Eat, eat, eat! If that's all you do, that's all you deserve: one mouthful after another. But if you pay attention, you start to taste shadings of difference: good, better, best. Herewith, Cornichon's personal roster of the tastiest Belltown served up in 2007.
Belltown Restaurant of the Year: Steelhead Diner, not even a year old and clearly atop the dining scene. Hands down the best oysters of the season, "caviar pie" that's already a legend, jumbo crabcakes that taste like the ocean, a commitment to local and organic ingredients, a serious wine list that sticks to approachable Pacific Northwest bottles. From his post in the corner of the kitchen, Kevin Davis oversees a dining room that's half local, half tourist, all happy. Bravo!
Belltown Newcomer of the Year: A big welcome to Txori, the tiny Basque pintxos bar which gets me in, gives me a drink and a bite, and sends me on my way for under ten bucks and under half an hour. You can get a short glass of Stella for two bucks! It's called a zurito. And a gilda--anchovy, olive and peppers on a crunchy slice of Le Panier bread--for $3.50. Haven't had this much fun standing at a counter since, well, tapas-hopping in Spain. Runners-up: Tavolata, Entre Nous and Local Vine.
Best Belltown Bar: the charming, cozy alcove at the entrance to Marjorie, where owner Donna Moodie often holds court while barman Ben Sherwood mixes exceptionally generous drinks and the kitchen turns out delectable plates like chicken tikka. At happy hour, try the pulled pork sandwiches with a Red Stripe.
Best Belltown Bites: Black Bottle's lamb with hummus, Tavolata's gnocchi with a ragu beef tongue, 94 Stewart's braised lamb shank, Local Vine's wagyu beef, Txori's Gulas Pil-Pil, Le Pichet's beet salad with sweetbreads.
So long, 2007! Here's to many happy meals in 2008!