The Tidbit Memoirs:
Brief Recollections from the Early Days of the Northwest's Food Revolution

Here’s a taste of some of the more memorable Northwest dining moments in no particular order other than chronologically from memory…

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1970’s

 

Sukiyaki prepared tableside by a waitress dressed like a Geisha in a private tatami room on my 12th birthday at the Bush Gardens in Portland’s Chinatown

Having my first fried won ton at the Jade West in Portland

 

Mom and Dad letting me feel grown-up by ordering me a “Volcano” mocktail with dry ice at the Sheraton’s Kon-Tiki near the Lloyd Center in Portland (the competition in the day to Trader Vic’s at the Benson downtown)

Having coconut crusted chicken served by Kimono-clad waitresses at the Polynesian Restaurant, located at the end of Pier 51 on the Seattle waterfront where you could watch the ferries coming in at night, lit up like floating birthday cakes

 

Having my first escargot at the Brasserie Pittsbourg after doing the underground tour, when Pioneer Square seemed both sophisticated and exotic

 

Dining on Chicken ala King when Sunday brunch was still a formal affair in Seattle and the ‘high court’ was Frederick & Nelson’s dining room, with acres of ‘blue hairs’ slowly getting high on bottomless glasses of champagne

 

Having chicken teriyaki for the first time at Toshi’s on Pill Hill while visiting my older brother at Seattle University

 

Ordering poached baby trout from ‘the live tank’ at Robert Rossellini’s The Other Place on my prom night in ‘78 (I drove my date and friends from Olympia to Seattle and back to have the experience and we were late to the prom but who cares...)

 

Having my first raw spinach salad at Terry Avenue Freight House near the tracks down in the Lake Union warehouse district

 

Roasted parsnips and rutabagas served on ‘The Farmer’s Plank’ at the Cascade Room in the Tacoma Mall (back when you still got dressed up to go shopping and fine dining was still an option at the mall)

 

Burnt cream at Clinkerdagger, Bickerstaff and Pett’s on Ruston Way in Tacoma where the wait staff wore period garb including knickerbockers to complete the old English motif

 

Eating Duck a l’Orange at Le Tastevin in Lower Queen Anne before walking a few blocks to the Seattle Opera during the Glynn Ross era

1980’s

 

Lemon Chicken at the Russian Samovar in the Loveless Building on Capitol Hill, behind the leaded-glass windows and beneath the hand-painted 1930’s murals adapted from illustrations of a Pushkin fairy tale

 

Before air travel became Greyhound with wings, dining at The Carvery with its red velvet walls, punch leather booths and faux British heraldry and spotting Steve Allen across the dining room, dining alone with a bowl of chowder and sporting a blazer and ascot tie

 

Squid ink black pasta in the Pavilion Tent Room at the original Broadway Restaurant

 

Celebrating Thanksgiving, of all places, in the Emerald Room atop the Space Needle

 

The original Red Robin at the south end of University Bridge, when a ‘gourmet’ burger was a unique concept

 

Warm sourdough bread on a hot marble brick at Jake O'Shaughnesseys in the Hanson Bakery Company complex before catching a Tony-winning play across the street at the Seattle Rep’s old digs (now The Intiman)

 

Dining on Trout Almandine at the Manresa Castle while the family vacationed at the officer’s quarters at Fort Worden during the filming of a little-known movie called “Officer and a Gentlemen”

 

Visiting “The Ark” and “The Shelburne Inn” near Long Beach when the two establishments first opened and something interesting culinary-wise had finally made it to the coast

 

Sipping warm brandy in the Loft Bar at the Ocean Crest Resort in Moclips, watching a winter storm crashing overhead through the skylights

 

Seeing my brother get ‘the look’ from Dad after ordering something expensive at the Salishan’s Attic Lounge in Oregon

 

Dining on mussels in heavy cream while the house talent did spot-on Billy Joel covers at the art deco piano bar in Henry’s Off Broadway on Capitol Hill

Tarragon roasted chicken at Mrs. Malias on 2nd Avenue in Seattle (now The Met)

Sipping my first decent whiskey – Makers Mark I think - served “neat” underneath the Leroy Neiman painting at F.X. McRory’s (“the world’s largest collection of bourbons”)

 

Riding my bike in the rain to college and grabbing some fish cakes at the University Seafood & Poultry for a quick protein shot

 

Having the cube steak special at the Coffee Corral on “the Ave.” nearly nightly after studies and because it was dirt cheap

 

Splurging on chicken in caper sauce right before Stan Getz took the stage at the old Jazz Alley in the University District with its white linen and exposed pipes; ending the meal with coffee-flavored Hagen Daz before either gourmet ice cream or coffee was a common place indulgence in Seattle 

 

Feasting on a midnight omelet at Charlie’s on Broadway after a night of barhopping

 

Having the Wednesday ‘burger night’ special at The Deluxe on Broadway before the remodel when it felt like a holdover from the ‘Harvey Milk’ era of Capitol Hill

 

Dining with the Mafiosi look-alikes at Franco’s Hidden Harbor on Lake Union

 

Having a square crepe as big as your head at Crepe de Paris at the base of the Rainier Square building

 

Savoring a long dinner in the hushed dining room of Fullers in the downtown Sheraton, served by the very polished, knowledgeable, but somehow unpretentious staff

 

Scraping cookie sheets all night as a dishwasher at the B&O Espresso while I tried to figure out what to do with my law degree, watching the post-movie crowds come in every evening to eye the desserts and the coffee options amidst the unique bohemian splendor

 

Enjoying the exotica, to include Pressed Peking Duck, at the venerable Trader Vic’s at the Westin’s twin towers (and being surprised when it closed suddenly)

 

Watching the ferries and the sunset over a Mount Gay rum and OJ at Place Pigalle after its transformation from a gritty tavern near the pig at Pike’s Place Market   

 

Having sushi for the first time in one of the few places it was available in Seattle, Maneki, where Shiro Kashiba got his start in the International District

 

Meeting my family for a drink at Canlis (because we couldn’t afford to visit the dining room), and having all three cars we arrived in waiting for us at the entrance when we all emerged haphazardly from the bar

 

Taking the elevator ride up to the top of the Seattle-First National Bank Building (‘the black box the space needle came in’) to have drinks at the ‘old school’ Mirabeau before it closed

 

Sitting in the Twin Tepees on Old Highway 99 near the shores of Green Lake watching the First Gulf War break out on the TV’s above the bar

 

Having my wedding and reception at Stuart Anderson’s penthouse apartment at his flagship restaurant on Shilshole Bay

 

Celebrating a good gig with my brother and fellow bandmate at the original Vito’s on Pill Hill (and pissing off the old waitress when we insisted ordering double martini’s as they were already served stiff as hell)

Spreading roasted garlic and taramosalata on crostini at The Adriatica on Dexter Avenue overlooking Lake Union before the office buildings got in the way of the view

 

Spending one more night late at the Dog House’s bar in the back, listening to Dick Dickerson lead ancient patrons in a singalong to obscure songs from the 1920’s

 

Boondocks, Sundeckers and Greenthumbs on Broadway - can’t remember for the life what I had there but it was another one of the silly, long-named restaurants of the day and where chef Douglas got his start to help usher in the next phase of the food revolution

 

Walking past the original El Gaucho downtown, with its eternal flaming brochette held by one arm hanging above the entrance, and wishing I had the nerve to venture in before it closed

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