The plague of coupons seems inescapable. Like the Egyptian captors of the Israelites, we are smitten by a misfortune of Biblical proportions, a metaphor that's not inappropriate this month, what with the coming of Passover. (What have we done to offend thee, Lord? Ah, yes, we have been greedy. Was it Walmart's promise of low prices? Our warped sense of entitlement? Our selfishness? Will we ever recover from this self-inflicted infestation?)
To deal with the plague, restaurant strategies are evolving. First, there are proactive, targeted coupons and deal-searching software. Three recent ones are Foodcaching, BiteHunter and SnapFinger. Foodcaching, developed locally, is part treasure hunt (like the sport geocaching) and part bargain hunt (as in Groupon-style coupons).
Meanwhile, Restaurant Week starts soon, running April 10-21 with time out for the weekend. Many of the 150 restaurants will serve a three-course, $15 lunch, and all will offer three-course dinners starting at $28. How can they do it without going broke? Your guess is as good as mine.
Not all the stops on today's tour of new eateries and eatery news will offer Restaurant Week specials, but let's embark anyway, atop Queen Anne. The much-loved Flame has sputtered, moving two doors south into space now shared with Elliott Bay Pizza. The Starbucks is getting its third paint job of the year. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “What's the deal with that?”
On the same side of the street sits Homegrown. The company does everything right: "Our goal...is not only to create sandwiches out of sustainable ingredients but also to make sandwich creation sustainable itself." (Recycling: check. Peanut allergy warnings: of course! Decent ingredients: absolutely.)
But (a quick detour) Homegrown's "Meatloaf Monday" special, which should have been amazing, was not. Sliced meatloaf (Thundering Hooves beef, at least until they went out of business), avocado & cucumbers (organic, locally sourced), Gouda, grilled wheat bread from Essential Baking Company.
So what happened? A mistake common to lunch counters and fine dining houses alike: too much stuff. The meatloaf was sliced too thin, then grilled until it resembled nothing more than a dry all-beef patty. Goopy avocado oozed out under the crispy, unseasoned cukes. The cheese added nothing. Four, five, six competing flavors, including a dollop of hot sauce on the meatloaf. The result was indistinct and undistinguished.
Is it just me? Or has restaurant cooking become so gussied up that even a meatloaf sandwich needs reckless adornment?
Jason Franey, the talented young chef at Canlis, has been named one of the country's top ten "Best New Chefs" by Food & Wine magazine. Last year it was Jason Stratton, before that Jason Wilson. Is there a pattern, Jason?
Stratton, by the way, is expanding Cascina Spinasse by taking over the store at the corner of 14th Avenue and Pine Street. It will be called Artusi, with a big bar and a menu focused on Italy's aperitivo culture.
Also on Capitol Hill, there are plans for Marination Station to set up shop inside the Harvard Market. For its part, Skillet Diner is moving into the Chloe Apartments at 14th Avenue and Union Street, across the courtyard from Marjorie. Poquitos, an offshoot of the very French Bastille in Ballard, has already set up shop at 10th Avenue and East Pike Street.
A cluster of newcomers around Seattle University. Chieftain, a pub in-progress, and Ba Bar, a Vietnamese sandwich shop, lead the way. On Broadway, look for a new Mod Super Fast Pizza (and be prepared to shell out a standard price of $6.28). Around the corner, on Nagle Place, a tiny spot called Cure, overlooking Cal Anderson Park.
And still more Capitol Hill openings: from Bottleneck (in Fremont) comes Tommy Gun, at 17th Avenue & East Olive Way, a Prohibition-themed eatery, food by Skillet Diner's Brian O'Connor. As if that weren't enough, an actual distillery, Sun Liquor, at 512 E. Pike, will make the move from cocktail bar to selling its own hooch. Where Kurrent failed to catch on, at 600 E. Pine, there's now Kiki, with low-priced, Asian-style small plates. Nearby, at 720 E. Pike, where Maharajah stood, comes Pho Le, a (you guessed it) pho parlor. Closer to downtown, where Bambuza bamboozled no one, there's now 820 Pike, another Asian spot (Vietnamese, Chinese, sushi) for conventioneers.
Elsewhere in Seattle: Look for a new farmers market in Interbay this summer. Madison Park has a new bakery called Belle Epicurean. Greenlake will soon welcome Trattoria Cioppino. Fremont has a new deli called Dot's, Mercer Island gets Stopsky's. West Seattle will welcome Chaco Canyon's raw and vegan fare. Madrona has a new pizzeria where Dulces used to be, called Pritty Boys' Family Pizzeria, owned by the folks behind Belltown's Branzino. Speaking of Belltown, the chef from Cutters Bayhouse, Justin Mevs, is launching Lucky Diner at 1st Avenue and Cedar Street. And the chef from Lecosho, Mike Easton, will open a lunch spot featuring handmade pasta, to be called Il Corvo, inside Procopio gelateria, on the Pike Street Hillclimb.
Continuing our quick around-the-horn of startup and expansion plans: on The Ave in the U District, a new breakfast & brunch spot called Nook.
Downtown, Maximus Minimus returns for another season at the corner of 2nd and Pike. A couple of blocks inland, at 4th and Union, we'll soon see San Francisco chef Michael Mina open a très, très upscale place called RN74, named for the highway that runs through Burgundy's best vineyards.
In South Lake Union, look for an offshoot of Cactus to complete the passel of restaurants in the Terry Avenue building, otherwise occupied by three(!) new Tom Douglas restaurants: Cuoco (upscale Italian), Brave Horse Tavern (a beer, burgers & pretzels joint) and Ting Momo (a Tibetan dumpling café). If you're still hungry, a deli called The Wurst Place is about to open at Westlake Avenue North & Republican Street. And on that, wurst, note, so long for now.