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The Eats: Company Bar, 9608 16th Ave. S.W., 257-1162, White Center. Custom cocktails, upscale pub food, and bistro fare.
The Deets: Sometimes, when gentrification straight-up bitch-slaps you sideways, at the end of the day, it's best just to sit down and write a vegetarian column about it. White Center's working-class residents and businesses are a notoriously hardscrabble bunch--not an entirely vegetarian food loving sort--and the 'hood is better known for cheap beef pho and taco trucks than hippie quinoa bowls. But what can I say? I'm vegetarian and I live here. Business owners get by on the cheap rent, food lovers get off on the cheap eats, and folks like me live here for a combination of the two, and then some.
Company is a mid-scale gastropub situated just off Roxbury on the 16th Ave strip, with a Mexican clothing market, some pho joints, a tattoo parlor, and a few adult video stores within a stone's throw of its door. At such a crossroads, culture and commerce intersect in interesting ways, and the experience of grazing on fare like croquettes served with arrabiata while homeless folks loiter 10 feet away on a sidewalk littered with condoms and barbeque sauce packets is not one you'll soon forget.
In a neighborhood once deemed "Wild West Crazy Cuckoo Land" and something near "1920's Shanghai," the excursion to Company is worth it for the memories alone. If you go on to grab drinks afterwards at Marv's Broiler and The Locker Room, and top it off with a gourmet cone at Full Tilt, you'll experience a collision of worlds, ideas, and lifestyles rarely seen elsewhere in King County.
It goes without saying the pub hosts a diverse patronage. On a recent visit, a man ambled in wanting a glass of milk to go, while another, clad in a yellow muscle tee, watched Fox Sports on the tube and ordered a Fernet. The bartenders, cut from a brawny cloth, handle all drinkers in stride, and are welcoming but don't take kindly to rowdy types. Service will vary based on bar volume, but food comes out fresh and as ordered, and the 4-7 p.m. daily happy hour with specials like $2 tots is a steal.
The Beets: Company's menu doesn't cater to the vegetarian, but it doesn't exclude them either. A handful of starters like sweet potato fries with sage aioli and chickpea fries with tzatiki, an entree (cilantro tofu with black beans and rice), and most sides fall in the meat-free zone.
The red beet salad with field greens, orange rounds, and an orange vinaigrette was tangy and fresh, the croquettes with aforementioned spicy red sauce were well-cheesed and crispy, and the braised kale and chard with garlic was hearty and satisfying. Mix, match, make up a meal according to your taste, and rejoice that no one's A): Trying to slip you lard-laced beans or chicken broth, and B): That you can get sauced and sober up with greasy fries while simultaneously being in the Dub C.
The Tweet: Company is no Carmelita (nor does it try to be), but until more vegetarian spots set up shop in White Center, Company is a welcome dining companion.