As temps soared toward 90 last week, the sandwich board on the sidewalk next to The Watershed Pub & Kitchen said only “Cold beer & AC” under a drawing of a smiley-faced sun. Sufficient come-on in a heat wave perhaps, but this casual, cavernous, cedar-paneled pub at Thornton Place has other things going for it.
Pizza, for one thing. Pie folds for another. Both rely on the same excellent dough — breadlike and pliable, with good tension and chew. When you’ve got a great dough, why not use it for more than just pizza? Hence, the pie fold, which falls somewhere between a calzone and a wrap.
Eating a pie fold is a little like eating a folded, floppy slice of New York-style pizza. They are built like pizza, but the toppings are piled onto small ovals of dough that are baked then folded when they come out of the oven, and cut in half.
The chicken saltimbocca pie fold takes the elements of that classic dish — thin slices of chicken breast and prosciutto with fresh sage — and adds tomato sauce and mozzarella. Pulled pork fills the carnitas torta pie fold. In place of tomato sauce, it has a sweet ancho chili barbecue sauce and bits of queso fresco, plus the pleasing pop of pickled red onion and the crunch of slivered carrot and cabbage.
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Sous chef Matthew Whitney gets credit for the pie-fold idea. Chef Arturo Blenman heads the kitchen. James Miller is the pizza guy.
Most people order one of the sprawling, one-size-only pies dressed up with top-notch ingredients like Mama Lil’s hot goat-horn peppers and Cascioppo Brothers’ sweet Italian sausage. The mozzarella is whole milk and the tomato sauce is a full-throttle purée of San Marzano tomatoes. (Those make a better pizza sauce than they do a soup, which tasted too thin and sharp.)
Choose your own toppings or one of their combos. Deciding which one is tough; go halves if you can’t agree. I enjoyed the Finocchiona (roasted fennel and fennel salami sparked with hot peppers) as much as the veggie-carpeted “pesto giardino” underpinned with basil pesto and dotted with roasted Roma tomato halves.
Pizza is available by the slice at lunch and after 10 p.m. One whole pie will easily feed four — more if you add a large or small salad. The Caesar was very garlicky but otherwise dull. A better choice would be arugula with fresh orange, roasted fennel and almonds, or mixed greens with pear, grapes, walnuts and blue cheese. Both were tossed with a honey-lemon dressing that leaned too sweet for me. Do say “yes” to the pepper mill.
Balsamic vinaigrette dressed a spinach, strawberry and goat cheese salad that appeared fleetingly among the daily specials. It was wonderful. So was strawberry shortcake, a dessert special, made with the same balsamic-macerated berries, freshly baked buttermilk muffins, sweetened whipped cream and a grating of bittersweet chocolate.
Beyond pizza, pie folds and salads, the menu offers sandwiches and appetizers.
Sandwiches include a crusty, torpedo-shaped Macrina Bakery roll hugging savory meatballs swaddled in tomato sauce and mozzarella. Beecher’s cheddar, Appel Farms Gouda and caramelized onion melt between sturdy slices of made-in-house beer bread for a gooey grilled-cheese sandwich that can be embellished with Canadian or regular bacon. I asked for one, got the other, and was still happy.
Appetizers include cheese and charcuterie plates, hummus, a soft-baked pretzel and Pao de Queijo — cheesy, two-bite buns made from cassava starch (thus gluten-free). Co-owners Ben and Kelsey Curran discovered that Portuguese street food on a trip to Brazil, and she perfected the recipe. It makes a fine bar snack with or without barbecue sauce, salted honey or preserves for dipping.
Craft beer is the bar’s strength and Ben Curran’s passion, refined over a decade working at Wedgwood’s Fiddler’s Inn. Twenty-one rotating taps dispense brews by the glass, pitcher or growler.
Cocktails sound intriguing, but the basil gimlet lacked much basil and the Dark & Stormy was long on ginger beer, short on rum. Best was the Back Porch, bourbon-spiked lemonade with an undercurrent of peppercorn syrup.
After you eat, consider a stroll along the lovely Thornton Creek watershed. It’s an agreeable way to walk off some of the carbs you’ve just consumed.
Providence Cicero is The Seattle Times restaurant critic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.