April 4, 1997 in Seven

Seattle’s Cozy Cuisine The Emerald City Is Sprinkled With Some Great Little Gastronomic Gems That Offer Rich Local Flavor Along With Their Tasty Fare

By The Spokesman-Review
 

What does Seattle have that Spokane doesn’t? (Besides major league sports, tush-numbing traffic and the Puget Sound, that is.)

The mouth-watering answer is a whole slew of neighborhood restaurants. These are the kind of homey hangouts where you can get a great meal without busting your budget. Though, you can splurge, too.

Sure, you’ve been to Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square and shopped around downtown, but Seattle is a city of neighborhoods with lots of personality and charm. Wandering around these residential areas before or after your meal will give you an entirely new view of the city.

What better way to get a flavor for Fremont than by spending the morning poking around its antique shops, vintage clothing stores and booksellers and then settling in over a bowl of steaming Asian-style pasta at The Noodle House. Or, snag a stool at the slightly off-center Gravity Bar on Capitol Hill. Sip on a carrot juice and watch the world walk by on Broadway.

In the Queen Anne area, not far from the Seattle Center, or near the Woodland Park Zoo north of Wallingford, there are so many restaurants crammed on each block that it would take weeks to sample them all.

The following roundup isn’t intended to be comprehensive. Even though I grew up in that area and visit Seattle frequently, I still stumble onto nifty neighborhoods I’ve yet to explore. And that’s part of the adventure.

When I was a kid, my grandparents had a home on Queen Anne, so it’s always had a special place in my heart.

You could conceivably check into the Inn at Queen Anne for the weekend and never leave the boundaries of this sprawling neighborhood.

At the bottom of the hill, there’s the Seattle Center, where you’ll find the Opera House and the Pacific Science Center. There’s also a greasy spoon that gleefully calls itself The Hardened Artery and a bar dedicated to the hot cocktail of the moment. It’s called ‘Tini Bigs.

If you’re in a hurry, pop into Pizza Pagalicci. This chain serves better-than-average slices and pies, pastas and a darned fine salad. And it’s cheap, with most meals around $5.

Or, try the stuffed tortillas at Macheezmo Mouse. This joint strives to keep its burritos healthy while still having a great flavor. And it succeeds, especially with the colorful Thai burrito.

Climb past the fictional Fraiser’s apartment to the top of Queen Anne Hill and you’ll discover one of the most charming restaurants in the city.

Pirosmani’s brief menu draws from two distinctly different, yet complementary, parts of the world. Chef Laura Dewell’s dinners feature dishes from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and from the sunny Mediterranean. (By the way, Dewell’s sous chef, Andrew Mroczek, is from Spokane.)

The restaurant - situated in an older home - has a cozy, welcoming feel, which fits nicely with the hearty, intensely flavored food.

On each table, diners will find a trio of unusual condiments: a small dish of svaneti, a Georgian spice mixture, along with a plum sauce with garlic and a touch of cayenne that’s called tkremali and a pungent paste of hot and sweet peppers, sumac, coriander and dill called ajika.

Before the meal even arrived, I felt like I had already had a lesson on Georgian culture.

Menus change seasonally here, and I sampled a savory grilled duck breast, cooked pink and sliced atop a bed of pleasantly bitter sauteed greens.

The rabbit, braised tender in an rich wine sauce, was also incredibly flavorful.

With entree prices hovering around $20, this place is a splurge, but a worthy one. Pirosmani rates as my favorite neighborhood restaurant in Seattle.

Also in that vicinity, you’ll find traditional Italian at Buongusto or a grab a burger and brew at the Hilltop Ale House.

For diner-type chow, check out the kitschy 5 Spot Cafe. The kitchen cranks out what it cleverly calls blunch seven days a week until 3 each afternoon. That means a mixture of mammoth omelettes and plate-sized flapjacks, along with specialities from the five culinary corners of the country. I would recommend this place based on its sassy menu alone. How can you resist a “truck stop pork chop sandwich” or a “Tupelo honey stung fried chicken”?

Mention Madrona and even longtime Seattleites draw a blank. It’s not easy to find, but get out your road map and wind through the tree-lined streets on the edge of Lake Washington. It’s a great opportunity to gawk at some gorgeous homes.

The strip of shops and restaurants at 34th and Union resembles a main street of some tiny town. That’s because it was a bustling berg once upon a time. Now, in the space of just a block and a half, there are half a dozen gastronomic gems.

Seattle restaurant critic Nancy Leson summed up the dining district perfectly: “It’s the center of the restaurant universe. It’s so darling.”

Dulce’s Latin Bistro is a perfect spot for a romantic rendezvous. It’s dimly lit and intimate. Linen tablecloths, formally attired waiters and flickering candles make it feel special.

Try the paella, the best version of this rice dish I’ve eaten outside Madrid. It arrived steaming and stuffed with flavorful seafood, sausage and chicken. You could easily split this portion between two.

The crispy chile rellenos had a lighter, more vibrant taste than most Mexican versions and the accompanying smooth black bean soup was spicy enough to take the chill off a blustery spring evening.

At Dulce’s, there’s also a little lounge where you could eat tapas and sip on a robust Spanish rioja.

Down the block, Cool Hand Luke’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The offerings are straightforward American - omelettes, waffles, roast chicken, meatloaf and steak - but the specials have an Asian influence.

You might find curried noodles, Korean shortribs or stir-fried veggies on the fresh sheet.

On weekends, breakfast is served all day, from 8 until 4 p.m. Save some room for the sumptuous goodies, made fresh daily on premise.

Another couple places in Madrona are big with the breakfast crowd - the Hi-Spot and Plenty, which doubles as a gourmet take-out and a health food market.

At Plenty, dinner menus change weekly to focus on what’s fresh. Last week it was a curried rockfish with French lentils and a lasagna with sauteed asparagus. For brunch, many items are meat- and dairy-free.

Down the block, you’ll also find casual cuisine at the Madrona Ale House and Ethopian eats at Cafe Soleil.

In other words, if you can’t find something to satisfy your culinary cravings in Madrona, there’s no pleasing you.

Most folks think of Wallingford as an extension of the U-District. But it has a mellower pace than the slightly frenetic action on the “Ave.”

Before catching a movie at the Guild 45th, I like to zip into Jitterbug. If there’s a seat at this popular little place, that is.

I guess you’d call the menu here updated diner. It’s nicely presented, not fussy. Most dishes are simply a ‘90s update on the classics.

I once devoured a plate of the most amazing veggie chips drizzled with a hot pepper oil. Beets have never tasted so good. Other temptations include crab cakes with a grilled fruit cocktail, an ahi tuna steak served rare with a zesty bread salad and a French lentil stew with spring veggies.

On the fringe of Wallingford, at 56th and Kirkwood, there’s another delicious district.

People travel from all across the city for the calorie-packed pastries from the Honey Bear Bakery. It’s famous for its Stehekin sourdough cinnamon rolls, but it also serves breakfast and at lunch, there’s salads, veggie soups, wrap-ups and filled croissants.

Down the block, Brie and Bordeaux began as an ambitious wine and cheese shop in a nearby location before moving last year and adding on a delightful bistro.

Even on the gloomiest afternoon, diners can’t help but be cheered by this restaurant’s sunny color scheme and bright, boldly flavored foods.

At lunch, I was impressed with a featherlight cream sauce drizzled over a bowl of tender tortellini. The pieces of crisp asparagus nestled in the dish signaled the arrival of spring.

Or, if you’re a cheese lover, indulge in the Ploughman’s lunch. This is nothing like the dull pub plate you’ll find in England, but an assortment of exotic cheeses, briny olives and pate to smear on the wonderfully crusty bread.

At dinner, the pleasant dining room shifts gears and puts on an elegant face. Seasonal offerings on the evening menu include a wild mushroom tart, spring lamb with a cabernet glaze and pan-seared sturgeon medallions with a blood-orange beurre blanc.

Obviously, this place has a great wine list with selections from all over the world.

Fremont could easily be called a global village.

There’s the top-notch Jai-Thai, heavenly hummus at Costas Greek Restaurant, Asian offerings at The Noodle House and good oldfashioned American grub at The Longshoreman’s Daughter.

Fremont is also home to the new digs of Luna’s former chef, Abby Yerxa McCune. At Ventana, the seasonal menu is heavy on light seafood preparations such as a grilled rainbow trout with caper relish. Heartier appetites can feast on pork tenderloin with herb bread pudding, Southwestern-spiced chicken or a ribeye served with pan-fried artichoke hearts. Yum.

Every time I go to Capitol Hill, I curse the lack of parking. But cruising the streets looking for a spot, I’ve found a couple of interesting eateries.

On Broadway, I’m fond of the quirky Gravity Bar. It’s vegetarian food with an attitude.

I feel so darned virtuous eating the tofu with spicy peanut sauce with brown rice and fresh spinach or slurping the miso soup. The streetfront location makes for a splendid spot to people watch.

The Surrogate Hostess has Lindaman’s feel. You stand in line to order your extremely affordable meal from a rotating selection of specials.

The offerings run the gamut from salmon cakes with garlic and gouda to unusual salads and soups such as a curried squash.

Breads and pastries - baked on-site - are another big draw.

On the nearby 15th, the energy is less intense and the parking is easier to find. There are a number of restaurants, but my fav on this block is the Coastal Kitchen.

It’s a big boisterous dining room on two levels that you have to be in the right mood to really enjoy. Don’t come here to snuggle with a date.

The huge menu features lots of seafood, chicken and pasta. More interesting, though, is the rotating menu which changes every few months to showcase foods from different coastal regions of the world.

This spring, it’s Indonesian cuisine. Pick and choose between chicken-coconut soup, tuna satay, eggrolls stuffed with curried beef for starters and move onto a specially seasoned fresh fish wrapped in a banana leaf and baked for an entree.

The pretty Madison Park area is home to one of the city’s most celebrated eateries. It’s fitting that Rover’s is located in a building that was once someone’s house. The polished staff is quick to make you feel at home.

There’s nothing humble about the menu, though.

Chef Thierry Rautureau’s fare is pure French - in its full throttle flavor and dramatic presentation.

Rover’s is expensive, but it’s a full evening’s worth of entertainment, especially when the congenial chef is in the house.

Splurge on the multi-course dinner and you might be treated to some of the dishes eaten by Julia Child, who dined there last fall on oxtail terrine with a truffle vinaigrette, Oregon rabbit with wild mushrooms and wild salmon with a leek-shallot confit.

Also in Madison Valley is the sophisticated vestige of vegetarian victuals, Cafe Flora, and a sandwich shop that’s so good it dares to call itself The New York Deli.

At that place, take your tastebuds back east with a Manhattan - corned beef sand with Swiss, cole slaw and Russian dressing. Or, indulge in some of the freshly baked goodies. (They make four kinds of scones, alone.)

Now, if you’ve made it to the end of this tome and are thinking, man, she left off my favorite ‘hood, that’s understandable. I might hit Green Lake, Magnolia, Ballard and West Seattle on some future date. A trip to the International District would be nice, too.

But a girl can only eat so much.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo Staff may by Molly Quinn

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SEATTLE’S GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD EATERIES

Queen Anne Pirosmani: 2220 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 285-3360. Dinner Tues-Sat. The 5 Spot: 1502 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 285-7768. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily. Pagalicci Pizza: 550 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 285-1232. Lunch and dinner daily. Macheezmo Mouse: 425 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 282-9904. Lunch and dinner daily. Buongusto: 2232 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 284-9040. Lunch Tues-Fri, dinner nightly. Hilltop Ale House: 2129 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 285-3877, lunch and dinner daily.

Madrona Dulce’s Latin Bistro: 1430 34th, (206) 322-5453. Dinner Tues-Sun. Cool Hand Luke’s: 1131 34th, (206) 324-2553. Breakfast Tues-Fri; lunch and dinner daily. Weekend brunch. Hi-Spot: 1410 34th, (206) 325-7905. Breakfast daily, dinner Tues-Sat. Plenty: 1404 34th, (206) 324-1214. Lunch, Mon-Fri, dinner Tues-Sat. Weekend brunch. Cafe Soleil: 1400 34th, (206) 325-1126. Breakfast and lunch, TuesSun; dinner, Tues-Fri.

Wallingford Brie and Bordeaux: 2227 N. 56th, (206) 633-3538. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Tues-Sat. Honey Bear Bakery: 2106 N. 55th, (206) 545-7296. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Jitterbug: 2114 N. 45th, (206) 547-6313. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Fremont Ventana: 4401 Fremont Ave. N., (206) 632-6825; dinner Tues-Sat. The Noodle House: 3411 Fremont Ave. N., (206) 547-1550. Lunch and dinner Tues-Sun. Longshorman’s Daughter: 3508 Fremont Place N.E., 633-5169. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Jai Thai: 3423 Fremont Ave. N., (206) 632-7060. Lunch and dinner daily. Costas Opa Greek Restaurant: 3400 Fremont N., (206) 633-4141. Lunch and dinner daily. Weekend brunch.

Capitol Hill The Gravity Bar: 415 Broadway E., (206) 325-7186. Lunch and dinner daily. The Surrogate Hostess: 746 19th Ave. E., (206) 324-1944. Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily. Coastal Kitchen: 429 15th Ave. E., (206) 322-1145. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Madison Park Rover’s: 2808 E. Madison, (206) 325-7442. Dinner, Tues-Sat. New York Deli: 2801 E. Madison, (206) 328-0750. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Cafe Flora: 2901 E. Madison, (206) 325-9100. Lunch and dinner TuesSun. Weekend brunch.

This sidebar appeared with the story: SEATTLE’S GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD EATERIES

Queen Anne Pirosmani: 2220 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 285-3360. Dinner Tues-Sat. The 5 Spot: 1502 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 285-7768. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily. Pagalicci Pizza: 550 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 285-1232. Lunch and dinner daily. Macheezmo Mouse: 425 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 282-9904. Lunch and dinner daily. Buongusto: 2232 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 284-9040. Lunch Tues-Fri, dinner nightly. Hilltop Ale House: 2129 Queen Anne Ave. N., (206) 285-3877, lunch and dinner daily.

Madrona Dulce’s Latin Bistro: 1430 34th, (206) 322-5453. Dinner Tues-Sun. Cool Hand Luke’s: 1131 34th, (206) 324-2553. Breakfast Tues-Fri; lunch and dinner daily. Weekend brunch. Hi-Spot: 1410 34th, (206) 325-7905. Breakfast daily, dinner Tues-Sat. Plenty: 1404 34th, (206) 324-1214. Lunch, Mon-Fri, dinner Tues-Sat. Weekend brunch. Cafe Soleil: 1400 34th, (206) 325-1126. Breakfast and lunch, TuesSun; dinner, Tues-Fri.

Wallingford Brie and Bordeaux: 2227 N. 56th, (206) 633-3538. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Tues-Sat. Honey Bear Bakery: 2106 N. 55th, (206) 545-7296. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Jitterbug: 2114 N. 45th, (206) 547-6313. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Fremont Ventana: 4401 Fremont Ave. N., (206) 632-6825; dinner Tues-Sat. The Noodle House: 3411 Fremont Ave. N., (206) 547-1550. Lunch and dinner Tues-Sun. Longshorman’s Daughter: 3508 Fremont Place N.E., 633-5169. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Jai Thai: 3423 Fremont Ave. N., (206) 632-7060. Lunch and dinner daily. Costas Opa Greek Restaurant: 3400 Fremont N., (206) 633-4141. Lunch and dinner daily. Weekend brunch.

Capitol Hill The Gravity Bar: 415 Broadway E., (206) 325-7186. Lunch and dinner daily. The Surrogate Hostess: 746 19th Ave. E., (206) 324-1944. Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily. Coastal Kitchen: 429 15th Ave. E., (206) 322-1145. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Madison Park Rover’s: 2808 E. Madison, (206) 325-7442. Dinner, Tues-Sat. New York Deli: 2801 E. Madison, (206) 328-0750. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Cafe Flora: 2901 E. Madison, (206) 325-9100. Lunch and dinner TuesSun. Weekend brunch.


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