Staple and Fancy Mercantile

Editor’s Pick

$$$ Italian

Hard to say which is more effervescent, the place or the plates, at restaurant magnate Ethan Stowell’s (How to Cook a Wolf, Tavolata, Anchovies and Olives) giddiest enterprise. Even when its windows aren’t open onto the sidewalk the dim, bricklined, open-kitchened space in the historic Kohlstrand Building seems to spill all its sexy cosmopolitan energy out onto Ballard Avenue. With Stowell back at the stoves, the modern Italian food is just as excited: velvety pork liver mousse spread thickly on crostini, dorade over eggplant puree speckled with cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives, mussel brodo with controne beans and green chiles. Flavors are big and bold—sometimes excessively so—and anchored in freshness and seasonality. And "staple" and "fancy" are more than just a nod to the old general store’s name: You can order a la carte off the menu—the staple way—or get, well, fancy, putting yourself in Stowell’s hands for 6-8 courses of Stowell’s choosing, just $45 per person, served family-style to the whole table. Do we really need to tell you which one to pick?

Last updated: 10/21/2013