Think of Tom Douglas’ newest downtown hot spot as a steakhouse flipped. At The Carlile Room, kitty-corner from The Paramount Theatre, veggies are the attraction and meats come on the side. It’s a fantastic way to eat, especially since Douglas and executive chef Dezi Bonow (Dahlia Lounge, Palace Kitchen) have dreamed up flavorful (often thanks to yummy animal bits and broths) plant-based dishes.
Inspired by singer and Seattle resident Brandi Carlile, the restaurant, with its cool tones and groovy, late-60s-inspired décor, features 14 veggie-centric dishes for dinner plus six proteins (including a lamb T-bone chop) and another seven starters. The concept is on trend without being trendy and relevant to the eater who gets excited about veggies prepared with a twist. Other reasons to visit: classic, 70s-inspired craft cocktails and KEXP DJ Larry Mizell Jr. spinning vinyl on weekends. No, it’s not too loud to have a conversation.
Most of the produce hails from Douglas’ organic farm in Prosser. Highlights on our weekend visits included Parmesan-anchovy-dressed red Russian and black kale ($14) with crunchy fried chickpeas and a fragrant, roasted purple cauliflower head ($15) bathed in lobster broth. Real vegetarians—vegans, too—will relish the earthy, seared matsutake mushrooms with spinach, lemon and cashew ($15).
Dishes came out all at once, and the only disappointment was a side of country natural prime rib roast ($17; $40/regular portion; $65/slab). It was tender and delicious but cold on arrival both times it was ordered. The tastiest and most shareable (i.e., generous) protein was the pepper pot ($28), a spicy, cioppino-style dish brimming with clams, prawns, squid and salmon collar; my favorite part was the spicy marinara, which gets its kick from dashi and Pernod. But, the star was duck-fat hushpuppies ($14), a starter that will top my “favorite dishes of the year” list. The combination of hot, crunchy, cornmeal, silky duck liver mousse, sweet blueberry conserve and tangy tomatillo pickles gave my palate goosebumps. If you’re looking for lovingly prepared dishes, especially veggies with a meaty slant, you’ll love it here. Downtown, 820 Pine St.; 206.946.9720; thecarlile.com