San Francisco Hound Coming to Seattle: Please Critique My List for the Emerald City!!!
Greetings Seattle Hounds,
I am so excited to be visiting your beautiful city in 2 weeks for a total of 3 days/ 3 nights. I haven't been to Seattle in 4 years since my brother's graduation from UW when our family dined at Ray's Boathouse, Dahlia Lounge, Cafe Juanita, Salumi, Tilth, Red Mill Burgers, Shiro's, and the late Restaurant Zoe...
Since then I've found a love for espresso and drip coffee thanks to the Blue Bottles and Four Barrels here in San Francisco...so that is a huge mission for sampling this trip to Seattle too. Also this time we're staying in Ballard.
My idea for the 3 days is sort of a lunch, dinner, and special pastry or ice cream snacks here and there, and pretend as if we'll do one cocktail or bar and one brewery tasting each day...we'll keep the trip flexible. We are seeing a daytime Mariners game too, so let me know of any dining at Safeco Field advice! I enjoyed the IchiRoll last time...
Thanks to your all of your wonderful recommendations on other threads with helpful suggestions, these are the ideas I've come up with:
Dinners (3): Walrus and Carpenter, Poppy, Staple & Fancy
Contenders: Anchovies & Olives, How to Cook a Wolf, Delancey, Bisato, Spinasse, Madison Park Conservatory, Joule, Quinn's, Spur, Serious Pie
Lunch (3): Safeco Field, Revel, Sitka & Spruce on a weekday
Snacks/Breakfast if we feel like it: Molly Moon's, Cafe Besalu, Honoré, Le Rêve
Breweries: Hale's Ales, Georgetown Brewing Co.,Three Skulls (unique blend of old and new, small and bigger is the goal)
Contenders: Big Al, Fremont, Maritime's Jolly Roger, Schooner Exact, Naked City
Cocktails: Zig Zag, Rob Roy, Needle & Thread
Contenders: Ba Bar, Grim (or any Laura Olson bar), Canon, Quoin
Coffee: Vitrola, Vita, Vivace, Starbucks original (never been...so I have to go and stand in line once)
Please let me know your thoughts, I'm sure the list will be a little trimmed once we arrive, but it just shows how exciting it is to visit and dine and drink in Seattle! Thank you so much!!!
As I've said elsewhere, I'd recommend Full Tilt over Molly Moon's for ice cream. There's a location in Ballard. Though I'll also say, I just had a sundae at MM's that's chocolate ice cream with bergamot olive oil, sea salt and whipped cream that's pretty darned good (tho' honestly, the ice cream is the weakest link -- the chocolate-ness could stand to be more intense).
Plain croissants at Besalu are fantastic. Don't skip them just because they're "plain." It's the best thing they make, I think.
I think the best meal I've eaten in Seattle so far has been at Walrus & Carpenter. I wish I could afford to repeat the experience more often. Be ready to wait a long time for a table and spend some $, but I think it's worth it. Everything we had there was very fresh, quality ingredients and clean flavors. A lovely experience even with all the bustle.
Poppy is controversial but I've enjoyed my experiences there. I like having lots of things to taste; it's sort of like opening presents on Christmas -- "oooh, what's THIS one?"
I haven't been to the Needle & Thread part of Tavern Law, but have been plenty happy with my experience in the downstairs main bar.
Starbucks "original" -- eh, whatever. It's not like it feels particularly historic or anything, it's pretty much just a "to say we did it" experience. Some of the best Pike Place buskers are usually outside, tho', so it's got that going for it.
MM's maple bacon ice cream was really good -- alas, a seasonal flavor, not a regular one. Other than that, the other flavors I've tried are just ok. But I agree -- good sundaes. And points for creative ice cream/sorbet flavors (last night I noticed they had a strawberry pink peppercorn I wish I'd tasted, but my boyfriend ordered my sundae so quickly I didn't get a chance!). I don't think MM's is BAD or deserves, as you say, "hating on" but I do think there are better options.
Restaurant Zoe is not "late", it just moved to Capitol Hill, reopened in February.
I had a great dinner at Walrus & Carpenter a few weeks ago, maybe got lucky but didn't have to wait at all (but this was a Sunday, FWIW).
Poppy....the problem with having 10 dishes on a plate is they are not all going to be the most amazing thing you've ever eaten. Mostly I just wish more of the dishes were warm/hot. It is a little bit different and fun, but not super exotic or even very Indian.
Besalu and Honore are both great bakeries, and not too far apart, so you can visit both and gorge. If Honore has cannele, get some.
Nothing wrong with food or drinks at Ba Bar, but you could get a much longer menu with a full bar and lower prices a few blocks south at Tamarind Tree, if you are looking for Vietnamese food.
Looks like you're into pizza, so consider via Tribunali for neapolitan style. There are a handful around town.
For coffee, starting in Ballard, you'll want to hit Ballard Coffee Works, the new outlet of Seattle Coffee Works. If you can get up to Greenwood, you'll also want to hit Neptune. Those are the closest to the Blue Bottle/Four Barrels models that we've found.
I love the restaurants on Capitol Hill, but if you're staying in Ballard, I'd recommend not making the trek all the way over. There are plenty of good places in Ballard, Queen Anne, Fremont, and Downtown to make it worth your while for 3 days.
Also, if you do decide to come to Capitol Hill, I'd pass on Poppy. Restaurant Zoe, Cascina Spinasse, or Sitka and Spruce, or Quinns are all better options, IMO.
I'd also consider swapping out Staple & Fancy for Golden Beetle, Tilth, Book Bindery, Revel, or somewhere else. It's literally in the same building as Walrus and Carpenter and it will just remind you of how much better Walrus and Carpenter was.
If you're going to be by Safeco on a weekday, I'd stop into Salumi for lunch. Much better than anything you'll get at the game and fairly close by.
For cocktails, I'd skip Ba Bar, but +1 Canon and Needle & Thread if you're going to be in Capitol Hill.
And for coffee, I'd make sure to put Stumptown on the list for coffee, Vivace on for Espresso, and Victrola for either.
Hope that helps.
I'd agre with the substitution of any of the Capitol Hill restaurants mentioned by BuffaloBandit for Poppy; I consider Sitka and Spruce the closest to the quintessential "seattle" restaurant these days. I'd look at the respective menus and decide if lunch would be representative of what it offers.
You have also listed 3 or more Ethan Stowell restaurants as contenders and I would avoid duplicating among those. While I have not tried Staple & Fancy, I consider Tilth, Joule and Book Bindery--and each of the capitol hill places mentioned above--all more interesting than Anchovies and Olives. Also agree with Canon for cocktails for sure.
Coffee--there is definitely a distinction to be drawn between the "third wave"/origin joints like Stumptown, Seattle Coffee Works, etc. and the older school espresso places like Vivace that have only 1 or 2 choices of beans. My personal favorite is Empire in Columbia City but that may be out of your way; Victrola embraces both styles.
Breweries--Georgetown is great but it is just a place to taste and pick up, no food or tables there. Schooner Exact makes possibly better beer and is more hospitable.
BaBar is a great price point and a unique combination of Vietnamese and well-made cocktails (drinks at Tamarind Tree are not on the same level), but I concur with the point that if you want that flavor perhaps a visit to a place more focused on serving ethnic Viet customers would be in order (e.g. Huong Binh, The Lemongrass, Hoang Lan) but no alcohol may be available.
I do not like Molly Moon. All of these are way better:
Peaks Frozen Custard
Old School Frozen Custard
Mora (Winslow on Bainbridge Island)
Bluebird (which isn't as good as 31 Flavors)
That's a good list that you put together.
I like both Walrus and Carpenter and Staple & Fancy but they are in the same building and there's even a window between them so I'd probably not go to both, just so you can get a feel for different locations.
For snacks, as others have said, skip Molly Moon's. There's a chance that Crumble and Flake will be open by the time you are here. If so, you'll absolutely want to go there. http://www.crumbleandflake.com/
For cocktails, since you've only got three nights - your list is perfect but each of those places is quite different from each other. I'd sub Canon for Zig Zag these days.
I don't think Zig Zag has gone down hill, I just think Canon is firing on all cylinders (hahaha). Murray is there now, they have a great collection of antique barware, the cocktails are fantastic and their collection of liquor is greater than others in town.
Chef Robertson is fantastic. If C & F is open when you are here, be sure to try is kouign amann and canalés.
Thank you so, so much Seattle for your excellent analysis and insight! If only I had more time in the city to dine (and kayak, shop, sightsee, see more baseball...Seattle is overwhelming and I'll be going to Portland for 5 days for business/pleasure after my purely fun trip to Seattle).
I had no idea Staple/Fancy and Walrus/Carpenter were in the same building. Based on that and your thoughts, Walrus is in and Staple is out. I was really into an Ethan Stowell place because 5-6 years ago I had a great dinner when he just opened Union and thought he was a revelation.
Also, been to Molly Moon's actually right after it opened and the line was an hour long. I loved...the cone, but the salted caramel was as you keep saying, only fair. Soo...let's try Full Tilt in Ballard?
Sorry about calling Restaurant Zoe "late," I had seen that it was replaced by Coterie Room and didn't know it had just moved.
Here's where I am now, thinking one night sort of Ballard, one Capitol Hill, one Downtown-Belltownish and for days, one is with Mariners/Safeco, one is Captol Hill, one is Ballard/Fremont/catching the 2:20 Tuesday train to Portland:
Dinner (3): Walrus & Carpenter, Poppy (still stuck on this, I really wanted to try Jerry's cooking at Herbfarm way back when), Spinasse (very tough call since I love the looks of Ethan Stowell's other places, Madison Park Conservatory, and being a reader of Orangette, Delancey)
Lunch (3): Safeco Field (I'll do pastries in Ballard pre-game), Revel, Sitka & Spruce (need to eat here and it's one of the few places on my list with lunch and dinner...the menu doesn't seem too different for lunch except no large wood oven roasted main plates at lunch, is there a specialty there only at dinner?) I'm still considering one of the Vietnamese places Equinoise mentioned since I'm very interested by them.
Bakeries/ Snacks: Full Tilt (maybe Molly Moon's to compare?), Besalu (croissants!), Honoré, and if open, Crumble & Flake
Cocktails/Bars: Rob Roy with Zig Zag and Canon with Needle & Thread location-wise (any Laura Olson bar worth trying?)
Breweries: Hale's Ales for sure in Ballard, 2-3 others up in the air. Fremont paired with Revel? Maritime Jolly Roger? Schooner Exact with Safeco? Three Skulls to try bacon beer?
Coffee: Ballard Coffee Works and Neptune, Victrola, Vita and Vivace, Original Starbucks if I decide to try it
Thank you so much for the help! I'm so excited for the trip! Hopefully the weather is good for baseball and kayaking...
Ethan Stowell's burgers @Safeco Field are very good; make sure they give you a hot one. The tortas are only so-so, to my mind. Especially if you've had a real Mexican one in the past. However, their guacamole and chips are very good. Rice 'n' Roll sushi is premade and just average. There's supposed to be a new sushi vendor @Safeco Field in addition to Rice 'n' Roll but I don't know where he is yet.
I've looked at Sitka and Spruce's lunch vs dinner menus and they seem pretty similar...a little lighter, shorter at lunch. Since it's one of the few places I'm thinking of (vs an Ethan Stowell or Delancey or Spinasse or Madison Park Conserv), should I go here for lunch and one of the others for dinners? Any "specialty" at Sitka? I'm thinking Revel too is better for lunch instead of dinner since it's actually open for lunch.
Sitka & Spruce looks terrific for lunch and dinner menus..so like with Revel, I think I'll try a lunch just because they're open for lunch. Spinasse and Walrus & Carpenter seem set for dinner and Revel, Safeco Field, and Sitka Spruce for lunches. But what to decide about Poppy? It looks so unique...yet could be very so so...
Any thoughts for 1 or 2 micro breweries or really good pubs? We've got 4 good cocktails places and Hale's Ales. Georgetown Brewery doesn't sound worth a trip?...somehow I must try Manny's Pale Ale.
Manny's is widely available in SEA, including at Safeco Field. You'll find it. Schooner Exact's brewery is not far from the Field. Pubs with a lot of taps that I like include Hop Vine, the Dray, Brouwer's Cafe, Stumbling Monk. I think Poppy is just skippable given your time constraints. I've had ups and downs there. Sometimes we drop in later just to get the dessert thali--my wife loves the nutter-butter simulacrum and I dig the passion fruit bite. Maybe that would be an option if you are bent on it.
You'll find Mack and Jack's and Manny's at most places around Seattle, so if you just want to try a lot of local beers, you can do that without actually visiting the breweries. Some of my favorite tasting rooms in the Seattle area are: Fremont Brewing, Hales Ales, Maritime Pacific Brewing Company, and Elysian.
If you're headed to Revel for lunch you could drop into Brouwer's, they have 64 beers on tap, many of which are local, along with a lot of belgians and imports. You also won't be too far from the Maritime Pacific Brewery, along with Hilliard's Beer in Ballard.
There's an Elysian outpost right by Safeco field, and I've always been a fan of their beers, so you could pre- or post-game stop there.
I would pass on Hales - just not the best Seattle has to offer. While in Ballard, you have access to a few of the better places for beer in the city: The Dray and the The Noble Fir. Both feature around about 15 taps with a range of local, west coast, occasional east coast, and often international beers. Selections are amazing and fresh. The Noble Fir is on Ballard Ave and probably 3 blocks from the Walrus.
Don't miss Besalu - try the cardamom pretzel.
Love the Noble Fir! Great selection. The Dray is good as well but it's a little out of the way of a good walkable neighborhood. I usually go there when I'm waiting for my dryers at the laundrymat.
And I agree with you on Hales. I don't like the malt they use, and the hop balance on their beers isn't to my taste.
Brouwer's and Fremont Brewing sound like great stops when going to Revel, along with Schooner Exact when down by Safeco. Is anyone a big fan of Baron Brewing?...just curious about bacon beer since I've had just about bacon everything else it seems with it everywhere on menus.
Looking at Poppy's menu, do people usually order appetizers or just thalis? The desserts do look quite special and worth a trip alone if we choose to have dinner elsewhere (Delancey over Poppy for our last spot?).
We leave in 2 days for Seattle, so excited! Later tonight I'll piece together an "itinerary" that we'll leave home with.
Quick question about Staple/Fancy and Walrus & Carpenter-- just to be able to say we tried both and since desserts don't look too amazing at Walrus, what would you say to oysters and small plates at Walrus then desserts at Staple & Fancy?
I honestly know nothing about the deserts at Staple & Fancy. I think it's really up to you. It sounds like you're determined to eat at Staple & Fancy, but if it were up to me, I'd just eat more at Walrus & Carpenter. Finishing with one of their cheeses is a nice way to round things out in my book.
The fancy menu can be done with any number of people--I'd even recommend it for one. I think it depends on your food preferences. While the S&F desserts are lovely, you would be eating them solely to say you ate there, which is not fair to them. I'd decide if you are more interested in light bites and oysters or a full meal. Or at the least, order some pastas from Staple and Fancy.
For coffee, the places to go for the best of the best are Neptune, in Greenwood, and Milstead, in Fremont.
O.K. lots of things I'm sure will change, but heading to the airport tomorrow, this is what we'll have arriving in Seattle. For sure I know that when I get off the light rail (haven't been to Seattle since this was built!) I will be taking the bus to Fremont and then later dinner at Poppy...I just couldn't resist trying Poppy since there's nothing like it in SF and my friend in Seattle really wants to try it. So we'll see in 24 hours the verdict...
Let me know of any glaring mistakes or recommendations on what to get at specific places! I have no clue how to choose especially at Revel...
Arrive-- Fremont Brewing Co. (they have weird hours so this was the only time it would fit)
Dinner: Poppy- reserved (eggplant fries, dessert thali, any other favorite items?)
Post: trying for Needle & Thread. If not, Tavern Law
run to Neptune for espresso
Besalu- cardamom pretzel and croissant
Honoré- cannellé (can't wait for this!)
Ballard Coffee Works- espresso or drip better?
Mariners at Safeco Field- will seek out Ethan Stowell's stands or the new sushi in the Hit it Here Cafe, along with Mac and Jack Amber and Manny's Pale Ale
Zig Zag when it opens around 5
Dinner: Walrus & Carpenter, we'll be willing to wait (back ups are Delancey and Staple & Fancy)
Ice cream at Full tilt
If time before closing at 10, Hale's Ales
Monday- Capitol Hill/Belltown/Capitol Hill
Volunteer Park, Asian Art Museum
espresso at Victrola
lunch Sitka and Spruce (not sure what to order)
if open...CRUMBLE & FLAKE (their twitter says they open Sunday?)
Possibly, ice cream at Molly Moon's
Visit Central Library
Visit waterfront, market
Meet friend for drinks at Rob Roy...potential tasting at Elysian if we're early
Dinner: Spinasse- reserved (tajarin ragu, anything else?)
Milstead & Co
lunch at Revel- how to choose what to order? Everything looks so great.
Brouwer for a last Washington beer
Train to Portland
No time for kayaking sadly or porchetta at Salumi...but lots of excitement ahead. No rain in the forecast until my last day in over a week in Portland! The roof should be open at Safeco...hopefully I can help end the Mariners losing streak.
Looks like a solid line-up!
As for Spinasse, I think everything there is phenomenal. If you bring your appetite, you can taste everything on the menu, but if you're not quite that hungry, you can do a sample of all of the appetizers. Either way, since you're skipping Salumi, I'd recommend the Pio Tosino. It's a huge plate of fine prosciutto and works well as a starter.
Thanks for the heads up Lauren! I was about to go to Crumble & Flake...instead just straight to Sitka & Spruce.
So far so good on the trip! Walrus & Carpenter and Poppy both were good with some exceptional dishes, but also some just o.k. ones. Service was a little awkward at both too. We have Spinasse tonight and Revel tomorrow.
Zig Zag was good, but Needle & Thread miles ahead both in bartenders and drinks. Trying Victrola and Vivace for the first time today...the recommendations for Neptune and Honoré was oustanding! Love those 2.
Sadly Besalu was closed yesterday when I arrived from Honoré because the owners just had a baby...bad timing on my part! I should've got a croissant in the end at Honoré also...
I'll of course give a full report after the trip!
Seattle chowhounds! Sorry it has taken me so long to report-- I had a wonderful trip to both Seattle and then a few days in Portland before returning home. The real winners were Fremont Brewing, Neptune/Victrola/Milstead & Co for espresso, beer at Safeco Field, Revel, and Sitka & Spruce.
For full reports, check out my site-- http://trevsbistro.wordpress.com/
You may have to dig a bit for some of the reviews...
But here's my quick synopsis:
Arrived mid afternoon, took the light rail/bus directly to Fremont Brewing- outstanding tastes, especially the Interurban IPA, Universale Pale Ale, and the Oatmeal Stout. The Peach- mint cask ale was only fair. Great advice from you for the tip to sample here!
Dinner- Poppy. Eggplant fries were soggy and bites either too salty or too sweet from honey. The halibut with the thali was plain but the rest was terrific, cocktails only o.k. Loved beyond words the dessert thali!
Drinks at Needle & Thread, reserved earlier in the day. Excellent choice, they made a killer ginger-amaro cocktail for me.
Ran to Neptune from apartment in Ballard (longer than I predicted but very worth it!) Such a great barista- made me additional espresso shots for sampling purposes and he gave me the card for his terrific national guide to champion baristas at tchcoffee.com
Then to Honoré, picked up cannelé and coconut salted caramel macaron-- long 30 min wait but worth it. Should've got the fresh baked croissants too because...
Besalu- ran next to Besalu for croissants but learned that it was closed for the weekend because of the birth of the owners' baby. Disappointing...but congratulations!
Instead, strolled through the wonderful Ballard Farmer's Market. The caramels from Jonboy are magnificent...
Then off to Safeco Field for the Mariners game. Had the Ethan Stowell turkey crêpe which was fine. It was too cold by the time I ate it to fully enjoy. Very good crêpe batter. Also enjoyed the Mac and Jack African Amber Ale immensely and Skagit River Sculler IPA. The Manny's Pale Ale was fair at best...drinkable but not special.
Afterwards, went to Pike Place and had a decent (for Starbucks) espresso at the original while waiting for friends. Then went to Zig Zag. My banana-rum-ginger cocktail was too banana heavy. The bartender I'm mixed on- he was very affable but almost seemed a bit too proud boasting of his talents. I certainly walked by Zig Zag five teams looking for it on the steps.
Then dinner at Walrus & Carpenter, preceded by drinks while waiting at Staple and Fancy. Loved the bartender at Staple. Walrus- service was very terse and unwelcoming, even after a 45 minute wait. Grilled sardines, gnocchi with lamb ragu were the hits. The oysters and steak tartare surprisingly left a lot to be desired. It wasn't a disappointment...but next time I'd choose Staple & Fancy probably for a dinner.
Coffee at Victrola, then lunch at Sitka & Spruce. Loved Victrola, top 5 espresso of my life. I loved the whole Melrose Market, a mini Ferry Building. We were the only people having lunch at Sitka, the day Matt Dillon won the James Beard award. Everything was terrific- beets with amazing bread crumbs, simple marinated anchovies, dynamite smoked sturgeon over lentils with sauce grebiche...and a very intriguing sweet savory yogurt with toasted quinoa, poached rhubarb, and oranges. Lots of fresh, pure creativity here. Very S.F. feeling, yet distinctly Seattle if that makes sense...
Then espresso at Vivace at Brix.
After lots of walking, some sightseeing, met up with more friends at Rob Roy-- La Flama happy hour cocktail had a bizarre, somewhat off tasting mix of mezcal, ginger, and pimento dram. Then drinks at Canon-- the Canon Cocktail was 1/2 outstanding whiskey sour, 1/2 useless cointreau foam. Service was very disinterested for our booth. Excellent atmosphere though, especially the bar itself.
Dinner at Spinasse-- all 3 pastas were terrific, but interestingly, the tajarin with lamb ragu was the least inspired. The gnoccheti with green chickpeas and lamb caramelle (tootsie rolls) were great examples of their talent. Enjoyed the roasted and chilled asparagus with prosciutto, not a fan of the banal poached oysters in nondescript geoduck sauce.
Started walking from Ballard to Fremont...then realized how far it is. So took a taxi to Phinney and 45th, not realizing I should've said 35th...that was quite the hill. Great espresso at the very serene, friendly Milstead & Co. Then a top notch, thrilling lunch at Revel-- wow the vivid purple potatoes and salmon roe with lemongrass gravlax in a celery fennel salad, and that Dungeness crab-thai red curry dish with seaweed flecked noodles. They even gave a great impromptu beer tasting with Fremont's IPA, Maritime's lager, the terrific Two Beers Brown Ale, and the equally terrific Profanity Hill Porter from Schooner Exact after I realized we didn't have time to go next door to Brouwer's because our bus was coming soon.
Somehow we managed 10 more minutes to try the weakest espresso of the trip at Fremont Coffee Co. A very lovely cottage, but the espresso was below the mark.
All in all, a most wonderful trip. I already have my list for whenever next time is-- Brouwer's, Book Bindery, sample at Elysian, Staple & Fancy...return to Sitka & Spruce and Revel...the list goes on!
Thank you so much for your very thoughtful advice, I really, really appreciate it!!! I hope to visit Seattle again very soon!