The Place: LloydMartin, 1525 Queen Anne Ave. N., 420-7602, QUEEN ANNE.
Clams with chorizo, beer and the world's longest slice of Macrina foccacia.
The Hours: 5-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
The Digs: Perched atop Queen Anne hill in the old Bricco space, former 5 Corner Market Kitchen & Bar chef Sam Crannell is a creative force, turning out praise-worthy food in a barely-there kitchen. The dimly-lit space takes its cue from just about every other good wine bar in the city--thick with dark woods, flickering candles, and a large glass-encased wine cellar visible from every seat in the house. The only thing more beautiful cloaking this small bistro is the smell of food wafting from the kitchen that, according to Crannell, lacks three major things: a hood, gas, and time. "With the constraints of what we have to do, it takes twice as long--or three times as long--to produce a product that, if we were in a conventional kitchen, would take an hour. We braise, we smoke, we cure. We have to rethink how we're doing food."
The Deal: Happy hours come a dime a dozen, but the same can not be said for really good happy hours. Thankfully, Seattle has LloydMartin. Social Hour, as it's called, has got to be one of the best dining deals in the city. Cocktails are $8, wines are $6, beers are $3 and the small plates (which aren't so small) are $5. The handsome dinner spot, nearing its eight-month anniversary, was virtually empty at 5 p.m. on a recent Tuesday, sparking internal speculation that maybe the new happy hour wasn't so great. My theory was blown out of the water after the first plate of food arrived. A freshly-made raviolo bulging with egg yolk, ricotta, parmesan and creamed ramps was delicate, flavorful and textural perfection. It looks small and possibly unsatisfying, but it packs a punch. The value of this single pasta pillow lies entirely inside. Trust.
Egg raviolo with ricotta, parmesan and creamed ramps.
Next up, a plentiful antique bowl of clams in a beer broth dotted with chorizo and served with what can only be described as the largest bread sponge I've ever seen. Thank you, Macrina, for supplying LloydMartin with such a wonderfully large slice of foccacia heaven. It's what you wish every piece of sop bread tasted like: crunchy, chewy, soft in the middle and just the right amount of oil so as not to clash with the liquid star of the show--the booze broth. It truly was just as delightful as the shellfish it accompanied.
Pork belly with baked beans and slaw.
After the clams, there was still room for a round of pork belly. I figured I had tasted all the good pork belly in Seattle, but this tops any I've had in recent memory. The tender chunk of smokey pork was served with baked beans and a side of slaw that was so good, it could have been a happy hour selection on its own. After the pork came the agnolotti with sweet pea, morels and parmesan--just as amazing as the dishes that came before it. It's hard to pick a favorite out of this line-up, but if I absolutely had to, the pork belly would win with a slight slaw edge.
The Verdict: As the title implies, this is simply some of the best happy hour food you can get right now in Seattle. Crannell launched the Social Hour menu to lure people inside between that highly-coveted pre-dinner hour of 5-6 p.m. when many restaurants struggle to make money. The discounted menu is also an accurate sampling of Crannell's dinner menu, which is high-quality and consistently good. Crannell says he wants to earn people's trust in his food with Social Hour, "I know the heart is in it, I know the passion is in it, and I know that we're excited about being here."
Agnolotti with sweet pea, morels and parmesan.
This is the "real deal" deal. Why aren't you excited to be here?