Log-Cabin Cooking

It may not be Grandma's, but it's the next best thing.

THE ALKI HOMESTEAD

2717 61st Ave. S.W. WEST SEATTLE, 206-935-5678 5-10 p.m. Tues.-Sat.; 3-8:30 p.m. Sun. The Alki Homestead is a beautifully maintained, 100-year-old, Douglas fir log cabin situated about a block off Alki Beach in West Seattle. But despite its regal presence and proximity to popular bakeries and fish-and-chips shops, most Seattleites—especially those under age 65—don't even know it's there. And perhaps that's not surprising, because the Homestead—once a carriage house for the William and Gladys Bernard residence—eschews modernity. As soon as you see the manicured yard, you suspect you're not in Belltown anymore, and immediately inside the door your suspicion is confirmed. Tables are covered with pale pink cloths, antique lamps top antique end tables, and a fantastic old fireplace holds court in the middle of a grand dining room. China cabinets display delicate dishes. Romantic, sepia-toned photographs adorn the walls. Everything, down to the small vases on the tables, seems to have been individually chosen with loving care and dusted just this morning. The Homestead doesn't do fusion cuisine—do not look for fancy fris饭topped pyramids of pan-seared albacore slices—it doesn't even offer appetizers. On most nights they stop seating at around 8:30 p.m., and there is no bar (although they do serve cocktails, beer, and wine). Most strikingly old-fashioned, solid, and comforting of all is how the Homestead serves the evening meal. Choose your main dish with care, selecting the highly regarded, all-you-can-eat fried chicken ($14.95); the buttery and juicy baked (or broiled) halibut ($12.95); the tender, fresh-from-the-sea, fried prawns ($13.95); the nicely cut New York steak ($14.95); or any of the remaining five or six meat-and-potatoes-style main courses. Choose carefully, because this is the last choice you will make for quite some time. The first food you'll see is a basket of biscuits. Although vaguely powdery and redolent of a Bisquik box, they do come with jelly. Childhood memories of Sunday dinners at Grandma's house come rushing back. Next is a small cup of soup, set in front of you gingerly, without announcement. Is it vegetable soup? Well, there are carrots in it. And rice. Is it chicken soup? It's difficult to tell for sure (and vegetarians should definitely ask first), but it's hot and comforting and gloriously homemade, if a bit salty (but so was Grandma's). Then salad. Not a fancy mixed wild baby greens salad: iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, and julienned carrots. And, like the biscuits and the soup, the salad will just come. With your main dish, depending on what you chose, you receive a steaming, perfectly done and dressed baked potato or some rice pilaf of the stick-to-your-ribs variety. Next to both, a pool of sweet green peas awaits a dollop of butter. The peas taste more wonderful than you'd ever think possible—no fancy downtown side dish can touch them—and although your mother would scarcely believe it, you finish every last one. Because of the family-style method of preparation and service, you and your tablemates really eat together—enjoying the same wholesome, comforting things at the same time. It's this simplicity that makes the experience so relaxing and homey. By the time you chat through the three opening courses and your main dish arrives, you almost imagine that you actually live here; that your bedroom is just up the stairs; that this pink tablecloth was handed down from your Great Aunt Ida, that the chandelier above your table once graced the ancestral family home in West Virginia. Or Tukwila. Wherever. You have the distinct feeling that a few hours from now, as you prepare to fall peacefully toward slumber, either your quiet and formal waiter or the slight gray-haired woman who efficiently runs the entire place will meet you in the study with a cup of warm milk before bedtime. THE FOOD AT the Alki Homestead isn't necessarily going to floor you or open new inroads to culinary secrets. It isn't meant to. It is meant to comfort and sustain you, and that's exactly what it does. Which probably explains the disproportionately high number of older clientele; everything at the Homestead—the decor, the fried chicken, the service—exudes a genuine sense of the old world. Good luck finding that in Belltown. lcassidy@seattleweekly.com

 
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