Dining Guide 2014: Our Favorite Places for NEW PACIFIC NORTHWEST Fare

NEW PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Art of the Table

Creativity can be a blessing and a curse in the restaurant business. Innovative food might get you noticed, but push the boundaries too far and you could leave most diners behind. Dustin Ronspies manages to tread that razor’s edge, fusing an eclectic mix of ingredients and techniques into what can only be considered Seattle cuisine. His intimate Fremont restaurant seats the lucky few who get to explore that new frontier on any given night. Lately, it’s not just locals who have taken notice; Ronspies was one of the 2014 James Beard Award nominees for Best Northwest Chef. 1054 N. 39th St., 282-0942, artofthetable.net ZACH GEBALLE

Bar Sajor

Here the open kitchen and bar and split-level space symbolize that Pioneer Square is open for business (and recreation), with chef/owner Matt Dillon at the heart of the renaissance. Come for lunch if you want to take advantage of the daylight that illuminates the space, and bring a few friends to enjoy a perfect plate of pickles and some lovely tartines (I especially recommend any seasonal fish or mushroom offerings) while you await your order of whole chicken cooked in the fireplace, deliciously simple with some lime and harissa notes. 323 Occidental Ave. S., 682-1117, barsajor.com JAY FRIEDMAN

Blind Pig Bistro

The most frustrating thing about the Blind Pig Bistro is also its genius: a complete lack of sentimentality. Early on in the life of the exceptional restaurant, smuggled into Eastlake in an unassuming strip mall, chef/owner Charles Walpole made good on his promise to wipe away any dish his staff tired of by eliminating the sturgeon, to howls from diners. No matter, the chalkboard menu of eight to 10 dishes rarely disappoints. From a perfectly prepared pork belly (which hasn’t been on the menu in some time, but is seared into my brain) to a simple charred eggplant purée that co-stars with flank steak to an architectural and entertaining endive salad, the dishes here are always an adventure. You’ll go back, but you’ll never have the same experience twice. 2238 Eastlake Ave. E., 329-2744, blindpigbistro.com MARK S. BAUMGARTEN

Brimmer & Heeltap

This Asian-inflected bistro/gastropub is the epitome of a neighborhood restaurant. Proprietor Jen Doak works the room with her infectious, down-to-earth charm as diners feast on half-size or whole portions of Mike Whisenhunt’s (Joule, Revel) unique brand of comfort food. With staples like Chinese-style baked buns filled with kobacha squash and glazed with a sherry, seaweed, and walnut crumble and broiled pork shoulder with caramelized-onion kimchi, this is the kind of restaurant where you’ll always feel comfortable dropping in alone for a bite and a cocktail at the buzzing bar, with its retro white leather seats. The space, formerly inhabited by La Gourmand, is bright and lively, just like its owner. 425 N.W. Market St., 420-2534, brimmerandheeltap.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

Hitchcock

Hitchcock’s Brendan McGill was voted The People’s Best New Chef in a Food & Wine magazine national contest, and his place is well worth the short ferry ride to Bainbridge Island. What’s the best way to experience this eclectic restaurant? Pick a price for a tasting menu (you can order a la carte, but the tasting menu lets you name your price for a chef-determined number of courses), then sit back and enjoy all the dishes that showcase pickling, fermenting, preserving, roasting, grilling, and more. McGill always maps out an adventurous meal, with fascinating ingredient combinations and flavors from start to finish. If duck is on the menu, request it. (Hitchcock Deli, next door, is also fantastic.) 133 Winslow Way E., #100, 201-3789, Bainbridge Island, hitchcockrestaurant.com JAY FRIEDMAN

La Bête

Aleks Dimitrijevic’s La Bête is as ornate and whimsical as its contemporary-American menu, which is bolstered by a sophisticated weaving of European influence and, more recently, Arab flavors borrowed from its Monday-night Middle Eastern pop-up headed by La Bête cook Taylor Cheney. Whether it’s kasespatzle for brunch or tabbouleh on a Monday night, dishes are served on fine china and the restaurant is adorned with vivid artwork by Dimitrijevic himself. Despite its apparent elegance, the Capitol Hill restaurant fits right into the scene with its bar-friendly food and cocktails curated as carefully as its atmosphere. 1802 Bellevue Ave., 329-4047, labeteseattle.com TIFFANY RAN

LloydMartin

It baffles me that LloydMartin doesn’t get mentioned more often when discussing the city’s best restaurants. Sure, it’s not in Capitol Hill or Ballard, but the food at chef Sam Crannell’s Queen Anne jewel is some of the most creative and well-executed in the city. It’s the little touches, like beautifully composed soups poured tableside and perfectly cut bread, plus an innovative bar program, that should put it on any serious Seattle diner’s short list. 1525 Queen Anne Ave. N., 420-7602, lloydmartinseattle.com ZACH GEBALLE

Matt’s in the Market

When guests come to town and ask for a restaurant recommendation, I’m quick to send them to Matt’s. Not only does it boast a view of Pike Place Market and the Sound, but under chef Shane Ryan, the farm-to-table-style food is nearly always on point—and walks a fine line between sophisticated and laid-back. The interior is pretty yet understated, the large windows the focal point. In a nutshell, it’s kind of everything you want from a Seattle restaurant. In summer, the restaurant hosts one of my favorite events: tasting menus created by Ryan and a visiting chef from another city. (I had the best meal of last summer at one of these.) But on any given night, you’ll find delicacies like a wild mushroom salad with spinach, tuada, a fried duck egg, and caramelized shallots, or steelhead with celeriac, buttered radishes, blond radicchio, and celeriac chips. If you love foie gras, this is the place to get it, served with a pistachio streusel, watercress, a Sancerre poached pear, and brioche. 94 Pike St., #32, 467-7909, mattsinthemarket.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

Miller’s Guild

Connected to downtown’s Max Hotel, this new restaurant from Jason Wilson (Crush) takes the wood-fired-oven trend to a whole other level. The restaurant’s nine-foot custom-made Infierno wood-fired grill is no joke. A huge contraption—part grill, part smoker, and a whole lot of flames—it dominates the open kitchen and is used to cook steaks, ribs, lamb, quail, even octopus. In keeping with the theme, piles of firewood surround you in the lofty, high-ceilinged dining room, as do barrel casks of aging liquors. Not only meats are cooked on the fire, but beets and cauliflower too. The cocktail menu here is interesting and makes frequent use of flavored shrubs and bitters, as well as their own house-aged spirits. The soaring room, perhaps thanks to the roaring fire, manages to feel cozy. 612 Stewart St., 443-3663, millersguild.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

Mkt.

Ethan Stowell’s 600-square-foot 28-seater, wedged between Elysian Brewing Company’s pub and Mighty-O Donuts in Tangletown, delivers well-executed Pacific Northwest cuisine, minus his usual Italian focus, with thoughtful flourishes. You won’t want to miss the “snack” of Dinah’s cheese from Kurt Timmermeister’s Vashon farm; though that cheese has become ubiquitous on menus, Stowell serves it with a tomato preserved in honey, a sweet little chunk of heaven. Likewise, the hamachi sashimi is predictable, but the tangy and crisp citrus-cucumber ice it’s served with isn’t. Mkt. gets clever with entrées too, like generous-sized sea scallops, perfectly cooked, atop a stew of white beans with smoked pork shank. Stowell fans may feel disappointed by the scarcity of pasta dishes here, but the restaurant’s wood-fired oven best suits meats like grilled lamb tongue, rabbit, and quail—all with delicious, creative accompaniments. Three barrel-aged house cocktails change up regularly. 2108 N. 55th St., 812-1580, ethanstowellrestaurants.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

Le Petit Cochon

When you’re the brother of the esteemed chef/owner of Art of the Table, there’s bound to be some pressure. Fortunately, chef Derek Ronspies does his bro Dustin proud. While his new Fremont restaurant is very focused on the “snout to tail” movement and offers lots o’ offal (gizzards, blood sausage, animal-face fritters), all dishes are creatively conceived, surprising with their varied flavors. Those gizzards, for instance, come flavored with harissa, while a lamb’s-head fritter is served with chickpeas, an orange saffron vin, carrot jam, and Savoy cabbage. Offal aside, LPC serves the best pork chop I’ve had—the “Olsen Farms Phat Ass” chop is thick as hell but perfectly moist and juicy—no matter what its accompaniments, which change often. In fact, most of the menu changes daily (including the best of seasonal produce), though certain items are ever-present. For dessert, don’t miss the foie gras donuts, always served with some delicious flavored ice cream and compote. 701 N. 36th St., Suite 200, 829-8943, gettinpiggy.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

Prima Bistro

This is one restaurant I’ll happily travel to Whidbey Island for, especially in summer with its sweeping bay views. An unassuming structure that shares space with a retail store, this French-meets-Pacific Northwest gem is one of my favorite restaurants of the year. Chef Sieb Jurriaans, a tall, tattooed, ponytailed dude, has created a menu that rivals any in Seattle. The details are what really raise this restaurant above the rest: His sautéed wild mushrooms are foraged by him in a nearby forest, his tartare is hand-chopped to order, his charcuterie comes from his own meat locker. You’ll find his house pancetta in the salade lyonnaise, along with frisee, a poached egg, and a warm sherry vinaigrette. The semolina-crusted Northwest oysters come with a to-die-for truffle mayonnaise, and I may have dreamed about the pan-fried veal sweatbreads with an apricot-thyme gastrique. Though ferry lines can be long in summer, do your best to beat them and get out here for a meal. 201 1/2 First St., Langley, 360-221-4060, primabistro.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

Queen City Grill

“Oh, it’s no problem. Just come in,” said the maitre d’ when I recently called the Queen City Grill about making a reservation. But I didn’t take the ready availability of tables (on a Thursday) as a warning sign, and neither should you. In fact, the Grill was warmly abuzz that evening, filled with one convivial party of a dozen and pairs of young women chatting at the bar. Comfortable and effortlessly sophisticated, it’s “a romantic restaurant for guys,” says my plus-one (emphasis his), and it’s our go-to spot for special occasions. No one does old-school, traditionalist dining better (for those not on a Canlis budget): oysters, scallops, Caesar salad; crab cakes, salmon, duck confit, steaks; bread pudding, Key lime pie, ice cream. Go ahead, chase your food trends elsewhere; what the Grill offers is a simple, classicist commitment to the basic elements that make restaurants wonderful. 2201 First Ave., 443-0975, queencitygrill.com GAVIN BORCHERT

Radiator Whiskey

Three words: smoked pig face. That’s what this Pike Place Market pub, which boasts a menu of gut-warming, elevated comfort foods, is best known for. With the same owners as its longstanding neighbor, Matt’s in the Market, its bourbon brown walls and barrel wood accents nevertheless create a rather different vibe that echoes the bold, smoky flavors of its food and drinks. If staring a pig in the face will thwart your appetite, the fried pork shank, braised beef brisket, turkey drum confit, and lamb-neck sloppy Joes are all equally robust options. For dessert, the warm chocolate-chip cookies come with—what else? a shot of whiskey, much of which comes in barrels on tap. 94 Pike St., Suite 30, 467-4268, radiatorwhiskey.com TIFFANY RAN

Spur

Don’t write off Spur because it’s in Belltown or because it’s been around for a while. A pioneer in Seattle’s craft-cocktail scene, bartender Ken Gray still makes one of the best drinks in town. As one of the first gastropubs, Spur’s food is outstanding too. Whenever I go, I always sit at the bar—mostly because I love to talk to Gray about all his various housemade concoctions and allow him to customize a drink for me. While that’s being done just about everywhere now, Gray actually puts serious thought into it. Spur also happens to have, hands down, one of the best appetizers in Seattle: the sockeye salmon crostini with mascarpone, capers, and pickled shallots for $4 apiece. I share four with a friend, along with perhaps some pork-belly sliders or veal sweetbreads. Spur has one of my favorite desserts, too, the fruit in which changes seasonally: a sponge cake with meringue, jasmine, full-bodied Leatherwood honey, and, currently, pear. 113 Blanchard St., 728-6706, spurseattle.com NICOLE SPRINKLE

Stoneburner

The latest eatery from James Weimann and Deming Maclise (Bastille, Poquitos, Macleod’s, Von Trapp’s), Stoneburner fills a needed niche for fresh comfort food on Ballard Avenue. Named after Bastille chef Jason Stoneburner, it’s filled with found objects collected from globetrots, and connects to the posh Hotel Ballard. But a space that could feel highbrow is redeemed by warm lights, a reclaimed pressed-tin ceiling, and a menu that’s reasonably priced—equal parts veg and meat and full of flavor-forward familiar fare like handmade pasta and wood-fired pizza. 5214 Ballard Ave. N.W., 695-2051, stoneburnerseattle.com SARA BILLUPS

Tilth

Set in a darling Craftsman on Wallingford’s busy 45th Street, Tilth serves hippie fantasy food for dinner and brunch. Chef Maria Hines highlights New American cuisine with as many certified-organic ingredients as she can get her hands on, in addition to wild stuff that grows in the woods. Portions are small but artfully crafted and richly flavored. The menus change monthly to keep in tune with the seasons. 1411 N. 45th St., 633-0801, tilthrestaurant.com MEGAN HILL

Volunteer Park Cafe

Whether you’re perched in a window seat with a cup of coffee gazing at the leafy North Capitol Hill street outside, or crammed into a communal table for a big sandwich at lunch, Volunteer Park Cafe doesn’t disappoint. The emphasis here is on simplicity—let the local ingredients shine and you can’t go wrong. Menu items are rustic, with sandwiches on crusty bread, housemade granola, quiches and stratas, and enormous fresh pastries and cookies. 1501 17th Ave. E., 328-3155, alwaysfreshgoodness.com MEGAN HILL

 
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