2016.02.19.seattlemet.bateau.brent 1150 edit ofnrez

Butter on steak at Bateau.

Image: Olivia Brent

For awhile I was nursing a little restaurant critic’s crush on Plugra butter, the lower-moisture, higher-butterfat European product that brings dense spreadable lushness to whatever it touches. Are they still serving it at Bastille? They were once, sigh…

These days my head has been turned by more frou-frou butters, which have been popping up all over town in the last half-dozen years—come to think of it, in the years since restaurants have begun charging for bread.

I’m thinking now of Joule, which even back at its old address began charging for warm baguette, upping the perceived value of the once-gratis item by bringing diners’ choice of cultured, seaweed, or bacon butter to go with it.

Lately I’ve encountered a rash of novelty butters, both in houses where bread is complimentary and in houses where it is not. (Remember: even when proffered gratis, bread is never “free”—its cost is knit into the across-the-board cost of dining there.) At Altura, I’ve loved the garlic butter with its sprinkle of sea salt. At Bateau, steaks come topped with lemon butter or bone marrow butter, your choice.

At Eden Hill on Queen Anne, I savored a nutty whole grain bread served with house cultured butter, honey, and sea salt. At Bar Melusine on Capitol Hill, the butter is whipped to a decadent fluff, then flecked with chunks of salt. At Upper Bar Ferdinand, we enjoyed butter studded with chives, on a board with moist bread and chunks of radish.

At Restaurant Eve, the diner can choose goat butter, whose tang comes alive against the plain-grain earthiness of the rest of the food.

As always, restaurants change up their offerings all the time; if you're visiting just for the butter—God knows I won't judge—call first to find out if it's still being served. And please share in comments any cool butters not listed here.