Back in January, in my post Enough’s Enough, I stated that if something noteworthy came up I would post about it. One of the things uppermost in my mind when I made that comment was Elliott Bay Brewing’s soon to open third brewpub in Lake City on Seattle’s north side…
As readers of this blog know, when I arrived at my choice for Puget’s Perfect Pint, Elliott Bay was only narrowly beaten by Elysian for the top honor, and it was an extremely tough choice. Because of this I have been eagerly awaiting the opening of Elliott Bay’s Lake City pub even though the neighborhood is not one I expect to find myself in all that often. Well, they opened on March 26th and at the first opportunity, The Spouse, The Daughter & I paid them a visit.
The first observation I’ll make about this new brewpub is that in choosing Lake City I believe Elliott Bay has shown the same genius for investing in under served, untapped neighborhoods as they did in Burien.
That location is widely acknowledged as one of the catalysts that fueled downtown Burien’s ‘back from the dead’ resurgence. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that Elliott Bay coming to Lake City could have the same impact. I’m not the only one who sees this and I hope the local community sees it this way too – by spending their hard-earned dollars there as often as they can.
Prior to the opening of Elliott Bay Lake City, Seattle’s far northside was totally devoid of brewpubs: from the Ram at Northgate Mall there were no more brewpubs until you reached Big-E in Lynnwood, a distance of over 8 miles.
Within the roughly 4 mile radius of Lake City that I believe Elliott Bay can safely expect to own, there is a huge, mostly residential population of untapped beer drinkers and diners. These are the people who need to reward Elliott Bay’s investment in their community.
While Elliott Bay’s transformation of the street is impressive by itself, what they have done at the rear of their property is truly gorgeous. By leveraging access to the rear parking lot, they have transformed that side of the building and made it their main entrance. Here’s a picture.
Now let’s talk about what’s inside. First off there’s Elliott Bay Brewing’s longest and largest bar and bar seating area of their three locations.
And the family friendly dining space is larger than Burien’s too I believe, which itself is already pretty big. The original West Seattle brewpub is smaller in every respect, but its intimate scale and vibe is a large part of its attraction for me.
Despite Lake City’s spaciousness it fills up quickly. When we left during the peak of Saturday night dining hours, the line waiting for tables stretched from the front of house podium all the way to the rear entrance.
Nice touch: the dining space is divided with a passageway to facilitate wait staff movement from the kitchen to the furthest reaches of the restaurant (and a place for queuing customers) without intruding on the tables. Somebody really thought this through.
Of course this being a brewpub, there’s beer, and lots of it. Elliott Bay Lake City has more taps than at their other pubs: 30 plus two hand pumps for cask ales. During our visit there were 16 Elliott Bay brews, the rest being guest beers from some of the Seattle area’s best.
As I’ve mentioned before in other posts, I love it when a brewery has enough confidence in their own brews to put them up against the very best available.
And Elliott Bay pubs are consistently among the most flexible when it comes to tasting. You can buy a 5×5 oz tasting tray, or individual 5 oz tastes, and you can mix and match to your heart’s content.
The Spouse and I purchased two 5×5 oz sample trays and selected our favorite 10 from the 16 house taps. Among these was the first truly ‘house’ brew, the Lake City IPA.
Elliott Bay scored big when they secured the services of Bill Jenkins, longtime brewmaster at Big Time in the U-District. The new Lake City IPA is said to be based on a recipe Bill used at Big Time; it’s a beautifully balanced brew with a nice citrusy floral nose, and a hoppy taste, but of the more finessed type I prefer.
What it’s certainly not is just another in your face, mouth-puckering overly-hoppy NW IPA. In fact it’s not unlike one of my favorite IPAs, Skip Madsen’s Breakaway IPA at American Brewing, and I liked the Lake City IPA enough to take a growler fill of it home with us.
Every other beer in our sample trays was solid – exactly what we have come to expect from Elliott Bay. They consistently rank among the top three or four breweries in the Seattle region for across the board excellence – ’nuff said!
Food service was also up to the usual high standards we have come to take for granted in West Seattle and Burien. The Lake City menu is broadly similar but with enough differences to make it interesting. If I didn’t know better I would never have guessed the Lake City kitchen had been open barely two weeks: on the evidence of our visit, it already operates like a well-oiled machine. Great stuff!
Finally, if you’re wondering where I stand regarding Puget’s Perfect Pint: I’m going to hold off awhile to make that determination. At this point I can safely say it is still a two-horse race but I’ll likely have to make repeat visits to Elysian and Elliott Bay to decide if Elliot Bay has now overtaken Elysian. Now, if one or other of them would announce plans to open a brewpub on the eastside, that would seal it for me. :)