Hip diner dazzles whether you rise and shine or stay out late
Skillet Diner is the stationary sit-down sibling to the Skillet Airstream trailer that has been wheeling around town the past four years.
Special to The Seattle Times
|Pork belly & cornmeal waffle||$13|
|Chicken-fried pork chop||$16|
Skillet DinerContemporary American
1400 E. Union St., Seattle
Reservations: Not accepted.
Hours: 7 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday; 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday.
Prices: $$ Breakfast $6-$13, sandwiches & salads $7-$13, dinner entrees $12-$19
Drinks: Full bar; beer and wine on tap; fresh fruit juices; shakes and floats
Parking: On street.
Sound: Boisterous when busy, which is much of the time.
Who should go: Suitable for all ages; a home-away-from-home for those who live on, or frequent, Capitol Hill.
Credit cards: All major.
Access: No obstacles.
Kale Caesar! When you spy that salad on the menu, you know right away this isn't your average diner. From the updated American menu to the slickly designed venue, there is nothing ordinary about Skillet Diner.
The concept was born four years ago, in an Airstream trailer still tooling about town followed by a faithful coterie hooked on fine burgers dabbed with bacon jam — and poutine like you've never tasted before. Now owner/operator Joshua Henderson has given Skillet's many fans a place to sit down in (where else?) Capitol Hill's booming Pike-Pine area. In addition to the comfy booths and swiveling counter stools inside, chairs and benches line the sidewalk accommodating a hungry posse that swells during peak hours.
Open from 7 a.m. to midnight or later, Skillet fields an all-day menu of breakfast items, burgers, salads and sandwiches. Dinner entrees kick in at 5 p.m. Chef Brian O'Connor and his crew don't go in for dainty "small plates," unless you count roasted hazelnuts, oiled and herbed: a lovely nibble to pair with the bar's craft cocktails.
The menu is tweaked monthly; a chalkboard touts daily specials. The soups I sampled were as delicious as they were different: one a luxurious potato-leek edged with pepper; the other a brisk chilled tomato purée that tasted to me like Marzano tomatoes with fresh basil, good olive oil and not much else.
I liked the Brie mingling with cheddar and American in the grilled-cheese sandwich, but not the bits of funky rind. For $2 more, Skillet's signature condiment, bacon jam, puts a smoky-salty-sweet scrim between the triple-rich cheese and the thickly sliced brioche. The fries that accompany burgers and sandwiches (unless you ask for salad) are very good, but for an extra $3, you can upgrade to the sublime poutine: those same fries thickly glazed with herb-laced cheddar-rich gravy.
The aptly named "big boy biscuit" is a marvel of biscuitry. Its crumbly nature is ideal for soaking up sage gravy, but not for the heavy-lifting needed for a sandwich stacked with baconlike guanciale, two over-easy eggs and American cheese. The savory cornmeal waffle, on the other hand, offers stalwart support to a fried egg and soft, maple-glazed pork belly. Add syrup and something magical occurs.
You'll find the Kale Caesar with other salads under "Greenery" on the menu. Silvery anchovies crisscrossed on top signal the presence of more in the bold, creamy dressing. Adding a fried-chicken thigh to the mix is a $5 investment you won't regret. The diced, crunchy morsels resemble meaty croutons and the fennel seeds embedded in the crust add extra flavor.
Rabbit loin benefits from that same spicy fennel crust. Dabbed with fiery cherry chermoula, the loin is served alongside a soft and yielding rabbit leg, stewed with navy beans in an equally feisty, chorizo-laced barbecue sauce.
The rabbit twosome is a dinner item. Right now at night you'll find, as well, such seasonal treats as fried corn-on-the-cob brushed with Old Bay butter, and fabulous rainbow chard studded with bacon, currants and pine nuts. Pickled cherries and a refreshing peaches-and-herb slaw enliven the somewhat ho-hum sautéed rainbow trout.
Waves of basil and Parmesan ripple through luxurious macaroni and cheese made with delicate torch-shaped noodles. Weekday specials include Thursday's grand chicken-fried pork chop, plated with rich mashed potatoes and even richer bacon gravy. After a dish like that, if you still want dessert, I can vouch for the skillet-baked apple pie for two, its top crust sticky sweet from bubbling juice.
Speaking of juice, try the fruit fresca, a refillable refresher that changes daily. All beverages are served in canning jars, which doesn't do any favors for Walla Walla's Proletariat wines, dispensed from nitrogen-charged kegs.
The jar that becomes your water glass also holds flatware rolled in the kitchen towel that serves as your napkin. It's a nice bit of shtick, like the skillets attached to the wall, and the loud plaid shirts that look somewhat incongruous on these nice-as-pie but oh-so-urban servers. It's also the kind of branding that makes me wonder if Skillet Diner is destined for duplication. I hope it is.
Providence Cicero: email@example.com
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