To Seattle newbies, Fremont struts shiny high-tech startups and corporate coffeehouses, frat-boy bars and Euro boutiques. But for most of its lifespan Fremont vibrated at the frequency of abalone-inlay mandolins and beige vegan muffins. Like wrinkles in the space-time continuum, Dusty Strings Music Shop and Flying Apron Bakery are holdovers from that old bohemian Fremont. And so it feels when you wake up, blinking and rubbing your eyes, at Eve.
From the tops of its hammered brass pendant lights to the bottoms of its Persian rugs, Eve telegraphs a hippie soul. But winding through the tables in the faint patchouli wake of your smiling hostess you’ll note the elegance of the room—cottage-paned windows high in the rafters, white lights flickering in vintage mercury glass, a classily minimalist wall mural of the restaurant’s namesake, that old ur-hippie herself.
Something about the name Eve just seemed to fit the women-owned spot, says co-owner Debra Russell. A longtime front person about town (Queen City Grill, Cantinetta, the Whale Wins), Russell worked with Jill Buchanan at Lecosho, which the latter still co-owns, and together the two began spinning images of a restaurant they might open together: A restaurant they wanted to eat in. A restaurant, Russell dreamed, like Gravity Bar—the Seattle healthy food phenomenon which 30 years ago introduced a city to wheatgrass and which after more than a decade gone she still mourned.
So their restaurant would have a deeply healthful emphasis, local and seasonal. Non-GMOs where possible. Cheerful dietary accommodations. Plenty of superfoods (turmeric, black pepper, barley) and alternative fats (goat butter, sheep’s milk, coconut oil). All with a more refined aesthetic than any of the foregoing might imply. “We didn’t want to get pigeonholed into a Chaco Canyon thing,” Russell explains, referring to the drop-in casual organic cafe in three Seattle locations. “We were going for elevated hippie food.”
And so Eve Restaurant opened in October, in an airy warehouse of a space facing two Fremont icons, Waiting for the Interurban and the Fremont Bridge. From our seat in the middle of the twilit room we could see both—a bracingly romantic shot of atmosphere when experienced alongside the sway and groove of Ella Fitzgerald. As evening filled the restaurant with its signature array of everyday diners—aging flower children (flower grandparents?), young families, glowing twentysomethings toting rolled-up yoga mats in their backpacks—the music, and the vibe, went more casually indie.
And we spread goat butter sprinkled with black sesame seeds on warmed slices of Tall Grass Bakery baguette, munched tahini-moistened salads packed with carrot curls and tender arugula and sunflower seeds and the lightly crunchy young wheat freekeh, dipped roasted heirloom carrots into bright and beety hummus. Eve’s portions are enormous and meant for sharing, critical intel our otherwise terrific waiter didn’t mention. (She also described goat butter as tasting nothing like goat cheese—right before it arrived, and it tasted like goat cheese. In spite of these letter-of-the-law fails, our server’s endearing mix of professionalism with warm familiarity—encountered across the board at Eve—showed once again that with service, spirit of the law simply matters more.)
As for Eve’s chef, Jason McCollum, he seems to be operating on the principle that there’s no plate that can’t be improved with a fistful of seeds or a heap of grains, preferably ancient ones. McCollum trained at CIA Hyde Park, then worked at New York’s Asian rule breaker Momofuku and Nashville’s updated steak house Union Common—unlikely preparation for a guy hired to elevate hippie food. Or…not. After finding him through Craigslist, Russell and Buchanan sent McCollum a Pinterest page of what they wanted their food to look like—and whatever images they included in homage to Gravity Bar’s legendary brown rice and veggie bowl undoubtedly evoked Momofuku.
Here it’s called Eve Hot Bowl: a $16 nostalgia trip of barley, farro, freekeh, nuts, seeds, dandelion greens, and seasonal vegetables (ours were cherry tomatoes and delicata squash) in a sesame vinaigrette. Asked if it was better with the optional egg, our waitress tellingly answered in terms of the nutritional benefits of protein. It was flavorful, but in the way earthy preparations are flavorful: less from artistry than from purity of ingredients. Chicken fried barley—a bowl of carrots and green beans and barley made with the healthy clarified butter, ghee—was a little ho-hum until I hit an impossibly savory mouthful of chicken from the Mad Hatcher poultry farm in Ephrata, maybe the only place on earth where “tastes like chicken” constitutes highest praise.
So much for the “hippie” part of the mandate. As for the “elevated” part—conceptual vision can bedevil this kitchen. At times across the menu of starters, spreads, salads, hot vegetables, and mains, dishes will disappoint—as when short ribs over brown rice arrive seasoned with sumac and cumin but aren’t resolved or even enhanced by the crimson ring of chili sauce encircling the plate. Or when black cod comes respectfully cooked in a wine and chevre sauce with shallots and escarole but is unrelievedly acidic as a composition.
Then there are times when the vision comes together and the angels sing, as when a thick bison burger arrives radiantly piqued with cheddar, onion jam, heaps of kale, black garlic aioli, and the genius addition of pickled apple—even bacon if you ask. (Yeah she’s healthy, but don’t go mistaking Eve for virtuous.) Or when piles of julienned kale are tossed into a salad with piquant shavings of hard parmesan, sweet currants, and olives in a bright and briny wash of citrus and anchovy: glorious and fierce, with ingredients enhanced by their interplay.
That’s elevated, and I wish that quality appeared with more regularity at Eve. On the other hand—and it’s a pretty big hand—clean eating’s not nothing. Nursing a warming mug of bone broth one night at Eve, it dawned on me that Seattle simply doesn’t have that many destination restaurants prioritizing nutritional purity over culinary artistry.
Bone broth is an ancient preparation rich with minerals, collagens, and amino acids—and thus just plain rich—which is currently the toast of New York. In Seattle, oddly, Eve is the first restaurant where I’ve encountered it. Here, its flavor enhanced with coconut and turmeric, it possesses an almost viscous intensity that tastes like the liquid cure for all that ails us—winter included.
Within the context of the rest of Eve’s lovely package, I’m not sure that needs elevating.