Who doesn’t like a fantastic neighborhood spot? Be it bar, restaurant, or ice cream shop, there is something wonderful about knowing that place is just a few blocks away, ready and waiting for you to drop in. The sort of establishment that you want to visit with some regularity, until eventually they know your name and you know theirs, and you get the “NORM!” treatment whenever you walk in the door. I’m lucky enough to live in one of those neighborhoods with a whole bunch of commerce, and just in the restaurant category, everything from casual to upscale.
In the frequent tide of restaurant comings and goings – more so as a result of our current economic schlump, I know – one recent swap has me coming back around to a location I’d written off for the last while. Queen Anne’s Bricco was a just-fine wine bar, but something about it never quite made me want to come in and stay a while. The newest occupant of that space, however, is a different story. I had been walking by the space on the top of the hill, wondering and wondering what would move in, when one day a sign appeared: LloydMartin. And then a menu, and then finally one night when Aran and I were headed elsewhere for dinner we saw that it was open for business, screeched to a stop, and told pals to meet us there instead.
It was one of those blustery, rainy, nearly-winter nights, and the dark wood, candle-lit interior of LloydMartin seemed to be just the right fit for the evening. It’s a small space, with just a few distressed wood dining tables, and a stretch of bench along one wall. There is a good length of bar, though, which looked to be equally good for boozing and for eating. Maybe that’s it: This is somewhere I could picture dropping in for a drink or dinner, alone or with friends, knowing that it would be good on all fronts. Or maybe it’s the people: The night we were there we chatted a bit with owner Sam Crannell and asked what was up with the name of the restaurant. Turns out that Lloyd and Martin are the names of his two grandfathers. How could you not love that? I like to think that the vintage china used as serving plates was a nod to family, too. It seems that family has served Sam well, in fact, as wife Tracey Stoner Crannell is the chef at Portalis Wines in Ballard, and Portalis’ Gina Gregory created the wine list for LloydMartin. And wine is key here, as they’re a wine-and-beer-only establishment, like their predecessor in this space.
We sampled a wide variety of the menu offerings, and on balance, I would say that the food was very good. We started with the cavatelli pasta, a cheesy raclette topped with big curls of (undoubtedly house made) pork rinds; then wonderfully hearty elk meatballs with sour cream, marionberry, and pickled huckleberry. The perfectly runny 64 degree c farm egg came atop a potentially over-crispy potato in pommes anna style, along with a slice of chorizo, jalapeno, and pickled mustard seeds. The Italian beef was a substantial (though somewhat bland) mound of shaved beef and giardiniera piled on French bread; and in sharp contrast, the pot roast with potato and cheddar, onion, and mushrooms was a petite plate that didn’t match the $16 price tag. The risotto with pumpkin and grana padano had great flavor, but was more soupy than the risotto title would suggest. I was a particular fan of the pork belly with cipollini onions, cider, and those same pickled mustard seeds, as well as the plate of greens with pear, hazelnut, Oregon bleu cheese, and a sherry vinaigrette.
Interestingly, the “sweets” section accounted for two-thirds of the menu that night, so of course we had to sample a couple from the list. The pound cake with vanilla ice cream and blueberry compote was perfect lovely, but entirely overshadowed by the foie gras hot chocolate if just in concept alone. As the name implies, it’s foie gras blended into a high-end hot chocolate. Totally rich, totally decadent, and something I probably only need to try once in my life.
Overall, we had a good experience at LloydMartin. It was a little hit and miss in preparation and value, but given that they’ve only been open a month or so, I imagine that Sam and team are still working out the kinks. I’m looking forward to dropping in again, maybe for the quail with rapini, pine nuts, chili, apple, and maple jus. Though if they expanded beyond wine and beer, and added cocktails to the bar menu, I’d be even quicker to return…
[Photos courtesy of David Franzen]