Laid-back LC's hits the spot with Onion Crispins and more

We need a new word to describe a restaurant like LC's Kitchen. Here are a few that don't quite fit:

• Diner. Conjures up a noisy greasy spoon with harried, wisecracking waitresses. LC's Kitchen is quiet and nongreasy, and the service is friendly, although the occasional wisecrack is not unheard of.

• Family restaurant. LC's is casual and a great place to take kids, but "family restaurant" sounds like Denny's, Shari's or any other chain restaurant whose deep fryer is running 24-7.

• New American restaurant. Sure, LC's menu features sandwiches and salads, and it does a little Mediterranean and Caribbean globe-trotting, but there's nothing that could be described as fusion.

Enough about what LC's isn't. What it is is an unpretentious neighborhood restaurant in Lake City with a short but focused menu, daily specials (try the cioppino) and seasonal wine-tasting menus, which pair five wines with five not-on-the-menu courses. (The next one will likely happen in July.)

There are half a dozen sandwiches to choose from, including two vegetarian options (grilled portobello on focaccia, $7.95, and the Italian, with roasted red peppers, olive relish, mozzarella and tomatoes, $8.50). Aside from the mandatory Onion Crispins (see below), there's a shrimp appetizer with olive oil, garlic and chilies ($8.50) and a tomato-poblano quesadilla ($6.95). Salads include jerk chicken with greens, oranges and almonds.

LC's is open for lunch, but there's no separate lunch menu; the full dinner menu is available all day. The wine list is a bit adventurous: All five of the reds on offer are from Spain, Chile or Portugal, and all are available by the glass.

Probably nothing in town is less relaxing than Lake City Way, but I could sit in the window at LC's Kitchen watching the traffic and nibbling Onion Crispins for hours. That's a tribute to LC's easygoing demeanor — and the power of crispy onions.

Check please:

Onion Crispins: Don't get me wrong — onion rings are great, but these are better, a glorious tangle of onions lightly breaded and fried. The accompanying honey-mustard sauce is too mild; try the Brother Bru-Bru's hot sauce sitting on your table.

LC's Hometown Burger: Start with a thick, hand-formed beef patty, take it off the grill before it's well-done, and you're 90 percent of your way to a great burger. LC's fulfills these nondebatable burger principles, and their burger is very good, but I'd like to see them take it the rest of the way, maybe with an unusual topping instead of plain old lettuce, tomato and onion. Served with a cup of soup of the day, which was a wonderfully creamy chicken corn chowder.

Portuguese Clams Cataplana: This looks like a small portion until you dip your spoon in and find out just how buttery that innocent-looking broth is. The combination of clams and linguica sausage is so perfect that the bacon is superfluous. All this dish needs is better bread for dipping; the house loaf is too close to supermarket French bread for comfort.

Blackberry cobbler: Blackberries are probably my favorite of the summer berries, and this rich cobbler (I turned down the chance to have it a la mode) was a good showcase for them, even if it's not quite summer.

Pecan pie: My pecan-pie prejudice is for chopped rather than whole pecans, but this whole-pecan version, with its flaky crust and scoop of vanilla ice cream, nearly made me a convert.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Onion Crispins $3.95

LC's Hometown Burger $7.95

Portuguese Clams Cataplana $11.95

Blackberry cobbler $3.50

Pecan pie $3.50

Fish Tale Pale Ale $3.50

Tax $3.19

Total $37.54

Matthew Amster-Burton:

LC's Kitchen

8007 Lake City Way N.E., Seattle; 206-522-1114



Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. Tuesdays- Fridays, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. Sundays.

Beer and wine / credit cards: MC, V / no smoking / no obstacles to access.

Rating: recommended.