As the summer solstice approaches and memory of another wet, dark winter fades, we naturally try to spend as much time outdoors as possible. In the fine weather, outdoor dining becomes not only possible, but positively delightful. This month, we offer some of our favorite picks for restaurants to dine al fresco with your clients, colleagues and friends.
The patio at the Pink Door (1919 Post Alley; 443-3241; thepinkdoor.net) is a classic Seattle venue near Pike Place Market to enjoy a sunny lunch or long summer sunset.
At a recent lunch, we started with a calamari appetizer. It exceeded our expectation of the usual greasy clump of batter with the faintest suggestion of squid hidden inside. Instead, these were gorgeously tender strips of squid lightly sautéed in garlic and wine.
For the main course, we tried the pan-seared scallops, which were plump and tender, and bathed in a sweet, syrup-like carrot sauce, which may not be to everyone's taste. Service was attentive and efficient, and the food appeared quickly.
Our only regret was not being at liberty to quaff a bottle (or two) of wine to accompany our meals - in keeping with the Italian theme, Pink Door has an impressive collection of wines from Italy. Pink Door should definitely be near the top of your list for outdoor dining this summer.
Right across I-5 from downtown, Terra Plata (1501 Melrose Ave.; 325-1501; terraplata.com) is an excellent destination for a sunny day because it has a roof deck that is quite spacious and comes equipped with heating lamps to accommodate the whims of a Seattle summer.
Terra Plata occupies the very southern tip of the Melrose Market complex between Pike and Pine. It is a short walk from many downtown office buildings. The deck was closed during our visit, but even if you are dining on the first floor, glass panels slide open so it is like dining outdoors.
Terra Plata has a Spanish theme (with paella Mondays). We sampled the baked eggs and the albacore niçoise. The baked eggs took a while, as good baked eggs should, and were excellent, with thinly shaved ham and cheese, and topped with polenta cakes. The albacore niçoise was served with grilled albacore, a variety of pickled vegetables and olives, spinach leaves, a soft-boiled egg and potato. The salad was dressed with a light vinaigrette and was hearty and delicious.
Each of us would order these dishes again, although there is more on the menu that we want to try. We will return to check out the roof deck, which is in very direct sunlight with no tall buildings nearby to shade you. We may go back for happy hour, as the drink and wine list both look very tempting. Assuming your future includes a sunny summer, the roof deck at Terra Plata should also be on your short list.
While we are on the subject of roofs, Liam's (2685 NE 46th St.; 527-6089; liamsbistro.com) at the University Village features a large, covered deck with removable walls and a stone fireplace for outside seating year round.
The menu boasts "real food" made with fresh, typically local ingredients, without anything processed or artificial. Favorites include the flagship tomato soup, citrus prawn salad, spicy curried Penn Cove mussels and the sautéed greens, which are served as a side but are a meal themselves. Seasonal fish and meat dishes round out the menu, including simpler fare such as the Liam's burger - a tasty blend of beef, lamb and prosciutto - or the signature Beecher's "World's Best" mac ‘n' cheese.
But the real treat is one of the most well-stocked and well-staffed cocktail bars in the area, serving up perfect classics such as a Blanton's mint julep or margarita as well as exceptional signature drinks such as the Warren G. (Magnuson). Like everything else on the menu, the cocktails contain only fresh-squeezed juices and quality pours, and complement a handsome selection of Northwest wines and microbrews.
Tuesday features an all-day happy hour and the weekend brunch is second to none. Rain or shine, Liam's provides a fantastic open-air dining experience that keeps you dry - at least on the outside.
If you are looking for outdoor dining with a killer view, try Westward & Little Gull (2501 N. Northlake Way; 552-8215; westwardseattle.com), a recently opened offering from Skillet's Josh Henderson. Particularly appealing in the warm weather is the boat dock and outdoor tables set on the deck as well as a fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs. The view looking across Lake Union to downtown Seattle is a fantastic draw, but even on the warmest of days the food is the real reason to come to Westward.
One of our favorite crunchy starters with a mild kick is the small-plate order of the radishes served with goat butter and Admiralty sea salt. The flavored butter adds richness to the radishes. The fried oysters with ras el hanout (North African spices, meaning "head of the shop," implying a mixture of the seller's best spices) were ordered along with the gigante beans, wood baked with tomato, feta and breadcrumbs. The spice added a distinctive taste to the oysters and we could have been hallucinating (perhaps all the sunshine), but thought there was a hint of rose and maybe lavender in the ras el hanout.
The lamb burger is rich, filling, tender and expertly grilled. A great brunch option is the wood-baked bagel. The bagels are made in house and availability is limited to the supply on hand. The bagel is fresh and dense, a nice contrast to the tender gravlax and labneh (Greek strained yogurt) served with it.
If a brunch cocktail is on your list of options, the champers cocktail mixed with rhubarb liqueur is for those who favor sparkling wine with a touch of tartness. If more of a jolt is needed, the "Diablo Maria," consisting of tequila and "diablo rojo" sauce, and reminiscent of a tequila bloody Mary, is a good option.
Eat slowly, linger and enjoy the sun while you can.
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is a multiservice, Northwest regional law firm with offices in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Bend. For comments on this article or to share your favorite places to eat or drink with the Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt attorneys, contact Michael Herbst at 206-407-1570 or at email@example.com; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx. Follow us on Twitter @schwabedinesout.