Staple & Fancy Mercantile
The south end of Ballard Avenue has become one of my favorite places in Seattle. Still very industrial and gritty it captures the feel of the city’s working class beginnings. At this far end of the avenue change is coming slowly (which I quite like) but tucked in between some of those industrial shops and warehouse style businesses we are seeing glimpses of the new Seattle.
The most visible newcomer is the Dutch Bike Company. In nice weather several of the graceful and, often, colorful bikes will be parked in front of the shop on the sidewalk. If you take a closer look at the building you may notice that the front of the bike store houses a cozy little coffee shop. To the right of the shop is a small sign above a door leading to a long hallway. The sign is for The Walrus and The Carpenter which lives in a small space on the back side of the building. To the left of the bike shop is Staple and Fancy Mercantile, Ethan Stowell’s latest culinary jewel.
I’ve been to Staple and Fancy three times now, and have had excellent meals and service each time. I guess this isn’t surprising since I also enjoy Tavolata, How to Cook a Wolf and Anchovies and Olives, Ethan Stowell’s other Seattle restaurants.
Inside the restaurant the brick walls and open kitchen help keep the industrial feel of the neighborhood. But the food that comes out of that kitchen is another thing altogether.
I’d like to talk about the food but getting too specific seems pointless since the menu has been different each time I’ve been in. Even the cocktails change regularly. This is sticking with Ethan and his chef’s principles of creating cuisine featuring ingredients currently at their peak. Not every single thing is locally produced – I’m pretty sure the avocado on Saturday night’s menu wasn’t from around here! – but much of it is.
I’ve had meat, shellfish, fish, and pasta with all of their various ingredients and garnishes and have enjoyed every bite so far. The Mussel Brodo from my first visit was one of my favorite items, as was the Spaghetti Nero I had on Saturday night. The one item I’m dying to try, and which is always offered, is the chef’s choice dinner.
If you look at the “Note” at the end of the Staple & Fancy menu you’ll see this text:
Thanks for joining us at Staple & Fancy Mercantile. Please feel free to order as much or as little food as you like. And, if you would like to avoid the trouble of ordering altogether, please feel free to hand your menu back to your server and let the kitchen prepare you a family style supper served in four courses for $45 per person. Participation by the entire table is required. We would also like to inform you that you really should do this.
Circumstances have so far prevented me from enjoying this offering but on Saturday I did manage to enjoy the idea of it as M and I hovered over a gentleman at the bar while we were waiting for seats to open up. So we watched as his food was served and enjoyed it vicariously. This has got to be the best deal on the menu and that is saying quite a lot considering the Staple & Fancy portions are all pretty generous.
I’d recommend reservations if your plans are not flexible. On Saturday we arrived about 6:30 hoping to grab a seat at the small bar but we were a few minutes too late and waited a little over an hour for places to open. We did not have our name on the dining room list but I had looked at the open reservation times earlier in the week and there were only a few very early or rather late times available.
I’m looking forward to my next visit and I’m going to make sure I can indulge in the chef’s choice option!
Staple & Fancy Mercantile
4739 Ballard Ave NW