An offshoot of the renowned San Francisco beer mecca, this welcoming spot in Roosevelt improves on its Bay Area ancestor’s food program.
Occupying a squat building on the corner of 65th and 12th in Roosevelt, Toronado could be mistaken for a dive bar from the outside. But most dive bars don’t have a sign touting their farm-to-table fare. They don’t have things like house-made charcuterie and handmade agnolotti on the menu.
To further confuse things, Toronado shares the name of a famously seedy bar in San Francisco’s Haight. Revered by beer geeks for almost three decades, it’s notorious for its surly staff and serves no food whatsoever.
David “Big Daddy” Keene, who owns the Bay Area bar, and Matt Bonney, who has managed operations at hallowed Seattle hop havens Bottleworks, Brouwer’s Café and The Burgundian, go way back.
1205 N.E. 65th St., Seattle
Reservations: not accepted
Hours: kitchen open 3-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; noon-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; noon-10 p.m. Sunday; bar open until midnight Sunday-Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday.
Prices: $$$ (appetizers $7-$14; sandwiches and salads $10-$16; entrees $10-$25)
Drinks: 40 rotating taps; 60 bourbons, 40 tequilas, 25 mescals; cocktails; a few wines
Service: sociable but sometimes scattershot
Parking: on street; free parking in the Auto Sales lot across the street after 6 p.m. weekdays, after 3 p.m. Saturdays, and all day Sunday
Sound: loud but not deafening
Who should go: beer and booze geeks looking to eat smart
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard
Access: no obstacles
“We’ve been friends and allies in the industry for a long time,” says Bonney. “We’ve made beer together and we share a lot of the same likes and dislikes … plus our wives get along.” So when Bonney decided to open his own place, Big Daddy gave his blessing to use the Toronado name. The resemblance pretty much stops at the Dutch front door.
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Toronado Seattle is comfy and clean. The walls gleam ruby red, colorful beer labels adorn the black ductwork and dozens of empty trophy bottles are lined up along the I-beams.
The staff couldn’t be friendlier. Bonney likes to circulate and introduce himself to customers. He loves it when they ask his advice about what to drink, which, in addition to 40 rotating taps, includes 60 bourbons, 40 tequilas and 25 mescals.
Bonney wanted the food to be “as smart as the beer.” Chef Mark Chaney executes a menu conspicuously free of deep-fried foods and refreshingly heavy with vegetables.
Poblano peppers and cardamom put spunk in roasted cauliflower soup. Bits of blood orange sparked a salad of roasted beets, arugula and feta tossed with Champagne vinaigrette.
Sea beans were among the many pickled veggies on an impressive charcuterie plate. Served with dainty crostini, its delights included a pistachio-studded country pork terrine, a smooth duck liver paté and sheer slices of bresaola that practically melted in the mouth.
Agnolotti, rectangular pasta packets bursting at the seams with creamy nettle and ricotta filling, were served with crunchy bacon lardons and topped with a fried duck egg. The dish riffed on carbonara, but it was short on black pepper and Parmesan, and onion soubise tipped things too far to the sweet side.
A hard dish to pair with beer, I thought, but the brisk, bitter, Dru Bru German-style alt the waiter recommended nicely countered the pasta’s over-the-top richness.
Order a sandwich and you get a choice of two sides. Noteworthy among them: sautéed pea vines; peppery collard greens with smoked mushrooms; sweetly glazed carrots; and potato salad tartly dressed with sherry vinaigrette.
Charcuterie plate $7/$15
Roasted beet salad $11
Kalua pork sandwich $13
Bacon Cheeseburger $16
Pan-seared duck breast $23
Fresh goat cheese, roasted fennel, fresh basil and piquant tomato jam on sourdough made a spectacular grilled cheese combination. It changes often, but it’s always vegetarian, as is the mac and cheese.
Carnivores might try the pulled- pork sandwich, delicious with its sweet-hot double whammy of pineapple relish and sriracha mayonnaise.
The 8-ounce bacon cheeseburger is flat-out great. Credit the careful cooking of freshly ground, dry-aged beef, but also the whole-grain mustard and apple wood-smoked bacon, both house-made. (Ten bucks buys you a whole plate of those thick-cut, smoky, slightly sweet rashers to snack on.)
The pasture-raised beef comes from Pat-n-Tam’s in northeastern Oregon. The kitchen breaks down part of a side for their burgers, corned beef and steaks. One night’s robustly flavored rib-eye was cut quite thin, making medium-rare hard to achieve. A levy of mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus prevented the buttery, red wine demi-glace from flooding the plate.
Pea vines, grilled apricots and pearls of Israeli couscous kept the pan juices saucing a seared duck breast in check. The meat was tender but the skin fell short of ideal crispness.
The Piraat Triple Hop Belgian IPA Bonney recommended for the duck had a touch of sweetness. It segued nicely into dessert. Vanilla panna cotta with Meyer lemon curd was a bit gritty. Warm peanut butter cookies shattered like shortbread. For extreme indulgence, the Valrhona chocolate terrine with bruléed bananas gets my vote.
So does Toronado, an unpretentious bar as surprisingly serious about food as it is about beer.