429 15th Ave E, Seattle WA
Breakfast and brunch is served from 8 am – 3 pm daily.
We, as Vancouverites, like to think of ourselves as pretty well-versed in the ways of endurance-based brunching. We have no problem waiting in an hour-long line up at Medina even though you can get the exact same meal eight blocks away at Chambar, we know the tried and true method of pre-gaming with a little bit of coffee and a snack to keep that hanger at bay, and we know that if we dare to brave the brunch rush on a weekend that we’re not going to eat until at least a couple hours after we step out of the door. This mentality of I’ve-seen-it-all-ism followed myself and my bruncher-in-crime on a recent trip south of the boarder to see what the Seattle brunch scene had to offer. It resulted in enjoying some of the best bennies had in recent months, us finishing larger portions than any one person should consume, and us uttering words that we never thought we would in regards to a brunch wait on a Saturday morning: “I’m not waiting in this line. Let’s find somewhere else.”
We eventually set up camp under the most delightfully obnoxious restaurant sign I’d ever seen for a reasonable half an hour wait because of reasons outside of our control. The original plan was to spend our first Seattle brunch outing at Portage Bay Cafe, a popular breakfast and brunch spot close by known for it’s large servings of comfort food made with mostly locally-sourced ingredients. Unfortunately, we were brought back down to earth when we were told that we had a two hour wait ahead of us. There are few things in life that are worth standing for that long in the heat on the side of the road with a grumbling stomach for, and brunch is not one of them. As much of an advocate of the weekend outing and the whole brunch “experience” as I am, there is most certainly a limit to the amount of time that one should wait when it comes to a meal and if you can effectively shop for, prepare, and eat a full brunch spread in that same amount of time, then that wait it too long. We dusted ourselves off and picked our jaws up off the floor and wandered ten minutes down the road to another one of Capitol Hill’s overwhelmingly popular brunch haunts.
Coastal Kitchen is a colourful and eclectic eatery known for its constantly rotating menu of seafood-oriented dishes and giant portions of just as original brunch offerings, although they adorably refer to that in-between-breakfast-and-lunch meal as “blunch,” which is completely wrong, but adorable nonetheless. Because of the large amount of seating, especially for groups larger than two, and lengthly bar complete with plenty of seating for singles and smaller groups, Costal Kitchen appeared to be one of the best bets for a reasonable wait in the neighbourhood. Our party of three arrived at just after noon on a Saturday, and considering the time and the day we foolishly decided to start our south-of-the-boarder brunch tour, the mere twenty minute wait that we faced must have been thanks to some pretty dumb luck. We were seated at a small table in the far corner of the equally as large loft area at the back of the restaurant, which was a nice and private change from the typical elbow-to-elbow dining that happens at most modest brunch spots.
After getting over my ridiculous and exaggerated discomfort associated with having just sat down for a meal that was referred to as “blunch,” and going on a short rant about how why that menial difference effected my life somehow, I noticed that all of the typical breakfast and brunch basics were covered on Coastal Kitchen’s menu, although most had some sort of small unique twist. From omelettes the size of your liver after a late Saturday night to Southern-inspired scrambles and enough pancake and waffle options to almost tempt a notorious savoury-bruncher over to the sweet side, there’s a little something for every taste, but not necessarily every hunger level. Portions came in one and only one size: America. Considering I’d never had a crab cake benedict that I really enjoyed, I decided to take this local fish shack’s take on it for a spin. I was hoping that, because a good 75% of their menu involves some form of seafood, that benny wouldn’t be the same dry, bland and filled with lies fake crab meat-based breakfast that I’ve had many times before back home.
In typical fashion, my best brunch companion opted for the huevos rancheros. Her seemingly endless search for the perfect combination of eggs, pico de gallo and tortillas mirrors my personal benny quest perfectly, and she doesn’t just go throwing out “this may be the best one I’ve ever had,” but that happened in regards to this particular dish. Two sunny side up eggs served with all of those south-of-the-boarder fixins’ and enough vegetables to almost trick you into thinking that you’re eating something relatively healthy certainly made for one colourful, delicious and filling meal. There’s no need to feel too intimidated, though. It was nothing that a young lady who was just brunch-teased by a two hour-long wait and with early onset hanger couldn’t take down.
My meal, however, was a little less concerned with tricking me into thinking that it wasn’t going to shorten my life span by a couple of weeks in the future. Although my portion wasn’t as comically large as that of my bruncher-in-crime’s, it was one of the most substantial bennies I’d had in a long time that didn’t look like it was made up of all the close-to-expiry ingredients leftover in the kitchen. My immediate reaction was one of surprise, as I noticed that not only did I have my eggs served on top of a crispy crab cake made out of the actual little sea critters themselves, but that the cake was also resting on top of an english muffin. There are few things that I love more in this world than an extra side of hollandaise, and one of them is carbs-on-carbs. However, the generous serving that was placed in front of me made me put my guard up a little bit. Not every often are large and filling portions are also ones that taste incredible. Although I have had amazing meals that were served up to me on plates the size of baking sheets, it doesn’t happen very often, and what is even more rare is not feeling like you want to crawl under a bridge like the disgusting troll you are after eating a meal large enough to feed a modest family of four. That benny had a lot more than a simple feeling of brunch satisfaction riding on it.
The only real criticism that I had regarding the benny at Coastal Kitchen was that the hollandaise was runny. It lacked that rich and decadent texture that makes that liquid, yellow gold so special. However, if having the feeling that your heart is going to give out at any moment after you’ve finished your melted butter sauce isn’t something you’re into, then perhaps a lighter hollandaise would be your cup of tea. The eggs were poached a perfect medium-soft, the english muffin was doughy and toasted enough to hold its own against the yolk and sauce combination and the large amount of heavy toppings, and the crab cake was just as advertised. Soft of the inside and crispy on the outside without being bland or dry, the crab cake at Coastal Kitchen made me reconsider my previous aversion to that particular benny variation. Served alongside it was one of the best shredded hash browns pancake lumps I’d ever had, which seemed to get right what Jam Cafe got so wrong.
No matter how well prepared you may be, there’s a certain element of surprise that comes along with every new brunching experience. This is especially true when it comes to leaving your usual brunch haunts and seeing how things are done in a new city. Although getting to our first weekend morning meal proved to be a little tricky, it eventually ended on a high note and proved the brunchers of Seattle to be either just as gullible or dedicated as us Vancouverites. When it comes to brunch, you can never really be sure which.
Atmosphere & Service:
Must-Try Dish: Hangtown “Fry-day” – Two fried Quilcene oysters atop scrambled eggs, spinach, apple wood smoked bacon, garlic and cheddar, served with spicy hash browns and a buttermilk biscuit (available on Fridays only).
Ideal Time to Brunch: Anytime during the week or before 10 am or after noon on the weekend.