Born out of a desire to provide a casual respite for Eastlakers, Babirusa (2236 Eastlake Ave. E; 206.329.2744; blindpigbistro.com/babirusa) is one of the newer restaurant/bar hybrids to hit Seattle. Charles Walpole opened the casual strip-mall hideaway with friend Rene Gutierrez next door to their inaugural restaurant, Blind Pig—in the original home of Sitka & Spruce. This boozier sibling—named after “the genus of our beloved pig friend who watches over us at Blind Pig Bistro,” says Walpole—took over the short-lived Eastlake Teriyaki, which Walpole opened as sort of a placeholder until he had the funds to open Babirusa this past May.
Open for both lunch and dinner, the restaurant has an afternoon scene that is mellow and efficient, with folks darting in and out, giving themselves just enough time to grab a filling bite and head back to work. Dinnertime is when the mood gets turned up a million notches: cranked rock music, chatty staff, and regulars—there are lots of them—beelining to the back of the restaurant to say hello to the cooks. It’s quite the good time.
The rotating chalkboard menu, which—don’t let the name fool you—is not pork-laden, is filled with so many interesting-sounding things that it’s way too easy to order more than you’ll ever need to be comfortably satiated. Do get the fish and chips ($12), batter-dipped in beer, honey, vodka, and a mix of all-purpose and rice flours. The Pacific true cod is brined in a salty solution that rivals seawater, with some herbs and citrus peels thrown in. It’s served with the equivalent of perfected home fries and a side of yuzu kosho aioli—a Japanese condiment of fermented yuzu (a citrus fruit) and chilies. On my list of favorites, the cod narrowly edges out the chicken and waffle ($12), made with house-made sourdough and staggeringly good fried chicken, first bathed in buttermilk, then breaded in cornstarch and seasoned flour.
The food at Babirusa is heavy, perfect for sopping up the cocktails you’ll likely be charmed into ordering by bartender Ben Sherwood, who is also a partner here. Along with Gutierrez and Walpole, the three are Ethan Stowell alumni (Walpole, from Anchovies & Olives; Gutierrez and Sherwood, from Tavolàta). Come to Babirusa hungry and leave with a full belly and the sense that you just attended one of the funnest house parties on this side of Lake Union.