Sitka & Spruce has been around the block in their four years on the Seattle restaurant scene; and not just figuratively speaking. Late last year, the Eastlake restaurant closed their doors only to put down new roots inside Capitol Hill’s Johnnie-come-lately, Melrose Market. In its previous location, devotees looked past the run-down storefront and paid attention to the food. Chef and owner, Matt Dillon spins local ingredients into inspired dishes the way Rumpelstiltskin spins straw into gold. And he does so with conviction, highlighting seasonal local foods and routinely incorporating the exceptional meats, cheeses and produce found just outside their doorstep.
When I first walked through the doors of Melrose Market, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the rear of the building where Sitka and Spruce inhabits a freestanding structure within the market. The reincarnated space does not sparkle with shiny newness. It feels like an old friend, weathered and familiar. Soft light streams through rows of leaded windowpanes and exposed brick is whitewashed, adding cheery brightness. An open kitchen provides warmth and invites denizens to inactively participate in an orchestrated dance of activity, best observed from the adjacent communal table. Servers and kitchen staff streak past leaving behind flashes of color while diners meet one another’s gazes sharing the secret knowledge that this is where it’s at.
Over the course of three visits, I have twice been for lunch and once for a sleepy weekend brunch. At the noon hour, I sampled delicate wedges of golden watermelon layered with briny sheep’s milk feta and paper thin slices of prosciutto scattered with crunchy red chili flakes. I sunk my teeth into pert, creamy local camembert perched atop a pool of fragrant wildflower honey and savored tender roasted broccoli and escarole bathed in silky anchovy butter. Smooth tangy chickpea puree felt exotic with the addition of spicy harissa beneath a nest of cool sweet carrot salad. Whole smoked sardines adorned with creme fraiche zig zags were balanced atop round yellow potatoes like dual silver skateboards poised to race across the table at a moment’s notice.
Weekend brunch brought soothing house made yogurt with juicy ripe peaches and ambrosial honey. Tender buttermilk biscuits were slathered with sultry late-summer blackberry jam and the clean flavor of creme fraiche. On the savoury side, ful mesdames were fava beans simmered with spices and topped with a delicately poached egg, toasted pistachios and fragrant fresh dill.
For Sitka and Spruce, ‘reinvention was the mother of necessity’. In their new space, seasoned customers and newfound admirers convene under one roof with easy familiarity. Diners are muses in a Degas painting where each meal is captured in fluid brushstrokes of color and light; only Dillon wields a spatula, not a paintbrush, and his masterpieces are decidedly edible.