Road Journals Blog—One thing I love about Seattle restaurants is how many of them showcase the phenomenal bounty of the Pacific Northwest—from salmon to fiddlehead ferns to huckleberries. Another thing I love is how frequently they reflect the sometimes-quirky personalities of their creators. Not to mention how a new one (to me, at least) seems to surface every time I'm in town.
On my most recent Seattle stay, I heard about Nettletown , a strip-mall cafe in the low-key Eastlake neighborhood just north of downtown. Warned that it's always packed, a friend and I arrived for weekday lunch at 11:30 a.m.—a half-hour after the cafe opened—and grabbed the last free table in the tiny dining room, which has a tranquil, vaguely Asian feel.
The menu is a delightful East/West mash-up, reflecting the Swiss and Chinese parentage (and culinary heritage) of chef-owner Christina Choi. Chewy, squiggly Swiss-style noodles called knoepfli came pan-fried with cabbage, leeks and herbs, accompanied by tangy house-pickled veggies; we added a bratwurst from local fave Rain Shadow Meats. Lemongrass lent an exotic touch to tender elk meatballs packed into a sandwich made with a crusty length of local Le Fournil baguette. Warm huckleberry cardamom bread pudding was crowned with a generous dollop of yogurt whipped cream.
Rumored to sometimes appear on the ever-changing menu but not available that day was a peanut butter and turmeric salmon banh mi. I'll be back for that.
Q: Anyone have recommendations for their own favorite quirky, chef- and market-driven restaurants in Seattle? Please send them along. I'm always on the lookout for something deliciously surprising.
Christopher Hall wrote the cover story on Seattle for VIA's May/June 2011  issue.
This blog post was first published in May 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.