South Lake Union: Then and Now
Updated: Mar 9
In 1883, land claims by two industrial pioneers began a settlement and started shaping this area, using the waterways to float logs to feed their sawmills. That same tradition of big-thinking continued over a century later when Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, invested $30 million to kick-start the vision for Seattle Commons, a massive park running from Lake Union to downtown.
Today, South Lake Union is home to a diverse mix of retail businesses, office buildings, condominiums and apartments, all designed with an emphasis on walkability, excellent public transportation, and sustainable design. Because of that emphasis on connectivity, technology, and community, the neighborhood has been designated by the Brookings Institute as one of just seven Innovation Districts in the United States.
It also made it an excellent choice for our first communal progressive dinner of 2020.
Our South Lake Union Progressive Dinner
Here are some quick highlights from the three stops along our food tour of South Lake Union:
Re:public, our first restaurant, has evolved, over the past 8 years, into a vanguard of the SLU area. This happening spot crafts sustainable Pacific Northwest dishes in a chic industrial atmosphere. They are also known for their whiskey/bourbon selection, but we focused instead on their delicious food menu.
Our night began with their massive charcuterie plate, showcasing house-cured meats, malle mustard, and house-made pickles. Next came Penn Cove mussels, quickly followed by prime rib sliders topped with out-of-this-world horseradish aioli, Beecher's cheddar, pickled sweet peppers, and caramelized onions.
Cuoco, Tom Douglas's Italian venture boasting old-world elegance in a new, casual space, was next up. Our love for this place starts with pasta, which you can watch them make fresh in their large open concept kitchen. Cuoco's brilliant wine list complements the high quality, locally-sourced, and seasonally-influenced menu. The prominent bar is a great spot to enjoy their food, but don't hesitate to get a booth or, on those warm sunny afternoons, a table on their patio.
My personal favorite, rigatoni in a spicy pork ragu, led off culinary experience. We also had the cappelletti pasta with parmesan fonduta, butternut squash, nutmeg, and sage. The dish shared easily, looked great, and savored even better. We finished off with smoked, bone-in pork chop, served with canederli, radicchio, and apple-sunchoke puree. These outstanding chops were a highlight of the evening.
Mbar, the final stop on our tour, is how Seattle does a New York bar. You are greeted at a petite welcome cocktail bar on the ground level. After the host makes a call, you are ushered through a back hallway and whisked up 14 floors in a freight elevator until you exit onto a perch far above South Lake Union. The top-floor venue is encased in glass and features Mediterranean and French fare and sensational cocktails. They are all excellent at any time of the day. It is a stylish, modern place to get a seat outside patio and enjoy a beautiful afternoon in the company of friends. There isn't a bad seat in the house, topped off by impeccable service.
At Mbar, we had a delightful dessert course of decadent labneh cheesecake, along with a mouthwatering pain perdu. But it was the chocolate, peanut brittle torte which stole the show. It perfect symphony of peanuts, crunch, and flake yet had a finish that makes it unique, rose water. One other thing I enjoy about Mbar is the well-designed acoustics: it is never too loud to have a conversation!
Our communal events are scheduled to rotate through different Seattle neighborhoods, so it will likely be a while before we come back to South Lake Union. When we do, however, we will mix in a few new fantastic restaurants from the diverse options the neighborhood provides. So even if you joined us this time, it will be a new experience, not a rerun!
If your stomach growling and mouth is watering like mine is, make sure to join us on an upcoming communal dinners as we explore other Seattle neighborhoods. We look forward to sharing a delicious evening with you.
However, if your heart is set on South Lake Union or somewhere else, don't worry! You can book always private progressive dinner for your group of 6 or more, for the neighborhood you want. Just let us know what area and what timeframe you need.