It all began with a chowder competition. Shortly after Larry Mellum and his business partner opened Charlestown Street Cafe, pretty much everyone in the kitchen was convinced they had the ultimate chowder recipe. So they decided to put each version to the test. Every Friday, they let customers sample a different chowder recipe and gave them the final say in which one made it to the menu. The smooth-as-silk winner––a creation of one of the kitchen's line cooks––became so popular, people from all across Seattle would come to wait in line just for a taste. Inspired, the restaurant decided to take the recipe on the road, entering (and winning) chowder competitions up and down the West Coast. But the real victory happened 3,500 miles away in Newport, Road Island. There, Mellum and company's chowder took home the grand prize at the Great Chowder Cook Off––the first non-New England contender to do so in the competition's 20-year history. After taking home the grand prize three years in a row, and being inducted into the chowder hall-of-fame, the recipe officially retired from competition and now spends the majority of its time watching golf. When it's not in the kitchen, that is. Today at Pike Place Chowder, guests can taste that award-winning chowder––made using freshly picked vegetables and herbs from Pike Place Market––or sample one of seven other chowders, including a smoked salmon chowder, seared scallop chowder, and a vegan chowder. For those who hit their chowder limit, there's also dungeness crab rolls flavored with top-secret seasonings and fresh salads topped with Oregon Bay shrimp, while a second location in Pacific Place Center has earned a following for its made-to-order fish 'n chips, made with either Pacific cod or wild salmon.
Old School Frozen Custard is fiercely protective of the frozen custard tradition. With locations in Capitol Hill and Fremont, the company has churned out its smooth and creamy products in the Puget Sound area since 2007. Here are a few scoops of info to nibble on when you visit.
Frozen custard has less calories than ice cream. That’s because it’s made fresh daily in a special machine using natural and high-quality ingredients—this, fans say, is why it tastes so much better than traditional ice cream.
The idea itself isn’t completely original. Before opening, Old School consulted with some of the most popular frozen custard shops in the Midwest, including Kopp’s and Leon’s in Wisconsin. That insight inspired Old School to source local ingredients and make its products fresh daily.
Staffers scoop custard into cones or cups. Or, you can order it as a “concrete,” which is a blend of frozen custard and your choice of mix-ins, toppings, and syrups.
Traditional flavors anchor the menu. Vanilla bean and chocolate are always reliable, but new flavors, such as peanut butter and chocolate or mountain blackberry, pop up daily throughout the month.
Old School custards can be found at certain retailers. That list includes all Metropolitan Markets, where you can purchase it by the pint and finally begin surrounding your house with that custard moat.
Forget lengthy lists of hard-to-pronounce preservatives?each batch of Empire Ice Cream starts with a base that contains just four ingredients: eggs, evaporated cane juice, and cream and milk from Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy. From there, the ice cream makers simply fold in extra ingredients to make various flavors, relying on local providers like Hayton Farms, who supply the berries for the shop's raspberry and strawberry ice creams, or Stumptown Coffee, who delivers the ground espresso beans for Empire's coffee-flavored ice cream. There's even a unique bacon-flavored ice cream made with real pieces of local, natural bacon, as well as a s'mores ice cream loaded with house-made marshmallows and real vine-ripened graham crackers. Brownies and cinnamon rolls from Eat Local are also available in the shop, and sometimes make their way into decadent sundaes.
It wouldn't be too surprising to spot a gnome eating dinner at Root Table, or an elf sipping a cocktail at the bar. After all, this Ballard eatery looks like something from a woodland fairytale. Each table and chair is hewn from the natural wood of gnarled tree trunks, and shades of sage and burnt sienna cover the walls.
Root Table's menu follows the same whimsical, earthy style. Chefs bring together elements of Thai, Indian, and American cuisine in shareable tapas such as hearty root-vegetable fries with spicy ketchup or curry corn fritters with chili-peanut sauce. They prepare heartier entrees, too, such as a wild-caught salmon curry named the Best Thai Curry in Seattle in 2012. Mixologists put just as much thought into the drink menu, which includes craft cocktails and wines delivered from a forest vineyard by a friendly centaur.
It's hard to go back home after a trip to Full Tilt Ice Cream, unless your home also happens to be an ice cream shop, a pinball and video arcade, a live music venue, an art gallery, and a bar. Founded in White Center in 2008 by imaginative duo Ann Magyar and Justin Cline, Full Tilt began as a humble artisan ice cream shop, where all creamy deserts were created from natural and local ingredients and walls were decorated with works by local artists. When a friend suggested they add a pinball arcade to the already popular shop, Magyar and Cline thought it was a grand idea, and the public obviously did too—before long Full Tilt blossomed into a franchise of neighborhood hangouts. And the food and fun isn't just aimed at kids either: Full Tilt also serves a diverse range of Northwestern beers and caters to the cultured masses with crafted music mixes and live performances.
Cherry Street Coffee House displays local art, hosts live music, and holds events at each of its locations. Steam rises from blends of house coffees, forming the shape of perfume bottles that spritz the cafes with the aromas of Brazil nuts and dark cocoa. A medley of coffee beans from Papua New Guinea and Central and South America flavor the signature espresso, which guests can enjoy in between bites of house-made breakfast bagels, quiche, pastries, sandwiches, soups, and salads. Cherry Street's kitchen staff supplies a list of ingredients, highlighting which vibrant dishes are vegan, contain dairy and nuts, or plan to transform into dairy and nuts.