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.
Antlers, wooden beer barrels, and exposed stone walls line The Lodge Sports Grille’s interior, where a bar crafted from rough-hewn wood shines like a showpiece. Behind it, custom wooden shelves stocked with top-shelf liquor and more than 70 beer taps drilled into stripped logs tempt thirsty patrons. The decidedly lodge-like feel of the restaurant spills over into the menu, which features hearty fare such as half-pound burgers, beer-battered halibut, and steaks aged for 28 days or placed in a time machine and sent 28 days into the future. Along its 40-foot solid maple bar top, patrons lounge sipping fresh, housemade sangria while viewing 60-inch flat-screen televisions which can be viewed from all angles of the house. Those eager to unwind in more natural surroundings may admire the roaring flames of The Lodge's double-sided stone fireplace during daily happy hour sessions and beyond.
There's a revolution happening in Woodinville, Washington. There's no violence though, unless you count the stomping of grapes. Home to hundreds of boutique wineries, the region is beginning to rival Napa Valley as the United States' biggest wine producer. Woodinville sits at the same longitude as France's wine country, allowing for optimal adult-grape-juice production and the ability to wear a beret with dignity. Barrel Wine Tours, a co-op of Woodinville winemakers, takes guests throughout the community on tours of the distilleries and wineries of these passionate part-time vintners. On a luxury coach, participants ride to four distilleries or wineries, and three-course lunches and wine pairings occur during each tour.
Meet the Chef: David Varley came to locally focused cooking quite organically—when he was a child, his mother grew vegetables for their family and local restaurants, and he contributed to the family table by hunting and fishing.
While You Wait: Keep an eye on the Last Bottle board—modeled after arrival–departure boards posted in European train stations, it displays wines that are just about out of stock and their considerably discounted prices. Groups have been known to order from it just for the fun of watching the letter tiles clack as their chosen bottle is removed from the board.
Mortadella: a large Italian sausage made from minced pork interspersed with cubes of fat, pistachios, and black pepper.
Sunchokes: also known as Jerusalem artichokes despite being a member of the sunflower family, these crunchy tubers taste similar to water chestnuts.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Get slowly and deliberately caffeinated with a coffee tasting at Seattle Coffee Works (107 Pike Street).
After: Stop for a scoop of gelato or sorbetto at Gelatiamo (1400 Third Avenue), open until 10 p.m. weekend nights.
Who's in Charge: the Varchetta family: brothers Leo, Salvio, and Roberto, plus their parents, Melina and Pasquale. They set the vibe, adhering to an "Our house is your house" mantra.
Who's in the Kitchen executive chef Maurizio Milazzo, whose classic Italian training began—where else—in Italy. Chef Milazzo moved to Seattle in 2006 after cooking for several years on luxurious crew ships.
Escargot: cooked land snail; a traditional appetizer in France.
Grappa: a grape-based brandy that originated in Italy and is made from the fermented remains of the winemaking process.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: The Varchetta family owns and operates several other Italian restaurants around the city, including University District's Mamma Melina.