Restaurants across the country are revamping themselves as grocers. It's unlikely anyone is doing it with more style than The Whale Wins.

Editor's note: Our current reality certainly yields lots of restaurant-related news. But the usual "OMG this spot opened, and this other one closed" setup doesn't feel quite right in this fraught moment, when all restaurants need support. So every Monday, I'll try to distill the week's happenings into something relatively easy to consume. If it doesn't work, we'll try it another way—the year of the pivot continues.

English Muffin Toast from the Whale Wins' New Counter

Renee Erickson's Stone Way restaurant reopened this past Friday with a new Covid-driven identity. The former sit-down restaurant now sports coolers and shelves stocked with provisions like Alvarez Farms dried beans, salt, oil, jam, and pickles—wine most definitely qualifies as a provision, and there's plenty of it here. The new iteration (formal name: The Whale Wins Larder and Cafe) now deploys its kitchen and wood oven in service of an all day counter menu that begins with 8am frittatas and breakfast sandwiches, then moves through lunch, casse croute, and dinner. While the setup is devised for pandemic times, Erickson's Sea Creatures restaurant group says the switch is permanent.

Matt's in the Market, Al Fresco

In writing this guide to businesses back open in Pike Place Market, I was lamenting that two of its most magical spots, Matt's in the Market and Radiator Whiskey, can't finagle any sort of patio situation, what with their second-floor location and all. In a weird twist of the universe, owner Dan Bugge got in touch soon after with amazing news: Matt's and Radiator have special dispensation to do a one-week popup outside, in the charming thick of it all, beneath the Pike Place Market neon sign. After a weekend of walk-ups, it will resume, with reservations via Tock or phone, on Tuesday, August 4 through Saturday the 8th. Hours are 11:30–10 for Matt's, and 4–10 for Radiator. Thanks for making this happen, universe!

Brilliant Breakfast at Lil Red

Erasto Jackson's Jamaican-inflected barbecue restaurant began serving breakfast a few weeks back, one of only a few spots along this stretch of Rainier to do so. He brought in his friend Trammell Woods—known to most as Chef T, who ran the Quarters in Kent—to oversee the menu. It's technically focused on takeout-friendly scrambles, but Chef T's shrimp and grits, loaded with bacon and cheese and perfectly cooked shrimp, puts most fancier versions to shame. Meanwhile, Jackson devised a dish of tingly jerk fried chicken atop a plantain waffle so good, it  could anchor an entire fast-casual concept. Breakfast happens Wednesday through Sunday from 6–10; the two have a competition to see whether they sell more shrimp and grits or chicken and waffles in the month of August.

A Ludicrously Affordable Bottle of Bubbles

Add Vinnie’s Raw Bar to the list of places that have officially reopened. Except now Anu and Chris Elford’s house of natural wine and seafood towers is a well-stocked bottle shop. Man, Covid has turned Seattle into a bottle shop boomtown, but this one has online ordering, which is exciting. The oysters have returned, but the rest of the menu hews snacky and portable, like a muffaletta, charcuterie, or chicken and mozzarella mac and cheese. Vinnie’s has a few wines by the glass, but bottles are retail priced with a $10 corkage fee, meaning you can drink very well, at exceedingly reasonable prices, on the slender patio.

Lamb Tongue and Orange Wine at a Columbia City Newcomer

These are insane times in which to launch a restaurant, so I'm glad to see Columbia City newcomer Off Alley did indeed open its doors August 1. Evan Leichtling and Meghna Prakash built a following with their Fowl and Offal popups, then took over the former La Teranga space to create a house of nose-to-tail tasting menus. Of course, the only thing tougher than opening a restaurant right now is opening one without outdoor tables. So Off Alley has set up a pair of fixed seatings each night for a $45–$55 menu that looks way promising. Prakash runs a minimally intervened wine list. Check menus and reservation detail on Off Alley's website.


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