The inside of ViaVita Café & Wine Bar traces the timeline of a single day. Floor-to-ceiling windows cast morning light onto a display case of pastries and cheeses—an addendum to the counter that bears morning coffee orders. Nearby, granite-topped tables sit far enough apart to suggest an open, Parisian patio, but close enough together to support a cross-stream of chatter over lunchtime sandwiches. The day ends on the other side of a semicircular wine bar. There, walls wearing distressed paint encapsulate a rustic alcove, where hanging plants and Greco-Roman-style pottery evoke the dining room of a hillside villa.
The decor and seasonal menu at ViaVita Café & Wine Bar champion a European-flavored escape, where diners can stop at any time for a meal, a snack, or a glass of wine. From the crepes and omelets of brunch—served with duck-fat potatoes and chocolate-orange butter—to afternoon paninis and dinners of pan-seared Alaskan salmon, meals realized by imaginative chefs spark and fuel long conversations. Imported and domestic beers, as well as wines from small vineyards on multiple continents, complement the diverse bouquet of flavors and pair especially well with cheese and charcuterie boards. During special events, guitar music acts as a soothing soundtrack for bites, and sommelier seminars instruct patrons on how to age libations without sending them to PG-13 movies alone.
A lion's head stands guard over the brick oven at Pizzeria Guido & Wine Bar, bearing its fearsome jaws at any who would try to pilfer the restaurant's family recipes. Thankfully, the only way most diners attempt to gain insight into the establishment's Tuscan traditions is through the food. Slivers of buffalo mozzarella, basil, and fresh tomatoes accent antipasti plates in the colors of the Italian flag, and the wood-fired oven spills forth the aromas of prosciutto, capers, and fontina cheese topping pizzas and filling calzones. Glasses of Italian wine click together in the halos of steam rising from pastas. Waiters move through the spacious dining room, and their white dress shirts and smart red ties complement the wall's gentle orange and yellow tones, which call to mind the warming glow of a sunset or a haunted ventriloquist dummy finally burning.
A pair of restaurateurs opened Pair Food & Wine so they could pair local and organic food with local and imported wine. The meat and dairy on the seasonal menu comes from Washington farms, and the produce might even come straight from Pair's back garden, harvested by the tiny farmers who live behind the sidewalk planters. While the wine list is lengthy, the bar-food menu is short, containing just a snack-size handful of dishes. "But each one," wrote the Seattle Times in 2009, "falls in line with Pair's penchant for making simple dishes elegant."
In 1992, restaurant owner Carlos Kainz and chef Julie Guerrero first joined forces to open a tiny West Seattle bakery and café, a spot that quickly gained traction and outgrow its modest trappings. The duo packed up the winning operation and moved on to a larger space and a larger vision, renaming their venture Dulces Bistro & Wine and crafting an ambitious menu focusing entirely on Latin-fusion cuisine for dinner. Although Guerrero traces her family heritage back to Mexico, many of her dishes, including paella valenciana and boeuf bourguignon, show strong European influences. Unadulterated Latin staples pepper the menu, such as the green chicken enchiladas that serve as a staple in Mexico City and at Sam I Am’s Cinco de Mayo parties.
At Poco Wine Room, the influences come from near and far. More than 20 wines available by the glass represent wineries from the Pacific Northwest as well as locales such as Italy, Argentina, France, and Spain. The origins of the food are just as eclectic: the monthly rotating menu may include Albondigas—pork-and-beef meatballs in a tomato piquillo sauce—or orange-chicken skewers topped with crushed almonds, which chefs favoring local ingredients whenever possible. Even the beer list spans the globe, with brews such as Pike Place IPA and Tieton Wild Washington cider sharing billing with standbys like Red Stripe.
After graduating from college with a degree in English literature, Amy McCray received a gag gift from her father: a spatula that she could use to flip burgers while searching for jobs in her field of study. Amy ran with the joke. She attended culinary school and worked her way up through various kitchens' ranks before opening Eva Restaurant with her husband, James Hondros, in 2001.
Chef McCray's job still involves analyzing structure and composition, albeit in the form of the flavor combinations instead of literature. Her creative menu of refined New American cuisine regularly incorporates classical French, Mediterranean, and South Asian influences. Although she occasionally looks abroad for new ideas, her major sources of inspiration are the vibrant produce and all-natural meats available locally.
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A Wine for Every Dish
Chef McCray's husband, James, assumed the responsibility of creating Eva Restaurant's eclectic, yet accessible wine list. Familiar wines made from Columbia Valley grapes appear alongside bottles from France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and even Greece. To help simplify diners' search for the perfect wine served by the bottle, glass, or water balloon, the restaurant's menu also features a seasonally rotating list of the staff's favorite wines.