This is not an easy restaurant to find. Don’t be surprised if you drive past it more than once, or flip a few U-turns that might or might not be legal. Keep looking. The hunt is worth the bite because Sitka & Spruce takes you to an entirely different world. Located at the back of the Melrose Market, this large warehouse is reminiscent of a loft apartment. It makes you feel like you should be perpetually in your 20’s, walking around in your underwear and eating grapes from a chipped bowl.
The all-inclusive kitchen/restaurant is pleasantly shocking. The open kitchen is connected to a long communal table, where family style dishes are meant to be shared. Chefs, smells and diners mingle in this dinner party setting.
Walled off from the market with rustic glass windows, the lofted ceiling and soft colors give it the illusion you’re outdoors. The menu’s what you’d cook from your own back garden, fresh from the vine and in season. Which makes sense because it is fresh from their garden – the Old Chaser Farm on Vashon Island.
Working with personally grown and locally sourced ingredients, its dishes change regularly. The constantly fresh menu features a mix of salads and larger protein dishes. I imagine, as the colder weather sets in, soups will begin to simmer on the back of its stove.
The complex flavors of its salads make the prospect of a meat free diet not only tolerable but a delight. Take for instance a mix of traviso and fennel dressed with a sweet tahini concoction and salty breadcrumbs. (Traviso is an Italian red lettuce. It has long leaves similar to Romaine and a slightly bitter taste.) As all good things come in threes, so does this salad: three distinct flavor profiles – sweet, salty, and bitter – and three fabulous textures – creamy, crunchy, and crisp.
While it’s unusual for a salad to be comfort food, Sitka & Spruce has pulled it off. Their mix of fried paneer with eggplant, arugula, and pine nuts in a brown butter sauce is the kind of garden creation you want to eat on a rainy day. (Paneer is a fresh cheese with Indian origins common in South Asian cuisine. This un-aged cheese or cheese curd, works well when grilled or fried because it is non-melting.)
A mix of flavors and textures are carried into the fish and meat dishes as well. Albacore tuna is paired with broccoli, tomatoes, walnuts, and anchovies. Though the tuna was slightly dry, the acid from the tomatoes combined with the smoky depth of the walnuts made for a pleasant dish.
A word of caution, even if you’re a seasoned foodie, you might consider taking a food dictionary. The menu tends to be packed with untraditional ingredients. While the service is well paced, it’s not always quick to explain the unfamiliar.
Sitka & Spruce can be pricey, but you can try its food for less by visiting for lunch. Most restaurants offer a scaled down, less expensive version of their dinner menu. This is a great way to try expensive places without busting your wallet.
For lunch, dishes range from $3.50 to $15.00.
For dinner, they range from $3.50 to $26.00.
Please see this menu link for a current menu.
The menu is constantly changing. Dishes are served family style and meant to be shared. Typically 3 – 4 dishes are appropriate for 2 people. Some dishes are offered in small and large portions.
1531 Melrose Ave. E
Seattle, WA 98122
NOTE: Located in the Melrose Market.
About Melrose Market:
A different shop is tucked into every corner of the market. From butcher to butter and wine to cheese, they cover nearly all your grocery shopping needs. If you’re headed to Sitka & Spruce, avoid wandering over to the cheese shop, conveniently located next to the wine bar. This detour might make you consider skipping a sit-down meal all together. It’s best to peruse these on a full belly.
The impossible to miss meat counter is filled with huge cuts. Just outside Sitka & Spruce is a flower shop, where lingering is common.