From the group that brought Black Bottle to Belltown in 2005 as well as a second location to Bellevue in 2011, comes another bar with an ambitious menu. Bar Vacilando, unlike its gastrotavern brethren, is bright, airy, and inspired by a John Steinbeck novel.
That novel, Travels with Charley, encapsulates what co-owners Chris Linker, Judy Boardman, and executive chef/partner Brian Durbin intend for Bar Vacilando: a sense of wandering and world travel by way of food, drink, and a laid-back atmosphere. So less Pokémon Go, more nondigital tomes called books.
It's all about grabbing from travels, says Durbin, and that's typically the case with chefs, but here it was very intentional and central to building the vibe and menu. Durbin shares creative control over the menu with Derek Castro, who’s climbed the ranks at Black Bottle to captain the kitchen here. Dine on an array of eclectic plates from savory, Japanese-inspired okonomiyaki pancakes with bonito flakes to salt cod croquettes to slow-cooked pork jowl with turnips.
Weekend brunch, which starts at 10, leans a bit heartier with dishes like brisket hash with eggs and a Caribbean-style Benedict with avocado and fried plantain is place of an English muffin base. Meanwhile, the daily happy hour from 3 to 6 saves you a dollar off drinks and runs a $3 special on their small pizzalike "crusts." Choose from one with Serrano ham and bechamel, pear and gorgonzola, and more.
Soon the menu will give way to late summer fare, like fresh ceviches and local purple clams indigenous to the Pacific Northwest.
Sit at one of the many marbled bistro tables inside the white-walled restaurant, or perhaps pull up a stool along the bar. But step outside and you’ll find a brick-paved patio that seats at least 25 sun-starved Seattleites. Still here are the hanging heaters from the 22 Doors days; the former lounge closed over a year ago. But now at 405 15th Avenue East Bar Vacilando is open seven days a week.