Go dine at Homer with anybody who’s iffy on sharing food, and things get awkward, fast. Because you will use your hands to rend a single slice of beautiful, char-speckled buckwheat sourdough and drag pieces through ricotta that’s carpeted in honey and dill. You’ll jab your fork into the ramekin of hummus, as if one more taste might yield the secret to how this oft-halfhearted dip for baby carrots could possibly be so sophisticated and plush. And you will definitely order an extra round of pita to absorb the leftover tahini, originally the foundation of a kale salad with a Gone Girl ability to deliver the unexpected.
This former yoga studio on Beacon Hill—now wainscoted and wallpapered in a cool graphic ostrich pattern, restaurant name glowing in cool yellow neon on the charcoal-painted brick exterior—puts out some of the city’s most vivid flavors. The rugged ease of dishes large and small belies the deliberate hours of stewing, grinding, and roasting that transform something as humble as meatballs into a kefte-inspired monument amid a pool of crimson—tomato and dried fruits, cinnamon and yoghurt whey, reduced for hours into something so rich it’s more syrup than sauce.
Since Homer opened in September, families and silver-haired couples and off-duty sous chefs have all descended upon its close-together chairs with the same zeal they might use to get after chef Logan Cox’s spread of eggplant—burnt over coals, then stewed into savory submission with garlic and onions, smoked spices and seeds—with rounds of flawless pita.
Homer dedicates a menu section to things one might spread on saucer-size pitas, which arrive at your table almost too hot to touch, soft interior still puffed up with hot air from the dome oven in the corner of the open kitchen. It’s not a big lineup, just five items, but Cox’s dreams of his own restaurant began here, with spreads and pita.
“When you’re sitting at a table and literally breaking bread with someone,” he says, “there is no bread on the planet that’s better than pita.” Even a cynic can’t roll their eyes at this sentimental notion when it comes from a guy whose beat-up Vans bear trace amounts of both a faded Hawaiian print and flour from hours spent working dough.
Some call his food Mediterranean, a descriptor about as broadly unhelpful as terming any dude in slim-fitting pants a hipster. Cox draws deeply from Middle Eastern staples, like lamb, yogurt, eggplant, and tahini, but that label wouldn’t explain the kale salad, roasted greens that crunch like potato chips, stacked with thin slices of apple on a pool of tahini. Or the soft serve window behind the bar, which dispenses swirls of tangerine or vanilla-fig to passersby, and dessert sundaes decked with seed brittle and a Luxardo cherry compote inside the dining room (though the rice pudding, dressed with peaches and a surface coating of crunchy chopped pistachios, is the way to end a meal here). Okay, or maybe the Lambrusco spritz, a combo of Aperol, soda, and Italy’s sparkling red wine, whose dry, fruity effervescence I’d drink by the gallon if left to my own devices.
Homer’s unifying culinary theme isn’t geography. It’s something Cox terms “crunchies and sprinkles.” More than toppings for the soft serve, he means the textural combo of garlicky breadcrumbs and fried seeds and quinoa atop that kale salad. A similar scattering of fried quinoa plus cumin and coriander seeds transforms a tomato-nectarine-fennel salad into something unfamiliar and complex. Lamb ribs, so tender the presence of those bones seems a pretty formality, emerge from the ultrahot wood oven with a rich, crusty exterior (the product of a two-day cure and a braise in whey, a souvenir from all the housemade yogurt). Still bubbling with heat, it’s the ideal, sticky canvas for a relish of pistachios, lime zest, and toasted cumin and coriander, not to mention fat slices of plum. Cox built his restaurant on a vision of pita and dips, but these ribs (and oh man, those meatballs) reinforce why Homer is a luminous arrival on Seattle’s restaurant landscape, the product of an odyssey that began across the country, half a decade ago.
Back in 2013, a food writer friend in DC emailed me a Washington Post story that chronicled a well-regarded chef’s grand plan to move to Seattle. This guy, Logan Cox, is talented, my friend assured me. Keep an eye out and see what he does.
Cox came up in a city where highest-caliber ingredients were subject to fine dining manipulation. Forget crunchies and sprinkles: “I used to be, like, foams and spheres and squiggles and dots,” he recalls. On an exploratory visit to Seattle, Cox and Sara Knowles—then his girlfriend, now his wife and the architect of Homer’s Insta-worthy interior—dined at Sitka and Spruce, Matt Dillon’s ode to the Northwest. Here, pristine ingredients could thrill and surprise, even as they remained their authentic, unfoamed selves. Dillon harbored a similar love of Middle Eastern flavors (both guys know their yogurt). After that, says Cox, “I hounded him nonstop.”
He ultimately spent four years as Sitka’s chef de cuisine, a tenure that solidified Cox’s love of wood fire; Homer’s kitchen runs entirely on an enormous hearth the chef aptly calls “a big-ass fireplace” and the domed wood oven, where chickpeas linger for four hours to yield that rich, nuanced hummus. Its heat fires pita in a matter of seconds, so hungry tables are breaking (and dipping) bread almost immediately after a server takes their order, the better to manage the crowds.
Before Sitka, Cox and Knowles did a five-month hitch at a lodge outside Homer, Alaska—the namesake of their restaurant, but also the couple’s golden retriever, who makes a cameo on the coasters. He’s an affable reminder: Beneath the endless buzz, Cox is really just running a laid-back neighborhood spot. One whose food is a grand adventure.