Pike/Pine

I've lived on Capitol Hill for over 10 years, and it used to be that, for the most part, if you wanted something decent to eat—actually, if you wanted to do anything decent—you had to head down Broadway, preferably as far away from Pike and Pine streets as you could get. My, but things have changed. Aside from the occasional hunt for books or records, I hardly bother with Broadway anymore, and I'm not alone in suggesting the whole damn area could use a little face-lift. The balance seems to have shifted in the last few years, so that Pike and Pine (some yahoos are trying to call it the "Pike/Pine Corridor") now have most of the action and, frankly, nearly all of the best restaurants on the Hill. From Melrose Avenue up until about 13th Avenue, the two streets encompass pretty much everything everyone thinks of when they think about Capitol Hill: the boys, the babes, the beer, the diversity, creativity, generosity, pomposity, egocentricity, etc., etc. You can have great foreign food, upstanding urban fare, and slouchy comfort fixings in places that don't care what you're wearing, who you're groping, how you make your money—or why you think you're so special, asshole. Steve Wiecking Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen Classic Bimbo's maneuver: When I called to ask if the place had a Web site I could look up, I got a disinterested wanker yelling back to his co-workers, an audible round of no's, and the suggestion to "try Friendster." Yeah, thanks. Thanks a lot. So it's like that—no one serving you is ever going to be particularly touched by public interaction, although, sure, they'll take your order. But you don't go to Bimbo's for politesse, Your Highness, just like you don't amble around the Hill to walk amongst upstanding young Republicans. The burritos here are like small, edible logs and enough meal for at least half the day. The cheap basic burrito, with whole or refried beans, will do you just fine, but a dollar extra will kick you up to one with herbed chicken, beef, or—a personal favorite—garlic roasted potatoes. The hard or soft tacos are also good, and if you're dining in, you should definitely try the quesadilla pie (which layers corn tortillas with beans, cheese, and sour cream as well as roasted garlic and red peppers). The decor is Orgasmic Charo—bamboo, Mexican kitsch, string lights, velvet paintings, et al.—and the staff isn't moved by any of that, either. S.W. 506 E. Pine St., 206-329-9978. $ The Capitol Club I once wrote that this restaurant was Linda's Tavern playing dress up, and I still think that's the best way to put it. It's no insult, by the way—it's just that one look at its stylish, attractive crowd lets you know that they're all the people who would normally be having a beer up the street but wanted to chill for the night at a more upscale venue that won't get them labeled pretentious. And I don't blame them—the pillowy, mellow Mediterranean thing the place has going on isn't b.s. You feel extravagantly laid-back here, and the cool will cost you. I get a little grumpy about small-plated appetizers and pricey mixed drinks, but I can't argue with the results: The service is top-notch, and the various hummus, prawns, and tapenades are all good, especially if you're going to pair them with a sip of the Casbah, a house special featuring pomegranate syrup, fresh oranges, Absolut Citron and Cointreau. Dinners have style—take whatever lamb they offer you—but drinks and appetizers, especially upstairs (or on the deck on warm summer nights), are the way to go as long as you're not planning to stuff yourself. S.W. 414 E. Pine St., 206-325-2149. $-$$ www.thecapitolclub.net The Green Papaya This clean, cool Vietnamese restaurant opened just over a year ago and immediately staked a claim to my permanent devotion. It's an airy room with large windows that give it an open feel (particularly on a bright day), and the service is extraordinarily polite. Great taste and immaculate presentation make the extra wait for carefully prepared meals worth it—you can't help but relax when a place is this quietly confident. Everything on the menu is fresh and will feel compellingly novel to anyone used to the Hill's more typical Asian fare—you'll end up swearing by the first thing you sample here. Let me just tell you what to order so you can be on your way: the Cho Lon Rolls appetizer—rice paper enclosing a memorably crisp mix of sautéed carrots, tofu, mint (just enough, thank you), peanuts, and lettuce—and, above all, the Catfish Clay Pot, a caramelized fillet that practically dissolves on your tongue. S.W. 600 E. Pine St., 206-323-1923. $$ www.papayaonpine.com Ristorante Machiavelli Location, location, location: This veritable Capitol Hill landmark sits right on the corner of Pine Street and Melrose Avenue, and I'd be willing to bet that most of us who have an affection for it go because it's there. Sure, you could head downtown for more adventurous Italian fare, but why would you when Machiavelli's offers a cheap, cozy carbonara and the chance to see everyone else in your neighborhood at least stroll by? Big windows overlooking both streets enclose a modest dining room (and an intimate, always packed bar) that lends itself perfectly to first dates, dinner before the movie downtown, or a spur-of-the-moment meeting place. Nothing on the fairly standard menu is going to make anyone in the Old Country swell with pride, but you'll probably find something simple that for reasons of comfort keeps you coming back every now and again: The tortellini with meat sauce is fairly addictive; the lasagna Bolognese is nothing to sniff at; and it's an absolute requirement to get some Gorgonzola on your mixed green salad. The place just feels like home. 1215 Pine St., 206-621-7941. $$ Six Arms You've got it hand it to the McMenamins clan for knowing how to work a neighborhood. They may have joints all over the Northwest, but the one on lower Pike still feels like the one and only. Outside of the estimable Linda's a few blocks up, I don't think there's a more quintessential place on the Hill to grab a drink with a large group of friends, and I know for a fact there isn't a better burger. The roomy booths can accommodate a generous gathering, but it's up to you whether you can handle what I can't get enough of here: Wild Wil's Jumbo Deluxe Burger, which comes piled with cheese, bacon, and a fried egg. All the flame-broiled offerings are good, though (even the grain-based Gardenburger), and you also can't miss with the ale-battered halibut fish and chips. Oh—I'd like to shake the hand of whoever added the Tater Tots to the menu. Service is usually amiable and sometimes a little slow, but there's a good jukebox, and the place has been designed with the kind of knickknacky, warm-wooded, eloquently grungy aesthetic that suggests you're free to hang out here for hours. S.W. 300 E. Pike St., 206-223-1698. $ www.mcmenamins.com 611 Supreme This French place on a relatively busy section of Pine Street is so lived-in and inconspicuous that it's easy to walk right by (I always forget exactly on which part of the block it resides). Everyone seems to find it, though. It has a diverse, devoted crowd and the warm vibe of some funky European cafe. It's young and modern but isn't going to make a big deal about it. A lot of people seem to dig the bar at night—and the dinner menu that includes poached fish and roasted chicken—but, come on, don't you kind of have to stop in for brunch and one of the crepes? Try something fat and filling (Le Jambon has ham, scallions, and Gruyère, and you can add potatoes if you like) or, better, just admit to your sweet tooth and give in to something filled with Nutella or orange butter garnished with shaved chocolate. S.W. 611 E. Pine St., 206-328-0292. $-$$ 1200 Bistro & Lounge Soft light, walls in solid washes of red and yellow—the place at 12th Avenue and Pike Street is kind of like being inside a Rothko without the melancholy. It's a class act fulfilling a niche that, surprisingly, hadn't quite been satisfied until its arrival: a restaurant for neighborhood gay men and their extended friends and family to have an elegant experience without completely breaking the bank (an appetizer, some salads, dinner, and coffee for two will run you around $100 or so if you tip as well as you should). No, it's not exclusively gay, of course—anyone with even a modicum of taste should make a reservation immediately— but its sleek wait staff and convivial atmosphere (its bar is a perfect spot to meet for a drink) clearly suggest it knows on which side its bread is buttered. And whatever executive chef Chet Wallenstein is getting paid, it's not enough. Everything on the menu has a singular touch: A delicious Dungeness crab cake comes with shrimp fritters that melt in your mouth; the salads include a fantastic fried- calamari-and-crème-fraîche creation that will make you wonder why anyone even bothers with tossed lettuce anymore. Entrées? Let's talk braised beef shortribs: falls off the bone. We're talking about meat so spectacular that if you found out the cow had been kept in a box and mocked for its entire pathetic life, you'd inquire as to when its bovine kin would be prepped and sent your way. If you find a better meal, be sure to say hello to St. Peter at the pearly gates, because you'll know you've died. S.W. 1200 E. Pike St., 206-320-1200. $$$ www.1200Bistro.com food@seattleweekly.com

 
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