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.
Over the course of his pizza-making career, Lance Brough has helped open restaurants from Little Star Pizza in San Francisco to Pi in St. Louis. Many of these have achieved acclaim—President Obama loved the meal he ate at Pi so much that he had its owners come make pizza at the White House, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.
Today, Lance dishes up both thick and thin pies at Kylie's Chicago Pizza—named after his business partner's daughter Kylie. "It's kind of a West Coast version of a Chicago-style pizza," he says of the eatery's signature dish. Though "it's not the heavy, greasy gut bomb" that diners might expect, it does have a deep-dish cornmeal crust, as well as the seasoned, chunky tomato sauce found on Chicago's famous pies. And just as in Chicago, the deep-dish creations take about 30 minutes to bake under an indigenous Midwestern dragon's scorching mouth fires. Piping pies arrive at tables clad in custom toppings or specialty combinations, including the Chicago Classic, which hosts Illinois sausage spiced with sweet fennel, as well as onions, green peppers, and mushrooms.
The staff keeps three local beers on tap at all times, including Fremont Brewing's Interurban IPA and Georgetown Brewing's Manny's pale ale. They also pour area wines, including Pacific Rim's riesling, which Lance says is consistently praised as one of the state's top wines. As they sip, guests can admire local artwork, which is swapped out every two or three months to thwart slow-moving art thieves.
A two-story, 1930s Wallingford house with a pillared front porch and white clapboard siding isn’t the typical setting for pad thai and green curry, but Djan’s Modern Thai Restaurant doesn’t have an interest in being ordinary. Inspired by the eclectic, global tastes of co-owners and brothers Tum and Lek, the restaurant prides itself on fusing East and West in both its menu and decor. Input from chefs in Bangkok and New York City helped create the menu, which tempts diners to sink chopsticks into contemporary versions of classic Thai dishes, such as wok-fried ginger beef or fried rice with pineapple and tofu. Foundational Thai ingredients—coconut milk, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, and basil leaves—still appear on plates, but they share the stage with Hawaiian-style prawns and Japanese shrimp tempura. Instead of washing down mouthfuls by drinking from a date's seltzer-filled boutonniere, diners can sip the vintages from Washington, California, and Chile that grace a hefty wine list.
Djan's decor reflects its cuisine’s multicultural influences with modern, geometric tables and backlit alcoves that give a nod to the past with lanterns and suspended silver bells. For those who would rather eat in the comfort of their own homes or need to feed a party, the restaurant also offers delivery and catering.
The first thing a visitor to La Fontana Siciliana sees is a wrought-iron pergola and gate. Sequestered just off the street and behind the gate is a courtyard filled with cozy seating, a bubbling fountain, and the entrance to the first of La Fontana's three intimate dining rooms. A single light illuminates each antique table, and waiters stroll through the rooms carrying one of the many traditional Sicilian dishes found on La Fontana's menu.
Dinners often start with appetizers such as marinated calamari or garlic bread, followed by pastas such as wild mushroom fettuccine and smoked salmon on linguine. The chef prepares four risottos nightly, and his signature dish of lamb tenderloin with figs, imported olive oil, and marsala-wine sauce can always be seen on tables. A wine list has been carefully cultivated to complement the menu's dishes, and every waiter is well versed in the best pairings.
A piano room in the back of the restaurant is constantly filled with the sound of ivories singing. The history of La Fontana Siciliana's owners lines the walls, with heirlooms from their homeland and souvenirs from their journey to America, such as a violin or the customary party hat given to immigrants on Ellis Island.
Paola Corsini taps into her Italian and Greek heritage and Turkish upbringing to create a menu of Mediterranean fare crafted with Turkish olive oils and produce sourced from the Pacific Northwest. In describing her restaurant's unique culinary fusion, Corsini states: "For generations, my family has been finding the best recipe from a variety of cultures. But, flavorful success often comes from combining them to reinvent the best."
Inside her kitchen, chefs prepare each entree from scratch, often following Corsini's generations-old family recipes. They crown grilled lamb with traditional Turkish accoutrements of mint and signature tzatiki sauce, and they toss Italian pastas with fresh pesto, sweet seafood, and seasonal vegetables. They also make every effort to accommodate guests with special diets by churning out vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, heart-healthy, and baklava-only options.
A mural of the Mediterranean Sea washes over the intimate dining room, and painted ceramic dishes and imported bottles of olive oil populate a massive wood shelf set against an exposed-brick wall. Next to the shelves, dinners sit at tables that are cloaked in red-checkered cloths and illuminated by delicate hanging light fixtures.
Decked out in retro kitsch ranging from vintage lunchboxes to video-game memorabilia, Lunchbox Laboratory celebrates the art of burgers and the culture of nerds in equal measure. Its meat-based creations have inspired both devotion and hyperbole: Seattle Times' Providence Cicero described one dish, the Burger of the Gods, as a "double-fistful of deliciousness"—a fitting descriptor for the gargantuan blend of sirloin, rib eye, and prime rib slathered in gorgonzola sauce.
True to its name, the restaurant also loves to experiment with ingredients. Another burger, the Dork, takes its name from its blend of duck and pork—Seattle Magazine calls its "one of the most satisfying burgers in the city." The burgers are backed up by signature dishes, including Hong Kong–style buffalo wings and Goldfish mac and cheese. A range of milkshakes, such as the liquor-infused Drunken Elvis, are served in laboratory beakers stolen from sleeping chemists.
Across its three locations, Lunchbox keeps diners entertained with bowling lanes, billiards, and classic '80s video games. At the 5,000-square-foot South-Lake Union location, an experimental cocktail bar serves as a centerpiece.
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