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Quinn's, Capitol Hill, Seattle

I tried Quinn's today and can relay the following report/impressions:

-- overall, the food was excellent. We tried: the soft-boiled duck egg with boquerones, the cheese gougeres, the pear/stilton/frisee salad, the duck & duck rillettes, the braised oxtail/gnocchi/crispy marrow, the wild boar "sloppy joe" with crispy sage and onions, the smoked hangar steak & frites, and the green bean/pickled onion/radish side. I think the biggest surprise was that I did not expect this to be a small plates restaurant -- this made the prices seem like less of a good value than I had expected initially from scanning the menu. None of the "plates" would stand alone as an entree (N.B. I did not try the 8 oz. burger (there's always time for burgers)) and for three of us, the food we ordered was maybe just barely enough. The clear standout was the oxtail -- the meat was rich, flavorful, and thoughtfully prepared, the gnocchi were light and delicate, and the marrow -- a thick round balanced on the top of the dish -- was lightly crisped, perfectly salted, a marvel of cholesterol-laden, umami goodness. The salad was excellent. We couldn't figure out what the two "ducks" were in the "duck & duck" rillette -- it seemed like just a duck rillette, served traditionally with grilled bread and pickled red onions. The green beans, even at $6, were a small portion for the value and cost to the kitchen, and the duck egg - a single egg split with a single sliced boquerone carefully partitioned over each half -- was pricey even at $5. The hangar steak and frites was delicious but again small (I couldn't help comparing the similarly-priced entrees at Le Pichet). The "sloppy joe" was a generous portion of ground boar served open-faced on a sesame seed bun with crispy fried sage, thinly-sliced deep-fried onions, and a deep-fried jalapeno on top. Of all of these, only the oxtail was something I'd return for, but all of the items made me eager to try the rest of the menu.

-- The space is gorgeous and feels like it's been there forever. Instantly comfortable, reasonably good acoustics, casual but not thrown together.

-- The cocktails -- both the specialty cocktails and the cocktails we had when we sat down, were extremely good and pleasingly strong. The specialty list offered a nice take on some classics without pretension.

-- The service was friendly and overall decent, although occasionally, as it got busy, it became difficult to get second drinks. This could have something to do with the fact that the restaurant is not even a week old.

As a long-time, cranky Capitol Hill resident, it's nice to have a destination restaurant for food right on the Hill -- I hope Quinn's stays friendly and low-key.

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  1. Thanks for the writeup. I don't see it listed on google yet, what's the address or cross streets?

    2 Replies
    1. re: landguy

      It's 1001 East Pike, next to Cafe Vita and across from Neumo's.

      1. re: landguy

        it's where the mexican restaurant on the corner was for eons! It's a great addition to the hill! It's so nice to have all these choices ...

      2. I concur. Excellent food. Great location. Portions didn't bother me. Enjoyed my rabbit pate with course ground mustard immensely, and the sauteed spinach with currants and pine nuts was great. The only off note was some orange (? I think ) rinds that had marinated in the olives that I thought were maybe cheese -- not edible and probably should have been fished out before serving.

        Also, check your bill carefully. We were only 3 and there was an 18% grat included. Not sure if that was a fluke or a policy, but it surprised us.

        Unfortunately, I predict this place will get mobbed when it starts getting media attention. Hopefully once the trendy wave passes, it'll settle in as an accessible neighborhood joint.

        1. Good report. I had a similar experience:

          Portions: Some seemed huge - fish & chips, burger, crispy chicken; while some were teeny - duck rillette, gnocchi. All dishes were listed under the "entree" category on the menu though, so you expect similarly sized plates. They should probably break them into small plate/large plate categories

          The good: gnocchi with oxtail - too bad it was a teeny portion

          The bad: Fries - soggy, gooey on the inside, sorely lacking crispiness on the outside. Gastropub, really? I think fries - gastro or not - are a key part of pub fare. Hopefully they'll make some adjustments here.

          And the ugly: While our server was OK (it was busy, we had a wait a tad too long at times), the manager threw her squarely under the bus when he came over while she was explaining some of the menu items before taking our order and said, "I need to borrow your server. There is an emergency." Expecting to see smoke coming out the kitchen or an ambulance pulling up, the "emergency" was something to do with one of her other tables and a missed dish/check/whatever. Clearly NOT an emergency, clearly not something that a) the manager could have figured out on his own or b) he could have waited 1 minute 45 seconds until the server had taken our order. It took another several minutes before she returned and (clearly under some pressure now) didn't want to chat - just wanted our order. Why the manager decided to do this is beyond me and why he couldn't have just taken over and taken our order also is, well...confuddling.

          I'll give it another shot - the prices on wine were good, they have some good beers on tap and the burger looked pink, juicy and delicious. Hopefully they'll get the fries figured out though, because as my husband pointed out, "If the fries aren't good, it really isn't a good burger is it?"

          1. my husband and i went to quinns on a saturday night recently. we were very happy with everything. we had the duck egg, the sloppy joe, a hamburger and fries, and some meatball shooters. as well as some fine beers on tap.

            the sloppy joe is something special. it is made from wild boar, served on fresh brioche, and has some crispy fried shallots on top. every bite was better than the last, and i have been thinking of this tasty treat ever since.

            the hamburger is made from wagyu, and you will have a plateful of meat juice once you have eaten it, that is how juicy this burger is.

            the fries were crisp and delicious.

            the egg was yummy, and the shooters were made from house made sausage, and were very good.

            we will be back very soon.

            6 Replies
            1. re: princessteenymeat

              The burger was excellent! My only issue was that it was more medium-rare and I ordered medium. Ground beef I like a bit more cooked. With that said, I STILL really enjoyed it, and we ate all the fries as well. I did not feel that the portion was too small at all (in fact, others finished my fries for me). We also had the cheese gougeres - yummy!

              However, the best part was the service. There were some shaky parts like taking my fries when I said I wanted to keep them... they returned in a to-go box, which I just opened and passed on to the rest of the folks at the table. However, they were SO good about letting us stay late - celebrating a b-day party. And we showed up there without reservations, but they made space for us! It was excellent!

              Everyone was super friendly and food was great! We're going for another birthday tonight... and I'm looking forward to trying the oxtail! Somebody commented on them adding a bone marrow appetizer... I hope so! I miss Craigie Street Bistrot's (Boston restaurant) appetizer. I'd love to have some place to for it here!

              1. re: sheitoon

                have you tried the bone marrow at Cremant?

                1. re: barleywino

                  Is the bone marrow at Cremant better now than it was when it first opened? I'm thinking I need to get back there.

                    1. re: barleywino

                      Looks like I'll have to check it out and report!

                2. re: sheitoon

                  Got the oxtail last night and it was delicious! I had a taste of my friend's wild boar sloppy joe, and I can't say that I loved it... it was too tomato-y for me. It also had a RIDICULOUSLY hot jalopeno on top... I'm sure they didn't do that on purpose though.

                  They did keep running out of the bottles of wine they had, but the replacement suggestions they made were good (except for one). Service was very good again, which was nice. We also had the duck egg - highly recommended! I think it was only $3, but I could be wrong.

              2. So, we went back to Quinn's for another visit tonight, and I'm happy to report that I think they're getting their sea legs and, with an updated menu, it's clear they have magnificent back-up ideas to surpass their magnificent original ideas.

                First, let me say -- it's striking the extent to which the place instantly looks like it's been an integral part of the neighborhood for decades. I think they hit the bulls-eye for what the area needed.

                Second, some of their new menu ideas are inspired. The "grilled" romaine salad was something new to me. The great grilled flavor of a meat dish -- but on your salad. Awesome. Best salad I've ever had, perhaps.

                And the deconstructed clam chowder had amazing flavor. My only complaint is that it wasn't accompanied by bread to sop up all the sauce. (We sopped it up with a spoon.)

                Keep up the good work, y'all. (Former Texan, here.)

                1 Reply
                1. re: jjmccoy

                  We tried Quinn's for the first time last night, and had a marvelous dinner! My favorites were, of course, the pear/walnut/frisee salad and the incredibly decadent oxtail/marrow/gnocchi dishes. Our server was incredibly friendly, made a wonderful wine recommendation and told me that Quinn's is currently considering a plate of marrow bones and bread for their menu. Perfect! We also loved the lemon creme brulee and the side of citrus zest that came with our after-dinner espresso.

                  My only criticism would have to be the same as jjmccoy - they need to offer bread or something else to sop up the sauces. Otherwise, it's an instant favorite and sure to become a regular for many of my friends.

                2. I've been to Quinn's twice now and really love it. The cheese plate on my first visit was fantastic, although on our second visit, the selection wasn't as varied and the cheeses seemed too similar to each other. The lamb was perfect - tender, simple, exactly what I want lamb to be. The wild boar Sloppy Jo was great - it was hard to brave the jalapeno, and I regretted a bite or two that included too much jalapeno, but I still loved it.

                  About wanting rolls for sauces/chowder - wonder if Andrew Meltzer could pop up there?

                  1. I had heard the buzz about Zoe's people opening up a place on the Hill for awhile, so I was pretty darn excited when I saw that it ended up being just blocks from my apartment where that old Mexican joint used to be. Been anticipating it for awhile, and ended up getting there a few weeks ago.

                    The space is warm and cozy and well-lit, lots of dark wood, industrial-style lighting--gorgeous, but it feels a little too Belltown for Capitol Hill. Could go on ad nauseum about the gentrification of the Hill--I find myself so conflicted about it--but let's talk food and drink first.

                    In researching Quinn before my visit, I was totally compelled by the upscale bistro fare and was excited to have these sorts of reasonably priced options nearby. After being seated and glancing at our neighbors' huge portions, I was even more impressed by the prices. One of the most intriguing menu options wild boar sloppy joe, which my companion promptly ordered, but the presentation disappointed--a plain white plate, nondescript-looking bun, and the sloppy joe mixture oozing out. No garnish, no fries.

                    I ordered the oxtail gnocchi with crispy marrow--as I love all things gnocchi, oxtail, and marrow--and the portion was miniscule in comparison to the other dishes I was seeing around me, although honestly one probably doesn't want a heaping plate of something so rich and filling.

                    The wild boar sandwich wasn't bad, but also wasn't stellar--the gaminess and flavor of wild boar was obscured by the sauce, which left me wondering whether or not boar is the best choice for a preparation like that. It could have really used some fries alongside, and maybe some fresh herbs to punch it up. The gnocchi was lovely, although I was left wishing for more.

                    The cocktails were excellent, and our server--while he was slammed--was chatty, fun, and attentive. I was a bit perplexed though when, inspired by the old-school feel of the place, I ordered a mint julep and was informed that they didn't have fresh mint on the premises. What sort of gastropub and fancy cocktails joint doesn't have fresh mint? Perplexing, I say! I did have an excellent Tom Collins, though--it's pretty clear they've got some good bartenders back there.

                    We were talked into a chocolate cake, one of those ubiquitous molten things which I try to avoid because they seem so annoyingly pervasive but then realize gooey chocolate cake is always good. Crowned with a smattering toasted hazelnuts and a zingy citrusy sauce, the cake was not overly sweet and had a nice, deep chocolate flavor.

                    I'll need to go back a few more times for a proper assessment of the food, and being such a new place, they've got the typical kinks to iron out. I think it's great that Capitol Hill is attracting new restaurants that are trying to maintain a low-key, neighborhood, bistro feel while injecting a little glamour and inventiveness into the food. I just hope that it doesn't become sterile and trendy, a la Belltown--I hope that Capitol Hill's unique character is allowed to shine through.

                    1. Is Quinn's now open for lunch? Website and lettering on front door have both said yes since at least Monday, but the door was locked at 11:30 on Monday; a sign was taped to it to the effect that lunch service would begin soon.

                      Thx.

                      1. The best fries in the city. Served with Veal demi, melted fontina and seared foie! I dream about these!

                        1. I am surprised by all this praise. Am I the only one who wasn't happy with their food? Service was GREAT though Barbara knows what she is doing. I will post a full report in days to come.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: bigred10

                            I was there both Friday and Saturday night and had the same complaint...the food was incredibly salty. I liked the pear salad and the grilled romaine salad but the white bean soup and the pulled lamb and polenta couldnt be finished due to the salt. I hear the burger is incredible so I will go back over lunch and give it a try.

                            1. re: amyh18

                              wasn't crazy about the burger i had there but did like the housemade sausage which was not oversalty.

                              1. re: barleywino

                                They serve the oxtail differently now... the gnocchi now goes with rabbit. It was a very chicken-pot-pie like taste for the rabbit. I prefer the old serving of oxtail - and no more marrow.

                                The grilled tongue was yummy!

                            2. re: bigred10

                              I went late last year and was very disappointed in the food.

                              We started with the fries which were interesting, good but not spectacular. Little did I know that those fries would be the best thing I'd eat all night long. My husband and I also shared the rabbit gnocchi, beef tongue hash, and a creamy corn bacon soup thing? Anyway, the menu looked fabulous, but the food was often too salty, too spicy or had some unusual off taste.

                              Honestly, I would not choose to go back.