A few weeks back, we put out a call asking readers to offer up their reviews of some local restaurants. Our first response comes from Toby Kammer, who covers Elemental Next Door (Elemental‘s more casual next-door neighbor).
Elemental Next Door (3309 Wallingford Ave N) is understated in true Seattle fashion. This is not the sort of place that you’ll see advertised from the freeway. It is a little like a lake you find when you veer off of your normal I-90 corridor hike and push your way naughtily through the undergrowth (I’ve heard supposed to stay on the beaten path) with a compass and decent map.
END’s off the beaten path confidence is also displayed by their menu (hand written on a roll of butcher paper toward the front of the restaurant) - everything from chorizo stuffed calamari to popcorn and the bacon truffle (developed, the chef/creator of the treat long before the odd NW bacon craze).
Your waiter/ess will undoubtedly be able to pull a wine off of END’s impressive, reasonably priced and generously stocked wall-o-wine (not their term for it) that compliments your menu choices, and explain the reasons for the compliment in accessible terms. Our waiter suggest a Riesling to go with a the Trio of Cheeses (accompanied by some sort of rustic plank like cracker, a dash of honey and blueberry compote type garnish in two tiny (but big enough) bowls) and Rabbit Pate.
His suggestion was met with some healthy skepticism for our red-wine-leaning, sweet-alcohol-disliking table, which we shared with him. He offered other options but politely stood his ground as to the reasons behind the Riesling, and assured us that as Rieslings go, this one was not too sweet. I am no expert on how to pair foods and wines (indeed, the extent of my previous experience in this field was limited to combining uber-chocolate mighty-o donuts with Cabernet) but even to my rather unsophisticated palate the pairing, the chemistry of the thing, was notable and fun, both for the taste and the enthusiastic editorials from others at my table.
The chemistry of the place is not limited to the food. The dining area is a mix of light colored woods and polished cement which combines to create a warm and sturdy feel. Similarly, the music was up-to-date – hip like the Garden State sound-track was before it got so overplayed.
END’s website bills itself as “perfect for people looking for a casual dinner, not the 4 hour extravaganza of Elemental.” Undoubtedly, this is true. For my table, it was, nonetheless, an experience – everything from the ambiance of the space, the camaraderie of good friends, the menu options and the waiter made it feel like much more fun than a standard casual dinner.