Christopher Howard, editor
The number of outdoor dining options in Seattle makes it difficult to recall that it was practically illegal a few short decades ago. Through the early 1970s, the City of Seattle aggressively regulated outdoor dining in pursuit of “clean streets”.
It is rumored that Bloch’s restaurant, at the time located on 15th Avenue East on Capitol Hill, successfully challenged this ban, opening the door for wide-spread outdoor dining. Christine Bloch continues to operate restaurants in the Seattle area, including a Bloch’s in Bellevue, but the original location is now Chutney’s Grille, 605 15th Ave. E. Chutney’s still sports an outdoor area.
Anticipated to open soon on Capitol Hill, marjorie (1412 E. Union; 206-441-9842) is the much-awaited relocation of Donna Moodie’s former Belltown bistro, which was closed in 2008 when the building was sold. The new space is intimate, outfitted with beautiful garage doors that, in good weather, open onto courtyard seating surrounded by potted plants. On summer Seattle evenings it will be gorgeous – and the food will be worth the wait.
The Most Unusual
It is raining in Seattle: What a surprise. Outdoor food aficionados do not need to ditch their plans for dining in the open air. Two spots win our love and admiration for keeping you warm and dry even when the weather throws you a curveball.
22 Doors (405 15th Ave. E., Seattle, 206-324-6406) brings a classic East Coast brick patio to Seattle, but comes prepared with a rain awning, fire pit and effective heat lamps to protect you from the elements. Eating outdoors in any weather will be appealing after trying the cucumber cosmo and the mergez with eggs: spicy lamb sausage, caramelized onions, fried egg and crème fraiche.
At Kushibar (2319 2nd Ave., Seattle, 206-448-2488), Japanese street food is enjoyed while you sit on pine picnic benches. In good weather or bad, the Kushibar roofed patio and open slat walls keep you feeling like you are in the outdoors, but protected from the elements with the plastic roof and heat lamps. If you want kushiyaki (skewers), we recommend the shitake and the shiro maguro. We also love the wide selection of okonomiyakis (savory Japanese pancakes), available with pork, chicken, shrimp, tomato crunch or avocado and cheese.
Okay, some of us are cheap. But there are still plenty of outdoor dining options. An example of the old Seattle classic is Ivar’s at the waterfront (Pier 54, 1001Alaskan Way, 206-624-6852). Think fish and chips combined with the entertainment of swooping seagulls catching French fries tossed in the air. Ivar’s on Lake Union (401 NE Northlake Way, 206-632-0767) is a quieter, more-reflective spot; where kayakers and ducks float by while the seagulls politely hover looking for a handout.
Newer outdoor options include the barbecue choices from the Maximus Minimus traveling pig (see our reviews of May and October 2009 and check out their website at www.maximus-minimus.com for its schedule of appearances), as well as the Marination, aka the Korean Taco Truck (reviewed in October 2009).
Favorite Outdoor Spot to Take a Client
Our favorite is Serafina (2043 Eastlake Ave. E., 206-323-0807). Conveniently located between the biotech hub at Southeast Lake Union and the University of Washington district, Serafina has a rustic-Italian setting to compliment its cuisine.
Its outdoor dining area is reminiscent of a Tuscan landscape and – about six months out of each year – a welcome refuge from a busy workplace. It is relaxing and comfortable and a great place to meet with clients, colleagues and friends who might find it inconvenient to meet downtown.
The food at Serafina is absolutely first rate. The weekend brunch is splendid or try the prix fixe lunch, which offers a choice of classic Italian meat, vegetarian and pasta dishes that are every bit as enjoyable as is dining outside on a warm day in Seattle.
Of course, we also like to take clients to The Pink Door (reviewed in January 2010). The classic favorite of Ray’s Boathouse must be given at least an honorable mention in this category.
Favorite Place to Take Summer Associates
One of the very “Seattle” outdoor dining experiences is Copacabana (1501/2 First Ave., 206-622-6359). Perched atop the intersection of Post Alley and the main drive to Pike Place Market, it offers South American cuisine and a view of the market (from above). The paella is a favorite, but try experimenting with other items on the menu; you will not find these at many other downtown locations. Copacabana clearly qualifies as one of Seattle’s favorite outdoor locations (having been voted best outdoor seating in 2008 by Seattle Weekly).
Those summer nights are almost upon us and what better way to spend them than at an outdoor happy hour. One of our favorite places to have a cocktail of two is at Maximilien at the Pike Place Market (81A Pike St., 206-682-7270). The outdoor patio boasts a beautiful view of Puget Sound, Elliot Bay, West Seattle and the Olympic Mountains, which are pleasant reminders of why we make Seattle our home.
The best seats are near the edges of the patio. The happy hour menu is smartly priced with tasty cocktails and amazing food. We recommend the French martini. Favorite appetizers are the perfectly seasoned moules mariniere and the sinfully delicious tarte flambé. Every appetizer is $2.95. Can’t decide? Try all eight appetizers for $20.
Seattle has come a long way from the 1970s when outdoor dining was effectively banned. Excellent new options are opening every month. The outdoor dining scene is flourishing.
Originally published in the May 2010 issue of the King County Bar Bulletin. Reprinted with permission of the King County Bar Association.