Uptown Food Odyssey

So many restaurants, so many miles to walk.

The Uptown neighborhood, aka LQA, exemplifies what might be called the restaurant concentrator effect. One good eatery--or even a so-so joint--tends to attract more of the same. They follow the crowds, and they also create their own crowds of diners, which almost seems contrary to the law of supply and demand. When one decent restaurant opens on a corner, three more tend to join in a cluster. This is evident in my LQA hood, which is only getting more and more densely populated between the sprouting condos and throngs of theater and Sonics fans--well, the former probably now outnumber the latter--who come to Seattle Center and need chow beforehand. The intersection of Queen Anne and Mercer is thick with dining spots, with tentacles reaching down Roy, First North, and beyond. It's also developing some interesting grazing patterns, like the wildebeest migrating across the Serengeti, as an indecisive colleague and I discovered on a recent restaurant walkathon.

We departed from the obvious spots at Uptown's food locus: Tup Tim Thai was too crowded, and I eat there all the time. With utterly ordinary bar food, Ozzie's was congested as usual with the post-collegiate karaoke league. The thick cigarette smoke on the sidewalk also kept us moving. Peso's is a pick-up joint known more for its tequila shots than Mexican fare (brunch, I'm told, is a better time to sample the menu). So we passed on, rejecting Pagliacci and Kidd Valley as being everyday staples of my diet. The Sitting Room (on West Roy) I love, but it no longer seems to have the full dinner menu we sought that evening.

Finally we settled on Panos Kleftiko, that great little Greek place down where Roy meets Fifth North, by the old Tower Records (now Silver Platters--and good luck, guys). This meant traversing the somewhat bleak stretch of Roy opposite Seattle Center's parking garage and lots. Jabu's Pub, McMenamins, various Thai and vegetarian places--it's an area where I predict culinary standards will soon rise with all the new condos (and an upmarket retirement home) just to the north.

But the surprise came to the south. First, Panos was closed for vacation. Damn! And the deservedly praised Crow, just next door at Fifth North and Aloha, was packed and DEAFENINGLY LOUD. On the same stretch, apparently under new management, Sushi Land Marineopolis had customers lined up on the sidewalk. Who knew that place was so popular? (Despite looking like a laundromat.) Clearly a dynamic new Uptown food hub has been formed; the only place where you could get in without reservations (or waiting) was the 7-Eleven, probably because the Slurpee machine was broken or they were out of Slim Jims. By now, desperate for food, my pal and I ventured a little farther south to Veil, where there were empty tables but we felt underdressed to sit at one. (Interesting side note for single guys--the bar was occupied only by women.)

So we trekked all the way back to 10 Mercer, always a safe, familiar, grown-up's choice where the drinks are strong and the salmon burgers reliable. Though my ankle was sore from our forced march, I think our arduous expedition proved that Lower Queen Anne now has more dining density--or plates per capita--than any other region of the city. Just remember to wear your comfy walking shoes.

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