At Ship Canal Grill, chefs give a nod to local cuisine with a menu largely composed of seafood from the Pacific Northwest. Though plates such as the salmon pesto and honey-walnut prawns dominate a good chunk of the menu, according to Thrillist(http://gr.pn/MKhCeh), turf-based dishes such as the Overboard lamb sliders with caramelized onions and aioli “pack a punch." The eclectic fare also encompasses petite pizzettas and Mediterranean dishes, which pair neatly with the creative cocktails or wines from a huge drink menu. But the eatery's decor inspires just as much intrigue as the edibles.
Bare light bulbs and rotund pipes hang overhead in homage to an industrial design, complemented by 20th-century construction-era photos from the Museum of History and Industry. An open loft looks out over the main dining area, aglow with candlelight and ringed with tan and periwinkle. At the lower-level bar, a bridge of wrought iron holds miniature vehicles over a marble countertop as light seeps in from tall windows.
In the loft, flat-screen TVs and one large projection screen broadcast games, and the billiards room hosts good-natured competition, as patrons unwind over a game of pool, darts, or dodge-darts. A steady string of events keeps other customers entertained: trivia on Tuesday, standup comedy on Wednesday, and live bands on Friday.
While guests ogle the boats and kayaks passing by outside, Chef Manual Frias stays in the kitchen, cooking up inventive takes on American comfort food. He seasons New York strips with house-blended rubs, smothers meatloaf in bourbon mustard glazes, and stirs bacon, pulled pork, and prosciutto into his aptly named three pig mac and cheese.
To complement each hearty dish, the tenders of Eastlake's tiki bar pour local microbrews and whip up tasty cocktails like the John Daly, a blend of lemonade and wild tea-flavored vodka. Though the deck and patio are seasonal, the dining room, complete with its own bar, is open all year. Here, rounds of trivia test knowledge every week, while flat-screens TV show the day's biggest sports games or rowdiest congressional boxing matches.
Forgoing silverware often indicates bad manners or a brutish disposition. That isn't the case at Abay Ethiopian Restaurant, where eating with you hands is not only customary, but required. That's because they serve their cuisine in the traditional Ethiopian fashion?on giant communal platters accompanied by heaps of Ethiopian injera bread instead of forks. Diners use the spongy flatbread to scoop up portions of meats, lentils, stews, and spiced vegetables from the shared platter, partaking in a dining experience firmly rooted in community and fellowship. On select nights, though, this traditional Ethiopian experience gives way to a party, replete with tune-spinning DJs and a fully-stocked bar illuminated by fuchsia and turquoise lights.
Louisa's Café & Bakery stresses the importance of community through its commitment to using local ingredients in its housemade dishes. Cooks prepare baked goods from scratch each morning using Shepherd's Grain flour, their beef comes from Painted Hills in Oregon, and produce is sourced from Carleton Farms. The café's robust brunch menu includes comfort-food favorites—biscuits and gravy, grits and eggs—alongside more inventive dishes such as seafood omelets with local dungeness crab, Oregon shrimp, and avocado. Seafood items seep into the dinner menu as well, via shrimp creole in a spicy tomato broth. Other dinner entrees include brown-sugar pork chops and turkey-bacon melts. The restaurant cultivates a relaxed vibe, equally as welcoming for a family brunch or a romantic dinner date. Mismatched chandeliers hang from the ceiling, illuminating a collection of filigreed frames, mirrors, and vintage knickknacks.
Before you visit one of Portage Bay Cafe's three restaurants in person, it's not a bad idea to check out their blog. That‘s the place where the chefs announce their daily specials, the dishes that will supplement their seasonal menu of sandwiches and all-day breakfast plates for the day. Of course, whether the kitchen is preparing slow-cooked rabbit confit turnovers or pork bolognese, there's no question the dishes will taste impeccably fresh. That's because the restaurant is particular about where it gets its food. Ingredients come almost exclusively from local producers—the grains from Bluebird Farms, the meat from Painted Hills Natural Beef, and even the beer from a small brewery in Ballard. The restaurant also operates a catering spinoff that serves upscale hors d'oeuvres such as lamb sliders, artisan cheeses, and fig and goat cheese tartlets. And because the cafes are only open for lunch, each is available to host private events or grown-up slumber parties in the evening.
The friendly baristas at Tea Republik brew up piping-hot, loose-leaf teas in exotic flavors beneath the thatched roof of a mock interior bungalow. Intricately woven wicker chairs, bamboo accents, and vibrant glass pendant lamps further the teashop's tropical appeal, transporting guests to distant islands as they sip Japanese sencha, Egyptian chamomile, and rich rooibos teas. As guests lounge on a sumptuous brown leather couch using the café's free WiFi, the baristas mix oolong, white, herbal, and spicy chai teas with fruit or cream per each customer’s order. Drinks easily pair with the café’s selection of snacks such as iced poppy-seed loaves and breakfast sandwiches. All of Tea Republik's café teas are also available to take home in loose-leaf packages.