Tucked into the western slope of Capitol Hill, this small spot is “a place to linger, to enjoy your company, food and drink.”
With barely two dozen seats, Cafe Barjot is so diminutive that I hesitate to call attention to it, lest a hungry flock of foodies descend and pick the place clean of baker Lia Golzynski’s pastries and chef Nick Coffey’s garlicky pork sausages, house-cured corned beef and house-brined fresh ham. But good food demands attention, and the ordeal of parking anywhere nearby may lessen the stampede of outlanders.
Cafe Barjot is tuned to the gentle rhythms of its largely residential neighborhood on the western edge of Capitol Hill. Owner Wylie Bush lives eight blocks away, and four blocks from his other cafe, Joe Bar. “Barjot is close to Joe Bar and that is the way it should be. I love my neighborhood!” he wrote from Paris, where he was vacationing last week. “I don’t think a larger restaurant is necessary for success,” he added. “Barjot is like Northgate Mall compared to the size of some of the restaurants here.”
The look of the place hasn’t changed much from its brief, happy fling as the tapas bar Chico Madrid. Blood-red ceramic tiles accent the dark woodwork of the horseshoe-shaped counter where you place your breakfast, lunch or coffee order.
Cafe Barjot ★★½
711 Bellevue Ave. E., Seattle
Reservations: accepted for dinner
Hours: espresso and bakery 7-11 a.m. Monday, 7 a.m.-close Tuesday-Friday; 8 a.m.-close Saturday-Sunday; kitchen 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday; happy hour 4-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
Prices: $$ (breakfast and lunch $4.5-$14; dinner plates $6-$18)
Drinks: cocktails, beer, cider, inexpensive French wines, espresso drinks
Parking: free on street (good luck)
Who should go: the neighbors; best suited to singles and couples
Credit cards: all major
Access: no obstacles
On that counter, along with cookbooks and kitchen tchotchkes, is a bowl of avocados waiting to be mashed and spread onto slabs of rustic toast, dusted with za’atar and sea salt. Several such tartines are on the daytime menu, along with sandwiches like the one I devoured, stacked high with fat-streaked corned beef, Gruyere, horseradish and crisp, fresh sauerkraut liberally laced with caraway seed.
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Late one morning, the pastry case was nearly barren (unusual, I was told, but unpredictable). I claimed the last maple bacon croissant. It tasted sticky, salty, smoky and sweet, also airier than anything embedded with a bacon strip has a right to be. I took home a couple of big, chewy, wonderful cookies — ginger molasses and chocolate chip. (If any cookies are left by 2 p.m., the staff eats them, Coffey told me. “Sometimes we bake some off just for us.”)
Mornings, Bush transports pastries from Barjot to Joe Bar using a red Radio Flyer wagon. Around noon, I saw Coffey maneuver the same wagon filled with produce through the front door of Barjot. At the time, I was plowing through a plate of baked eggs with ham and creamed nettles, savoring the sweet, shaved meat, nearly as brittle as bacon, and the touch of pepper and nutmeg in the nettles.
Orecchiette with pine nut and nettle pesto was a lovely harbinger of spring on a recent dinner menu. Barjot debuted last June, but only added dinner service in November when Coffey came aboard, after four years at Sitka & Spruce. He’s a bearded, bespectacled 30-year-old from Iowa who announces his passion for hockey on his ball cap and his preference for Hall & Oates on the sound system. Befitting the modestly equipped kitchen, his dinner menu is concise and seasonal, thus subject to change. It offers pungent snacks, charcuterie and cheeses, a couple of salads, and a handful of robust plates that span vegetables, meat and seafood.
Niçoise, picholine and Castelvetrano olives lolled in a warm oil bath fragrant with citrus, herbs and spice. Sauerkraut showed up again among other pickled things: hot peppers, shredded carrots, daikon and a scene-stealing, whole, soft-cooked egg.
If you can’t get enough of that sauerkraut (and I can’t), it also accompanies excellent pork sausage and oven-roasted potatoes. A sauce of mustard and crème fraîche is spread in the foreground, like an ice rink ready for each bite to skate across it.
Roasted cauliflower riffs on bagna cauda. Coffey emulsifies the garlic, anchovy and oil and spreads the pungent sauce beneath tender, golden chunks of the vegetable, showered in toasted breadcrumbs.
A braised duck leg could have been a bit more yielding to knife and fork, but everything else on the plate mitigated that flaw: the smoky, citrusy, tomato-y sauce, sweet chestnut puree, spicy braised mustard greens and oven-crisped spaetzle.
Table service and votive candles on the marble-patterned Formica tabletops mark the difference between night and day. Paper napkins wrap the silverware. The wine list is rudimentary, but its French focus and low price points are a good match for the menu. Whoever mixes the sophisticated cocktails knows their stuff.
Baked eggs $9.50
Corned beef sandwich $10
Roasted cauliflower $11
Pork sausage $16
Braised duck leg $18
Night or day, no one hurries you along. Barjot is “not a turn-and-burn restaurant,” the owner says. “It’s a place to linger, to enjoy your company, food and drink.” I quite agree.