BELLEVUE — When a reader emails me to gush about a pizza place with “happy vibes” that keeps them returning, I’m inclined to check it out. After all, doesn’t everyone need a neighborhood pizza joint with happy vibes?
The vibey spot is Resonate Brewery + Pizzeria and it’s in the Newport Hills neighborhood of Bellevue. And it so happens that right next door to Resonate is Mustard Seed Grill and Pub. The two stand in stark contrast to each other. They’ve got nothing in common, except that they share a space in the same odd little strip mall. It’s like that old song about making new friends but keeping the old. In this case determining which is silver and which is gold between the two is a personal choice.
Resonate is all cold-rolled-steel bar top, sleek concrete floors, trendy shiplap on the walls and a giant chalkboard menu. There are a few booths, but the majority of the seating is long farmhouse tables with benches.
Mustard Seed, on the other hand, has seen some things. It’s got all the trappings of a classic dive: actual vintage beer signs, a blinking electronic breathalyzer screwed to the wall by the bathrooms, pool tables, pull tabs, copious big screens tuned to football games, candy machines with Runts (remember Runts!) and an elevated seating area complete with overstuffed vinyl booths.
They both have a casual vibe — tables complete with paper napkins and condiments. It’s just that one has chili-infused oil while the other has yellow mustard. And I love them both.
Resonate has been open since 2015. They take their pizza as seriously as they take their beer. The dough undergoes a 72-hour fermentation before baking and the result is a chewy, Roman-style pizza. You can pick one of Resonate’s specialty pizzas or build your own, choosing from the usual suspects as well as roasted jalapeños, eggs, Mama Lil’s peppers, clams and Zoe’s capicola. Appetizers include meatballs, spinach artichoke dip and a charcuterie plate. There’s also a handful of salads and a kid’s pizza (cheese or pepperoni) that comes with milk or a fountain soda.
I came in for lunch with a friend, and we had three kids between us. We went for a kid’s pepperoni pizza with a chocolate milk ($7), an order of meatballs ($8.50), breadsticks ($5) and the pizza and salad combo ($25). Pizza was called the Peargola; an olive-oil base topped with gorgonzola and mozzarella cheeses, prosciutto, chopped almonds, honey, sliced pears and a little chopped fresh rosemary. The accompanying arugula salad was tossed with pears, goat cheese and tomatoes.
The dough used to make the pizzas and breadsticks is fantastic. It’s a little blistered but not burnt, it’s got a wonderful chew and great flavor. This is a pizza where you eat the crust — even if there’s no sauce on it.
The house red sauce served with the breadsticks and on the pizza is also quite lovely with great fresh tomato flavor. The sauce on the meatballs (which were incredibly tender) has got more of a kick to it — as do the meatballs. It’s nice to have them be different and have both options available for dipping if you wanted.
When it comes to pizza, I’ve got a habit of the one-topping sort. However, this Peargola is the reason habits are broken. The almonds were very roughly chopped, providing good crunch and texture, with sweetness from the pear and honey making fast friends with salty gorgonzola and prosciutto.
That first bite was like when Remy shoved a strawberry and cheese into his brother’s mouth in “Ratatouille” for the first time: fireworks. And the kids loved the pepperoni. I agree with their assessment.
Mustard Seed scratches an entirely different itch. My family of three met there for dinner on a night that happened to coincide with a football game and Mustard Seed is a Green Bay Packers bar. A big one. It’s rowdy and the servers call you “honey”; people are wearing cheese-shaped hats, and it is amazing.
The menu is designed to be a crowd-pleaser. Burgers, sandwiches, salads, fried things, pizza, steak, pasta — you want it, the Mustard Seed probably has it. We ordered the chicken taquitos ($4.24), the Five Alarm burger ($14.99) and the four-piece pressure-cooked chicken dinner ($11.99).
The taquitos were satisfyingly crunchy and cheesy. In hindsight, considering we were at what felt like a Midwestern bar transported Wizard of Oz-style to Bellevue, it seemed a miss not to order the deep-fried cheese curds (called Squeekers). The Five Alarm burger — a 1/3-pound Angus beef burger drenched in wing sauce and topped with blue cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion — was hella spicy but delightful.
Beyond the wonderfully divey ambience, the entire reason for going to Mustard Seed is hands-down the pressure-cooked chicken. In the Midwest, it’s often referred to as “broasted” chicken, but to call it that the restaurant has to buy a Broaster fryer from the Broaster company in Wisconsin. In short, it’s fried chicken that has been deep-fried under pressure. There’s a much lighter coating of breading on it with a juicy interior. The chicken also gets these fabulous little crunchy, almost burnt ends on certain parts, similar to the crunchy bits of carnitas.
The four-piece meal comes with a side of gingery, peppery coleslaw and a handful of thick jojos, crispy on the outside and wonderfully creamy on the inside.
Throw in a domestic lager ($2.50 as it was a Packer-backer special) and, be still, my Midwestern-loving heart.
No matter which way you go — pizza or pressure-cooked chicken — you’re going to come away happy.
Resonate Brewery + Pizzeria: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 606 119th Ave. S.E., Bellevue; 425-644-3164, resonatebrewery.com
Mustard Seed Grill and Pub: 10:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-midnight Saturday and Sunday; 5608 119th Ave. S.E., Bellevue; 425-603-9001, mustardseedgrill.com