Choice Cioppino and Chowder at Ray's Cafe

What: Seafood; Italian and American food

Where: Ray's Cafe in Seattle, WA.

Must Order: Ray's Northwest Cioppino; clam chowder soup

The Verdict: I'm a sucker for seafood. More than that, I'm a snob. A slightly overcooked shrimp has me wrinkle my nose and a fishy-tasting fish makes me shudder. Thus, anyone who can adroitly pick out the pin bones in a fish, who knows to yank a just-pinked shrimp off the grill and can properly cook up a fish without charring the skin definitely has my respect. And at Ray's Cafe, they certainly know their seafood. What else would one expect from a swanky (but not too swanky) establishment overlooking Puget Sound?

Two dishes in particular that are the stand-out stars are Ray's Northwest Cioppino and the Clam Chowder Soup. For only $19 you can enjoy all your favorite fish, shellfish and crustacean simmered to perfection in a tomato-saffron broth. The entree comes with manila clams, penn cove mussels, dungeness crab meat, whitefish, salmon, shrimp and two slices of garlic bread neatly tucked in. All the seafood is fresh and and provided in appropriate portions. There's enough of each item to satisfy your palate yet somehow leave you wanting more. As for the broth, the saffron ever so slightly mellows the tartness of tomatoes so that no flavors are lost.

The Clam Chowder Soup, meanwhile, is a dish you expect Ray's to have just right -- and it does. It's thick and chunky, with enough clams and potato wedges to fill you up. I recommend splitting a cup (for $5) with a friend to ensure you're still hungry enough for the entree.