Ballard’s Brunswick & Hunt: inventively made classics
Brunswick & Hunt in Ballard offers an inventive American menu and inspired cocktails in a snug setting featuring a century-old oak bar and a bright, spotless kitchen.
Special to The Seattle Times
Brunswick & Hunt ★★★
1480 N.W. 70th St., Seattle
Hours: dinner 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $$$ (small and large plates $8-$28)
Drinks: full bar, moderately priced mostly domestic wine list
Service: considerate, conversant, cordial
Parking: on street
Sound: high ceilings and hard edges make it loud when full
Who should go: a grown-ups’ place where you might meet friends for a drink in the bar, book a table for dinner or chitchat with the chefs at the kitchen counter
Credit cards: all major
Access: no obstacles
Roasted beets with blue cheese and cashews $8
Purple pole bean salad $11
Burger and pommes frites $16
Fried chicken $22
Beef tenderloin $26
The Brunswick Corporation is best known today for making boats, but back in the 19th century, Brunswick-Balke-Collender, as it was then called, specialized in billiard tables, bowling balls and ornate bars like the beauty installed at Brunswick & Hunt.
It was made in the 1890s of American oak and birch. Restaurateurs Barry (The Deluxe) and Scott (The Athenian) Rogel found it in Winlock, Wa. A Seattle craftsman spent two years restoring the nearly 16-foot-long front and the 10-foot-tall mirrored back to their original glory.
Meanwhile, the Rogels searched for somewhere to put it — together with its companion piece, an equally massive landscape painting called “The Hunt,” permanently yellowed by a century of nicotine.
“The bar and the painting have always been together,” says Barry, who spotted me on my second visit. He’s pretty sure fate led them to The W.E. Hunt Building, located on a stretch of Northwest 70th Street in Whittier Heights that is a well-established food-lovers’ lane.
Thus was born Brunswick & Hunt, a low-key neighborhood place with sprightly service, inspired cocktails and an inventive American menu that fits right in with its neighbors — Delancey, Essex and The Fat Hen.
The space is vast enough to encompass the bar but cozy, too. Amber light falls softly on brick walls, dyed oak floors and tables, and tufted, green velvet upholstery on the backs of banquettes and booths. Lustrous white tiles surround a giant, gas-fired Woodstone oven in the spick-and-span open kitchen, fronted by counter seating.
Vegetables are some of the best things to emerge from that oven: spectacular blistered green beans tossed with garlic and bits of grapefruit; roasted Chioggia and golden beets, snug in a cast iron baker, as sweet as apples, with blue cheese and warmly spiced cashews as counterpoints.
Oven-browned cauliflower and zucchini, laced with tarragon and apricot dressing, lacked the same vibrancy, perhaps because the dish was served chilled. Yet an orange-dressed raw salad of purple pole beans, celery, fennel and watermelon delivered color and crunch, acid and sweet, with comic-book aplomb: Kapow!
Cooking is a collaborative effort. The kitchen team is led by Rudy Velasquez, supported by Jason Northern and Shaun Chambers. They change up the menu a little each week, taking advantage of what’s fresh and seasonal.
Gumbo and the Hunter burger are listed as signature dishes. Gumbo hits the right flavor notes, but the soup was oily and thin, despite the presence of okra. The burger comes with excellent fries and house ketchup, and has real character. The buffalo-and-beef patty is stacked on a brioche bun with a slab of Maytag blue cheese, cucumber, pickled shallots and a schmear of bold mustard.
It’s the fried chicken, however, that’s destined for fame. An order includes the breast, partly boned, and the leg and thigh joint. The pieces are brined, cooked sous vide, dipped in seasoned buttermilk then in seasoned flour and finally flash fried to a delicate but decided crunch. They arrived golden and gleaming under a light drizzle of honey alongside tart, creamy kale slaw and purple potato salad studded with ham.
Among other large plates, beef tenderloin was as carefully cooked as seared albacore. Compound butter melted into the sliced meat, delivering onion and tarragon; tangy, fresh corn relish sprawled at its side. The tuna was part of an appealing, though underdressed, riff on salade Niçoise that included red-tipped lettuce, chopped Castelvetrano olives, sea beans, cherry tomatoes and a soft-cooked egg.
Two desserts, both wickedly good, re-imagine campfire classics. The S’more pie has a graham-cracker crust, a semifreddo-ish filling of marshmallow cream, and a chocolate ganache top. Hot-from-the-oven “cottage pudding” is a biscuit-like pastry encasing fruit (pear on my visit). Buttery, bourbon-spiked hard sauce melted into the top; caramel sauce pooled beneath.
Buckwheat flatbread is something else you might cook in a campfire skillet. Here the dark rounds (think pita crossed with blini) are hearth-baked. They become a sophisticated bar snack sprinkled with sea salt and spread with warm duck rillettes, spicy black bean purée and a dab of strawberry-peppercorn jam. Have it with the Huntsman, a rye-based cocktail that may be the best use of Jagermeister ever. Like the bar and the painting, the dish and the drink belong together.
Providence Cicero is The Seattle Times restaurant critic. Reach her at email@example.com.