January 20, 2016
Seattle is comprised of neighbourhood villages, each touting boutiques, farmers’ markets and, most recently, many of the city’s best restaurants. One doesn’t have to venture out of downtown to discover excellent local flavours, but these neighbourhood restaurants in Seattle are worth the ride.
Set beside a tutoring company, Cantinetta became a neighbourhood pioneer when it opened five years ago in this heavily residential area without another business in sight. The warm Tuscan-inspired room fills to capacity every night of the week. Don’t be chagrin if you’re directed to sit at the bar, an excellent perch tucked beneath Edison lights, from which you can sample Italian vino and dig into wild boar polpette, pappardelle alla Bolegnese and braised beef short ribs while chatting up bartenders Todd or Randy.
Rumours spread quickly when Eve opened in the heart of Fremont in 2015, preparing locally sourced foods created by long time Fremont denizens. The coming out did not disappoint, as folks immediately started flocking here for the rabbit terrine and smoked tofu, among hearty dishes such as BBQ Dungeness crab and Lan-Roc Farms pork chop. The room, located across from Fremont’s famous, “Waiting for the Interurban” sculpture, provides a cosy antidote to the city’s rainy winter.
The transformation of Old Ballard Avenue from auto parts arcades and marine supply companies to Seattle’s quaintest row of boutiques, curio shops and indie restaurants has titillated locals since the Ballard Farmers’ Market took the block over on Sundays more than a decade ago. Chef and culinary visionary, Ethan Stowell continues to colonize the brick and mortar landscape, having recently added the Bramling Cross gastropub (grilled Hangar steak) to accompany Staple & Fancy (wood grilled whole fish), Chippy’s (Dungeness crab pot pie) and the Ballard Pizza Co., home to the best pies in town.
Capitol Hill remains Seattle’s “Grown Up” neighbourhood, complete with numerous live performance clubs and teeming sidewalks into the wee hours. There are always entertainments to be found here. However, should you choose to forego the Pine-Pike Corridor revelry, Cascina Spinasse offers an old world escape from the cacophony. The pasta is made nightly in a gallery setting, the ambience is tight and talkative, and the food, well, you’ll still be talking about the polpette di Coniglio, rabbit meatballs wrapped in caul fat, three weeks after you try it.
No list of neighbourhood restaurants in Seattle would be complete without a pizza place, but Bar del Corso is hardly your local dough slinger. Set in the removed environs of Beacon Hill, one of Seattle’s “can’t get there from here” “˜hoods, Bel Del Corso offers housemade sausages for its corno di capra and funghi pizzas. The Romana and Margherita feature authentic buffalo mozzarella and, in case your cheese palate remains unsatisfied, soft-ripened cow, sheep and goat’s milk cheeses are also available.
What to do with Pioneer Square? Seattle’s original neighbourhood hasn’t kept pace with the “skid row turned hip destination” transformations in Vancouver’s Gastown or Portland’s Pearl District. Enter Matt Dillon, who’s Sitka & Spruce launched Seattle’s (and America’s?) farm-to-table movement. Dillon has resettled Pioneer Square with Bar Sajor and, more recently, the London Plane, a gorgeous corner purveying fresh flowers, curated mercantile and fabulous foods such as naturally leavened sourdough breads to complement poached albacore.
30th Avenue is hardly a country lane, but you can’t help listening for cowbells and bleating lambs when you step into Pair, as bucolic an ambience as you’ll find among Seattle’s romantic kitchens. The menu is anything but mom & pop however, unless your grandma was serving Cascadia arctic char bruschetta, Maitake mushroom risotto and Pont L’Ã‰vÃªque cheese. The farm tables and chairs suggest a simple dinner feasting on courses that are anything but.
Like Japan, the best Seattle sushi can be found in simple rooms with the freshest fish. Kisaku ventured into the hard-to-please Greenlake neighbourhood ten years ago and thrived where many predecessors had failed. Diners will find daily specials that tempt one to stray from the familiar favourites. The Greenlake Roll features fresh salmon, and yellowtail anchors the Wallingford Roll, but mostly locals count on Kisaku for freshness and friendliness in a typically Northwest laidback atmosphere.
There’s no need to panic should you find yourself sequestered downtown. Look no further than Matt’s in the Market, as in Pike Place Market, as in the most popular tourist destination in town. Located on the second floor, far from the fish-flinging crowd, Matt’s provides a simple list of entrées, steamed mussels and clams are a local favourite, as well as a series of sandwiches prepared from freshly caught steelhead trout, catfish and tuna. You can always ask Robbie, one of the city’s storied bartenders, to cast your selection for you. The view of Puget Sound and the bustling Market through the lead-paned floor-to-ceiling windows is as good as it gets in a city known for great views.
Header image: Chef Ethan Stowell is known for “tail-to-gills” cooking at Staple & Fancy © Crai S Bower
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Have you tried any of these neighbourhood restaurants in Seattle? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Crai Bower