The springtime tradition returns. Here are some tips to make the most of it.
Asparagus is risen! It’s springtime in the Pacific Northwest, and while some celebrate with premature shorts-wearing, fans of local food are ready for prime eating time. Along with asparagus from Eastern Washington, there’s the return of rhubarb, ramps, fava beans, wild mushrooms, fresh herbs, edible flowers and tons more. After many dark winter’s nights of parsnips, Seattle chefs are thrilled, and their menus are full of new stuff.
Meanwhile, Seattle Restaurant Week — the giant among restaurant promos — is back, with 165-plus spots making $30 three-course dinners (and some $15 two-course lunches) from April 12 to 16 and April 19 to 23. (The Seattle Times is a sponsor.) To get the most for your money, choose pricier places, where it’s generally easy to spend $30 on just an appetizer and an entree.
In essence, you’ll get dessert for free at Seattle Restaurant Week’s more expensive places. (“Free Dessert Week,” though it sounds good, apparently didn’t have the same ring to it.) Do the math on the restaurant’s average regular menu prices to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
Seattle Restaurant Week
April 12-16 and 19-23, various locations (srw.seattletimes.com).
A couple more ways to keep it cheap: Drink beer or have the least expensive wine by the glass (or abstain, if that doesn’t seem entirely anti-special-occasion). Go with a friend and order one SRW menu and another entree, and share the appetizer and the dessert (and if you’d both like a couple glasses of wine, splurge on a lower-priced bottle to share).
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Some of Seattle’s best spendy spots are on the list: Crush, Dahlia Lounge, Lark, Lecosho, Mistral Kitchen, Monsoon, Nell’s, Poppy, Sushi Kappo Tamura, Terra Plata, Tilth and Volterra stand out. If you’ve always wanted to try super-fancy El Gaucho or the Georgian, now is the time. Less formal favorites like Kisaku, Ma’ono, Miyabi 45th, Restaurant Roux and Tallulah’s also offer good value for SRW.
As far as interesting-looking new places, this time around there’s not a lot, but Zhu Dang seems the most worthy of a shot.
The special prix-fixe menus are all online, for those who want to pinpoint what sounds most irrefutably alluring or just read some of the poetry of spring. On Lark’s list (and in its lovely new location): a spring salad with Willowood Farm radishes, fennel and a creamy lemon vinaigrette; herb cavatelli with asparagus, spinach, goat cheese and walnut breadcrumbs. Ma’ono’s menu makes use of green garlic, sweet peas, spring onions. At Poppy: pea shoots, sorel, nettles, lovage.
If you go, be sure to make a reservation: Tables for walk-ins cannot be counted on, given the hungry crowds. And be sure to tip well: Servers are dealing with a high volume of people, and since to some extent it’s patron amateur hour, more of those people than usual will probably be a pain. Don’t skimp on rewarding the staff’s hard work and good humor about it all.