The Restaurant Issue

Memorable Meals in Bars

It’s been years since Seattle’s bars have been just for drinking. But not until 2015 have so many made the critical crossover to genuinely memorable eating, with small plates evoking real places and real cultures.

By Kathryn Robinson October 30, 2015 Published in the November 2015 issue of Seattle Met

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It’s a known fact that rockfish ceviche and plantain chips taste their brightest and best within quarters as cerulean and sparkling as a wave breaking on a tropical beach. That’s Manolin on Stone Way, whose rounded bar within and surroundable fire pit out front create all the right warmth—heightened when you throw in the sweetest service in town and a pisco cocktail or two. Add food to the mix—small plates of halibut cooked with restraint over a light mole, smoked arctic char posing artfully on oiled and herb-flecked sour cream, one of those startlingly fine ceviches (there are two on the menu every day)—and the place is not only transporting, it’s gastronomically spot-on. Where to spend a Seattle winter. 


When Gabriel Chávez emigrated from Durango to Seattle he brought his family’s recipes with him. Lucky Seattle. We’re talking carne deshebrada tacos, loaded with moist braised short rib meat piqued with dried peppers and topped with the frothy tomatillo-avocado salsa. Three salsas, including one of smoky roasted jalapeños, which bring the arid mesas of central Mexico straight to the happy hour table. Guacamole served upon the crispy and slightly charred corn cake, totopo, which Chávez imports from Oaxaca and which taste like the earthen love child of popcorn and corn nuts. And chile en nogada: a plump poblano stuffed with a meat and fruity walnut mixture that is surely the most complex set of flavors you’ll ever wash down with mescal. All within a room decorated to simple, classy specs in whitewash and pine, and filled with grown-up grads of the Pike/Pine madness down the street.  


Honestly, the concept sounded harrowing: street foods from cultures around the globe. But what rang like a recipe for amateur hour has become an inspiring Capitol Hill nosh stop, whose atmosphere—right down to the tchotchke-stuffed wall shelves, evocative of street markets—irresistibly conjures humid equatorial back streets. The small-plate menu reflects techie entrepreneur/insatiable traveler Chris Cvetkovich’s global roamings—Cubano sandwiches, Malaysian prawns, Vietnamese spinach-herb salad, Szechuan chicken wings—and they can be glorious, like a mellow Trinidadian goat curry, or the fish-and-frybread sandwiches, Shark and Bake, sold from huts on Caribbean beaches. Given the breadth of the cuisines covered, the vividness and precision at Nue are unlikely surprises; techniques like sous vide and liquid nitrogen even make appearances, the latter for super silken ice creams. But what will bring you back are the cravings. Because seriously, those grilled Barbados pig tails in jerk glaze…  

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Image: Kyle Johnson


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