Back in 1999, when this Pike Street Hillclimb cubbyhole opened, it was a pizzeria that served just beer and wine. Ben Dougherty and his then business partner, Kacy Fitch, were hired to design and build a credible bar, which they did, in addition to buying the place outright in 2002 and hiring rock-star barman Murray Stenson to solidify their standing. Not long after that, Zig Zag became a national sensation, making “best bars” lists around the country. But who in their right mind would consider it a dining destination?
These days, a lot more people than you might think. Not long after Dougherty bought out Fitch in July 2012, he decided to spend about $27,000 for acoustic treatment on the ceilings and walls of the century-old concrete building. As a result, people began lingering a bit longer over their cocktails, and food sales increased by more than 25 percent that first year. To handle the demand, he brought in chef Tyler Moritz who had just parted ways with his business partner, Aleks Dimitrijevic, at La Bête. Moritz stayed on until December of that year, leaving to take a job at Roux. Now, Moritz is back and has completely overhauled the menu, creating a roster of dishes that taste good with or without a cocktail.
Moritz’s menu is affable and digestible, nothing too adventurous, but a welcome departure from the mostly forgettable options of the past. The seasonal rotating menu is good, albeit somewhat inconsistent, when Moritz is not in the kitchen. One visit was marred by an extremely al dente pasta special and a very chewy roasted mushroom flatbread. On another visit, however, the richest, largest chunk of pork belly ($22) was perfectly cooked, served with cauliflower, figs, mustard greens and pickled mustard seeds, followed by a delicate house-made cappelletti ($18) stuffed with corn, ricotta, chanterelles, tomato, marjoram and pecorino romano that was devoured by my tablemates. In fine Zig Zag fashion, the service and cocktails were flawless, and even though Stenson is long gone, his graceful legacy lives on in the pink-hued, utterly romantic spot. Maybe your dinner won’t always be impeccable, but I bet you will have a lovely time. Dinner daily. Pike Place Market, 1501 Western Ave., No. 202; 206.625.1146; zigzagseattle.com