July 8, 2020

Crowd pleasers of the brunch world

Dear Alix,

It’s my mother’s 80th birthday (and my brother in law’s as well — although he seems to be getting less play). My daughter and the new beau are flying in from Europe, sister and birthday boy coming down from Alaska and a childhood friend of mom’s is coming from another town, foodie hubby… I’m looking for a Sunday brunch for a party of 11 that appeals to the lot. I’ve had recommendations from various people — but somehow don’t feel the right mix — everything from:

Anthony’s (view, middle of the road appeal, seafood options, food that everyone understands but not getting high enough marks in the reviews to say hands down that, “this is it”); Chinooks (never been, but some reviewers like it better than Anthony’s, great view); Toulouse up on Queen Anne (I wonder how they would accommodate a large party? Would the older folks enjoy?); Bastille in Ballard (will they recognize the menu? It is gorgeous inside, fun atmosphere with the Farmers Market, parking hell); 35th Street Bistro in Fremont (large party?). Do you know anything about Portage Bay Cafe’s Ballard location? (Is there more room by any chance? Birthday girl loves breaky at the U-District location.)

There must be some middle ground that is delicious, accessible to the less adventurous eaters while still satisfying the Euro-crowd and food snob among us. Seattle has so many incredible places but we mostly cook at home and rarely get out to experience the goodness. Do you have a recommendation? Please advise.

All dressed up — but where to go?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Dear All Dressed Up,

It’s such a conundrum, isn’t it? Finding a brunch spot that’s interesting enough to please a discerning palate, but not so interesting that it alienates those with more traditional breakfast tastes.

You’ve received some good recommendations thus far; I might just suggest a twist on a couple. For one, I’m a big fan of Ballard for the Sunday Farmers Market ambience, though my favorite is Volterra rather than Bastille. They have a sweet little patio that’s perfect for this time of year, and I can personally attest that the Milano! Milano!, the savory herb bread pudding topped with two eggs, asparagus tips, and smoked Gouda cream, is absolutely heavenly. I know — parking isn’t exactly easy but well worth it in this case. Although I too love the inside of BastilleI haven’t been wowed by either the menu or the service so I would pass on this particular occasion.

I tried to do a party of ten at Queen Anne’s Toulouse Petit and their best solution was to split between two booths, so I think that’s not the spot for you. But if you think that your group would like the French-y vibe, Le Pichet, just up from Pike Place Market, is surprisingly accommodating for such a small place. And who wouldn’t like to be close to the Market with friends and family in from out of town?

Another downtown restaurant that you don’t hear a whole lot about is Tilikum Place Café, a bit off the beaten path on the edge of Belltown. They don’t seem to be so jam-packed all the time so it might be a bit easier to accommodate a group your size, and as they’re just up from Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park it would be easy to wrap in a little sightseeing at the same time.

I’ve only been to the U-District location of Portage Bay Cafe but I know that it’s a crowd pleaser in all three neighborhoods. I suspect that the Ballard location is actually smaller, so I think that you’re not likely to gain much in that regard. If you’re interested in Ballard, though, another good option might be A Caprice Kitchen. It’s a bit out of the way up in a micro-neighborhood along with Delancey Pizza and Honore Artisan Bakery, but from what I’ve heard it’s well worth the trip.

Speaking of worth the trip… How about Verve in Columbia City or Spring Hill in West Seattle? Both in interesting city neighborhoods that would be excellent for post-brunch exploration, and both with a good mix of traditional and inventive menu items that I think would satisfy all around.

Last but not least, if you really want to get wild and crazy: Nettletown on Eastlake. I admit that you may want to save this one for just you and the foodie husband, but good to have one on the list for once the gang leaves town, yes?