Renovated Red Door is your entry to a spirited night out
Special to The Seattle Times
The more things change the more they stay the same, or so they would have you believe at The Center of the Universe. Take The Red Door. The former Fremont ale house reopened last September after a move (the whole building was shifted one block west) and a massive renovation that required the construction of an entire floor underneath the second story while the first story was sitting on 20-foot poles. The place has doubled its size to approximately 4,000 square feet (including a huge new deck) but, according to co-owner Alfa Zinkus, "The Red Door really hasn't changed all that much."
And in spirit it probably hasn't, although spirits are now dispensed here, along with local wines and a lengthy list of local brews. And you can also bring the kids.
If you do, you will have to forego sitting in the bar (referred to as "the jungle"), which is front and center under a high, beamed ceiling, facing a wall of windows. That's where the action is day or night, and smokers notwithstanding, it's more inviting than the narrow panhandle available to those dining en famille, which is the restaurant equivalent of "the kid's table" at a family feast. The space is outfitted with a motley collection of old tables and mismatched chairs and might seem, on a Saturday afternoon, like a gathering spot for Breeders Anonymous.
What seems most familiar about the new Red Door is the menu of modestly priced good, old reliable pub fare: fresh, generous salads (even the smalls are large) ($3.95-$6.95); a respectable clam chowder ($2.75 cup/$4.25 bowl); good burgers ($6.25-$8.25); well-built sandwiches ($5.95-$8.25); hand-cut fries ($1.95); excellent fish and chips ($7.95); and their justifiably famous mussels in white wine or marinara sauce ($8.50). There's a separate menu for kids.
If you and your sweetie have the evening to yourselves, wend your way through the sea of singles at the bar and head for the dark, intimate lounge (nicknamed "the opium den") furnished with curvy booths and small, round jewel-like glass tabletops lit from below.
Thursday through Saturday nights, when the clock strikes 9, you may get carded at the door. The music swells to a disco pitch and the crowd thickens to five or more deep in the jungle. If you're under 21, or much past 41, it's time to go home.
Mussels: A hearty portion of fresh shellfish, simply steamed in white wine and their own liqueur with slivers of fennel, onion and carrot lending a sweet complexity to the light broth. Served with thick slices of good, rustic Italian bread.
Small Cobb salad: Salad greens tossed with a well-balanced vinaigrette provide a foundation for a mosaic of fresh toppings: diced roma tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, real bacon bits, shredded carrots, avocado and hard-cooked egg. Choose chicken, ham or turkey as the crowning glory, or, for a buck-50 extra and worth it, a hunk of peppery grilled fresh tuna, sliced to expose its rare middle.
Chowder: A true New England clam chowder, smoky with bacon, thick with clams, herby and creamy but not viscous.
The Boss Hog: This pulled sasparilla barbecued pork sandwich on a burger bun is notable for a sauce that deftly blends sweet with a bit of heat. The so-so cole slaw belongs on the sandwich but if you want it on the side they'll oblige.
French fries: Hand cut and as brown, lithe and hot as a bevy of well-oiled bathing beauties on the beach in St. Bart's.
Bottle of wine: A crisp, lovely Waterbrook Sauvignon Blanc at a price that doesn't break the budget.
Itemized bill for two
Small Cobb salad with Tuna: $6.45
Boss Hog: $6.75
French Fries: $1.95
Bottle of wine: $18.00
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