When the archaeologists of the future pick through the layer we know as the present, in this waterscape we know as Seattle, they will undoubtedly conclude that the urban tribes of this era subsisted on small portions of fish and copious amounts of spirits, preferably together, ideally around outdoor fire pits. Manolin is the latest such site—the Stone Way endeavor of the Whale Wins and the Walrus and the Carpenter expats—and on its menu of small plates it trolls similar waters: the denatured, smoked, poached, and grilled seafoods one finds at these sorts of watering holes all over town. Bracing cocktails are big on tequilas and piscos and cachaças, and the food can evoke the same lower latitudes, like plantain chips (which longed for a dipping sauce) or rockfish ceviche lushly partnered with cubes of avocado and sweet potato and then lit bright as a Baja sunset with chilies and plenty of lime.
Seafoods, not surprisingly, shine brightest here; grilled romaine salad was better in flavor than texture, and the chicken thigh dish was plain boring. Plus the place is screaming for oysters. But the winning friendliness of these servers and the utter enchantment of the setting neutralize any disappointment. When those future excavators unearth this neighborhood haunt, clad in sea-blue subway tile and anchored with a rounded bar counter aiming out paned French doors to the outdoor fire pit—will they know it was Seattle’s hangout of choice circa spring 2015?