Chef George Rasovsky draws upon his Czech heritage and arsenal of European spices to elevate his menu to gourmet realms. His dishes spotlight fresh herbs, organic produce, and top-quality proteins, such as free-range chicken, Atlantic salmon, and filet mignon, as well as rich sauces inspired by French and Mediterranean cuisines. The chef also curates an extensive wine list that includes red, white, and organic selections from Europe, California, and Argentina. This fusion of Southern charm and European elegance extends to the dining room, which occupies a restored historic home outfitted with umber hues, exposed brick, and a dark-mahogany tapas bar.
Inside butter-yellow walls and an array of eclectic contemporary art, Octane Coffee & Cocktails sates meal-seekers and laid-back loungers with light dishes and coffee-laden drinks from its full bar. Espresso enthusiasts can warm stomachs and enliven casual conversations about the state of their periodic-table-of-elements-inspired rock band with a decadent caramelissimo ($3.15–$4.15) or another balmy beverage from the extensive coffee menu. Entire edible excursions from Octane’s lunch and dinner menu can begin with a warm helping of mushroom brie bisque ($3–$4.50), satisfying on its own or with any of a number of fresh sandwiches ($6–$7.50). Gourmet specialties abound, as piquant peppered bacon surrounds sweet scallops alongside sautéed fennel spinach ($14), and peach coulis and southwestern corn merge with the pecan-encrusted chicken ($9). Weekends at Octane hold a special thrill, from the Friday and Saturday evening appetizer menu to a Sunday brunch that’s soundtracked with live music.
Thai Heaven enraptures palates with a plentiful menu of authentic dishes served in a stylish, exotic setting. Color-coordinate outfits with traditional specialties such as green curry—a spicy concoction of bell peppers, green beans, basil leaves, and bamboo strips—and mild yellow curry, with potatoes and onions ($7.74+ lunch, $10.50+ dinner). The drunken noodle entree—rice noodles fried and stirred with jalapeños, onions, bell peppers, and sweet basil—weaves enticingly around the room before stumbling headfirst into diners’ mouths ($7.74+ lunch, $10.50+ dinner). Thai Heaven's Virginia Avenue location complements cooked fare with a wide-ranging sushi menu, allowing mouths to house fishy inhabitants such as the Super Crunch, tempura topped with smoked salmon and eel sauce ($8.50), the spicy tuna roll ($8.50), or pieces of nigiri and sashimi ($3.95–$6).
Joe Friday's Brick Oven Pizza imbues its menu with the flame-licked Italian flavor of brick-oven pizzas, savory pasta, and more. Hand-tossed dough sets the stage for Joe Friday's signature New York–style pies, amusing rows of teeth with performances from freshly shredded cheese and tap-dancing tomatoes. Pizza architects design five specialty discs, including the feta-cheese-bearing Hawaii 5-0, a noncontiguous dough coastline housing canadian bacon, pineapple, and mozzarella ($4.25 for a slice, $19.75 for a large). An extra dose of mozzarella oozes atop The Joe Friday Special, hiding pepperoni, sausage, beef, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives beneath its cheesy canopy ($4.75 for a slice, $22.75 for a large). Guests can customize circumferences with two dozen topping options, or corral ingredients inside calzones, such as the Just the Facts calzone ($8.75), which blunts hunger with four meats, melted mozzarella, and fresh garlic. Incisors can sink into a variety of hot subs ($7.50) or savor sausage or four-cheese ziti pasta ($6.50).
Partners II Pizza’s expansive menu bursts like a bag of flour with gourmet pies, over-stuffed calzones, specialty sandwiches, and scrumptious pasta dishes. Guests can strategically arrange toppings such as fresh mushrooms, spinach, pepperoni, and jalapeños ($1.20–$2 each) on a doughy disc ($6.75–$14.50+) for a masterpiece that rivals Dali. Diners can also dig into the potato specialty pizza ($10.50 for small; $18.50 for large), which boasts a sour-cream base layered with bacon, green onions, cheddar cheese, and enough potatoes to starch an astronaut’s uniform. Nonpizza fare includes the Caesar salad wrap ($6.99), chicken parmesan hoagie ($6.29), and lasagna layered in fresh ricotta, mozzarella, and meat sauce ($7.25).
For many vegans, eliminating animal products is a decision made in young adulthood, a break from the traditions they were raised with. Not so for Plum Bistro head chef Makini Howard—she was brought up eating vegan from infancy, but it hasn't changed her welcoming, flavor-first approach to her food. As she explained to Eco Stiletto (who caught her catering a dinner party thrown by Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix), “We want to make sure you don’t miss the meat.”
Seattle Weekly has concurred that the restaurant "sets an inspired and flavorful table for all," naming Plum the city's Best Vegan Restaurant of 2012. Its philosophy of accessibility means that the huge array of organic produce on the menu—root vegetables, purple cauliflower, trumpet mushrooms, seasonal fruit—takes forms that will be familiar to foodies of all stripes. There are gourmet burgers that pack their protein punch via jerk tofu and oven-broiled lentils; steaks of breaded portobello and herb-grilled seitan; and handmade pastas with sauces as rich and creamy as any made with dairy. A local favorite is the Spicy Cajun Mac ‘n’ Yease, a piquant take on a classic nutritional yeast–based cheesy sauce.
Servers bear the generously proportioned dishes—accompanied by beer, wine, and cocktails made from gin and even kombucha—into a dining room fronted by floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the sidewalk in the summer. Its rustic hardwood floors and tables fit right in with the gorgeously repurposed Piston & Ring Building, an automotive manufacturing building constructed in 1926. Once they leave, diners dazzled by their meals can replicate the dishes with help from Makini’s cookbook, with pages of innovative vegan dishes that provide an alternative to casseroles made from all the lunches left behind in the office fridge.