Neighborhood Hot Spot
This month’s walk-don’t-run recommendation is this sun-drenched remodel of the dark Wellington Tearoom in Columbia City. It’s no Wellington redux. Island Soul is brought to us by the folks who ran the charming Casuelita’s Island Soul in Judkins Park, relocated for Rainier Avenue visibility, and renamed to distinguish it from their cousin’s enterprise, the formerly related Belltown Casuelita’s. Got that? Neither do we—and you won’t care either once you crackle into a plate of tostones, fried plantain chips with sweet red onions, which taste wickedly fried but are actually roasted in garlicked olive oil. End to end the long menu is just terrific—from the jerk chicken, suffused with smoke and jumping off the bone; to the pan-fried red snapper, lavished with a powerful escovitch sauce full of onions and peppers; to a platter of curried goat, packing a perfect little sting; to the sweet, moist coconut corn bread. It’s soul food gone Caribbean, or jerk food in the hood—with flavors every bit as bright and vivid as the sunshiny place and its friendly welcome. Desserts redefine decadence.