Sunday, April 13, 2008


Elysian Brewing Company
Upscale brew pub near Seattle's sports complex

Brew pubs being the new American restaurant, it's fitting that we find them close to baseball parks. There are a bunch in walking distance of Coors Field in Denver, up by Pac Bell SBC AT&T Park in San Francisco, and this one, Elysian, near Safeco Field in Seattle.

We stopped in for a quick bite before the Mariners game, which also happened to be just after the Dalai Lama's appearance at adjacent Qwest Field (home of the Seahawks). It was a hot day, seventy degrees in April (this was cause for much talk and celebration), so the place was jammed. Despite that, the staff stayed collected and friendly, and we found a bar table within ten minutes rather than waiting forty-five for a restaurant.

The interior, a converted warehouse, is a great open space, with exposed beams and girders and a real feel of openness. The bar sits at the center, with the restaurant tables around the sides separated only by screens (on one side) and waist-high railings (on the other). There are some TVs over the bar, but otherwise not many nods to the nearby sports fields, and the menu is a little more upscale than you'd expect from a sports bar.

Once we sat down, we ordered the "Oasis Plate," an assortment of hummus, baba ghanoush, cucumber salad, and pita bread. Our server disappeared for long stretches, probably due to the crowds, but we saw him running by often enough that we could have hailed him had we wanted to. After watching several of the Oasis Plates go by, we were surprised when he came back and told us they'd run out. "It happens around here," he said, adding, "more often than you'd think" as he left with our replacement order, the bruschetta. We appreciated his candor, but wondered whether the restaurant management should be more aware of what their most popular dishes were.

The bruschetta came out quickly, balsamic vinegar over tomatoes and olives on buttered toast, and lo, it was quite yummy. The olives really added a nice sharp flavor that went well with the vinegar. We hadn't quite finished it when another server came up and deposited on our Oasis Plate. She told us cheerfully that they'd only run out of the cucumber salad, so they'd substituted a Greek salad instead. That was fine with us; to be honest, the cucumber salad wasn't why we'd ordered it. It was entertaining to see our waiter's reaction when he came back to ask if we needed anything else and saw the appetizer plate sitting there. He just stared at it for a moment and then said, "I'm looking for the candid camera that's on me."*

* It's funny how that show hasn't been on in years, barring the occasional attempt to revive it, but the phrase is solidly in the American culture still. The show really touched something or hit a nerve with us. Maybe it's the idea that lurks in the back of all of our heads that maybe someone, somewhere, is watching us without us knowing it.

As it turned out, the Oasis Plate was a disappointment. The hummus and baba ghanoush were bland and nearly indistinguishable. The pita was warm and soft with some spice, though, and the peppers that came with the spreads were great: sweet and a little spicy. The tomatoes in the Greek salad weren't very fresh, but the olives and parsley were good, and the feta wasn't too bad. We love hummus, though, and for that to fall short really set back the whole plate.

When the bill came, our server had left the Oasis Plate off it. He shrugged off our thanks, saying it wasn't a big deal: "My manager told me to do it, I did it, it came anyway." We took pity on his overworked day and left a nice tip--he wasn't rude or brusque, and he took care of us the best he could.

His demeanor was Elysian in a nutshell. If you go when it's less crowded, I bet you'd have a great experience. They don't seem to handle crowds as well as they could. But it's a lovely space, a terrific location, and definitely worth a visit.

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