George Benson's song about trying to make it big says it all: "They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway." But this isn't Broadway in New York City. It's Broadway on Seattle's Capitol Hill, where the lights shine brightly every night on an electric and eclectic selection of dining out options.
With neon signs at the corner of Madison and Broadway, Jimmy's on Broadway in the Silver Cloud Hotel (1100 Broadway; 204-1188; jimmysonbroadway.com), sits strategically next to both the medical district and Seattle University. If you want to take a break from edgy, dodgy or stodgy, Jimmy's many windows and high ceiling give the restaurant an open, airy feel. The décor is unfussy and uncluttered. There is not too much background noise and tables are far enough apart to conduct a private conversation.
The menu is standard Northwest fare, with salmon, crab cakes, burgers, entrée salads and pasta. The salmon cakes were pleasantly crispy on the outside and were not over-salted, which is the usual fate of salmon cakes, but they were doused with an overly generous quantity of dill aioli. The Caesar salad was fresh but unexceptional, the only hint of indulgence was the buttery croutons.
The lunch menu also includes a "triple play" soup-salad-sandwich combo for a very reasonable $12. The chicken Panini was tasty and, again, it benefited from a pleasant excess of butter. Service was courteous without being unctuous.
Two additional perks to point out: first, a respectable selection of Northwest microbrews can be found on the menu; and second, the Silver Cloud offers hassle-free, two-hour parking for lunch. This is a reasonably priced choice for a working business lunch that will offend none and allow diners to focus on the conversation rather than the food.
"They say there's always magic in the air"
It is pretty difficult to imagine anything more magical - or decadent - than a chocolate martini at Dilettante (538 Broadway E.; 329-6463; dilettante.com). It challenges inspiration to come up with a better way to satisfy the yen for chocolate in a more adult fashion.
At Dilettante, chocolate martini means chocolate martini: vodka and Dilettante chocolate, the most basic and the best of recipes, well shaken, served with shards of ice covering the surface and chocolate designs solidified on the sides of the martini glass. The "Ephemere" is our favorite. The salted-caramel martini is nice as well. Once tasted, no other martini quite lives up to this one.
We've tried to recreate the experience at other restaurants, but the martini experience elsewhere has been consistently sidetracked by unnecessary and cloying ingredients - creme de cacao, half-and-half, Bailey's. Problematic is that the only Dilettante location that serves the martini is on Broadway and it does not open until 5 p.m., but that may be a good thing. It takes a special trip and a particular devotion to indulge. Warning: Experience teaches that this might be a gender preference; two of us tried to repeat the experience with male adults - they preferred beer.
On the corner of Broadway and East Mercer, the martini bar is located in the back room, painted chocolate brown and garnished with chandeliers glittering like shards of ice. The full menu is available in the bar and in the café. The charcuterie plate is generous and excellent. The desserts are amazing and works of art to enjoy in the display case, as well as to eat.
A wooden-boat facade tucked away on the northern end of Broadway embodies the unpretentious and low-key nature found at the core of every good dive bar. Bait Shop (606 Broadway E.; 420-8742; baitshopseattle.com) has a nautical look highlighted by the topless bust of a mermaid at the bar. It screams grubby food at cheap prices (at least relatively so, with items from $3 to $12).
Once inside, the dim lighting, even during the warm, early evening of a Seattle summer day, bespeaks an intimate escape. The menu covers Northwest seafood staples and is not at all grubby: crispy calamari, Dungeness crab fritters and fish and chips. Looking around, the food seems to be prepared a step above the usual pub standard.
Bait Shop offers a good beverage selection with local brews (Georgetown, Hilliard's Chrome Satan) and a wide variety of fun-sounding cocktails (zombie, Rosita and coconut lime Rickey), almost all with rum. We sampled the "Painkiller," one of several notable, frozen cocktails, and it did not disappoint - a cool and sweet tropical slushy of rum, pineapple, nutmeg, coconut, orange and cinnamon, washed down crunchy, golden-battered fish and well-oiled chips perfectly.
Servers were attentive and welcoming even to an out-of-place lawyer type walking in with a suit jacket (definitely a spot for more casual affairs). Bait Shop's simplistic magic is rooted in its vintage look, easygoing attitude and classic pub food, with a better-than-expected drink selection. The only thing missing was a cool, ocean breeze.
And there must be magic in there air at Altura (617 Broadway E.; 402-6749; alturarestaurant.com), because we tried for several days to get a reservation for dinner to review it and could not get one any earlier than 9:30 p.m.
"But when you're walkin' down that street, and you ain't had enough to eat"
Walking down the street and haven't had enough to eat? It's time for breakfast at Americana (219 Broadway E.; 328-4604; americanaseattle.com). Americana sits smack dab at the heart of the Broadway strip next to the 1980s classic, Charlie's, and just north of the long gone and maybe to some forgotten Broadway Theatre, now Rite Aid.
But Americana is surely today's Broadway, not yesterday's, but with a nod to classic "Americana decor." Despite Americana's "Mobil Travelers Recommended Restaurant" sign and other classic roadside kitsch and pressed-tin bar, the food and beverages are decidedly modern and hip, as are the service and vibe. This may be the ultimate Broadway destination for people-watching, too - just like Times Square.
Brunch here is the ultimate experience and is now served seven days a week. No one in Seattle does French toast like the Americana - classic rustic bread with ever-changing daily toppings. This also is the home for the gluten-free fanatic, with a corned beef hash featuring succulent and juicy chunks of corned beef mixed with squash and potatoes, and a superb Benedict classic. Other gluten-free dishes include marvelous omelets, including one made with chorizo, potatoes and manchego cheese.
Mimosas are plentiful and not limited to orange juice mixers. Think fresh-squeezed grapefruit or acai berry. Or go bold and botanical with lavender or elderflower mimosas. The best-kept secret in town is the corn and mozzarella pancakes that accompany the maple-glazed pork belly. Couple that with a bloody Mary that will stand you up, but not knock you over from an overabundance of horseradish. Americana is our vote for best brunch on Broadway.
If you walk all the way to the north end of Broadway and still "ain't had enough to eat," stop at Roy Street Coffee & Tea (700 Broadway E.; 325-2211; roystreetcoffee.com). You enter a spacious, boutique-style coffeehouse with a mixed metaphor décor (rustic urban Goth came to mind). Roy Street carries something of an all-star selection of local foods including Tom Douglas's tomato soup, a savory Beecher's cheese plate that we very much enjoyed, and plenty of enticing pastries and delectable items from the Essential Baking Company.
We enjoyed a ham "Stromboli" (a grilled ham, cheese and egg, Panini-style breakfast sandwich). Most of the food items are pre-made, so customizing any order is difficult. The beverages are "inspired by Starbucks," but prepared with an artisan approach (the mocha is made with Essential Baking Company's delicious chocolate ganache). The tea selection is broader than a normal Starbucks, and includes white and oolong teas. This coffee house offers wine and local beers.
The service was friendly and quick. And, although you would not know it from the look and feel, your Starbucks card is accepted at this "Street Level" concept store (sometimes called a "stealth Starbucks"). It has free parking available and there is a reserved area for groups. Overall, Roy Street is an on-Broadway coffeehouse with an off-Broadway feel, and we anticipate going back to try more of the menu.
And if you're walking elsewhere on Broadway and looking for caffeine, Espresso Vivace has two locations on Broadway, and is something of a local legend. It even has its own Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espresso_Vivace. The owner is known for his innovations in the coffee industry and is credited for popularizing latte art.
Vivace Espresso Bar at Brix (532 Broadway E.; 860-2722; espressovivace.com) on the north end on the sidewalk level of the Brix apartment building, is gorgeously decorated with marble and wood finishes, serving espresso and coffee drinks, as well as pastries. Espresso Vivace Sidewalk Bar (321 Broadway E.; 860-5869) is a walk-up coffee stop located a little farther south. These are great places to grab a beverage to enjoy while walking down that street or sitting and watching the people go by.
"The glitter rubs right off and you're nowhere"
In the less glamorous or glittery section of Broadway, south of Pike, you will find a haunt well known to alumni of SU's trial advocacy program, Garage Billiards (1130 Broadway E.; 322-2296; garagebilliards.com). The Garage may be the most convenient place on Broadway for groups to meet, with ample space, and pool tables and bowling lanes to entertain the crowd.
The fare is a bit more than just standard pool hall food, with popular pizzas (including a duck confit pizza with cherries and smoked mozzarella) and burgers. There are vegetarian burger options and a reasonable selection of salads. What people remember the Garage for and why they go there is the space: room for most any group to meet and be entertained.
This end of Broadway has more on the way as rumor has it that plans are in the works for the warehouse next to the Garage, on East Seneca, to be converted to bar, restaurant and retail space similar to the development at Melrose Market.
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 Christopher Howard at 206-407-1524 or at firstname.lastname@example.org; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx. Follow us on Twitter @schwabedinesout.