The chefs at BluWater Bistro elevate classic comfort food by working mainly with premium, largely local ingredients. Take, for instance, a BLT—reinterpreted with additions of Pacific Northwest king-salmon fillet and pesto mayo—or a burger ascending to gourmet status with layers of Tillamook cheddar spread over wagyu beef raised on pastures near the Snake River. BluWater Bistro's owners strive to match their chefs' quality and creativity by giving each waterfront location a refined yet cozy aesthetic, surrounding diners in large windows, fireplaces flanked by leather furniture, and flat-screen televisions that play more interesting shows when they sense lulls in conversation. The Green Lake establishment also extends to an outdoor patio. The kitchen staff continues sending out dishes from the full menu as late as 1 a.m. every night of the week and shows up early on the weekends to prepare brunch.
It bills itself as an espresso bar that’s “the cure for your weekday,” but Café Weekend offers much more than tasty lattes. To pair with cups of Caffe Vita espresso and organic coffee, the staff serves light lunches on weekdays and pastries on Saturdays. A selection of nostalgic penny candy and chocolate bars add a sugar rush to your caffeine fix.
The co-owners of Café Weekend also run a multidisciplinary studio, and as such the café doubles as an atelier (French for “workshop”). At the Hiawatha Lofts that sit above the café, artists, poets, and performers hone their crafts in dozens of studios. Back on street level, the café’s in-house craft room often hosts hands-on workshops, and a bookshelf inspires the creative spirit with selected books, alternative comics, and free copies of The Stranger and Vice.
Along with curating the workshop space, Café Weekend hosts a variety of neighborhood events, from block parties to flea markets to community food drives. It also ships in treats from local purveyors. The seasonal selection of wagashi, a traditional Japanese sweet, comes from Seattle confectionary Tokara—a shop that makes intricate Kyoto-style wagashi.
“You’ll be a born-again Thai food fan after tasting the bright, fire-cracker version [of pad thai]” said Seattle Magazine about the dish created by husband and wife team Poncharee and Wiley Frank. But the magazine–-which named Little Uncle the Best New Restaurant of 2012––didn't stop there. "The food dances on the palate, shot through with lime, zinging with vinegar, with the heat of chiles tamped down by coconut milk or soft, steamed jasmine rice." That Little Uncle should win such venerable praise from Seattle's foodie community is even more awe-inspiring considering the restaurant's long and winding road to the top of the food chain. A trip to Thailand first inspired the Frank’s endeavor into authentic Thai cooking, and they spent the next two years perfecting their street-style food with a series of pop-up restaurants and a farmers market stall, before permanently setting up shop at a take-out joint in Capitol Hill. Aside from that signature pad thai, they're also serving up dishes like braised beef cheeks, which are served stuffed into a steamed bun to make them 'walker friendly" and keep grandmas from pinching them.
Where to Sit: The newer Ballard location boasts expanded counter seating along a 40-foot bar (cutting down on notoriously long wait times), as well as an outdoor patio.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Capitol Hill location: Thumb through the tomes at The Elliott Bay Book Company (1521 10th Avenue), an independent shop with a 40-year history.
Ballard location: Pick up some new or used vinyl at Sonic Boom Records (2209 NW Market Street).
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.
Though billed as a bakery, Borracchini’s has expanded its offerings to include much more than just colorfully frosted cakes and cookies throughout its 91-year history. At the full deli counter, glass cases brim with mortadella, prosciutto, and provolone, which the staff assembles into sandwiches and pizzas. Shoppers can create their own Italian feasts at home after perusing a small grocery selection of olive oils, wine, pastas, and sauces. Boracchini’s bread menu also bears a Mediterranean accent, exhibited in loaves such as the rosemary parmesan toscano. But none of this distracts the bakers from making their own sweets from scratch. Each morning at dawn, they craft nearly 20 kinds of donuts and breakfast pastries, as well as pies that range from tangy lemon meringue to savory mincemeat.