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Feb 24, 2010 01:20 PM

Union, Poppy or Tilth -- One Night in Seattle

Coming to Seattle for one night in March, and having trouble picking between these three. Also interested in Art of the Table and How to Cook a Wolf. We are coming from NYC, so ideally would like something unique to Seattle -- something that would showcase the strengths of the city and the food scene.

We may also have time for brunch the next day, so any recommendations for brunch would be greatly appreciated.

Will be staying at Hotel 1000, so proximity may be a bonus, but not a game changer. The most important thing is the food.

Thanks in advance for all your guidance!

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  1. You will find lots of information on each of these restaurants on the Greater Seattle Board and its recent predecessor, the Pacific Northwest Board. Use the Chowhound search function for both of these boards, and you will have plenty of reading material. Of the three, there’s probably the most buzz around Poppy at the moment. And, as long as you are up in this price range, I would put Canlis into the mix. The Executive Chef at Canlis, Jason Franey, is very talented. He worked under Daniel Humm at Campton Place in San Francisco and 11 Madison Park in New York City, and is producing exceptional food at Canlis. Canlis is a sixty-year-old Seattle institution which has always been known for its polished hospitality and attentive service. The food has always been good there, but has ratcheted up significantly in creativity and interest since the arrival of Chef Franey in October 2008.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Tom Armitage

      I'd definitely go with Tilth--it really is the best that Seattle has to offer. Book ahead--every time I've been there or walked past, it's been packed. It's located in a little cute house on 45th in Wallingford and you definitely get a homey, community vibe while enjoying elegant, simply prepared, locally sourced food. Maria Hines is basically a genius. Tilth is less flashy than Union but showcases the ingredients and the cooking far better. For the quality of what you get at Tilth, the tasting menu is a steal.

      As for Union...the food was solid and good, but nothing life-changing. For a restaurant smack in the middle of towntown, I feel like Union aspires to be like a slightly more low-key version of restaurants in New York or San Francisco but doesn't quite pull it off and ends up being kind of awkward...If you're coming from NYC to see what the food scene in Seattle is like, Tilth is the place to go.

    2. Union is a very short walk from your hotel---and a good choice.

      1. I think you'll get as many different opinions as responses. I feel like a broken record, and I am very much in the minority on this, but I think Union is highly overrated on this board. I think Tilth is great with local, organic, and catching a real PNW vibe. I really enjoy Poppy and it has an innovative way of serving and many local ingredients. I would say Tilth is more intimate, Poppy is a large space (very large for Seattle).

        I live close to How to Cook a Wolf and love it. It has more of an Italian/mediterranean edge than PNW. I have not been to Art of the Table.

        local and unique to Seattle, I would also consider Sitka and Spruce or Corson Building. But then I hate it when I get more options rather than narrow down the few I have when I ask a question, so maybe you should forget I mentioned it!

        1. I really appreciate all the responses so far. I narrowed down the choices by reading all of the many (and differing) reviews on the boards, but just can't decide. Also considering Lark. So hard to choose!

          Approximately how far is Tilth from the hotel? My gut is saying to go with Tilth, but SO is worried it is too out of the way.

          Thanks again!

          5 Replies
          1. re: kiworan79

            Tilth is in Wallingford which is probably 5 miles from downtown Seattle, but over a'd have to drive, taxi or take the bus. By car it would take about 15 minutes without traffic, most of which would be getting out of the downtown core.

            For what it's worth, I'd choose Union. I've only had excellent meals there. I've had disappointing meals at both Tilth and Poppy, although others here have had positive experiences at both.

            1. re: akq

              The bus will get you a little peek into the terrain and community of Seattle, and is really not much more travel-time than a car or taxi. The METRO transit website has a good trip-planner.

              1. re: mrnelso

                Downtown brunch, for us, is Cafe Campagne.
                Get the French French Toast.

                1. re: mrnelso

                  Great pick, mrnelso, even though my fave is the oefs en meurette, with a side of that fabulous house-made pork & chicken sausage. I enjoy your posts,by the way.

            2. re: kiworan79

              Tilth is probably about a 15-20 bus ride from downtown seattle plus maybe a 6-7 walk along 45th...Wallingford is a great, low-key community that has a surprisingly good neighborhood restaurants and it really exemplifies what life in Seattle is like once you get out of downtown...

            3. These three choices serve your purposes well; each is representative of the "locavore" movement and Seattle's scene generally, and each of the chefs are wise and worldly enough to avoid chasing food trends that were set a couple years back. Tough call for me, as a fan of all three restaurants. My first impulse is to say that, after a few visits to each place, Tilth is a half-step below...fine food but not as creative as the others. But I haven't been for at least 18 months now, and things indeed change. It's hard not to recommend Poppy for a Seattle one-night stand: it's thali concept is genius and it tackles seasonal fare in a very inventive way. I can understand where sparklylights is coming from in saying that Union is a wannabe big city restaurant, but I can't quite agree. True, it basks in the conscious metropolitanism of the remodeled SAM next door--which I mean in a good way--and has some degree of polished, all-inclusive grandeur (you can get a $20 glass of Barolo and sometimes, a chateaubriand for two) that the others eschew in favor of more casual styles and earnestly organic fare. But Stowell at Union has a achieved a simple elegance and purity in his dishes that is very unique, and if you've visited some of the NY Times' 3-4 star stalwarts, you can't seriously find the place pretentious or "awkward". Finally, I haven't been to Canlis since the new chef, but I plan to, and Tom should be credited as a very reliable source on this board. There, at Seattle's classic special occasion destination, you will find a level of coordinated, crisp service and depth of wine cellar that you could find in several NYC dining rooms but nowhere else in Seattle. Note that the tab there will likely be 25-50% over the three you have selected.

              N.B. with a modicum of hesitatation, I still nominate Crush for The Best Restaurant In Seattle on any given night. But if you've looked, you've probably found that we have entered the era of Crush backlash on this humble board.

              If we can't help, maybe rochambeau for it?

              2 Replies
              1. re: equinoise

                As usual, a very insightful and thoughtful response, equinoise. Just as you are puzzled by the Crush-bashing on this Board (and -- please forgive me -- I am among the guilty ones), I have a hard time understanding the negative vibe around Union that many Chowhounds fuel. No place is perfect, and not every single thing I've ever eaten at Union has been spectacular, but on the whole, I think the food and wine there are first-rate, and I always look forward to going there. Besides, I can go to Taste across the street and have Duncan Chase prepare one of his marvelous craft cocktails for me before heading over to Union. It's a dynamite combination..

                1. re: equinoise

                  Fantastic insight. Thank you so very much. I certainly have a lot to think about, and will report back after my trip. One thing is for sure -- I will definitely need to return to Seattle to try some of the other restaurants.

                  Also, if anyone has any recs for brunch places near or around the area, I am open to suggestions.