I happen to be a fan of of the Tom Douglas Restaurants empire- at this point I’ve experienced the output of four of his twelve restaurants. I’ve tried Serious Pie pizza for lunch (delivered to the office I was visiting), the doughnuts of Dahlia Bakery, happy hour at Palace Kitchen, and a breakfast at Serious Biscuit. For another visit to Seattle recently, I revisited one place while increasing my total by visiting a new Tom Douglas concept. As before, I was not disappointed- it is quite dependable.
Previous eatings: doughnuts at Dahlia Bakery. Also, at Serious Biscuit, the fried chicken with Buttermilk Biscuit and tabasco black pepper gravy (both soothing me with its creaminess and making my tongue tingle with every bite). I added a smothering of Beecher’s cheddar to mine, and that boneless hunk o chicken was juicy and extremely crispy, holding up to the generous drenching of gravy.
This time, I went to Brave Horse Tavern for their all day Sunday happy hour, and also for Serious Biscuit in the morning for a second breakfast visit. At Brave Horse Tavern, I tried their hand made pretzel with 3 of their spreads: beer cheddar fondue, sour cream and crispy onion, and smoked peanut butter and bacon. While half the table liked it the traditional way with the mustard on the table, I was a fan of the smoked peanut butter and bacon. The other two were ok but didn’t leave much of an impression beyond that. On the other hand, it was a much different atmosphere at Brave horse then I had seen at the others which had been a bit more of an urban modernity feel. Brave Horse Tavern had a much more casual open feel, including big open tables like you would expect in Lucky Lab here in Portland or a brauhaus in Germany. Not sure whether it was because it was all day Sunday happy hour or not, but the other patrons leaned more towards late 20s to mid 30s and had a flirty vibe of comraderie and outgoing energy.
For breakfast the next day, I went with the other choice that had tempted me my first visit: their biscuit with truffled frittata,tomato caper relish, arugula and I ordered that same tabasco black pepper gravy on the side… wow, it came in a big mug for me to dunk my forkfuls. I don’t like their biscuits enough to have them plain without gravy- they still seem a little dry and hard on the outside instead of flakey (although the inside is moist), probably because they aren’t oven fresh, making it an ok but not particularly special. But, put that biscuit with all that other wonderful stuff they offer together though and I ate every single bite and stayed full and satisfied for most of the rest of the day. Just like the last time, this is a knife and fork kind of meal.
Between these two visits to Tom Douglas restaurants was a fabulous dinner at Spur Gastropub. At first, when our table of 7 received our initial small plates of the Castlefranco Radicchio Salad with candied pecan, blue cheese, and sorrel and the Winter Beet Salad they have with buttermilk, caraway, and arugula, we were unimpressed, though at least the beet salad had a little surprise with the beet powder to add a bit of grit texture.The Slow Cooked Pork Cheeks with white bean, leek and guanciale or the Veal Sweetbreads with braised greens, squash and apple also were not memorable.
However, we were delighted with other dishes. The Sockeye Salmon Crostini ($4 each) with mascarpone, caper, and pickled shallot was a wonderful combination though only worth $1 per bite, if you nibbled. Yeah, these tasted wonderful but if you have to order 2-3 dishes per person and these dishes are already the price of a normal entree at a restaurant, your bill adds up- probably $50 a person along not counting drinks or dessert. Don’t come in super hungry and wanting to get full quickly- you want to come to mostly converse and nibble your dinner as you go.
Each of these, and every single dish actually, was plated beautifully… too bad the extremely dark lighting of the restaurant made it difficult to appreciate (and capture). Some pin lighting just in the middle of the table to spotlight the food but still leave everyone in romatic candelight would have been a better compromise instead of having everyone peer at their food. Just by luck, later in the evening I happened to accidentally set my camera to “action” setting which ended up with the more intake of what light there was towards the end of these pictures- but those are definitely brighter then it was actually looking down at our table.
Our favorite dishes, and I could have eaten it just all by myself (it was a dish that disappeared in minutes as we passed it around the table family style) included the Black Truffle Gnocchi with baby turnip, parmesan, and greens that melted too quickly in decadance on your tongue, as did the perfectly cooked Wagyu Sirloin with rutabaga, pear and mustard. The Merguez Sausage with chick pea, harissa and tender herbs offered a bit of spark with its spicyness. The Pork Belly Sliders topped with celery root, apple and smoke (hey, that’s what the menu lists) on soft buttery brioche also went down quite easily- we somehow found the room even as we were already getting filled up because it was so tasty. The Tagliatelle with duck egg, oyster mushroom and pine nut was an ok dish that is evidently popular and a regualr on the menu, but since it followed after the Black Truffle Gnocchi it couldn’t quite measure up to that previous dish.
The three desserts were ordered were all good in different ways. The Parsnip, Banana, Coconut, sponge cake, crumble, ice cream was a tropical light respite from the dinner but I thought needed something else to balance it like a small touch of earthiness, maybe mint? I appreciated the play of textures here though. Meanwhile the Chocolate, Pistachio, Pear, sorbet, pudding cake, praline dessert offered the rich chocolate luxury. Finally, the Passion Fruit, Grapefruit, Fromage Blanc, custard, sorbet, streusel dessert plate cleansed and refreshed.
I would definitely try Spur again- the ones that were a hit were amazing, while others were meh- so I might do a little research next time to see what people highlight in reviews next time I visit. And, I’ll come when it doesn’t get dark so quickly so I can appreciate my food. I would also go with a group: the small plates concept they have going here is playful and modern, which tastewise sometimes paid off handsomely, and sometimes not in anything but posing as cool looking. So you want to up your chances of getting something great by ordering a lot of dishes- and also see my earlier comment about the price and pace.
I’m not sure why it’s called a gastropub since their trendy cocktail list offered some interesting concoctions but there wasn’t as much to choose from beer-wise, and the setup definitely is more of a cocktail and place then beer. Thankfully, this also meant the service was much smoother and polished then I might expect at a gastropub- thanks Jared! Overall, I would like to support their continue experimentation and pushing of the boundaries.