Living Room

Put up your feet . . . just not on the table

Brad's Swingside Cafe The most romantic place ever to feature a windowsill shrine to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Brad Inserra's wood-paneled living room of a cafe also serves up rich, loosely Italian fare and, if you're lucky, a live performance by Orville Johnson, reminding you that "everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die." (Those looking for a shortcut can just try the tiramisu.) Be sure to loosen your belt: Like any good host, Inserra won't send you home hungry—or bored. The crab-crowned aglio olio is the size of two meals and has the flavor of three; you'll find yourself eagerly anticipating the leftovers. The gumbo gets a Northwest touch from Alaskan white salmon; it goes down lighter than its Southern progenitors, but this reviewer still found it in his refrigerator the next day—and swiftly gobbled it up. DAMON AGNOSServes: dinner. 4212 Fremont Ave. N., 633-4057. FREMONT $$ Dinette Dinette has become an extension of our home, which is as much a factor of it being cozy and cleverly decorated as it is the fact that it's four blocks away—the ideal place for my husband and I to entertain when our one-bedroom apartment just won't do. Chef-owner Melissa Nyffeler is adept at treating the palate to simple pleasures. From the toasts (what most people call "bruschetta" in their homes) with creative toppings like gorgonzola, bacon, and fig to the bowls of steamed mussels and ricotta gnocchi with braised short ribs, the food at Dinette is delightful without overdoing it on the details. The friendly staff has allowed us nearly an hour to savor wine and toasts before ordering entrées, and has taken care of us so completely that we failed to realize the dining room had emptied long before we'd finished carrying on—no doubt due to the fact that we were taking advantage of the restaurant's half-priced bottles of wine on Wednesdays. Even if you have plenty of space in your real dining room, everyone should have a neighborhood bistro like Dinette. AIMEE CURLServes: dinner. 1514 E. Olive Way, 328-2282. CAPITOL HILL $$www.dinetteseattle.com Eva Restaurant & Wine Bar "Chef's home cooking" isn't quite a cuisine category, but it should be. Eva, in Tangletown, excels at the kind of food that a really good chef might make at home. The restaurant's two dining areas support this idea by offering living-room vs. family-room seating: On the left, backed right up to the kitchen, is a delightfully cramped dining room with white tablecloths and candlelight. On the right you have a less-decorated room with a bar running along one side and big wooden tables unadorned by even basic silverware. Sit down for a three-course meal and browse the eclectic wine selection, or stop in for a Greek-style sandwich and a beer. As with going over to anyone's house for their mama's specialty, the kitchen at Eva has a few fortes, too. You must order anything pudding-like. Savory chorizo bread pudding? Get it. Blue-cheese flan? Order two, because just like at home, you won't share. MAGGIE DUTTONServes: dinner. 2227 N. 56th St., 633-3538. GREEN LAKE $$www.evarestaurant.com Mysore Masala Cuisine of India Few people's living rooms are stocked with steam tables (perhaps a new trend for Dwell to launch?), but then again, few restaurants that offer lunchtime buffets are as comfortably tranquil as Mysore Masala. It's a quiet room, washed in placid yellows, with a soft-voiced owner who's so sweet you'd almost expect her to be knitting in the corner when she's not bringing you idlis or refilling your chai. Seattleites should stop settling for middling Indian food in the city and drive east for Mysore Masala's dosas—translucent, crisp South Indian crepes stuffed with spiced potatoes, which you tear apart and swab through bowls of coconut chutney—or its thali, whose grandiosity belies its modest setting. The silver tray comes tightly packed with cup-sized tins containing several different curries, soupy dal, tangy rasam soup, raita, pickles, and two kinds of rice: plain basmati and spiced. JONATHAN KAUFFMANServes: lunch, dinner. 16650 Redmond Way, 425-558-7858. REDMOND $ Rover's Under an unostentatious porte cochere, through a small courtyard, up onto a pocket porch, and through the front door: Entering Rover's really is like dropping in at a friend's place. Its dining space holds just 17 tables. With its cream-yellow walls, burgundy carpet, and not-too-low lighting, it's a room designed for both physical and ocular comfort. Along with the service—and even the tableside visits from convivial, fedora'd chef-owner Thierry Rautureau—such a room is meant to settle you into a state of relaxed, eager receptiveness for the delights to come. A meal there is like a series of little oral epiphanies; even foods I've long loved, like scallops and duck, were prepared in a way that made me feel I'd never really tasted them before. Rover's three tasting menus cost $80, $95, and $130, and the packages including specially selected wine pairings run even higher. Seems like a splurge, but for what you get, it's a bargain—and in fact, in case you want to order à la carte, the prices of the courses are broken out. You can see for yourself that spending $22 on the Muscovy duck with foie gras, a dish that will lodge blissfully in your memory for a good long time, is far from extravagant. GAVIN BORCHERTServes: dinner; lunch Friday only. 2808 E. Madison St., 325-7442. MADISON VALLEY $$$www.rovers-seattle.com Tilth Tilth is the top layer of soil that contains all its minerals and nutrients. No wonder dining at this (literally) certified organic spot feels healthy and homegrown. That's the impression that washes over you as soon as you walk into this 1917 Craftsman home, which still has some of the original moldings and windows. Just like a home, there's no host stand, so nod hello to your fellow diners as you wait for one of the servers to lead you to your farmhouse-chic table. Once seated, you'll be treated to an amuse-bouche, such as a buttery avocado mousse, while you look over the menu. Dishes come in half- or full-sized portions, meaning you can have either two or four of chef Maria Hines' famous mini–duck burgers with ketchup, hot mustard, and chips fried in duck fat. The entrées comprise things like albacore with truffle oil and an inspired smoked-bean cassoulet that you'd swear has bacon swimming around in it. Fortunately, you're not expected to help with dishes after dinner. JULIEN PERRYServes: brunch, dinner. 1411 N. 45th St., 633-0801. WALLINGFORD $$www.tilthrestaurant.com Wallingford Pizza House What's a house without a living room? Even Wallingford Pizza House has one. Of course, the furniture consists of tables and chairs, and there are people in aprons walking around serving pizza to you. But it's a living room all the same. Situated snugly between the two Guild 45th Theatres on 45th Street, the restaurant was indeed a house before being converted into a pizza joint, and the old living room is now the main dining area. The specialty here is Chicago deep-dish, which means a thick buttery crust, a fleshy layer of cheese, and chunky sauce; all three should be piled so thick they look like layers of a strata. Now, my first taste of Chicago-style pizza was actually in Chicago, and it was so transcendent that I had very low expectations for a Chicago-style joint in Seattle (you people can't even make a decent sandwich, for chrissake). But Wallingford Pizza House defied those expectations. The beer-butter-flavored crust, the sugary-spice tomato sauce, and...the cheese! It is the best expat Chicago-style pizza west of the Mississippi. BRIAN J. BARRServes: weekend lunch, dinner. 2109 N. 45th St., 547-3663. WALLINGFORD $www.wallingfordpizzahouse.com Willie's Taste of Soul If you don't like the food Willie Turner grew up eating during his Louisiana childhood, well, tough shit. He cooks Louisiana-style barbecue, not to be confused with Texas style, Kansas City style, or any other style. Willie's generous (an extreme understatement) servings of brisket, wings, ribs, chicken, links, cornbread, beans, and cobbler are his and his alone—and they're really, really good. Whereas once he was housed in a small Beacon Hill storefront with rabbit-eared TVs and very few dine-in surfaces, Turner's new digs now feature plasma-screen tubes and ample seating in a spacious environment that's akin to watching the NBA finals in your rich uncle's living room. Turner's might also be the only soda cooler in town to feature an extensive array of Faygo pop, just like unc's basement fridge. If you don't know what that is, then you don't come from the swath of Middle America where Willie hails from. But that's OK; you're still invited to sample his sauce. MIKE SEELYServes: lunch, dinner. 3427 Rainier Ave. S., 722-3229. RAINIER VALLEY $williestasteofsoul.com

 
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