After growing up on the East Coast and moving to Seattle in my 30s, my “sense” of what a decent slice of pizza probably leaned heavily towards the foldable, dab some oil off with a napkin, cooked just right pepperoni slice from one of the zillion corner pizza spots I was privy to. Having spent 3+ years in Seattle now, that’s definitely evolved and brought a better appreciation for pizzas of all shapes, sizes and styles.
Something I quickly found when arriving in Seattle was a predilection to consider pizza “good” if it cost $13-18 and had good ingredients. It’s still the case, and most restaurants are fairly deserving of being considered pretty solid in this area. That said, I’ve been absolutely shocked when the only “high end,” craft pizza, so to say, that people have had is from Tom Douglas’ Serious Pie. Hell, I gave it four stars in a Yelp review back in 2010 (and would still bring friends and family there) but after exploring no less than 7-10 well-crafted spots that have pizza in town, Serious Pie should definitely be visited, but it’s not the dominant player that people might perceive it as given the play it gets. (Also: location, location, location)
For me, not much of that similar “style” beats Alibi Room, all things considered – price, quality of ingredients, location, and so forth. Their Andouille sausage and peppers ($14.50, or about $7 on happy hour) would beat Serious Pie’s fennel sausage, peppers and provolone 10 out of 10 times in my experience. Aside from the fact that the HH / lunch portion is about the same size as the “full price” Serious Pie edition, there’s just something different about it, down to the tomato sauce can your pie is set atop at the bar. Plus, it’s always surprising as getout to people that Alibi Room rocks a pretty good set of pizza pies.
Personal favorites aside, though, there’s a whole lot to enjoy about Seattle pizza, even if you’re just trying it all out to trash talk your friends on “your style” or what your particular neighborhood favorite does with the crust. Some people like to order in their Pagliacci, others dig Zeeks, but has anyone outside of Cap Hill made their way to Hot Mama’s? After a fellow resident at the building I’d moved into found this gem, I had my New York-ish style pizza haven, just a few blocks’ walk. If that, or the late-night stylings of A Pizza Mart don’t get your pre-hangover blood flowing, you can always get in line and hang for Delancey, which was a meal I really enjoyed. This could turn into a crazy listing of pizza places, and I most certainly didn’t set out to create any sort of comprehensive list, just wanted to share a quick POV on what’s been a curious bit of exploration.
Net-net, while people like to trash talk the [insert food] scene in Seattle for just about any option, my advice would be to keep your eyes open, and don’t just stick with the crowd – or, in cases like Delancey, avoid the rumors in an effort to be a contrarian.
One of the hurdles that appear during an effort to do a lot of one activity or another, from dining out to exercising is the ease of getting into habits – good or bad. In the case of exercise, it’s not challenging your body to the levels you need to continue progress rather than maintaining, and with enjoying the fruits (and vegetables, I don’t discriminate) of others’ labor in the restaurant business, it’s quite easy to stick to your favorites and not explore very often. [ed: First world problems, I know.]
Generally speaking, we’ve made an attempt to regularly pick a few new places to try, whether at home in Seattle or while traveling, just to mix it up and keep solid perspective on what’s out there. This doesn’t always mean trying the gleaming, shiny object restaurant that just opened in the next neighborhood, sometimes it’s about heading to a neighborhood classic that perhaps you’ve overlooked or heard not-so-great things about. For weeks now, my #1 choice on this particular list of “go somewhere new” spots has been Tanglewood Supreme in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood.
Hence my being thrilled when on Friday night, I was treated to a great meal organized by my dining partner in crime Brittany, who scored us an 8p reservation at the counter, in prime view of the kitchen [photo: right]. As owner Kent Chappelle was nice enough to talk us through after dinner, his goal was to have a neighborhood seafood spot that was a great value and didn’t fit the same mold as some others in Seattle. To his point – and which a lot of us would agree – this is Seattle, shouldn’t we be able to have a fantastic seafood meal that stands out, every single time you have it? We have access to amazing fish and produce – and talent – and making sure it stands out, all the time, is something that came off as important to Chappelle, and most certainly his staff, including sous chef Tyler Johnston and chef Jeffrey Kessenich (more on the spot in this Seattle Met piece by Allecia Vermillion from last fall).
The restaurant has an appropriate number of seats for its space, and didn’t at all feel cramped when we arrived and it was fully seated just before our appointed reservation. The counter / kitchen area seated six, I believe, and was full for the better part of our meal. Overall, it’s a combination of booth seating, European-style “longer” tables, the counters, and so forth. We’d highly recommend dining at the counter if you can secure a spot. [ed: Thanks to Chris Nishiwaki for the pointer there!]
The menu is, in my opinion, one of the more well-priced in town, portion size, experience and vibe all included. As a relatively picky eater (cheese, as some of you might know, isn’t really my thing), it’s the first time in awhile that I’ve gone to a restaurant and would have been disappointed to order any selection. We contemplated the $40(!) tasting menu for a bit, but were in the mood to mix-and-match, and did so for pretty much the same cost. We’ll definitely go back to give it a whirl, however. As Hanna Raskin noted recently in Seattle Weekly:
Nor are prices ratcheted up to announce artistry, or account for it: A seven-course tasting, drawn directly from the menu, is a remarkably reasonable $40. While there’s plenty of deliciousness available, dinner at Tanglewood is always presented as a meal, not an event, which is probably why the restaurant languished for months without much online love.
But there’s nothing wrong with a restaurant that doesn’t mug for the cameras (or make a noisy fuss about the eaters armed with them).
Our only real criticism of our meal might have been the pace. While we didn’t go with the fixed-price option, we were seated directly aside Kessenich’s view, and given that the window was right next to our seats, were caught slightly by surprise once while completing a course by the next one approaching. That’s not to say we weren’t on our final bite (or two), but perhaps we got spoiled by the insanely well-paced experience we had at The Herbfarm on Valentine’s Day.
We started with a grilled albacore crudo, which was served with beets, frisee and hazelnuts, along with steamed edamame, garnished with pink peppercorn and Murray River salt. That was followed by an heirloom lettuce salad [photo: right] ($6) which came with a pretty awesome, and lighter-than-expected sunflower brittle, while Brittany chose the asian pear and red quinoa ($6).
For our mains, we went with the Hawaiian blue prawns ($22), which adorned grilled polenta and featured turnip greens and a grapefruit nage, and the Alaskan Weathervane scallops ($24), served with naan puffs that even usual non-carb eater Brittany raved about. As the above-mentioned Raskin piece notes, Tanglewood Supreme has a relatively limited liquor and wine selection, but don’t let that dissuade you, or have you in a tizzy like this guy. The corkage fee is $15 (!) which is an absolutely fantastic value, especially given that most of us locals make a point to have a bottle or two (hundred) sitting at home. We brought along two selections, ultimately going with a 2000 Torciano Cavaliere IGT that’s been calling our name for awhile. After about 15-20 minutes of air, our wine opened up nicely, and meshed well with most of our meal, considering we brought it as a bit of a wildcard. Oh, and if you drink red wine and are planning on having dessert here, save some.
For that final course, we went with a goat’s milk cheesecake, completed with warm asian pear and apple and candied cilantro, along with the chocolate cake crowned with a ginger-orange coulis [photo: right]. Did I mention the red wine with chocolate dessert? A super solid finish to a well-portioned, never-overwhelming meal.
We spent about ten minutes chatting with Chappelle about the restaurant, the Seattle food scene, and some of the behind-the-scenes in putting Tanglewood Supreme together, and enjoyed his perspective and motivation for opening the spot. If you’re looking for an atypical seafood-focused meal in Seattle, this might be just what you’re looking for.
About a week ago, we had the good fortune of scoring a last-minute open table at LloydMartin after randomly stopping in to take a look at the place and check out the menu. While this detour took us off our intended dinner path for the evening, it had great results. The room has ~14 tables, I believe we were told, and the bar and seating area are all situated in the same physical room, with a pretty good vantage point of the kitchen no matter where you are. It was well-lit and just the right amount of buzz for diners close to the 8pm hour.
We were quickly seated along the wall (there are tables along the front window as well) in a deuce that was reminiscent of The Stanton Social and a lot of the French-style restaurants on the east coast (and in Europe, to be absolutely clear). Just close enough to your fellow diners to make it interesting, but just far enough apart to give a comfort level. This is a major different I see in Seattle (and a lot of left coast restaurants) vs. NYC and thereabouts, and this spot handles it well. But enough about the space, on to the food.
We ended up having a 2006 Cotoval Tempranillo, leaving the bottles we brought on our own for another night (corkage was $30, FYI) as there were some super options on the wine list. I started off with the beef tartare, [photo:right] served with rye toast and a pickled salad.
Having gotten in a habit of trying the ahi in a lot of places, it was a fun switch to try a beef small plate, and the LloydMartin preparation was traditional and unique all at the same time. Definitely enjoyed it. Brittany had a bibb salad (as mentioned in the Tuesday Take, which I described as “the best plated salad that I’d seen in Seattle to date) that included blue cheese, dijon bacon and honey poached dates.
We were happy to see that, as the night grew later, the few reopened tables in the room were quickly filled with guests (including the tables to our left and right). There are most certainly people who enjoy a nicer meal in Seattle, but on the whole, we’ve found a lot of places to become a bit slower once 9pm rolls closer. And, with Betty and LloydMartin in the same area in Upper Queen Anne, I suppose I’ll be getting my angled parking on a bit more in the near future.
Moving on, we had the rabbit ragu – gnocchi and apple cider vinegar foam [photo: right] and short rib ravioli, a hugely creative mix of sunchoke puree, escargot, foie gras and truffle that most certainly gave me the baller status order, even though that wasn’t my intention.
Both dishes brought fantastic flavor, and as mentioned in the Tuesday Take, there was just enough “foodie” in the dishes to create some intrigue, yet I wouldn’t think twice about bringing a friend, colleague or family member to this spot to try something new. I found myself attempting to create little blended forkfuls of sunchoke, ravioli, truffle goodness, and found the portion [photo: left] to be perfectly appropriate given the ingredients, price and restaurant.
Did we mention there was dessert? LloydMartin offers a solid selection of cheeses, along with a number of fun options for the sweet tooth ones in your party. They offer a fun (and random…did I mention random) huge waffle with ice cream, but we went with a cheese option and the cracker jack cake [photo: right].
Needless to say, the cracker jack cake has secured a place in my dessert-appreciating heart.
Overall, we were really pleased with our experience, from the moment we walked into the door. Really nice ambience, a super good crowd of people that weren’t one age or demo or another, staff that seemed to really enjoy themselves, and a great meal. Would highly recommend visiting, and they did note that you sometimes need to book a reservation for weekend nights about a week in advance, though you can always try and sneak a table, obviously. You can find LloydMartin on Urbanspoon if you’re so digitally inclined, as well.
We had a pretty busy last week, and here’s what we saw:
LloydMartin – we managed to score a table here on a Friday night by luck and luck alone, and letmetellyousomething…from the hostess at the door talking us through the menu and showing us the space to the amazing service front-to-back, we were verging on shocked. We’d heard a number of pretty smart, solid things about this restaurant, but had never made the trip. Truth be told, need to get a bit better at leveraging Urbanspoon AND OpenTable, rather than mostly the latter aside from phoning in reservations. We’ll have a “First Impressions” on this spot later this week, but if you find ourself looking for an amazing dinner that’s just as much “foodie” as it is “approachable,” then this might be a spot for you. I’d noted that their bibb lettuce salad [photo: right] with dijon bacon, honey-poached dates and bleu cheese was the best plated salad I’d seen in Seattle to date, and I meant it.
Ma’ono – Yep, had to go again this past weekend. The chicken nuggets on french toast is just fantastic, and the regularly-updated quiche is popular for a reason. Just go here.
Place Pigalle – we’d gone here using a recent local deal, as it’s in a prime location in Pike Place Market, and we hadn’t been in to check it out. Really dig the location and layout, and we scored a great table by the window overlooking the Elliott Bay (and the Great Wheel). We tried the mussels, which weren’t totally my style in preparation but were as good as promised, and the crab cakes were pretty good, and a nice portion. All in all, have trouble with the value/price of this spot (among others) when you’re comparing them to others in a similar quadrant, cost-wise, even if they don’t have the sights and sounds of the Market as part of the backdrop. I never mind factoring in the cost of a location to the cost of a meal, but when the food’s fairly average, it makes it hard to justify coming back.
Agrodolce – we tried this for a second time, and thought it was solid as well. Didn’t “thrill” as much as the first time, although the arancini is a favorite of mine in Seattle right now. Had a seafood risotto, which was done well and a nice portion. Will keep going back, and really enjoy what Maria Hines and team are up to.
Sully’s – huge props to the awesome folks at Sully’s for scoring us a couple of seats at the bar for the Super Bowl on Sunday afternoon upon our foursquare request. Really enjoy this space – good crowd, nice selection of bar food options and it’s well-priced all around. Certainly a new fave, especially to get a bit of sports action on.
On Friday night, we (finally) had dinner at The Coterie Room in Belltown. We’d put it off a number of times for a number of factors, including a menu that, in my opinion, seemed to be priced pretty high, probably some sort of belief that it would never top the visits to the space’s previous tenant, Restaurant Zoë, and a mediocre experience at SPUR, the neighboring McCracken Tough spot. With less than a week left on a solid Amazon Local deal that Brittany Tracy had scored, it was as good a time as ever.
We made reservations for 8:45 on Friday night via OpenTable, and stopped for drinks on the way over, as we were ready to head out well before our reservation time. It was a pretty buzzing crowed in the restaurant when we arrived, and our table wasn’t ready just yet, so we headed to the bar for a glass of bubbles. Upon being informed that the Jaillance Vin Mousseaux wasn’t available, we ordered another bubbly option, and were soon greeted by the hostess and shown to our table – a solid option near the window, in a corner. [ed note: I'd make more of a big deal about the fact that when we asked about our initial wine choice, we were told it was "like Champagne," which is a fascinating description...but I'd be merely be foreshadowing what was to come.]
Our server was, to sum it up, either in the weeds or simply in a rush. All the time. You know when someone’s upper body is front of you but clearly his or her lower half is beginning to walk away? Yeah, that. So we waited a few minutes, I managed to accidentally tip over one of our flutes (it was quickly replaced with a new glass, props to the hostess for my miscue), and at some point, our server arrived. She was polite and nice, but in a rush to take an order or something. Not really sure what. We asked to open our bottle of wine (2006 Mark Ryan Winery “The Dissident,” photo: right), and were helped with another member of the staff, who was super happy to open our bottle and provide us with a decanter.
Ultimately, we chose to go with a three-course option that included beef carpaccio, the fish of the day (cod), and we selected different desserts – a pear galette and a pudding cake. For me, the dessert was my favorite. The carpaccio and cod, while built from super good ingredients, were lackluster, in this diner’s experience. Honestly, I have the same issue with The Station in Woodinville, when it comes to how it’s actually cooked. Great toppings and overall ingredients on the pizza, but I find the actual final product “meh,” though the beer options are super fantastic – and I’ve eaten there three times.
For this visit to The Coterie Room, I wanted to try a number of things here after hearing absolutely nothing but amazing things about this spot and SPUR from any review online and from a lot of others in town. Ultimately, I think our meal was all coming in with some huge expectation based on reputation, leading downhill to a well-created, but frankly flat, experience from the moment we sat down. If a place opened last week (or last month) I might expect that, because kinks are being worked out, but not from a place where the entrees range from $24-48 or thereabouts and not from a place that gets four solid stars on Yelp over 150+ reviews – just not great QPR. We most certainly didn’t eat at the restaurant all those people are raving about.
At this point, I don’t see any reason we’d go back. If someone can convince me otherwise, I’d be happy to hear them out, but after a “meh” SPUR trip and a wildly “meh” meal this time around, it’s not worth my money or time. On the other hand, we’ll continue to visit Tavern Law and Needle & Thread, as both have provided some of the better cocktails in town.