Every neighborhood has it’s flavor. Belltown definitely does. It’s changed a lot since we first moved here, but for whatever reason, it’s reputation has not. Whether in blog posts, online magazines or in conversation, there is often the distinct attitude among Seattleites that Belltown is where the jerks, the smarmy overgrown Frat boys, and the flashy faux-Vegas crowd lives and plays. There are also those who assume everyone in Belltown is a hipster. In my experience, the people who hate hipsters the most tend to be… well, hipsters. We don’t get too caught up in Belltown stereotypes.
When we first moved into Belltown, on a night out, on certain streets, you definitely saw where the neighborhood’s reputation came from. There is still some of this at say, 2AM on a Saturday night. In the six years we’ve been here, the neighborhood has evolved from bar and club central, to a less than safe area that restaurateurs couldn’t leave fast enough, to an actual neighborhood with its own social scene, colored more by restaurants and lounges than nightclubs. Of course, you can find trouble if you go looking for it, but find me a metropolitan area where that isn’t true.
We’ve seen restaurants (some favorites) come and go, but at least a few local destinations have held down the fort. Black Bottle has been a Belltown staple since before we arrived in town. I was drawn to their cozy, dark, exposed brick, industrial look before I ever set foot inside. I’ve always had a couple of issues with Black Bottle, though. First, amidst a sea of local, seasonal menus, Black Bottle’s menu seemed never to change. While I do appreciate some predictability, sometimes it’s nice to find something new. Second, the service has always been a bit hit or miss. At best, it’s been coolly adequate. At worst, service was rude and absent. Lucky for us, though, we kept going back.
About a year ago, I noticed a few unfamiliar items on their menu. While most of their familiar favorites remain, there are new options to choose from. Their menu is small (which I prefer), so a little bit of diversity goes a long way. On the service front, B and I have managed to secure seats at the bar on our last few visits and that, it seems, is the ticket to a better service experience. The bartenders we’ve shared a bar with have been friendly and hospitable. Honestly, for all I know, the service on the floor may have improved as well, but we prefer to stick to our bar seats.
Last week, we found two seats at the bar (my favorite two seats at the very end) on an especially nice day. We opted (including dessert) for two Black Bottle mainstays and two of their newer choices. To start, we shared the lamb meatballs with sumac hummus. In reality, it’s not so much meatballs and hummus as a meze platter. Yes, I do realize meze platter is an oxymoron, but if you deconstructed the plate, that’s what it felt like. It was a lot of food with pickled and fresh vegetables, feta, pita, and another dip to go along with the meatballs and hummus.
We also shared the cumin pork tenderloin and frisée and the prosciutto and potato wheels. I sort of missed our usual hanger steak, but the pork was definitely not a disappointment. As someone who has ruined her fair share of pork tenderloin, I’m in no position to judge. The prosciutto and potato wheels are one of B’s favorites. I like them well enough. After all, they have two of my favorite ingredients—cured meat and potato. They’re just a tiny bit… saucy, though.
Dessert is one department where we’re glad they’ve stuck with a good thing. Whenever we have dessert at Black Bottle, we share the chocolate cake and vanilla gelato. The gelato is inside the cake. This cake with a glass of port gives any meal a boost.
I really love the new life that’s arrived in Belltown. Just like Black Bottle’s old reliable menu items, though, there’s something to be said for consistency, reliability, and the places that have stuck it out with us through all the neighborhood ups, downs and, yes, hipsters.