HURRAY, HURRAY, the first of May; boating season begins today! All well and good if you have a skiff parked in the driveway, a cabin cruiser berthed at Shilshole or FWBs (friends with boats).
But I’m a landlubber through and through, happier by the sea than on the sea, happier still with something good to eat and a drink at hand. Here’s where you might find me on opening day and after:
Mornings at Marination Ma Kai
Views of downtown Seattle don’t get much better than the ones from Marination Ma Kai, where the water taxi docks in West Seattle. The stationary offshoot of Kamala Saxton and Roz Edison’s wildly successful Marination Mobile, this little shack offers few frills but plenty of cheap thrills. You get all the food-truck faves, plus perks like seating and booze. In fact, Ma Kai is adding a second bar outside this summer. Pig roasts and barbecues are also planned.
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Mellow into the day with a Mai Kai, tropical fruit juices laced with three kinds of rum, or jump-start it with a Bloody Mary, feisty with sriracha, tart with lemongrass-infused vodka.
On the breakfast menu, say aloha to sliders — sweet buns sandwiching house-made Portuguese sausage, cheese and secret Nunya sauce — or to as fine a version of Loco Moco as you’ll find in these parts. On the regular menu that kicks in at 11 a.m., I’m loco about spicy kimchi fried rice topped with kalbi beef and a sunny-side-up egg.
Happy Hour at Aqua
Aqua by El Gaucho sits at the far end of Pier 70. The restaurant’s glass front allows a panorama of the waterfront that is as awe-inspiring as the menu prices: Dinner entrees average $55. There is, however, an alternative to those pay-for-view prices: happy hour (4-6 p.m.) at Aqua’s bar, a sinuous curve of pale blue glass along windows facing north.
Here, skilled bartenders take as much care making 10-buck happy hour martinis and Manhattans as they do constructing pricier cocktails with an array of house-infused spirits. Wines by the glass, sangria and beer cost even less.
All items on the bar menu are under $20. A few are discounted further at happy hour, including a fine pair of spicy rockfish tacos with pico de gallo and crème fraîche ($8) and a petite Niman Ranch prime top sirloin served with exceptional fries ($14).
There’s more: On Sunday and Monday, happy hour extends from 4 p.m. until close, and weather permitting you can sit outside.
Evenings at Westward
It was nearly fall when Westward opened last year, on the north end of Lake Union. In January, warmed by a sweet, citrusy Metaxa-laced hot toddy, I imagined spending summer evenings there outside, sipping rosé while the sun paints the sky in Georgia O’Keefe colors and downtown Seattle shimmers in the distance.
Westward’s deck has tables, but I have my eye on an Adirondack chair, preferably around the firepit made of oyster shells. All the seating is first-come, first-served, and chef Zoi Antonitsas plans to make everything on her Greek-inflected menus available outside at brunch, lunch and dinner.
I look forward to slurping fresh oysters al fresco, also to revisiting the well-stocked charcuterie plate, the pickle jar, and the robust lamb burger with feta and tomato jam.
The drinks team promises magnums of Bandol rosé on ice, plus Mythos, the Greek lager, and an array of new spring cocktails. But keep that hot toddy in mind — just as Westward keeps blankets on hand — for when the inevitable chill sneaks ashore.
Providence Cicero is The Seattle Times restaurant critic. Reach her at email@example.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.