We’ve finally returned! On our last visit to Capitol Cider, we were so blown away by the wonderful ciders and service that we knew we had to come back, and dedicate a proper post to this Seattle gem. Located right in the heart of Capitol Hill, you may (as I did for nearly 3 years) walk right by this place and never stick your head in once. I’m so glad Fancy Frite Janine talked me into our last cider tasting here, it’s quickly become a favourite place to bring friends for a post-study drink or four.
The interior of Capitol Cider is your typical Capitol Hill trendy hotspot, with that tasteful mix of casual/industrial that so many places have accomplished. However, they’ve now added a sidewalk patio, taking advantage of the rare outdoor space Seattleites love from Spring through to Autumn. Luckily we got a spot on the new patio last Friday night, where we enjoyed a laid-back night of great drinks and even better food.
First thing’s first: we said it before, and we’ll say it again – the cider flights they offer (3 ciders, 3oz each for $14) are generous for the price, and give you the perfect introduction to various types of ciders without the commitment. As soon as we sat down I immediately recommended the flights to my guests, which they gladly took advantage of. My one friend got the more locally produced flight, featuring ciders from primarily Washington. As mainly a beer drinker, she enjoyed the Yakima Valley dry hopped the most. Perhaps one of the things I appreciate most about Capitol Cider is their commitment to incorporating a wide variety of ciders on tap, ranging from dry and hoppy for the beer lovers (who, let’s face it, are a little hesitant about the whole “cider” thing) to the sweet, classically crisp apple.
Another friend opted for the selection of Oregon ciders, again ranging from slightly dry and crisp all the way to a fruity, berry concoction that turned out to be her favourite (the Cider Riot on the right).
I went for the Anthem Chili to start, thinking it would be a classic apple cider with that remaining hint of heat that warms your throat. I was totally wrong, but still really enjoyed it; the Anthem Chili is a far less sweet, and perhaps more savory cider that somehow tastes like all the flavour and none of the angry heat was perfectly extracted from a chili pepper. For the Canadians reading this, I almost wondered if it wouldn’t somehow make the perfect Caesar.
As for the food, I’ve had only good experiences with what they offer. Boasting a properly gluten-free kitchen, Capitol Cider still cranks out those ideal dishes featuring farm-fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. I’m adding in some food pics from a previous visit that we didn’t write about, because these dishes were worthy of inclusion.
Going places with a vegetarian friend is always a bit interesting. Some restaurants really nail the veg-only dishes, while other places relegate them as an after thought in the “side dishes” column of the menu. Capitol Cider makes some fabulous vegetarian and pescetarian-friendly options, especially the above grilled asparagus. The asparagus had that perfect charred-almost-burnt-but-not-quite smokey taste, while still preserving the natural freshness of it, sweetened with a light drizzle of maple syrup and balanced with a light pinch of flake salt.
We also ordered the smoked salmon crostini (from the happy hour menu), with spring greens, radish, and a light aioli. Now, I’m pretty picky when it comes to salmon. I like it cooked, and I like it hot-smoked (ie. fully cooked), but I can’t handle it cold smoked, like a lox or a gravlax. It’s probably mostly a texture thing. So naturally, I initially wrote off this crostini as something for the pescetarian to eat, while I’d order some other things containing meat. I was really pleasantly surprised that they used hot smoked salmon, which honestly I thought worked perfectly with the other ingredients. Next time if I make it for Happy Hour, I’m getting two orders of these.
Moving forward to our most recent visit, I think I can say without being overly offensive that my friends had a more….”basic” palate. And I don’t mean basic like the kids say these days, I just mean less adventurous. Probably also because we were all in study mode and craving carbs, we ordered the baked potato croquettes, the fries with stone ground moustard aioli, and just to push their boundaries a bit, I ordered the calamari. Wild, I know.
The baked potato croquettes were everything we could hope they’d be; little balls of gorgeous mashed potato, seasoned on the heavier side with pepper (which I love), bacon, and cheddar cheese, served atop a smearing of light, tart sour cream and green onion. These are what you eat when you “just need carbs”. Because sometimes you do.
I feel like there’s only so much you can say about fries, these ones were great – not soggy, not mushy, nicely fried and crisp. The thing that makes these fries worth ordering, however, is the stone ground moustard aioli. I’m really not one for the whole mayo on fries, or usually even aioli and fries, but I make two exceptions: (1) Brasserie L’ecole in Victoria, and now (2) Capitol Cider in Seattle. I could probably eat several portions of this all by myself without flinching.
The calamari was the one item that was almost the star of the show. The flavour was unreal, with hints of cumin and the toasty sesame seasoning the dish. Just being nitpicky, but I personally prefer my calamari to have more of a crunch from the coating when I bite into it. The lime slices didn’t really function to be squeezed over the dish, so we were also left without that added citrus element to balance the whole dish out. However, I’d still gladly order this again just for the flavour alone, and the calamari itself was really fresh and tender.
We finished the night off with a few desserts to share – the blackberry creme brulee and the buttermilk cheesecake. The creme brulee was perfectly executed, creamy with a fresh blackberry layer at the bottom. We demolished it in what seemed like a few seconds. The buttermilk cheesecake surprised us, with a rhubarb compote on top and a crust of primarily sliced and toasted almonds. Very rich, and we loved the unique crust, rather than just your typical graham crust.
Lastly, a note about our stellar service needs to be added in. Both on our first visit and on this more recent one, we’ve been served by outstanding staff who go above and beyond to make sure we were well looked after. Our server this time around was attentive without being overbearing, and always ready to provide recommendations based on the criteria we gave him. Needless to say the service alone is reason to come back over and over again, which I plan on doing for the rest of the summer.