Siiri Sampson 2011.
They look a little better than they taste, but are at least as good as anyone else's ahi sliders. The wasabi mayo


Earl's Proves Sexy and Tasty Can Coexist

Siiri Sampson 2011.
They look a little better than they taste, but are at least as good as anyone else's ahi sliders. The wasabi mayo saved 'em.
How much T&A can one place take? Is there an inverse proportion of T&A to quality of service? These really are life's big unanswered questions, aren't they?! It's bad enough as a (normal) woman to sit down in a restaurant to find the day's special is a face full of double Ds with a side of micro-mini skirts, let alone to get your food only to realize the chefs were too busy gawking to get the dish right. Don't even get us started on the complete and utter lack of model-worthy male servers in comparison. What must it be like to live in Vegas full time? One shudders at the thought. Maybe that's why so many married couples hit the buffets--fewer distractions for everyone involved; just focus on the food and keep the bottomless rum-and-Cokes flowing.

Lucky for those living in Seattle and Bellevue, most places (save Joey's) keep a pretty decent balance of brains and beauty, allowing the kitchen to execute with some decorum. After the Canadian-based Earl's popped up in Lincoln Square (700 Bellevue Way N.E., Suite 130) two years ago (spring 2009), the buildup fizzled when the quality of food and service didn't deliver and the Spandex-clad "service" wasn't enough to make up for it. So, one asks, has it changed?

Well, there's a reason for the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover," and this trip to Earl's was a prime example. As a woman, having a woman open a door for you is a rare yet welcome experience, pleasantly surprising at Earl's on a Thursday night. Brownie point. Getting there at the beginning of happy hour was a terrific idea, because it was empty, service was fast, and we had that much more time to get buzzed on the cheap. A beautiful brunette approached the table to wait on us, and we're ashamed to admit the first thought that came to mind was "Oh, great"--and not in a good way.

What came next was just as unexpected as the front-door greeting; the waitress was poised, friendly, not annoying, and extremely knowledgeable about the wine ordered--almost freakishly so. She wanted to make sure there wouldn't be any surprises when the wine came, because, as she told us, each bottle she'd had of this specific vintage had been completely different from the others, to the point that she called the winery to investigate. WHAT?! Seriously? Either we hit the waitress jackpot, or Earl's did a complete 180 on educating their staff since they opened. Brownie point.

Siiri Sampson 2011.
Calamari good enough to convince the next table they had to have it too. They weren't disappointed, either.
Happy hour got even better when the G&Ts and wine showed up and proved to be generous pours for the price. Earl's has a different happy-hour special every day--Thursday's treat was $4 highballs, and the well gin was Tanqueray, thank you very much. After we consulted the menu, a plentiful platter of crispy fried baby calamari topped with chopped red onion and a side of homemade tzatziki sauce ($7) showed up, along with three ahi tuna sliders ($7) with a hint of wasabi mayo, baby field greens, delicate slices of cucumber (which usually ruins them, but didn't) and a toasted sesame bun. The sliders were not as great as we'd imagined; the ahi steaks didn't seem to have any seasoning or marinade on them, and they should have been seared at a higher heat to create a better crust and avoid the grey color that was present on both sides. The steaks were also a little thin, but then again it's just happy-hour food, so there you go . . . mildly disappointing.

But back to the baby calamari, which really did pack a crunchy punch of flavor. Great fresh-tasting batter, and however odd the red onion sounded in theory, it was the perfect accompaniment with fresh-squeezed lemon and the tzatziki. The dish on the whole could have been hotter, and served with a spoon since all its little parts were hard to get on a fork. On the whole, good.

Two rounds and two clean plates later, happy hour was coming to an end, and so had our hunger pangs. By this time, the bar and almost every table in the place was jammed--mostly by men, but with a few couples and groups of co-workers mixing it up while glued to the March Madness games on every TV. Another trip will be made to test Earl's dinner menu and ensure this pleasant experience was not a fluke. But if the volume at 6 p.m. on a Thursday is any indication, it's a safe bet dinner will be just as good, even if there still is a fair amount of T&A milling about (we'll leave the men at home).

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