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Another Birthday Dinner...

Hi, all. It's that time of year again, and I can't decide where to go for my birthday dinner. I need suggestions.

I don't favor new or trendy for newness' or trendiness' sake. Nor do I think there's a huge intrinsic appeal to artfully-plated small plates, counter-intuitive preps, or high prices. I just want great food, relaxed atmosphere, no pretense, and good service.

By way of example of what I like, I really find Salvatore's and Cafe Munir soul-satisfying experiences. But it really can be any cuisine.

All suggestions welcome.


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  1. I always enjoy Salvatore too. The long time waitstaff and the fact that the owner is often in the kitchen and now his daughter (granddaughter?) is working the front make it very comfortable. That said for at least twice the price Cafe Juanita is good for a splurgy celebration but I can't walk home as I can from Salvatore.

    1. I think you should mount an expeditionary force to Loulay and report back with your findings. Assuming it's open in time for your celebration.

      1. I had a wonderful meal at MKT a few weeks back.

        1. Regardless of destination or date, Happy B-Day, Kaleo!

          1. What about Nell's? It is absolutely unpretentious, great atmosphere, food, and service. Not the bargain that Salvatore's is but still worth the price on a special occasion. Happy birthday!

            1. Kaleo,

              Perhaps La Medusa? They're a little on the pricey side, but not unreasonable, and they serve some really delicious, un-precious Italian. Friendly service and comfortable atmosphere, too,

              2 Replies
              1. re: Booklegger451

                Hi, Booklegger:

                This is a really good suggestion, thank you very much. La Medusa is definitely in the running.

                I have not tried this place. It appears that the menu changes frequently with the seasons, but do you have any favorite dishes there you can recommend?


                1. re: kaleokahu


                  The dishes do rotate on a regular (weekly?) basis. There are a few that are always there, though:

                  Spaghetti marinara with meatball, which is never the best dish on the menu, but is always good, and deeply in comfort food territory

                  Perciatelli con le sarde: If you like sardines in the Sicilian style, this is a great dish, rich, delicious and well rounded with the salty sardine & olive flavors balanced by sweet fennel and raisins. If you aren't into sardines, though, you may want to look to other menu items.

                  Grandmas greens: Similar in flavor profile to the Perciatelli, but made with anchovy broth, and kale.

                  Arancini: Pool ball sized rice croquets. Can be a bit heavy if you're a light eater. Another real comfort food.

                  The grill here is also surprisingly good. One of my top 3 steaks in town came off their flames. The grill menu is usually just two rotating items (typically one fish and one red meat), and I have never had anything less than excellent.

                  Some special things that show up occasionally:

                  Rabbit liver dishes. Usually only available for a day or two, and only occasionally, these have always been fantastic. If you're lucky enough to be there on a day they have them, pounce.

                  Whole grilled sardines: Again, this rotates on and off the menu. It's a simple and delicious preparation. Lots of bones, but totally worth it.

                  For desserts, I recommend looking to the items they make in house (usually a couple) or whatever cake they have from Columbia City bakery next door.

              2. If La Medusa has the grilled sardines on the menu...really good..

                1. Bistro Turkuaz in Madrona is another option or I always like Serafina for a birthday.

                  1. I'm late to the party here but wanted to say that I went to Salvatore last week. I have always enjoyed it and hadn't been for a few years and we thought of going there after a movie. It was good and also comforting/nostalgic.

                    Have you gone out for you birthday dinner? Happy Birthday, belated though it may be.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: zanzibar1

                      Nope, it's this coming Sunday. Salvatore it is

                    2. Well, it was Salvatore's.

                      I really can't say enough good about this place. Food was excellent, service perfect, prices very reasonable. I'm always agog that a small neighborhood spot like Salvatore *always* has 8 special entrees and 5 special hors d's in addition to their already fulsome menu, AND a large selection of Italian wines from all major producing regions.

                      They seem to bring it every single time, too, constantly on top of everything from the second you open their door until you close it behind you. If Salvatore was a baseball team, every at bat is an extra-base hit.

                      For value comparison, we had a shared bruschetta, a shared Caesar, two of the special entrees (one veal, one wild boar) a bottle of Chianti, a shared dessert and coffee, all for $108 before tip. Hell, I've spent $308 at some other places that weren't remotely as satisfying.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        Happy Birthday Kaleo. I've always had similar experiences at Salvatore.