Eaten, Barely Blogged: Seattle Side Trip
Almost always if someone outside the West Coast hears you’re from Portland, they assume you know everything about Seattle even though with 175 miles separating the two cites, that’s practically like conflating New York City with Baltimore. (Also, no one in Jackson Heights has ever heard of Oregon or Portland.) Prior to January, I’d only been to Seattle once in 1993 on an art school field trip where I used fudged work study money to buy a pair of John Fluevog flatforms, got my photo taken by tourists, and sipped not even second-wave coffee at some place called Puss-Puss Cafe before being driven back south by a charter bus.
Contemporary Seattle is…I’m not sure exactly. Definitely more mature than Portland, a little bland (seriously sad Tinder), a lot wet and outdoorsy, kind of like if a city could be the municipal embodiment of damp polar fleece. That said, there is also a lot of new, and a lot of it seems to have sprung-up close to where I was staying in Capitol Hill.
Capitol Hill Cider This is where I kicked off my final night of eating and drinking (my first night of three was a bust after barfing into an air sickness bag while waiting on a porch for an Airbnb host) a little before night truly began. At this cider-focused tavern with a Northwest bent, just a glass of Apple Outlaw’s Ginger Bite kind of because the gluten-free menu wasn’t my thing (nothing against bbq or tempura broccoli) but mostly because I had many more pit stops ahead of me.
Bar Melusine I eat a lot of happy hour oysters, often without paying much mind to origin. At Bar Melusine I was excited about two things: trying more than just the familiar kumamotos, and getting an eyeful of that mint green, marble, and brass scheme that’s like visual Xanax. With six oysters on offer, the kumamoto being the only non-Washington bivalve (and raising the question as to why you never encounter Oregon oysters), ordering a dozen was the perfect opportunity to try them all, with an Aquavit-based cocktail like the Fleet Wanderer. Supposedly ranked mildest to strongest (I did not agree): Kumamoto, Treasure Cove, Eld Inlet, Passage, Blue Pool, Hama Hama.
Optimism Brewing Company Smaller cities are often strange in that a bunch of new-to-newish and/or notable things can all be clustered together where in NYC you’re going to have to neighborhood-hop and be borough-intrepid. Oh, and places are just cavernous and full of unused space. I guess this brewery has food trucks on-site from time to time. I did not encounter any. As a dark beer freak, there was a lot to like here such as Before the Dawn, a lower-alcohol Imperial Stout (7.5%) all black and chocolately and almost raisin-like.
Vito’s I kind of just wanted to see The Cougar Room up close and personal. And a plate of shared garlic bread with marinara for dipping and a Second Opinion (calvados, rye, allspice dram, lemon, bitters) and The Dogfather (scotch, nocino, amaretto, salers, sweet vermouth, laphroiag, coffee bitters) were a nice diversion on a wet neighborhood crawl with your younger sister. This updated Italian-American thing (though completely the opposite of, say, Carbone) is so not my kind of food and yet I kind of want to go back and eat a full meal in a booth.
Kedai Makan Normally I shy away from Asian food in non-Asian cities while on vacation. (Seattle is practically Vancouver, B.C., which is practically Hong Kong, though, right?) It’s a bias, sure. Newish Malaysian with cocktails so close to my Airbnb, though? This was the only restaurant where there was a wait for a table, and at close to 10pm on a weeknight, no less. Sitting at the bar was no problem, especially since this was the intended main event on my wander. The takeaway: it felt like we ate a lot of cucumber. Nasi lemak is never a wrong move, here with mackerel. Shrimp chips with sambal and peanut sauce just for fun, and kerabu timun nanas, a pineapple and cucumber salad with shrimp and peanuts, the latter perfect with a tiki-ish #cocolife, like a curry-powdered piña colada. I shied away from things I might normally be drawn to like tripe satay or a lamb nasi goreng because I did have a pescatarian in tow. I wanted the flavors to be a little bolder, more chile heat and and fermented shrimpy funk. The food had this tasty yet flat quality that has occurred every time I’ve tried making Malaysian food at home to the point where I gave up and wondered what was lacking beyond obvious things like hard-to-source fresh herbs and spices. Probably MSG, honestly.
Americana My one Northwest regret: no monte cristo! NYC has a way of bungling the sweet-savory sandwich, so I was excited to hear about the re-opening of Charlie’s, a bar and grill (what else can you call a place with such a Cheers-esque font) apparently known for its monte cristo. Despite its published hours, and my adamance that monte cristos aren’t breakfast food, morning was my available time slot. But no dice. Instead, a way too tomato-saucey benedict next door.
Lost Lake I never eat breakfast on vacation because I am too lazy, but the three-hour time difference and traveling with a sibling who insists on it transformed me temporarily. (I can pretend to be a morning person but I’ll never take dogs over cats.) Chicken fingers and biscuits and sausage gravy and hashbrowns and eggs.
I did not get to eat at Dick’s, another oversight that must be rectified along with that damn monte cristo a few blocks away.