Birthday Dinner for 6 in SEA
Hi! I'm a local Seattleite (3 years now) who loves trying new restaurants. I'm having a birthday party dinner with 5 friends next week and am hoping to find a hidden gem! Not too spendy, but mid-range and memorable. Here's a list of places that I've thought of because I haven't been to any of them. I've done most of the high-end and would like to surprise my friends by picking someplace that won't kill our pocketbooks. (What's up with friends inviting you to dinner/bday parties that end up costing $80 per person???)
I would love your opinions on whether any of these would be good for a lively party of 6 that likes a fun time but also would like to hear eachother across the table. If I'm missing anything good, please let me know. Thanks!
Boat Street Cafe
Osteria la Spiga
I don't know what kind of food you are shooting for. I like contemporary Pacific NW.
I really enjoyed Boat Street when I last went. It is a beautiful space and the food was memorable. I really think you won't be disappointed there.
How about the newly expanded Matt's in the Market? It had such a memorable feel to it and he did wonders with those meager facilities but I bet the food is really singing with an upgraded kitchen. I have not been since they reopened though.
Another mid-price casual funky comfort food place I have enjoyed a lot in Bryant is Pair. They got good press when it opened. I have been 2-3 times.
Honestly I REALLY enjoy Market Street Grill in Ballard. It is contemporary NW cuisine. The prices are moderate and they have a prix fixe menu on Sunday. The decor is hip. The food is memorable. I really liked Nathan Rundle who had worked at French Laundry ... and Bouchon I think. However it appears he is gone. I would worry except that they tend to just reload there. They have had a few really good chefs: Frank Spingman, John Paul Kunzleman (I may be butchering the spelling a bit).
Hope that helps. I will give some more thought to it.
Oh. If you like casual French and Cremant is pushing the upper end of the price range you might want to try Cafe Presse. The owner is from Le Pichet. It is a small and inexpensive/moderate menu. It really feels like a Paris joint. The back room is cool and airy and could accomodate your party. They have this great exposed masonry. We had the gâteau au foie de volaille, croque monsieur, falafel, sauce blanche, and a special gratin.
Picking from your list, I would say absolutely Boat Street. I was there for the exact thing (lively group of 6, birthday celebration) and we had a wonderful time. Cafe Lago is also a fun environment for a group. I haven't been to Casuelitas or the new location of la Spiga and it's been years since I've been to Brad's Swingside. Saint Germain seems a little "small" (not in space but in feel) for that type of celebration.
For something fun and different, why not try The Art of the Table?
It's a new-ish restaurant in Wallingford. The chef serves prix fixe 4 course meals four nights a week. I went with a group of friends a couple of weeks ago and had a very fun time. Much more relaxed than your typical restaurant experience. I can't figure out how to put a link into my reply but their web address is www.artofthetable.net.
I went yesterday for 'Happy Monday,' at which he prepares delightful small plates from whatever is left from last week's menu. I had a smooth, cool roasted red-pepper soup with a nice bite in the end, a very nice panzanella salad (though I think he will benefit from experience of Armandino Batali's version, at Salumi, as big old bread is better than small crunchy toasted bread in this dish). Ravioli of rabbit confit in sage brown butter, house-made ginger ice cream, and nicely selected wines - tonight at $4 or $5. Lovely. Very relaxed. A very small house, which seems like it would be perfect to reserve for a small party (8-15?). He takes the food seriously and understands what works and I hope I can make this a regular Monday habit, for however long it lasts (it has that ephemeral feel, but one can hope...). I passed on the squid with candied lemon (!?!), but only out of (im, it turns out) prudence, and the beef whatever, on the grounds it was probably just there to satisfy those to whom the rest of the menu is unsettling, but I began to regret that by the end, as I'm sure he would handle even a token item with good care and to good result. The kitchen is very near the seating (10 feet?) and the chef is looking out over the room (or, indeed, up, at the higher parts). It's gratifyingly clear who is feeding whom and always there is the feeling that if you saw him reaching for an ingredient you wanted to change, your approach would be received with grace and/or an appreciated elucidation. I hope to resist the urge to post about this place again,as I have said too much already, but I look forward to the weekend supper-club.
I too think Boat Street is the best pick on your list, though I wonder what "not too spendy" is. With app, entrees, wine and dessert, we do manage to spend a fair amount there-close to your $80/pp mark.
I've only been to Brad's once but it was terrible food. The worst Linguini con vongole I've ever had-I'm pretty sure the clams were canned, and what was all that oregano doing there??
Cafe Lago is nice but I feel it's a little pricey for what it is. In the past I would have heartily recommended La Spiga but it doesn't sound like they've got the new place running smoothly yet-I am still reading about terrible service.
Went to Cafe Lago recently for the first time in many years and was pleasantly surprised. Menu is rather on the limited side if you don't want pizza, but what we had was delicious, especially the gnocchi with tomato vodka sauce (superb!) and the lasagne (as light as advertised). Having not been to any of the other places on your list, I can't compare.
Hi lil sea,
I think you might like La Carta de Oaxaca in Ballard. They call themselves an authetnic Mexican eatery. I loved it even though I'm not a fan of Mexican food. Very fun, lively place. I was with a group of people and we had a blast. A bit noisy, but have a few margaritas and you won't notice. Put your name down on the list and walk around Ballard - the wait is usually long as they don't take rezzies - not even for a party of 6. And very affordable.
I highly recommend Cafe Lago. I've been there several times and everything I've ordered or tasted has been just delicious. There lasagna is just amazing...pillowy soft and light as air. It's like nothing else on earth. I swear. I'm also a big fan of the steak they prepare. I think it has a balsamic reduction and a pile of potato "toothpicks" (for lack of better description). It's always packed the atmosphere is lively. Nice dessert too....try the lemon torte with the almond crust. Yum.
I second Cafe Lago, and raise you to Cafe Moose. Informal, spacious enough to accomodate you (some notice will be appreciated).
>>>>late-breaking inspiration: Art of the Table (see recent post by clicking mrnelso, below). Weekend supper-club is prix fixe at $48 (plus wine, tax, and gratuity) - at the least, go talk to Dustin about your desires. I have a feeling he can help you.
>>>>If you want to do something really splashy for very little money, use your available advance notice to arrange an assortment of takeout dinners from Paseo ($12-13 each, and huge and fabulous - go get one tomorrow and see). If you have enough dishware, you can plate this up as a huge feast as a sequence of amazing small plates (if you can recruit an accomplice to do a more "formal" service - what fun). Consider starters and cocktails, add some local ales and Belgians, a couple of nice wines, and a cider or two and you will go down in local history. Paseo's food is lovely, and its presentation in styrofoam amplifies the opportunity for refinement. A little extra shopping at Big John's PFI, a local farmer's market, or even a decent supermarket can make this a killer, with courses of seasonal goodies, etc. (this is a good season for a fruit salad with a drizzle of Port..