No matter if they’re made of chicken, prime rib or on squishy white bread, Seattle loves a good sandwich. And while sandwiches aren’t the only thing on the menu at Ballard’s Mainstay Provisions — they’re definitely a very good reason to stop in for lunch.
The vibe is elegant and contemporary. Sunlight pours through floor-to-ceiling windows and a roll-up garage door. Seating is mostly long, blond butcher-block community tables with space for six. A row of bins stacked with everything from wine to potato chips runs down the center of the space, and along one wall there’s a wide-ranging selection of the “provisions” Mainstay promises. This means everything from specialty bulk spices and housemade breadcrumbs, to vinegars, paella rice and even bags of free coffee grounds for your compost bin or garden.
The chef is B.J. Bresnik (The Walrus and the Carpenter), and for now there are two menus — morning and lunch. Each is packed with seasonal ingredients: The morning menu has apple-cinnamon bread pudding and a breakfast sandwich with egg, braised greens and squash on a housemade English muffin; while on the lunch menu, you’ll find roasted-cauliflower sandwiches and mushroom béchamel with breadcrumbs on either pasta or polenta. There’s also rotisserie chicken ($15 whole/$9 half), salads and sides. Kids can dig into mac and cheese, peanut-butter-and-jelly or grilled-cheese sandwiches.
We went for the curried-chicken ($10) and corned-beef ($12) sandwiches, a side of roasted potatoes with salsa verde ($6) and the grilled radicchio salad ($9.) Here you order at the counter, get a number and find a seat. You can see Bresnik and her crew working in the open kitchen, rotisserie chickens spinning slowly behind them.
Unless noted otherwise (as in the English muffin), the sandwiches come on Grand Central bread. The corned beef was served cold on a delightfully seedy multigrain loaf, and came topped with caraway sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and Gruyère cheese. It’s a filling sandwich for sure, but you can still easily fit your mouth around it. The same goes for the curried chicken; the creamy curried chicken offset by buttery cashews, red onion and arugula. These sandwiches are goooood — extra o’s necessary. They aren’t so big they fall apart, but there’s a lot of flavor packed in every bite.
The grilled radicchio was entree-sized. You can add chicken for three bucks, but I didn’t need it. I love radicchio for its bitterness, and here it’s mixed up with tahini dressing, quinoa and pistachios. The menu changes quite often — right now I see this salad listed with pickled currants and ras el hanout (a spice with cinnamon, coriander, ginger and black pepper), but I didn’t taste any of that when I was there. Radicchio’s bitterness was nicely offset by the buttery pistachio and tahini and quinoa definitely lent a great texture, but I can see how a pickled currant would punch things up a bit. Definitely something to try again.
The potatoes are roasted in schmaltz and topped with an herb-packed salsa verde. They are undeniably delicious; crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside with just the right amount of salt. As with the salad, this was a hefty side. In fact, I thought I was famished when I first got to Mainstay, but ended up packing up half of each of the sandwiches, and had leftover potatoes and salad between the two of us. Meals here are filling and full of flavor. They also travel well, as the leftovers were just as delightful hours later.
I want to come back for coffee and a pastry in the morning, spreading a newspaper out on one of those woodblock tables, just as much as I can’t wait to grab a bottle of wine and snack on a salumi ($10) or cheese ($10) plate, a bowl of castevetrano olives ($5) alongside and gossip with a friend one early evening — after all, Mainstay closes at 7 p.m. weekdays and 2 p.m. weekends.
I’ve heard the hours are to help promote a healthy work/life balance for owner Thom Koshwanez and his employees, which is something I can get behind.
Mainstay Provisions, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 612 N.W. 65th St., Seattle; 206-659-0170, mainstayprovisions.com