Three New Places I Would Totally Go Back to If I Had Limitless Time and Stomach-Space
So. Many. New. Restaurants. In. Seattle. It is overwhelming. Just in the last couple months, six new restaurants have opened on Capitol Hill alone. Six! Plus two pop-ups! By the time you read this, there's probably a seventh—Freddy's, a hamburger place from the owner of Rancho Bravo (his name is Freddy). And it's happening all over town: more and more and MORE places to eat food. Local food blogs put up posts like "The 47 Most-Anticipated Restaurant Openings This Summer."
As a human professionally obligated to keep up with all this, I need another stomach, or maybe a wholesale clone (she would live such a good life!). Meanwhile, there are places that get tried, then lost in the shuffle—good neighborhood places, places with really nice people working there, ones that it's a shame to leave never mentioned just because they don't have a name-brand chef or a trendy menu.
Here are three new restaurants I tried recently that I would totally go back to if there weren't 47 other new places waiting.
6031 Airport Way S, 397-3821, georgetownbrass.com
Brass Tacks is the sister and next-door neighbor of Ground Control, the Georgetown sandwich shop and bar with the model airplanes that everybody loves. Brass Tacks feels like an upscale roadhouse—it's welcoming and odd, with shuffleboard among the tables and a baby doll smoking a cigar in a big birdcage. Strings of lights make the rough-around-the-edges stuff (and the people among it) look romantic and fun, the kind of party you'd see through the slats of a fence and want to crash. If someone from the outside had come into Georgetown and made Brass Tacks, they'd have been excoriated for appropriating the neighborhood's unaffectedly mismatched, reclaimed, weirdo style; as it is, it seems pretty much perfect.
The woman who seated us was a marvel of human interaction—so genuinely, immediately nice that you felt like family—and the rest of the service was low-key and just right. (This is a silverware-in-jars-on-the-table kind of place, as any Georgetown restaurant besides the Corson Building probably should be.) It happened to be the night of HONK! Fest—the annual convergence of multiple marching bands on the streets of Georgetown—and a jazz band was playing on Brass Tacks' corner stage, loud enough that we had to shout a bit. It still felt like a refuge.
The menu is a familiar fancied-up comfort- food one: house-made pickles, poutine, a Painted Hills cheeseburger, macaroni and cheese with house-smoked brisket, half a Mad Hatcher chicken. It was a hot night, so we skipped the pork fries (pork belly that's breaded and deep-fried—really!) and the heavy stuff. The deviled duck eggs ($6) were great, each with a little chip of crisped ham and a cornichon lodged in the creamy yolk. The Oregon lamb sliders ($12 for three) were tasty on their springy little brioche buns, but needed more horseradish/citrus aioli for kick and sauciness. Jerk chicken thighs ($11) were limey-spicy-good. Then we ate vegetables: a delicious, unwieldy, grilled romaine version of a Caesar ($10); roasted artichoke ($9, with white beans, arugula, and radish, all good but not really integrated); and grilled asparagus ($8, with pea vines, fennel, and pancetta, same deal).
Beardo chef Chris Opsata will roast you and your party a whole suckling pig if you order it ahead of time; he would probably love to do it.
421 E Thomas St, 427-1745, restoseattle.com
Do you remember the Thomas Street Bistro: somewhat liked, mostly reviled, and finally—unbelievably—kicked off Groupon due to customer complaints? Resto is in the same Capitol Hill spot, and spot is the word for it: It seems like it used to be the entryway for the apartment building above. There's a miniature outdoor seating area, three booths, two tables, and the world's smallest open kitchen. If there are loud people at Resto, you will know it; hopefully, they'll have French accents, like our loud people did.
"Resto" is Montreal/French slang for "restaurant." Resto's menu has a nominal Quebecois bent, evidenced by poutine (here called "poutini," maybe after the Toronto restaurant?) and moules frites. The chef/owner lived in Montreal while on a 10-year break from restauranting; before that, he ran the Front Porch in Snoqualmie and some places in Richmond, Virginia. He was assisted intermittently in the kitchen by the goofily gallant, completely lovable server (who also makes the pie, which I feel mean saying was just okay).
First: an amuse-bouche (yay!) involving planks of cracker and roasted grapes, which was odd but kindhearted and charming, much like Resto overall. And generous: Resto's beet salad ($8) had a chunk of chèvre on it that was practically bigger than the restaurant. The beets were very good, as was a small plate of crispy-fried oysters ($7), presented thoughtfully and prettily with little heirloom tomatoes and arugula. The lamb chops, in the lollipop style (three for $21), were excellent: richly flavored and exactingly cooked, still pink, warm, luscious. The "Eggman Pasta" ($12), purportedly containing olive oil, garlic, parsley, thyme, and capers, was plain in the extreme, like boxed spaghetti made by a particularly incompetent hungry drunk person in the middle of the night. Luckily, we had lots of leftover chèvre and heirloom tomatoes to mix in, to great improvement.
Everything else was at such a higher level, it seems like the Eggman debacle must have been a mistake. I would absolutely give it—and the rest of Resto's short, happily uncomplicated menu—another chance.
1216 Pine St, 623-8226, lacocinaoaxaquena.com
La Cocina Oaxaqueña has filled the Capitol Hill space of that pho place across from Machiavelli that was always sadly empty. Walking to the restaurant in a torrential downpour, I got a text from my waiting friend: "There is a noise in here that I'm not sure I can deal with," she said. But one of the kind and solicitous people who work there rushed to open the door for me as I dealt with my umbrella, and another of them had already moved my friend from the problem, which is an isolated area beneath a vent near the door. (It does make a soul-vibrating sound; don't sit there.)
The space is a little strange; there is so much glass that paranoid people who prefer to sit with their backs to the wall will be hard-pressed to do so. But, again, everyone is so nice, and the house margaritas are made with fresh lime (and only $7). The carne asada tacos ($6.95) were in the upper 20th taco-percentile, with subtly seasoned meat, fresh cilantro, and bits of onion in cushy homemade tortillas. A side of beans ($2.50) was also much better than most, in the preferable soupy style. And the camarones al mojo de ajo ($11.95), a large number of very fresh-tasting shrimp, was really, fearlessly spicy-hot—the hottest version I've ever had. I didn't have a knife, and they never noticed and got me one, but I was so involved with my shrimp, fork, and spoon, it didn't matter.
One of the owners of La Cocina Oaxaqueña used to be a manager at the famous/great La Carta Oaxaca, which will open a Capitol Hill branch just a few blocks up Pine Street this fall. The new La Carta will be approximately equidistant between La Cocina Oaxaqueña and the really good Fogón. So much Mexican food. But La Cocina Oaxaqueña might end up being your favorite, and you won't know if you don't try.