Cherry Street

tl;dr: get the tomato, basil, egg, and cheese on an Asiago bagel. I’ve also heard from reputable sources that the bacon, egg, and cheese on a pita is divine but have not tried it myself. I can’t get away from that tomato basil.

For a few months about a year ago, I worked tons of overtime. My coworker and I started early, we stayed late, and we held it together while new people were trained for the positions we were covering. We worked long, hard days, but every once in a while, we’d stop, turn to each other and say the magic word: bagel.

Our only solace during those months was Cherry Street and their bagel sandwiches. Most coffeehouses serve food as an afterthought, something to merely accompany their drinks. Cherry Street makes an effort to serve actual, delicious food. Food worth paying for. In the mornings, they have an employee whose only job is to make people breakfast. This isn’t just some bagel sawed in half with a cold cup of cream cheese and a plastic knife. This bagel is a masterclass in coffee shop edibles.img_3058

The bagels are proudly sourced from Seattle Bagel Bakery, who make fantastic bagels in a ridiculous amount of flavors. I’m pretty sure the Cherry Street near my work has eight or nine types, but the only one you need to worry about is the Asiago. Pleasantly cheesy but not overly so, with enough crust to feel substantial, unlike those stupid bread circles the grocery store bread aisle tries to call bagels. The crust isn’t so tough that it’s hard to bite through, just enough to crackle. The inner bits of the bagel are soft, dense, and good at soaking up whatever filling you’ve chosen.

When I first started visiting Cherry Street, I always got the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, which I thought was the gold standard. That is, until I tried the tomato, basil, egg, and cheese. With the bacon, the Asiago feels unnecessary and over the top. Getting a plain bagel when an Asiago bagel is available feels silly, so on my coworker’s advice, I eventually tried the tomato basil.

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At first, the idea of tomato and basil with eggs seemed odd to me, like a caprese gone wrong. After one bite, I realized how wrong I was. The tomato and basil justify the Asiago in a way breakfast meat can’t. They act the same way tomato and lettuce do on a burger, adding a needed counter to the hot, savory saltiness of the rest of the sandwich. They round out the flavors, adding a sweet freshness to the egg. Impressively, Cherry Street has mastered the microwave scrambled egg. I’ve never had an overcooked egg here, and the cheese is always melty.

I always love when a restaurant puts effort into what they’re doing. Walking in and knowing that a place is going to take care of you, especially when you’re working crazy overtime, is comforting. Making a consistently delicious breakfast first thing in the morning for downtown cogs isn’t an honorable job, but when you do it that well, it should be.

Hattie’s Hat

tl;dr: good for vegetarians, and also savage beasts. Get the spinach casserole, nachos, spinach salad, and HOLY CRAP THE CHICKEN WINGS.

I love when a place lets everyone be themselves, without pandering to any specific crowd. At Hattie’s Hat, you can tear through a pile of wings like the savage beast you are while your friend wrecks a stack of spinach casserole. No one has to pretend to like alfalfa sprouts just because they’re a vegetarian, or act like boneless chicken wings (side note: this phrase drives me absolutely bonkers) will satisfy their need for skin and sinew.

Though I’m always at Hattie’s Hat for the chicken wings, I appreciate a restaurant or bar that has vegetarian options that aren’t on either extreme of the veggie spectrum. Most places will do one of two things. They either act like all vegetarians are health monsters who will only choke down the whole-grainiest of foods, or they completely forget vegetarians are a giant part of their customer base and offer fries and salad as their only options.

Hattie’s Hat is smack dab in the middle. Their bar food is a split between veggie and meaty, with chicken wings on one side and black bean nachos on the other. If I had to pick a favorite veggie offering from the Hat, it’d be a tough match up, split between the nachos, the spinach casserole, and the spinach salad. Though the nachos seem like an easy third place because of their status as a standard addition to bar menus, the Hat does them well. Tortilla chips fried in-house, layered wide and flat on a platter instead of mounded, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an empty chip on their watch. The toppings are beyond plentiful, outlasting the chips every time I’ve had the pleasure of eating them, and the local hot sauces on the table are always worth pouring on top. The spinach salad is one of those salads you try to recreate at home because it seems so easy, but you quickly learn it’s best left to the professionals. Dried cherries, goat cheese, red onion, and pomegranate vinaigrette come together as way more than the shredded iceberg afterthought you’d expect to find in a bar. But really, if I had to give my heart to a dish other than the chicken wings, it’d have to be the spinach casserole. The name does not do the dish justice. A cheesy creamed spinach worthy of a steakhouse, this stuff takes the cake for indulgent vegetarian bar food. I’d heap this stuff into my mouth after a night of drinking and wouldn’t want for anything else.

Well, except for my favorite food in Seattle. I know what you’re thinking. Erika, you’re really gonna hand out that prize? There’s no way you have ONE favorite food. There’s no way a dish from a bar menu is the dish that fills the giant food hole in your heart. My friend, if you’re thinking that, then you’ve never had the chicken wings at Hattie’s Hat. These chicken wings are my gold standard. If I could never have them again, I might actually cry.

When they set them down in front of you, you might not notice much of a difference between these wings and any other bar. The only difference you might see is that they’re huge. Giant. Normally, I hate giant wings. When the wings are that big, at least one of them in always undercooked, and undercooked chicken is my biggest food bummer. I’ve never had an undercooked chicken wing here, which is also probably why they’re so crispy. Even after sitting in the sauce (oh god, the sauce) for fifteen minutes, the skin is still standing at attention, waiting for its moment to dazzle the fuck out of you. The Hat knows that flabby should never be a word that describes something you’re going to put in your mouth.

The incredible size and crispiness of the wings might be enough for most people. Throw some Frank’s on there, and you’ve got yourself a serviceable wing. But this is where the Hat shines. This is where they show off. I have no clue how they make their buffalo sauce or their blue cheese dressing, but they’re both in my top 5 liquids of all time. The buffalo sauce is nuanced. NUANCED BUFFALO SAUCE. This doesn’t happen. Ever. Buffalo sauce has three notes. Sour, spicy, and sometimes buttery. The Hat’s buffalo sauce could be described the same way a wine could. It has top notes, end notes, you could definitely drink it out of a glass. It’s perfect. And the blue cheese? As if the buffalo sauce needed a pal to help it out, the blue cheese comes in better than you ever knew it could be. There’s no chunks. This is normally a problem for me. Chunkless blue cheese dressing is a sign of crappy thin tangy mayonnaise. Not here. The blue cheese is blended into the mayonnaise. The dressing is tinged slightly blue-green because of the sheer volume of blue cheese blended into the dressing, which is perfect because who wants to try to balance a chunk of cheese on a wing for the best bite possible? I’ll do it, but it’s good to know I don’t have to. The Hat solves a problem I never knew I had, which is something I never knew I expected from a bar.

http://hatties-hat.com/