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When you want to watch the game,

but you don’t want to sit in a sports bar

By Ronald Holden

The Huskies are touted to do well this season, but a trip down 35 th NE to Husky Stadium can sometimes seem like an expedition to climb Mt. Everest. The Hawks in Pioneer Square? Don't even think about it. The downside: sports bars aren't generally known for their cuisine, and weekend brunches overwhelm the more traditional neighborhood restaurants.

Fear not: here are three recommendations for moderately priced, more-than-decent weekend meals in the north end where you can be sure that the food is good and the TV will be on.

Wedgwood Broiler, 8230 35th Ave. NE

What to order: the chicken-fried steak

Wedgwood is an older, tree-lined residential neighborhood with a unique attraction: a 20-foot-high “erratic” known as the Wedgwood Rock. (It's at the intersection of 28th NE and NE 72nd if you're out and about.) It's also home to the Wedgwood Broiler, as classic an old-school Seattle diner as you can imagine. The bar (pardon me, “lounge”) is cavernous and dark; the dining room more brightly lit, but in both there's the warmth of waitresses who call you “hon” and bring you stiff drinks. Order the house martini; you'll probably want at least two.

The menu offers a respectable range of steaks and chops, offered “by the ounce,” but who eats a steak while watching the game, right? No, you can have that $30 sirloin another day. Stick with the chicken-fried steak, smothered in white gravy. And behold the side salad, topped with slices of salami and radioactive cheesy crackers, dressing on the side. All this for a mere $12.25.

The original restaurant here, named Sir Wedgwood, sat on an asphalt parking lot. Expanded and remodeled, it was rechristened Wedgwood Broiler, and has been owned since 1996 by a longtime employee, Derek Cockbain. Over the years it's become a go-to for neighborhood meet-ups, the sort of impromptu get-togethers where the food is not as important as the camaraderie.

Also, should you come for breakfast on a Husky game-day, you can take a shuttle from the Broiler's parking lot to the stadium. Four departures, no charge.

Mioposto, 3426 NE 55th

What to order: the spring lamb pizza

“There are lots of reasons you fall in love with the restaurant business,” says Jeremy Hardy, the owner of the three-store Mioposto chain, “but you don't stay in it for the same reasons.” Early on, there's a rush: the cash, the prestige, the groupies. Gets you through the slog of the dish pit at Lobster House in Boston, but eventually, you find yourself married and entangled. What saved Hardy from becoming cynical was his interest in music, in performance. “We create magic.”

When his former venture, a partnership with Peter Levy called Chow Foods, broke up, Hardy fleshed out the Mioposto concept: friendly, neighborhood Italian-themed spots (the name means “My Place”) with wood-fired ovens.

The customer only sees the tip of the iceberg, Hardy says. You need (as the owner) to control everything, to assert your voice, to frame the experience. He started Mioposto because he wanted a better spot to take his wife Tiah for date night. They developed the concept together; today she's the company's CFO (Chief Food Officer). For one thing, all domestic ingredients: olive oil, cheese, tomatoes. Nothing wrong with the Vera Pizza Napolitana certification of places like Tutta Bella and Via Tribunali; Miposto's is “Seattle Certified Pizza.” Hardy would like to have a dozen more stores, but he's realistic. “I wish I was 20 years younger.”

After splitting up with Levy, Hardy and Tiah flew to Phoenix to learn about pizza from the master, Chris Bianco. For months, they labored to recreate the crust. Once they were satisfied, they ordered up wood-fired ovens from Woodstone with decks big enough for several pizzas at once. As they're also the kitchen's only source of heat, they need to be big enough for cooking chores like making sauces, baking lasagna, or searing a ribeye. The pizzas themselves are thin-crust, foldable, chewy-rather-than-crunchy and plenty tasty. Toppings range from plain Margherita or Quattro Formaggi to potato, Alas, the demands of the restaurant biz means the dough is no longer made in-house, but delivered daily from Essential Bakery.

Much to be said for my current favorite pizza, spring lamb, sourced from the Leschi Market. It's topped with mozzarella, goat cheese, caramelized onions and roasted red peppers, then garnished with a basil-mint salsa verde ($14.50 at lunch, a stiff $20.95 at dinner). I need to return for a meatball sandwich, and, in fresh tomato season, a caprese salad. Could have had a glass of wine, sure, but Mioposto also offers barrel-aged Negronis (Oola gin, BroVo vermouth, Campari), so, well, forgive me, I drank a cocktail before sundown. Had I wanted dessert, I would surely have opted for the Sambucca-flavored tiramisù.

Fiddler’s Inn, 9219 35th Ave NE

What to order: the hot pastrami sandwich

At the north end of Wedgwood, Fiddler's Inn represents an idealized version of a neighborhood ale house. Limited parking, because parking has to compete for space with the picnic tables out back. Many patrons obviously live within walking distance. Owned for the past 30 years by Bob Benlin, Fiddler’s occupies a modest single-story house whose denizens range from local regulars to music enthusiasts across the city. Fiddler's was opened decades ago by Walt Haines, a professional musician who caught the restaurant bug. Benlin retained the original neon sign, resisted the temptation to cover the Inn's wooden floors or to add more lighting than required by the building inspector. He did install a pizza oven, it must be said, so he could offer half a dozen classic varieties in a 10-inch personal size and a 16-inch communal edition. He also opted to start charging a couple of bucks for a cup of peanuts, which makes sense. There was a time that taverns gave stuff like peanuts away so that the geezers on the bar stools would get thirstier; those days are long gone.

Beer today is more sophisticated. Benlin's taverns (in addition to Fiddler's, he owns the Latona Pub in Green Lake and the Hopvine on Capitol Hill) were in the forefront of Seattle's craft beer revolution. So there's a rotating dozen local brews on tap, including Bale Breaker's new “Top Cutter” IPA from their hop fields in the Yakima Valley.

What to eat? Assuming you've worked your way through the chips & salsa appetizer ($6.25), there's a popular TBLT, but I liked the hot pastrami better (both $12.95): mayo, dijon and horseradish to lubricate the savory meat and a garnish of provolone, lettuce, tomato. and red onion. The side salad had a tangy garlic-caper dressing. And when you're all done but the game's into OT, just order a chocolate-chip cookie boat. Ten bucks, gooey and sweet, and you can work it off walking home.

October 2019

Ronald Holden's latest book is called Forking Seattle (Tales of Local Food & Drink), which is also the title of his blog.


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