Archive for the ‘dining’ Category

La Carta de Oaxaca

by Deborah Ashin 

Is it really worth waiting an hour to eat at a restaurant where portions are small and the entire meal takes less than 30 minutes? La Carta de Oaxaca, an unpretentious storefront Mexican restaurant in Ballard, answers this with a resounding “yes.” It usually has a crowd of hungry patrons spilling into the sidewalk plus a dozen or more sipping outrageously good (strong) margaritas in the tiny, standing room only bar at the back of the bright, noisy restaurant.

Dining dilemma:

You’re desperately craving great Mexican food in Seattle but have yet to find a restaurant that makes you shout olé!
 HYPERLINK “” t “_blank” solution:

La Carta de Oaxaca

Quick and Easy

Why go: Great authentic Mexican food

Highlights: Chicken mole, enchiladas, margaritas

Reservations: no (except for groups of 10+)

Forewarning: Expect to wait; small portions (but small prices)

While your tolerance for waiting up to an hour may depend on how many margaritas you imbibe, my advice is to visit La Carta de Oaxaca—just don’t go on a Friday or Saturday night. Yes, part of the experience at La Carta de Oaxaca is the convivial, hip fiesta ambiance, but the stellar food is the reason you’ll come back.

Instead of Mexican kitsch, La Carta de Oaxaca is starkly decorated with stunning black and white photographs of people and places in Oaxaca. Buzzing with energy and high-spirits (the restaurant has two dozen types of tequila) dining at La Carta de Oaxaca feels like a neighborhood party. There are a few individual tables and several seats at a small counter that look into the open kitchen and offer a great view of the frenetic staff. Most people, however, prefer the boisterous community tables.

A food served at La Carta de Oaxaca is incredibly fresh, surprisingly sophisticated and relatively inexpensive. The prices are a bit deceptive because portions are very small so you’ll want to order at least two dishes per person. Oaxaca, which is located in south central Mexico, has a distinctive cuisine that is totally different from what most Americans expect. Forget about plates loaded with beans and rice or huge portions of cheese-heavy Tex-Mex. The cuisine at La Carta de Oaxaca is light and sophisticated; even traditional Mexican dishes, such as tacos, have an Oaxacan-spin, so be prepared for a culinary adventure.

Start with a basket of warm, homemade tortilla chips and a bowl of spicy guacamole (you can order this at the bar while you wait). Lighter than air meatballs grace the fragrant albondigas soup while Oaxaqueno cheese, guacamole, beans and salsa are folded into the best quesadilla you’ll eat in Seattle.

Pork tacos, with an overpowering, vinegar flavored sauce and tiny bits of meat were disappointing. Instead, go for the carne asada tacos topped with cilantro, onions and hot sauce. The homemade tortillas are remarkable. Delicate enchiladas are napped with a red chili sauce, lightly sprinkled with cheese and served with a fried egg. For something different, order the entomatadas, thin slices of grilled beef served with a choice of red or green sauce and glazed with think ribbons of crema Mexicana. Oaxaca is famous for its mole sauces and you can sample La Carta’s signature black mole two ways: in a tamale steamed in a banana leaf (chicken or pork) or the house specialty of pork or chicken served with fluffy rice. The rich, silky mole sauce is spicy with deep hints of chocolate; alas, the skimpy portion of chicken equaled about four bites. Skip the flavorless flan, topped with aerosol whipped cream.

Despite the long waits, small portions, impossible parking situation and rushed service (servers don’t have time to offer more than fast food friendliness), eating at La Carta de Oaxaca is a culinary adventure.


Chips and guacamole: $3.00

Entrees: $5:00-$9.00

Tacos: $6.00

Margueritas: $7.00-$9.00

Open:  Monday-Saturday (lunch and dinner); open until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.

La Carta de Oaxaca  (Ballard)

5431 Ballard Avenue NW (at Market)

Seattle, WA 98107


Visit website:  HYPERLINK “” t “_blank”



by Deborah Ashin 


Crow isn’t the closest restaurant to Seattle Center, but it’s definitely worth the extra walk if you’re looking for a high quality, reasonably priced, pre-theatre dinner. This vibrant urban bistro offers an intimate setting for a meal of simple yet seriously prepared contemporary comfort food.
Dining dilemma:

You scored tickets to the ballet (or the opera or the theatre) at Seattle Center but can’t think of an interesting place to take your date for dinner.

 HYPERLINK “” t “_blank” solution:

Crow Restaurant and Bar
Quick and Easy

Why go: Great food, sexy setting

Highlights: Pan roasted chicken, steamed mussels, any dessert

Service: Polished and friendly (can be slow, so tell your server if you’re attending a performance).

Forewarning: Street parking is nearly impossible. Allow time to walk.


Crow’s seductive ambiance is a cross between a stark industrial warehouse and an artist’s romantic loft. Low lighting and gauzy curtains create a visual counterpoint to the restaurant’s minimal décor and cement walls, which are painted in a palette of rich colors. Despite its noisy buzz, Crow is an inviting neighborhood hangout (kid noodles are on the menu) yet intimate enough for a special occasion. For a bird’s eye view of the kitchen, sit at the back counter and chat with the chefs. You can also dine away from the bar under an unexpected crystal chandelier.

The small but enticing menu boasts eclectic Americana fare with Italian, French and Asian influences. You have the option to share a few items or order a complete meal. Dishes are extremely well prepared but totally unaffected. Enjoy one of Crow’s unique cocktails while sharing a mountain of plump, steamed mussels served in a luscious curry sauce. A bountiful salad of bibb lettuce, tossed with hazelnuts, Stilton cheese and crisp slices of pear, is lightly dressed with a nicely balanced port vinaigrette. Entrees are seriously good, especially Crow’s signature pan roasted chicken wrapped in proscuitto. Served in a light sauce with fresh green beans, this crispy moist chicken is perfect. It’s equally easy to fall in love with Crow’s luscious house lasagna made with spicy Italian sausage. A classic preparation of trout with roasted almonds was similarly superb.

Make sure to allow enough time for dessert, or come back after the opera for the sinfully delicious coconut tart or a slice of bittersweet chocolate pâté served with orange caramel. Dessert selections rotate but if it’s available, do not miss the ethereal Meyer lemon chiffon cake, topped with sugared strips of lemon. Perhaps the biggest problem with dining at Crow before a performance is the need to quickly fly away from such a splendid dining experience.


Starters: $7.00-$12.00

Entrees: $15.00-$20.00

Dessert: $8.00

Open: Daily for dinner
Crow (Lower Queen Ann)

823 Fifth Ave N  (at Roy)

Seattle, WA


Visit website  HYPERLINK “” t “_blank”


Balancing the Scales: Café Presse

By Joseph Schell

Our reflection flickered in the rain streaked café windows as my mother and I walked down the sidewalk. From outside I see an industrial sized clock hanging over the bar, the kind you would expect to see in a train station. As we walked to the door I look skyward, halfway up the storefront a small square yellow sign with a red quill emblem protrudes, reading “Presse”.

Now I’ve been to Café Presse several times. The one detail of this often noisy and crowded café that has always impressed me is it seamlessly maintains a high degree of sophistication. A complexity upheld through certain elegance; soft earth tone atmosphere and gracefully simple culinary expression.

A traditional French Café/Bar, Presse offers a very affordable menu along with a full bar and reasonable French wine list. In South Capital Hill just off of Madison on 12th, Presse is the second joint venture of Le Pichet owners Joanne Herron and Jim Drohman.  In this endeavor the duo created a bustling hot spot with the perfect balance of a neighborhood café and vogue French bistro. On one hand you have convenience and relaxed ambiance anchored by an espresso machine, world soccer matches on the weekend and huge stand of diverse magazines and newspapers (from 52 countries). On the other you have subtle refinement; an ample wine rack, walls of chic exposed concrete and rough checkered brick, complimented by steel girds, a lathe ceiling and a refreshing Parisian menu. A juxtaposition that in theory is hard to pull off, one Presse does effortlessly.

The layout of the restaurant is complete with a bar and small table dining in the front room. The café is separated by a hallway and the kitchen and in the back is an adjoining room with larger tables lining the aft wall. The backroom is graced with large windows facing west, a great spot to catch the afternoon sun.

We waited a few minutes to get a table for two; service was prompt and courteous. We started off with a cheese platter (4 different cheese and bread) and a couple glasses of a smooth French red wine. For my entrée I ordered the Huîtres à la Breton, a plate of six local oysters served on the half shell in a bed of rock salt and the Betterave, noix et bleu (highly recommended, excellent), a small beet salad with pecans and bleu cheese. My mother ordered the Omelette au choix, a two egg with choice of herbs, mushrooms or Comté cheese.

Everything was prepared well and we ended our dinner over another glass of wine and left without feeling rushed out the door even though there was a crowd of people waiting.

With dinner for two and drinks for under fifty bucks, this cafe should be one every ones to-do list, if not just to get out of the autumn rain. With coffee, wine and free WiFi this is one place you’ll never have to leave.


1117 12th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98122
Phone: 206-709-7674
HYPERLINK “” Web site
HYPERLINK “” Maps & directions

Hours: 7 a.m.-2 a.m. daily;
limited breakfast menu 7-9 a.m.;
full menu available 9 a.m.-1:30 a.m.


After 10 p.m.


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