Hot Cakes

tl;dr: skip the molten chocolate cakes and go for the grilled chocolate sandwich if you want a hefty dessert. For a light dessert, try any of the cookies or the chocolate almond rocher. The ultimate dessert experience would be alternating bites of the rocher and the grilled chocolate sandwich.

You would think that a restaurant’s namesake would be its best item, but at Hot Cakes, getting one of the molten chocolate cakes they are famous for is just about the only thing you can do wrong. That’s not to say they aren’t delicious. They are, for the most part, but after its inclusion on every single dessert menu from Chili’s to El Gaucho, it is unreasonably hard to impress me with a molten chocolate cake.

seasonal coconut pecan hot cake

seasonal coconut pecan hot cake

Much like fried chicken and cold sandwiches, the best version of a molten chocolate cake is very hard to distinguish from the worst version. There is not a lot you can do to make a molten chocolate cake impressive, though Hot Cakes does try. Their cakes are all served with housemade caramel sauce, which is good, but not good enough to save the cake from itself. Though the cakes are the reason the store was opened, they are not the reason to stop by. The reasons are everything else on the menu.

From a chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream to a grilled chocolate sandwich, everything else at Hot Cakes is the best version of itself. The chocolate chip cookie is huge and warm, allowing for variety in texture from the crunchy edges to the chewy middle. The sprinkles of salt on top might feel like a stupid hipster addition, but I am a firm believer that salt on baked goods is a trend that should stick around. The salt is just plentiful enough to be interesting, but not distracting. The vanilla ice cream on top of the cookie does a great job melting into the chewy bits and creating a sort of raw cookie dough taste. It’s a shame that this item is the least interesting sounding thing on the menu, because it should get ordered way more often than I’m sure it does.

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for here or to go? – locations in ballard and capitol hill

The grilled chocolate sandwich is a great example of what happens when quality ingredients are allowed to speak for themselves. Excellent dark chocolate is melted between grilled sourdough, making for bites that play with texture and flavor. The crunchy, sour bread brings out notes in the chocolate that wouldn’t be obvious in any other application. The sandwich is entirely too big and entirely too rich for one person to eat on their own, which is a great reason to bring a friend and share it. If you’re feeling brave and want to tackle it on your own, a side of vanilla ice cream would work well as a palate cleanser.

The rocher is easily the best value on the menu. At $3.50, you get what is essentially a giant meringue with chunks of dark chocolate and candied sliced almonds folded in. The rocher is so large that the outside is crispy and light, but the inside is fluffy, almost marshmallowy. A bite of the super rich, melty grilled chocolate sandwich followed by a bite of fluffy, crispy, light rocher would be the ultimate experience of every single way a dessert can be good.

The lesson to take away from Hot Cakes is that often, the most popular dish at a restaurant is not the best thing on offer. Exploring the menu at a popular place, trying to find the best deals and underdog favorites, is more fun and more rewarding than just blindly ordering what everyone else recommends. Not only do you get to outhipster a hipster joint, (I ordered the rocher before everyone else found out about it) but you also get to treat every restaurant visit like a mission to hunt down the delicious underdogs. Ordering something just because it sounds interesting or is insanely cheap is the best way to tour a menu, especially in a place like Hot Cakes where you know that the worst item on the menu is still dessert.

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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.

An imperceptible passion

The other day, a prominent member of the food community, whose work I respect immensely, asked his Twitter followers if they would rather eat bad nachos or a bad hot dog. This sort of question is one of my favorite parts of talking about food. Who chooses the hot dog? Who chooses nachos? What is the reasoning behind their choice? And the root question I love to ponder: why is there such a wide range of choices and reasons? I love talking about food preferences, especially junk food preferences. I knew exactly what my answer was. I think about this stuff a lot.

Nachos are my jam. One of my favorite foods, probably. I like all versions of nachos, from decked out fancy ones to clear plastic ballpark trays full of semi-stale tortilla rounds and a compartment for nacho cheese. Hot dogs, I’m pretty lukewarm on. If I find a hot dog cart when I’m drunk, I’m down to eat one, but I’m never going to search one out. I’ve never craved a hot dog, but I’ve certainly craved nachos. I answered the poll, and I also tweeted, “though I will say I would also rather eat bad nachos than a good hot dog”.

He replied with “you haven’t had a good hot dog.”

This interaction left me feeling a little surprised and disappointed. It felt unnecessarily assumptive, like I was being weeded out of the very exclusive group of People Who Know What Tastes Good. There is no conceivable way to enjoy bad nachos more than a good hot dog. The hot dog was the correct answer and I was wrong.

The problem with that is that food preferences are never wrong. This interaction really cemented this idea for me. Preferences are not like knife skills or picking good produce. You learn preferences, but there is no correct set of preferences. There is no one way to appreciate food. Some people are more adventurous than others, some people believe they have a more refined palate than most. Regardless, the tastebuds of people with less refined palates and a love of simple foods are no less important. Loving shitty nachos doesn’t disqualify you from some Elite Food Smarty status. People know what tastes good to them, and respecting that is an important and exciting part of learning about food.

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There are probably a couple people reading this essay right now thinking, “But what about the strips, Erika? You’ve talked shit about people choosing chicken strips over fried chicken. I can find the posts, there are a lot of them.” To this I say, yeah, I was wrong. And I’ll assuredly be wrong again. Such is the curse of words existing forever on the internet. When I received that tweet, I realized how people who aren’t very interested in food must feel when they’re told their preferences are wrong, silly, immature, or fussy by someone who knows more about the subject. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling, and it made me want to discontinue the conversation altogether. I realized this was the exact opposite of how I wanted my readers and commenters to feel. I want conversations about food to be accessible to everyone. As a veritable spokesperson for food, especially food on the simpler end of the spectrum, I shouldn’t have told someone their preference was incorrect, no matter how delicious chicken skin is.

Though I now disagree with the way I approached it, I learned a lot about what people value in food from talking about strips versus skin. Someone who values chicken strips for their convenience and ease of eating will have different opinions about restaurants and meals than someone who loves messy, inconvenient, bone-in chicken because they get to have some chicken skin. Neither opinion is invalid or wrong, but each one gives insight into different overarching themes people look for in a food experience. Though I wax poetic about my specific food preferences, they are not gospel. When I say I have found one of the best cheeseburgers in Seattle, this does not apply to everyone. I have found one of my favorite cheeseburgers in Seattle, and at the very least, I think you will enjoy it too.

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A while back, I posted an essay about that cheeseburger. In that essay, I described the litany of reasons why I prefer shredded iceberg lettuce on my burgers. A friend commented on my Facebook politely disagreeing with me, which led to one of my favorite food conversations ever. We went back and forth for a bit about her reasoning before she said “…I think I just don’t like shredded lettuce. I am having more feelings than I anticipated.” She didn’t even anticipate her feelings about shredded lettuce, but they were at least as numerous and passionate as mine. Her own thoughts and feelings toward a pile of unremarkable roughage surprised her, and that is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.

This is what makes the world of food so interesting to me. People have latent food thoughts and feelings that guide their decisions everyday. Our brains are quietly, almost involuntarily passionate about the subject, and I think there is nothing more fascinating. We’re all born with the same set up. We all have a tongue, covered in tastebuds. We all have to eat to live, but the spectrum of choices we’re able to make in a day is staggering. It is incredible to me that one person enjoys their coffee black while another loves five Splendas and a quarter cup of soy in theirs. I find it interesting that there’s one guy in my office who eats burgers for lunch, while another guy makes himself a fruit platter. I am intrigued by the idea that so many pizza toppings exist and everyone’s favorite is different. I love that every single person making every single food choice has a reason behind that choice, every single time.

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Even the staunchest anti-food person has well-thought out reasoning behind their preferences. A lack of preference is still a preference. Their thoughts about food, like everyone else’s, are informed by a lifetime of emotions, tastes, and memories. Some people look at their relationship with food as a journey, others have never needed to tend to their feelings about eating. Some people can’t afford more than three bowls of Top Ramen per day, others eat Wagyu steak for lunch. Some (like me!) care more about food than any other part of their day, others wish they didn’t have to bother with it at all. No matter your feelings toward food, they’re easily the most compelling part of what you’re eating. There is no subject more vastly relatable, no category further reaching. Everyone has a history, a set of beliefs, some dealbreakers, even if they’ve never given it a second thought. Isn’t that fucking cool?

Good company

Food is always made greater by good company. There isn’t a single dish that benefits from being eaten alone. Since starting this blog, regular meals have become occasions, and I’ve experienced the great fortune of having friends get excited about this little thing I’m doing here. When you share what you’re excited about, people become excited to experience that thing with you. People want in on whatever intoxicating bit of life you’ve found. When that bit of life is food, you get the chance to experience some great meals with some excellent people.

A friend I’d lost touch with reached out with a couple restaurant recommendations after reading my posts, and we decided to use one of her ideas as an reason to get together. At Some Random Bar in Belltown, glasses of limoncello cider and plates of nachos (both crab and brisket) were enjoyed on one of those perfect Seattle summer nights. The nachos were expertly crafted, piled high after being baked in a single layer for maximum chip coverage. The tortilla chips were either made in house or sourced from somewhere that does them well. Thick, but not too crunchy, able to hold a mound of crab and cheese without incident. The crab was the star of these nachos, but the supporting players all did their part to help it shine even brighter. A drizzle of cilantro pesto, a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper, and a giant pile of guacamole would all have been great without the crab, but with it, the nachos became greater than the sum of their parts.

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After an 85 degree day, the evening had cooled just enough, leaving a pleasantly warm breeze even after dark. The deck outside Some Random Bar sits on the street, and cars occasionally whip by fast enough to halt conversation for a second. We lingered over our meal, covering everything we’d missed over the last year and a half of losing touch.  We sat back with our glasses of (showstopping, not too sweet, slightly tart) limoncello cider. We made jokes with the next table while they had a bit of trouble taming their adorably mischievous puppy. We made a promise to keep in touch this time, to actually schedule that next meal, to use this blog to give us reasons to keep catching up. To cash in on this great city and enjoy the ridiculous meals it has to offer way more often.At Sisters and Brothers in Georgetown, my sister and I recovered from a (not really) near death experience at good old Wild Waves. Sitting in the sun at a picnic table, we chased away the roller coaster anxiety with a Rainier buzz, followed by Nashville hot chicken and waffles. A couple cold cans settled my nerves, and the meal revived them.

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Normally, I require my chicken to have skin, but Sisters and Brothers doesn’t fry real chicken until dinner, so strips it was. A damn good rendition, especially considering my disdain for skinless fried chicken. It was everything a strip should be: crispy, juicy, and easy to eat. The decision to only serve strips at brunch made more sense once I realize how convenient the execution was. Each bite had a perfect combo of crust, meat, waffle, butter, and syrup. The ease of eating this dish was only beaten by the easy flow of conversation.
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When you’ve been not only siblings, but also best friends for 26 years, sentences are rarely finished. The meaning behind each phrase is completely understood before all of the words can exit your mouth, and the next topic is already broached. The conversations I have with my sister are wildly efficient, and frankly, slightly annoying to anyone listening, but to me they feel easy and refreshing. To enjoy a meal alongside one of these conversations is one of my favorite things in life.A couple weeks later, I met a friend at Sisters and Brothers to buy some boots from her and shoot the shit. Like a pro, she offered to order something different than me and to split whatever we ordered so I could learn more about the menu. She ordered the braised pork sandwich with a side of fried green tomatoes, and finally I got skin-on fried chicken with a side of mac and cheese. The Genesee cream ale we ordered showed up in hilariously big 24 ounce cans and totally hit the spot. Armed with a buzz, we dissected the food in a methodical manner, taking bites and discussing what was in front of us.

The braised pork was the underdog winner, with a surprising amount of mustard seeds strewn throughout, giving each bite a crunchy pop. The meat was tender and well-seasoned, pairing well with the zucchini sauerkraut on the sandwich. Fried green tomatoes were addictive. Sour, crunchy, and the only thing we thought about ordering more of. The chicken and mac and cheese were exactly what they should be, the former having an intensely crunchy crust, the latter having a fantastically creamy sauce. The meal was well done, a good way to spend a Tuesday night, but the conversation was what made that trip to Georgetown worth it.

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My friend took it upon herself to meet me at my level. She was excited about the experience of having a meal for the sake of the blog, which fed my already heightened excitement about food. Our conversation twisted and turned around food, starting with what we ordered that evening and quickly turning into a recap of our respective food histories. I learned about what it was like to grow up in the South and what food meant to her family specifically. I learned about manners and traditions in the South, and about Beach Road fried chicken. This meal gave us the opportunity to share where we came from and why we are who we are, which is one of my favorite things about sharing a meal with a friend.

I talk about the taste and experience of actually eating food more than anything else, and for good reason. Eating food is one of the great experiences we are afforded in this life. But man, there is nothing better than sitting down to a meal and having a great time with the person across from you. The greatest thing about food is that it brings us together. It gives us a reason to meet, a reason to sit down for an hour or two and just enjoy life. It punctuates our day with tiny vacations, glimpses into the good things that make the slog worthwhile. I get excited about food for the act of eating it, but these meals have reminded me about getting excited for the experience surrounding it.

Dick’s Drive In

Dick’s is where I formed the pillars of my passion for restaurants. It’s where I realized that cheap and consistent are my two favorite adjectives, it’s where I came to appreciate the “we have enough customers, so fuck you kinda” business model, it’s where I developed my love of the squishiest fries. I learned how to love restaurants at Dick’s, because they take food and service seriously.

In my 29 years of eating at Dick’s, I can’t think of a single bad experience. That fact alone deserves an award. Their consistency of food and service is impressive in a way that almost seems impossible. I’ve gone to Dick’s at all hours of the day and night, I’ve eaten everything on their menu (besides the five cent onion cup), and I’ve been to all six locations. I’ve interacted with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of Dick’s employees over nearly three decades, eaten hundreds (maybe thousands?) of burgers, shakes, and fries, and have never, not even once, been disappointed (except for lack of cheese, but we’ll get to that in a bit). I can’t imagine there is another restaurant can make this claim. One person experiencing thirty years of good service seems like proof that Dick’s is top tier.
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Dick’s customer service is essentially firm, but fair. They’re there to churn out consistently delicious food quickly, without incident. This is not to say that Dick’s service is rude, but you always get the sense that the cashier is the one in charge of the transaction. They’re the one steering this ship, you’re just lucky to be on it. Considering their clientele of aimless high school students and drunk idiots, this is the way you want it to be. There’s no need for extra niceties or small talk when a cheeseburger that good is waiting on the other side of that window.

The consistency of service at Dick’s is a shining example of what you get when you treat your employees like they’re human. One of the reasons I’ve been a patron at Dick’s for so long is because I know that they treat their employees well. I have three good friends who have worked at Dick’s at various points in the past, and all three look back at their time there with nostalgia and appreciation. Dick’s pays their employees well, offers scholarships for tuition, pays for childcare, offers excellent benefits, and teaches their employees the reward of an honest day’s work. Unlike any other fast food place, I’m happy to give my money to Dick’s, because I know it’s going to good people who take care of their employees and in turn, their customers.

So before we move on to talk about the food, let’s get one thing straight. Ordering a burger that doesn’t have cheese on it from Dick’s is a mortal sin. Most of the time, I have a pretty solid “live and let live” approach to food. You want to eat something terrible? Most of the time, you won’t hear a peep out of me. But a Dick’s burger without cheese? Unacceptable. Completely unacceptable. This is not debatable. Any burger from Dick’s that doesn’t have cheese also doesn’t have cheese paper, which is easily the best part.

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Cheese paper is a well-known Dick’s phenomenon that is the result of the restaurant using rectangular (that is, non-square) American cheese. Some of the cheese almost always hangs off the edge of the patty, melts in the steam of the wrapper, and attaches to the paper. Wiping this cheese off the paper with your finger and sticking it straight in your mouth is the Dick’s version of an amuse bouche. Getting a burger without cheese paper is denying yourself the full two course Dick’s experience.

When you get a burger at Dick’s, you get the burger they want you to have. As a policy, they do not allow any special orders. I’ve heard that this is so the Dick’s team can always work at maximum efficiency, but I like to believe it’s because you cannot improve upon a Dick’s burger. No matter if you order the cheeseburger or the Deluxe, the ratio of bun to beef to cheese to condiments is sublime. The ingredients are solidly high quality, well seasoned, and almost always pretty close to fresh off the grill.

On the cheeseburger, you’re getting the most pared down example of a good burger possible. Bun, beef, cheese, ketchup, mustard. I’m normally not a ketchup and mustard girl when it comes to burgers. I think the intense flavors of ketchup and mustard normally distract from the rest of the components. But somehow, Dick’s has found the exact ratio of ketchup to mustard that works. The ketchup tames the mustard, and the mustard amplifies the ketchup. Mixed together, they work with the beef, cheese, and bun to create one of those foods that is good simply because the ingredients are good. Nowhere else can you find a burger with this few ingredients that is this satisfying.

If you’re in the mood for more food (and I often am), a Dick’s Deluxe is where you want to land. There is no other restaurant where I willingly order a two patty burger, but the Deluxe is, again, perfect in its ratios. The greasiness of the slightly larger amount of beef is perfectly foiled by the mix of tartar and iceberg lettuce. The cheese to everything else ratio is somehow high enough, which is often my biggest complaint with a two patty burger. The bun is always toasted, and the cheesepaper is often accompanied by tartar/lettuce paper, which is also welcome as an appetizer. The Deluxe, to me, tastes like childhood, and I feel lucky that I got to grow up on such a delicious example of what junk food should be.
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Of course, the fries and shakes are nothing to sneeze at either. The fries are somewhat controversial due to their squishiness, but that’s exactly what I love about them. Any fry that can’t be held straight horizontally is the fry for me. The shakes? The chocolate is the absolute gold standard to which I hold all other shakes. It’s chocolatey enough that there’s no mistaking what flavor shake this is, but it’s not so rich that you have to take breaks. It’s a solid chocolate fix, but if you want a mountain of chocolate, look no further than the hot fudge sundae.

The hot fudge is ridiculously plentiful, and comes on top of any ice cream flavor you want. My personal favorite is the peppermint, but I’ve had great success with every flavor on the menu. Every single bite of the sundae is absolutely covered in hot fudge. This is not a sundae made by some stingy corporate fast food joint. This is a sundae made by an employee empowered to absolutely drench your tastebuds in fudge. This is a sundae made for the people, by the people. Just like everything else at Dick’s.

ddir.com

Borrachini’s Bakery

tl;dr: daaaaaaaaaaaamn their donuts are tight, and holy hell that glazed croissant. Beeline to the bakery section, pick whatever donut looks good, and also grab one of the glazed croissants.
Borracchini’s Bakery is so unpretentious, it’s listed as a convenience store on Yelp. That right there, well, that’s my kinda place. Though they put out what could be the most delicious cakes in the greater Seattle area, Borracchini’s gives no fucks whether or not you’re impressed with their decor. They’re here for the food, which suits me just fine.

Walking in, there are tables covered with different varieties of Italian cookies and crostini, and if you’re lucky, each table has a box open for sampling. You could use your entire appetite just perusing the samples. There are aisles and aisles of imported groceries and a solidly packed deli, but you’re here for the donuts.

Oh, you thought I was going to say cake? Well, yeah, you should definitely get a cake from here. We got a marble cake with custard filling and white Bavarian icing and everyone swooned over it. My sister even smushed a bit in my face, and it was actually a pleasant experience. That being said, man, we should have gotten donuts for our party.

The first donut I tried from Borracchini’s was a blueberry cake donut. I ate it while driving and shared it with two friends, which are two of the gravest mistakes I’ve ever made in my life. The donut was so distracting, it was probably as dangerous as texting while driving, and damnit, I should have eaten the whole thing myself. Or gotten two. Or gotten everyone their own donut because they’re sixty cents. Sixty cents for donut glory. The crumb of the cake was so unbelievably moist that the donut split in half when I tried to hand it to my friend. The crumb could barely hold on to itself, which made for a fantastic eating experience. The glaze was unobtrusive, adding just a slight crackle when you bit into the cake. The flavor? Fantastic, but really, it could have been any flavor with that kind of texture.
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I went back (OBVIOUSLY), on a mission. My sister and I got two donuts each, a raspberry filled, a glazed cake donut, a custard filled ring, and a glazed motherfucking croissant. When my sister spotted the croissant, I couldn’t believe it. Here I am, in possibly the most unpretentious bakery in the country, and they have latched on to the Cronut(TM) trend. But since the Cronut(TM) is trademarked, Borracchini’s just looked at a croissant and went, eh, let’s just fry that sucker and call it good. Instead of trying to keep on trend and make a knockoff Dossant, they did the smart thing, took what was already available, fried it, and said fuck it, that’s tight. And dear goodness, they’re right.
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This thing was dark brown, and covered in plain glaze. There were crunchy bites, crispy bites, pillowy bites, sugary bites, buttery bites, sometimes all five things in one bite. Though I’ve never tried a Cronut(TM), the pictures I’ve seen show a relatively homogenous texture on the outside, and the dough is fried to a regular golden brown. Now that I’ve had a glazed croissant from Borracchini’s, I feel as though I’d be disappointed by the Cronut(TM)’s lack of variety in texture and flavor. Making me feel like I’d be disappointed by a trademarked bakery product is a hell of an accomplishment.
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The other three donuts were obviously very well-done, and none were ignored, but damn, that glazed croissant. It was simultaneously nothing and everything you’d expect from a 94 year old Italian bakery. When you’re 94 years into the business, you don’t have to follow trends anymore. You can rest on your laurels and just enjoy the business of selling damn good cake and imported groceries. Or, you could keep your eye on what’s new, figure out the easiest way to do it, and make everyone else look like they’re just trying too damn hard.

nowcake.com

Metropolitan Market, Queen Anne

tl;dr: I’ve been told there are other things worth ordering at the Met Market deli, but I’m not willing to risk the disappointment of missing out on the prime rib sandwich, extra cut.

I am pretty against the horseradish family. I don’t really understand why people would want to put a spicy, overwhelming condiment on an expensive piece of fish or steak. I’m down to let people make terrible food choices if that’s what they like, but if I’m shelling out the cash for sushi or a steakhouse, I’m going to taste every last bit of whatever I ordered and completely ignore the free side of sinus drainer.

But when the steak you’re ordering is on a sandwich in the deli of a grocery store, and quite a few people you trust tell you that the sandwich is a work of art, you leave the horseradish on.

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This is the first time I’ve ever liked the application of horseradish. It always feels a bit like when people like IPAs or really strong coffee. It’s like they’re trying to prove that their tastebuds could beat up your tastebuds in a fight. However, this horseradish is a caress, not a punch. The sauce is judiciously applied to what is in the running for best French dip in Seattle.

Walking up to the deli in the Metropolitan Market is a bit overwhelming. It looks like there are mountains of options in the hot and cold cases, but all of those things are only distractions from what you’re really there for. I made the mistake of getting some items from the salad and olive bars, only to have them completely ignored once we sat down to eat. It turns out, getting anything to go with the prime rib sandwich, extra cut is a moot point. This sandwich has been orchestrated perfectly and needs no accompaniment.

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Like all good sandwiches, it starts with bread that is warmed in the oven. Normally, I prefer toasting or grilling, but in a sandwich that requires a relatively crusty bread, warming is key. The crust is already enough to bite through, so maintaining the softness of the inner bread is important. The bread is then treated to the jus where the prime rib is resting, and the horseradish is added on top of that. Just enough of both to keep things interesting, but not enough of either to absolutely soak the bread or overpower the meat. Then, the meat. The outside, brown to black, the inside, a light pink. The fat is left fully intact, which lends itself to some spectacularly silky bites. The regular sandwich probably has enough meat to justify the $9.99 price tag, but if you offer me a whole extra slice of prime rib for $3, you better believe I’m jumping all over that value. The sandwich is then wrapped up and presented to you. No cheese, no side of jus, no caramelized onions. I ordered a side of jus with mine, which was fully unnecessary. Once you bite into this sandwich, you learn that this is an exercise in restraint. Nothing improves this experience. It’s been pared down to the four things that need to be there, and the result is ingredient harmony.