Budget Bites

Here's a sampling of Budget Bites restaurant reviews from past issues of Northwest Weekend and Ticket. BUDGET BITES

SEATTLE Salumi Italian. Armandino Batali's retirement project is a mere sliver of a shop near Pioneer Square, where he cures his own meats and creates home-style Italian meals for the lucky handful that can stake a spot at a communal table. Porchetta (roast pork), salami, prosciutto and handmade gnocchi are just a few of the wonders that you will experience there, and you will certainly take more to go. The oxtail sandwich is a rich dream. Reviewed 5/6/99 by Lisa Jann. 309 Third Ave. S., Seattle (206-621-8772).

Salvadorian Bakery Salvadoran. Of course, the local Salvadorans already know it, but this White Center bakery is not only about pan dulce and guava twists. It would be wise to stick around for some fried bananas with crema, excellent Central American-style tamales with their slippery-tender, veggie-studded masa, the pastelitas de carne (fried pork croquettes) or many pupusas. Reviewed 4/29/99 by Lisa Jann. 1719 S.W. Roxbury St., Seattle (206-762-4064).

La Galette Bistro French. The demure sister to the Eastside mall franchise, this tiny Ballard bistro is one of the neighborhood's best hidden gems. A placid, comfortable storefront is home to thoughtfully prepared crepes, sandwiches and salads. The French onion soup is subtle and perfect, and you'll be tempted to inhale the Croque Monsieur like a melted cloud. Reviewed 4/22/99 by Lisa Jann. 1418 N.W. 70th St., Seattle (206-784-2098).

Buen Gusto Salvadoran. This Greenwood mom 'n' pop shop is owned and run by Enrique and Marisol Iraheta, who built a solid following at their original Salvadoran restaurant, Rico's (which was later sold). Now at home in new digs, they continue the tradition of cooking, serving and introducing their home-style native cuisine to Seattle - with such specialties as pupusas (handmade stuffed tortillas) and majarra frita (fresh fried tilapia), as well as the standard Mexican burritos and tacos. Take-out, too. Reviewed 4/15/99 by Nancy Leson. 301 N.W. 85th St., Seattle (206-784-4699).

Mandarin Chef Chinese. Chef Sang Lam's clean, well-lighted little storefront shop is just the place for those who can never get enough Chinese food: It's cheap. It's fast. It's beyond delicious. Add to the mix Lam's cheerful wife, Lang - who runs this operation with enough personality to light up the dim northern reaches of the Ave - and you won't have to be told to come back soon. Reviewed 4/8/99 by Nancy Leson. 5022 University Way N.E., Seattle (206-528-7596).

Pamela's Fine Foods Grilled sandwiches. This family-owned nook is home to masters of the grilled line. Every hot sandwich comes seared with artful lattices and toasted, subtle crunchy indentations, the kinds of marks you would hope to see on a fine piece of fish. The focaccia panini are indeed fine; grilled bagel sandwiches may be the best on-the-go breakfast downtown. Reviewed 4/1/99 by Lisa Jann. 607 Stewart St., Seattle (206-623-2347).

Pallino Pastaria Italian. Italian pastas, panini, soups and salads served at lightning speed in an elegant setting. The star is a Swiss machine that turns out perfectly cooked thin spaghetti, sauced and plated within two minutes. Pasta choices number 17. Most are true to their roots with no skimping on the spices. Reviewed 4/2/99 by Carol Pucci. 17848 Garden Way N.E., Woodinville (425-424-0500). Also a Seattle location in the Arnold Pavilion of Swedish Hospital, 1221 Madison St., Seattle (206-382-7885).

Caffe Treviso Paninoteca Italian. Alex Negrete could save time by preparing his panini ahead, but he doesn't. He assembles each one right before your eyes in this Capitol Hill storefront. Macrina Bakery baguettes are the building blocks for yummy combos such as salami, arugula and asiago or marinated chicken, capers, fontina and mixed greens. Reviewed 3/25/99 by Carol Pucci. 1633 Bellevue Ave., Seattle (206-652-8466).

Eggs Cetera's Blue Star Cafe & Pub American. Eggs are slung every-which-way at this hold-the-smokes saloon decked out in vintage Seattle photos. Sit at that good-looking bar and wash back a Greek omelet with a 20-ounce Guinness. Or hunker down in a big wooden booth and down some O.J. and a meatloaf sandwich. So what if the food needs work? Friendly service, cheap brew-'n'-nosh happy hours and windows onto Wallingford spell H-A-N-G-O-U-T. Reviewed 3/11/99 by Nancy Leson. 4512 Stone Way N., Seattle (206-548-0345).

Nappy Griddle Soul food. The nice folks of this small Rainier mall shop style up soul vittles at the best prices in the valley. A heavyweight breakfast combo is served most of the day, and most everything else comes with a fistful of crinkle-cut fries. The Super Nappy Burger is a hot-link-spiked, big-beef experience, and the catfish is clean-tasting, super crunchy and not too greasy at all. Reviewed 2/25/99 by Lisa Jann. 3224 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle (206-723-5459).


Pon Proem Thai. It may be yet another of those Mercer Island shopping-plaza Thai joints, but this one shouldn't get lumped into obscurity. Careful cooking, reasonable prices and fast service make this a great destination for lazy, midweek dining. The seafood curry and nua yan (barbecue beef) are just a couple of the plates that may surprise you with their intense flavors. Reviewed 5/7/99 by Lisa Jann. 3039 78th Ave. S.E., Mercer Island (206-236-8424).

Kohana Mongolian Grill Mongolian. You choose the raw materials, and the men with the long metal spatulas splay and spread your ingredients on a table-sized grill, tossing and turning them into a hot melange. With your choice of meat, veggies and sauces, it's a no-lose situation, be it with noodles, rice or a tortilla to turn your concoction into moo shu. It's fast, it's cheap, and it's exactly what you wanted. Reviewed 3/26/99 by Lisa Jann. 205 105th Ave. N.E., Bellevue (425-462-0850).

Linger Longer Cafe and Bakery French. The mint-green decor and comfy sofas in the window evoke images of a Parisian tea salon. Panini sandwiches are made with housemade French baguettes. Quiche fillings (owner Leora Ger brought the recipe home from a Paris bakery) change daily. Homemade soups and fresh salads round out the menu. Be sure to leave room for the cheesecake or bite-size rugelach. Reviewed 3/19/99 by Carol Pucci. 10246-A Main St., Bellevue (425-451-8616).

Thai Ginger Thai. Shopping is hard work. So next time you're at Redmond Town Center, take a break and head for Thai Ginger. The curries and salads are some of the most inventive around. Try the red curry with salmon, lime leaves, red bell pepper and sweet basil. And leave room for dessert. There's coconut ice cream with ground peanuts and black rice pudding. Reviewed 2/19/99 by Carol Pucci. 16480 NE 74th St., Redmond Town Center, Redmond (425-558-4044).

C'est Cheese Soup and sandwich. Kind of your average office-complex deli, but with a few more treats. With a couple dozen strains of sandwich (the grill toasts up a very nice Reuben), a nice palette of salads, and always a gang of soups, deciding the fateful course of midday nutrition takes a little while. Slip into a sugar coma with a raspberry cream-cheese bar or the ultra-rich C'est Cheese bar. Reviewed 12/11/98 by Lisa Jann. 7525 S.E. 24th St., Mercer Island (206-232-9810).

Chabela's Southwest Mex. Rudy and Lynda Sanchez cater handily to the take-out trade at this tiny taqueria, making their mark with excellent handmade tamales, daily specials and prime-rib tacos - as well as the usual complement of burritos and quesadillas. Come anticipating oversized tortillas filled to gut-busting proportion and you'll leave disappointed: The offerings here are far more restrained than those served at many of the area's higher-hyped taquerias. That said, smaller portions (and smaller prices) allow for mixing and matching. Which means you can treat yourself to a taco carne asade and still have room for a couple of hot tamales. Reviewed 11/13/98 by Nancy Leson. 7621 S.E. 27th St., Mercer Island (206-232-8934).

Caffe Infinito Italian cafe. Not content to offer shoppers just another gussied-up coffee joint with fancy pastries, owner J.D. Hemmat presents microbrews and wines-by-the-glass and weekday happy hours for bargain-hunting sipsters at his Italian-style Redmond Town Center cafe. Soccer moms take latte breaks, construction workers stop in for clam chowder and a French dip, and everyone rests comfortably in the glow of sponge-painted walls. Take your whole-leaf Caesar salads and grilled cheese on focaccia and eat outdoors under heat lamps, or show up on Friday evenings to share a plate of Middle Eastern appetizers and enjoy an eclectic mix of live music. Reviewed 10/9/98. 16349 N.E. 74th St., Redmond Town Center, Redmond (425-883-8855).


Taqueria El Rinconsito Mexican. The tacos at this Burien plaza shop cost just a few cents over a dollar, and they are tiny and delicious - two steamed corn tortillas filled with nothing but your choice of meat, splashed with homemade salsa. The fact that the place is open until midnight or later every night means that you can experience this elemental and soul-stirring meal almost whenever you feel like it. Reviewed 3/12/99 by Lisa Jann. 214 S.W. 152nd St., Burien (206-431-0663).

Sunriser Breakfast House Breakfast. There's always a line at the Sunriser, where the breakfasts are big enough for two and there's no extra charge for split orders. Mounds of fresh hash browns form the centerpiece for big egg dishes. The Blackberry French Toast and steaming oatmeal are winners. Fuel up here next time you're heading for an outing at Point Defiance Park. Reviewed 2/5/99 by Carol Pucci. 2705 Sixth Ave., Tacoma (253-627-8622).

Shin Sung Korean. The dining room bears a quiet elegance, and Korean basics are fine, with marinated meats, such as bulgoki, and tofu stew done adequately, but not astoundingly. Despite the industrial strength ventilation system, do-it-yourself grilling is by request only. Their version of dolsot bibim bap, a scalding-hot stone bowl full of rice, meat and vegetables, provides enough reason to go back. Reviewed 1/1/99 by Lisa Jann. 1805 S. 316th St., Federal Way (253-839-9292).

Testy Chef Cafe Grill. On a busy crossroads where the Cedar River meets the neighborhood liquor store and noisy trucks rumble down the Maple Valley Highway, a gaggle of competent gals wo-man a tiny grill, doling out bacon and eggs, homemade soups, wonderfully messy burgers and fresh deli sandwiches at Maple Valley's oldest cafe. Garbed in gingham, this cozy local's hangout overlooks the river (there's a heated, vinyl-enclosed deck for view-seekers - though you'll find the local folk chatting up front at the counter). Stop in for coffee and pie, or do a drive-by at the espresso window. Reviewed 10/30/98, 22607 S.E. 216th Way, Maple Valley (425-432-4795).


Hosoonyi Korean. The time has come to explore Korean cuisine, including soon doo boo, the spicy soft-tofu soup that makes this Edmonds cafe a mecca for local Koreans. Come for a mini-cauldron of this "healthful" concoction floating various meats, seafood, vegetables and custardy tofu. Stay for pan-fried seafood cake, kalbi ribs, and banchan - the array of crisp, crunchy, sweet-and-spicy pickled vegetables that accompany your meal. Reviewed 5/6/99 by Nancy Leson. 23830 Highway 99 (in Courtyard Square), Edmonds (425-775-8196).

The Flying Pig Brewing Co. Pub food. A good place to meet in Everett, this big, comfortable pub sports excellent homemade brews and a casual mood. Although the menu sticks to the ol' faithfuls of yupscale bar food - fish and chips, burgers, pizzas, Caesar salad - the fare is reliable, and the service is friendly and conscientious. Reviewed 4/23/99 by Lisa Jann. 2929 Colby Ave., Everett (425-339-1393).

Kira's City Cafe Russian and American. Michael Kira creates Russian specialities such as cabbage rolls, piroshki and thick vegetable borscht while Sophia, his Romanian-born wife, works the tables in this friendly downtown Everett cafe. The less-expensive lunch menu includes American-style sandwiches and salads. Reviewed 4/16/99 by Carol Pucci. 2801 Colby Ave., Everett (425-259-5090).

Ranch Drive-In American. Everyone in Bothell seems to stop by here for the burgers, the kind that emit a cascade of meat juice and grease the second you lift them from the wrapper. They sure are tasty, but the ice cream treats are worth a stop, too. Chocolate-dipped cones and sundaes adorned with vanilla wafer sticks are classics. Reviewed 4/09/99 by Lisa Jann. 18218 Bothell Way N.E., Bothell (425-486-2677).

Fred's Rivertown Alehouse Northwest. After the antique shops close, head for Fred's Rivertown Alehouse and ask for a free taste of one of the 32 craft brews on tap. Then dive into a menu that features everything from oyster sandwiches to exotic meats and ethnic treats. Reviewed 3/05/99 by Carol Pucci. 1114 First St., Snohomish (360-568-5820).

Lombardo's Pizzeria Pizza. This spotless mall shop next to Lynnwood's Food Emporium bakes some of the finest, most thoughtful pies in memory. Impeccably crisp crusts balance fresh, superbly chosen toppings. The sauceless, three-cheese Elena pizza swoons with garlic, mushrooms and marinated chicken, and anything with the homemade meatballs is not to be missed. Reviewed 2/12/99 by Lisa Jann. 13619 Mukilteo Speedway, Suite B-3, Lynnwood (425-742-8710).

My Vietnam Vietnamese. Tucked into a strip mall across from Value Village, My Vietnam features garden-fresh Vietnamese and Chinese specialities. Try the salad rolls - delicate, translucent crepes packed with a dense mixture of minced lettuce, basil, mint, bean sprouts, bits of pork and shrimp. Reviewed 1/22/99 by Carol Pucci. 6309 Evergreen Way, Everett (425-353-3224).