This Dough Zone Is Not Like the Others

Expect a more colorful, contemporary version for the Seattle expansion
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Come to me.

Oh man, this is exciting. 

News broke a couple of months ago that Dough Zone—the Eastside temple of dumplings—was (finally, gloriously) expanding to Seattle. They’re the first confirmed tenants of a new building on the edge of the International District at 5th Avenue S and S King Street. Keys are in hand, and construction has begun.

Well, today details are emerging on what we can expect from the fifth Dough Zone location, besides their excellent Chinese dumplings, congee and noodles. You may have noticed that the (two) Bellevue, Redmond and Issaquah locations are fairly sparsely decorated—spokesperson Vickie Ji says they’re family-style joints to match their neighborhoods. But for Dough Zone’s Seattle debut, she says they wanted to match the modern, hip vibe of successful eateries they scouted in Ballard, Capitol Hill and Fremont. They’ve hired local architect and design firm Board & Vellum, responsible for Oasis Tea Zone and Ada’s Technical Books and Café. There will be hanging decorations from the ceiling, a mural by local artist Sarah Robbins (who did this awesome painting for Cupcake Royale), and seating for about 60. (Issaquah, which just opened in October, will still be the largest.)

While Dough Zone’s celebrated xiao long bao and other steamed dumplings are made in each location’s kitchen, many of the menu items are made in a central Eastside kitchen and distributed to the five restaurants prior to service every day. Seattle’s location will be the furthest from the kitchen, which will present some added logistics.

It was briefly rumored last year that Dough Zone was considering Northgate as a potential location—which pleased me to no end, as that’s closest to my own ‘hood. I asked Ji and she says that’s part of the “goal plan” still—I’m choosing to interpret that as there’s still a chance. Ah well, at least this new spot won’t require bridge toll.

When will the new shop open? Ji is keeping tight-lipped for obvious reasons, but says they’re in no hurry—after all, Issaquah is still new, and they want to make sure all the kinks are worked out first. We’re hoping to get our hands (er, chopsticks) on those dumplings in the next few months.

In the meantime, the new Din Tai Fung in Pacific Place should be open momentarily (by momentarily, I mean in the next month or so, after a series of delays) to meet any immediate downtown soup dumpling needs.  

Three Impressions of Sovereign

Three Impressions of Sovereign

AJ is a fan of the underground bar
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The Black on Gold cocktail at Sovereign

One of my favorite spots from my drinking youth, Auntie Mae’s in Manhattan Kansas, was 75% below street level, and since then I’ve always loved underground bars. There’s something wonderfully clandestine about entering a bar at street level, then proceeding down. All that activity above, all those people walking by. I recently had a chance to go with my wife into the newer (it opened in late September, from the same folks who own and run The Forge Lounge) Pioneer Square bar Sovereign, which is in the basement of the Maynard Building, to see if it rose to the level of other great subterranean bars. Here are three impressions from the visit.

The Drinks: When walking in, we were excited to see Cara Stuber making drinks behind the barwe always dug her cocktails when she was at Bar Noroeste. Sovereign has eight selections on the mixed drink menu, including house creations like the Black on Gold, which combines hotsmoke bourbon (bourbon infused with chili and smoke), apricot, lemon and crystalized ginger. The citrus and apricot pairing, with undertones of smoke and spice, was like a spring afternoon at dusk. They had one of my favorite local cocktail inventions on the menu, too, The Trident, originally put together by genius local cocktail guru Robert “Drink Boy” Hess. It’s an herbal and spice masterpiece, with sherry, Italian amaro Cynar, aquavit and peach bitters all bringing layers of flavor. You’ll also find a tight, but well put together, list of wine and beer, and a punch that changes seasonally.

The Food: You won’t unearth an expansive menu of edibles, but what’s available is a great balance between snacks for while you sip and a few larger items. There’s a section of Table Bread that’s awfully fun, especially the Faux Gras. This veggie spread of walnuts, lentils, and mushroomserved like all the spreads with either a Grand Central baguette or gluten free crackershad a beautifully substantial texture and an earthy nuttiness offset perfectly by accompanying whole grain mustard. There are trios of baguette sandwiches and deviled eggs on the menu, and the latter contains a rotating seasonal option; when we were there it was chicken curry. For those with bigger appetites another trio of larger Specials is available, with the Sticky Jerk Chicken, coming with a side of sweet potatoes, a hit so far.

The Space: As mentioned, you walk down a set of stairs to get into the Sovereign, which is darn cool. The rest of the space is cool, too, with an art nouveau essence that adds personality without becoming affectation. A trio (they love trios!) of antique chandeliers, delicate sconce lights and artsy accents over doors, tiled ceilings, and a William Morris-esque print wallpaper would be at home in 1924 on a few walls. The bar itself, where I suggest you sit to interact with friendly shakers like Cara, is marble topped, with 12 low-backed bar stools, while the main area is split into two sections with wooden topped tables and wood chairs, a couple low slung comfy chairs, and lots of space for standing. That space is good, because the Sovereign is already developing a crowd of neighborhood and post-work regulars, and starting to be noticed by the pre-and-post game sports crowd.