If a very cool Bubbie ran a bistro ...
Seattle Times restaurant critic
Westwood Village, 2600 S.W. Barton St., Seattle, Unit B8; 206-933-1200
Web site: www.eatsmarket.com
Reservations: for parties of six or more, at dinner only.
Hours: lunch 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. Tuesdays- Fridays; dinner 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, brunch 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays.
Prices: lunch soups/small salads: $3.50-$5.75, sandwiches/large salads $5.25-$8.75; dinner starters/soups/salads: $3.75-$11.50, sandwiches/ entrees $9.50-$19.50; brunch soups/salads $3.50-$5.25, mains $5.75-$7.75.
Drinks: bottled beers and reasonably priced wine list with by-the-glass options.
Parking: Westwood Village parking lot.
Sound: Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin at night; "Joe! Your order's ready!" by day.
Who should go: Anyone looking for fabulous eats in a fancy coffee-shop setting.
Wine and beer / credit cards: MC, V / no smoking / no obstacles to access.
If I were the type to moan loudly over food in public places, you would have heard me embarrassing myself over the autumn dinner menu at Eats Market Café. Eats modestly bills itself as "your neighborhood bakery café," then turns that notion on its head by offering "handmade seasonal comforting food" capable of besting better bistros everywhere.
Case in point, my pumpkin ravioli — a harvest honeymoon of pasta pillows plumped with squash. Available as an entree ($17.50), I was sharing it as an appetizer ($10.50), taking in the fragrant aroma of stinky-good Gruyère, swiping dark browned butter, crunching fried sage leaves — and praying I'd have room to order another plateful for dessert.
Next up, a spinach salad, built as such salads often are with fruit, nuts and cheese. But this fruit was tart green apple, the cheese a blizzard of English Stilton, the pecans candied with a practiced hand, the spinach a ruffled chiffonade tossed with sherry vinaigrette that held no shrill notes, as such dressings often do.
Then came beef brisket ($16.50) that puts every pot roast I've ever eaten to shame. A long, slow braise brought out all the sliced meat's oomphy, herby, roasted-vegetable flavors. Coupled with a crisp potato latke eaten (out of necessity) with my fingers, this classic elicited an "Oy Gevalt!" of unprecedented proportion.
Wild pan-seared salmon ($18.50) arrived with Chinese long beans, coconut and basil-scented risotto and a buttery curry sauce. It was not only drop-dead gorgeous — its edges delicately crisped, its center medium-rare — but better than any salmon I've tasted in recent history. Dinner was accompanied by a carefully chosen cast of reasonably priced wines by-the-glass.
Sound great? I'll say. But there are downsides to this tantalizing tale.
Eats Market Café is lodged next to a 24-Hour Fitness, just across the plaza from Bed, Bath & Beyond in West Seattle's revitalized Westwood Village. The mood is definitely more Sleep Country than old country. No romantic bistro this, Eats is a takeout or eat-in joint with a clutch of claustrophobic booths and an open kitchen that casts glaring light onto cafe tables. At lunch, it's self-serve. At dinner, the friendly waitstaff dress like U District baristas, and on slow nights co-owner Evan Handler — a third-generation butcher who works part-time at Metropolitan Market — restlessly paces the room with too little to do.
But who needs ambiance when you easily drop-in and serve yourself some strong coffee and swoon over a counter full of knock-out pastries. Addictive cream-filled chocolate cupcakes. Lovely lavender shortbread. Dense, delicious coffee cake and its oatmeal crumble. These dreamy confections are the provenance of Handler's wife and business partner, Toby Matasar, a skilled baker whose young kitchen staff deserve great praise for their efforts on the savory side.
A just-added brunch menu is a new excuse to make a weekend pilgrimage. In addition to the soup/sandwich/salad card served at lunch since Eats opened last winter, they're serving Swedish pancakes, turkey hash and biscuits, and farmhouse breakfasts with housemade sausage and eggs your way.
If I had it my way, I'd have lunch here twice a week, starting with Bubbie's chicken soup with matzo balls. "Bubbie" is Handler's grandmother, whose soup could cure everything from jet lag to a broken heart. Note the moist shreds of chicken, the little globules of schmaltzy "oil" floating in the golden broth (your visual clue to authenticity) and the fluffy-yet-solid matzo balls flecked with black pepper: Perfect!
In keeping with the "You can go home again" theme, I'd follow that with a Reuben whose housemade corned beef, thinly sliced and piled high on Essential's substantial seeded rye, is bright and fatty, as it should be. And, hey, if you can find a better kosher dill in Seattle, I'll buy you one of Matasar's homemade ice cream sandwiches.
Lest you think, however, that this is some New York-style Jewish deli, think again. Oh, it might look that way by day when the crowd is standing three-deep at the counter.
Things were far quieter and calmer late last summer when I spent an evening sharing delicate, herb-laced halibut cakes with peach relish, and pistachio-crusted scallops with fresh artichokes, roasted corn and poblano-tomatillo coulis. Then, spooning up the last of the chocolate sauce siding an extraordinary chocolate molten cake, I closed my eyes and — with great difficulty — withheld a moan that would have been heard across the West Seattle Bridge.
Sample menu: lunch/dinner
Bubbie's chicken soup (cup) $3.75
Market Reuben $7.75 / $9.75
Small spinach salad $4.75
Pumpkin ravioli $10.50 / $17.50
Grilled pork chop $15.50
Ice cream sandwich $5.50
Chocolate cupcake $2.50
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