As the weather turns here in Seattle, picnics become all but a dream. The grass is green nearly year round. But, we pay for this luxury with a September to May drizzle. It leaves Mother Nature’s lush blankets a tad bit damp, even on the warmest of fall days.
I certainly see why this would cause a bit of doom and gloom for those who like to take their nibbles outdoors. But I happily contradict the stance that one must be relegated to a nine-month prison of dark corner eating.
Why? Because Seattle is rich with a collection of light and airy restaurants where walls and roofs are anything but restricting. Such is the case at The Whale Wins.
Opened in 2012, its ambiance and décor are in keeping with Renee Erickson’s whitewashed French farmstead theme. It’s a warm white, a white that beckons you into the kitchen – literally. Here the kitchen takes center stage with large white marble countertops and a wood-burning oven that resides in the belly of the beast. Chef, sous chefs and servers breeze from behind the counter to in front of the counter so casually you feel as though just standing in the dining room makes you part of the team.
The feeling is further enforced by the tabletops made from the same story-book esque white marble. Unfortunately, this does have the decided side effect of being slightly cold to the touch. And, like most farmsteads anywhere, depending on where you sit there can be a bit of a breeze. I’d recommend bringing a sweater.
We went for lunch, which, as it turns out, is not a decidedly more affordable affair than dinner. However, lunch didn’t prove nearly as busy as the dinner and happy hour crowds I’ve witnessed driving by. And this, ladies and gents, is ideal for a meal where you want to linger through every bite and indulge in conversation.
(Please take note: though the happy hour menu is delightful and certainly gives patrons a discount, the savings are small and the choices don’t compare to those of the lunch or dinner menus. Don’t arrive expecting to sample the goods for half the cost.)
The name, The Whale Wins, comes from a painting Erickson loves of a whale obliterating a ship. It seems only natural that the menu is comprised of pristinely sourced, local goods.
The freshness of these shines as simple items are transformed into stars capable of standing on their own. Take carrots for instance. They’re roasted along with fennel, just enough to bring a sweet caramelization while still retaining a bit of a crunch. And as though the slightly bitter licorice flavor playing against the sweet wasn’t enough, it’s accented by a spicy touch of harissa that’s balanced by a refreshing bed of yogurt.
The roasted Brussels sprouts (unfortunately not on the menu currently) were equally as delightful. Their slightly charred bits gave way to sturdy centers. Heck, even the most mundane of menu items here is anything but. You might say the bread and butter is a delight in and of itself. Sturdy slices of Columbia City Bakery bread are served with a generous helping of sea salt-topped house made butter.
To fit in a protein, we selected the roasted half chicken. It was flavorful and moist, but I must say, didn’t particularly impress. And for a whopping $22, I could have very easily stuck to an all veggie adventure.
Should you still be reading, way to go. You are without a doubt the winner because I saved the best for last. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the chocolate brownie. Oh no. It’s something much more humble and deceiving than that.
The star, what I would go for if I go for nothing else, is the butter roasted zucchini bread.
Here, thick slices of this dense dessert are more cake than bread. Humble in both look and name, it’s luscious in the way you’d expect dessert on a farm to be – a butter permeated, cast iron skillet seared, and salt finished delight.
Columbia City Bakery Bread & Butter: $4.00
Roasted Carrot and Fennel Salad: $12.00
Roasted Half Chicken: $22.00
Butter Roasted Zucchini Bread: $8.00
3506 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103
Lunch Daily: 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM
Happy Hour Daily: 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Dinner Monday – Saturday: 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Dinner Sunday: 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM