New Spots in Pioneer Square, Beacon Hill; and an Inconvenient Lunch

Selections from Voracious, our food blog.

New Orleans Restaurant Opens in Pioneer Square Marcela's Cookery, 106 James St., 223-0042 Lunch: 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri.; Dinner: 5–9 p.m. Mon.–Wed., 5–10 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. Last week, Marcela Fuenzalida and Anthony McDonald opened Marcela's Cookery in the old Pastiamo space (disclosure: Fuenzalida's sister is the Weekly's production manager). They're specializing in "authentic New Orleans cuisine." McDonald says, "We were going to make the theme 'inspired New Orleans,' but then I went to a few restaurants [that served New Orleans cuisine] and I was personally insulted that they would represent a jambalaya as jambalaya." The gauntlet, apparently, has been thrown. McDonald was in the restaurant industry in New Orleans for 25 years before Katrina hit, but he had worked as a waiter, not a cook, until after the hurricane, when he first cooked on oil rigs in the Gulf and then followed his sister to Seattle in search of work. The couple are serving po' boys, muffaletta sandwiches, red beans and rice, and jambalaya at lunch, and at dinner they're going white-tablecloth with dishes like crab-stuffed shrimp, file gumbo, and bananas Foster, flambéed tableside.— Jonathan KauffmanWillie's Taste of Soul Comes to Beacon HillEn route to the Glenn Bell show at the Columbia City Theater last week, a notorious local Prius owner and I were surprised to drive by a brand-spankin'-new franchise of the Beacon Hill institution Willie's Taste of Soul on Rainier Ave. Only it's not a franchise: Owner/operator Willie Turner moved his Louisiana-style BBQ sensation down the hill and into more spacious Valley digs last month, reported his bubbly maître d'. My companion and I ordered a No. 1 combo (ribs, chicken, potato salad, and yams subbed for beans) washed back with Faygo pop while we took in the Super Tuesday returns on a plasma-screen TV. Last time we visited the Beacon Ave. predecessor, the tube had rabbit ears and no cable. Willie's movin' on up. Or down. But still up, figuratively speaking.— Mike Seely Why I Had to Hit Four Places for Lunch All I wanted was a salad. Stop 1: The Virginia Inn—I'll take the blame here. I should have completed my homework. I knew the Inn kids were making some changes—I'd even heard they were expanding the kitchen, and making a few renovations. I forgot that the Virginia Inn will be closed till spring. At least a couple of grunts inside got a few good-natured chuckles at my saddened gaze through the window. Stop 2: The Athenian—This is my favorite place to go for lunch. And I hit it up at least three or four times a month. It's never been about the food (meh) or the service (spotty at best). The view of Elliott Bay and the 100-year-old (right?) atmosphere make it for me. I love it on cold, rainy days like today. BUT, when I was greeted at the door, I was, for the first time in my history of visits, offered a seat at the bar of the virtually empty restaurant. "Can I sit upstairs [at one of the empty tables with views]?" I asked. "No," the man said rather coldly. "We're closed upstairs." Turns out they're now closing the upstairs when it's not very busy. I told him I didn't feel like sitting at the bar, and he showed me the door. Look, I can appreciate what you're trying to do. Maybe if you don't have so much ground to cover, customers will get better service. (Though, I've always thought the mini–water glasses and slow service added to the experience.) But play to your strengths here. Keep your good seating open, the one with the views of the Sound, not the grill. Stop 3: Sound View Café—Like I said, all I wanted was a salad. And by the time I got to Sound View, all this walking around had made my fat ass tired. So, how disappointed was I to discover that you have to serve yourself your salad, and bus your own table. I don't mind doing either, but I'd rather I be at home when I do it. You feel me? To add insult to injury, the only protein in the salad came in the form of the most over-boiled egg I've ever had. AND there was a small piece of paper in my salad. Oh, shit, it was probably a Kleenex. Stop Four: I Love New York Deli—I love this place for two reasons: corned beef and pastrami. Having been denied protein at the most unsatisfying lunch experience of my life, I stopped in for a few slivers of corned beef. It was, of course, wonderful. Almost made my midmeal quest worth the trouble. — Chris Kornelis  

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