Ever been to a gastro pub? Apparently I hadn't either. It's basically a bar with food, but food of the highest quality that you might find in a fancy restaurant. It's small bites, meant to go a long with drinks - something better than the standard salty nuts and chips. Seattle apparently has a few of these, I'm not too sure if Portland has anything that can be called a gastro pub.
Last month Wifey and I were in Seattle and it was getting towards dinner time. We hadn't necessarily planned for dinner, so we were out in West Seattle and thinking about where to go. We had some places in mind but didn't have any addresses, when I realized my phone has internet access and I could just Google them.
Sidebar: Isn't this perhaps one of the coolest things ever? Being out and about and wanting to find a certain place, all I have to do is pop out my cell phone, Google a place, and I'll have the address, phone number, and a map. It's amazing. What did people do before internet on their phones?! Yeah, I realize it's only been recent, but I have a short memory.
So after looking up a couple places we settled on Spur, a gastro pub in downtown Seattle. We had never been to a gastro pub and it was supposed to be good, plus it being downtown we figured we could find it pretty easily. It was a short drive over from West Seattle (I'm leaving out the part where we decided on someplace else first in the International District, but couldn't find it or it wasn't open - not realy sure which, since nothing seemed to be marked - so frustrated went to Spur as our second choice) and pretty easy to find.
Parking, however, in downtown Seattle on a weekday at around 6 is a bitch. Literally. In Portland I can always find a spot on the street within walking distance, but in Seattle? Nope, not a chance. I drove around for half an hour trying to find a street spot, but the only ones I found were 15 minute parking or they were a half mile straight up a hill. Don't let anyone tell you San Francisco is the hilliest city - they haven't been to Seattle. I've been to both places and some of those hills you drive up and down in Seattle are flat-out scary. Lucky for Seattleites it rarely freezes and snows; I can imagine that's grounds for skipping work.
Eventually, I gave up. Sick of looking and getting really hungry at this point, I turned into the pay lot right next to Spur and proceeded to pay $15 just so I could eat for an hour. That hurts...painfully. At this point, I didn't care. And yeah, I'll admit I was getting really, really annoyed at Seattle and their crappy downtown parking. I'd been warned...but never had to deal with it before I guess. I usually bite the bullet and pay to park at Pike Street Market, but I'm there all day for my $15. So, heed the warning - prepare to pay in downtown Seattle. And don't bother looking for a street spot.
We stepped into Spur, not really sure what to expect. It was in one of the very old buildings in downtown, a deep, thin space with a mix of modern (the lighting) and rustic (the long wooden tables) that all seemed to blend well - almost country without the country, you know? Spur was hopping too - the only spots were at the bar, so we sat there even though we had zero intention of ordering drinks other than water.
When the bartender asked us what he could get us, he didn't seem too surprised we just wanted food, but it also didn't seem to be common either. He was a busy guy, that's for sure, though it seemed one of the most common orders was for Rainier in a can. Really? Rainier in a can? This place was full of DINKs, not college students. And they still wanted Rainier in a can? Man. I couldn't stomach that stuff when I was in college, let alone now when I can afford better. Maybe a lot of the DINKs were re-living their college days or hadn't gotten past the Greek houses. Or were slumming. I have no idea.
Anyway, after perusing the menu (same as September when we went, apparently) Wifey settled on the parmesan gnocchi and I ordered the pork belly sliders, with the plan we would share. Food wasn't fast, but it wasn't overly slow either considering how busy they were. Not everyone was ordering food, but there was enough coming out to keep the kitchen busy and I can't imagine the kitchen is overly big in the first place.
One thing I should note is that when we sat down the bartender gave us a cup full of house-made corn nuts - and they were spectacular. I know, the market for corn nuts isn't exactly replete with quality, but this is how they should be. It's almost worth it just to go there for those and a drink.
The gnocchi with the summer vegetables was excellent. The little pillows were cooked just right and the sauce was a perfect complement. The sliders with mustard, bourbon and apricot were a joy. Seriously, it was one of those meals where you take a bite, just let it sit in your mouth, and let all the layers of flavor reveal themselves to you in their own good time. I'll admit - I was too hungry to allow that as much as I would have liked.
After all of that we were both very pleased, but there was a problem. We were still a little hungry. I talked Wifey into the sockeye salmon crostini, even though she's not a big fan of the uncooked (it wasn't sashimi raw, but still uncooked). Still, with mascarpone (an Italian cream cheese, sort of), capers, and pickled shallots it sounded yummy.
After another short wait the crostini came out. Not only were they pleasing to just look at, but the flavors all mingled very well. Honestly, we both agreed this was one of the best things we've ever eaten.
Dinner ended up being $31 plus tip, plus the $15 for parking, so it wasn't cheap, but it was excellent. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone looking for a fantastic meal and a unique setting, and if you need a drink so much the better. Especially if you like Rainier. However, I'll save you the time and suggest you pay to park in the lot right next door, even if it's spendy.