There is so much to like about BA BAR, Eric and Sophie Banh’s all-day dining spot across 12th Avenue from Seattle University in the Central District. No surprise, really, as they’ve been feeding us delicious Vietnamese and fusion dishes at Monsoon and Baguette Box for years. The genius is in being open for long days, every day. Inside the boxy, wide-open space with its studious charms—drafting stools, chalkboard menus—homemade pastries and Caffé Vita coffee welcome passers-by in the morning, noodle soups and bun (Vietnamese rice noodle bowls) cater to lunch crowds, and a slightly more filled-in menu beckons at dinnertime.
As he has done since familiarizing the city with claypot catfish and Drunken Chicken, an addictive, upscale nod to General Tso’s, Eric Banh has gently introduced his Ba Bar audience to new tastes: putting broken rice, which is starchier and a bit stickier than long-grain white rice, alongside his sultry rotisserie chicken scented with lemongrass ($11); filling dumplings with soft, thick, lightly sweet mung bean paste he has tamed with caramelized shallots ($6). Of course, one can, and should, sample his carefully constructed pho ($9)—a version that perfumes the air with cinnamon, star anise, basil and mint. Ba Bar’s menu finds a brilliant middle ground between familiarity and gently nudging palates past their current safe zones. One note of warning: The service can be uneven.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily, 7 a.m.–2 a.m. 550 12th Ave.; 206.328.2030; babarseattle.com.