There's something perfect about lounging in a sunny backyard garden, eating all day and getting drunk. But if you're like me, you don't have a garden—you have a hallway and a closet and maybe one of those teeny-tiny balconies with no room for any springy turf or flowering bushes to take root.
Greenwood's tony vegetarian date spot Carmelita (7314 Greenwood Ave N, 706-7703) does have a backyard garden, and though it won't officially open until Memorial Day, I snuck out back and had a look. The wooden patio is smallish and square, with a shady, dapply arbor and a cozy embrace of blooms and shrubs. Back inside, a starter plate of beet ravioli ($9) is as pretty as the outdoor flora but unfortunately bland, with the chewy beet-filled pasta pillows relying far too much on a brief smear of mustard, and redeemed only by some weirdly redundant (but bracingly sweet and firm) accompanying beet chunks.
As for main courses: The vegan squash agnolotti ($18) had promise: sage oil, kale, and porcini—yum. But its diluvian pool of "spiced apple cider puree" was far too faithful to its name—like something more at home on top of an ice-creamy cobbler. Carmelita's dedication to freshness backfired with the root-vegetable potpie ($18), in which all of the eponymous roots seemed to be undercooked, and the crust consisted of two infuriatingly small triangles of herbed Reggiano puff pastry (delicious!) reclined mockingly on top like a dunce cap. My dining partner's "red, white, and bleu" pizza ($16), with creamed endive, roasted beets, Gorgonzola, and pecans, was bold and satisfying. I eyed it jealously over my crunchy Franken-pie.
Despite some iffy entrées, Carmelita has the potential to make you very, very happy if you do it right. Wait for a perfect day; sit in the back garden. Get the delicious housemade tamarind-ginger lemonade ($3.25); also get a cocktail. Eat pizza and cheese. Go for a walk and fall asleep and dream of the day when potpies have crusts again.
Hangar Cafe (6261 13th Ave S, 762-7226) is just a baby—it opened three months ago in proudly booming Georgetown—and, like a baby, it's cute and happy and it likes you. Unlike a baby, it dispenses doughnuts and has a grassy, lightly garden-y front yard. It was raining the day I visited, so I didn't get to take advantage of the little outdoor tables and their (surprisingly thrilling) view of the roaring airplanes coming and going from nearby Boeing Field.
In the cafe (which occupies a brick-red, one-story house), sturdy, mismatched chairs cluster around sturdy, mismatched tables, and surprisingly unintimidating locals make smart jokes, available via eavesdropping. It's the kind of place that makes me wish I were unemployed, so I could stay all day. Through some divine chemical collision, my turkey, brie, and cranberry panini ($6.75) tasted bizarrely like French toast (in a good way), and an accompanying salad with red-wine vinaigrette made an impression—something salads rarely do.
Hanging out at Hangar Cafe is like hanging out at a friend's house—a friend with a sunny front yard, magic sandwiches, and an airport next door. I'll be there all summer.