Seattle is a town of grey days, damp nights, coffee, and beer. While fair Portland to the south has more brewpubs per capita than anywhere in the world, Seattle has a thriving pub culture that is reminiscent of Great Britain. Seattle doesn't have many brewpubs--that is, pubs that make their own beer on site--but we do have a wide variety of pubs that pour local brews and provide locally sourced, reasonably priced, and tasty food. These are places where a budding locavore can feel comfortable patronizing without breaking the bank.
When Man of La Muncha and I moved back to Seattle three years ago, we were fortunate enough to live within walking distance of one of the better pubs. The Latona Pub offers a wide variety of Northwest beers (and a few California taps to keep things interesting). This was enough to pique our interest, and we would wander down the hill on a semi-regular basis in order to sample the latest on tap. The food, however, belonged to the collegiate groups Things That Can Be Heated In A Toaster Oven and Things That Can Be Boiled On A Hot Plate. The selection, as you might imagine, was limited.
However, about two years ago, the Latona underwent a major remodeling. When they reopened, a full kitchen had been installed and a new menu had been created. The beers were still local and tasty, but the food made this a definite weekly destination for MolM and me. We became such regulars that we got to know the cooks and wait staff. Our names appear on our printed bill.
The menu will tell you that the burger is made with Oregon Country Beef and the bread is from Essential Baking. But what the menu doesn't tell you is how deeply the head cook/chef, J., cares about making sure that the food he serves is of the highest quality. He rotates the menu throughout the year to take advantage of seasonal bounty and new discoveries. His most recent addition is a cheese plate featuring Estrella cheeses.
MolM and I have since moved to a new home in Seattle, and the Latona is no longer nearby or convenient. It's now a bit of a destination for us, rather than being just down the street. But with friends in town, we couldn't resist the opportunity to take them to the Latona and show them what we'd been talking about for the past couple of years. We ordered the cheese plate to start, which featured Estrella's take on morbier, the Guapier, as well as the Black Creek Buttery and the Tomme de Marc, along with sides of almonds, chutney, and truffle honey. All were served at room temperature, and the plate was cleared within a few minutes.
For the main course, everyone ordered the burger except for me. I ordered the Chicken Kabuli, which features long-stewed chunks of chicken in a rich, spiced sauce with a side of the chutney and rice. One of our friends, C., ordered his burger medium-rare and was pleased with the results. We also got a pint each, and came away from our meal feeling sated.
When you Google for restaurants serving food that is locally sourced, the restaurants that come up in the results are along the lines of Chez Panisse, Herbfarm, or Canlis--expensive restaurants that are more special-occasion than casual dining. The truth is, you can dine out without breaking the bank and still find places that make it a point of pride to source their food locally as much as possible. The locally owned and operated places are more likely to support local growers and producers, which means bypassing the familiar chains (Olive Garden, Chili's, etc.) and finding the places where people have a passion for what they're doing.