I sent the query out about a day before this most recent trip, asking for some suggestions for places to eat in Seattle, while here on business for just a day. The responses were quick and confident. Canlis, Salumi and Walrus & the Carpenter were mentioned nearly as much as Sitka & Spruce. I have to hand it to Andrew Zimmern. I follow the guy on Twitter and Instagram, and while I noticed he was knee-deep in poke and tuna in Hawaii, he managed to fire off a tweet to me within 10 minutes of my initial request, suggesting both Canlis and Sitka & Spruce. The man is never wrong, and has a palate I would consider gold standard, so there wasn’t even a hesitation. As soon as I dropped my bags at my hotel, I walked the 15 minutes up to the Capital Hill neighborhood, walked into the Melrose Market and meandered back to Sitka & Spruce.
Facing a large bank of windows, the space is bright, even on a cloudy, overcast day. I sat at the solo counter, along the window sill, and contemplated an enticing brunch menu, while looking out at a giant construction site. While I don’t usually fall for the scone trick, the addition of the words “warm buttermilk” and “triple berry conserve” seemed to suck me in like a Chicago alderman being approached by a condo developer. I couldn’t say no, and I was glad, since a bit of soft, housemade butter came along for the ride:
Then it was time to wade into the rest of the menu, which didn’t make things any easier. I passed on a hot cereal with poached pears, hazelnuts & hyssop, and instead, went for a juniper-cured steelhead trout, that was paired with some pickled kohlrabi and green tomatoes with a few pieces of fresh watercress:
Finally, a third course of sorts. Fennel sausage with bean and chard seemed to heavy, especially since I had plans for a second lunch. I opted instead for some marinated and roasted beets, which arrived with the most delicate slices of fresh apple and mizuna leaves; the best part of the dish: a pistachio “condiment” at the bottom of the plate, which resembled a ground paste, and only contained a bit of oil and spice. I practically licked my plate:
After brunch #1, I walked around the funky neighborhood for a bit, checking out some of the record shops and clothing stores. I had wanted to try Mr. Batali’s Salumi shop, but they’re only open for lunch Tues. – Fri. I had heard Spinasse was great, but again, opened at 5 p.m. Canlis was closed on Sunday. I took one of my Twitter suggestions and walked over to Serious Pie, a part of the Tom Douglas/Dahlia empire (there’s the Dahlia Lounge on the corner, then the bakery next door):
Serious Pie does, indeed, produce blistery, chewy, noteworthy pizzas, sort of a cross between Neapolitan and artisanal. I loved seeing all of those air pockets inside, the result of “longer fermentation, high hydration and medium high oven temps,” the @TomDouglasCo social media guru tweeted to me afterward. They had the usual suspects – buffalo mozz, tomato sauce; potato and leek; sausage – but the one that caught my Midwestern eye (always searching for local specialties) was the housemade ham, cippolini onion, fontina cheese and huckleberry pizza. Now that’s something you rarely, if ever see, outside of the Pacific Northwest:
I was surprised they bake them at a medium-high temp, but again, with longer fermentation comes a lot more character and chew in the final product. I could barely polish off more than three slices (I did also have some braised beef tongue with giant beans before this) and I had wanted to go over to the bakery to try their famous triple coconut cream pie mini-bites (skip ’em). But this pie was certainly worth it, and now, of course, I’m lamenting the fact that Zimmern recommended the potato-leek pie and I had no one to cajole into getting one. I guess I’ll just have to go back some other time.
For dinner, my friends and I went to The Walrus and the Carpenter, an oyster bar hidden behind a bike shop on Ballard Avenue, in a pretty industrial-looking neighborhood (at least at night). Again, this place came highly recommended, and while we didn’t love everything, the 18 oysters we tried – all from Washington State – made up for it. This is the kind of place I would happily return to for a few dozen and a beer.