With the arrival of Belltown's latest nosh spot, Spur, it's high time for the term "gastropub" to secure its place in Seattle's lexicon. It comes to us via London, where the Eagle, the world's first gastropub, distinguished itself nearly 20 years ago as a public house that served high-quality food a step above the basic pub grub. New York got its first gastropub in 2004 with the Spotted Pig, which now boasts a Michelin star and a chef, April Bloomfield, who was last year named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine.
Belltown's Black Bottle was Seattle's first "gastro-tavern," followed last October by Quinn's on Capitol Hill. And now there's Spur, a partnership between Tilth's former chef de cuisine, Dana Tough, and longtime friend Brian McCracken, who previously ran a catering company called Flyte.
Spur, however, should not be considered a follower. In the Western spirit its name evokes, the Belltown newcomer is indeed blazing its own trails. Rather than slathering pub grub with aioli and truffle oil, or gentrifying the old British classics, Tough and McCracken are pulling out the stops with New American cuisine and making the liquor a gastronomical experience of its own.
The dishes start out small, such as chilled asparagus with truffle, egg and tempura ($9, see photo), and a must-try salmon crostini ($9) with house-made mascarpone and chunks of cold smoked sockeye so delicate, it truly boggles the mind.
Most items fall into the mid-size (not quite an appetizer, not quite an entrée), mid-price range, like pork belly sliders with mustard and marmalade ($12), free-range chicken confit with bleu cheese, crème fraiche and bourbon glaze ($12), or pan-seared trout with a mizuna farro salad and almond foam ($12).
About half the menu will change every month to take advantage of seasonal ingredients, but even after just two weeks of business, Tough and McCracken know that to take away the charred bison burger ($14) -- the kind of meal that fills your heart with pity for the world's vegetarians -- would be a deadly sin.
As for those other devilish matters, the focus at Spur is on spirits, rather than the pints you'd typically expect from a pub, gastro or otherwise. Only four beers are offered on tap.
Instead, a bourbon-heavy cocktail menu draws from nearly 50 American whiskeys, and includes the Foreigner, with rye, ramazotti amaro, strega, blood orange bitters and peach bitters ($10); and the Corsican, a combination of bourbon, citrus and champagne ($9).
For the weekend crowd, long communal tables cut from salvaged wood are the place to mingle. For the quiet weeknight cocktail, there is a small section of table seating bathed in the glow of the space's only wall art -- a film projection of rustic black and white photos by a rotating cast of local artists.
Wagon wheel light fixtures fashioned from iron cast a dim light over the dark space. The décor is inspired by the Wild West, and in a further departure from the British model, the ambience is just plain sexy. This gastro apple has fallen quite far from the tree, and it's a delicious one to bite into.
Photo Credit: Kristin Zwiers