With Seattle rapidly growing and increasingly diversifying, it’s more and more difficult for a restaurant to create a concept—or a menu—that pleases everyone. But Rider, open since November in the ground floor of the trendy new Hotel Theodore, is trying, by walking the line between forest and ocean, predictable and surprising, old Seattle and new. It’s equal parts dark, broody bar and bright, contemporary dining room. (Imagine a marriage of The Whale Wins and Miller’s Guild.)
“With Seattle being home to so many cultures and influences, we wanted to have that come through in small ways in the menu,” says chef David Nichols, most recently executive chef at Euro drinking establishment Queen Anne Beerhall, who launched Rider with industry vet Jonathan Fleming (formerly of Ciudad and Bar Sajor). “This city has seen an influx of people moving here—[we wanted to pair] local Pacific Northwest ingredients with bold flavors that our guests can enjoy.”
Those bold flavors show up in the likes of preserved lemon and harissa to make an otherwise unsurprising tuna tartare ($17) exceptional and as kimchi to brighten Brussels sprouts ($10). But because this is a place of dichotomy, there are also seafood platters (starting at $40) featuring an assortment of spot prawns, oysters, crabs and the like served either raw or only just cooked. The other big menu influence here is an obvious one from the moment you walk in: The open kitchen houses an Argentine-style top-feeding wood grill so massive that its majestic fire catches every eye in the house. It warms the room, both figuratively and literally, provides an all-day fireplace scent and serves as a primal cooking source for dishes like whole Idaho trout ($34). As you can tell, the menu is expansive, the result of having a whopping 860 square feet of kitchen space to cook in.
Come during happy hour and sit in the bar for pub burgers ($9) and oysters ($1.50 each at 3 p.m., $2 at 4 p.m. and $2.50 at 5 p.m.). Beware the cocktail prices, though—I couldn’t resist the old fashioned made with local barrel-aged bourbon from 2Bar Spirits, but it was $17 ($20, really, after tax and included service charge). That’s something old Seattle still has a hard time swallowing.
Must Try: On one visit this winter, crispy sunchokes ($10) were deliciously flavored with fish sauce and garlic, and served with wriggly bonito flakes on top. This spring, look for them paired with something pickled and lighter.
Rider: Downtown 619 Pine St.; 206.859.4242.