Saturday, August 04, 2012

Seattle Food Quick Hits

Several nice meals in Seattle.  A quick review of four of them.  This is pretty long, so I'll continue below the fold.  In the meantime, here is the YYM at Safeco.  Mariners have overcome their sadness at losing Ichiro by playing their best ball of the year.  Pretty fun, beautiful place.

Food reviews below...

1.  Honey Hole. Capitol Hill.  Painfully self-absorbed web site. Also Stranger review.  I've never seen any place like this, but then I'm no hipster.  Guy at the register has a truly rococo mohawk, doesn't really make eye contact, but is nonetheless genuinely friendly.  (No, I'm not sure how, but he was.  A nice guy, in an interplanetary sort of way).  You walk in, at 1:30 pm, it's still more than completely full.  Crowd ranges from suits to people who would embarrass the rococo-mo guy as being "too crazy."  There is "Tiki Bar" theme that is carried through just enough to ensure you know it's intended ironically, in some deeply self-referential sense. The sandwiches are genuinely fantastic.  I had "El Guapo," a vegetarian delight with toasted bread, lots of cheese and sauce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices.  Handsome, indeed.  Bread is great.  One reason it's so crowded is that it takes 20 minutes, or more, for the sandwiches to come out.  But you can spend that time watching the crowd.  This part of Capitol Hill is very active and energetic.  Tiring, for an old guy like me.  But great sandwiches.

2.  Brave Horse Tavern.  Lake Union.  Ironically retro web site.  Stranger review.  You'll need your yuppy prophylactic, the full body type.  This is what Raoul calls "Darkest Peru," because it is the headwaters of the Amazon empire.  Amazon (either principals or the company) own everything around.  It's clean, it's nice, it would be hip if it weren't all so clean and nice.  BHT is quite good, though, and manages to poke a little fun at its own genre.  For example, the big fat fresh-baked pretzels come with dipping sauces.  MANLY dipping sauces.  Onion and sour cream?  Sure, common.  Peanut butter and bacon?  Yes, I'm serious.  There is a peanut butter and bacon dipping sauce.  It doesn't seem to contain anything except the two headline ingredients, but when you think about it, the combination of micro-brew beer, pretzels, and a decent-sized vat of peanut butter-bacon dipping sauce is a corner solution in the linear programming problem that we like to call "life."  That's just an optimum, and there's no way around it.  I had a pitcher of the weizen, and no eyebrows were raised.  ("A pitcher?  One glass?  Yes, sir!")  TG had the big burger, I had the veggie burger (a first rate veggie burger, one of the best ever, and I have that a lot).  We also had the fried "Wisconsin Style" cheese curd.  Fried cheese curd, swimming in grease drippings:  that will cut through a lot of yuppie-town bullshit, even in darkest Peru.  I liked this place a lot.  Outside tables, good service.  And our waitron recognized TG as an ex-professor of hers.  This was quite funny, because TG is a pretty distinctive guy (the black cowboy hat, for starters), but she didn't recognize him until it was time to figure the tip...

Women should likely stop reading now.  The next two are ex-food truck places, where the guy was so successful he thought he would make a minimal commitment to a "building," but didn't really carry through.  So these are both "food truck with less atmosphere" spaces.

3.  Rancho Bravo.  Capitol Hill, by the park.  No web site.  Stranger review.  LeBron's Law rulz, man.  This former KFC preserves all the original charm of that food genre, with no colors changed.  Not sure it has been thoroughly cleaned, either, outside of the kitchen.  Kitchen:  looks quite clean.  Dining room:  Not so much.  No sign outside, no way of knowing where it is if you don't already know.  Except:  There is a line out the door.  To summarize:  1.  Looks nasty.  2. No sign  3. Line out the door.  LeBron's Law says...check it out.  I had the tacos de lengua de vaca, the YYM a burrito.  Taco comes the way it should:  two slightly warmed corn tortillas, half a handful of meat, some onion, radish, cilantro, and a slice of lime.  If the meat's good, its all good.  I also had a burrito, wet, after the cow tongue disgusted the YYM.  The "salsa bar" is some plastic pitchers.  Great salsa, not very nice pitchers.   Lunch for $10, and it's good.

4.  Callozis.  Pioneer Square.  No web site.   Stranger review.    The review calls it a hole in the wall, making it sound a lot nicer than it is.  More like a grotto.  Another demonstration of the food genius that is LeBron: when it comes to good food, atmosphere sucks.  If a place can have negative atmosphere, this is it.  The tables are dirty and broken (seriously), the chairs don't match, and there is nothing on the walls but odd ads taped up haphazardly.  The cheesesteaks, on the other hand, are magnificent.  You take a bite, you get that 1,000 yard stare:  Wow!  That's good!  The bread is fantastic, the meat is far too bounteous for what it costs ($8! For a sandwich so huge and overstuffed two normal people could easily split it. Crazy).  And then there's the fixin's bar: a warm glass vat of pickled cherry peppers, bottle of ketchup, and several bottles of fiery chili paste.  Perfect.  I will go back to Callozis every time I visit Seattle, if I have to crawl.  It's five blocks from Safeco, and it's perfect for a pre-game meal if there are no women in your party.  The owner/operator, Al Callozi, never met a stranger.  Fortunately, my answers to the "What the f*** is wrong with Pujols? Why did he leave?  Whatever happened to f***ing loyalty?" were satisfactory, and I got to stay.  Within 3 minutes, Al was yelling, "Hey!  St. Louis:  waddya think about DIS?" on arcane baseball subjects.  (The YYM and I were both wearing Cards regalia).  Great guy, running around like a nut, service fast.  I wouldn't call it courteous, since you have to shout back at him so he can hear over the frying meat and fries, but certainly friendly.

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