Delancy or Spinasse?
I know these are 2 entirely different dining experiences, but I'm in town from NYC and am trying to decide which is a more worthwhile experience. I like great food but I also really love a fun atmosphere. I am fortunate to have access to great food, living in Manhattan, but would love some guidance from the Seattle crowd. Would also welcome any feedback on bars, coffee, cool places to shop, etc. not my first visit, so I've done lots of fun touristy stuff like emp and book larder and will be returning to Sitka and Spruce for a 4th time for dinner tomorrow night. Thanks in advance!
For dinner I highly recommend Altura. It is, IMO the best restaurant in Seattle.
Walrus and Carpenter has very good oysters and a good steak tartare.
Bars: I really like Vessel and it's located in downtown retail corridor. Pretty creative stuff there. Canon is good too.
Coffee: All the good roasters are in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. Espresso Vivace, Stumptown, Victrola, Cafe Vita
Delancey is away from downtown Ballard in a small neighborhood strip. I enjoy the food and ambiance of the restaurant (and their adjoining bar Essex) but they are primarily a pizza place with a few appetizers.
I guess last time I went to Spinasse I found the atmosphere a bit less lively. The food was really good across the board. I felt just a touch let down though with the pasta that everyone talks about -- the buttery tajarin.
I don't know if you have been down to Columbia City but La Medusa might fit your criteria. It is a very local crowd. The atmosphere is lively and the food has always been deeply satisfying to me. For what it is worth La Medusa is rated 28/30 on Zagat and they are listed on Eater Seattle's 38 Essential Seattle restaurants. Urbanspoon rates them 4.5*/5 and a 91% approval rating. Spinasse is rated 28 Zagat, 4.5*/5 and 89% Urbanspoon and is also on the Eater 38. La Medusa gets 4* on Yelp and Spinasse gets 4.5*. They both get 4.5* on Tripadvisor.
Back to your initial picks, if you decide to go to Delancey you could make a night of it in Ballard or Fremont. For cocktails I consider Eric Carlson at Bastile one of Seattle's underrated talents. The back bar in particular is great when they are having special events or music. I have been enjoying The Sexton a lot. They are really playing with the big boys now. The mid-Century styled Gerald also has some good talent. For a solid whiskey list I would pop into the back bar at Bitterroot BBQ or the bar at Kickin Boot.
Looking for a serious beer bar in Ballard, hit Noble Fir and Urban Family Public House ... Urban Family Public House also features beer from their in-house brewery. They are one of 8 breweries in Ballard. A ninth will be open later this month and a 10th is in the works for this summer.
Speaking of which if you are in town right now Seattle Beer Week is getting ready to kick off tomorrow. There are hundreds of events around town over the next 10 days. I just posted a separate piece on some of the Ballard events.
Actually tonight at Chuck's up on 85th they are showcasing all of the Ballard breweries. If you miss it in a few days a similar tap take over is happening at Urban Family. The kickoff tomorrow is happening at Fremont Brewing Co. (one of my favorite breweries) with a pre-event at the new Sixgill (by the owners of Ballard's Noble Fir).
Back to Ballard if you get over for an evening you might also consider staying over for a show at the Tractor, Conor Byrne or the Sunset.
One of my favorite bars in Ballard ... up 24th into the residential part of Ballard is the quirky Scandinavian/maritime bar The Copper Gate. They serve decent Scandinavian food like house cured gravlax, pickled herring and meatballs with lingonberry preserve and celeriac mash. They have a mostly nordic beer and spirits list with house infused aquavit, Icelandic brennevin, bitter dram and more. The bar is built in a boat hull and and the bar is covered in vintage nude pictures. They have been having jazz and singer songwriter performances as many as four nights a week in the intimate ... em .. "pussy room" in the back (don't ask).
If you come to Ballard during the day there are interesting local shops, indie new and used book stores, consignment shops, a couple great record stores, a ton of coffee houses (including coffee enthusiast places, Aster, Ballard Coffee Works and the new Slate), and several really enjoyable bakeries and patisseries (Cafe Besalu, Fresh Flours, Tall Grass, Hot Cakes, B&O, Cupcake Royale)
I love comparing restaurants on every site too. It's funny how some restaurants do well on one site but won't have very good ratings on another. I find zagat to be the best for rating food while yelp is second. Urbanspoon and Tripadvisor both have a lot of misses and tend to rate many places based on value food versus food quality.
I wasn't too impressed by the tajarin at Spinasse either, it was good but didn't suit my tastes. Having said that, the food I have had there is consistently some of the best I have ever had - Italian or otherwise. I would rate it higher than Altura and definitely above Carmine which I wasn't impressed by at all.
thanks so much to everyone for your thoughtful and detailed responses. Did go to Essex last night - had great cocktails and terrific conversation with the bartender, who also volunteered Altura with no mention of it from me. Also had pizza at Delancy and the food and vibe were exactly what i was in the mood for. Also grabbed a chocolate chip cookie to go.I'll be heading to Altura tonight. On my way to Ballard now for some coffee, croissant at cafe besalu, and some shopping for records. Will continue to read thorough your suggestions. Thanks again SO very much.
I was just at Besalu about a half hour ago. Just missed you. They have quiches out incidentally which are amazing and the strawberry is one of my favorites. Besalu never seems to come up in conversations about great coffee but their baristas are solid and they serve coffee from 7 Roasters, based in Ballard.
At Market and 22nd Ballard Coffee Co is a serious coffee afficionado's place. Aster on 24th just downhill a block or two from Besalu is also. Aster is one of the few places that picked up a Clover before the company was bought by Starbucks.
Over on 6th, just south of Market Street (heading East out of the center of Ballard) is Slate. This is a place that has been getting a lot of buzz. In part that is because Brandon Paul Weaver was the NW Regional Brewer's Cup champion but the employees I have met are knowledgeable and well trained. They literally just opened the cafe which is great but also run a mobile coffee bar in an airstream trailer on Capitol Hill and a roasting facility down in the Central District.
If you get over to Fremont, in the shadow of the Aurora Bridge on 34th next to the History House, is Milstead and Co. a very sophisticated multi roaster cafe that has also been getting a ton of press.
Seattle Beer Week kickoff is today. The launch is at Fremont Brewing Co. at 5:30 and there is a pre-kickoff event at SixGill (just West of the the Fremont rocket) at 4pm. I'll be there. http://www.seattlebeerweek.com/
Sonic Boom is my go-to great record store. NW artists are showcased one on of the front shelves and the sleeves with artist names will identify NW artists as well.
Across the street Bop Street has over a half million titles (per their website ... I haven't counted them ;-) ).
Somehow the word "danish" got omitted in my post. ;-) Nope, no strawberry quiche at Besalu. Sounds like you are having a great time. Also we have been having the best late April/early May weather since I moved here 12 years ago.
So you will be at Altura tonight.
If you were thinking of getting an after dinner cocktail somewhere on Capitol Hill I would recommend Canon (12th Avenue on South side of Madison -- between Spring and Marion), Tavern Law (on 12th North of Madison between Union and Pike) or Knee High Stocking (down near Interstate 5 at Olive Way and Olive Place).
Canon is Jamie Boudreau's place.
The owners are chefs (same owners as Spur Gastropub) so the food is solid and they have a beautiful cocktail list. The bartenders are all top notch. You have to make a reservation for the upstairs speakeasy Needle and Thread but it is worth doing it. If you have a reservation you call at the phone by the bank vault door which conceals the stairway up.
Look for the essentially unmarked door on the wedge shaped building facing the intersection of Olive and Olive. You can make a reservation for a table or they will seat you if space is available. I prefer the bar (which is on a space available basis).