Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tavern Law, Capitol Hill, Seattle

All Seattle cocktail emporiums could take a lesson from Tavern Law, located in the BOOOM we call 12th and Madison on Capitol Hill.  If I were living on the hill again, I would be accidentally on purpose wandering into this little gem of a saloon just about every chance I could.  However, this particular visited happened to be well-planned.  From the creators of Spur Gastropub, Ladies and Gents, I give you heaven in a bar.


It was the evening of the first fall rain in Seattle.  It was a perfect, perfect backdrop to lollygag in a bar who boasts knowledge and books as their decor, inspired and intelligent old-timey cocktails, and one of the most delicious hamburgers known to yelpers.  I had to try it...and with these conditions, how could I not love it?!

I had read several reviews to not patronize this restaurant from the hours of 9pm and beyond on weekends, so being the senior citizen diners that we are, my husband and I entered the gates of heaven at precisely 5:30pm, exactly 1 half hour after the doors opened for business.  It was almost entirely empty, save a few huddles of cocktailers here and there.  Though the establishment is quite intimate, we had several options for seating.  We positioned ourselves right beside the wall of Encyclopedia Brittanica, of course!

One of my only criticisms of this place was that the decor was only JUST enough to look like a law library.  I would have covered every wall with books and more books, hell - I might have even bought some dust room spray to fragrance the place a bit, and would have perhaps spent less time on the gimmicky speak-easy part.  We didn't go up to the second floor (accessed through a door made to look like a bank-vault, and only via reservation), but I am over the pretentious of secret passwords and hidden rooms.

I am not sure I've had better service in all of my dining experience.  Either that, or our lovely tow-headed server (who also happened to make our drinks, which I think is kick-ass for a restaurant...all their servers are their own bartenders, and can therefore recommend cocktails intelligently) got me totally drunk, totally early.


I had also read that the best way to enjoy Tavern Law was to have a conversation with the bartender, telling him your precious preferences, and  some some magic concoction will appear before you.  Well, I often shy from long conversations with staff (residual politeness from days serving at a busy restaurant, perhaps?), but I offered up my likes: gin, bitters, grapefruit, etc.  What surprised me was the slew of questions he threw back at me, "Do you like aromatic or floral flavors?"  "Citrus or sweet?"  It was awesome.  But what he brought back to me was even more awesome, this pink beauty that had many layers and different notes.  It seemed to be a small nod to a gin and grapefruit juice, but with so much more.  Dare I say I tasted lilac?  It was unnamed, so we affectionately deemed it "The Lady in Waiting."  


Whatever it was, it went down fast.  As did the next three...whatever they were concocted with - god nectar for all I could tell. Even as the place got busier and busier, our server paid just as much attention to us as ever.  I even ordered a gin fizz for the first time, despite our server saying he didn't really love them, but that one simply HAD to try it.  Apparently it takes forever to make, as it's basically egg whites and cream.  It was worth the wait.


After the froie gra terrine, fried chicken, and the hamburger*, we stumbled into the night in love with our lives, that delicious gin-fizz makin' man,  Seattle, and all mankind.  Shoot, I may have even loved Lady Gaga in that moment, which just shows you how tight I may have been. The rain kissed our faces and we knew we would be back.


I think that means we are an easy date...but lord knows, after that check - we are not a cheap one.  No siiiiirrrreeee.

Go. Go. Then Go Back.

*that hamburger made me cry.  foodgasm all the way.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Showa - A Japanese 80s Bar

This summer has been relatively quiet for the hubby and I cuisine-wise.  Think ye not that we've been cooking at home, no no.  We are still spending a lot of our income at restaurants, it just seems we've been gravitating towards our familiar haunts.  Walking to local pubs, revisiting a certain famous sandwich shop, and landing at local happy hours.

Though this pattern has suited us well, it happened to be one of the worst times to stop trying new places since I just read in Seattle Met Magazine that Capitol Hill ALONE has opened over 20 new restaurants/bars this summer.  My list is growing ever-longer.  Today, I took matters into my control and scheduled us dates at a few places I've been itching to try, like here, here, and here.

Despite this reprieve, we did manage to try at least one new place that I can think of.  After work, I picked up the man in Fremont and we wandered to Showa, advertised as a Japanese 80s bar, located just above Chiso (which Joel argues as the best sushi he's had in Seattle).  We tilted our heads in curiosity and exclaimed with delight.  

We opened the place and from beginning to end, were delighted by our server, Jessica.  We were obviously engaged in some heated conversation, and she was very sensitive to our situation...not totally ignoring us, but also giving us ample space to enjoy our date.  Not only was she genuinely cool, but she took a lot of time to explain the restaurant's concept and simple but authentic menu.  The 80s were a booming time in Japan, and the owners of Chiso wanted to recreate a Japanese pub with a nod to that totally awesome time in their lives.  The music was spot on (the kind where you totally know the song, but have no idea who or what or wherefore it came - a tell-tale 80s giveaway), the food was fresh and delicious, and the cocktails were thoughtful and well-made.

(photo courtesy of

The location of this place is idyllic.  It's second-floor, open-air ambiance was conducive to conversation, people watching, and watching the maple trees move on the breeze.

On my way out, I noticed a sizeable lounge area which would be a perfect place to host a small mingling event.

Thank you, the 80s!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bastille Cafe & Bar, Ballard, Seattle

Bastille Cafe and Bar

Bastille Cafe and Bar has been on the Snob radar for several years now.  Unfortunately, the two attempted visits were unsuccessful due to the throngs of people crowding the doorsteps.  This snob and her spouse simply do not tolerate overly-populated restaurants.  There are way too many amazing hole-in-the-wall eateries to justify waiting for what will most likely be an over-crowded experience.  No restaurant does well when busy, so we decided just to wait a few years.  In addition to the crowd-aversion, several of our friends had  less than stellar experiences we put it on the back burner.

I am happy to report that it was WELL WORTH THE WAIT.

The years could have worked against Bastille.  The build-up and expectation is one of the worst things for any artistic endeavor and restaurants are no exception.

It happened just as any good restaurant experience should - with no hype and in total spontaneity.  It was a random Monday night when I picked up my husband from his work in Fremont.  I suggested we go to dinner and a movie nearby and when the 30-min "where do you want to go" black-hole question threatened to suck us in, I promptly suggested Bastille, even though I have a strong "no-Monday" opinion about eating out (if the establishment is open at all, the wait staff is usually secondary because all the primary staff is recovering from the weekend).  I had my doubts.

I'll just say it.  There's no way around it.
Bastille has the best hamburger I've tasted in Seattle.

 I went to a great french bistro with so many distinctly french options on the menu (confession: I wasn't expecting the cuisine to be so authentic) and I ordered the hamburger. 

 Least you begin to judge, the hamburger is actually quite the french delicacy (Bifteck Hache a la Lyonnaise -ground beef with onion and herbs) AND the bartender recommended it over the french onion soup and the croque madame.  He wasn't kidding. It was the perfect size, small but not pretentiously-small, cooked to perfection, drizzled with harissa aioli, topped with the brightest arugula, and smothered in pickled onions.  I am getting all emotional just thinking about it.

My husband performed his whiskey test with the bartender which is to say he told him several ingredients he likes in cocktails (almost always rye whiskey and some sort of digestive/vermouth), and told the keep to surprise him.  Oh, fellow drinkers, this can go so terribly wrong. To our delight, it didn't.  Joel ordered the house-made rabbit pâté, which came with violet mustard and pickled young fennel. and swooned over it the entire time. 

Overall we were excited about how impressed we were.  
There is simply nothing worse than spending money on a less-than-fabulous meal out.
(Which reminds me.  Don't eat in Port Angeles, Wa. Ever.)

Bottom Line
"Off with their heads!" but let them eat cake at Bastille first.

le secret snob

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Brave Horse Tavern, SLU, Seattle

Jer, Joel, Ben outside Brave Horse Tavern

The Brave Horse Tavern, aka Tom Douglas's culinary delights meets tasty brew and wine on cask, is nestled all hipster-like in the "up-and-oops-I-already-came" South Lake Union (SLU).  Though the area is not easy to get to, the parking is atrocious, and is a soulless ghost town after 9pm (Bellevue, anyone?), somehow people are still flocking to SLU for various restaurants and coffee shops.  Hell, even I go there occasionally- and I consider myself impervious to trends.

Because I am delusional.
It's my right, as a snob.

Why my husband gathered a group of 12 people to try out The Brave Horse on Cinco de Mayo is beyond me, but despite the tedious crowds - we had a great time.  

Joel playing shuffleboard

I liked the European-style seating - it seems to force interaction, which is truly what a tavern is all about.  The shuffleboard tables were an unexpected bonus (and a clever marketing idea to keep people around and drinking).  Though the outing was just to drink and nibble, the food we did have was very good.  My husband had a homemade pretzel with a variety of spreads: white cheddar and pimento spread, sour cream and crispy onion spread, and smoked peanut butter and bacon spread - all delicious!  I may have indulged in a root beer float (I'm a sucker for white-trash foods - my snob alter-ego sticks her nose up at this, so don't tell her I told you), which was very good as well.   The cocktails were decent, the home brew (Brave Horse Pale Ale) was good, and the building is pretty amazing.

Honestly, the crowd was just a bit too downtown for my taste.  Everyone kept looking around for something to start happening and although I dislike bars that are too cool, this place simply felt not happening enough.  Even with droves of people, it felt dead somehow.  If I could see past the sea of untucked dress-shirts and loosed ties, I might feel more at home.  Otherwise, I will probably leave the downtowners to their "hipster" pub.  I guess even boring people need a place to unwind.

Also, I am kind of over Tom Douglas.  
Sorry, Tom.

Bottom Line
Glad to have been, but this snob certainly won't go out of her way to return.

Eat, drink, and be merry snobs,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cantinetta, Wallingford, Seattle

grapefruit, avocado, kalamata olives, and olive oil

That there, food lovers and boozers alike, that is what I like to refer to as 
otherwise known as Cantinetta's Grapefruit and Avocado Salad.

As I gushed to all of my peoples about this surprising combination, their reactions educated me to realize the common use of citrus/avocado in Mediterranean/French cuisine.  There's nothing quite like, "yeah, I've heard of that" to take the wind out of your culinary sails. Thanks a lot for your cultured selves, friends.

All novelty aside, this dish is really rather unique in flavor.  The Kalamata olives atop add the best saltiness to that sweet avocado and citrus.  

My husband and I went back twice, both unwilling to admit that it was almost  entirely to order this salad again.  In fact, we became a bit obsessed and tried to recreate it at home. It was not nearly as good, and this is certainly a testament to Cantinetta.  The ingredients were PERFECTLY ripe and fresh (and local - well, sans the avocado - but that's just Seattle for you.  While I am 100% behind buying local, an avocado-less existence is just too much for this California-born to handle).

As to the entirety of the restaurant, I shall now gush further.

Cantinetta is a wonderfully quaint and small Italian restaurant just off Wallingford Ave.  I love that it's tucked into a neighborhood - and if you weren't looking, you would completely miss it.  

Why do I love this? 

 I love this because I am a snob and snobs love restaurants that are impossible to find.

The first time we went, we arrived at opening hour - 5:00pm and I tell you, it's the best time to go.  No one is there, the place is quiet, and the service impeccable.  It starts to liven up around 6:00pm, just about the time we finished.  

The first test was upon us.  My husband asked the waiter for a Negroni.  The server promptly told us they didn't have any Rye (which, although looks like a downside was actually a plus.  It meant she KNEW what was IN a Negroni...rare to come by in Wallingford).  He ordered some other whiskey drink and it came back perfectly made.  

The server then gave us her recommendations from the menu and we ordered the salad mentioned above, the homemade gnocchi, and a mushroom pasta dish topped with oxtail.  Oh dear lords of cuisine.  Everything was suspiciously, seductively good.  Looking back, I'm dubious of stupendous-ness.

I think I must needs return to confirm because I am just that kind of altruistic reviewer.
You're welcome.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cafe Presse, Capitol Hill, Seattle

Cafe Presse

If I lived back on Capitol Hill, I doubt I would go anywhere else for weekend breakfast than Cafe Presse.  Unfortunately for me, many other diners feel this way.  Cafe Presse does really well handling this crowd, however.  I never have waited longer than 15 minutes and since it's prime people watching (though somewhat lacking in variety - it IS Capitol Hill after all - standard uniform of arm sleeves, skinny jeans, TOMS, and greasy-chic hair), it's never felt like too tedious a wait.  Not to mention their AWESOME magazine rack in the front really helps you swallow the wait time.

I have never been for anything other than breakfast, but I've always loved what I ordered.  I typically stick with the eggs broiled with ham and Gruyère, but have occasionally ordered the croque madame.  Joel recently tried some interesting trout dish  that was a bit off-putting at first, but what ended up being delicious after a few bites).  

Bloody Mary - num.
Coffee - num.
Baguette and jams - num.

It's perfect food snobbery at its non-pretentious finest.

Bottom Line
Eat here every day, for every meal, si possible.

The Secret Snob

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fresh Bistro, West Seattle

My girlfriend and I met at The Fresh Bistro for lunch one lazy Tuesday afternoon (she was celebrating her day off; I was celebrating my life off).   I appreciated quite a few things about the place:

  1. Parking.  Thank god.  Since I am no longer a city-dweller, this is suddenly important to me again.
  2. Aesthetic.  It's the perfect lunch spot with it's bright white dinner ware, bamboo-style tables, and clean feel (I LOVE the bathroom sinks).
  3. My quinoa cake! was SO DELICIOUS.  
  4. It's dedicated to using fresh ingredients from local farmers.
The service and prices were nothing to rave about...but if I lived in West Seattle, I would probably frequent this place often for lunch dates, brunches, and lazy afternoon white wine.

Bottom Line
A nice neighborhood spot, but nothing to cross the bridge for.

Previously Stated Snobbery