend it to others. The dark ambient mood is really broken up by the loud bustle of patrons and dishes, but I really preferred the lively atmosphere while dining here. Check the menu to see if they have the butterscotch pudding - it's an amazing dessert.

Best Breakfast Spot:
Brown Bag Cafe is the best place for breakfast anywhere in the Washington State. Cheap prices, great ingredients, and gigantic portions, equates to best breakfast spot in my book. In North Seattle, Patty's Eggnest is also a great spot for breakfast. Lots of neighborhood flair and dubbed as some of the "Best Eggs in Seattle." Their Swedish pancakes are also wildly popular. On the weekends, the place gets packed pretty quickly so come early to get a seat before they run out of the Swedish pancakes.

Best place for Cheap Eats:
Cafe Ori takes the award for best cheap eats. The best item on the menu is the curry beef brisket rice at $5.95. The creamy flavor and curry soaked pieces of beef brisket are so good that it will quickly convert you to a fan of Cafe Ori almost instantaneously. My killer combo at this place is ordering the curry beef brisket rice and the salt and pepper pork chops. You will not be disappointed.

Best Mexican/Latin American Food:
La Casa Del Mojito is simply the best place for Latin American and Cuban food. Their mixture of Cuban, South American, and Mexican-influenced food is extremely delicious and amazingly cheap compared to other places. The owner and staff are very friendly as I'm always locked into a long conversation with them on the slow nights. The Parilla de Luigi is a personal creation of the owner that has its roots with a couple of former Seattle Mariners players that the owner grew up with.

Best Greek Food:
Santorini Greek Grill takes the top spot for best Greek food in my personal favorites of 2007. The gyros plates are a must try with one of the best Greek salads I've ever had. The feta cheese and dressing keep me coming back for more. The Greek fries are simply french fries topped with feta cheese, but are very addictive. The most you will spend on a plate is $9 and everything will keep you filled up and satisfied.

Best Indian Food:
I'm a little bias in where I like to get my Indian food. Since going to school at UW, my favorite place to grab Indian food is Cedars. After going to many Indian restaurants, none have been able to rival it. The butter chicken served here is one of my favorite all-time dishes. The mango curry is another sweet and creamy concoction that is great for those testing the waters for Indian food for the first time and the endless chai tea is simply to die for.

Best Vietnamese:
Green Leaf Restaurant was the best Vietnamese restaurant of 2007. The extremely fresh vermicelli bowls, fresh squeezed orange juice, and perfect Vietnamese crepes - which are more flaky then crunchy - are the top three reasons I recommend Green Leaf over other restaurants. It might be a little too cozy for some people, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Best Japanese:
Though this restaurant is not officially reviewed yet, Maneki is still tops in my book for Japanese food, though I tend to grab sushi at other spots such as Tsukushinbo. It's the Izakaya food that keeps me coming back for more, such as the oyster miso rockerfeller and the salt broiled steak dinner. In the south end of Seattle, Miyabi is the best you'll find. Lots of creative sushi rolls and high quality food all around. I recommend the teriyaki steak for dinner.It's marinated all day before being cooked and is truly fabulous.

Best Italian:
Tropea Ristorante is a hidden gem in Redmond, WA. The dishes are chocked full of rich ingredients and the staff is very hospitable. Their garlic infused oil is one of the best dipping sauces for their bread. You'll find yourself asked for more bread as it gets more addictive after every garlic loaded bite. Tropea is also one of the few places that serves cannoli for dessert, a truly rarity in the Pacific Northwest.

Tulio is another spot that has become a favorite place of mine in 2007. Its location is ideal for those catching a show at 5th Avenue or Benaroya Hall. If you call early and let them know you have tickets to a show, they will expedite your order to ensure you make it to the show on time. The roasted Branzino is a whole fish that is de-boned right in front of you. They also have a great seasonal rack of pork that is served on a creamy bed of polenta. Be sure to order it a little rare as the pork loses a lot of its flavor if its thoroughly cooked through. The Sweet Potato Gnocci is simply one of the best appetizers I've ever had.

Best Chinese Food:
There's a couple of places that are competing for the title of best Chinese food. Cafe Ori, Rocking Wok, and Bamboo Garden, all have a spot for my favorite Chinese restaurant, depending on what style of food I'm in the mood for. Cafe Ori is the best for quick cheap eats Cantonese style, but be sure to bring cash as they don't accept checks or credit cards. Rocking Wok is the best place for Taiwanese food with its Thousand Layer Pancake and Tea Smoked Duck. Bamboo Garden has an amazing Cheng Du Hand Shaven Noodle dish that everyone needs to try.

Best Thai Food:
Chantanee is my favorite for Thai in 2007. Hidden away in Bellevue most people would never think that there's a great Thai restaurant just under their noses. Just order the Garlic Crispy Chicken, Heavenly Beef, and Angel Wings and you won't be disappointed.

Best Hole in the Wall:
Rocking Wok gets the award for best hole in the wall. From the outside, you would never think about going in, but I was amazed at how first impressions can be very misleading. If you can let go of your apprehensions about the place from the outside, you'll be treated to some of the best Taiwanese food in Seattle.

Best Burger:

Pomengrante has a Misty Isle Angus Beef Burger that is the best burger I had in 2007. Why not Dick's? Simple, Misty Isle Angus Beef is extremely tender very rich in flavor. It's one of the few times I was taken by surprise by a burger. Top notch.

Best Burrito
Ooba's Mex Grill, located in Bellevue and Redmond has a great tex-mex burrito. The chunks of skirt steak really hit the spot and the salsa bar has a habanero salsa that slowly burns away at your throat. The only downside is the small portions of tortilla chips they give you. Sorry Chipotle and Baja Fresh, you're not the king anymore.

Misty Isle Burger from Pomegranate
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