So many new places, so little time! Here’s a hand-picked handful, from the Central District to South Lake Union to the University District, all at a nice price.
2504 S. Jackson St. (Central District), Seattle; Monday-Thursday 3-10 p.m., Friday-Sunday noon-10 p.m.; 206-535-1584; standardbrew.com; 21 and older
Standard Brewing is what a place to drink beer should be: friendly, comfortable, handsome in an understated way, possessed of a good sense of humor, yet serious about its beer-business. The award-winning brews have funny names: Body Massage, Tropical Static, Brett Flavre. Yes, they will joke with you about wanting a body massage, though they must have heard that one a lot by now. No, if you try to order a 32-ouncer of something, they don’t have comically huge glassware — that, along with the 64-ounce size, is for to-go growler fills (but they will tease you for wanting a “thirsty-two ouncer”).
At Standard Brewing’s website, you may nerd out on tasting notes, appreciate odes to local hops and pore over detailed accounts of significant Seahawks games (yes, they definitely show them). I learned that the Helmut I enjoyed is their “Munich Helles, a medium-bodied lager with a full malt presence and a clean finish,” and that this beer wants to watch Netflix with me and also “go on walks and kick red and yellow leaves around.” I would like that! (Hence, growlers.) Owner Justin Gerardy is the mind behind the blog, and he also correctly points out that Helmut goes well with Standard’s sandwiches, which they’ve been serving, along with a full bar, since September. (He’s sorry, but no kids or dogs allowed anymore.) The liquor’s in the very capable hands of Connor O’Brien, formerly of Rumba and Sun Liquor; his Bloody Marys are so good, Standard promises, “you’ll want to slap your mama.” (I haven’t tried one yet, so Mom, you’re safe. For now.) Then there are the …
Impressive chefs: Chef David Gurewitz’s resume includes Lark, Spinasse, Mamnoon, Little Uncle and Blackbird (in Chicago). Sous chef Sami Furnas comes from Lark’s sandwich offshoot, Slab, and has cooked at Little Uncle, too. This sandwich-making crew has some serious cred.
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Impressive sandwiches: A tuna melt sounds simple, but it’s an easy thing to mess up. Standard Brewing’s is gold-standard: crispy exterior, tuna with exactly the right pickle quotient, warm and gloppy, but not too gloppy. A muffuletta doesn’t often translate well beyond New Orleans, but the one here is excellent, despite branching out, bread-wise. The Essential Baking Company roll achieves the right balance of softness and chewiness, its top burnished brown; the ham, salami and mortadella stick out, promisingly, all around its middle. Inside, the notably fresh-tasting provolone and mozzarella make a soft, thick, creamy layer, while the olive salad has a lot more kick to it than most. A snack from the specials board counted as an open-faced sandwich: spinach-artichoke toast ($8), like artichoke dip without the bother of dipping, laden with both cream cheese and Swiss, broiled to gooey goodness. And there are seven more sandwiches, both hot and cold, to explore.
Impressive coleslaw: The arugula salad, with blue cheese, black olives, onions, tomatoes and Mama Lil’s peppers, tastes bright and has some spicy nuance, though ours was glossily overdressed. The coleslaw looks plain and starts out just crunchy-good, but, by the end of each bite, is magically delicious. Does it have a secret ingredient? I ate it all so fast, I was unable to figure it out.
Prices: Sandwiches $8-$12, salads $3-$5.
BB’s Teriyaki Grill
4221 University Way N.E. (University District), Seattle; Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; bbsteriyaki.com
BB’s Teriyaki Grill invites, inescapably, comparisons to Chipotle. It’s got a streamlined, ready-for-replication, contemporary look, and a streamlined, ready-for-replication, three-step menu (plus a pop soundtrack that may make you want to chop your own head off). Its happy wall graphics celebrate its commitment to “FRESH NEVER FROZEN,” “NO ANTIBIOTICS,” “LOCALLY SOURCED,” “NO ADDITIVES.” (Another poster touts its 100 percent compostable, field-to-fork-and-back utensils and packaging.) There’s a Chipotle two doors up the Ave; while we were at BB’s, two friends came in, the one with Chipotle in hand waiting while the other got BB’s.
When it comes to teriyaki, the replication of BB’s is fine by me. It might lack the charm of your local favorite spot for Seattle’s local favorite food, but its food politics are in the right place, and the teriyaki is pretty damn good. The owner, a local guy and UW grad named Michael Sauvage, named the place after his mentor from his own favorite Seattle teriyaki joint, Yoshino on First Hill; he calls namesake BB there “kind, honest and extremely funny” on the BB’s website. “Do yourself a favor and go order a spicy chicken” at Yoshino, Sauvage says. Sounds like a plan — the little neighborhood teriyaki places need our support. But there’s room in our lives and our stomachs for BB’s, too.
Step 1: Choose white or brown rice, then a couple of sides. Recommended: the sweet-tart cabbage salad, a nice version of the teriyaki-joint standard. Decent: the yakisoba, tasting exactly like standard-issue yakisoba, no more, no less (there’s a pitcher of chili paste by the fountain soda machine, if that helps). Meh: the veggie stir-fry, limp and tasteless (ditto on the chili paste; the leftovers also responded well to some rice vinegar and red pepper flakes at home).
Step 2: A choice of regular or spicy chicken, or regular or spicy tofu. Even if you don’t like things spicy, choose spicy. Any peppery-hot heat is virtually indetectable, while the “spicy” marinade imparts extra richness and depth of flavor to the meat — which is tender and real-tasting, not all bland breast, with just the right amount of blackened bits from the grill.
Step 3: “GET LOST IN THE SAUCE”: Choose regular, spicy or both. The regular sauce tastes like teriyaki sauce should — sweet, salty, a little tangy, good, though it’s not as thick as some. We did not get lost in the spicy sauce, which wasn’t so much hot as it was possessed of a sharp, vinegar tang.
Step 3.5: You can also add steamed gyoza: pretty good, if nothing special, but four for $3, so why not?
Unofficial step 4: With or without the gyoza, the portions here are enormous. Unless you’re a seriously starving student, plan to have enough leftovers for another full meal.
The (low!) price: A walk through the menu at BB’s will run you just $8.75, a pretty great deal.
1256 Republican St. (South Lake Union); Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 4-9 p.m.; 206-420-4500; teinei-seattle.com
South Lake Union’s been getting the short end of the Seattle ramen noodle. Capitol Hill has five new ramen places (Kizuki, Ooink, Tentenyu, Betsutenjin and brand-new Ramen Danbo, in case you want to try them all — I do). S.L.U.’s been making do with just Kiki. Sure, it’s not far to go, up to Capitol Hill, but it’s steep. What if it’s raining?! Or surge pricing?! What’s a S.L.U. ramen-fan to do?
Enter Teinei. The setting’s sleekly upscale, pleasantly dark. The hospitality is taken seriously — you’re greeted with a joyful shout from the open kitchen, seated with care, and served attentively, for prices that don’t necessarily get you table service (not to mention tranquillity) at other ramen places. “Teinei,” the website explains, means “to be careful and paying attention to something” or “with care and politeness” in Japanese.
The ramen — and the udon, too: At Teinei, the attention and care extend to making their own noodles, and hooray for that. Check out the machine to the left as you walk in, then check out a bowlful. The ramen noodles are springy, with a good bite; they don’t make tonkotsu, so if you want something especially wintery-warming, try the Hokkaido style, with wavy noodles and a golden miso broth that’s possibly a little one-note, but rich and tasty nonetheless. I liked Teinei’s soy-sauce broth better, which tastes the tiniest bit like the sea and the tiniest bit sweet — and I liked Teinei’s udon even better than the ramen. Those noodles here are flatter and thicker than usual, like a fat fettuccine shape, with a hearty, bouncy texture and super-fresh taste.
More: We loved a pretty little dish of different-colored pickles, and the takoyaki — griddled orbs of savory batter, with a nugget of octopus at the center — was good, too. The sushi I tried at Teinei had dryish rice and one piece had raggedly cut fish; try a piece to see how you fare, or just stick to the ramen and udon.
Free parking!: If you’re coming from elsewhere and braving the traffic, park for free in the AMLI South Lake Union building garage next to the restaurant.
Prices: Ramen and udon, $12-$13 lunch/dinner, $9-$10 at happy hour (4 to 6 p.m.).
509 13th Ave. (Central District), Seattle; Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; 206-698-1584; happygrillmoreburgers.com
“Happy Gilmore,” in case you’re not familiar with Adam Sandler’s ouevre, is his 1996 movie in which, according to IMDB, “A rejected hockey player puts his skills to the golf course to save his grandmother’s house.” Happy Grillmore started out as a truck in Portland, run by husband-and-wife team and Sandler fans Darren McGill and Kryse Panis Martin-McGill; it became known and loved for its hamburgers. When they decided to take the show on the road in 2012, they were met in Seattle with open arms and mouths, gaining a loyal local following. This fall, they opened a not-on-wheels spot in the Central District, around the corner from Nate’s Wings & Waffles (in which they’re partners with former NBA star Nate Robinson).
The space: The zig-zag-painted floor at Happy Grillmore seems to be an homage to “Twin Peaks,” not Adam Sandler. Beyond that, it’s not very reminiscent of the Black Lodge, though — the room’s got high ceilings, sky-blue metal stools, portraits by local artist Hoa Hong, a portrait of a giant burger by local artist Liz Weickum, and two turntables for a DJ by the front door. The result is airy, cheerful, and cool without trying too hard, which feels like a relief in Seattle these days.
The hamburgers: Happy Grillmore’s patties are ⅓ pound, natural Angus beef (meaning minimally processed, no artificial ingredients, no antibiotics, no added hormones, vegetarian diet). Cooked to order, the combos sound elaborate: the basic Chubs has Tillamook cheddar, spinach, arugula, roasted red pepper aioli and brown mustard; the Happy adds Gorgonzola and bacon to that; and other variations include onion rings, longanisa sausage, kalua pork, and more (yes, that’s along with the ground beef). We kept it relatively basic, trying a Happy and the Shrooms (patty, havarti, sautéed mushrooms, greens), and we were indeed happy. These burgers are substantial, with a rich beefiness; the spinach and arugula look pretty and add more flavor than standard lettuces, without being overbearing. The roasted red pepper aioli and brown mustard combine into a secret-umami-sauce component that works beautifully, again without too much flavor-force. And the toasted ciabatta rolls were surprisingly great — not too bready-thick at all, fresh-tasting, just-right chewy, and able to stand up to the onslaught of drippy goodness.
Burger bonus: Happy Grillmore’s prices range from $8 (Chubs) to $13 (the burger with kalua pork), for a size and quality that would probably run you a few dollars more elsewhere.
Burger caveat: Be sure to specify how you want yours cooked. We didn’t, and ours were definitely well-done.
The fries: Options include regular fries, sweet-potato fries, garlic fries or truffle fries, but we were helplessly drawn to the version topped with kalua pork, queso fresco and honey-chipotle aioli. The fries themselves possessed a fine potato flavor and enough crispiness to somewhat withstand the absurd pile of tangy-sweet-spicy-creamy madness on top of them. This majestic mess costs $8, and it is a lot — a lot — of food. If you can eat a burger and half an order of these, you are a hero of appetite.
Ice cream and pie!: This is an order-at-the-counter spot, and they’re so nice that if you ask nicely and they’re not too busy, they’ll let you sample ice-cream flavors like lychee lavender and nettle mint chip. It comes from Central District Ice Cream Company, also owned by the McGills, a mile away. The milkshakes, dipped by hand, are so thick, you’ll want a spoon, and if you don’t see any, a fork will work — that thick. House-made pies are the deep-fried, handheld kind, filled with Ghirardelli dark chocolate with sea salt, peach mango as a tribute to McGill fast-food favorite Jollibee, and, right now, seasonal spiced apple. We failed to try any, and we’ve been kicking ourselves ever since. Next time, Happy Grillmore. Next time.
Prices: Burgers $8-$13, fries $4-$8, shakes $6, pies $4.