Are you a foodie? Do you have 48 hours to spare in Seattle? When it comes to packing in the edible highlights of any city over a brief visit, Fancy Frites Janine and Taylor know what they’re doing. So here are our top picks and recommendations for your next layover, Anthony Bourdain-style.
1. Drinks and Snacks On Arrival
When a friend or family member doesn’t get into town until late on a Friday night, it’s often difficult to get motivated to go out somewhere fun, show them a piece of your city, and get some good food and drink while you’re at it. Add in the fact that Seattleites notoriously drink and dine late, and it’s nearly impossible to get into any decent restaurants in the downtown core or trendy capitol hill without reservations (most of which don’t even offer resers on a Friday or Saturday night). That’s where bars like Vito’s in First Hill come in.
What’s been described as the perfect mix of 80’s gang bar with well-crafted classic cocktails (and the added bonus of live music), Vito’s is the place for locals to hang out on a weekend night, no reservations needed. Though it may be packed there’s always a spot up at the bar where they’re serving up decent food but even better drinks. We ordered two Manhattans, garlic cheese bread with marinara sauce, the Vito’s meatball sliders, and the pulled chicken pizza with garlic, feta, and tomato. The sliders were fantastic; the meatballs were moist and meaty, with a delicious marinara, cheese, and a crusty slider bun. The pizza we likely wouldn’t order again – though the toppings were good and the flavours worked, the crust was too thin to really call this a pizza at all. The garlic bread is something we’ve tried before many times, and though the bread itself is nothing to write home about, the same marinara used on the sliders is here as a dipping sauce, and it is so delicious. The perfect balance between acidic and sweet, with a hint of smokiness.
The drinks are on a whole other level here, with expert bartenders crafting the classic cocktails nobody knows how to make anymore. They execute a perfect Manhattan, and Janine later tried the Ward 8, a whiskey-based cocktail with lemon juice, orange juice, and grenadine. She thought it was very refreshing, and the perfect drink to finish off the night.
2. Breakfast – Pastries and Coffee
We started the next morning with a gym session and protein smoothies, but obviously that’s not really blog-worthy so we headed to Crumble & Flake for the best french pastries in the city. Owned and operated by the former pastry chef of Canlis, Crumble & Flake specializes in those truly unique classic french pastries that any other typical patisserie won’t carry. We kept it simple with a kouign amann and canelé each.
Next was a stop for coffee at the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.
Janine had a cold brew coffee and Taylor (the non-coffee drinker) opted for the chai latte. Janine found it hard to tell if the cold brew was good because they put too much ice in the drink, diluting the flavour. Taylor has previously reviewed the chai at this particular Starbucks as being significantly heavier in spice notes than a typical Starbucks chai. Not for those averse to strong spice flavours, but if that’s your jam, then it’s a great option.
As we have done at other coffee shops before, we bought our beverages, and then decided to enjoy our Crumble & Flake pastries while we sat there with our drinks. The manager didn’t seem pleased at all with our decision; she came over and pretty passive-aggressively asked us what was wrong with the food they offered at that Starbucks location that wasn’t as good as what we had brought. Obviously we asked if there was a policy against bringing outside food in to eat with our drinks – had there been a policy like that in place we would’ve gladly put our pastries away and eaten them later. However, she said there wasn’t, and since we’ve both done this and seen others do this in Seattle before, we genuinely didn’t see the problem. We were clearly paying customers who just decided to also have small and relatively inexpensive food items from elsewhere. Unfortunately the manager persisted in questioning our decision to bring other food in despite their lack of policy to the contrary, which effectively ruined the experience of this new Starbucks location for us. Though Taylor’s prior experiences here have generally been good, the attitude of that manager was enough of a deterrent that she will likely not bring people here again.
3. Pike Place Market
After breakfast and a change out of our gym clothes, we were on to the Pike Place Market. Since we’ve both been there many times before, we didn’t bother with walking through the actual market but instead we beelined straight for the massively popular Beecher’s Cheese Shop. Janine needed her semi-annual fix of Beecher’s Mac and Cheese, which she describes as some of the best she’s ever had. It’s one of the market’s tourist traps that is actually worth stopping for. After getting our cheesy fix, it was on to Rachel’s Ginger Beer for a refill of Taylor’s growler.
Rachel’s Ginger Beer is an awesome concept, with a soda shoppe like concept devoted entirely to ginger beer. It’s a spot that appeals to the hardcore ginger beer fans, and even those who are iffy on the whole idea, with their full range of seasonal and special flavours.
Their most popular flavours include Pink Guava, Blood Orange, White Peach, Hibiscus, and many more. For the ginger beer die hards there’s their regular ginger beer, and their “Xtra” for those who like it spicier.
This time we went for the seasonal Honeycrisp Fennel, which was refreshing with the sweet apple, and a really subtle hint of fennel. We both agreed that it was a good savoury flavour that didn’t hit you with an overbearing sweetness.
Lastly, we ventured one block south to Fran’s chocolates to pick up some of their classic salted caramels. President Obama describes these as his favourite Seattle treat, according to The Examiner. They’re super melt in your mouth, and best enjoyed if you place it salted-side down on your tongue and just let the caramel and chocolate melt onto your palate. They make a fantastic locally produced souvenir gift to bring home.
4. Melrose Market
After some brief shopping, we headed up to the Melrose Market in Capitol Hill to grab some charcuterie and cheese for an afternoon snack. Rain Shadow Meats and the Calf and Kid will always be Taylor’s go-to to construct the perfect charcuterie and cheese board.
Starting from the top left corner and working clockwise, we went with Nashville Dave’s Tennessee Terrine, a pork-based terrine with an infusion of Jack Daniel’s. We found this mild in flavour, and couldn’t really taste the Jack Daniel’s. What we loved the most about this terrine was that it wasn’t over-salted, and served to compliment the cheese rather than stand out on its own. Next was a strong, ashy and smokey goat’s cheese wrapped in fern leaves. This cheese is for the type of person who loves an in-your-face, almost bitter tasting cheese. Taylor had some quince jam on hand, which loaned a nice sweetness to tame the flavour of the cheese a bit. Beside the goat’s cheese was a strong aged cheddar; we were looking for a manchego, but the varieties they had available weren’t bold enough for our liking. The cheddar paired well with the terrine and the Paris Ham, made from tails and trotters from hazelnut-fed pork. This wasn’t over-salted either, but was more delicate like a brined and boiled ham rather than an intensely salty proscuitto. Lastly, we tried the Lamb Crepinette, a spiced patty of ground lamb wrapped in caul fat.
We opted to pan fry it in a cast iron skillet on low heat long enough so that the centre was still slightly pink and the outside developed a nice deep brown crust. It had a nice spicy heat to it, and paired well with the goat’s cheese. We’d love to go back for more of the Lamb Crepinettes, to serve pan fried like we did atop some kind of farro risotto.
5. Hangover Brunch
After our charcuterie and cheese snacks we were off to a law school event, of which there wasn’t anything noteworthy we ate to write about here, but our hangover brunch was certainly worth a post. We’ve been participating in various Gastropost challenges sponsored by the Vancouver Sun, The Province, and the Calgary Herald. This week’s challenge for the Calgary Herald was “Celebrate Spring”, so we decided to develop a bread pudding recipe using hot cross buns, recipe to come on the blog.
6. Afternoon Oysters and Appetizers
After brunch, we relaxed for a bit before heading up to Ballard for some oysters at Walrus and the Carpenter. We went for a mix of oysters from BC and Washington, in a variety of flavours from sweet and mild to strong and briny.
The Malaspina and Effingham oysters were clean and sweet tasting, while the Block H and Baywater Sweet oysters were definitely more on the briny side. We also ordered their steak tartare and the sauteed moustard greens. The steak tartare is always reliably good here, a bit on the salty side but tender in texture.
We both enjoyed the fact that they don’t add too many filler ingredients here, leaving the flavour to be more about the pureness of the beef. The moustard greens really wowed us, sauteed in a brown butter sauce with preserved lemon and tons of shaved parmesan cheese.
We loved the interplay of flavours between the richness of the butter, the acidity of the lemon, and the saltiness of the parmesan. Definitely would recommend this dish to anyone who visits Walrus and the Carpenter while it’s still on their menu.
7. Cider Tasting in Capitol Hill
As two non-beer drinkers, Janine and Taylor wanted to cross a cider tasting in Seattle off their bucket lists. Capitol Cider is a great place to go, with a large variety of ciders on tap both locally produced and sourced from abroad.
We went with the option of a 3 cider tasting flight; Janine tried the “March Meadness” flight offering 3 types of mead, while Taylor opted for the “Continental” flight with 3 types of American-made cider.
Janine thought the Raspberry Mead was the highlight of her flight, with a fresh tartness from the raspberries. Taylor liked the Farnum Hill Dooryard 1310 cider, and thought it had the cleanest apple taste. We also got a small taster of a few of the other ciders on tap that week, and were really surprised (as beer haters) by how much we loved the “Hops and Stems” cider, which incorporated a subtle hint of hops as well as fragrant and tart notes of rhubarb. We definitely would return here to write a dedicated post about Capitol Cider, in order to further explore their ciders on tap and their wide menu featuring a lot of the ciders in their recipes. It’s a great place where beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers alike can go to enjoy a drink and some great food, where there will always be varieties of ciders to suit someone’s palate.
Honorable Mention goes out to our bartender that night, who was so passionate about all things cider and willing to share his cider wisdom with us as we sat there chatting to him. We didn’t get his name, but if he’s there when we re-visit Capitol Cider, we’ll definitely be sitting at the bar with him again.
8. The Dinner Out that Didn’t Happen
We had made reservations for dinner at Terra Plata, but it was a few minutes into the cider tasting that Taylor discovered she had developed an allergy to oysters.
We’ll spare everyone the dirty details, but a review of all the amazing fare Terra Plata has to offer is available on this blog. Since Taylor spent the remainder of the evening curled up on the bathroom floor while Janine ate some very average sushi (apparently everything good is closed on Sunday night in Seattle), we figured there wasn’t much left to write about here. However, if you find yourself looking for a great dinner spot on a Sunday night, both Capitol Cider and Terra Plata are noteworthy options in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood.
Janine’s overall impression of our 48 hour foodie tour is that Seattle is a city where the cuisine is adventurous and really pushes the envelope. There are so many diverse little areas of the city worth exploring beyond the typical downtown tourist traps, offering restaurants with dishes you may not see anywhere else. Stay tuned for more Seattle restaurant reviews for even more great recommendations around the city.