The Shambles, a butcher shop/bar, boasts the best beer list of any new restaurant or bar opening in recent months. It's been a big hit in the Maple Leaf community.
On a recent Saturday, an eerily quiet stroll to the corner bar, The Shambles, felt like the proverbial calm before the storm. The door opened, and the decibel level rose by a factor of three, as patrons ordered whatever was left as if the apocalypse were upon us.
A butcher shop/bar, The Shambles is an understated but modish industrial space. That day, it seemed to be occupied by the entire population of Maple Leaf. Its meat display case sat empty. The wait for a table was an hour during opening week. And with half of the sandwiches crossed off, my menu looked like a redacted memo.
“Sorry, we’re sold out of those,” the manager said, before dashing off to rescue a server in the weeds.
The Shambles is a busy, buzzworthy enclave that couldn’t have existed in this quiet part of town 10 years ago.
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If there is a silver lining to the skyrocketing real estate, it’s that more affordable neighborhoods are getting trendy establishments that used to come with a Ballard or Capitol Hill address.
Located at the elbow of Northeast 80th Street and 15th Avenue Northeast, The Shambles looks as if it were cribbed from some Portland hipster handbook. It boasts an in-house charcuterie program, some fancied-up sandwiches and a well-curated beer list.
When I thought it was impossible to flag down a server, out popped a manager from behind a bookcase that doubles as a hidden door. “Have you been helped?”
Owners Matthew Brady and Joel Klemenhagen cut their teeth in the bar-and-beer business for more than a decade before opening their own baby in January. They are ridiculously well-connected. The Shambles boasts the best beer list of any new bar or restaurant that has debuted in the past four months, with gems such as Holy Mountain’s Transfiguration saison and Fremont Brewing’s best beer, the bourbon-barrel-aged Dark Star. Name any of the top local microbreweries, and The Shambles will likely have it on its 32 taps or squirreled away in the back.
Their food program isn’t as fine-tuned. They have sold three months’ worth of meat in just a week and have hired temporary help to smoke more. In the meantime, Salt Blade, Olympia Provisions and other deli meats are supplementing their supply until the kitchen can catch up.
The opening of their butcher shop may be as late as summer now as the owners ration for their deli. A food happy hour is also on hold.
The Shambles, obviously, has been slammed.
But part of the problem may be that it hasn’t dialed in the serving size. My charcuterie plate for one was enough to feed two, and some sandwiches were stacked so high that about half of the customers either requested to-go boxes or left their plates unfinished on a recent Saturday.
Then again, getting a supersized meal without paying extra isn’t the type of problem that gets lodged on Yelp.
The menu: The kitchen makes about 20 different charcuteries, from duck prosciutto to coppa, in addition to smoking or dry-aging chicken, pork, beef and salmon. The daily board special features two to three sausages, from bratwurst to lamb merguez. The in-house meats are served as appetizers or in sandwiches. There’s also soups, salads and six different sides such as fried Brussels sprouts and smoked kale. Sandwiches ($14-$15) come with one side option.
What to order: (Or maybe we should say, what’s left to order.) The black-lime-rub beef tri-tip sandwich, with smoked gouda, pickled peppers and arugula, is a medley of creamy, tangy, salty with a smoky tinge of applewood. It’s the best sandwich that’s readily available on the menu. Sausage has a snappy bite, though the meat got lost in the oversized ciabatta bread. (It’s served on a potato roll now.)
The sides are substantial and stellar: crispy mashed-up fingering potato; smoked and braised kale coated in apple cider and tempered with smoky bacon bits; salty, deep-fried Brussels sprouts paired with a preserved-lemon aioli dip.
The charcuterie plate varies each day. Of the meat made in-house, there was a smoked salmon belly with some salty charred and caramelized bits. The spicy soppressata has a good ratio of fat to meat.
What to skip: On that same meat plate, one salami tasted like a tablespoon of salt, another a tad waxy. The pastrami, stacked three inches with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing, was too dry and coarse.
The bill: A meat board ($9), a tri-tip sandwich with a side of potato ($15), sausage with side of kale ($14) and two craft beers ($13) totaled $64.87 after tax and an automatic 15 percent service charge, rather than tip. It’s a light lunch for three or a substantial dinner for two.
7777 15th Ave. N.E. (Maple Leaf), Seattle; noon-9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and noon-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 206-659-0074; delimeatsbar.com