Seattle is blessed with some of the most innovative, talented chefs on the planet, so I shouldn’t be surprised when I discover a gem like Table 219 in Capitol Hill. But I was surprised – surprised that there wasn’t a line out the door and a 1-month waiting list. If you picked up Table 219 and dropped it on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, it would instantly be the “it” place for celebrity A-listers who are too elitist to have dinner at The Ivy. But thank God Table 219 is tucked away on an unassuming block in Capitol Hill instead of lost in a pissing contest of pretentiousness. For all the terrific dishes on the menu, there isn’t a single one over $15. And although some chefs would beat you over the head with the post-nutritionist-deconstructionist symbolism of a corndog (and charge you $29 for the privilege), Chef Jeffrey Wilson let’s his whimsical dishes speak for themselves.
Oh, and those three amazing corndogs, the best I’ve eaten in my adult life, were only $8.00.
Chef Wilson has a gift for playfully evoking the pavlovian response I have for nostalgic food. It’s not uncommon, these days, to see gourmet revamps of America’s (closest thing to) peasant food. [How many times have you seen sliders or a mac & cheese derivative on a swanky restaurant menu?] However, Chef Wilson’s talent is his ability to execute extraordinarily well on these dishes while preserving the familiar flavors and approachable presentations that made them “comfort food” in the first place.
I was hooked on Table 219 when I first read the phrase “duck confit nachos” ($9) on the menu. Granted, they were different than what I was expecting: I imagined a pile of yellow corn chips crowned with brown, glistening, oil-soaked shredded duck and an obligatory sprig of cilantro. However, the actual preparation was much more indulgent – a veritable cheese fondue of duck, topped with green onions and tomato.
Next up, and at the top of my list of inventiveness, was a smoked bone marrow butter. On the menu, it’s paired with a grilled hanger steak, but we ordered a side of toast just to try it out. Because the butter was served chilled, it lacked the unusual (and orgasmic) texture that I associate with roasted bone marrow, but still delivered plenty of umami.
Other table favorites were the richly-flavored mushroom and truffle oil mac ‘n’ cheese ($9), the perfectly crisp zucchini fries parmesan ($6) and the succulent bison burger with sweet potato fries ($12). I could go on, but let’s return for a moment to the corndogs. They were perfectly fried in a thick, sweet corn batter, and served hot. Now, I’m a sucker for most food-on-a-stick, but the combination of my excitement of eating a corndog for dinner and the fact that they were actually fantastic left a long-lasting smile on my face. Almost as big a smile as when our party of four finished gorging ourselves on 2 cocktails, 9 shared plates, 2 bottles of wine (Tuesdays are 1/2 price bottles) and 2 desserts, and our bill was only $35 per person. Try pulling that off in LA!
I’m a big fan of this kind of eating, and I’ll be back soon.