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Originally published Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 7:04 PM

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Restaurant review

Post relaunch salutes Market delights

Post is a restaurant in search of a raison d'être. It seemed to have found one when, in December, a news release announced a new chef...

Special to The Seattle Times

Sample menu

Pepper-crusted Brussels sprouts $6
Turkish lamb sliders $9
Fish & Chips $10
Cioppino $16
Marinated hanger steak $16

Post Restaurant & Lounge 1.5 stars

American

1914 Post Alley, Seattle

206-443-2150

www.postinthemarket.com

Reservations: Accepted.

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-midnight Sundays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Prices: $ (Sides and mains $3-$16.)

Drinks: Cocktails; half a dozen beers on tap, including Guinness; brief wine list.

Parking: On street; lots and garages nearby.

Sound: Loud.

Who should go: The overflow from Kells.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, Amex.

Access: No obstacles.

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Post is a restaurant in search of a raison d'être.

It seemed to have found one when, in December, a news release announced a new chef, Carl Henderson, and a "relaunch" under the promotional banner "A Toast to the Market." That makes sense, since Post occupies prime retail space in Pike Place Market's quaint Post Alley, next door to Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub.

Post's owner Patrick McAleese is, in fact, a scion of the family behind that long-running, much-loved salute to the Emerald Isle. When he first purchased Post in 2008, he put his energies into ambience, chiseling an inviting bistro-cum-bar out of a difficult basement space. Vintage fixtures glow red and amber, barely illuminating dark hardwood floors and stenciled, chocolate-toned walls. Two TVs flank the bar; a gas fire flickers near the entrance. It's a man cave, but not without feminine appeal.

The inexpensive menu touts its Market purveyors. The Confectional's mini-cheesecakes are a highlight among desserts. Manzo Brothers Produce supplies the Brussels sprouts, deliriously good oven roasted with minced garlic and lots of red and black pepper clinging to their browned and crisped outer leaves.

Pure Fish delivers the cod that's battered with Manny's Pale Ale for fish and chips, as well as the finfish, clams, mussels and crab that go into the cioppino's briny tomato broth.

A poppy-seed baguette from Le Panier is sectioned to hold cumin-spiked "Turkish" lamb sliders made with meat from Fero's, also the source for the addictive fried chicken wings and the skinny-cut beef short ribs, aggressively seasoned, with salt, pepper and herbs, deftly charred and swabbed with an intense reduction of fresh roasted tomatoes.

Those are some of the dishes that succeeded; others failed to rise above ho-hum.

Fresh salad greens deserve better than a viscous vinaigrette that tastes right out of the bottle. Moreover, it's served on the side, but how do you apply it when a breadcrumb coated patty of pan-fried goat cheese has been dropped splat in the middle of the greens?

The small salads alongside pizza and pasta were tossed, but wiry noodles and a surfeit of meat-heavy ragu undermined spaghetti Bolognese. The pizza's sweet, biscuit-like base wasn't bad topped with red peppers and goat cheese, but might not work as well with other combinations, like pepperoni and sausage, or Portobello pesto.

The Post grinder comes with a bowl of zesty pan juices for dipping the toasted hoagie bun holding thin slices of roast beef and a melt of mild cheese. But really, if you're going to dunk, you want crustier bread.

"That's Béarnaise sauce," the bartender said, setting a plate of happy-hour sliders in front of me. It tasted more like Dijonaise, but it was the third "Béarnaise" I'd been presented with here — each of them different. Only one, a tarragon-flecked butter sauce paired with crab cakes, truly came close to Béarnaise.

But it was lackadaisical service that undercut my dining experience most.

The waitress kibitzes while customers wait. You get menus that don't match. Food takes forever to arrive.

Early one Saturday night, with the house less than half full, we waited nearly half an hour for food. Then everything arrived at once — the chicken wings, the salad and the crab cakes we had intended to share as starters, together with spaghetti, cioppino and the grinder.

When the trendy, oversized dinnerware caused gridlock on the table, the waitress suggested we move some plates to the empty table next to us.

A skilled server would have paced the meal. A veteran manager should have registered the awkward situation. McAleese, there on each of my three visits, is a benign presence. Post needs a stronger hand.

Chief bartender Garrett Boyle gets creative with cocktails like the smooth, smoky El Generalissimo — kind of a Mexican Rob Roy made with Mescal. But Post's clientele is largely looking to "Soak up that Guinness & Jameson," as the "Late Night Eats" menu puts it. In the end, it is little more than a postscript to Kells.

Providence Cicero: providencecicero@aol.com

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