The Deviled Prawns at Rupee Bar
Shells and tails get equal billing alongside the prawns in this spicy bar bite. The Ballard cocktail den doesn’t just de-shell and discard the casings but instead dusts them with cornstarch, turmeric and chili and deep-fries them to create this briny pork-rind-like snack. The actual shrimps are fried separately with garlic, ginger, onions and chili paste for a snappy bite with a spicy kick — a multitude of textures and flavors. My co-restaurant critic Bethany Jean Clement and I agreed this was one of the best bites we had in 2019.
6307 24th Ave. N.W, Ballard; 206-397-3263, rupeeseattle.com
The Margherita at Pizzeria Pulcinella
That crust! It’s chewy and tangy, not just a mere piece of flatbread to hold cheese and other toppings like others in many pizzerias around town. The crust has depth and flavor. The fermented dough cooks in the 900-degree inferno of the Valoriani wood-fired oven to get that textbook-Neapolitan blistery crust and golden-brown, charred color. This Margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil) checks all the boxes from the piquant sweet-acidic tomato sauce to the creamy-fresh mozzarella.
10003 Rainier Ave. S., Rainier Beach, Seattle; 206-772-6861, vincesrestaurants.com
The Carnitas at El Catrin
I could list a number of stellar tacos at this strip-mall spot in White Center run by Jared Velazquez, the former chef at the critically acclaimed Fonda La Catrina and El Sirenito in Georgetown, but let’s go with his carnitas for all of its juicy, porky saltiness. The meat is so fatty-rich that the edges crisp up to resemble the texture of chicharron. I don’t want to adulterate these pork tacos with any hot sauce or a squeeze of lime. It’s the perfect ratio of plump meat to crispiness.
9641 15th Ave. S.W., White Center; 206-708-6341, facebook.com/Elcatrinmexicanfood/
The Truffle Old Fashioned at Canon
This decadent drink is becoming a local holiday classic. In a lesser hand, truffles would be suffocating in a cocktail, but barman Jamie Boudreau is an old hand at this game. He infuses black truffles from Oregon with cognac and tweaks it with vanilla beans to add a layer of lusciousness to this winter sipper.
928 12th Ave., Seattle; 206-552-9755, canonseattle.com
The Shoestring Fries at Eden Hill Provisions
The shoestring fries I’ve sampled around town are atrocious. Most aren’t crispy, and if they are, they wilt quickly while steaming in the bowl. Some taste rancid because the kitchen uses old cooking oil. But the shoestring fries ($5) at this Upper Queen Anne bistro are an exception. Each fry had a dense, nutty, spud-dy bite, seasoned with a medley of dried herbs, malt vinegar powder, dehydrated garlic and sea salt. They remained crispy for at least 45 minutes. What’s chef Maximillian Petty’s secret? Turns out he used a brand of frozen French fries: “Lamb Weston’s 3/16’’ Juliennes Skin-On Stealth Fries.” Petty experimented with 40 different potatoes and over-the-counter brands and even tried cooking the batches three times to get the crunchy texture that would hold up over time. He concluded it was too labor intensive to perfect the fries in house and found that these brined fries consistently delivered the crispy texture he wanted to contrast with his soggy, decadent play on the Big Mac.
1935 Queen Ave. N., Queen Anne, Seattle; 206-946-6636, edenhillprovisions.com