Brass Tacks straddles a corner of Airport Way South in Georgetown’s rapidly gentrifying business district, but it would look right at home on Ballard Avenue.
The red-trimmed corner storefront occupies a block-long, brick edifice called The Miller Building, date-stamped 1929. Inside you’ll find exposed masonry, mottled cement floors, rough-hewed wood and twisting metalwork. The design-build was largely the work of Jonathan Parisi, who owns Brass Tacks along with his brother, Alex, and their business partner, Skylar Keith.
The bar exhibits so many bottles and jars of steeping liquids it looks like a science project run amok. Drinks range from Rainier Tall Boys to keg wines to sophisticated concoctions like the Catalina: a lemon-kissed, Campari-tinted tequila cocktail made with a dash of rosemary-infused agave nectar.
Fresh blooms and quirky art grace the dining area. The furnishings look either repurposed or purposely retro. Near a tiny stage where bands perform on weekends, an old trunk and a trio of theater seats serve as an ad hoc lounge.
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Of course there is a counter where you’ll sit on metal lab chairs and stools facing the shiny, stainless-steel kitchen. Executive chef Chris Opsata runs the culinary show, with a big assist from sous chef Luke Randall and Thomas Fredrickson, a young cook who expedites with impressive aplomb. All three made the leap from Sodo’s Urban Enoteca, which shuttered just before Brass Tacks’ early January debut.
The menu roams familiar gastropub terrain dropping surprises along the way. A prosciutto chip and a cornichon poke from the creamy, mustard-sharp middles of deviled duck eggs. Bread and butter accompany an array of crisp, pickled vegetables; the ciabatta slices are toasted and the pale green butter hints of lemon and thyme.
Small canning jars serve as vessels for smoky bacon strips candied with maple syrup, for fried okra in loose cornmeal jackets, and for pork “fries” with apple butter. Fashioned from braised belly meat that’s been breaded and deep-fried, the pork is rich, yet curiously bland, and much improved by liberal applications of the sauce, which tastes divinely like apple-pie filling puréed.
Spring lamb pie goes from oven to table in a small cast-iron skillet. So does macaroni and cheese; made ultra-decadent with soft chunks of house-smoked brisket, it’s finished brilliantly with fine breadcrumbs toasted with chile powder and cumin. The lamb cavorts with carrots, celery and haricots verts in a lavish béchamel sauce under a puff-pastry lid as jaunty as a beret.
With a lemon slice tucked under its bronzed wing and a rosemary sprig pinned to its taut, golden bosom, half an applewood-smoked hen looks equally dashing, and tastes exquisite. Sweet banana ketchup and lime zest dress up meaty chicken thighs imbued with warm jerk spices.
The chickens hail from Ephrata’s Mad Hatcher Farm; the beef from Oregon’s Painted Hills. I bypassed the impressive-looking burger in favor of steak frites. (They are about the same price if you add bacon and an over-easy duck egg to the burger — and who wouldn’t?) I was plenty pleased with that hefty hangar steak, attended by roasted cippolini onions and excellent fries — everything benefiting from the intense demi glacé. An equally robust demi is ladled over poutine — a bowl of fries topped with melted cheese curds.
You expect that kind of full-bore comfort food in a place like this, where the napkins are paper, bunches of flatware protrude from jars, and you can play shuffleboard and foosball in the dining room. But I didn’t imagine such a delicately wrought spring-onion soup (French onion’s lighter cousin) or so many alluring salads, among them: white anchovies whipped into a creamy sauce for pecorino-dusted charred romaine hearts; orange-kissed pea vines and shaved fennel cradling grilled asparagus; and crushed pistachio underscoring multihued beets dotted with ricotta.
Nor did I expect to find excellent cannoli, edged with dark chocolate and crushed pistachio, and filled with a sweetened, creamier version of that house-made ricotta. But now that I’ve gotten down to Brass Tacks a few times, I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself getting down to Georgetown more often.
Providence Cicero, Seattle Times restaurant critic, co-hosts “Let’s Eat” with Terry Jaymes at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. Listen to past shows at www.KIRORadio.com/letseat. Reach Cicero at firstname.lastname@example.org.