A new restaurant unfurled itself on the great untapped North side of Seattle. The Shambles, located at 7777 15th Ave NE, lays just South of the diagonal rip of Lake City Way. It labels itself “Seattle’s Neighborhood Bar & Butcher”. Personally, yay to the first part, boo to the second. I am a vegetarian (actually pescatarian) and there is little reason for me to frequent a place that has mastered the art of draping meat on other meat (literally, the first image you see on their site is stacked meat). Not my thing. I do, however, have many friends who adore that very meat draping I care so little for. And, what is a food blog without all the food? I figured that I could easily blog about meat if I had surrogate mouths to report on said meat. And, thus, my surrogate mouths and I went.Grant and Stephen, my trusty writing-group-turned-drinking-group buddies, are always game for teaming up on food and beer and talking about food and beer. In fact, it was their idea. They happened to know the proprietors of The Shambles (Joel Klemenhagen and Matthew Brady) and Saturday was the soft opening. The cozy, 42-seat, wood-heavy beer and meat hall was positively teeming with hungry humans. Our wait wasn’t terrible and we were seated at a community table in front.
The service is off-limits here, being that it was their very first day and the amount of CO2 being exhaled into the room was greater than it was rated for. Eventually, we ordered beer and a selection of foods. The meat-eaters got the In-House Meat Board with three servings of cheese. I ordered three sides – Crispy Brussels with preserved lemon and aioli, Barley Salad with charred scallions, and Foraged Mushrooms with white wine and ghee. As for beer, Stephen and I got the Skookum Another Skull IPA and the Fort George I Like Me IPA, respectively. Grant abstained and we mocked him.
While we waited, perhaps fearing the inevitable wait-time that was to follow, a meat and pickle platter was brought to the table for all to share, the full eight of us that lined each side of the table. I left it to the others to devour, with only the sparse pickles being an option for me. Our platter came out soon after, sporting hefty amounts of unidentified cured and sliced meats, as well as three mystery cheeses, crackers seemingly made in-house, pickled tiny eggs, kimchee, and pickled shiitake mushrooms. It was lovely. My three small dishes came shortly after.
The table enjoyed a convivial camaraderie, each person knowing the same people as Stephen and Grant, making pleased commentary about their personal feasts. It is really a pleasure to eat with other people, experiencing similar stimulations and comparing them. Long tables of unrelated people are definitely underrated.
The beer was amazing. Stephen and I loved our respective beers and when ordering another, we chose to flip the order to get the other one. They are IPAs, hazy and dank and “yes, please, I’ll have another”. Grant loved his water, we assume.
The In-House Meat Board with three cheeses. Much of this was not for me and I didn’t order it, so that’s totally fine. Here are my notes on the items I did eat:
- Pickled shiitakes: These were dense, sweet, and tart, with the very specific sharp umami of this type of mushroom. It was good as a piece of a larger whole, as with Korean pickles.
- Kimchi: My guess is that this was fennel kimchi, but identification was not offered during this busy soft opening. I really enjoyed this. It had a nice heat to it, with many layers of flavor.
- Pickled quail (?) eggs: Here was a real surprise. I popped this diminutive yellowed egg in my mouth and bit down to a sudden rush of tart and salty liquid. My eyes had to be wide with confusion and wonder. I watched others pierce the egg on the platter, exploding out in wondrous and uncontrolled deep yellow. They obviously soft boiled the eggs before pickling them. Tricky devils. Some yolk got on Stephen’s phone but he didn’t seem to care, or notice.
- Unknown cheeses: All three were medium hard cheeses in triangles, one of which was blue. None was too loud. At least one seemed to be sheep’s milk by the specific funkiness, but I could be wrong. There might have been a manchego in there. I liked them.
My three dishes:
- Foraged Mushrooms: As far as I could tell, these were oyster and shiitake mushrooms cooked with white onions and garlic in the aforementioned ghee (clarified butter) and white wine. I loved this. This is how you cook mushrooms, bolstering their umami character while adding fat, acid, and aromatics. Perfect.
- Barley Salad: Cooked nicely with a creamy texture surrounding the wonderfully chewy barley. A simple savory dish highlighted by the charred scallions.
- Crispy Brussels: If you cook brussel sprouts correctly, there is no better vegetable for a delightful snack. These were cooked hot and quickly, achieving a lovely crispiness without the mushiness of being overcooked. The aioli was amazing and it would rush into the separating layers of the sprouts for a delectable result.
The food thoughts I was able to wrangle from Grant and Stephen during this meal were as follows:
- Stephen about the quail egg he wrapped in prosciutto: “very good”; “a nice sweetness bordered by the saltiness of the meat”
- Grant about the quail egg he placed atop a small chorizo round: his eyes darted around which turned into an affirmative headshake; “sweet, briny, tart”; “breakfast in my mouth”
- Stephen, innocently remarking on the complimentary nuts: “You know what’s great? Deez nuts.” The nuts were good.
- Stephen: “I enjoyed how everyone was connected in some six degrees of Kevin Bacon sort of way (mostly via the owners), and how great it was to have a great place so close to the ‘hood.”
Overall, I think we all very much enjoyed The Shambles, regardless of whether we knew the persons who owned it. I can imagine a menu in constant flux and a beer list that is consistently of the highest quality. For me, it is a nice short walk and there has been a dearth of good places to grab a beer on the Northside. Welcome to the neighborhood!