Rumpus Room

Wild times--plus waiters

All Purpose Pizza and Ale Something in the dough at All Purpose Pizza and Ale is magical. I'm not just talking about the sourdough, which adds a shot of flavor to the crust, creating something more delicious than either sourdough or pizza can achieve on its own. But even the dough in raw form is miraculous. My 6-year-old niece and 4-year-old nephew—who collectively have a 20-minute window of sanity in any restaurant before meltdown—were drawn to the restaurant's miniature play kitchen when the waiter began handing out balls of dough. For two hours, the adults ate in bliss. Not a word of complaint that we ordered arugula, shaved almonds, and olive oil sauce instead of Canadian bacon, pineapple, and marinara. Their mom made it through two glasses of Flying Fish Merlot without interruption. Every kid in the place joined in, organizing themselves into a make-believe microcosm of the real restaurant, rolling and "baking" with the concentration needed to run a Michelin three-star kitchen. The dads kept one eye on their children and one eye on the game on the big screen strategically placed over the play area. A month and counting after my niece and nephew's last visit, they still have their dough refrigerated at home. Gross. But my sister won't toss it and incur their wrath until she plans another trip to All Purpose for a replacement (not to mention a few more glasses of wine). SARA NIEGOWSKIServes: dinner. 2901 S. Jackson St., 324-8646. LESCHI/MADRONA $ Bamboo Garden Bamboo Garden boasts an extensive menu of authentic Szechuan cuisine loaded with sinus-clearing chilies, Szechuan peppers, and garlic. To avoid frightening off the moo shu pork crowd, the restaurant has relegated the pig intestines and blood cubes to a page titled "The Wild Side." Dare to take a walk, and you'll receive incessant attention from servers eager to diversify your non-native palate. Ours beamingly interjected when she noticed us contemplating the page. "Try jellyfish. You'll like it," she said, flashing us a thumbs-up. Jellyfish have a rigid body structure, resulting in a delectable crunchy texture, she explained. We munched on her recommendation, which was tangy—and yes, crunchy—alongside incredibly tender slices of pork tongue marinated in chili sauce. Our mango duck and peppered chicken were just as savory, albeit not as adventurous nor promoted with the same fervor. An adult novelty store stands adjacent to the restaurant, but you need not visit. The unabashed staff and their touting of stomach strips provides a grand enough rumpus as is. ERIKA HOBARTServes: lunch, dinner. 202 106th Pl. N.E., 425-688-7991. BELLEVUE $ La Isla Visualize the best rumpus room you've ever encountered. Maybe it was your grandmother's screened-in "Florida room," where magazines were flipped through and lemonade was leisurely sipped, or perhaps the sunken den of your childhood home, which held a corduroy sectional at one end and a foosball table at the other. The vibe at the comfortably tiny Puerto Rican restaurant La Isla is an amalgam of all those memories: nothing but lazy fun and sinful comfort food. The nibbles here, which were so popular at the owners' Fremont Sunday Market stand five years ago, include bacalaitos (cilantro-dusted cod fritters), empanadas (the carne molida and veggie turnovers are equally good), and tostones, or smashed and fried plantains. Everything comes with one of two special sauces, imparting the complementary flavors of garlic and lime to each deep-fried bite; eating is necessary in order to sober up from the bar's ass-walloping rum concoctions. Yes, this rumpus room is kid-friendly, but adults nostalgic for the islands—or their islands of memory—will find much to love. RACHEL SHIMPServes: lunch, dinner. 2320 N.W. Market St., 789-0516. BALLARD $ Ocho What ever happened to the den, the adult rumpus room that every pre-1970 house seemed to contain? Did we stop mixing cocktails at home? Is there just no room for a party nook in our McMansions, what with our home theaters and catering kitchens? Ocho doesn't just bring back the den, with its wet bar, '50s-accented decor, and tiny scale, owners Gelsey Hanson and Zach Harjo improve on the concept with tapas: little plates of fried potatoes with spicy sauce, artichokes and anchovies skewered together with toothpicks, white-bean stew with mushrooms and chorizo, and clay bowls filled with garlicky clams instead of pretzel rings. The drink list is Spanish, too, if you ignore the craft ales and pint-sized margaritas, yet Ocho doesn't aspire to be sophisticated and European. People sociably crowd around little tables, lean against one another at the bar, and spill out the front door. It's all chatty, adult-type fun, the kind I always imagined took place in a den. JONATHAN KAUFFMANServes: dinner, late night. 2325 N.W. Market St., 784-0699. BALLARD $$ Ristorante Machiavelli Machiavelli is like a rumpus room for grown-ups. The dress is as casual as a play date, and in place of wooden blocks and a bucket full of Legos and Playmobil figures, there's a menu full of delicious Italian cuisine to toy with, and wine that flows as free as a day at school with no homework. There's so much deliciousness, it's hard to know where to turn first. The tuna carpaccio dressed with fresh lemon and capers? The crisp mixed-green salad topped generously with chickpeas and tangy gorgonzola? Entrées such as traditional chicken parm, delicate spinach shells sautéed with Italian sausage, or a variety of thin-crust pizzas prove just as difficult to pick from. But my all-time Machiavelli favorite makes me feel like a kid all over again: classic spaghetti topped with two giant meatballs and a pile of Parmesan cheese. There's not much room for building forts or wrestling matches, but there won't be anyone calling you upstairs to take out the garbage or brush your teeth and get ready for bed either—which beats a rumpus room hands down. AJA PECKNOLDServes: dinner. 1215 Pine St., 621-7941. CAPITOL HILL $$ Saba Ethiopian Cuisine Saba is set up for a party: The simple restaurant has a full bar at one end, a stage area with a mixer and speakers in the center, and cardamom and frankincense smoke in the air, lingering from previous coffee ceremonies. On most nights, though, the room is pleasantly tranquil, with a few single guys near the bar intently making their way around their combination platters and couples grouped at the tables on the other side of the room, drinking Harar Beer and conversing quietly. In a neighborhood packed with Ethiopian restaurants, Saba's doro wat (chicken stew) is just that little bit more spicy than their competitors', their tibs (meat stir-fried with peppers and onions) just a little fresher. And their vegetable combo entrée is a masterpiece, with berbere-spiced lentils, collard greens, gingery split peas, tender green beans, a horseradish-dressed lentil salad, and a half-dozen more colorful dollops arranged around a circle of sour injera bread. The band may be playing some other time, but no matter: the food is festive enough. JONATHAN KAUFFMANServes: lunch, dinner. 112 12th Ave., 328-2290. FIRST HILL $ Shultzy's Usually, the only time hot dogs are palatable are at baseball games and barbecues. Then again, calling Shultzy's Junkyard Dog a "hot dog" is like calling a top fuel dragster a "car." A Shultzy's dog is a Bavarian sausage with all the onions, sauerkraut, chili, and cheese you can handle—tasty, yes, but make sure you roll down the windows on the way home, otherwise you'll smoke yourself out. For those who don't eat anything that had a mother, there are options as well. Tough to believe that an entire restaurant can be built around what is essentially a glorified hot dog, but Shultzy's pulls it off with flair and flavor. Also, its location on the Ave pretty much guarantees it'll be cheap and cater to a younger crowd. The restaurant welcomes families, but the littl'uns need to stay out of the bar. The decor is all sturdy hardwood with a lot of booths—a bit empty, in that poor-dorm-dweller way, but leisurely (you get to sit where you want) and ready for a party (there's nothing breakable except your beer bottle) at the same time.  JESSE FROEHLINGServes: breakfast, lunch, dinner. 4114 University Way N.E., 548-9461. UNIVERSITY DISTRICT $

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