Belly up, cool down, repeat

Betty At Betty, my tablemate and I had some questions. Dumb questions. Like, um, what's puttanesca again? But our matter-of-fact waiter was happy to explain, and did so with the same bemused efficiency with which he attended to us throughout the meal. Betty's definitely a step up from family-casual, but it also manages to be comfortable and easy, like a favorite watering hole where dress is on the high side. Its relaxed attitude is real, and not that studied form of passive-aggression prevalent in some of this city's newer foodie meccas. The open kitchen, and bar seating from which to watch, gives the room a lively vibe without turning the food prep into theater. And the cooks prep it well: Standards like steak frites, roast chicken with mashed potatoes, and rhubarb pie hit the sweet spot—expertly done enough to make you feel like eating out was worth it, but not gussied up to haute cuisine. The prices are perhaps on the high side, too, but, hey, that's the neighborhood. The last true saloon vacated the top of Queen Anne Hill about a century ago (if one was ever there at all) and Betty fills in admirably. MARK D. FEFERServes: dinner. 1507 Queen Anne Ave. N., 352-3773. QUEEN ANNE $$ Maekawa Bar In Japan, an izakaya typically hosts a boisterous after-work crowd of businessmen and underage students. The smell of cigarette smoke and beer wafts heavily through the air, since drinking is mandatory in a country with such efficient public transportation. Because Seattleites like cars and dislike indoor smoking, Maekawa falls short on authentic atmosphere, but that's hardly a reason to stay clear. As you would expect from an establishment located a floor above gamer haven Pink Godzilla, Maekawa is brazenly casual. Here you won't find sushi but easy fare like tonkatsu, udon, and tempura. Drunk staples like takoyaki (octopus fritters) are served with bonito shavings still writhing as they sink into the gooey dough; fish cakes arrive blanketed in bubbling cheese; and the food is more likely to come with a hefty dollop of mayonnaise than with a bizarre garnish. If you sense a slight burnt taste, glance over at the kitchen and you'll realize the cook is also a rock star in training, preoccupied with singing along to J-pop as he mans the grill. Who's going to complain when he looks so damn happy? ERIKA HOBARTServes: dinner. 601 S. King St., Suite 206, 622-0634. INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT $ The Marco Polo "Free ice cream" is not a marquee phrase normally employed by drinking establishments to reel in customers. And at the Marco Polo, a workaday saloon on the western fringe of Georgetown, it's a bit of a misnomer: The free ice cream comes not in a large bowl with chocolate syrup oozing over the rim but in a small Dixie cup. Still, it's free—and ice cream isn't the reason why you should visit the Marco Polo anyway, the way-above-par-for-a-bar food is. Unequivocally a blue-collar establishment, the Marco Polo serves incredibly tasty fried chicken, but is hardly a one-hit wonder. The chili is homemade, and the chili-cheese fries are, in turn, delicious, if not easy on the arteries. That goes double for the pepperoni grinder, which is like eating a pizza sandwich, only with herb mayonnaise, a French roll, and lettuce instead of tomato sauce, crust, and excess grease. MIKE SEELYServes: lunch, dinner. 5613 Fourth Ave. S., 762-3965. GEORGETOWN $ The Pub at Third Place Situated in a woody cellar beneath Ravenna Third Place Books and the Honey Bear Cafe, this is the kind of pub where nursing a brew with a book at the bar hardly seems antisocial. Indeed, on a recent visit—when the volume on ESPN had been hushed in favor of selections from Lilith Fair—it seemed almost the norm, like a friendly gathering of librarians. This relatively new addition to the 65th Street strip has a strong neighborhood feel, as if most patrons walked over in their Crocs, Birks, and Tevas. The "Tyler's turkey" sandwich is excellent, and the spinach feta salad, with a nice punch of bacon, is not drowned in its Dijon balsamic dressing. Board games and shelves full of old books invite you to dawdle; service is unhurried in the long narrow room, where no one seems to be checking their BlackBerry. The vintage logging photos and split-wood tables also harken back to bygone days when trees were used to frame houses, not pulped to make books. BRIAN MILLERServes: late lunch, dinner. 6504 20th Ave. N.E., 523-0217. Quinn's Pub It hasn't even been around a year, but Quinn's has already become the kind of neighborhood watering hole that's easy to make a habit of. That's because it serves great food—London meets Wild West—which finicky Capitol Hill has embraced with a warmness not typical of these parts. And why not? Quinn's is just the place to hang out, sample a few European microbrews, and eat a dish or two. I've come to crave the braised meatball sliders, the gnocchi with braised oxtail and a cube of crispy marrow, and my personal favorite, the seared tuna served over white beans and topped with sautéed chanterelles and foie gras gravy. No, this is not a place to eat light, but there are a couple of tasty salads if you're in need of some green. There's often a wait, so order a Newcastle, grab a stool along one of Quinn's massive floor-to-ceiling windows, and watch the urban cowboys wander 'round. AIMEE CURLServes: lunch, dinner. 1001 E. Pike St., 325-7711. CAPITOL HILL $$ 74th Street Ale House You can be forgiven for calling the 74th Street Ale House a restaurant. But when I think restaurant, I imagine the food as the main attraction. At a watering hole like this, the beverages take top honors. Think your favorite bar, but with a killer kitchen. The roster of brews ranges from predictable locals like Manny's and Mac & Jack's to regional killers like Boundary Bay's Scotch Ale. If you're ambitious enough to make your way this far north for a thirst-quencher, you're treated to several reasons to stay put for a few rounds. There's the Reuben for dinner, the Greek plate for sharing, and the order of cashews to temper the palate, so to speak. CHRIS KORNELISServes: lunch, dinner. 7401 Greenwood Ave. N., 784-2955. PHINNEY RIDGE $$

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow