Monday, November 26, 2007

Pub grub. Quinn's.

It was a dark and stormy night...No, perhaps I should go back a little in my story. For several years now I have been walking by a restaurant called Zöe in Belltown, on the rare occasions I find myself in that trendy neighborhood north of the Pike Place market. There's a Patagonia there, and the Macrina Bakery, and Lampreia, one of our favored restaurants for the past decade. But I hate to find find parking, and there's only street parking or the occasional grungy pay lot, so I avoid Belltown unless I really need another fleece jacket. Occasionally I would peer in the windows of Zöe, glance at the menu posted by the door, but somehow I never quite made it there. (J., foodie extraordinaire, tells me that it is very good). And now I live within walking distance of all kinds of restaurants - Lark and Café Presse and La Spiga and Via Tribunali - and have no need to eat at places which require street parking, my bête noire. Capitol Hill has become gentrified, or worse, yuppified, anchored by a Trader Joe's where Capitol Hill begins to slide down towards Madison Valley, sprawling down the bustling Pike/Pine corridor in a tangle of clubs and pubs and coffee shops as it flows westwards towards Downtown, and then on to the water.

I digress. Some months ago, I began to hear rumblings of a new gastropub - ghastly word, that - to be opened by the husband/wife owners of Zöe. Zöe is named for their daughter; this new pub would be called Quinn's, after their son. Having no sense of direction, I couldn't figure out where it was going to be just by the address. Thank the lord for the internet. I was in Taipei when Quinn's pub opened, and it wasn't until last week that I figured out the Mexican place halfway between home and work had become a sleek new pub. I hadn't noticed it because I had been taking a shortcut to work that took me around the former La Puerta; I had seen the beginning of the renovations and had assumed that it would be another yoga studio or housewares shop. But early reviews were good, and I had only to read the words "wild boar sloppy joe" before my feet were itching to head over there.

When I left work it was already dark and pouring rain. I walk as quickly as possible down the three or four blocks that stand between me and my ultimate goal: Dinner. The bright Mexican restaurant has become a softly lit pub, all dark wood and high windows, with a scattering of small tables and a long bar on the main floor, overlooked by a mezzanine level with more tables upstairs. It is modern and slightly rustic, all at the same time. I ask for a beer and the wild boar sloppy joe, and a side of sautéed spinach. The sloppy joe is dark and savory, spilling from the sesame-seed bun; there is the sharp contrast of some crisply fried sage leaves and onion and one deep-fried hot pepper. The spinach hides the crunch of pine nuts and the sweetness of raisins, perfect against the mineral tang of the leaves, so dark they almost look black in the candlelight. I eat my dinner - I wish the sloppy joe filling was hotter; it seems strangely cold, but tasty nonetheless - and drink my beer and watch the cars outside illuminate the falling rain with their headlights.

I am almost full, but not quite, and I want something else, but not dessert, so I ask for some cheese. There are three kinds of cheese - a sort of Cheddar, a medium-soft cheese whose name I can't remember, and a wedge of softer Chimay. At one side is a scoop of apricot mostarda; another plate holds a heap of Melba toasts. And by Melba toasts, I mean thin golden slices of baguette that have been fried in olive oil (or brushed in oil and toasted, I'm not sure). For some reason my waiter has given me a fork with the cheeses, although perhaps a knife would be more appropriate. Still, the cheese is wonderful - I love the Chimay best of all - with the crisp toasts and the sweet apricot preserves, and I contemplate coming back again just for the cheese. Perhaps with a salad. But there are so many other things to try, and I will have to come back again.

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