A reader asks: Where are the local sweet spots that serve entrees more in the $18–$25 zone, rather than the $24–$37 range?

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Sometimes readers write to me for restaurant recommendations, and I (try to!) always answer (eventually!). For this round, Seattle Times restaurant reviewer Providence Cicero was kind enough to weigh in, too.

Hey Bethany,

Do you happen to have a couple restaurant picks for nice places with good food where entrees are more in the $18–$25 zone, rather than the $24–$37 range? Looking to take a friend out, and saw Mbar and Westward both have trout for about $27 — that seems nutty. 

Thanks for any tips.

D.R.

Dear D.R.,

Nutty it may seem, but higher prices are the new normal here in Seattle — if you’ve bought anything from a house to a cup of coffee lately, this isn’t a news flash. More expensive entrees (and the rest of menus, too) at “nice” places aren’t arbitrary: The money’s going for high-quality ingredients, higher (and higher) rent, and a better quality of life for workers. Part of my heart says that if you want to take your friend out, why not cough up the extra cash and treat yourselves to the sky-high glamour of Mbar or the lakeside glory of Westward (and the fire pits of both)? You only live once, as they say!

But, then, it’s only reasonable to want some more reasonable, but still nice, alternatives. Time to turn to the sphere of neighborhood places that are destinations in their own right. A few spots in the more-casual-and-less-expensive-but-still-great category that immediately spring to mind are Bar del Corso, Kedai Makan, Le Pichet, Monsoon (and Monsoon East), Revel and Roux.

(Alternately, you could throw pretense out the window and opt for something even-more-casual-and-less-expensive-but-still-great from our best cheap eats for 2017, or 2016, or 2015 — just call ahead to check hours, etc. If you and/or your friend haven’t explored them, you could turn your one dinner out into a series.)

I know there are lots more lower-mid-range favorites out there — maybe we’ll get some in comments. I sent my thoughts along to Seattle Times restaurant reviewer Providence Cicero to get her take, too. She said, “My heart’s with your heart on this. Prices are higher, and for all the valid reasons you mention. Just off the top of my head, Tallulah’s comes to mind, or Thackeray, but even at the mid-priced ‘nicer’ neighborhood places (some Ethan Stowell restaurants, for example), more and more entrees are creeping above $25, especially for high-quality, sustainably raised/caught protein.”

In any case, you’re a nice friend! Happy eating out, wherever you end up (and let me know how you like it!).

Best,

Bethany