A thread of Catfish Corner’s Southern legacy continues on at this storied Central District corner via fried chicken atop old-fashioned thin waffles, the kind with tiny squares. Chef Patrick Dours coaxes heroic amounts of personality from boneless, skinless chicken breasts; his tricks include a combo buttermilk–pickle juice brine and an elaborate dredge-and-chill process to keep the crust from falling off the minute it encounters your knife. Seasoning is sufficient for grown-ups, mellow enough for the many (many) kids in the room. Replacing a landmark of a neighborhood’s African American heritage is a tricky business. Sure, owner Marcus Lalario—of Li’l Woody’s and Ciudad—brought in some hip midcentury benches and a busy brunch service. But you can eat well for $15, and service is incredibly hospitable: promising signs of a new neighborhood institution.
Among several good choices along Cherry Street’s Little Ethiopia, Meskel is the best looking: a warm, modern split-level space, close packed with tables of well-dressed, multihued people all cheerily eating with their hands and sopping with injera bread. It’s all served in the usual Ethiopian style: varied vegetables, stews, and legumes mounded upon an injera platter, plus a meat dish (and pepper level) of your choosing. Meskel serves more lamb dishes than many of its neighborhood counterparts, but the sauces—20 or so spices, from cloves to cumin to chili, deeply infused with slow simmering—have that familiar, slow-burning, fragrant warmth.
Because that’s a set of sprocket wrenches on the wall, and because it smells faintly of tire rubber—let’s just say the slightly rumpled Peloton doesn’t exactly inspire salivation. It’s a bike shop, after all, with a tire pump bolted to the sidewalk and a mechanic across from the espresso machine. But Peloton has an equally discriminating palate, thanks to co-owner McKenzie Hart, whose roasted veg hash might be a full-flowering garden of leeks, purple potatoes, cauliflower, and herbs over pine nut aioli, delicately sauteed and dotted with creamy chevre. Breakfast sandwiches on sweet whole wheat bread spill out bacon and egg yolk and arugula; densely flavorful chorizo breakfast burritos hold a city in thrall. The menu is short, smart, and maintained as carefully as the bike chains, with Slate Roasters coffee and local craft beers for waiting out a tuneup. All with a heaping side of Peloton’s most cutting-edge specialty: excellence, unexpected.
Reckless Noodle House feels like a neighborhood restaurant with a Vietnamese menu full of texture, fresh herbs, and plenty of personality. But the kitchen doesn’t shy away from heat. The papaya salad (with black crab, shrimp, or pork belly) and squid larb leave your lips with a slow burn well after dinner. In the kitchen is Kenny Lee, a former chef de cuisine at Lionhead, which might explain why food is already so confident, from the fresh rolls stuffed with caramelized pork to the coconut-rich curry vermicelli bowl. Reckless also has a broad cocktail list of classics (mai tais, barrel-aged negronis) and house drinks that lean into rum and mezcal and flavors friendly to Vietnamese fare. Even if there’s no room for dessert, the Chinese five spice duck fat caramel is a perfect smoky-sweet final bite.
This fish market and poke bar is brought to the Central District by expats from Mutual Fish and City Fish. Salvador Panelo, or Sal as most people call him, is a fish guy. Hence his aptly named market, Seattle Fish Guys. Poke is sold by the pound but customers can also get chowder, a crab sub, and other dishes featuring the market's fresh seafood.
An expansion transformed Standard Brewing from a minuscule brewery into one that’s merely small, but a new barrel aging room offers myriad new ways to give beer sour, funky dimension. Drinkers who don’t dig these barnyard notes can lean into the light lagers, roasty stouts, and other impeccable ales. That expansion also turned the tiny Central District taproom into a brewpub, complete with cocktails and unexpectedly refined sandwiches (and retained the heated, covered patio). Drafts with broad appeal show up around the neighborhood, and at discerning bars, but don’t look for sixers of IPA anytime soon, says owner Justin Gerardy. “We only bottle funky and sour.”
Pick a flavor (red velvet, cookie dough, toasted coconut) and two homespun cookies (snickerdoodle, chocolate chip, brown sugar). Voila: baseball-size custom ice cream sandwich. The walkup counter in the Central District fronts a busy production space, but seats can be had in the parklet down the street.