Every single person I talked to before my first trip to Dimitriou's Jazz Alley had two responses:
1. "How can a music lover who has lived in Seattle for 25 years have never been to Jazz Alley before? What the hell is wrong with you?"
I have no excuse. I've always meant to go, even planned to go several times, but somehow always found a way to blow it. Yes, it's expensive, and, no, I'm not a jazz aficionado, but those aren't the real issue. If my quarter century as a Seattleite has taught me anything, it's how to bail on plans with no good excuse.
2. "Oh my god, you are going to LOVE the food!"
They weren't wrong.
In contrast to the prevailing momentum of cuisine in this city, my default mode for restaurant preference will always be the steak house. This has complicated my ongoing process of meat renunciation, based on the unshakable conviction that killing animals for sustenance is both unnecessary and immoral.
Which is fine until I'm confronted with the sumptuousness of an enormous nine-ounce slab of rare New York Angus, dripping with bloody juice that mingles with a generous dollop of chimichurri and threatens to soak into the outer shore of gratuitously buttered whipped potatoes.
In the face of this option, it quickly began to feel silly to think of it as optional—regardless of the $38.50 price tag. The rest of the entrées continued in a similarly classical vein: prime rib ($38.50), sole Parmesan ($28.50), Northwest cioppino ($35.50), chile verde pork with tomatillos on red rice with tortillas ($26.50), chicken piccata ($27.50), rigatoni Bolognese ($26.50), and so on.
Risking the disapproval of my vegan date—who cheated with a magnificent wedge salad slathered in blue cheese ($11.50)—I went all in on the Angus and never looked back. The steak was Platonic perfection, tender and melty and red in the middle, dissolving magically at the merest intimation of masticatory pressure. The spuds were excellent, too. By the time the band came on, I could very nearly have reached out and offered the keyboard player a spoonful... if I'd only had a spoonful left.
We also got near enough to drunk on two rounds of generously poured liquor—old-fashioned for her ($14), Knob Creek on the rocks for me ($12)—that we were able to rationalize the abdication of our food morals on the pretext that we were essentially in Rome... which doesn't feel terribly far from the mark when you're inside Jazz Alley.
The show room feels suspended in a gloriously timeless amber (if by "timeless" you really mean 1986, when it was founded). The food is decadent. The decor is swank. The production and sound are impeccable. If you squint, you can just about convince yourself that outside those walls, Seattle is still a glorious city spilling over with human potential and a reverence for live music that borders on the fetishistic.
How they manage to remain in business despite being kitty-corner from the all-too-literal encroachment of Amazon's portentous glass spheres is a mystery, but here's hoping they find a way to stick it out for another 32 years. I should be ready to eat again by then.