Lake City's Elliott Bay Public House & Brewery is a crowd-pleasing neighborhood pub with modest prices and more-than-generous portions. Burgers, sandwiches and salads dominate the menu, and the kitchen works beer into everything they can.
On a typical Friday night, controlled pandemonium unfolds at Lake City’s Elliott Bay Public House & Brewery. Unflappable hostesses take names, as people old and young arrive in a steady stream until the pathways between the various dining corrals become as congested as Lake City Way at rush hour.
Though this cavernous pub seats roughly 250, by 6 p.m. when I arrived, every booth, barstool and bench was occupied; the wait stretched to 30 minutes. I spent the interval sipping a house draft (citrusy Demolition Ale), admiring the work of local artists, and watching sports on four strategically placed TV screens.
Rhythmic thumping ricocheted from the exposed rafters to the butcher block tables to the hardwood floor; music was playing but only percussion registered above the din. Count on the friendly, fast- moving staff to get you settled, fed and out before you suffer any long-term hearing loss. Your bill is in their pocket ready to drop the moment you decline dessert — or another beer — or just say enough, which, since plates are portioned for linebackers, may happen long before the food disappears. “We go through a lot of boxes,” one server said, bringing one for me. “But that’s OK. It’s when people don’t ask for a box that we worry.”
The crowd is family-heavy. When I saw the menu for the 12-and-under set, I could see why. It offers quality food with kid appeal — real chicken tenders, natural beef hamburgers, wild coho salmon, plus side options of hummus, rice, fruit and fresh veggies — at prices comparable to fast-food chains.
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Prices on the main menu max out at $15, surely another reason for the popularity of this public house, the newest in the Elliott Bay Brewery family. (The first opened 15 years ago in West Seattle; the second is in Burien.) Burgers, sandwiches and salads dominate the menu; specials change monthly. Execution fluctuates.
The kitchen works beer into everything they can, from soup (thin, tepid beer-and-cheddar chowder) to dessert (Belgian raspberry lambic in the sauce for lovely lemon cheesecake).
Spent grains add richness to the soft burger buns. Of the dozen-plus burger variations, I can vouch for the green chili cheeseburger with its subtle chipotle aioli. Choices aren’t restricted to beef (juicy Black Angus grilled to medium well or cooked to order). You can substitute ground turkey, chicken breast, portabella or a veggie patty.
No Doubt Stout goes into the piquant BBQ sauce that moistened pulled pork, or tried to: the stringy meat was discouragingly tough. The Reuben is a better bet. Russian dressing spiked with Imperial ale, stout-braised sauerkraut and marbled rye toast add greatly to its allure.
The spinach salad’s crowning glory, a huge marinated and grilled portabella, tasted burnt and sour. Instead salad-seekers might try grilled romaine sporting bacon bits, soft, buttermilk cheese curds and a light blue cheese dressing. The taco salad, zesty with chili powder, crunchy with tortilla strips, is finished with sautéed ground beef, onion and peppers alongside big dollops of sour cream and guacamole.
Luna Weizen in the basil-flecked batter for Alaskan cod fish and chips make for a light, tempura-like shell with lots of character. Parsley speckles the long, skin-on fries; sweet potato fries were just as good. Tartar sauce delivered a big, dill-pickle punch.
Condiments frequently impress. Tangy-sweet cherry ketchup and hot, whole-grain, honey mustard double down on “mini” corn dogs: six fat wiener halves on sticks wrapped in crisp cornmeal jackets. Goat cheese whipped with smoked tomatoes proved an inspired match for moist smoked salmon heavily robed in sumac, sesame seeds and chili pepper.
At weekend brunch, hot apple fritters come with honey-sweetened cinnamon butter and killer, blackberry, basil and brown ale jam. The big draw for me at that meal (apart from the relative calm) was the “Breakfast Club.” I meant only to eat half of that monster double-decker sandwich built on toasted brioche swabbed with basil aioli and stacked with warm bacon, melted cheese, griddle-seared turkey and ham, lettuce, tomato and a fried egg. But no take-home box needed that day. Only crumbs remained.
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.