I love reading negative reviews on Yelp, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, etc., especially restaurant reviews for places I've enjoyed eating at. A feeling of self-righteousness fills me: well, I had a good experience there. You must have done something wrong, ordered incorrectly, or just plain don't have good taste if you didn't enjoy it. My favorites are things like, "I went to a super popular brunch place on Sunday at 11 am and we had to wait forty-five minutes even though the hostess told us it would be forty minutes!!!! One star!!!" or "There were no healthy options at [restaurant known for its decadent menu options and has all menus available online for preview]. I couldn't eat. One star."
I rarely trust Yelp reviews. The majority of people, like those examples above, are idiots, and there's no way to filter out their reviews. I prefer to get the recommendations of friends or have them take me to places when I'm in town. This works because my friends are mostly chefs, foodies, or trustworthy individuals with relatively good taste who fear my wrath if they recommend something awful.
This last weekend I visited Seattle. I had some inkling Seattle was a food town and would have a number of great dining options. Before I left, I asked my friends for recommendations. I only went to one of those restaurants, but my friends did take me to a top-notch brunch spot while the one dud was a place I walked by and was well reviewed on Yelp. Maybe I'm just bitter about this breakfast experience.
After each review, you will find a rating for the restaurant out of five. Five means you should really fucking eat here, four means if you eat here you will be happy, three means if you eat here you might be disappointed, a two means you will almost be as sad as the puppies in the ASPCA commercials with Sarah McLaughlin singing in the background, and one means you will get food poisoning and it won't be worth it. This is followed by a price metric. One $ is less than ten dollars, two $$ is ten to twenty with tax and tip, $$$ is twenty to thirty with tax and tip, and $$$$ means I didn't eat there.
The Butcher and the Baker
Located in Green Lake, a neighborhood in north central Seattle, The Butcher and the Baker serves sandwiches for lunch throughout the week, breakfast Wednesday through Friday, and brunch on the weekends. We went for brunch on a Sunday.
Yes, there was a considerable wait. We headed across the street to Lulu's coffee and chatted while we waited for the restaurant to text us. Trying to get seated right away at a decent brunch spot at 10:30 am is an exercise in futility. Ask your friends to show up earlier than they want to eat or their hangovers want to let them out of bed. By the time you get seated, you will actually be hungry.
I looked at the menu before heading to the restaurant and had a clear idea of what I wanted to order, but I would have been happy with a number of items on the menu. I ordered the Istanbul, not Constantinople. Two poached eggs served on a yogurt and paprika butter sauce studded with generous chunks of feta. The eggs were perfectly poached, not a bit of runny white or overcooked yolk which haunts most poached eggs. Centered in the plate is a pile of arugula, dill, and lemon zest atop a lamb sausage. Normally, I do not eat yogurt. I don't find the flavor appetizing and the texture squicks me out. All real yogurt (not that plastic Boston cream pie Yoplait bullshit) excerpt Icelandic skyr, technically a fresh cheese, not a yogurt, causes me mad stomach discomfort. But the tangy, smooth yogurt complemented the rich, spiced lamb and bitter arugula. I wanted to scoop every bit of this into my mouth with the slices of toasted baguette.
Hard to resist a dish named after the masked Mexican wrestling. Two poached eggs, stuffed Anaheim peppers, carnitas, flour tortillas, and mango jalapeno salsa. I tried a bite of the carnitas which was decent. My friend who ordered this enjoyed the dish.
At first, the Bailey's & Bacon appears to be a slab of French toast topped with melting whipped cream and mixed berries. The menu describes this as egg dipped milk bread which makes it sound like a pretentious ass French toast, but it actually is something different from your usual French toast. It was less moist without being dry and the edges were sweet and caramelized. The flavor was decidedly less "eggy" than French toast, a definite plus in my mind. Topped with not sadly whipped cream, but Bailey's pastry cream and macerated berries. Request to restaurants and chefs, please, please stop using the word macerated to describe berries. It makes me think there's some small child being enslaved in the kitchen, sitting on a white bleach bucket chewing and spitting blueberries into a metal bowl "ping, ping."
The Wandering Goose
Casual ambiance and decadent eats, The Wandering Goose is a Capitol Hill eatery known for its biscuit sandwiches. Independent travel means eating a lot of meals alone, but the casual order at the counter dining style of The Wandering Goose does not lead to any awkwardness that can come with eating alone. I asked the cashier for a recommendation and he told me that the Aunt Annie's or The Sawmill were both good choices if I wanted fried chicken. Well, who can pass up fucking fried chicken? The Sawmill, a fried chicken, gravy, and cheese biscuit sandwich, was too much for me so I ordered the Aunt Annie's, fried chicken, bread and butter pickles, house mustard, and honey.
Cup of coffee and biscuit sandwich ordered I sat at one of the wood tables to read the morning news. Okay, well, not the morning news but a feature story on the changed migration path of the three-pronged elk on High Country News. Because elk migration is what's important in this Cheeto powder covered Russian puppet threatened the world. What arrived at my table ten minutes later was a crispy fried pile of deliciousness on top of a fluffy layered biscuit. With a couple, more like thirty, drops of hot sauce, this sandwich achieved near breakfast perfection. I would have been happy with this at any time of day.
If you want a slab of cream cheese slathered toast covered with a mound of powdered eggs and dry salmon, then the Americana in Capitol Hill sounds like a joint you would be happy at. I came in on my last day in Seattle after seeing the place packed on Saturday while on my I slipped on black ice and landed wrong and now I hurt myself journey to get painkillers and an x-ray. I read the reviews online and with the packed restaurant, I figured they would be good. When I came in, I was the first customer but it was just past 9 am and a weekday. The server was attentive, quick, and explained the accompanying sauces. The menu was damp and dirty; the table felt a little sticky too.
The food, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired. The food reminded me of a fancy church breakfast, mostly because of the powdered eggs, and it cost more than any of the other places I went to. $3.75 for coffee and it wasn't even good coffee. I ended up putting down $25 including tip and tax. I would have put down less if I had more singles but I kind of just wanted to get out of the sad, empty place.
Wrist throbbing and frustrated with the lack of answers from the urgent care and the closed radiology lab they referred me to, I stumbled in a daze from the Westlake transit station to Pike's Place Public Market and into Beecher's cheese store. At Beecher's you can watch people making cheese while you eat a grilled cheese sandwich or a bowl of macaroni and cheese. I went for the classic grilled cheese and a Boylan's cola. I needed something hot, greasy, and simple. The sandwich was merely there for me to get down a necessary dose of ibuprofen.
Thai Tom's has a plethora of negative and indignant reviews on Yelp. They claim the server follows people out of the restaurant demanding a higher tip. Other complaints include small portion sizes, charred food, an insolent waitress, lack of transparency with prices, a long wait, a smoky interior, and numerous health code violations. Oh, and that it's cash only.
I'm going to address each of these. We waited at least half an hour to be seated, but once we were seated the server took our order right away and we didn't wait long for our food. It was a Sunday at lunch time at a small restaurant. I would expect there to be a wait.
The middle-aged female server with the bleached hair did not follow us out of the restaurant for a higher tip. She was too busy getting food to people and seating them. We put the money down and walked out, so we didn't have time to know whether or not she was dissatisfied with her tip. I don't doubt this happened to these Yelpers, but it didn't happen the hour and a half we were there. The service reminded me of the service I've received everywhere else in the world: get the order, drop off food, take empty plates away, and drop off the check. They don't interrupt you during your conversation, they probably won't bring you more water, and this isn't the French Laundry, the server is not there to give you an experience with your meal.
Did you know that restaurants are not required to give you so much food that you feel sick or have enough for another meal the next day? You are not entitled to leftovers. I cleaned my plate at Thai Tom without feeling like I was going to explode. I felt satisfied.
I loved the caramelized noodles and vegetables. The high heat open fire cooking leads to a char on the noodles that was absolutely delicious. The noodles were perfectly chewy, the sauce sweet and salty, and the two-star spice level just the right amount of heat. It was some of the best Thai food I've ever had.
The health code violations and smoky atmosphere are totally true. That never stopped me from drunkenly chowing down bean burritos from the Taco Bell on Santa Cruz's Pacific Ave.
My friend described Dick's as something akin to In 'N Out in California, a straightforward menu that hasn't changed for years. I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a diet coke. The cheeseburger was deliciously simple: beef, cheese, mustard, and ketchup. I liked it better than any burger I've had at In 'N Out. The fries were slightly over fried, but crispy and well salted. And we only got approached by one person for money while eating in our car.
Coffee and SNacks
The last rainy day in Seattle, I went in search of crumpets at Pike's Place Market. But no, the crumpet place was closed. I was denied my crumpet again. To sooth my crumpetless rage, I went upstairs to Storyville Coffee and ordered an espresso and a chocolate chunk cookie. I sucked down the deep, bitter espresso and tried to take my time with the cookie but it was hard. So deliciously hard. And just as I was leaving, they were giving away slices of chocolate ganache cake.
Seattle is a food destination, and I can't wait to try more when I go back. I have to go back. I didn't even eat a hot dog while I was there.