Food, glorious food - Quinn's looks like a classic
The food at Capitol Hill's Quinn's is so compelling, you may find yourself importuning your waiter with Dickens' immortal words: "Please, sir, I want some more."
Special to The Seattle Times
Gastropub $$ Quinn's Pub
1001 E. Pike Street, Seattle; 206-325-7711; www.quinnspubseattle.com
Reservations: Not accepted; parties of seven or more should call ahead.
Hours: Dinner 5 p.m.- 1 a.m. daily.
Prices: Snacks and sides $2-$9; plates $5-$19
Drinks: Aged whiskeys; local and imported beers and Trappist ales on tap and by the bottle; wines by the glass, half-bottle or bottle.
Parking: On street.
Sound: Rowdy downstairs; the mezzanine is much more mellow.
Who should go: Hungry pub crawlers, charcuterie fans, beer buffs, whiskey enthusiasts.
Cards: All major.
Access: Bar, first floor and restrooms fully accessible; mezzanine not accessible
Roasted marrow bones $7
Smoked trout salad $8
House-made sausage with lentils $10
Oxtail & potato gnocchi $13
Seared tuna with cannellini $19
Sepia is the color of Quinn's. The building dates to 1910, but the ruddy brown tint and the ramshackle chic décor of the bi-level wood-and-brick pub so effectively evoke the spirit of 19th-century London — right down to its boisterous vibe and quirky urban dramatis personae — it could be an engraving ripped from a first edition of "Oliver Twist."
Credit Heather Staples for the antique look; credit Scott Staples, her husband and co-owner, for the cooking. His up-to-the-minute modern menu is modeled after London's gastropubs, in essence bars where food, glorious food, matters as much, if not more, than booze. In fact, the food here is so compelling, you may find yourself importuning your waiter with Dickens' immortal words: "Please, sir, I want some more."
At these prices you can have more — lots more than is probably good for you of this rich, robust fare. The hard part will be making up your mind.
Will it be marrow bones, oxtail or rabbit pâté? Maybe a burger of Wagyu beef, or a wild boar Sloppy Joe? How about house-made sausage with lentils, or hangar steak with fries? Perhaps just a salad will do — but will it have smoked trout, grilled romaine, or Stilton cheese and pear?
Don't expect me to help you narrow the choices. After plowing greedily through most of the menu, there's nothing I wouldn't recommend.
Start with a snack or two ... or three. A trio of bite-size pastry puffs is pumped full of marvelously gooey gruyere and béchamel. Those same puffs are split to hold another threesome — herby meatball sliders cupped in a watercress leaf. A soft-cooked duck egg is split in two, each yellow-bellied half sprinkled with sea salt and striped with a silver anchovy. These nibbles take the urgency out of ordering and set up your palate for something from the bar.
Grandly proportioned, with a mirrored back that reflects the windows opposite, the bar accomplishes a neat piece of visual trickery by creating a gazebo effect that makes the narrow, high-ceilinged space feel less confining. The bar stock is notable for whiskeys of varying ages and origins, lots of it bourbon: 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle heads the list.
Maker's Mark stars in "Quinn's Old Fashioned"; effervescent with Scottish sparkling water and served on the rocks, it's a nice riff on a classic cocktail, as is the "Dirty Little Secret" — a whiff of cucumber gracing a Bombay gin martini garnished with a cornichon.
Half-bottles dominate the wine list, advantageous for diners with divergent tastes. The selection is concise yet wide-ranging and well-matched to the menu. Even so, beer is often the chaser of choice for fancy pub grub like this. A range of styles is available on tap or by the bottle including local and imported artisanal brews, Trappist ales, and familiar names like PBR and Guinness.
You'll want a drink that can hold its own against the brazen flaunting of salt, seasonings and animal fat in the cooking here, though Staples does a good job of balancing flavors right on the plate. Tart red-onion marmalade, for instance, makes a fine foil for slippery marrow scooped from the hollow of 3-inch long bones. Pickled fennel, carrots and radish contribute spice and crunch to complement the clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in the bacon-wrapped rabbit pâté. The sweet bite of cherry mostarda balances duck rillette, a pungent meat paste bound with duck fat and raw foie gras.
The house-made pork sausage is a salty dog, tamed by tiny Puy lentils, an earthy stew speckled with carrot, onion and lacy black kale. Salad studded with smoked trout and pickled cippolini also packs a saline punch, but bitter frisée, peppery cress and diced golden beets keep the balance in check. Likewise, tender potato gnocchi holds the reins on oxtail, keeping it from veering into excess. Pulled from the bone and snuggled in lush gravy, the meat is ringed with béchamel and wears a lump of crispy marrow on top like a diamond solitaire.
These are all smallish plates. Hungrier types should scroll further down the short card to the burger, the Sloppy Joe, smoked hanger steak or seared tuna. Wagyu beef makes a wonderfully tender patty. Salt, pepper and char register with every bite; sharp cheddar, thick-cut bacon and superb fries earn this burger bonus points.
Frizzled onions come with the Sloppy Joe, made sloppier with spicy tomato sauce and pleasingly porky with ground wild-boar meat. A whole pickled and grilled jalapeño pokes like a wicked tongue from under the homburg-shaped brioche bun.
Hangar steak, delicately smoked and incredibly lithe, gets a dab of cabrales blue cheese and romesco sauce, a potent red pepper emulsion thickened with nuts. Ruby-red slices of seared tuna, liberally rubbed with salt, pepper and pungent chermoula, could almost be mistaken for tenderloin. The fish is accessorized in beefy style with whole chanterelles, bacon-flecked cannellini beans and demi-glace enhanced with foie gras.
The alert, attentive staff includes a few who were promoted from Restaurant Zoë, Staples' 7-year-old Belltown bistro. Staples himself is cooking here every night, alongside chef de cuisine Jarred Wentworth. Quinn's is just a few months old, but it's already looking like a classic.
Providence Cicero: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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