I miss Blue Onion Bistro because they served canned hash, and I love canned hash. They even made it a point to mention on the>"/>
I miss Blue Onion Bistro because they served canned hash, and I love canned hash. They even made it a point to mention on the menu that their hash was canned. Canned hash is exemplary of the type of food the Bistro served: fattening, greasy, artery-clogging and downright satisfying.
Comfort food found its Land of Misfit Toys in a little, old blue building on the northern border of the U District. The building, which now houses the Lao and Thai restaurant, Savatdee, was once home to a filling station. The Depression-era gas station's ghost lingered on in the old-timey, Route 66-style memorabilia that characterized the restaurant. I remember young-Elvis pictures that hung from the walls and a cheap, old, nylon-stringed guitar that was missing about four of its front teeth, leaning in the corner.
The dining room was small with brightly-colored chairs, different colors for different tables. The melding of antique tin toys, dim lighting at dinner time and rich food evoked a peaceful feeling. Perhaps that was not an accident. The strange and sad history of the place makes Blue Onion Bistro The Shining of Seattle eateries.
The man who founded the place was named Scott Simpson. He sold it in 2004 and went on to open The Lunchbox Laboratory. He was a bipolar, dare-I-say-visionary man who was deeply troubled. He had a fairly-well-documented battle with his demons, a battle that saw him treat food as a drug until he weighed nearly 500 pounds and, eventually, led to his tragic suicide. A later chef, manning the kitchen in 2008 and 2009, when I had the pleasure of eating there, once haunted our table with a similar story of mental illness. He shared his story of depression, weight gain and trouble with personal relationships, a story that, in hindsight, can't help but evoke former owner Simpson. It was an awkward visit by a chef, to say the least. We smiled and pretended it wasn't weird as the gravy and fried meat on my plate called out for my attention. He just hung there for a while, though.
Perhaps these men found comfort in their food. Perhaps that's what made it so dopamine-productive. For a decade, Blue Onion Bistro could be counted on to make you happy, be it through intense mac-and-bleu cheese, chicken fried steak with gravy, sure to make the kinfolk back in Alabama feel right at home, or humongous fluffy pancakes with lots of syrup and a side of (canned) hash with ketchup on top.
The fish-out-of-water wine rack, seen on the left as you entered, hinted that a bit of gourmet played into the experience. It was not a trendy Seattle restaurant, but it wasn't mama's soul food kitchen, either. It was something all its own, a diner out of time, a memory incarnate. I like to think the guys who maintained the spirit of Blue Onion Bistro modeled it after some great roadside eating experience from a childhood family vacation, a memory of a care-free time when their parents took care of everything, and life was simply good.
When it finally shut its doors a few years back, Seattle lost one of the best food experiences it had. No restaurant since has earned my loyalty like Blue Onion Bistro did. And you know why? It's because the beautiful creations of those sad men made me happy every single time.
Fortunately, someone decided to film the Bistro on a nice, bright day and record its vibe forever. Check out the video below to take you back to the special place.