Honey Bear's mourners get tasty, inviting consolation prize
Special to The Seattle Times
You can stop your sobbing now, Wallingford: The dear departed Honey Bear Bakery (may it rest in peace) has a worthy successor.
Of course you know about the coffee-and-pastry stop that kept the Wallingford neighborhood in whole-wheat sourdough cinnamon rolls and deep conversation for well over a decade. What you may not know about, unless you're a night-prowler along Capitol Hill's Pike/Pine corridor, is the Elysian Brewing Co. Since its opening in 1996, the brewpub/nightclub has developed a youthful fan base for its relaxed attitude, live music and terrific beer.
Now comes its love child: A new creation melding the casual drop-in comfort of the Honey Bear with the hip soul of the Elysian. Tangletown (the historic nickname for this part of Wallingford, thanks to its kerfluey street grid) offers the same fine lineup of homemade pilsners, pale ales and porters you'll find at its sister branch, only delivered within a more family-friendly context (no smoking, kids menu) and with somewhat more attention paid to the food.
It's the genre — worldly pub grub — institutionalized in this city by places like the Madrona Eatery and the Hilltop Alehouse, here featuring a handful each of appetizers (Chinese black-bean squid, hummus platter), soups and salads, sandwiches and burgers, entrees (pork chili verde, curry coconut stew, balsamic roasted chicken) and desserts.
Execution six weeks into its opening was spotty but mostly good, and clearly trying in earnest. ("Tell us what you think of the crème brûlée; we're really eager to improve it," implored our friendly server.) Not to carp, but this diner had bigger problems with the bread: As in, I want more than a stinting one-piece-at-a-time-delivery to soak up all this great beer, please.
All this happens within the charming, sprawling, lavishly sunlit room that lent the Honey Bear the best part of its allure, gussied up around its formerly frayed edges to a slightly more upscale profile. As a drop-in spot for families and gamboling neighbors, the place couldn't be more appealing. This critic predicts a future as huge as a ... well, as a whole-wheat sourdough cinnamon roll.
Mussel steamers: A mighty heap of steamed mussels arrived in a savory broth, bright with basil. It came with crostini, but we wanted more bread to sop up the briny juices. Great with beer.
Basil greens salad with chicken: The first few bites of this terrific toss rang great bells: exotic greens, dressed with restraint in a wonderful basil vinaigrette, fanned with slices of moist marinated chicken breast and dusted with Parmesan. That was enough interest to sustain me to the middle of the bowl. After that, I hankered after a tomato, a radish, a pine nut, anything.
Wild mushroom penne: A solid rendition of a simple dish, in which roasted exotic mushrooms and fresh spinach arrived tossed with penne pasta. Hints of rosemary and shallot influenced the fragrance, and the whole was enhanced by a fine sherry cream. So it needed a few sustained flurries of salt and pepper — this was a terrific rustic plate of pasta, and cooked beautifully.
Ale-brined smoky pork-loin sandwich: Thin slices of grilled pork loin arrived topped with apple-pecan slaw and cider aioli on a hoagie roll, to very fine effect. I'd have forefronted the aioli a little more, both for flavor and moisture but had no other complaints. With it came a whole mess of unusually delicious fries: warm, crispy, (apparently they're double-battered) and tasting — I am not kidding — like Krispy Kreme doughnuts. (I love Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and secretly wish that all my food tasted like them.)
Fish 'n' chips: I know, I know, we porked out — but when one is in a beer joint, one must try the fish 'n' chips. Tangletown's have a long way to go, with rubbery, cakey breading over juicy Alaskan cod. The fries — thick wedge ones this time — were great.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Mussel steamers $7.95
Basil greens salad with chicken $7.95
Wild mushroom penne $10.95
Ale-brined smoky pork-loin sandwich $8.95
Fish 'n' chips $7.95
Total $47.60Kathryn Robinson: KathAnRob@aol.com
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