One of our favorite Seattle restaurants closed at the end of last year, leaving an open space sandwiched between a Subway shop and a teriyaki place in a strip mall on Eastlake. Sitka & Spruce will be reopening elsewhere, and its old space has been filled with Nettletown, a restaurant opened this month by Christina Choi and her partner Matt Dillon.
Years ago, Christina co-founded Foraged and Found Edibles, which is a frequent stop of ours at the U-District market for wild mushrooms, miner’s lettuce, nettles, fiddleheads, and especially huckleberries. She is using these ingredients in her restaurant, making comfort food influenced by our local area and her Chinese and Swiss culinary heritage. Nettletown is open for lunch and brunch only, although Christina plans to extend service to dinner in the future.
The interior hasn’t changed dramatically, but there have been a few updates. Sitka’s yellow walls have been painted blue now, with a lovely mural depicting the forest floor, morel mushrooms and all. And there is now seating at a new low-slung surface added to the formerly standing-room-only counter.
Old habits die hard. When we walked in, it still had that familiar aura of Sitka & Spruce, so we waited politely to find out where they wanted us to sit, only to be reminded that they offer counter service at the front, and we could sit wherever we like. I love this kind of casual way of serving “yummy food” (as the sub-title on their web site says). It makes it feel easy to stop in for a bite. I only wish service were a little speedier; the food took longer to reach the table than many full-service restaurants, in spite of the place being only half-full.
For weekend brunch, they have a few additional offerings beyond their “always available” menu. We wanted to try the elk meatballs (also available in a sandwich), so ordered them as an add-on to eggs, potato onion cakes, and miner’s lettuce salad. The greens were nicely dressed and a good complement to the potato cakes and perfectly poached eggs. Lemongrass brightened the flavorful meatballs, and it was a generous portion for $4 additional.
Noodles catch my eye on any menu. The Nettletown noodles looked exactly like the comfort food I was craving. The egg noodles are served with pork ribs, wild mushrooms, scallions, and a tea egg, and reminded me of my favorite ramen dish at Samurai Noodle, sans broth. But drawing the parallel led me to disappointment, since the noodles were bland, and the tea egg was nothing like the flavored egg served at Samurai. Fortunately, the five spice ribs were marbled and delicious. With a few tweaks, I think this would be an excellent dish.
The huckleberry cardamom bread pudding with yogurt whipped cream was a sweet finale to our brunch. Warm and full of berries, it was my favorite item.
Dishes I want to try on my next visit include the Nettletown knoepfli (Swiss egg noodle dumplings), and the fried rice, which is only offered for weekend brunch and changes daily.
We noticed a number of people popping in to pick up take-out orders. We are certainly going to take advantage of that in future, especially once they’re open for weeknight dinners.
2238 Eastlake Ave E, Seattle