Throw me into a social situation, introduce me as a restaurant critic and quick on the heels of the inevitable exclamation "Wow! You've got the greatest job in the world!" comes the Most Frequently Asked Question: "So, what's your favorite restaurant?"
Uh. . .Um. . . Er. . .Ah. The trouble is, I don't have one favorite restaurant. That's why I always follow the FAQ with a question of my own: "My favorite restaurant for what?"
My favorite restaurant for a festive birthday celebration is different than the one I head to when I'm in need of something quick and easy. The one I dress up for on my wedding anniversary is not the one I dress down for when I'm looking to hang out with my gal pals. I have favorite restaurants for dining alone (something I love to do) and favorites for dining en famille (which includes a husband who'd rather stay home and cook, and a child with a delightfully broad palate and annoyingly short attention span).
Fess up: Could you name your "favorite" restaurant? Which deserves bigger billing, the fancy-pants place you go to once a year, the must-stop lunch spot near work, or the neighborhood joint where they know your name because you show up every other week?
Playing favorites is a tough game, but I'm willing to play: as long as I get to play by my rules. My rules being the tacit understanding that anyone's list of favorites even a restaurant critic's is weighted heavily by personal particulars.
Personally, I prefer Asian foods to any other, Chinese over Thai and sushi over all. I generally favor owner-operated restaurants over corporate chains, small restaurants over large and service over atmosphere. My list reflects where I live (north of Seattle), a weakness for seafood (which helps explain that sushi habit) and my love for wine (I don't drink a lot, but I do drink frequently). It also reflects a cultivated eye for bargain eats tempered by a willingness to surrender big bucks for a culinary high.
If there's a drawback to "the greatest job in the world," it's that dining out for a living means less time to frequent the places I love. You'll find those restaurants listed here, in no particular order. A word to the wise: Remember that many restaurants change menus frequently, so you may not find all the dishes I mention here.