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Originally published Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 12:52 PM

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Dining Deals

Meza sets the table for Latin lovers

Meza, a Latin restaurant on Capitol Hill, offers a friendly, laid-back atmosphere where food and art are passions.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Meza

Latin

1515 14th Ave., Suite C, Seattle, 206-922-2399

www.mezaseattle.com

Hours: 5-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, noon-3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Etc: Visa, MasterCard, American Express accepted; street parking; no obstacles to access.

Prices: $$

Meza offers a friendly, laid-back atmosphere where food and art are passions.

If you're hungry for Latin fare and the night still feels young, sit down at Meza on Capitol Hill. The open dining room features sexy photos and paintings, neon-lit Mexican beer signs and music from the Gipsy Kings. Some guests stare at the three unmarked clocks, only one of which is set to Seattle time. Turns out the one that is nine hours ahead marks the time in Spain, while the other shows what time it is in Venezuela. I'd suggest a Dali-style melting clock because time seems to slow down here.

The menu: Meza offers a limited menu of Spanish, Venezuelan and Cuban fare and a longer list of wines, beer, fruit-infused vodka and refreshing sangria.

For appetizers, there are Spanish tapas such as manzanitas ($4, sliced apples served with blue cheese and walnuts) and fruta guayaba ($6, braised pork in guava reduction). The toasted corncakes ($6), called arepitas in Venezuela, are made to order and can be stuffed with succulent pork, chicken, vegetables or cheeses. Bocadillos ($8-$10) are Cuban-style sandwiches served on Macrina Bakery's Giuseppe loaf and come with Meza's homemade salsa verde. Traditional platters of meat, beans, salad and bread are available as well.

What to write home about: The arepitas are a joy to eat, especially La Playera. Steam rises from the warm corncake, stuffed with seasoned chicken, avocado and cilantro. We also relished the Havana bocadillo ($10), with ham, pork, caramelized onions, cheese, banana peppers, cilantro and aioli.

A visit to Meza isn't complete without a glass of red sangria ($6) and the flan ($4) for dessert.

What to skip: The seared scallops ($6), served in a peppery hot sauce with jalapeños. They badly needed some sea salt. Even with salt, they weren't satisfying.

The setting: Tables are close to each other and seating is very limited. Service is friendly.

Summing up: On a recent visit, we filled up on two arepitas ($12), a Maria Elena sandwich ($9) and side salad ($4) for $25, not including tax. Two people can easily share this bounty and leave quite satisfied, but if they have extra cash, they would be wise to order a flan or glass of red sangria — or both.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or sbhatt@seattletimes.com

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