After graduating from college with a degree in English literature, Amy McCray received a gag gift from her father: a spatula that she could use to flip burgers while searching for jobs in her field of study. Amy ran with the joke. She attended culinary school and worked her way up through various kitchens' ranks before opening Eva Restaurant with her husband, James Hondros, in 2001.
Chef McCray's job still involves analyzing structure and composition, albeit in the form of the flavor combinations instead of literature. Her creative menu of refined New American cuisine regularly incorporates classical French, Mediterranean, and South Asian influences. Although she occasionally looks abroad for new ideas, her major sources of inspiration are the vibrant produce and all-natural meats available locally.
What the Experts Say
A Wine for Every Dish
Chef McCray's husband, James, assumed the responsibility of creating Eva Restaurant's eclectic, yet accessible wine list. Familiar wines made from Columbia Valley grapes appear alongside bottles from France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and even Greece. To help simplify diners' search for the perfect wine served by the bottle, glass, or water balloon, the restaurant's menu also features a seasonally rotating list of the staff's favorite wines.
A pair of restaurateurs opened Pair Food & Wine so they could pair local and organic food with local and imported wine. The meat and dairy on the seasonal menu comes from Washington farms, and the produce might even come straight from Pair's back garden, harvested by the tiny farmers who live behind the sidewalk planters. While the wine list is lengthy, the bar-food menu is short, containing just a snack-size handful of dishes. "But each one," wrote the Seattle Times in 2009, "falls in line with Pair's penchant for making simple dishes elegant."
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.
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.
Clever Bottle's mixologists and charcuterie chefs source local gourmet ingredients from Pike Place Market for a menu of appetizers, libations, and desserts. Crafted in-house, a selection of bitters house-made with bluebell flowers, chocolate, and the personality of sunshine adds spice to the ever-shifting menu of cocktails. The wine list, which is made up of 98% Seattle varietals, serves as a flavorful guide to the many local wineries that populate it. Abundant candlelight sets a romantic tone for quiet dates or proposals that involve serenading a sweetheart with a champagne flute.
Where to Sit: Grab a seat at the large community dining table for a more social experience. There are also smaller tables for enjoying intimate meals beneath the coppery glow of a tin ceiling.
When to Go: The community table tends to set a tone for an animated dinner service. However, the mood relaxes a bit if you show up later in the evening.
Inside Tip: An oft-changing menu gives the chefs the flexibility to accommodate most dietary restrictions. Let your server know if you have any special needs.
Croquettes: breaded and fried Spanish fritters, most commonly stuffed with ham but also available in meat, seafood, and veggie varieties.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Play lawn bowling alongside Green Lake (located at the southwest corner of the lake).
After: Catch some live music or sing live-band karaoke at Nectar Lounge (412 N. 36th Street).