Green Leaf: Imagine a Hanoi café crossed with a tiki lounge and you're close to understanding the appeal of Green Leaf, located in the International District. The hour-long wait is instantly forgotten once you've tasted the bucket-size bowls of pho. Good luck trying to squeeze your way out. (Happily, the restaurant is adding a second floor, doubling the amount of space.) 418 Eighth Ave. S., 206/340-1388, entrées from $7.
La Côte Crêperie: The neighborhood of Madison Valley has been generating buzz for its French restaurants, including this authentic crêperie. Packed since it opened in January, La Côte uses dense buckwheat in its savory dishes, while sweet options include a tatin crepe made with carmelized Red Delicious apples. Pretty much any of the crepes pairs nicely with one of the hard ciders. 2811 E. Madison St., 206/323-9800, crepes from $4.
Smith: Linda Derschang's new venture (she also owns Linda's Tavern and Viceroy) is a lodge–themed bar with 40 different beers. Tyler Palagi's menu includes alphabet soup and devils on horseback (dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in pancetta). 332 15th Ave. E., 206/709-1900, entrées from $10.
Kingfish Café: When sisters Laurie and Leslie Coaston decided to open a soul-food joint, they traveled around the U.S. in search of ideas. The result of their quest is a menu of sublime classics: buttermilk fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, and a sweet-potato pecan pie that's baked by the Coaston sisters' mother, Geraldine. 602 19th Ave. E., 206/320-8757, entrées from $11.
Elemental@Gasworks: This quirky spot seats only 17 and takes no reservations. Owner Phred Westfall pairs obscure wines with chef Laurie Riedeman's eclectic dishes, including ribs wrapped in a garlic waffle and a bread pudding made with pear and blue cheese. 3309 Wallingford Ave. N., 206/547-2317, entrées from $18.
Meskel: Seattle has one of the largest Ethiopian populations in the U.S., and of the many restaurants in Little Addis Ababa, none are as homey as Meskel. After all, it's in a converted house. The generous main dishes—the gomen be siga (beef ribs and collard greens) and the doro wat (braised chicken) are popular—come with stacks of spongy, filling injera bread. 2605 E. Cherry St., 206/860-1724, entrées from $9.