Discussing stylish new restaurants and bars opening in Seattle’s Pioneer Square is reaching fatigue status, but confabbing over the most promising arrivals never gets tiring. The latest one to hit the scene is Damn the Weather, a lofty old space that once housed half of the New Orleans Creole Restaurant. Here, original materials such as exposed brick and hardwood floors create a neutral slate for the exceptional food coming from the kitchen.
Opened in June by former Rob Roy barman Bryn Lumsden, Damn the Weather is equal parts bar and restaurant, with its name derived from a classic cocktail (1 oz. gin, 1 tbsp. sweet vermouth, 1 tbsp. orange juice, 1 tsp. triple sec). All of these factors suggest that the drinks at this fancy saloon are legit, but it would be a mistake to think the food isn’t a draw all its own.
Heading up the kitchen is Eli Dahlin. He was the chef de cuisine at Renee Erickson’s The Walrus and the Carpenter for four years and is a disciple of Ethan Stowell. Now he presides over his own menu. But with an influx of 40,000 sports fans into the neighborhood on any given game day, the clientele here is different from what Dahlin is used to. Because of that, he’s learning how to evolve his menu. Certain dishes, such as brandade, an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil that hit it out of the park when he worked for Erickson and Stowell, didn’t go over well when Damn the Weather opened. It disappeared from the roster.
However, certain items have been hits since day one, such as the ridiculously addictive salt and pepper chicken skins with chili and peanuts ($6); the Caesar salad sandwich, a classy take on toad in the hole featuring a Caesar salad and an egg between two slices of grilled brioche ($10); and a hefty serving of beef heart tartare spiffed up with a little malt vinegar, mustard oil and sea beans, then topped with fried tea leaves ($12).
A Reuben-inspired pastrami burger with house-fermented sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and pickles ($12) was absolutely delicious but petite, nearly qualifying as a heavy appetizer. The same goes for a cute little salmon hot dog, an upscale version of a Seattle Dog, complete with cream cheese, onions and a house-made “everything” bun ($10).
“Some people want something that goes with their wine, some just want French fries and a Manhattan,” Dahlin says. “We’re trying to be as diverse as possible.”
The menu might be a little scattered, but that’s OK; Dahlin is going for the slow burn. “We want to be relevant to the neighborhood in 15 years,” he explains. “We want someplace that won’t go out of style. And maybe it doesn’t even have to be in style to be successful.”
Dinner Daily. 116 First Ave. S, Seattle; 206.946.1283; damntheweather.com.