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Tag Archives: restaurants

Chowder To Die For!

11 Jul

You want a chance at the best seafood in Seattle? It’s hard, I know.  Seattle is a veritable font of amazing seafood.

But, in my esteemed opinion, if you want the best of the best, in the chowder category, you head to Duke’s Chowder House.

Not only is the place award winning, but there are six convenient locations to try. Personally, Green Lake Duke’s is my favorite. I love being able to sit outside on a nice day. Those days are so few and far between, that it’s great to appreciate them fully. It’s right across from the wading pool, so if it rained during the day, but cleared up in time for dinner, you can see all the kiddies and dogs playing around.

While I have tried other items on the menu (and they were good), the chowder is the reason for heading over there. They make five different kinds, and if you’ve never been, I highly recommend the sampler so you can try them all at once.  While a couple of them turned out to be beyond my liking, it was great to try something different.

Two of the chowders – the Lobster Pernod and the Award Winning – are simply the best. The lobster is sweet, and I didn’t think I liked it after the first bite, but each bite I took made it more and more addicting. The Award Winning chowder is undefeated in the Seattle chowder cook-off. It’s more than simply addicting. It’s a revelation. Get it in a bread bowl, and I promise you’ll never want to order another thing on the menu.

If you’re in the mood for a place to enjoy an interesting cocktail (or “Duketail”), Duke’s has you covered there, too. Either of the lemon drops are fantastic, but I love the Pom Kazi, and have heard good things about the cucumber mojito. A local favorite also includes an Alki Julep.

Whether you’d like a cocktail out on the deck, or chowder so amazing you’ll never forget it (and always be comparing it to other, lesser chowders), head over to any of Duke’s locations (but you should hit up my preferred restaurant) and prepare to enjoy yourself immensely.

Say "oishii desu" at Shiro's

20 Jun

I know that I wrote one of my first pieces on just how amazing Umi Sake House is, but there are other sushi places in Seattle that are worth mentioning. Umi focuses on the rolls themselves, and also on coming up with new and inventive things so it can remain a standout among sushi restaurants.

I have eaten quite a bit of sushi in Seattle because my Arizona upbringing wasn’t really conducive to raw fish. I have sung the praises of Umi (and rightfully so), but there are other sushi joints in Seattle, so I present to the masses Shiro’s.

If Umi focuses mostly on rolls (as I previously mentioned), Shiro’s focuses on traditional sashimi. Where sushi can consist of anything containing fish and rice, sashimi is just the fish itself. If a bit of fish is draped over a block of rice, it’s called “nigiri sushi,” rolls are called “maki sushi,” but rolls with rice on the outside are called “yukiwa-maki.” If your chef is creating a hand roll, which are usually larger, and not put together with the aid of bamboo (coincidentally, great at Shiro’s), it’s called “temaki sushi.”

It’s a relatively small place that feels like a local neighborhood joint. Even if you don’t sit at the sushi bar, you still feel like you’re a part of the process. The chefs are nice enough to explain everything you’d ever want to know about what they are preparing (and things they aren’t).

The last time I was a happy patron, the chefs were polite and wonderful and more than willing to talk me through the different dishes they were preparing. I was still too much of a scaredy cat to try the eel, but my aunt waxed poetic about how perfectly it was prepared.

I may love me some Umi, but when I’m feeling more traditional, I’ll head over to Shiro’s, which is much quieter, and only a few blocks away from Umi. While there, I enjoy food prepared by a two-time James Beard nominee, who trained with the finest chefs in Japan. It’s a stroke of luck that Master Chef Shiro decided to settle in Seattle, so you’d be wise to try his amazing preparations.

Get Your Grub On . . . At Beth's Cafe!

13 Jun

Admittedly, I’m probably the most grumpy morning person you’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing from (aside from rock stars, or possibly astronomers). Thus, breakfast is not often a part of my daily plan.

Brunch, perhaps (if I’m feeling spritely); lunch, for sure; dinner, a must; and occasionally that interesting late-night sensation Taco Bell calls Fourth Meal. Luckily, there are places worth periodically waking up for, or (even better) some that serve wonderfully greasy breakfasts all day!

I first heard of Beth’s Café on an episode of Man vs. Food (a delightful show on the Travel Channel). The host, Adam Richman, was taking on the Southwestern Exposure – a 12-egg omelette with chili, salsa, sour cream and cheddar cheese. The meal also included hash browns and toast, and was served on what looked like a large pizza tray. Sadly, Adam got within a couple of bites of finishing, then threw in the towel.

It was enough to make me want to check out the place. Open 24-hours a day, serving delicious breakfasts, Beth’s is the perfect place to go when you’ve had quite the night and need a respite, when you aren’t a morning person but love a good breaking of the fast, or when you want a local experience in a place with history.

In its 56th year, Beth’s has remained a Seattle institution since 1954. Patrons of every shape and size, age, credo and background can leave their own artistic mark on the café by making a crayon drawing and posting it on the wall.

Sports team support, popular culture remarks and just plain strange imaginings are the most common sorts of visuals. The ever-changing décor does nothing to authenticate the history of the place, but it does provide a personal connection to the locals and visitors who call Beth’s home (if only for one meal).

You should certainly check out this self-appointed “greasy spoon,” and be sure to leave a bit of your own fleeting history while enjoying a wonderful meal.

Treasure Found: The Perfect Sandwich

20 May

I know that’s a bold statement around these parts, almost like saying you’ve found the BEST cup of coffee in Seattle. But seriously, I love a good sandwich and I’m not about to keep quiet about this hidden treasure much longer.

Sandwiches are always better when someone else makes them, even your mom. No matter how hard I try, I can’t quite pull off the combination of perfect bread and rich, luxurious flavors of condiments and meat. Sometimes they’re toasted, full of delicious bacon, or accompanied with a subtle yet distinctive taste of wasabi aioli. If you’re lucky, it’ll include all of the above and you must have found yourself in Pioneer Square’s hottest new delicatessen, Delicatus (103 1st Ave. South), open 11:30am – 8pm Monday – Thursday and 11:30am – 10pm Friday and Saturday.

Every week I go, (yes, I’ve averaged one visit per week over the last two months) the line to experience its delightfully pleasing menu gets longer and longer. This is how I can tell Delicatus is going to be a close runner up to the nearby, and nationally-renowned Salumi. But Delicatus has got something special going. Founders Derek Shankland and Mike Klotz have answered Seattle’s call to meld both local and European traditions by using primarily Northwest-sourced ingredients purchased directly from local farmers, artisan producers and suppliers of the finest regional products. According to Shankland and Klotz, a fix to Seattle’s lack of a traditional European delicatessen. Frankly, I don’t care what it’s the answer to, all I know is that the bacon (on nearly every sandwich), the very friendly and mostly male crew (not so bad to look at while you’re waiting) and the prepared cook meats from Zoe’s Meats here in Seattle, is bringing people out of the woodwork.

My personal favorites right now are “the Californian” – Roasted free-range chicken breast, chive aioli, Zoe’s slab bacon, spinach, sprouts and tomato on whole wheat bread and the “Pavo Diablo” – hickory smoked turkey, sliced avocado, spinach, cilantro, Havarti, spicy chipotle aioli and roasted poblano peppers on sourdough bread.

The crew will package your sandwich up and send you on your way or you can dine-in at one of the many booths and tables both upstairs and downstairs, tune out and listen to some great music while you are enjoying your lunch. A new addition I noticed last week, the bar hosts a happy hour every weekday from 4-6pm.

Other locally farmed goods you will find on your sammy come from: The Essential Baking Company, Frank’s Produce, Bavarian Meats, Brenner Brothers Baking Company, Mt. Townsend Creamery and Wooly Pigs. Yum, yum and YUM.

I can’t stress this enough, if you work, live or wander through the Pioneer Square neighborhood even on a semi-regular basis, get in line now. You won’t regret that you did.

Mamma Mia, it's Mamma Melina's!

20 Apr

Ok, so I’ll admit it, I’m no Melissa.  By this I mean by that I’m not exactly the best restaurant connoisseur.  Growing up in this area my family had our three or four staple restaurants that we would always go to.  In fact, just the other weekend my boyfriend and I ended up going to Azteca for dinner because we couldn’t think of anywhere else to go (and because it is in walking distance from my apartment).  Not that going there is a bad thing, but, come on, like I haven’t been there seven gazillion times in my life already.

In fact, every time I do hear of a new place to go to, and I log it in the back of my mind thinking “next time we are about to go to Azteca again, we need to try going to [fill in the blank] instead,” when that moment arrives, I am so famished and forgetful that we usually just end up going to Azteca again.  Or one of the other chain restaurants that doesn’t exactly exhibit the cuisine that I know Seattle has to offer.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been to some very nice places in my life.  My family will often make reservations at the Palisades in Magnolia for special occasions, where I have tasted some of the most finely prepared seafood that Seattle has to offer.  And I have somehow managed to find some of those Mom and Pop establishments like Nana’s Soup Kitchen in Fremont, that has the best corn bread and clam chowder, and just makes you love Seattle when you are there.

However, I usually have to be in the company of someone in the know when I am first introduced to these places, so I usually don’t consider myself someone who is well versed in the art of eating out.  But I do have one small gem of wisdom to share with you all this week.  Mama Melina’s is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Seattle.  It is currently located on Roosevelt Way, but will soon be moving to 25th Ave NE.  While I have no doubt that the food will be as excellent as it always is, I am unsure if the ambiance will ever be the same again.

The Restaurant’s current location is right next to the Seven Gables Theatre, and shares the same “homey” feeling that the theatre has.  I do not know for sure how the restaurant was built, but when you first walk in, you feel like you are walking into someone’s living room.  The main area is rather small, but intimate and inviting.  There is a real piano (as opposed to the fake ones) and they will have live music from time to time.  I assume the new location will be a bit more modernized and up to date, so if you have the opportunity, I encourage you to go eat at the Roosevelt location before the move in May, to experience it for yourself.

That’s my dining jewel for the day, bon appetite!

Entrance to Mamma Melina's on Roosevelt, courtsey of Amy Roe

Entrance to Mamma Melina's on Roosevelt, courtesy of Amy Roe

On a Day of Celebration, Seek Out Seattle's Seamier Side

4 Apr

Shhh….

In honor of a dark time in American history (prohibition), a host of trendy speakeasy-esque bars have popped up all over the country. Seattle has a few of its own, and in the spirit of celebration of spring and new beginnings and trying new things, get out there and experience, you flat tire.

‘Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world,’ a good place to start would be Belltown’s Bathtub Gin & Co. They (quite rightfully) don’t have a Web site to let one canvass the place beforehand, and although the style is somewhat current and casual, it manages to have the feel of a true ‘juice joint.’ It’s located in the basement of Humphrey Apartments, and is only recognizable by the small brass plaque next to its alley entrance.

Next is Tavern Law on Capitol Hill. The bar itself isn’t the secret. It’s actually a charming place that serves classic cocktails, and fare described as “as good products prepared simply.” Seattle Magazine recently honored Tavern Law as Reader’s Choice for the Best New Bar of the year! And, bar manager David Nelson has earned his fair share of press due to his passion for recreating long-forgotten cocktails.  The hidden speakeasy element of Tavern Law is called Needle & Thread. Look for the telephone, and you’ll get access. I don’t want to get whacked, so I dare not reveal more at this time.

Last on the silent tour of places you didn’t hear about from me is Knee High Stocking Co. (also on Capitol Hill). A nondescript little place that doesn’t have the outward appearance of a bar, Knee High has embraced technology to regulate entrance. Send a text message to 206-979-7049 and they’ll text you back with your wait time or reservation confirmation. Your seating will be held for 15 minutes, and you need to retext a reservation if you’re running late. The house rules are simple:

  1. Please Speak-Easy
  2. Keep your seat & no standing at the bar
  3. Moderate consumption makes for merriment
  4. We may ask for your table 1-hour after your last drink is served
  5. Don’t bring anyone here you wouldn’t take to your Grandmother’s house for dinner
  6. No cell phones or cameras
  7. Please exit briskly & quietly

If you want to embrace the fun and secretive aspects of the Roaring ’20s, you must try any of these underground gems. The era of blazing tommy guns and bawdy broads is a gas to commemorate, so get a wiggle on and enjoy some giggle water – just don’t tell ‘em who sent ya!

Bliss, Thy Name Is Sushi

7 Feb

As much as I love the great state from which I hail, one of the numerous things that improved after I moved to the lush greenery of Washington was the quality of the seafood. Now, I am by no means a fish-lover. Oh, I’ll chow on some fish ‘n’ chips like a native Scotsman, and can kill a basket of fried calamari, but for the most part, keep your cursed fish away from me.

Sushi in the AZ isn’t as terrifying as most people may assume it is (you know what they say about people who assume…), but it’s also one of those things where ignorance plays into the equation. I hesitatingly tried sushi for the first time in high school because I was always up for a dare, and one of my more gastronomically-inclined friends goaded me into it. I liked the easy-peasy stuff she threw my way – California Rolls and other assorted items that were in no way raw. I was fine with my sushi that way for years.

Then I moved to Washington.

I’m sad to say that the first time I actually ate sushi up here was more than a year after I moved. My brother came to visit for 4th of July weekend, and we asked his friend (who LOVES to eat, and is extremely knowledgeable in the ways of raw fish) where we should go for sushi. My brother is a sushi fanatic, and we ended up eating it three times in his short visit. The first place we went – on his friend’s recommendation – was Umi Sake House.

Since that fateful day, I’ve eaten tons of raw fish, and other things I used to turn up my nose at – mainly under the careful tutelage of my brother’s (and now my) good friend. However, I still frequent Umi more than any other place in Seattle. Someone’s coming to visit? Go to Umi. Celebrating an event? Go to Umi. There’s always a good reason to suggest this prince among paupers.

The happy hour is pretty brilliant, although the food is fairly affordable at all times, especially considering how excellent it is. There is an extreme list of sake, and I am no connoisseur, but everything I’ve tried has tasted well enough for ignorant me.

Some of my personal favorites off the menu include the Seattle Roll (which is exactly like a California, but with salmon instead of crab), the Casino Royale or the 007 (which are BIG and hilarious to watch people try to eat), and the Blondie Roll (the aioli some of these are served with is OUT OF THIS WORLD).

So, if you want to have an amazing night out, head to Umi for dinner, walk a few blocks down the road for drinks and a movie at The Big Picture, then walk a few more blocks and hit some bars. Ok, maybe that’s just my perfect night out, but you have to admit, it does sound pretty fantastic. Am I right?

There's a lot of good stuff in here and some of it is factual…

18 Jan

As I sit down to write this, there’s a lot on my mind:  The chefs of Wallingford’s Joule Restaurant are currently facing off against the newest addition to the Iron Chef pantheon; I can’t quite tell if the Seven Hills wine I’m drinking has turned or if Cabernet just doesn’t complement Vietnamese vermicelli; and, hey, it’s our first date.  So I hope you’ll pardon me if I’m a little scattered.

Let’s start with names.  It’s not Lee-zel.  Not Lye-zel.  It’s Liezel.  Lis-sell.  Sort of rhymes with Michelle.  As in Liezel, ma belle, these are words that go together well…got it?  (See Beatles album Rubber Soul for the rest of this song.)

I’m a reader.  Not a mind-reader, which is a shame because that’d be kind of terrific, but a purveyor of books.  Books, don’t talk to me about that Kindle thing because it is not the same.  The shiny black of ink on paper, the refreshing scent of wood-turned-page, all bound together into something that will last right through the zombie apocalypse – these are things you can’t say about a Kindle.  I can’t promise that books and local book-y events will always occupy the Monday slot at Seattle Belles – even I can’t live on books alone – but it’ll be a recurring theme.

Now that we’re well-introduced, I’m going to be honest with you.  I do dance around my apartment to ‘80s pop rock.  I relish flicks that I’m told are really bad action movies.  I won’t get up for anything when I’m watching Nate Jaqua play.  I go to All Star Fitness to get my gym fix but, to be honest, I only picked it because President Obama was once sighted there during his campaign.

I think it’s important to begin our relationship with you fully aware of my flaws, so that you can learn to love me despite them.  And if you hate Bon Jovi, Bruce Willis, the Sounders, health, or leftist-leaning politics – well, I may not be the Belle for you.  Wow, glad we got that cleared up quickly.  I mean, I’d like to see you again, but only if the feeling’s mutual.

Same time, same place next week?  I’ll be talking about literary events at Benaroya Hall, Seattle pubs that don’t give you the stink eye when you crack your book at the bar, and why it’s so vital to match your alcoholic beverage to the correct Asian leftovers.

That last one?  Super-important.  On the plus side, the wine is vindicated!