Since it opened last fall, diners and drinkers have flocked to this window-wrapped Old Town bistro where both menu and space are split between formal fine dining and top-tier pub offerings. A convivial atmosphere fairly spills out the door; one gets the sense everyone is laughing and leaning in to clink glasses or swipe a bite from someone else's plate. It's hard to abandon the front room's delightful and affordable "Tavern Menu," on which dishes break only a sawbuck. A jumble of shoestring fries nestle against a lamb burger layered with flavors of the Mediterranean: mint yogurt, pine nuts, feta, dried apricot. The Thai influence, though incongruous amid the rest of the Euro-Northwest menu, doesn't detract from an ample pile of mussels, peeking through a broth of galangal, kaffir and coconut milk. If you make it to the dining room, you'll find sturdy elegance in both decor and menu. Still, the dining room's conventional appeal is no match for a tour of tavern-side small plates.
Order this: Roasted asparagus with poached duck egg.
Best deal: Heaping bowl of sautéed mussels ($9).
I'll pass: The dining room just can't compete with the tavern.