Alki beach doesn't quite have the same mystic charm in the winter as it does during the summer, with kids skating around the boardwalk and couples strolling on the beach. When the rain arrives, and Alki loses its beach-town appeal, residents move from the shores to the many tiny restaurants lining the water.
Phoenecia is one of these eateries along the strip.
Actually, it's a tapas bar that doubles as a restaurant in the early evening. But when my guest and I arrive, in the middle of one of Seattle's monsoon rainstorms, we're more excited about the building's heating unit than the menu. For a weekday, the space is surprisingly abuzz with couples and clusters of friends laughing over glasses of wine. It's an intimate, dimly lit space contained to a one-room dining area. In sync with the rest of the beachy joints of Alki, the walls are painted pale yellow and giant, floor-to-ceiling windows make you feel as though you're at the bow of a boat. On one wall of the restaurant is a blackboard featuring the specials and the two or three only entrees that diverge from a menu of gourmet pizzas. There are plank floors and glossy wood tables with minimal table settings.The waitress is also refreshingly pleasant. She floats from one table to the next making conversation as if she is the hostess of a private dinner party. With her guidance, we select a small pizza to share, three tapas and a salad. The waitress patiently explains which are best paired with each other and how many doll-dishes equate to a meal.
Twenty minutes later we're so inundated with plates that we have to unload onto the neighboring table.
My pizza is pesto and mozzarella cheese dotted with halved cherry tomatoes. I don't think there's much culinary skill behind pizza-making, but it's delicious nonetheless. There's even bubbling mozzarella cooked into the crust. My guest has ordered the green salad, saffron chicken, fiery shrimp and "trio of spreads" (fancy for pita and hummus). When the tapas arrive cubed, sliced and otherwise minuscule, we realize why the waitress had suggested three dishes instead of one. Surprisingly, we're busting at the seams by the end of dinner. And yet, it doesn't seem right to leave without sampling the dessert, so once again we ask for the menu. We order the banana foster and the crème brulee. They're sickeningly indulgent, but also the perfect end to dinner.
We're in such sugary bliss that we almost forget, we're customers, not guests at a dinner party. The bill quickly shatters that. Still, an affordable dinner at Phoenecia is plausible (if you keep a calculator in your back-pocket). And the laid-back, neighborly vibe of this place easily makes up for any other minor disappointments.