Other posts have praised Black Bottle for 1) the quality of the small plates and 2) being open and lively until 1:30 in the morning.
Black Bottle should be booked on both counts. Here's what I found: a noisy, spare gastropub which might have been hipper-than-thou about a decade ago but is welcome and delicious now. The crowd wasn't exclusively in bowling shoes, but it was also not all engrossed in the menu. There were regulars at the bar, greeted by the bartender by name. There were small parties of fashionistas -- but who knows what palate lurks behind Chanel lip gloss #13?
Yes, you can go just for drinks, although you'd be making a mistake.
The menu (see link) is wide ranging. From looking around, the dishes almost all feature fresh, clean greens. Good frissee with the artichokes. Good daikon spouts and shiso with the hanger steak.
In detail: the hanger steak is cooked as specified. I specified rare. It came, as they say, bloody and barely warm in the center but cooked at the outside, even though the piece was the diameter of a large hen's egg. The steak and sauce are quite salty -- it would overpower like a double shot of soy sauce if it weren't for the grated daikon (under the pre-cut slices of steak) and the mound of mixed daikon sprouts and chopped shiso -- not minced, but chopped to daikon-sprout size. My neighbor at the bar tried mine, then ordered one medium-rare, and indeed it was just pink in the center.
Second, the sardines are butterflied (and beheaded), lightly battered and crisped. I know: I have been cited by others for Undue Love of Sardines. But these were delicious and a reasonable introduction for any pescivore willing to graduate from salmon and tuna. The citrusy sauce is sour and would in fact seem unpleasantly so on most any fish without sardines' moist, strong, slightly oily quality.
I witnessed and tasted the artichoke hearts and greens, which were flavorful but not explosive. Good quality materials, though. My neighbors were enjoying their spinach and tomato flatbread. (When coming up with a new name for pizza, couldn't the Menu Hacks have chosen something that wasn't equally vague? We've gone from a word 'pizza' that means everything from foccaccia to an eggy calzone to a word 'flatbread' that means anything from lavash to pita to Neapolitan slices.) At Black Bottle, the flatbread is somewhat flat -- maybe a finger thick. It has on top of it the ingredients that you asked for.
I note now from reading the menu that every dish includes at least one ingredient with a strong flavor. I think this is great; no doubt there are hounds who will describe the approach as 'lacking subtlety'.
The plates are not tapas size -- more like moderate main courses without side dishes. I think this puts Black Bottle into the affordable but not austere bracket. You could have three dishes and a glass for about $30. Three dishes and two glasses would feed two people of moderate appetite.
I had an old fashioned before starting. The bartender did not bat an eye, he made it correctly from memory in front of me, two people at the bar asked him while he muddled if he was making a manhattan. He explained that old fashioneds were, in fact, quite good, too.
All plates are $8. All deserts are $7.
2600 1st Ave (at Vine), Seattle, (206) 441-1500
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